“We Are Many” and the Fight-Back Against Austerity

With the elections concluded, Tory attacks upon the working-class are intensifying by the day. But the 99% of us who must bear the brunt of their austerity-assault are fighting back. Hundreds of thousands of people, including a large contingent from Leicester, were united in voicing their rising anger and demands for an alternative in London on June 20th at the People’s Assembly March Against Austerity.

With perfect timing, the release of the inspiring documentary We Are Many arguably couldn’t be better. This acclaimed film tells the international story of 15 February 2003, when millions of people rose up across the world to oppose impending war. No doubt this film will help move thousands more people into joining the fight-back against our current government. And in the wake of this powerful film there will be plenty of time to discuss the lessons that socialists can learn from strengths and weaknesses of the methods used in building anti-war protests (as discussed in the following article “The politics of the anti-war movement”).

Given the background of the films producers it is clear that a socialist analysis of the anti-war movement would not be forthcoming, although socialist commentators are certainly featured in the documentary. One example of the films political limitations was evident in the editorial decision to draw attention to the anti-war activism of members of the capitalist ruling-class, like for instance, Richard Branson.

As a self-styled entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson’s solution to preventing the Iraq war was not to support a strategy that would unite the working-class in united strike action and rolling protests, but instead was to organise a secret flight to Baghdad to plead with Saddam Hussein to back-down. So while many people identify the all consuming profit-motive of capitalism as being one of the primary drivers of all manner of wars Sir Branson disagrees. He may of course profess his love of peace and harmony, but it is his overwhelming love-affair with capitalism that always wins the day, whether he is increasing his personal profits through the privatisation of either the NHS or public transport.

Rather than see the systemic problems of capitalism as fuelling wars and the ongoing financial crisis, Sir Branson believes “capitalism and entrepreneurship are proven to still be the best way people around the world can progress forwards.” Moreover, with regards the drawbacks of capitalism he lays the blame at the hands of a few bad apples, writing just last year that: “A handful of greedy people (mainly within banks) have fundamentally created the financial mess that we are in.”

Sir Branson overlooks his own part in profiteering from and contributing to growing inequality, both nationally and internationally. Yet even before the Iraq war, Richard Murphy from Tax Research UK had highlighted Branson’s dedication to undermining the tax base that is used to promote a fairer society by funding public services. Murphy reported: “I didn’t think Virgin paid any tax here, let’s be blunt about it. It’s been remarkably poor at doing so.”

Thankfully the dark legacy of Sir Branson’s negative contribution towards the common good having been truly exposed in Tom Blower’s recent book Branson: Behind the Mask (2014). As one reviewer surmised:

“Like the Russian oligarchs, Branson has made little of his money in the white heat of market competition. He prefers to avoid competition when he can. His business strategy is to get as close as possible to the people with power and then exploit the connection for all it’s worth.”

Either way, despite the films limitations, We Are Many will definitely prove a boon to organising against the Tories. Here in Leicester the first screening of the documentary was held at the Phoenix cinema tonight, and its last showing will be on Thursday 2nd July at 8.20pm. So make sure you get along and get involved with the developing political discussion about where we should go from here…

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