Anti-cuts campaigners descended on high street shops across Britain last Saturday, calling on fat cat bosses to pay their taxes.
In London, hundreds of people targeted Topshop on Oxford Street—run by mega‑billionaire Philip Green.
Green runs a swathe of profitable shops under the Arcadia group—but the group is in the name of his wife, who lives in Monaco and pays no tax on the profits.
Jackson, one of the protesters, told Socialist Worker, “We’re living in a cesspool—but it feels like people are waking up. Even young people are protesting now.”
Georgia, a student at South Bank University, described tax scams as “a gross injustice”.
“It’s the same old thing—rich people never have to make sacrifices like poor people do,” she told Socialist Worker.
Topshop security guards dragged or carried all journalists out of the shop, along with some of the protesters. But there were too many protesters for security to deal with.
Protesters held a sit-down in the centre of the shop singing, “We are the tax enforcement society,” and “If you want to sell your clothes, pay your tax” before marching out to join other protesters who had packed into the street outside.
They then targeted several other shops and shut them down—including BHS, Dorothy Perkins, Vodafone and Boots.
Protesters won a lot of support from shoppers and passers-by.
One man, after chatting to a protester about Green’s legal tax dodge, said, “I hope he loses a lot of money.”
Maisie was queuing in Boots when protesters surged in banging saucepans and chanting, “Students and workers—unite and fight!”
She told Socialist Worker, “I think it’s really good that people are doing this because they are right—a lot of companies don’t pay their taxes.
“If you go to work, you have to pay tax and these companies make enough profits to pay up.
“That tax could pay for a lot of things poor people need. And I’m so glad to see the students are now standing up for themselves.
“When I was young in the 60s we all did this kind of thing.”
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, also backed the protests. “People are rightly angry that the government is targeting the most vulnerable in our society with massive cuts in spending, and yet it appears to be very relaxed about rich and powerful tax dodgers,” he said.
More protests took place in towns and cities across Britain—including in Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds and Brighton.
They have tapped into the class anger that exists among wide sections of ordinary people, who ask: why should we swallow cuts when the bosses are rolling in money?
But exactly who is behind the protests remains unclear, and there is a danger that such action can end up being elitist—a hidden group of individuals decide what action to take and then announce it for others to simply follow.
We need many more protests like the ones at Topshop last Saturday.
But we also need to fight for openness and accountability in the fight against cuts—and to pull the mass of people who agree with us into taking action.