Friday, 1 April 2011


'Marching For a Friendly Alternative'

By Ryan O'Neil*
[Exclusive to Sons of Malcolm]

On Saturday March 26, upwards of 500,000 people marched through the streets of London to protest against the cuts to the public sector by the Conservative/ Liberal Democrat Government. The "March for the Alternative" was largely organised by the TUC and is part of a growing movement across the country that has been gathering momentum since the budget cuts were first outlined by the government last year.

The demonstration had the support and backing of political parties and organisations such as the 'Green Party', 'Socialist Workers Party' and even the 'Labour Party', all of which were in attendance at Hyde Park raising awareness about the negative impact the public sector cuts will have on the country. There were still thousands of demonstrators marching through London as speakers such as TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber and Labour leader of the opposition Ed Miliband were declaring their solidarity with the movement to a rapturous applause by thousands more in Hyde Park. "Friends, I am proud to stand with you we come in the tradition of those who have marched before us" declared Ed Miliband. With regards to the failure of generations of the liberal left to escape it's colonial mindset and confront it's own double standards and flawed morality, one cannot help but agree with him.

To begin with, a demonstration can only have any validity if the demonstrators know what they're demonstrating against. Regardless of the turnout, when anti-cuts protestors allow themselves to become cheerleaders for a trade union movement that will go back to negotiating voluntary redundancies on Monday morning with Labour councils that are implementing those cuts, they lose any credibility. When they cheer and applaud the leader of the Labour party when he declares solidarity with their movement, they make themselves look ridiculous.

The liberal left in this country have a habit of selling themselves short when it comes to developing clear criticisms of the system they supposedly oppose. It would be far too easy to criticise the morality of a movement that can protest in the hundreds of thousands when policies of an enemy they can't distinguish starts to directly affect them but yet remain relatively silent as it's government drops bombs and implements savage policies on the third world. The role of the liberal left and the organisations involved with Saturday's demonstration with regards to the recent chauvinistic attacks on Libya however are much more sinister.

At Hyde Park, Brendan Barber talked at length about the need to oppose injustice and declared that the movement was sending a clear message of opposition to the government. However, this is a man who wrote to Conservative foreign secretary William Hague on February 22nd urging him to "step up the pressure on the Ghadaffi regime, including through the EU and the UN Security Council to put in place immediate political, economic and social reforms." Before 'Operation Odyssey Dawn' began, the Stop The War Coalition were praising the resistance in Libya and organising anti-Ghadaffi protests outside the Libyan Embassy, replacing the Libyan flag with the pre-Ghadaffi monarchist flag. Even this week, there were demonstrators in London refusing to join forces with Libyan protestors due to fears of being seen as 'Pro-Ghadaffi'.

When it comes to organising and campaigning against injustice and the brutality of western imperialism, the liberal left of Britain consistently show themselves to be a redundant force that refuses to see the actions of the empire for what they are and side with the oppressed, regardless of their actions against their oppressor. The 'Socialist Workers Party' for instance cannot criticise the bombing of Libya without also making it clear that they believe Ghadaffi to be a 'brutal dictator' thus playing into the hands of the character assassination that this imperial crusade has been using to justify itself. On the cover of virtually every leftist newspaper or pamphlet at Saturday's demonstration, slogans of 'Stop Attacks On Libya', in almost every case, would have 'Down with the Ghaddafi Regime' right next to them.

This behaviour is nothing new with regards to the liberal left in Britain. Generation after generation, organisations have campaigned against British imperialism in Ireland whilst making it clear that they do not support the IRA. Whilst Israel committed genocide in Gaza, the liberal left were very vocal about how they sided with 'the Palestinians', and certainly not the democratically elected Hamas. Even after a million dead Iraqis, the left in Britain are still in this 'third camp' where they oppose the occupation yet cannot bring themselves to fully support the resistance to the British and US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is somewhat strange then that they have got behind the 'rebels' in Libya and continue to support them even as they dance on the corpses of their fellow Libyans that were killed by imperial bombs. Regardless of the western flag waving and the BBC's organised 'Thank You Cameron' chants in Benghazi, the news of racist murders of black Libyans by rebel groups or even the fact that it becomes more and more obvious by the day what the motives behind this war are, the liberal left in Britain are intent on making it clear that only western leaders have a right to dictate policy in the region and Ghadaffi cannot be forgiven for not adhering to this colonial mindset.

'The refusal to stand by in the face of a massacre' is the slogan that the Labour party and Saturday's TUC organisers have been using to justify their stance on Libya and the military intervention implemented last week. Only 13 MPs in the House Of Commons voted against military intervention as opposed to 557 who voted for the 'No Fly Zone' and yet stood by and did nothing in the face of massacres in Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and again in Gaza this week.

There is nothing anti-imperialist about organisations that cannot support the forces that oppose the empire with action and not merely words. There is nothing anti-capitalist about groups and parties that organise marches and protests against policies which they themselves choose to implement rather than boycott and there is nothing revolutionary about marching through London to oppose public spending cuts whilst atrocities throughout the third world are committed and supported by the very same people the demonstrators align themselves with whether they realise it or not.

The real revolutionary movements and organisations are those that aren't merely condemning imperialism but are on the front line opposing it with their lives. The real struggle for the 'Alternative' is not in the hands of the liberal left in Britain but in the hands of those fighting to liberate themselves from the empire's repression throughout the third world. The validity of protest again depends on knowing that which you are protesting against. The same flagging system that will inevitably drive millions into unemployment and poverty in Britain with the spending cuts is the same system has convinced the liberal left that it has a right to try and dictate the fate of the Libyan people. Judging from Saturday's demonstrations and the continued tradition of colonial policy on behalf of the liberal left, this system will inevitably be brought down by the millions of the third world who continue to oppose it, not the hundreds of thousands of empty slogans applauding the enemy in London.


* Ryan O'Neil can be contacted at:

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