The New Mass MovementRallying Against the Failures of Westminster
Taj Ali reports on the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign, that is attempting to give a voice to those suffering from the worst excesses of the cost of living crisis
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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The infamous opening line of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ was written in 1859 to describe an unequal Victorian society, but it couldn’t be more relevant today.
As Labour MP Zarah Sultana explained in the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign launch video, there are record profits for big business, record numbers of billionaires and record wealth for the top 10% in the UK. For some, it is indeed, the best of times. But for working-class communities across the country, things couldn’t look anymore bleak. Rising food and fuel prices, soaring energy bills and inflation in the double digits; working-class communities now face the worst squeeze in living standards since the 1950s.
This summer has seen a wave of strikes across a number of sectors as workers who have experienced the longest period of wage stagnation since the 1800s now face further real-terms pay cuts. Two-third of adults in poverty are now in a working household. It is, therefore, no surprise that a campaign calling out this state of affairs has gained so much traction over the past few weeks.
“The working-class is back. We refuse to be humble. We refuse to wait for politicians. And we refuse to be poor anymore” – those were the words of the RMT Union’s General Secretary Mick Lynch, to the thunderous applause of thousands at the launch of the Enough is Enough campaign in London last week.
The campaign, launched on 8 August, has announced 50 rallies across the country.
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Lynch’s words at the launch rally last week will, no doubt, resonate with working-class communities that are tired of being repeatedly ignored. For these communities, there has always been a cost of living crisis. But the current catastrophe befalling them has reached unprecedented levels.
Charities last year warned that many were having to choose between heating and eating. We are in a situation now where many cannot afford to pay for either. New forecasts suggest that typical energy bills could reach over £6,000 next year. This would put two-thirds of households (18 million) into fuel poverty by January, according to a study by the University of York. A-fifth of households will be forced to spend a-quarter of their income on energy costs.
More than 17,000 people died in the UK due to cold housing conditions in the winter of 2018. That was when fuel poverty stood at 13%.
Ecosystems of Resistance
But the scale of resistance to the cost of living catastrophe is cause for hope. To date, more than 400,000 people have signed up to support the Enough is Enough campaign. That’s a higher membership than the Labour Party which, just a few years ago, was the largest political party in western Europe.
Bold, principled and assertive; trade union leaders like Mick Lynch and Dave Ward have inspired millions of people disillusioned with the current status quo. They stand in stark contrast to the weathercocks who wait for focus groups and media narratives before determining their policy platform. It’s this kind of politics – triangulation and spin – that has caused so many to lose faith in Westminster.
The Enough is Enough campaign demonstrates that there is a strong appetite for a political movement outside the confines of Westminster. The campaign has five core demands: slash energy bills, a real pay rise for workers, an end to food poverty, decent affordable homes for all, and increasing taxes on the rich to fund these progressive policies.
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But how exactly do we turn anger into action and, crucially, how do we get people in positions of power and influence to take the movement seriously? Aside from rallies, the Enough is Enough campaign is focused on building local groups across the country to support local food banks, stand in solidarity with striking workers on picket lines, and to take collective action against energy companies. The campaign is focused on building ecosystems of resistance across the UK, with the movement seeking to create a broad coalition.
“We’re going to be organising solidarity for the biggest wave of strikes since the ‘80s, we’re going to be protesting energy companies and Government inaction, and we’re going to be teaching people how to organise their workplaces and communities,” says Ronan Burtenshaw, editor of Tribune and a key figure in the Enough is Enough Campaign.
It remains to be seen what form this collective action will take, but there is no doubt that the campaign has enjoyed a surge in support. The depths to which this country has sunk under 12 years of Conservative rule is clear for all to see. It is likely that Britain will be heading for a recession, exacerbating existing hardships. And it is time for Westminster to sit up and listen.