One of the most crushing and demoralising pieces of propaganda spread by governments trying to disarm any opposition is the notion that there is no alternative.
Cuts and austerity are nasty medicine, but you've just got to grimace and swallow.
Last week a unique and effective coalition of local residents, squatters, supporters of the Occupy movement and campaigners won a famous victory.
Five months after occupying Friern Barnet Library, they got Barnet Council to agree to its reopening on a two-year lease. There will be some funding for its running.
That this U-turn about closing a much-loved branch library occurred in Barnet is significant.
The Conservative council has a reputation for widescale outsourcing, an ultra-Tory project.
The idea that there is nothing communities can do to save their local services has taken a palpable hit.
One local activist Mike Gee says of the Conservative council's actions: "I do not fully understand this volte-face but on the face of it, it's wonderful.
"However, we must not forget, this protest is not just about Friern Barnet, one library, it is also about the creeping move to a totalitarian state, the irrational, unjust and draconian cuts to vital public services and job losses that are undermining the very way we live, think and breathe. The antidote is to wake up, open our minds, eyes and hearts and pledge continuing involvement and support to the Occupy movement. Solidarity!"
I spoke to Martin Russo of the Save Friern Barnet Library Group about the implications of this victory in north London.
He tells me how it was achieved: "I think a lot of it is about connecting people, listening to people. The residents care about a public space that serves the community, that is full of children, elderly people coming in for a chat, people doing work experience and using it for education. People are passionate about the building and what it provides."
But how did the campaigners keep going for five long months? Wasn't it a huge drain on their lives?
"We held lots of events. It took a lot of energy to maintain the campaign. The more people you have involved, the easier it is to manage.
"We had a programme of positive events demonstrating why the library was needed. We had people making cakes, events, games for the children.
"We bridged any possible gap between the Occupy group and the residents. The Occupy group gave us the precious resource of time."
A number of commentators have questioned the significance of Friern Barnet's victory.
After all, what has emerged is not a council-run library, but a community resource. At the moment there isn't secure, long-term funding for a full-time librarian.
I was asked during an interview on ITV News last week whether it might not be a pyrrhic victory, more compatible with David Cameron's Big Society than the model of municipal socialism.
Russo disagrees with that point of view. A library that had been closed has risen from the ashes thanks to a popular campaign. But couldn't it be argued that the outcome compromises the idea of libraries as a public service?
"The original campaign was for a publicly run library. To this day, there is strong sentiment in favour of a library service funded by the council with a paid librarian.
"The principle should be that we maintain a public library with a full-time librarian. It is a professional job involving a wide range of skills. Volunteers should complement the job of a librarian, not replace it."
Housing and squatting activist Phoenix agrees.
"We want to make it clear that the activists support the National Libraries Campaign and that putting in place a paid librarian is a priority. I believe consensus has been reached with the community on this point.
"As it stands, the funding offered by the council does not cover a full-time librarian, but as the two-year lease is negotiated and plans go forward, this will be kept at the front of the conversation.
"The activists would like to say that we are strongly opposed to austerity and all the cuts, especially to the library service. We are also heavily opposed to criminalising the homeless and squatters.
"The extreme right of the Conservative Party is seeking to make squatting non-residential building also illegal.
"This, if it was successful, would affect all our rights to protest by occupying/squatting space, and would make successful community squat occupations such as the library campaign illegal, thus further removing our rights to shelter and protest."
The Friern Barnet victory is the most positive development in the battle to preserve the public library service since the Charteris report which prevented the closure of 11 Wirral libraries.
Though the outcome fell short of the aim of preserving a council-run service, the community has succeeded in maintaining a valuable resource.
What's more, they generated a remarkable unity between the different strands of the campaign and refused to compromise on the principle of a publicly funded library service with a full-time librarian.
The winds of austerity are not abating. They are gathering force. Eighty per cent of the cuts are still to come.
In Newcastle and my home city of Liverpool 60 per cent of branch libraries are under threat. Winning any kind of victory will be difficult, but Friern Barnet tells us it is not impossible.
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