In cities across the world social movements are fighting back against the complex causes and corrosive outcomes of neoliberal capitalism. This form of capitalism is all about the marketisation of services, the privileging of private companies and the transfer of resources from the public purse to support private profit. It treats everything as a commodity available for exploitation; workers, goods, services, knowledge, the environment and nature and even the human body.
The collective, Solidarity Against Neoliberal Extremism (SANE), was formed in 2016 by a group of individuals in Glasgow who had become more and more concerned about the way that neoliberal thinking was affecting Glasgow. Our aim was to facilitate a shared understanding across activist groups and the wider population about the common cause of the difficulties that they were facing. Much of our thinking is based on the concept of radical municipalism, which supports public ownership of vital services and tries to deepen understanding and practice of democracy.
Since then the Collective has been stimulating debate about how alternative policies and practices can be stimulated at a city level, and reflecting on what steps are necessary to begin a transformation in Glasgow, so that the emphasis is no longer placed on encouraging big business, banks, shops and tourism as the main ways of shaping the city.
We held a one day event in March 2018 to start the process of shared understanding and activism and determine what steps would need to be taken to present an alternative agenda for the 2022 Council elections. We followed this up with another event looking more closely at the finances of the city and the size of the debt that the City Council is facing. This investigation is still ongoing because of the ongoing deterioration of the situation and the complete lack of transparency. Acknowledging the range of resistance that is going on in Glasgow, SANE has been developing ways to bring these different forms of activism together, to create a social movement of social movements. This took the form of face to face gatherings prior to the pandemic and online Conversations for Change and ‘Houseparties’ since then. Supporting all this work has been a course on neoliberalism, and currently another course on local democracy is in the pipeline.
In 2021, the SANE Collective commissioned three new reports, Glasgow’s Alchemy, Glasgow’s Money and Glasgow Strife , investigating the state of the city’s finances, the impact of the financial losses due to the pandemic and the degree to which Glasgow’s public funds are used to fuel private profit. The Covid crisis has emphasised the problems that Glasgow faces. Glasgow City Council has recently indicated massive closures of different services. Unemployment, especially amongst young people, is increasing. We can, and must, do this better.