13-19 October was anti poverty week.
Yes, it may be trite to dedicate just one week to raise awareness of the scourge of poverty that blights the lives of a growing number of people let down by our system. Ineffective and patronising and too, perhaps.
No one could argue that more than respected expert Morag Gillespie of the Scottish Poverty Information Unit at Glasgow Caledonian University. We now have 13 million people living in poverty in the UK and half a million people reliant on foodbanks. So when one of our great thinkers on welfare alternatives calls on the trade union movement to step up practical solidarity with the poor, we must sit up and listen. Destitution has become so widespread that it is now time to do more than campaign for an alternative. We must demonstrate practical solidarity with to build that alternative.
Our movement has a strong principle of solidarity. We demonstrate this best in our support for workers in struggle at home, and around the world. During the miners strike, we tirelessly dug deep, raised money, collected food and goods for the mining communities, and do so again and again to support our class in struggle. We donate books to Community Heart for children in South Africa and toys for the annual Christmas appeal by the Glasgow campaign to welcome refugees, because we understand the politics of solidarity giving.
But as a movement, we have been lower in the uptake when it comes to giving to food banks. We abhor the widespread dependency on food banks that have resulted from the withdrawal of the welfare safety net for some of the most vulnerable amongst us. That children and families are going hungry in one of the wealthiest nations in the world is sadistic abdication of responsibility by government. We tirelessly campaign for investment in welfare and a meaningful redistribution of wealth.
Observe those giving most to foodbanks outside supermarkets. It is working class people and pensioners that are dropping in whole shopping bags filled with tins, tea, biscuits and powdered milk. This is class solidarity, and our movement needs to play its part.
This week, PCS Scotland has opened up a food bank collection point for unin members, activists and staff, and we will continue to collect food until we defeat this government’s welfare attacks on the most vunerable. Solidarity in action.