RAC interviewed by Chris Ledger on Rotherham Life blog
The group, called Rotherham Against the Cuts (RAC), was launched in May, which provides a basis for local people to organise their resistance to the proposed government budget cuts and the potential hardship that they could cause. It has also been founded to provide a local branch of the national Anti-Cuts movements and has also been recongised and supported by the Trades Council.
Current campaign activities
It has been described as a broad-based campaign, which will fight cuts in a variety of areas from benefit and disability allowance to pensions, the NHS, education and job cuts. They have conducted several activities – which are aimed at building the movement and involving people who can take the lead, informing the public about the cuts and building strategies that will defend services.
They currently hold a campaign stall in Rotherham Town Centre – which is outside Rotherham Market, and the Boots and Halifax branches – every Saturday morning between 11am to 1pm, where they hand out leaflets and collect signatures in support of the group. They also hold regular meetings at the Bridge Inn pub, attended picket lines and organised a peaceful rally on Thursday 30 June in All Saints Square, which attracted a crowd of around 50 people.
Chris Bingham, an activist for RAC, said: “For many years now Rotherham people have had their traditional networks of representation dismantled and dismissed, which has led to a general climate of non-involvement.
“Our first step with RAC is to build the movement and encourage the people doing the hard work of defending community and public services to join together, unite their voices, and lead the resistance against the savage cuts and the hardship that the poor and working people of Rotherham will feel the most in the coming year.”
A resistance network
Mr Bingham also said that although traditional methods like trade unions and political parties still exist, they are viewed with suspicion.
He added: “People have to develop their own networks of resistance, they have to share their information about the cuts they are facing and help each other out in a spirit of solidarity, realising that all cuts will affect them in some way.
“We, as people, have to seek each other out and develop united campaigning groups that are serious and committed, that can send clear messages to the centres of power who are deciding what services we can and cannot enjoy.
“Unfortunately, there are no magic buttons or easy short-cuts. We have to do the steady work to build up strong grass-roots organisations that have a shared set of objectives based on the principles of solidarity, mutual respect and support.”
More help needed
Despite support from the public at the rally and campaign stall, as well as a letter that was published in a recent edition of the Rotherham Advertiser, the group is still slowly expanding and it has been difficult to get people to come to their public meetings.
Mr Bingham added: “It is obvious that people in Rotherham are generally aware that bad times are coming, that something must be done and are very supportive of our analysis, but getting people to come to meetings is difficult.
“This is understandable because the people who should be involved and leading RAC are the very people who work the hardest and the longest, and are under the most strain. We can only assure those people that though we are a small group at the moment, we aren’t going anywhere and we await their involvement and participation.
“However, I think it is fair to say that everyone involved in RAC, at the minute, hopes we can build a strong fighting force that will make it impossible for the people of Rotherham to be ignored, as they have been for so long. And that it will help give Rotherham back its confidence to defy the powers that be and reclaim itself.”
Those who are interested in joining RAC can join its mailing list at firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook page . A consitution meeting will be held on Wednesday 2 August and a general meeting will also be held on Wednesday 9 August. Both meetings will be at the Bridge Inn pub, based at Greasbrough Road in Rotherham Town Centre, at 7.45pm and anyone is welcome to attend.