On Monday, the students from the incredible UCL occupation organised in less than 24 hours and descended on Topshop Oxford Street, the heart of tax-dodger Sir Philip Green’s retail empire. They occupied a door, blockaded a pavement and refused to move even when security guards told them that Sir Phil wanted them off his property. Their slogan was: “You marketise our education, and we’ll educate your market.”
The next morning, UK Uncut announced the new target for this Saturday’s day of action was… Sir Philip Green. We’d like to pretend this link up was the result of calculated strategic co-ordination between us and the UCL crew. It wasn’t. It was a happy coincidence.
But it was a coincidence that draws attention to a useful point, made eloquently by the UCL occupiers: the fight against tax avoiders is the same fight as the fight against fees and cuts.
Tackling rich tax avoiders was one of the Lib Dems’ four key election pledges, right alongside opposing tuition fee hikes. Both have been broken. This coalition has let Vodafone off a £6bn tax bill and appointed serial tax avoider Sir Philip Green to advise the government on cuts. Sir Philip’s £285m tax dodge could pay the fees of 32,000 students. The money Vodafone were let off would cover every single cut to higher education many times over.
But this is not just an issue of fees, it’s an issue of solidarity. The students have done a damn good job of articulating their link to the wider anti-cuts movement. The issue of tax avoidance is a way that we can forge those links on the street. Pensioners, unemployed, those on incapacity benefit, public service workers, unionists and others have all joined UK Uncut actions around the country. Sitting together in shop doorways, blockading the high street stores of the tax avoiding rich, we can build the sort of networks necessary to build this movement beyond a single issue and bring down this government.
Whilst inflicting savage public spending cuts on the poor and indulging the rich, this government likes to claim that ‘we are all in this together.’ All we need to remember, is that if the government reclaimed the £25bn tax avoided by rich individuals and corporations every year, it could pay for all of the services the government is planning to cut.
This Saturday the students will be joining a growing coalition to take on tax avoiders. Let’s join together, let’s go on the offensive, let’s take this to the high streets.