The Coalition of Resistance

IssueDecember 2010 - January 2011
Feature by Sam McCann

As Britain’s coalition government starts to trim billions of pounds of welfare funding, local organisations throughout the country are springing up in opposition.

A new body, the Coalition of Resistance (CoR), seeks to unite these groups under a national banner, protesting against the proposed cuts to health services, unemployment, disability and other vital government programmes.

These protests culminated on 20 October with a mass demonstration at Downing Street in opposition to the budget review. The review set in motion many of the cuts first announced in May. With unrest in Greece peaking as a result of massive cuts, chancellor George Osborne offered a reduction plan of his own: eliminate over £6.2 billion of government support for the UK’s poorest people.

Unsettled by the proposal, radical activist Andrew Burgin founded a group called “Solidarity with the People of Greece,” hoping to unite people in opposition to privatisation and cuts. The group met about once a week, producing a statement throughout the summer.

The declaration, asserting the need for government support of welfare programs, got over 1,000 signatures of citizens, activists and political figures and ran in the Guardian on 4 August under Tony Benn’s name. The Coalition of Resistance was born out of the support for the document, and Burgin believes it can make a real difference.

“What we really need is to have a coordinated response to the attacks that people are facing,” Burgin explained. “Our aim is to begin to draw together the many varied and different campaigns that are springing up spontaneously around the country.”

The CoR envisions itself as an umbrella organisation for all opponents of coalition government’s proposed cuts, lending them a more unified voice.

Romayne Phoenix, another member of the coalition and a Green Party parliamentary candidate, thinks the coalition can serve as a forum for ideas while offering smaller groups the opportunity to leverage their influence: “The Coalition of Resistance can network all those [local] campaigns together, and when we need to get bigger—when we need the local to go regional and the regional to go national—we can provide that umbrella network for everybody”.

Burgin goes even further: “We think it’s important that local campaigns are set up, but we don’t think a local campaign in itself will actually be able to stop the cuts. In fact, we don’t think a British campaign in itself will be sufficient to stop the cuts. We think it has to be an international movement. We’re really aiming for a European coordination.”

Significantly, when hundreds gathered in Brighton and Hove, Hastings, Worthing and Lewes in opposition to the cuts on 29 September, the date coincided with a number of anti-cuts protests across Europe.

The next step for the CoR will be formally establishing itself at an organising conference on 27 November. Burgin anticipates that meeting will gather between 800 and 1,000 people, and Kelly said the coalition aims to hear from as many voices as possible.