BERNADETTE HYLAND recommends an exposé of how austerity measures savagely attack the most vulnerable
The Violence of Austerity, edited by Vickie Cooper and David Whyte (Pluto Press £16.99)
THERE seems to be a minor economic boom at the moment of books written by left-wing writers about austerity.
And there has never been as much information about what is happening from blogs, articles in newspapers or films such as I, Daniel Blake.
In this collection of articles by esteemed writers such as Danny Dorling and Mary O’Hara, as well as not so well-known campaigners, the true effect of the violence of the cuts is laid out.
It makes for a depressing read as it details the personal experience of claimants and the poor and the deadly impact of government policy, which disproportionally affects working-class households and communities while at the same time protecting big business and wealthy and powerful elites.
But there is hope. The most interesting chapters are about people fighting back, be it the rise of the Disabled People Against Cuts campaign or the grassroots struggle by homeless residents in Manchester against the local council and its ally Manchester Metropolitan University, who threatened to jail them.
But the book fails to ask the question why there has been no concerted national campaign to challenge the austerity agenda.
In the 1980s, it was Labour councils and trade unionists who took the initiative to oppose Thatcher’s cuts.
Today, support for the unemployed has come from Unite, one of the biggest trade unions in the country, who through its Community branches are giving resources to organise unemployed people into grassroots campaigning groups.
A leading example is the weekly picket at the Ashton-under-Lyne jobcentre by Tameside against the Cuts. It’s now three years old and documented every week by Charlotte Hughes in her excellent blog The Poor Side of Life.
The Violence of Austerity is a well-written and shocking exposé of the institutional violence of the state.
But it would have been more useful one if it could have offered more hope, perhaps by including some additional positive stories of people and groups being successful and providing a list of organisations that people could join to fight back.