Westminster was awash yesterday with every worthy do-gooder in the country as the ‘great and good’ came together for a one-day conference.
The People’s Assembly Against Austerity was tasked with discussing alternatives to the cuts that are currently making millions of people’s lives hell.
It was a monumental event, said the organisers, and they were now a true force to be reckoned with.
“There were plenty of calls for ‘action, not words’,” said the Telegraph.
“Yet the only tangible action I could see was the establishment of a series of regional People’s Assemblies. These were then tasked with reporting back to yet another national People’s Assembly in the new year.” More hot air.
Which is what should’ve been expected. The conference was made up of all the ‘usual suspects’: unions including Unite, Unison and the National Union of Teachers plus the Coalition of Resistance, Stop the War Coalition, CND, War on Want, Green Party, Socialist Resistance etc. etc. etc. All the same old, same old doing what they’ve tried time and time again for longer than we care to remember.
A new movement must surely involve new people, no?
What we can’t escape is the fact that the left in this country (including the anarchists) are weak. We have no movements or organisation capable of taking on austerity, let alone capitalism.
At a more fundamental level there is no strong political force that speaks for the working class (with Labour long abandoning any pretence that they spoke for ‘the people’).
Much of the left-wing movement in this country is now seen as politically correct, middle class do-gooders jumping on every bandwagon going, often with little effect. Anarchists are largely viewed with the same disdain, seen as violent, young and naive.
So how can we create a progressive, working class movement?
Ian Bone, a one-time leading light of Class War, recently raised the idea of what a new working class movement might look like. Some of the ideas put forward in his blog included:
• Who is the movement for? The audience should not just the disenfranchised angry unemployed kid but the 50-year-old nurse, the 40-year-old council worker etc.
• Why did previous efforts fail? Don’t make the same mistakes. New ideas for different times.
• Go beyond ideological labels: who cares about ‘anarchism’ or ‘communism’.
• A sense of direction. No fucking time-wasters (anarchist lifestylers are shocking in this regard).
• Ditch the focus on ‘smashing shit up’: always a symptom of weakness not strength. Stuff may have to be smashed up in the course of the struggle but why make a religion of it? I’m bored with anarchists thinking they’ve achieved something by breaking windows.
• But not pacifist though! It must be a direct action movement. The attitude to violence should be it’s an unfortunate necessity. Don’t glorify it.
• Emphasise the creative: pro, not anti (democracy, mutual aid programmes, solidarity). The new society within the old.
• What’s wrong with a bit of idealism? Hate and anger may be good rhetorical tools but to create a lasting movement we need to give people something to believe in and worth fighting for.
• By all means necessary: workplace, community organising, elections if useful etc. Whatever gets the goods. Parliamentarian treated like fire though.
• Pride in the working class history of these isles.
• Internationalism – fuck notions of any left-nationalist bollocks.
• Working class spokespeople: all welcome in the struggle, without class prejudice but careful consideration to presentation. Middle class revolutionaries know your place.
• Good use of radio, TV, press and social media.
• Democracy and accountability.
• Need for a hard work attitude and a bit of energy and ‘oomph’!
The Heckler doesn’t necessarily agree with all of these points but what we can be sure of is the need to go back to the drawing board and literally start again; thrashing out some new ideas can’t do any harm.
A lot of people on the left know we are in a weak position but most continue to talk the talk whilst lacking any real strength to follow through (see anything any union leader has said since the financial crisis began). The sooner we realise we have no movement, the sooner we can get on with building a new one.