activism growth

Why I won’t be “marching for the alternative”

The 26th of March has been called as a day of protest in the UK. It’s been organised by the trade unions, who love a good march, but it’s got a pretty wide base of support. NGOs are supporting it, and a number of Christian groups are rallying supporters to attend. If all goes to plan, March for the Alternative will be the biggest trade union organised march for 20 years.

I won’t be going. I’m a passionate advocate of ‘the alternative‘, and I believe the government’s cuts programme is unfair and unnecessary. But here’s the problem:

As a slogan, ‘jobs – growth -justice’ is neat enough. But is the government against jobs? Against growth? George Osborne is due to deliver “the most pro-growth budget in a generation” this week. So how is that an alternative?

The TUC explains its vision of the alternative thus:

…an alternative in which rich individuals and big companies have to pay all their tax, the banks pay a Robin Hood tax and in which we strain every sinew to create jobs and boost the sustainable economic growth that will generate the prosperity which is the only long term way to close the deficit and reduce the nation’s debt.

I agree with the fair taxation, with the financial sector paying for the recovery, and tax dodging is a vital part of reducing the deficit. I’ve been a big supporter of closing the tax loopholes, and of the Robin Hood Tax.  But I’m not going to go on a march to encourage us to “strain every sinew” to boost growth.

First of all, there is no such thing as ‘sustainable economic growth’ – not in a finite world. I’m not going to march for something that is impossible. It’s also fundamentally untrue that growth is the only way to close the deficit and end the debt. Pursuing growth is what gave us the debt in the first place. It’s also the big driver of inequality, so unqualified growth is likely to work against justice. The same people demanding growth here are likely to be highly displeased with Osborne’s pro-growth budget, but you can’t have it both ways.

Yes, we need an alternative, but this vision of it isn’t worth marching for. Let’s demand tax justice and call out the financial sector, but let’s demand a better economy, not just a bigger one.


  1. I agree. Id like to join the protest, even just to say that the governments cuts are unfair etc, but the truth is what we need to do is change our society in a very radial way if we are going to have any chance of surviving as a species. Limitless growth forever, coming from any political persuasion, is, as you say, impossible and undesirable.

    I think we need to be questioning our culture as a whole and not just tinkering with some aspects of it, all be it important aspects.

    Are people really ready to genuinely face the challenges of our time head on, rather than just calling for more of then same and thinking its radical?

  2. Well, I agree with much of what you say (esp about economic growth being unsustainable) but I did march, anyway. Yes, I wasn’t thrilled that it was organised by the TUC but, in fairness, I have to say they made a very good job of things, though the rally in Hyde Park felt like an anticlimax to me and some others I spoke with.

    I guess the majority of marchers were from unions but it’s impossible to know and there were certainly plenty of others, like me, who are not (and never have been) trade union members. From chatting with people during the day, I also found many trade union members who belong because being in the union makes them feel less vulnerable, not because they agree with everything their leaders say! The placards (many home made) said it all, really. This was a very diverse collection of people, campaigning on wide variety of issues. The only thing that really united us was a shared loathing of unjust Coalition Govt policies.

    I know the march will probably achieve nothing and the mainstream media has sought to minimise it’s impact by focusing on the (comparitively) tiny number of violent individuals. Nevertheless, for me it was uplifting and inspirational experience to spend about six hours with around half a million highly motivated and overwhelmingly peaceful & good natured people, out to make the depth of their anger known but determined to enjoy the day, too.

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