I've just got back from a superlative evening of entertainment and political discussion at the Cut's Won't Work benefit gig at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club. The event, organised by environmental campaigner Beck Luff, brought together comedians, musicians and activists to raise money for the Cut's Won't Work website, a neat little site, which provides a platform for anti-cuts campaigns, alongside the clearest and most succinct arguments I've seen on the web against the Coalition's disastrous course of spending cuts.
Turning up at an event like this one's always prepared for the comedy to be a bit hit and miss, but Andrew Doyle, Danielle Ward, Helen Keen and Phil O'Shea did a first-rate job of keeping us entertained. I hadn't anticipated an event which combined comedy with macro-economics quite so seamlessly, and credit must go to comedian Chris Coltrane who held it all together fantastically well as compeer.
I had been asked to say a few words on the cuts from an activist stand-point and ended up talking about the intellectual climate and how it resembles the build up to the Iraq war with a cosy media-political consensus around the notion that There Is No Alternative (TINA). Just like with Iraq, those who dissent from TINA are marginalised and not taken seriously. And, most shamefully, just as WMD were a dishonest pretext for a war the neocons always wanted; the size of the deficit is a pretext for the neoliberal right to do what they have always wanted: take an axe to the state, slash welfare, undo the post-war social democratic settlement and channel wealth upwards.
I suggested we could draw lessons from the Tea Party who I've been reading a lot about recently. Despite consisting of barbarous fanatics, the movement embodies some interesting organisational principles (this piece by Max Blumenthal in oD is essential reading, as is this piece in the National Journal). It aspires to be a leaderless "open source" form of organisation with decentralised groups taking action around the country and testing what works, making full use of the web, but with little central co-ordination. This, I suggested, is the direction the anti-cuts campaign should be taking, avoiding the controlling influence of any one party or coalition of "respectable" NGOs, as well as the parasitical grasp of the SWP.
Whereas the Tea Party is shrill and irrational, however, with undertones of violence, the anti-cuts movement should aspire to be imaginative where possible - if the Cuts Won't Work comedy night were to become a regular thing, then that would make a great start.