Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/764/16651
Food banks and fighting austerity
Time to get political
In the last six months an extra 100,000 people have been added to the food bank queues. Attendance at food banks seems to be one of the few growth areas of the economy.
They play an important role in preventing a whole layer of people falling into absolute destitution. The volunteers and coordinators are selfless individuals who want to do good.
But I think food banks should organise those that they feed, they should get unapologetically and resolutely political.
Food banks should imitate the best traditions of the soup kitchens and squatter camps of the 1930s.
They should not only feed people but inspire and organise those that they feed to join up with the wider labour movement to defeat this unnecessary austerity.
This crisis is not a tsunami or hurricane, it is a man-made crisis. There is no need for such suffering, and to defeat this onslaught needs politics - I would argue, of the socialist variety.
Even though many of us are suffering, there are those doing just fine. The stock market is surging, luxury goods are flying off the shelves and in central London, multimillion-pound properties are selling like hot cakes.
According to the recently published Sunday Times Rich List, the UK's 1,000 richest residents have a total wealth of £450 billion.
There are 88 billionaires among the UK's super-rich, including 15 individuals and families - a combined wealth of a staggering £119 billion.
Imagine if that money was invested in jobs and public services and decent council housing. Then the 350,000 people queuing at food banks could be employed, housed and fed. Surely that's not too much to ask in the 21st century?
One of the most shocking statistics has been the creation of 13 new billionaires during the economic crisis. How can it be, if 'we are all in this together', that billionaires are created as food bank queues swell?
Surely if the stock market recovers then the queues at the food banks should shrink? If big business's balance sheet goes back into credit then the banks should pay the money back that they owe the British public. Remember we gave them £500 billion in bailout money.
Morgan Stanley has repeatedly pointed out that many companies' cash balance sheets are some of the highest since 1988. Companies are sitting on literally mountains of cash.
To add insult to injury many of these companies are now employing ex-HMRC tax officers to take tax avoidance measures to the tune of billions every year - £6,000 for every man, woman and child is stolen through corporate tax avoidance.
I believe charity without politics disguises the role that victims could play in fighting back against the injustices they face.
Unite to fight back
A movement that organised those receiving food parcels would be a force to reckon with. This is without counting all those at the night shelters, in the job centres and those having their benefits cut and undermined.
As a start I would like to see the TUC organise a 24-hour general strike. The TUC is still the biggest and most authoritative organisation for the working class, it represents over six million people.
For all those suffering at the moment, whether queuing up at food banks or queuing in the unemployment lines, a 24-hour general strike would fuse all the helplessness, discontent and the anger together and direct it against the people who did this to us.
I think the time is not only ripe for this to happen, it is rotten ripe. If the labour movement doesn't step forward and organise these victims of this crisis into a united struggle against austerity then other forces will.
People who are receiving food parcels at the moment will be questioning how this happened to them. If it is not answered with class politics it could be answered with right-wing nationalism, as in Greece.
In Greece whole villages that were wiped out by the Nazi invasion during the Second World War are now voting for the fascist Golden Dawn.
The Golden Dawn built their organisation by feeding the unemployed first and then fused this service with right-wing racist propaganda.
Their organisation has gained some traction in working class communities based on the failure of the trade union leaders and social democracy to build a coherent fightback.
We can't let that happen here.
This is an extract from a guest piece on http://thefoodbankers.wordpress.com. Nancy is the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition prospective parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow, east London, offering a working class alternative to austerity.
In The Socialist 8 May 2013:
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