A few thoughts on the forthcoming TUC ‘We Demand Better’ protest

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) have called a ‘We Demand Better’ protest which will take place in central London on Saturday 18th June. The protest has been called in response to the cost of living crisis which is hitting a lot of us at the moment. How large it will be is anyone’s guess. It may well be just the usual suspects from the organised left. If a lot of ordinary people being hit by this crisis decided to take part it would be ‘interesting’ but somehow, we very much doubt that’s going to happen.

As soon as we saw the word ‘demand’ in the publicity, it sparked a few thoughts. The main one being that what the TUC is doing is little more than demanding a few concessions from a system that’s failing. We’re in the period of late capitalism. That’s the stage where in order to survive, it becomes more parasitic and exploitative. Occasionally, it may make a few grudging concessions in order to keep the lid on potentially volatile situations but that’s about all it will do. A broken, dysfunctional system that’s lurching from one debt crisis to the next simply hasn’t got the means to meet all of the demands called for without completely and utterly hobbling itself.

Is the protest on Saturday 18th June going to be about fighting yesterday’s battles? Will there be any acknowledgement of how automation and remote working are going to make millions of workers across the globe redundant? A whole swathe of jobs are going to be replaced by robots, AI or outsourced to someone who can do the work a lot cheaper. What has been described by many commentators as the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (4IR) is going to inflict profound and dangerously challenging changes, not just to our working lives but to pretty much every aspect of how we live. If we don’t see the totality of what’s being done to us now and what’s coming down the line, simply demanding ‘better’ from a broken system is going to be a waste of time and energy.

You can make as many demands as you want but the harsh truth is that you can’t fix a dysfunctional and increasingly dystopian system. You may be able to squeeze the occasional concession from it, but that’s about it. You may even be able to play a part in forcing the Tory government out but what happens after that? A Starmer led Labour government that’s as much in thrall to corporate interests as the current one? New bosses but the same old shite. Yes, there are ‘purer’ left wing parties out on the fringes but in all the decades we’ve been active, they’ve not moved one inch towards any degree of electoral success. If any ‘radical’ political party actually showed any signs of moving towards electoral success, rest assured, one way or another, the powers that be would soon see them off. As the old saying goes – ‘if voting could change anything, it would be abolished’.

We’ll only get the ‘better’ we want by sweeping away the current system and building a new society from the grassroots upwards. Having been active for more decades than we care to remember, let’s just say that as things currently stand, we’re a long, long way from having a mass movement that can achieve that. For sure, there are a decent number of grassroots projects working at a neighbourhood level that are making a difference, a form of action we discuss here: Prefigurative action. With the way things are going, expanding and building upon this may well offer the best route towards radical change.

All of us involved in projects aiming to bring about radical change need to make sure that we’re relevant to the mass of ordinary people. As we’ve written a fair few times previously, from our experience over the decades, one thing we have learned is that most people are apolitical. Most people just want to live their lives – they don’t want to have to become political activists. Having been activists for decades, you know what – we can sympathise with that! We also have to learn to engage with resistance by ordinary people that doesn’t conform to the script. The anti-lockdown protests of 2020/2021 are a classic example of the failure to do just that which we discuss here: Dealing with reality…

An anarchist bloc has been called for the protest on Saturday 18th June. It will be the first such block on a London protest for a long while. Given what we have discussed above, we hope there will be a propaganda element on it in order to get the message across to the other marchers and watching members of the public. How big the anarchist bloc will be is anyone’s guess – let’s just say that over the last five years, there has been a degree of friction between various elements!

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