In Britain as in Europe, protests against austerity have failed
We have to try another way what our columnist calls the Great Reverse - a slide in general wellbeing married with a removal of rights that have been won over decades - deserves a robust response.
If you’re lacking in inspiration, go and chat to the students of Featherstone Sixth Form in Southall, like I did last Friday. They will shatter any clichéd prejudices about an apathetic X-Factor generation who stare blankly when politics is even mentioned, only to vote enthusiastically when it comes to Big Brother. These bright young women and men were full of excitement and eloquence as they discussed their futures, as well as those of Britain and the world; and they were full of fury and frustration about the fact their generation was the first to face being poorer than their parents since Berlin fell to the Allies.....Read more....
So this is what we must do.
First, challenge the demonisation strategy by giving a voice to those being pummelled by austerity. As George Lakoff, the US political linguist, points out, people connect better with stories than facts and statistics. Second, present a coherent alternative that is communicated in a way that resonates with people who live outside the political bubble. Bring down welfare spending with council housing, rent controls, a living wage, and jobs; clamp down on tax avoidance and make the wealthy pay more; have proper public control of bailed-out banks, and use them as the focus of an industrial strategy that creates skilled, secure jobs, like Germany has done.
Social change happens because of struggle and sacrifice from below, not generosity and goodwill from above. But unless the frustrations of those bright young things in Southall are given a political direction, they will not fight back and the Great Reverse will go on. As Tony Benn puts it, progressive movements depend on “the flame of anger against injustice, and the flame of hope you can build a better world”. We have the anger. Now we need to work on the hope.