‘Why can’t we protest against cuts like the French?’

‘Why can’t we protest against cuts like the French?’ by Tariq Ali for the Guardian, October 19, 2010

Many thousands have protested in France against cuts; we have a proud history of dissent in Britain, so why aren’t we on the streets?

A few years ago, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy told an interviewer that he knew the French better than most. Today they were admiring the good looks of his wife; tomorrow they would cut his throat. It hasn’t quite come to that just yet, but the French—students and workers, men and women, citizens all—are out on the streets again. A rise in the pension age? Impossible. The barricades are up, oil supplies running out, trains and planes on a skeleton schedule and the protests are still escalating. More than three million people a week ago. Hundreds of thousands out this week and more expected this weekend. And what a joyous sight: school students marching in defence of old people’s rights. Were there a Michelin Great Protest guide, France would still be top with three stars, with Greece a close second with two stars.

What a contrast with the miserable, measly actions being planned by the lily-livered English trade unions. There is growing anger and bitterness here too, but it is being recuperated by a petrified bureaucracy. A ritual protest has been planned, largely to demonstrate that they are doing something. But is this something better than nothing?

Perhaps. I’m not totally sure. But even these mild attempts to rally support against the austerity measures are too much for dear leader Ed Miliband. He won’t be seen at them. The rot of Blairism goes deep in the Labour party. A crushing defeat last year might have produced something a bit better than the shower that constitutes the front bench. Balls the bulldog might have gone for the jugular but he has been neutered. Instead, the new front bench is desperate to prove that it could easily be part of the coalition and not just on Afghanistan. read more

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