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From tweet to street

Cat Smith explains how UK Uncut is taking social media into 'offline' actions

PPolitical campaigning and activism has broken free from any organisation or structure. This is a message we can take from the success of UK Uncut. Everything about the group has been organic, spontaneous and viral, even down to the name UK Uncut which was dreamt up the night before the first action on 27th October 2010 by someone on Twitter who first used the hashtag #ukuncut. This was the week after George Osborne announced the deepest cuts to public services since the 1920s, and using Twitter around 70 people coordinated to go to Oxford Street, enter tax-dodging Vodafone's flagship store, sit down and shut it down.

UK Uncut starts with some simple points of agreement you can find on their website now the 'group' has taken off. There is an agreement the brutal cuts to services about to be inflicted by the Government are unnecessary, unfair and ideologically motivated. The coalition is particularly fond of two obscene catchphrases: 'There is no alternative' and 'We're all in this together.' Both slogans are empty and untrue. The cuts will dismantle the welfare state, send inequality sky-rocketing and hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest. A cabinet of millionaires has decided that libraries, healthcare, education funding, voluntary services, sports, the environment, the disabled, the poor and the elderly must pay the price for the recklessness of the rich.

There is a feeling of betrayal which comes across from the people you meet on UK Uncut actions. Perhaps this is demographical as many of those taking part are students and recent graduates who bought into the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's lies around fees and the impression he gave that he was the politician standing up for our generation. They don't trust politicians of any party, Labour's foreign policy is still fresh in their minds, as is the idea that Labour is still 'establishment', as many of those taking part are undergraduates who were five years old in 1997. With no political parties to champion the cause, and trade unions not reaching out to younger workers there is a fractured 'single issue' attitude coming from young people.

UK Uncut won't overthrow the coalition alone, it does not expect to. It is however an example of hope that there will be a movement resisting the cuts. In only a few months, from a single action in London, UK Uncut has spread to up to fifty-five towns and cities. They have harnessed the anger at these cuts and made something people can take part in. The idea of mass apathy from young people is a myth. People are willing to do more than just join a Facebook group to stand up and defend what they believe in, they are using social media as a tool for organising 'offline' actions. Our message has to be that political action does not end by 'liking' a Facebook page or re-tweeting a campaign tweet.