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Liverpool: the front line in Cameron’s “Big Society” class war

July 22, 2010

Prime Minister David Cameron recently came to Liverpool to unveil his “Big Society.”

The promise is to build a culture “where people, in their everyday lives, in their homes, in their neighbourhoods, in their workplace … feel both free and powerful enough to help themselves and their own communities.”

If this were the case, Liverpool SolFed would be over the moon. Locally based self-organisation, after all, is the basis of anarcho-syndicalism.

But that’s not what Cameron’s offering at all. This “people power” is being managed from the top-down, not the bottom-up, and the real agenda is privatisation.

That’s why “government has a crucial role to play in bridging the gap – and indeed, more widely, in connecting private capital to investment in social projects.”

The Big Society will “help finance social enterprises, charities and voluntary groups through intermediaries,” allowing them to “leverage” private sector “investment.”

The government isn’t freeing us from hierarchy and control, simply replacing state shackles with private ones.

Where ordinary, working class people need it, there will be no autonomy. We have no say on the state axing health authority jobs, slashing school funding, and laying waste to public services.

The government is increasingly using the rhetoric of the libertarian left to sell its ideas, which in reality come from the right.

The Tories’ plans for “free schools” bears no resemblance to the curriculum of Summerhill School or to the vision of Spanish anarchist Francesco Ferrer.

For them, it is governors and private owners who need freedom, not the children being educated. We saw the consequences of this in Tony Blair’s Academies and the rise of creationist indoctrination.

Their plans for “workers’ cooperatives” in the civil service had nothing to do with collectivisation and democratic self-control.

The agenda there is to turn workers against one another – competition for work between different “cooperatives” driving a race to the bottom which opens services up to private buyers at low prices, all in the name of workers’ control.

Like these two initiatives, the “Big Society” isn’t a road to increased freedom. It certainly isn’t democratic self-organisation from below.

It is a veil for predatory capitalism to hide behind as it attacks the working class.

If we want to challenge that, we need to draw upon the substance lacking from Cameron’s hollow words. We need to build up a culture of self-management from below, and challenge attempts by government and capital to control our lives.

In the community and the workplace, the key to this is militancy and direct action.

Liverpool’s working class is grounded in this tradition. From the 1775 Seamen’s Revolt and the 1911 Transport Strike to the Poll Tax Rebellion and the Toxteth Uprising, ours is a history of resistance.

This is the spirit we need to call upon as the ruling class unleash their attacks.

We cannot be dazzled by their initiatives. Their talk of freedom and local control is a lie. They bring us poverty and unemployment in the name of their profits.

The most powerful weapon against the Big Society is working class solidarity.


  1. July 24, 2010 8:28 am

    Their concept of a free school is as far as possible of the original as it can be.
    But in a country where the voters have only the choice between 3 neoliberal partys confusing freedom with “giving a bird shit” class division, where too many “go betweens”allows these rude guys to impose their laws on all out of some middle class crumble participation fake safety s . Real citizen democracy is a must, to change these “sound good noises” into authentic life. I guess, these “freedom fighters” will have to experience the real meaning of the word.


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