Arts and culture workers need to fight back

“The most unkindest cut”

James Ivens

“This was the most unkindest cut of all.” Mark Antony on Brutus’s murder of Julius Caesar. Which of the Con-Dems’ cuts is most unkindest is not mentioned – in part because Shakespeare died 394 years before the coalition formed.

But if arts and culture workers are to save their industry from assassination, more than stirring rhetoric is required.

Public sector union PCS, representing culture workers, says: “as much as 90% of the cuts threatened have yet to occur.”

With private investment in the arts continuing its decade-long decline, how are cultural bodies to survive?

The answer is they aren’t. A recent casualty is this year’s Manchester Comedy Festival, cancelled outright in August.

Festival creator Don Ward lays the blame squarely at the coalition’s door: “With a clean sweep, government cuts have wiped out funding for a lot of festivals.” The same is happening to cultural organisations of every stripe. For many it is permanent.

Last year, the Federation of Entertainment Unions (FEU) launched the Lost Arts campaign. “Campaign” may be too strong a word.

Website seeks to be a catalogue of cultural bereavement.

This has its place; but what is the FEU actually doing? Constituent unions published reports and supported motions calling for increased funding and an end to exploitation. But they have yet to match their words with action. And so we suffer on.

It’s not just our careers at risk – or our benefits and services, either. With the economy flatlining, and bosses shedding staff and slashing pay, it’s our day jobs too.

With vanishing cultural gigs and nothing in between we have one hope. Fight every job loss and every funding cut that businesses and politicians make.

September’s annual Trades Union Congress historically voted to support prison officers’ union POA’s motion calling for “far reaching campaigns including the consideration and practicalities of a general strike”.

Last year’s enormous N30 strike saw millions of public sector workers walk out over pensions. The action won concessions. Imagine what could have been gained if a second, larger strike had been called.

In July, comedian Stewart Lee slammed what he called “the cultural bankruptcy of late capitalism”. If we are to become culturally solvent once more, we need an end to cuts across the board. We need a fully funded arts sector, and support for all its workers.

We must kick out the government and its austerity policies, and start planning our nation’s considerable output for the good of all, not the profit of a few.

Arts and culture workers must support the TUC’s 20 October demo. We must put pressure on our unions and the TUC to name the date for a general strike, with another threatened after if we don’t win our demands. This is the fight of our lives. Stewart Lee is right – let’s make capitalism ‘late’.

Do you have something to say? Why don’t you send the Socialist a letter about what is happening to you in this long recession? What do you think of what this government is doing? Do you think the unions and Labour should be putting up more opposition? Have you got comments on articles in our paper?

Send your news, views and criticism in around 150 words to Socialist Postbag, PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD, or phone 020 8988 8771, email: [email protected]

The Socialist reserves the right to shorten letters. Don’t forget to give your name, address and phone number. Confidentiality will be respected if requested.