Building a Movement against the Cuts: Taking Stock

By Ramsay, Adam | Renewal, Autumn-Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

Building a Movement against the Cuts: Taking Stock

Ramsay, Adam, Renewal

There is a famous passage from Captain Corelli's Mandolin often read aloud at weddings. In it, Louis de Bernieres describes love. He tells us that what matters is not the blooming of the flower - that is simply being in love. Love, he tells us, is what you are left with when the flowers have blown away, but the roots have so grown together that they are impossible to separate.

Perhaps the same can be said of political movements. As they launch, they are exciting. People come together for the first time, a new energy emerges. The revelation that there are so many others who share the concern is overwhelming, it is moving, it makes us all more passionate. It fills us with excitement and joy. But change rarely comes in a day. And slowly, the flower wilts. People tire of going on marches or of sitting in shops. Some find themselves with court cases to battle, others with jobs to catch up on, or exams to sit. And as with de Bernieres' love, what matters is whether the movement has by that point established such roots that it will continue to grow - to recruit new people, and to find new ways of building pressure.

Over the last year, the flowers of protest certainly bloomed. The question now is whether they planted deep roots - and what can we do to support and cultivate those roots which do exist? At least one significant factor in this cultivation is infrastructure: what capacity have we gained to learn from one another in order to develop our strategies and build a shared vision? What skills do we have to win people over? What tools do we have to lever power? And, in order to make this happen, what are the organisations through which we can do these things? With that in mind, let's have a look at the state of the infrastructure of the movement against the government's austerity programme since it was launched around a year ago.

Unions and NGOs: the old guard

Some of the organisations have of course have been around for a long time. Trade unions in particular have started to move centre stage to a greater extent than in recent years - organising the first major TUC demonstration in a generation and beginning to pull together multi-union strikes - possibly building for a general strike? We shall see. Some individual unions - notably the PCS - have worked particularly hard to engage with other corners of the anti-austerity movement. However, while such an increase in activity may produce a short-term rise in union membership, the overall trend is very much downwards - with around 5 per cent fewer people paying their dues than did in 1995, and membership sitting at almost half of the 1979 level (Achur, 2010). Trade unions are still the biggest and most democratic organisations campaigning for economic justice in the UK. But anti-union laws and changing employment habits have seriously hampered them, many have a reputation for lumbering bureaucracy, and they are not on their own enough: if they couldn't beat the government at the height of their power, how can they do so now?

As well as unions, the UK has a plethora of campaigning charities. Particularly in recent decades, many organisations who started out with service delivery have added professional activists to their staff. For many groups of people - particularly people from vulnerable groups - such charities are the main organisations who speak for them. Barnardos, for example, claim to 'always speak up fearlessly for children and young people', and are arguably the main organisation in the country campaigning on behalf of children.

Whereas unions have been willing to publicly criticise the government over its austerity programme, many of these charities seem to have shrunk from the challenge. As the former Children's Commissioner Sir Al Aynsley-Green wrote in March:

  Who is speaking out for children, young people
  and families? Has the children's sector and its
  famous organisations forgotten the outrage of
  their founders? … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Building a Movement against the Cuts: Taking Stock


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.