This month LeftLion columnist and MP for Nottingham East Nadia Whittome muses on hope and why resistance is so vital...
In these troubling times, hope may seem in short supply. We’ve experienced a pandemic of historic proportions, and now a devastating cost-of-living crisis. The brutal war in Ukraine has gone on for over nine months now, every day causing more death and destruction. The climate emergency continues to escalate, with its effects being felt around the world, and scientists issuing more and more alarming warnings. And now we’re bracing ourselves for a recession and yet another wave of austerity.
It’s only appropriate that the Collins Dictionary chose “permacrisis” as its word of the year. A state of permanent crisis - or rather many overlapping crises - seems to define our era.
But the deeper the darkness, the more crucial it is to stay defiant and search for light. That’s why in my column this month, I wanted to focus on the people and movements that give me hope.
Firstly, I’m inspired by all workers, in Nottingham and beyond, who stood up for their rights this year. In 2022, we’ve seen the biggest wave of strikes in over a decade, with many more yet to come. From rail workers to nurses to civil servants, hundreds of thousands of workers around the country are saying “enough” to poverty wages and real-terms pay cuts.
Joining a union and organising with others to strike also takes courage, resilience and, yes, hope
On one hand, these walkouts can be seen as an expression of despair, as eye-watering inflation erodes workers’ incomes and squeezes already tight budgets. But joining a union and organising with others to strike also takes courage, resilience and, yes, hope. It’s not an easy task to beat strict anti-union laws, cut through pessimism and apathy, stand up to attacks from the rightwing media and defend your right to a decent wage. But these efforts are paying off: from criminal barristers to Liverpool dockers, striking workers are winning pay rises and inspiring others to follow their example.
The climate movement has also continued to make waves this year, from COP27 to the streets of our cities and towns. In February, following sustained protests, London’s National Portrait Gallery ended its thirty-year sponsorship deal with BP. Under pressure from campaigners, 100 universities in Britain have already decided to divest from fossil fuels. Recently in Spain, in response to a week-long occupation, the University of Barcelona introduced a module on the climate emergency for all students. This news will energise young activists from Teach the Future, who I’m working with to improve climate education across the UK.
While these victories might seem small relative to the scale of the challenge, they point to something bigger: public opinion is shifting decisively in favour of climate action - and institutions are starting to notice. If we manage to stop the tide of global heating and preserve the planet for future generations, it won’t be thanks to those in power, but to the millions of people around the world holding them to account.
With every picket line, every campaign for justice, every local initiative to support those the Government has failed - you are building it. Thank you
Meanwhile, as the war in Ukraine rages on, it’s been heartening to see the outpouring of solidarity across our city. From protests to fundraisers to people welcoming refugees into their own homes - I’ve been proud to see Nottingham step up. The fantastic Ukrainian Cultural Centre has been providing not just practical assistance for displaced people, but also community and joy.
But it’s not just Ukrainian refugees who have made Nottingham their home. As the Government ramps up its attacks on asylum seekers, our city refuses to be divided. Charities like Nottingham Refugee Forum and Refugee Roots have been helping newcomers settle in and rebuild their lives. Arimathea Trust, Host Nottingham and others provide housing for people seeking asylum. Meanwhile, our local Student Action for Refugees group has been working to raise awareness and support refugees on campus and beyond.
The list goes on: there’s not enough pages in this magazine to list every project, group or individual who makes our city great. Reading the news, it can be hard to feel optimistic. But then I meet people who remind me that a better future is possible. With every picket line, every campaign for justice, every local initiative to support those the Government has failed - you are building it. Thank you.
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