Continuing our series of short contributions from figures on the left looking to the year ahead, Nina Power anticipates renewed resistance to austerity, increasingly organised offline.
2012 saw a continuation of repression against anti-austerity protesters and further arrests relating to the riots of the previous summer, as well as other worrying developments concerning the government’s attempt to push through a snooper’s charter and institute private court hearings. The breakneck pace of austerity measures and the concomitant crackdown on civil liberties indicate that the ruling class will stop at nothing to rush through the final stages of the destruction of the welfare state, and are relentless in their pursuit and surveillance of those who try to resist the cuts. 2013 will likely see much more of the same, as we know that the impact of the cuts, brutal as it is already, has a long way left to go.
I think some of the main challenges faced in the year ahead are already contained in the recognition that the cuts have affected so many people: the damage is collectively felt, and the minority responsible are easily identifiable. There is thus a kind of ‘negative collectivity’ constituted both by loss of jobs, benefit cuts, cuts to public services etc. and by a united anger against those who imposed these damaging and unnecessary measures. So the potential for mass opposition is there—and we have seen it in the strikes, protests, riots and other actions that have taken place over the last few years. While it is foolhardy to make predictions about what exactly could happen, I think it’s clear that this mass opposition has not dissipated, despite the attempted crackdowns. The continued revelations in 2012 about what happened at Hillsborough, Orgreave and the complicity of the police in phone-hacking scandals and other cover-ups (relating to deaths in police custody in particular, as the verdict in the recent Sean Rigg inquest proved) has led to a widespread suspicion of the links between police, media and government that stretches back across the decades. It’s as if everything that David Peace described in his Red Riding Quartet has revivified and come back to haunt the current ruling order.
Attending a lecture by current Met commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, it was clear that his interests lie in the surveillance possibilities afforded by internet-based technology. With the current climate of fear around social media (four years in prison for a joke riot post, etc.), it seems increasingly important to organise actions against the cuts “offline” in local communities, and I think we’ll see more protests and resistance in particularly hard-hit areas, and not necessarily only in the larger cities.
Nina Power is a senior lecturer in philosophy at Roehampton University. She is the author of, among others, 'One Dimensional Woman' (2009) and hosts 'The Hour of Power', a discussion of politics and philosophy on Resonance FM.