Austerity protest: ‘UK citizens need govt support, not attack’

Demonstrators faces off with police during protest after the State Opening of Parliament in central London, Britain, May 27, 2015. (Reuters / Peter Nicholls)
UK citizens are calling for an end to austerity. They need a strong welfare state where wealth is divided equally among society and the government supports as opposed to attacks people, says Callum Cant of the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts.

Thousands of people marched through central London on Wednesday protesting against the Conservative government's austerity policies. The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), which calls for free education funded by taxation of the wealthy, was among the participants.

RT:What exactly is your movement calling for?

Callum Cant: An end to austerity - it is unambiguous. That is what unites all the people who were out there earlier. We don’t believe that austerity is going to solve the problems of our society and we think it’s going to damage the most vulnerable. So together we’re fighting against austerity and against the cutting of so many vital benefits and supports.

RT:Obviously the counterargument there is that these cuts are necessary because you cannot have a free spending government. What’s your argument?

CC: Some people are doing very, very well in our society - they happen to be the richest rather than people who need the money most. So we say wealth that is produced by the entire society should be used by our entire society. That means we need a strong welfare state; that means we need people supported by their government rather than attacked by it.

RT:If people are so fed up with austerity, why did they vote in a Conservative government? Are you surprised they were voted in?

CC: I think everyone was surprised. None of the polls predicted this, or very few did. We woke up the morning after election with a Conservative government, which no one predicted at all. The shock and horror of that response has now spread to a street movement where people now are going out, taking to the streets and saying: “We are surprised, we are shocked, and we can’t continue living under five more years of cuts. We’ve survived five, we don’t know if we can survive five more.” It’s that shock that makes this movement so prescient because it’s coming to the fore and saying: “We will not accept austerity anymore.” We thought we’re going to have some small reprieve from it through a Labour government, but that’s not the case. So we have to do it ourselves now.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R), (Reuters / Russell Cheyne)

RT:What would you say to the people who truly believe that what the Conservatives do is the right thing? Shouldn’t you respect the outcome of that election?

CC: 24 percent of the electorate voted for the Conservatives and yet they got over half - enough to form the majority. Clearly there is something wrong in our electoral system. But beyond that it is a deeper principle at stake, which is the principle that we shouldn’t just accept what the majority thinks is the absolute truth. If they can form majority through Parliamentary democracy that doesn’t mean they can’t be wrong. So many amazing movements throughout history - be that the civil rights, the suffragettes - have been minorities. I think it is incredibly important that we respect the basic principle that not being a majority doesn’t mean you are irrelevant. And I don’t respect the fact that 24 percent of people voted for a Tory government. Therefore, we should let them attack the most vulnerable - that is not something I believe. If that is what our democracy is giving us, then our democracy is broken and we need a new system.

RT:This is the second mass demonstration of its kind in a month. Are you planning any stronger action?

CC: We’re planning to continue non-violent direct action to fight for what we believe in. We hope that the campaign will escalate. There is a people’s assembly against austerity demonstration coming up on June 20, which will be massive, and we are going to see an ongoing wave of action across the UK. We need to think about what we are doing and make sure that we’re making progressive steps, and make sure we’re not just repeating our mistakes. But I’m really hopeful that this time our movement will take off.

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