Category Archives : Guest posts


CALL OUT: take action this weekend with Sisters Uncut

This is a guest blog by Lucy, a Sisters Uncut and UK Uncut activist. Sisters uncut’s next action is on Saturday 28th November at midday, Soho Square

Just over a year a go a group of angry women activists from UK Uncut decided that enough was enough.

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We worked in the domestic violence sector, we were survivors, we were women who felt backed in to a corner by a brutal state that was slowly taking away our safety net. And we were tired of the violence, the humiliation and the silencing that survivors of domestic violence faced.

UK Uncut and the people within it gave us the skills and knowledge to realise that sisters could do it for themselves. We felt that the vicious silencing of domestic violence backed up by the brutality of austerity meant this issue needed its own protest. That women needed to take to the streets, to use direct action to demand our needs are met and that violence could no longer enable inequality.

That first meeting seems so far away from now. The first agenda stated: this isn’t a space for disclosure. How far from that we are now. Now each meeting is based on a right to speak out, a right to articulate our experiences and a space to understand that each of us experience oppression in different ways: whether trans, BME, Lesbian, Bisexual, person with disabilities, working class. Its organising based on empathy, understanding, trust and love.

What a year it’s been, from four women eating beige food and drinking tizer in a living room in Stratford to over a hundred folk regularly attending meetings. From being an unknown entity to changing the news agenda for a whole week following a protest picked up by the global media.

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UK Uncut always reminded us that austerity was a political choice. An unnecessary means to pay for a rich elite to continue a ludicrous system of profit. We too continue that message: never believe that there is not money to pay for services. It’s a lie fed to us by those that wish to maintain their power and privilege. Its a lie that allows abuse to continue.

Since austerity began over 30 specialist services have closed and the major funding cuts have been to BME and specialist services. Council’s are choosing to commission cheap and poor quality services. Cuts to benefits leave survivors stuck between violence from abuse or violence from an uncompromising and unequal state.

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And austerity continues unabated. On the 25th of November, the international day to end violence against women, George Osborne announced £4.1 billion of cuts to local government budgets. He then had the audacity to announce the tampon tax would fund domestic violence services. What a bloody mess – a tax on menstruation paying for cleaning up the consequences of violence.

We do not want token funding. We want an end to austerity and a state that does its job. A state that enables an end to oppression, an end to violence, the safety and security we deserve. And this does not mean more money for a police service. A service that time and time again has failed us.

What started out as an idea to hold a protest around domestic violence has become something else. It’s a movement. It’s a powerful space in which domestic violence has been taken out of the home and onto the streets. In which those who have been told they should not have a voice are shouting, screaming, crying and demanding.

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And you can join us. On Saturday we are holding a march in remembrance of all the domestic violence services cut as a result of austerity. We are marching to remember that domestic violence and state violence are intimately connected and that when they cut we bleed. We will not be silenced, we will not stop: we will win.

Sisters uncut’s next action is on Saturday 28th November at midday, Soho Square. It is open to all women (trans, intersex and cis), all those who experience oppression as women (including non-binary and gender non-conforming people) and all those who identify as women for the purpose of political organising. Self-definition is at the sole-discretion of that sister. We ask that our male allies support us on social media and by helping their sisters attend.

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GUEST BLOG POST: Why localism harms domestic violence services

On Monday the Sisters will take to the streets to demand that women’s needs are met and that cuts to domestic violence services are reversed and more – that they are properly funded.

We have just a few days left to the election and we are tired of the politics on offer. We are here to demand an end to austerity and to call on the government to stop colluding with the violence inflicted on women.

Next week, we may see a new political agenda. But at this point it’s crucial for us to remember the last five years: to understand the vicious, brutal and lasting impact of austerity on women. I have firsthand experience of how the cuts have devastated domestic violence services, and I believe that if more people understood what’s happened, they would be as furious as I am about it.

Local authority budget cuts
Austerity has been enacted in a number of ways. Firstly, local authority budgets have been decimated – this has led to less money to spend on services and thus a rise in cheaper service provision and closures. Specialist services have been cut and the life-saving professionals in them have been replaced with untrained agency workers. Deskilling and low pay of those working in services has been a common theme; wages for refuge workers, for example, have significantly decreased in the past five years. This has also lead to cuts in one of the biggest employers of women – the public sector – and the cuts mean a loss in women’s employment.

Localism
Austerity has gone hand-in-hand with localism. The 2011 Localism Act was heralded by central government as bringing innovation to local communities – finally allowing local authorities to trade as if they were individuals and thus create a context for competition in services. Local communities, we were told, would be empowered to make choices around spending.

Yet the consequences of competition have been brutal for those seeking help for domestic violence: instead of rising standards, we’re seeing a vicious race to the bottom: services are being run on a shoe-string by non-specialist agencies, short term contracts mean at any time a service could lose its funding and be withdrawn. And the women who use these services? Well, they lose access to lifesaving specialist support in an instant.

A culture of blame
Austerity has cut more than money. It has gone hand-in-hand with an insidious and creeping language of blame: blame women for not leaving, blame bad parenting, blame the poor, blame immigrants, blame teenage mothers, blame feckless youth. Austerity’s cultural consequence has apportioned blame on those who are the victims of an increasingly unequal society.

Look no further than the cuts to domestic violence services, where the biggest cuts have been to specialist services: services for BME women and those with disabilities, where specialist expertise saves women’s lives. Austerity has driven up inequality in everyway possible.

Localism has created a cycle of blame within politics as well – it’s given central government a means of diminishing their responsibility – by pointing out that cuts were being enacted at the local level. Yet, it also handed local authorities a get out of jail free card – they can blame central government for cutting budgets and minimize their own agency in the cuts, allowing them to ignore the communities they pertained to serve. In the midst of this are individuals who are trying to live their lives in under the tyranny of domestic violence.

State collusion with perpetrators
Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviour that, at its core, takes away the rights of those on whom it is enacted; it is a brutal, dehumanizing and calculated effort to rip away the self of the person it is inflicted on. The language used by perpetrators of abuse is one of minimization and blame – it holds the victim / survivor responsible for the violence inflicted on them. In cutting domestic violence services in the name of austerity, the government, both local and national, have colluded with every perpetrator. They’ve created the cultural conditions for the oppression of women in the most violent way.

I’ve seen this oppression happen first hand. When the economic crash hit, I’d just begun working on the national domestic violence helpline. In the last seven years I have continued to work in this field: as an advocate supporting women through the courts, with young women facing violence and exploitation and now in trying to improve service responses to women’s needs. In the last seven years within the sector, I’ve seen the violent erosion of women’s rights, I’ve seen doors close, I’ve seen women brutalized, harmed and shamed by a system that should be there to help them. I’ve seen the language of austerity offer a violent mouthpiece to those that wish to do women harm, to blame us for the violence inflicted on us and to refuse to hold perpetrators to account.

Yet amongst this violence I’ve seen incredible resistance – for some women it was resistance of the mind, for others it was managing to call a friend while a perpetrator was out, or to learn English or to take public transport for the first time. In those defiant acts that women took against those who wished to control them I was nourished, I was empowered to know that if women can resist such brutality then we can stand and rise to the mass brutality being inflicted against us now.

With a week to go to the election the Sisters are left with no choice. Not one of the main Westminster parties have shown themselves willing to grasp the violence of the inequality that women face. For them cuts equate to services being farmed out for the profits of the few. For women cuts mean death.

On Monday, Sisters Uncut are taking to the streets to say that no longer will we be silenced by a politics that refuses to take our needs seriously. No longer will we accept the excuses of national and local government. We will fight and resist because we have a right to stand up to the violence inflicted by those that wish to control and punish us for who we are.

Sisters Uncut will be taking direct action against cuts to domestic violence services on Monday 4th May – join us at the scoop, Queen’s Walk, London SE1 2DB at 13:00pm https://www.facebook.com/events/883360388398243/


Why I Am Taking Action Against HSBC – Sat 21st March 2015

It’s been nearly five years since the coalition government came into power and in the lead up to elections we are taking toll of the government’s legacy. So far the figures are coming in at a whopping £35 billion worth of cuts to public services and we are starting the notice the irreversible changes. Just as it all started to sink in along came the biggest banking leak off all time. Hot on the toes of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, came Hervé Falciani with files revealing widespread tax avoidance, evasion and money laundering being actively marketed to HSBC’s high net worth clients. On the list there has been 7,000 UK citizens identified who have over $21.7 billion of untaxed earnings in HSBC Swiss accounts. As well as starting the crash in the first place back in 2008, the banks are now pocketing billions by dodging tax and helping others do the same. It’s daylight robbery on the grandest scale. We’re not broke. The cuts to our vital public services are a political choice, not an economic necessity. We need to stop the tax dodgers, make the banks pay and fight to protect our public services.

 

In 2010, the coalition government came to power they claimed in their Coalition Agreement that ‘Deficit reduction takes precedence over any of the other measures in this agreement’. Deficit reduction can take two paths. The first path involves cutting public spending and the second route is to increase public spending with the aim of stimulating the economy. There was always a choice. However, from day dot, there was an ideological agenda to roll back the state.

 

The Tory agenda has always been that the market, not the state will solve all societal woes through innovation and enterprise. Spending on public services and welfare was cut deeply, services were sold off to private companies and tax breaks were given to the rich. Furthermore, the tax gap of £35 billion from tax avoidance from UK businesses and the £50 billion gap from criminal and fraudulent activities has gone uncollected.

 

Then along came the biggest banking leak of all time. On the list there has been 7,000 UK citizens identified who have over $21.7 billion of untaxed earnings in HSBC Swiss accounts. Only one person so far has been charged with criminal activity, with George Osborne claiming that it is not his role to bring these people to justice. Not too surprisingly, the man in charge of HSBC at the time Lord Green, is a now a Tory Peer and the party have received £5 million worth of donations from the clients identified in the files.

 

The HSBC files have revealed that austerity is a political choice, and the poorest are paying while the rich are getting richer. If the Tory party win these elections we are looking at another £55 billion worth of cuts by 2019. The reality is that from 2010 – 2015 they took the lowest hanging fruit, and next time round we will all feel the cuts more directly as Britain’s welfare state will be irrevocably dismantled.   I am taking action this Saturday 21st in London against HSBC to raise awareness of the Tory parties failure to bring tax dodgers to justice and to defend our welfare state.


We must resist the deadly cuts to specialist domestic violence services

This is a guest blog by Suzy Blackwell, a Sisters Uncut and UK Uncut activist.

Violence against women is now a global pandemic, yet the government is removing vital funding for domestic violence services. Sisters Uncut demand an end to these cuts, which are part of a programme of austerity that disproportionately affects women.

I was asked to write about why I’m taking action tomorrow for the Sisters Uncut Valentines Day Revolt, well let’s start with the facts:

In Britain, 46% of women killed by men were killed by a partner or ex-partner. 2 women a week die as a result of domestic violence. A report by the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that only 8 of 43 police forces responded to domestic violence well.  The report identified “poor attitudes, ineffective training and inadequate evidence gathering” by police in response to domestic violence.

This quote from Cosmopolitan magazine shows they have a much better handle on the situation than the government:

“Imagine if hospitals could only plan three months ahead. Or if police forces had no idea if they would still be funded six months from now. It’s unthinkable, isn’t it? And yet, this is how hundreds of domestic violence refuges are being forced to operate. Currently, local authorities decide how much they spend on provision for domestic violence, and how that money is spent. As a result, several parts of the country such as Gloucestershire and Devon have been left without a single specialist refuge. Instead, women and children – terrified, sometimes even fleeing for their lives – are ending up in B&Bs and hostels, with no specialist support or advice on what their next safe move should be.”

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To answer the question of why I’m taking action, I’d like to pose another question in return: why wouldn’t I take action to change this situation? Why would I stand by while women die? Why would I not be outraged that in 2015, in a supposedly advanced democracy where women’s rights are championed, campaigners have had to start a femicide register to record murdered women because it is such a common occurrence? How can this be happening?

The fact is this situation has been allowed because women – all women – are viewed as second-class citizens whose lives are expendable. This needs to change. Sisters Uncut demands that domestic violence services are protected from cuts, that there are specialist domestic violence services for LGBT women, BME women and so on; that there is guaranteed access to legal aid for women experiencing domestic violence; access to safe and secure social housing for women fleeing domestic violence; the end of panic rooms being classified as a spare room under the bedroom tax, and for the safety of victims not to be subject to immigration status.

We demand recognition that women’s lives matter. We refuse to stand by while the government ignores this epidemic of violence. And we will keep taking to the streets until something is done. That’s why I am taking action tomorrow. It’s why I want other women to join me, and men to give us their support and solidarity. It’s a matter of life and death.

The Sisters Uncut Valentines Day Revolt will take place tomorrow – Saturday 14 Feb. This event is women only. We call on all self-defining women, as well as those who experience oppression as women or define as women for the purpose of organising, to join us.

It’s important this is a safe space for women, especially survivors of domestic or sexual violence, so we invite male allies to show their solidarity online rather than attending. You can support us by changing your Facebook profile picture to our Sisters Uncut logo, and linking to our social media @sistersuncut.

Stand with us to commemorate the women who did not survive, and show your solidarity with those still living under the threat of violence.

Facebook Event: Sisters Uncut Valentines Day Revolt

Facebook: Sisters Uncut Facebook

Twitter: @sistersuncut

 


Direct action won the argument on tax dodging, now we need to change the rules

This is a guest blog by Mark Williams, a UK Uncut activist.

From its earliest days when the current government introduced its first brutal round of cuts, UK Uncut has been about showing that there is an alternative to the cuts, that the cuts are not necessary. The cuts are a political choice, exercised by a rich, male elite, that benefit the richest and most powerful in our society at the expense of the most marginalised.

Five years on, what we said then has turned out to be true. Today over 8 million people live on less than needed to cover a minimum household budget, while the richest 100 people in the country increased their wealth by over £40 billion in the last year. Austerity is transferring wealth from poor to rich.

The tax system is one of the ways that wealth is supposed to be transferred from the rich to the poor, redistributing the wealth that our economic system concentrates at the top. When companies dodge tax it undermines this redistribution, and leaves less money to fund the public services or welfare this government is now ideologically intent on cutting beyond all recognition.

High street occupations by UK Uncut made tax dodging the issue it is today. Our direct action forced this issue into the public debate. When we started our biggest debate was that since tax avoidance was legal, what’s the problem? Thanks to people across the country taking direct action we won that argument.

6At a time of brutal cuts it is not fair that the richest escape without paying their fair share. Politicians across the political spectrum are now tripping over themselves to condemn tax dodging as unfair, immoral, anything to try to answer the public outrage at the injustice of our tax system. But winning the argument didn’t make companies pay their tax. For all the politicians tough talk on tax, there was no real action, just talk.

Today, a group of NGOs including ActionAid, the NUS and War on Want are launching a campaign to see if politicians are just full of hot air or whether they will actually act to tackle tax dodging. The Tax Dodging Bill campaign is calling on all political parties to pledge to pass a law to tackle corporate tax dodging in the UK, and by UK companies in the global south (the global south loses more to corporate tax dodging every year then it receives in aid from rich countries).

The Tax Dodging Bill, if done properly, could take a massive swipe at the tax dodging by some of the biggest tax dodgers in the UK – Starbucks, Google, Amazon, would all get caught by it. It doesn’t claim to fix everything, but would be a massive step in the right direction, and would get billions of pounds more money for public services and welfare. All of us can demand politicians and our local candidates act, we can force them to see if they will live up to their hot air.

Tackling tax dodging won’t end austerity. We still have to fight against an election that’s being debated between cuts and cuts light, but the more we show these alternatives do exist, that cuts are a political choice to let off the richest while targeting the poorest, the harder it is for any party to justify austerity.

You can sign the petition to support the Tax Dodging Bill at taxdodgingbill.org.uk


Guest blog: ‘No More Deaths from Fuel Poverty’

This is a guest blog from Fuel Poverty Action.

 

This Friday 28th November pensioners will lead a march from Charing Cross to Energy UK- the Big Six energy company’s lobby body  under the banner ‘No More Deaths from Fuel Poverty: Energy Rights Now!’

Why? Because this is the day that the Office of National Statistics will also be releasing the numbers of ‘Excess Winter Deaths’ in winter 2013/2014- and it’s estimated that at least 30% of these deaths caused by the impacts of living in a cold home. Shockingly, in winter 2012/2013 there were more than 10,000 deaths in the UK from cold homes (with 31,100 Excess Winter Deaths recorded in total) whilst in the same year the Big Six energy companies- British Gas, E.On, EDF Energy, npower, Scottish Power and SSE- made £3.7billion in pure profit.

Fuel Poverty Action, the Greater London Pensioners’ Association and Reclaim the Power are inviting everyone angry about fuel poverty, deaths from cold homes, Big Six polluting and profiteering, lack of government action on badly needed home insulation , home break-ins by energy companies, benefit cuts and more to come and join the march and ‘powerful and creative’ action outside Energy UK.

FPAWe are also inviting you to attend the end of the protest where there will be n ‘Energy Rights teach-in’ – where we will learn, collectively, how to negotiate if you’re in debt to your energy supplier or steps that you can take if you can’t afford your bill. We will also read out Fuel Poverty Action’s ‘Energy Bill of Rights’ which recently had a rowdy launch in Parliament- a Bill of Rights that asserts our right to access affordable, sustainable and democratic energy as well as decent housing that doesn’t waste heat. We think that until we make real demands about our Energy Rights we will continue to be at the whim of the profiteering companies and couldn’t-care-less government.

Join us to express sadness, anger, solidarity and to point fingers at some of those responsible for outrageous cold home deaths. Take action with us this Friday 28th November.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1486809398267145/?ref=ts&fref=ts

-A Pensioner? Join the Pensioner Bloc meeting at 11am at Charing Cross Station

https://www.facebook.com/events/1486809398267145/?ref=ts&fref=ts#!/events/708554315906912/?fref=ts

-A student? Join the SOAS Student Bloc, meeting 10.45am https://www.facebook.com/events/1486809398267145/?ref=ts&fref=ts#!/events/732599153496936/

-Join the main protest gathering outside the Institute of Directors, Pall Mall at 11.30am

Can’t come?
Tweet support using the hashtags

#HeatNotGreed and #EnergyRightsNow


Guest blog: Invitation to join the People’s Solidarity Network

This is a guest blog from the People’s Solidarity Network, a new coalition trying to bring grass roots camapigns together.

We are the People’s Solidarity Network, and we’d like UK Uncut to join us.

 

FIRST OPEN PLANNING MEETING:
12noon-5.50pm, 6th December, East Oxford Community Centre, 4 Princes St, Oxford OX4 1DD

 

The People’s Solidarity Network is being established to unite groups on the left, who are campaigning or working to address issues which have been neglected or affected by government and corporate policies, including: climate change, energy, women’s rights, disabilities, housing, and many more. We want to create change by collective action and solidarity. Each new group that joins will be able to ask for support from the rest of the network’s members in any instance where they feel like their rights or principles are violated. This might be attending marches, tweeting about their events, or even taking more significant action, like striking. Each member group will also be asked to pledge reciprocal actions in solidarity, in whatever capacity they’re able to.

SolidarityWe will be holding an open meeting on Saturday 6 December in Oxford, which we’d like to invite YOU to. During this meeting we plan to decide on the main issues which we will focus on in the run-up to the general election on 7 May 2015. The meeting will also act as a day of planning for a series of actions around these issues over the next few months, and an opportunity for groups to share their own plans for, and collaborate on, different actions. We aim for these to culminate in a big day of action around the election, after which we hope to hold a People’s Summit in the summer of 2015, where we can collectively start a process of more significant change, by tapping into our collective power through reciprocal solidarity.

Our aim is to have as many groups as possible represented. We already have representation from groups such as Disabled People Against the Cuts, Boycott Workfare, the Blacklist Support Group, Reclaim the Power, and UK Uncut. We’d be really excited if you or other members of your group could attend our day of planning on the 6th December and have an input into what the People’s Solidarity Network will look like and do. Please let us know if you, or another representative of your group is able to attend, and we’ll send further details.

We want the event to be as accessible as possible; the venue is wheelchair accessible and we will be providing large print resources. If you would like to come but would struggle financially to do so, or if you have particular travel requirements, please let us know as we are looking into a funding pot. Also, do let us know if you would like accommodation on either the Friday or Saturday night.

We look forward to hearing from you, and working together in solidarity.

CONTACT: peoplessolidaritynetwork@gmail.com

 


Guest blog: Parliament to Debate Money Creation for First Time

This is a guest blog from Positive Money. Positive Money is a movement to democratise money and banking so that it works for society and not against it. They raise awareness and understanding of the fact that most of the UK’s money is created by banks as they issue loans.

The UK parliament debates Money Creation for the first time in 170 Years

Parliament places huge scrutiny on how taxpayers’ money is spent. But for the last 170 years, parliament has largely ignored the question of how money is created in the first place. This will change on Thursday 20th November when MPs will be given the opportunity to attend a debate on money creation and society.

Bh5rHGcCEAAuI46Money creation affects almost every aspect of our lives and is directly connected to almost all public policy, including public and private debt levels, house prices, and rising inequality, but it remains very poorly understood. A recent poll found that 7 out of 10 MPs believed that only the government can create money, when in fact 97% of money is created by banks when they make loans, as recently confirmed by the Bank of England.

This debate has cross-party support. It is being hosted Caroline Lucas (Green), Michael Meacher (Labour) and Steve Baker (Con). Positive Money have launched a campaign calling on MPs to attend the debate – Whatever their position, they need to be there. Lacking a basic understanding of where money comes from leaves our MPs ill-equipped to prevent another financial crisis, tackle the housing crisis or understand the drivers of growing inequality.

Please call on your MP to attend the debate. We have just over a week to make the most of this historic opportunity.

Email your MP. You can use our email template to ask them for their commitment to be there.

Phone your MP. This is the quickest way to let them know the debate has been announced and find out if they are planning to go. (Call the House of Commons switchboard on 020 7219 3000)

Tweet your MP. Include the hashtag #sovereignmoney in your message so we can follow your conversation.


Guest blog: Sisters Uncut

This a guest blog from Sisters Uncut a new network being set up to highlight cuts to domestic violence services. Find out more here.

sisters_504Calling all self-defining women who are furious about the impact of cuts to domestic violence services. A group of women from the direct action group UK Uncut are starting a ‘sister’ group – ‘Sisters Uncut.’ We plan to organise solely on the issue of cuts to domestic violence services in the run up to the general election. We need your help!

We are deeply concerned by the impact austerity is having on women. Doors are being closed on women fleeing violence. Refuges are being shut down, money for domestic violence services is shrinking, legal aid has been cut, social housing is scarce and private rents are extortionate. What’s more, local councils are selling out contracts to services who are running them on a shoe string – putting the safety of survivors at risk and deteriorating the working conditions for those who work with abused women. All the while, the number of women who are killed every week due to domestic violence is on the increase.

Austerity is adversely affecting women and is a reflection of gender inequalities within central and local government and the wider culture of misogyny in our society. We want to fight this and we want to do it together and we want to use direct action.

10387601_746606704857_8405796455147665116_nWhat do we want? Two things: 1. That local authorities provide adequate funding for domestic violence services and this is ring-fenced (meaning they have to spend it on these services). 2. Survivors of domestic violence are given priority when they apply for social housing.

How do we want to achieve this? A consistent campaign of direct action in the lead up to the election E.g. occupations, sit-ins, civil disobedience, road blocks etc. We want this to be relentless, we want women’s voices to be heard, for the powerful and privileged to realise that we’ve had enough of their entitlement and that we demand our rights.

Who do we want to target? Local authorities and the government. Local council budgets have been drastically cut because of decisions made by central government. But local authorities need to be held to account, they are choosing to ignore the needs of women, they are choosing to enable and maintain a culture that holds women responsible for the violence inflicted upon them, they are choosing to ignore women’s needs.

Who are ‘we’? We envision Sisters Uncut as an umbrella group to link up feminist groups and individuals. We want to have regular, open meetings for all self-defining women who wish to get involved. The meetings are for self-defining women so that they can be safe spaces for survivors. Our association with UK Uncut means we can use the UK Uncut platform to generate support, tie in our messaging with UK Uncut’s and draw on the group’s success at mobilising large numbers of people to take direct action against austerity.

Although we have an idea of what we want to achieve and how to make this happen, we would love to get input from a diversity of individuals and groups. We need as many women involved as possible for this to work: its time that we show the government what a real coalition looks like. Please join us for an open meeting where we can discuss all of the above in more detail and begin organising together!

Time: 
19.00-21.00

Date:
 6 November

Location: Cross Roads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX

A creche will be provided.


Guest blog: Occupy Democracy

This is a guest blog from Occupy Democracy. Find out more about the project, and see a full list of workshops here. Follow @occupydemocracy and #occupydemmocracy to stay up to speed.

Our time is now.

In Hong Kong, hundreds of people are fighting courageously for the right to a real vote. They know that a system where candidates are decided by the state is no democracy.

In Scotland, 45% of people rejected Westminster rule. They know that a system that takes the power to make local decisions out of their hands is no democracy.

We know that democracy is not just about having a vote every four, now five years. It is about having the power to make your voice heard. We know that a government that answers to profit before people is no democracy.

ODIn the UK today, record numbers of people are homeless, record numbers rely on food banks to feed their families, and record numbers face fuel poverty as energy prices rise eight times faster than wages.

At the same time, inequality is back on the rise, making us one of the most unequal countries in the developed world. The amount we ask businesses to contribute to our social services in tax is set to be the lowest of any of the G20 countries. Tax evasion and avoidance costs the UK £95bn a year, enough to fund the NHS in England.

Nobody voted to be made homeless, hungry or unemployed.  It is clear whose voices are being heard.

We need to start a movement for real democracy. The voices of the majority have been ignored for too long. We need to give ourselves the tools to hold our politicians to account, and to end the corporate lobbying power that drowns our voices out.

To do it, we need a movement that cannot be ignored. That is why we are occupying Parliament Square from the 17th – 26th of October, to begin a fight for a real democracy (see the original call to action). There, in the shadow of Nelson Mandela’s statue, we will transform the Square into a civic space where we can re-envision what our society could be like, with talks, workshops, community assemblies, music and theatre.

385590There is one thing that every successful social justice movement has had to overcome: the prevalence of the belief that the status quo is how it has to be. That there is no alternative. All of us can feel weakened and ground down by that belief, but all of us must have the courage to overcome it. To imagine a different future for ourselves. To show each other that there is an alternative. Because the current system relies entirely on our believing that there isn’t.

The austerity measures imposed on us for the sake of economic growth, our continued reliance on dirty coal and oil, our hospitals closing, our transit systems worsening while fares rise, our children attending under-funded schools with exhausted underpaid teachers – we only accept these things because we let ourselves believe there is no other way of doing things.

But please, join us for the Occupation. Try imagining there is another way. Do it with people you love, people you trust, with experts and activists and people to be inspired by. If you’re reading this, you’re invited. Your friends, family, colleagues are invited. Now is the time to produce our vision of a sane, workable, inspiring alternative, together. Come to learn, discuss and participate. Dare to believe that there is an alternative.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many—they are few!