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A Magazine for Sheffield

I predict a riot.

I predict a riot. Or rather, social unrest. I've always been a bit left-wing but in a moderate, English sort of way. I think revolutions tend to go all Animal Farm. Far better to hope for something like progressive social change. But that was before this aggressively pro-business government, and before I grew up. I see the signs of breakdown and it's a lot closer than ever before in my lifetime. The 70s and 80s weren't as bad as this, to my memory. In terms of social change this is more on the scale of the 60s, but bigger than the Beatles. In Britain we often forget how lucky we are, but many people are really suffering now. One Sheffield food bank set up last April has provided 14,000 emergency meals, and the city already has ten food banks. Need stems from various problems, but much is due to the heartless “reformed” benefits system, with its sudden sanctions, and the abolition of emergency crisis loans. Unemployment, under-employment and poverty are huge. A sense of righteous anger is rising. Order and tolerance is a fragile veneer. There are people alive now who lived through food riots and hunger marches, and it could happen again. This doom-and-gloom scenario isn't just a left-wing view. The long-running investors' magazine MoneyWeek is forecasting an even bigger crisis that will “destabilise the very foundations of Britain”. Given that world governments are printing money like it’s ToyTown Dollars, the world economy really could be about to all fall down. Those at the top know this. Their worst nightmare must be a perfect storm of enraged people uniting to challenge the whole order. The institutions of society are under threat. When, in December, students protested about low pay on campuses there was a ruthless, quasi-military response. One socialist student commentator, Joe Mount, believes the police deliberately provoked violent confrontations in a coordinated effort to stamp out political opposition amongst young people. If so, that means they're very scared. There are big protests occurring in hundreds of cities around the world. Let's take a guess at when things could come to a head here in Britain. I'd say summer 2015, just after the next election. Why? Because our flip-flop democracy allows the Tweedledum party to take power and blame Tweedledee for everything. Then the reverse. For example, the 2008 crash was long-predicted. Those in the know saw the bubble before the rest of us had even heard words like ‘derivatives’. It was a worldwide crash, but the Tories happily didn't cop for it on their watch. Instead they came in afterwards and even now they're still happily blaming Labour, as though the world economy was Blair's bouncy ball. So what if I'm right, and they can see another big crash coming? True to form they'd scarper out of the playground and try to leave Labour with blood all over its hands. Meanwhile they seem happy to push us all towards the edge, as if provoking the fight. It could go either way, but this feels like our darkest hour. And sometimes when we reach rock bottom, we hit back. That's my hope for 2014. There are moves on the rise, like the People's Assembly, even here in peaceful green Sheffield. They are now on Fargate every month, engaging with the public to spread a new consciousness. Their People’s Charter is a radical anti-austerity plan for massive re-nationalisation, an end to the system of endless war, inequality, racist immigration policies, climate chaos and profiteering. It's a big movement. Let's see what happens. Sadly I think things will go from bad to worse in the year ahead. But then, like a people oppressed, I think there will be a time of reckoning. I wouldn't encourage anyone to commit harmful action, but I urge everyone to join the protests, one way or another. The cheating, elitist bullies have been in charge for long enough. It's time for the rest of us to have our say. MoneyWeek – ‘The End of Britain’ )

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