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We are all refugees now…

Hanging out with Yanis Varoufakis!

Hanging out with Yanis Varoufakis!

Last night I wombled along with a few friends to a public meeting in the People’s Republic of Brighton & Hove, where refugees from the surrounding area are welcome if they want to escape from the terrifying wilderness that is the sea of Tory blue throughout South-East England. The meeting was a rally against austerity, with a star-studded line of speakers that included Caroline Lucas, the sole Green MP, and Yanis Varoufakis, the ex-Finance Minister of Greece, ‘rock star’ of the economics world, and himself a refugee from the terrrifying autocracy that is the Troika devastating Greece with an excruciating programme of austerity by fiat.

The meeting was the best political rally I’ve ever attended, with Caroline Lucas explaining that there is already a Green New Deal ready to go to provide the investment in green infrastructure that would create well-paid jobs and increase tax receipts to the extent that public services could easily be paid for and welfare benefits could be reduced, whilst ensuring we all still have a safe, livable climate too. She also expressed her horror of the Trade Union Bill about to be unleashed by the Tories, which would destroy so many valuable workers rights and seriously undermine their ability to secure fair pay and working conditions. Caroline pledged to even take direct action if necessary to defend the rights of trade unionists. And when Caroline says ‘direct action’, she means it, as her record in opposing fracking at Balcombe demonstrates! Now that’s my kind of opposition MP!

Yanis stepped up the plate and demolished austerity in one fell swoop: “austerity doesn’t work, so an alternative to austerity is not needed because austerity itself is not an option”. Yanis went on to say that Quantitative Easing (QE) could easily be adjusted so that instead of the Bank of England buying bonds from financial institutions and just creating asset bubbles with minimal stimulus of the real economy, a new publicly-owned investment bank could be created that would issue bonds for public investment projects (especially projects as identified in the green economy within the Green New Deal) and these bonds could be sold to financial institutions in the City of London and elsewhere. This would enable investment in jobs and services that benefit everybody whilst still giving opportunities for financial markets to make safe, valuable investments in a non-inflationary way. QE under democratic control is not printing money, but using money for what it should be used for, supporting the real economy and creating the infrastructure that both public and private sectors need. Instead, as Yanis explained, we are increasingly stifled by austerity cuts that in effect turn us all into refugees, desperately searching for ways out of the austerity that makes our lives increasingly insecure and unsafe.

Then up stepped John McDonnell MP, campaign manager for Jeremy Corbyn in his successful Labour leadership campaign (and speaking just hours away from being appointed as shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer in Corbyn’s new Shadow Cabinet), explained how the budget deficit could be eliminated, and public services paid for, with plenty of money to spare on top of all that, if enough tax inspectors were employed by HMRC in order to claw back the £120 billion of tax avoided, evaded, or simply uncollected from big corporations and rich individuals. Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS Union weighed in with a clarion call not only to fight austerity but also to transform our failed electoral system by bringing in proportional representation so that never again do we get a majority government like this present Tory one that was voted in by only 24% of the electorate entitled to vote.

All the speakers got standing ovations in a hall packed to the rafters by a crowd given fresh determination, courage and inspiration to fight austerity and win, not only in the UK but across the world in solidarity with anti-austerity activists everywhere, creating a fairer, kinder, more compassionate society in the process. For me, this rally was the perfect preparation and curtain-raiser for the public launch of the Eastbourne People’s Assembly that will take place on Saturday 19th September, a launch which I’ve been privileged to play a part in setting up. I now look forward to it eagerly, knowing that we who will be attending the launch are not alone but are part of a rapidly growing grass-roots mass movement against austerity that so helped the Green Party and the SNP in the general election and which has now helped sweep Jeremy Corbyn to victory in the Labour leadership election, and which has led to People’s Assemblies mushrooming across the UK. We may all be refugees now in one way or another, but there’s enough of us now to start turning our country back into a place of safety, a true refuge!

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