Anarchism, the anti-cuts movement and working class politics: a reply to the Anarchist Federation

For the full text of AFed's article 'The Anti-Cuts Movement and the Left', see www.afed.org.uk/org/org77.pdf. All other AFed publications referred to in this article can be found on www.afed.org.uk.
For Pete Radcliff's article on AFed's attempt to disrupt Nottingham May Day, see here


The Winter 2011 issue of the Anarchist Federation's (AFed) magazine Organise! carries a long article detailing some of the history of the Nottinghamshire Save Our Services campaign. As well as providing a sometimes valuable narrative of events, AFed take the opportunity attack their political opponents in the campaign. The main focus for their ire are the 'Trotskyists' and the Alliance for Workers' Liberty in particular. Throughout the article, these groups are referred to as the “Left”.
Of course, AFed have every right to print and publicise what they like – even attacks on the AWL! We warmly welcome the opportunity to respond and to continue the debates we initiated with anarchist comrades in 2011. But before we respond to specific points, some general comments about the structure of the article and AFed in Nottingham are necessary.
Starting arguments when we need debate
The article – 'The Anti-Cuts Movement and the Left: A local activists perspective' – is not an interview with any old local activist as its title and Q&A style suggests. In fact, the person being interviewed is probably a long-standing anarchist activist in Nottingham and, it is safe to assume, a prominent member of AFed. The folksy language used throughout is of course 'charming', but it cannot mask the fact that this is a factional, politically focussed attack.
Throughout the article, the 'interviewee' states or implies that one of the problems with the “Left” is that they claim to represent or speak for large constituencies of people (members of a trade union branch, the working class as a whole etc...) when in fact they speak only for themselves.
The article finds the “Left” guilty as charged but in doing so reproduces exactly the attitudes AFed claims to reject.
The comrades claim that one of their major tasks is to convince “the everyday heroes of the struggle that they are acting like anarchists” - and recruit them to AFed, we assume. The 'interviewee' sets themselves up as not only the voice of the ordinary person involved in Notts SOS but the arbiter of who is and who is not a “nice”, “hard-working” individual; who has a “sense of humour, skills to share” etc...
Whilst AFed claim to be non-hierarchical, they are not shy in imposing a hierarchical set of measures to assess who and who is not a worthwhile participant in the struggle.
The implication of this form of categorisation is that AFed members in Nottingham are uniformly nice, funny, hard-working and skilful people … the nicest, funniest, most hard-working and skilful people on the scene, no less! Others who know them – including other Nottingham anarchists who have varying views of the AFed comrades – can make their own judgements on this score.
The only comments that need to be made about the specific qualities of Nottingham AFed relate to another major theme in the article: that of 'AFed as underdog'. The article suggests that whilst poor little AFed is fighting to stop other groups from dominating Notts SOS, the massed forces of the Nottingham “Left” with their legions of followers and significant resources threaten to consume the campaign!
Such nonsense, especially when considered against the reality of the 'balance of forces' on the ground. For instance, it's likely that AFed has more members in Nottingham than either the AWL or the SWP. I'd argue that the basic composition of the AFed group is similar to that of a typical SWP branch: dominated by two or three long-time activists with a smattering of newer and student members around the edges. This could be a political weakness in some circumstances but it does mean that AFed have young and energetic activists on the ground.
Secondly, Nottingham AFed can boast an asset called the Sparrow's Nest – an anarchist study and resource centre. No group on the Nottingham “Left” has such facilities.
So far from being a beleaguered, small and resourceless group of people fighting the good fight against nasty Trotskyists, Nottingham AFed are in fact blessed in comparison to the rest of us!
One last point on the political method of this article. Take this quote from early on as an example: “Many Left parties openly admit that on the eve of a 'successful' revolution, they would have to eliminate anarchists.” Well, my first question is who admits such a thing? Specifically, which organisations with representatives in Nottingham make this claim? Are we to suppose that AFed comrades willingly sit around the table with people they assume to be their future executioners? If they do, then they are a special kind of masochist!
It's not enough for AFed to paint the “Left” and Workers' Liberty members as “authoritarians” with a “deceitful attitude”, no … we're future murderers to boot! This is not a serious political method. It's not the sort of method that encourages honest and open debate over differences of theory and tactics.
It's playground stuff: a lesson in how to start a fruitless argument when what we should be having is a debate.
What follows is an attempt to critique some of the ideas expressed in AFed's article and address some of their specific criticisms. We hope it starts a useful dialogue.
Culture of Resistance
“The anti-cuts movement is an obvious example of a culture of resistance; it is where pockets of resistance meet, all the better because it is happening spontaneously.”
The term “culture of resistance” is a regular feature of AFed literature – but what does it mean? The article itself doesn't explain, but the AFed publication 'The Role of Revolutionary Organisation' states under the sub-heading 'Culture of Resistance' that: “[o]ur true sense of community and culture only comes to life when we resist, when our class acts for itself … Building links is an important task, links between cause and effect, between struggles and campaigns, between ideas and theories, between people … Don’t try to force your ideas onto people as you will either split the group, exclude yourself or create de-energised and bored people, alienated from the idea and practice of revolution. Don’t be rigid or push forward rigid formulas. People’s views change through struggle not by being harangued or having deadly theory shoved down their throats.”
So the term not only refers to a set of conditions that others on the left would describe as class struggle, but to an attitude and way of behaviour appropriate for 'libertarian revolutionaries'.
In another document 'Beyond Resistance' (AFed's manifesto), the comrades use a clearer definition. In section C, sub-section 1 – 'Pre-Revolutionary Culture' – they write: “By this Culture of Resistance we mean the development of both social spaces and general attitudes of anti-capitalist combativity.”
There is an undeniable element of spontaneity in the anti-cuts 'movement', as there is in any developing arena of struggle. Individuals and groups with whom we – revolutionaries – have no contact whatsoever will start to resist and take action when faced with a worsening of conditions or a sharp change of events. One thing that feeds our hopes for and understanding of the possibilities for revolutionary change is that when faced with adversity, human beings can and do resist of their own volition.
But this understanding is only the beginning of wisdom. Humans and the working class more specifically do not enter the arena of struggle as blank slates. History, experience, culture and belief – the social relations between individuals, groups and society as a whole – shape the course of any action taken. Whatever the merits of humanity, we are not born with “good sense” hard-wired into our brains. We often adopt a “common sense” approach formed and informed by limited experience and more or less irresistible influence … irresistible if left uncontested, that is.
The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci put it this way: “each individual is not only the synthesis of existing relations but also the history of these relations, the sum of all of the past” ['What is Man?']. In a society shaped and formed by class struggle, but a society nonetheless based on exploitation and oppression – with the additional experience of multiple defeats for our class – “the history of these relations” weighs heavily upon us.
Taken literally AFed's injunction against sharp argument would mean stepping back from sharp disputes with activists who argue for nationalistic, chauvinistic, racist or sexist positions. We know from practice that anarchists in general and AFed in particular are consistent and open critics of such thinking. Or is it acceptable to argue sharply against these ideas but not others we oppose – like reformism and Stalinism?
The records of struggle show that reactionary ideas can be dispelled – or at least have the edges taken off – through struggle. For instance, the Miner's strike of the 1980s and the solidarity shown by women and gays – to name but two groups – decisively shifted the world view of some strikers.
Can the same be said for ideas like reformism and Stalinism? The record here shows that whilst small numbers of people can be compelled to reject such ideas through experience alone, the great bulk of evidence suggests that experience alone cannot shift large layers of society away from these views. Even the tumultuous collapse of 'official' Stalinist communism in Russia and Eastern Europe failed to crush illusions in Stalinist ideas. The Communist Party may have withered, but the ideas endure in general political culture.
The experience of the Labour Party in government is another case in point. How much more vile than Tony Blair would a Labour prime minister have to be before 'real world experience' finally stopped people from voting Labour?
The fact is that many Stalinist ideas remain generally accepted – are “common sense” - even by those who have never been organised Stalinists. The same is true for passive hope invested in reformism through a vote for Labour. In short, some but not all bad ideas melt away through struggle. Indeed, 'struggle' can generate a great deal of “common sense” to the detriment of “good sense”.
Take for example the movement of the 'indignants' in Spain. A mass movement of the young, unemployed and underemployed the 'indignants' firmly rejected the Spanish governments' plans to reform the labour market and benefits system. Both major parties – the social democrats who were in government at the time and the opposition conservative People's Party – supported the terrible legislation. In the face of a crisis ridden economy, other smaller opposition parties, to the left and right, stood ineffectually by. The trade union leaders initially voiced their opposition to the plans but only a minority called action in response.
Against this background, the spokespeople for the 'indignants' professed their rejection of not only all political parties but also the unions. The rejection was total: meaning a total rejection of the political party and trade union forms of organisation. The “good sense” of the movement was a sharp critique of existing political structures and a rejection of their leadership – such a realisation has true revolutionary potential. The “common sense” that prevailed dispersed the revolutionary potential that an organised fight within the unions and the formation of new a party organisation could have maintained.
What happened? The biggest single thing that happened as a consequence of the Spanish crisis was the returning to power of the PP with a firm mandate to carry through biting austerity measures – something the social democrats lacked due to the level of opposition. Uncontested in the electoral arena and faced with an amorphous anti-political movement, the forces of neoliberalism got what they wanted.
The anti-political, “culture of resistance” failed the test of reality.
The specific errors – or over-assumptions, if you like – and contradictions in AFed's definition of a 'culture of resistance' can be summarised as follows:
First, the 'over-assumption': “People’s views change through struggle not by being harangued or having deadly theory shoved down their throats.” It is indeed true that ideas change through struggle – as they do when any altering of relations and conditions takes place. For instance, you touch a red-hot poker for the first time and you learn two things, (1) pokers that glow red are hot and (2) it's a very bad idea to touch a red-hot poker.
But you don't have to touch the poker to know it's a bad idea. One thing that separates humans from other animals is our ability to learn in the abstract – we can be told and understand it's a good idea not to touch things that are glowing red, for instance.
AFed are making an argument against arguing: that everything will come out right in the end because the struggle will sort any 'bad' ideas out: “if only everyone realised they were acting like anarchists!”. History tells us otherwise, does it not? Certainly the fate of the anarchist movement during the Spanish revolution and counter-revolution of the 1920's clearly demonstrates that terrible 'mistakes' are possible even by anarchists faced with a revolution in the making.
The contradiction: is it the case that when the “Left” fights for its politics we “harangue” and “shove it down peoples throats”, whilst when AFed presents and defends its politics it does so in soft and cosy fashion.
If it's the first, then what's the point in having a revolutionary organisation like AFed where being the “memory of the class” and “revolutionary propagandists” is so highly prioritised? If people join the organisation, are all the facts revealed but they must promise to keep it to themselves? Is AFed in fact a secretive cult? Their website, plethora of pamphlets and publications suggests otherwise.
If it's the second, we have already described the realities and actual method AFed employs to defend its politics in the first section of this response. It may be of a more subtle variety, but the “harangue” is unmistakeable.
AFed's “culture of resistance” is a nice phrase but it appears to have a limited material basis. It's a 'thing' that the AFed comrades are forever looking out for and can never quite find in acceptable form.
The weekly meetings of Notts SOS and the activities and demonstrations it organised were and are far removed from the high-pitch nature of other events around the world … but according to AFed they are a “culture of resistance” nonetheless. Was this ever the case?
If you reject the all-or-nothing romanticism implied by AFed's phrasemaking and settle for an examination of concrete reality, the results are less than spectacular but of huge potential significance.
The forces that initiated and combined into Notts SOS were impelled by the actual need to fight into an association of basic working class solidarity. Significantly, this association brought together trade union activists, socialists, community campaigners and yes, anarchists to fight for a common but limited purpose. Notts SOS, like other anti-cuts groups around the country, represent the molecular processes of a potentially large-scale re-composition of the forces of struggle: the re-building of working class self-organisation and the fight for solidarity.
It's in this sense that Notts SOS has disappointed them, because having imagined that an anti-cuts 'movement' would develop in a certain way and open certain opportunities for anarchist organisation, it did not bear fruit.
There is no direct correlation between general economic slump, political depression and a rejection of established political institutions on the one hand and an 'upturn' in struggle on the other. To a certain extent, the 'grind' of austerity economics has become a 'normal' feature of everyday life. That this has happened is in no small part a consequence of the failures of trade union leaders – especially with regards to the pensions campaign – and the organised left. The evident impotence of the labour movement leaders and the lack of (for the most part – the Sparks dispute and moves currently under way in the National Union of Teachers being exceptions) rank-and-file pressure within the unions has fed into the 'downturn' in anti-cuts work.
The fact that Nottingham AFed comrades cannot fully understand 'why' and draw general negative conclusions from their experience is just one symbol of their political limitations.
The AWL, trade unions and the anti-cuts movement
“...mass resistance is being potentially ruined, once again, by the authoritarian Left!”
Unable to conceive just why so many people failed to jump to anarchist conclusions or realise that they're really anarchists, AFed has to find someone to blame. It goes without saying that they're innocent on all matters. The AWL on the other hand – and Nottingham comrades in particular – are dripping with blame from every pore.
“As usual, it is the Trotskyists who, having won influence within the struggle because of their numbers and resources, are now set to derail it” claim AFed. We have already dealt with the issue of “numbers and resources” in the introduction. But do not fear, the comrades have found a quote on the AWL website that justifies their claims. In fact, they didn't have to look very far to find this damning evidence because the quote they use is carried in every paper we print. The quote: “Our priority is to work in the workplaces and trade unions, supporting workers' struggles...” etc...
“[T]hat's not where this struggle will be won … We can't afford to let the Left divert the efforts of grass-roots activists into helping them win influence within trade unions...” warn AFed.
Had the comrades dug a little deeper into our website – or simply typed “anti-cuts” into the search facility – they would have found our 2010 conference document 'Trades councils and anti-cuts committees' where we agreed that:
“Whatever their exact nature or origin, the emergence of these [anti-cuts] committees and their future work is a key indicator of the future shape of resistance to the cuts. Such committees will attract layers of trade union and working class activists from a wide and rich layer of the movement, they represent a chance to rejuvenate and renew the labour movement in terms of personnel, ideas and initiative.
We should note the immediate possibility and potential dangers of sections of the existing left attempting to 'coordinate' the work of these committees by engineering affiliations to their own front organisations. This is already the case with the SWP's Right to Work campaign and we should expect the Socialist Party to operate on their 'successful model' forged during the Poll Tax rebellion.
We should encourage the involvement of Labour Party representatives in anti-cuts campaigns, but should not trim our activities, or limit our criticisms of Labour in order to keep them on board. We should use any such involvement to pressure Labour to adequately resist the Government.”
It's likely that AFed comrades would find much to criticise in this selection and from the document as a whole, but rather than address our actual ideas they selected a small section from our basic statement “What is the Alliance for Workers' Liberty” to indict us.
What is it that AFed are so hostile to?
“But [the labour movement] is not where this struggle will be won” they write. Further “Workers' organisations of any sort are only part of the picture, and trade unions are legally castrated and effectively self-interested at that. We can't afford to let the Left divert the efforts of grass-roots activists into helping them win influence within the trade unions, which seems to be the latest turn in this experiment of working with the Left.”
The comrades present themselves as hostile to – that is complete sectarians in their attitude and relationship with – the existing, mass trade unions and the broader labour movement. Unable or unwilling to address themselves to the realities of class struggle and the monumental history of our class which conditions the reality we face today, they cook up a conspiracy.
A more detailed account of AFed's attitude to the unions can be found in their pamphlet “On the frontline: anarchists at work”. This document – the '[w]orkplace strategy of the Anarchist Federation' – summaries their views as follows:
“[The] contradiction between the union's role in disciplining and controlling workers and the material advantages and opportunities to organise that it brings cannot be wished away. Any militant in the workplace must find ways of working around these problems and find ways of using the opportunities and protections unions offer without being coerced and corralled by union structures.”
As you'd expect from a publication devoted to workplace strategy, the comrades present a more worked-out point of view than the selection above indicates. But the essence of their politics remains the same as that expressed by their actual political practice.
The AFed comrades are happy to accept the unions as a fact and embrace the “security” provided by the unions. All the same, militants must find a way around the problems posed by the union bureaucracy. This sort of attitude is antithetical to socialists for two reasons.
First, the conception of 'unions as safety nets' is shared by most trade union leaders and bureaucrats. Neither the union bosses nor militant anarchists – or more precisely the anarchist-communists of AFed – imagine the unions actually staging a fight or doing anything other than providing legal advice. For AFed, trade unionism is synonymous with workplace lawyerism.
Second, 'finding a way around' the bureaucracy is something that neither 'classical' anarchists nor socialists would be content with. Our aim is to smash the bureaucracy and to replace it with real, living and breathing democratic structures. Simply 'finding a way around' rather than taking the bureaucracy on, challenging their leadership, standing in elections against them etc... is abandoning an aspect of class struggle within organisations fought for and built by the working class. It's an abandonment of our history as a class and a rejection of the idea that mass organisations of workers can and do fight.
But AFed don't “abandon struggle” altogether do they? No, they have an 'answer' but the 'answer' is sectarian to the core.
Whilst 'relying' on existing trade unions for legal advice, representation and protection (despite the fact that AFed considers trade unions to be nothing more than “mediating structures within capitalism” ['On the Frontline']), the comrades advocate a strategy of building a “workplace resistance group” outside of and independent from the trade unions. Who is going to build and join these 'resistance groups'? One can only suppose that AFed members will play a central role.
Unhappy with the trade unions – not only as they currently exist, but because they are nothing more than capitalist “mediating structures” - AFed wants to build its own workers organisations separate from and disinterested in the majority of the organised working class. This is the quintessence of political sectarianism.
The “workplace resistance group” is not the be-all of their strategy for the working class. Far from it. The comrades advocate the idea of a “mass workers assembly”:
“History has shown us repeatedly that the direct form which is the natural expression of working class political power is the mass assembly, and from this the use of mandated recallable delegates to form the councils of workers required to oversee first revolutionary struggle, then the everyday functioning
of the new society. Therefore, the mass workers’ assembly is precisely the organisational form we agitate for in order for the principles of self-organisation, direct action and mutual aid to become the leading ones within mass struggle. It is the expression of the anarchist communist goal.”
['On the Frontline']
Whereas AFed's propaganda for resistance groups jars with reality (for example, I'm not aware that any such groups exist where AFed members work in Nottingham), their call for a “mass workers' assembly” directly contradicts what AFed members have said and done in Nottingham.
In the run-up to the 30th June 2011 pensions strike, members of AFed argued against proposals from the National Union of Teachers locally (where two AWL members are active) to hold a strike meeting at the end of a demonstration. The NUT and AWL comrades were clear that this was to consist of a small number of speeches to be followed by a wide-ranging discussion on the future of the dispute.
AWL members pointed out that only one day of action had been called so far and that to win on pensions we would need a serious campaign of industrial action. The AWL also attempted to explain that June 30th should be used to help organise or re-organise (in some cases) trade union branches; that members of all unions need to come together to discuss and decide what action should be taken and that we needed local organisation to put demands on the leaders of unions for further and consistently effective industrial action.
AFed members from UCU opposed this suggestion and instead supported calls from the Socialist Workers Party for a 'Day of Rage' against the government. Whilst the 'day of rage' failed to appear, the disruption and disorientation produced by much quarrelling and back-biting reduced the strike meeting to nothing more than a rally.
So much for the rhetoric of “mass workers assemblies”!
Labour Party
“Some of the left activists actually stood as Labour councillors and got in, and we haven't seen them since at SOS; inevitably because they are now representatives of a party that is pro-cuts!”
As far as AFed are concerned, there seems to be only one organisation worse than Trotskyist groups or trade unions: the Labour Party.
They are so obsessed and so far from any rational understanding of either the Labour Party or the AWL's attitude towards it, that members of AFed come across as something akin to Third Period Stalinists in their fixated denunciations of all things 'Labour'. This fixation goes to the point of wilfully misrepresenting reality, as with the quote that opens this section.
The AFed comrade really wants it both ways on this score. At the same time as praising the flowering of anti-cuts and service user groups that emerged either independently from or inspired by Notts SOS, they can't bring themselves to praise the work done by two Labour Party councillors who had previously been central to getting SOS off the ground.
So what have these Labour Councillors done since being elected? First they organised a campaign to save a local library, which included a mass read-in attended by scores of local residents. Secondly, one of councillors helped set up and run a local anti-academy campaign that has now grown into a county-wide 'Hands Off Our Schools' group. Third, they waged a battle within the Labour Party for a vote against the upcoming cuts budget. They spoke in the council chamber against the cuts and voted against them – bringing another Labour Party councillor along with them [see note 2 below for the text of one of the councillors speeches]. Finally, one of these Labour councillors who “we haven't seen since” continues to be the treasurer of Notts SOS – organising the finances, looking for donations etc... It's likely that the AFed writer has had recent communications with this Labour councillors about room collection money!
So much for the idea that they've disappeared “because they are now representatives of a party that is pro-cuts!” Where reality doesn't fit their dogma, this AFed writer chooses distortion and half-truths.
So what is AFed's attitude to the Labour Party all about?
Writing of Bakunin's relationship with the First International, Hal Draper notes:
“Bakunin's was the first leftist movement to apply its conspiratorial patterns of subversion not to assail society at large or to defend itself against the police, but to destroy other socialists' organiszation. Its rationale was its own theory that these rivals were part and parcel of the Authoritarian Enemy, or maybe worse (compare the similar rationale, sixty-five years later, of the Stalinized Communist International with the adoption of the theory of social-fascism)”
['Bakunin and the International: A “Libertarian” Fable', from Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Volume IV: Critique of other socialisms]
There are a number of problems with AFed's attitude. First – and paradoxically for anarchists – they seem unable to differentiate between members of the Labour Party and the leaders of the party. Second, they either have no understanding or wilfully refuse to understand the organic connections and historical basis of the relationship between the Labour Party and the trade unions – however distorted and neutered these connections and relationships currently are. Third, because they essentially dismiss struggles within the trade unions for more effective action, more democracy and more accountable leadership they also fail to recognise the potential political ramifications of these fights on the Labour Party. Fourth, they assume that anyone on the left who maintains even a passing interest in what happens in the Labour Party somehow agrees with or is prepared to toe-the-line in fear of the party leadership. Fifth, they refuse to recognise or accept the realities of current struggles within the Labour Party – even when they are on their doorstep and within the bounds of their political contacts.
For AFed, Labour is no different from Tory. No historical considerations, no current facts and no amount of patient explanation seems to be able to shift them.
So rabid is their attitude against the Labour Party that they choose not to hear criticisms of Labour from those they assume to be mortally corrupted (ie. AWL comrades). Further they treat middle-of-the-road, not-very-left-wing, spineless and uninspiring Labour MP's as if they were fascists (see Pete Radcliff's article referred to at the top).
The AFed comrades are prepared to disrupt the work of Notts SOS and disrupt labour movement events in a fashion that stinks of Stalinist witch-hunting and Ultra-Left lunacy.
No wonder the AFed comrades find so much in common with Nottingham's local Maoist!
Conclusion
A vivid summary of the arguments and observations made above is given by the events surrounding AFed's antics at Nottingham May Day 2012. These events also add something to the overall picture of AFed's politics missing so far: their anti-democratic and consequentially authoritarian individualistic and moralistic outlook.
For those people attracted to anarchist ideas and principles, we say: “just look at what becomes of them”. Whilst AFed is not representative of anarchism per se – indeed it's no more than a sect within the anarchist scene, a sect with which many anarchists want no association – there are qualities within AFed common to anarchists of all outlooks.
Marxists and anarchists have a shared history: one littered with errors, scandals, accusations, counter-accusations, controversy and debate. Marxists also have something in common with class-struggle anarchists: an unmoveable hostility to capitalism and an understanding that we need to organise for working class revolution.
A dialogue and some level of understanding between Marxists and anarchists is desirable and potentially useful – as activists, we are involved in many common struggles within and without the workplace.
But sometimes a line is crossed. This line demarcates the ground on which Marxists and anarchists can fruitfully cooperate, where we can share ideas and work together in struggle and the ground on which crass political idiocy is expressed in full inglorious technicolour.
With their dishonest dealing with the facts, misrepresentation and the scandalously casual grip on reality displayed in their journal, Nottingham AFed members edged onto the line. Their Stalinist antics at Nottingham May Day pushed them well into ground on which working class revolutionaries should be wary of treading.
Note:
1) This article started as a response to an article published in AFed's journal that was highly critical of the AWL and our associated politics. It's turned into something more than a simple response. The reflections and analysis above are composed from two sources – articles from AFed's website and direct experience of working with AFed members in Nottingham.
To give credit where it's due, AFed did offer to print a response but it's been assumed a response of this nature exceeds the political and physical (in terms of printing) remit of their journal.
2) Speech for Council Budget Debate – 29th Feb 2012
The vote this evening is an important event. Important because through this budget we will touch the lives of a large number of ordinary people and their families. The decisions we make here – tonight – matter; not least because what the majority decides will have a blanket impact upon those who voted for us. They will notice the changes we set in stone this evening and they will remember what we decide.
We are being asked to make decisions in circumstances not of our own choosing. Events outside of this council chamber and many miles away from Beeston – events for which nobody here is responsible – mean that many of you voting here tonight – though not all of you [nod towards Libs and Tories] – have a difficult decision to make.
I believe many of you think voting against making cuts is a difficult decision to make. Let me tell you why it's not just an easy thing to do, but also the right thing to do for Broxtowe and the people who depend upon this council and its services and the workers who provide these services.
We are being asked to pass the governments austerity economics onto the people of Broxtowe. We are being asked to agree to a twelve-and-a-half percent cut in spending for the next year. We are being asked to make changes that can only have a negative impact on council workers and council tenants. We are being asked to play a part in the whole-scale undermining of public services and social provision that this government seems determined to see through to the bitter end.
It's easy to vote against cuts when you know that the poorest 10% of the UK are hit thirteen times harder by the cuts than the richest 10%.
It's easy to say no when you know that the poorest and most vulnerable will be hit the hardest.
Easy when you know that billions of pounds of tax-payers money sits in the bankers slush finds; when you know that millions of pounds in bonuses have been paid out by the banks we rescued.
It's easy to vote against cuts when you know how much tax remains uncollected and out of reach because the people with vast sums of money squirrel it away.
But the Tory-led government doesn't want us to think about how much money their friends have. The Liberals don't want us to think much either. They want us to nod these cuts through and swallow the lie that “there is not alternative”.
Well, there is an alternative swallowing the lies and nodding these cuts through. There's an alternative to accepting the dire consequences that the cuts will bring.
The alternatives are practical and political.
The alternative starts by voting down the budget presented here tonight. It starts by demanding the government reverses cuts imposed on this council and others. It starts by standing in solidarity with those we represent and working with them to build our towns, villages and communities – to build Broxtowe.
These steps must be followed by demands for national investment to create jobs, extend services and build an infrastructure that provides useful work now and real hope for the future.
We must demand that the £120 billion of unpaid tax is collected and distributed to places like Broxtowe.
We should demand an end to bankers bonuses and an opening up of funds for investment.
You see, there are alternatives to the slash-and-burn agenda of this government. There are alternatives to doing Cameron and Osborne's work for them. There is an alternative to making a 'difficult decision':
Vote against this budget.

Marxist Theory and History: