The People’s Assembly: what might ‘building from below’ really mean?

Luke Cooper discusses the potential and pitfalls of this Saturday’s People’s Assembly Against Austerity

austerityThe People’s Assembly has resulted in a considerable bout of energetic debate on the British left, ranging from the super-supportive, to the cynically-critical, and those, on the money perhaps, who are supportively critical. But no one is seriously downplaying the size or scope of the event. With over 3,500 people set to converge on Westminster Central Hall it is clearly going to be the biggest ever gathering against austerity in Britain. It would be foolish to not see this as a big step forward in its own right. Bringing together a grand coalition of trade unionists, grassroots campaigners, socialists, Greens, pensioners, disability rights activists, and maybe a fair few regular people who want to turn their anger into action, is a big step forward for the left and shouldn’t be sniffed at.

This is a particular achievement seen in the context of divisions that have blighted the anti-cuts movement since the Tories came to power. Those of you who have not yet experienced the fractured socialist left, will be shocked to hear that campaigners against austerity have had not one, not two, but three competing anti-cuts campaigns, none of which can seriously claim to have a strong, organic relationship to grassroots organisations.

Enough Life of Brian?

It’s an all too familiar example of the infamous Life of Brian sketch that satirically depicts the infighting of the left. What makes that scene so farcical isn’t that people are arguing. The farce lies in how the myriad of groupuscules all have ostensibly the same ideas. In much the same way there has been barely a rizla paper to separate the competing anti-cuts campaigns politically. The People’s Assembly does create the possibility of unity, but it also poses sharply a question of how to unite in a way that maximises democracy and participation.

To kick off an argument about how to do this doesn’t mean doing yet another Life of Brian rendition. It’s not about ‘splitting’ for no good reason, or having huge rows over nothing, because debate is what the People’s Assembly should be about.

There is no shortage of things to discuss and there have been too many left wing conferences over the years when everyone says the same thing, no one dares disagree with one another, and the audience is left bored. Standing shoulder to shoulder with other constructive critics, here are three things that deserve some critical attention. The last one is the most important – what comes next and how it’s organised to maximise democratic participation – because it’s here that the opportunity to build a really powerful anti-austerity movement might be lost.

1. Unions

First off, there’s the unions. It’s excellent that the People’s Assembly has won the backing of the major public sector unions. They are an essential part of the fight against austerity. But there is no getting round the fact their existing leaderships have failed to deliver the action we need to start to the turn the tide on austerity.

When millions went on strike in November 2011 it testified to the enduring power of organised labour. But hopes that this might be a new dawn for workplace radicalism were soon dashed. The strikes were called off. And many of the union leaders who will grace the platforms of the People’s Assembly were central to delivering a rotten pension deal when there was still all to play for. The People’s Assembly will have failed the very people it is seeking to represent, if it doesn’t provide a platform for trade unionists that feel let down by leaders whose pay packets far exceed those of ordinary members and who, for this reason, don’t feel the pain of austerity.

Unison, as the biggest public sector union, has big questions to answer. Not only did it lead the retreat from the pensions fight, but, worse still, its leadership have for many years witch hunted activists out of the union on trumped up charges, with bullying, intimidation and bureaucratic measures becoming the norm. It’s a classic example of an entrenched bureaucracy not wanting an activist union and doing everything in their power to keep the membership atomised and passive.

And this at a time when the Tories are on the offensive. As Labour MP John McDonnell has put it in admirably undiplomatic terms:

“… In order for free market policies to flourish, for wages to be held back, for privatisation to continue unopposed and for workers to be made to pay for the crisis in the economy then it is equally necessary for the organisations of the workers, our parties, our trade unions, to be made impotent. One way to do that is to clear out fighters and militants. That is what this is. Unison’s leadership are doing the bosses a favour.”

It is little wonder that many Unison activists find their blood boiling when their leaders talk the talk, as they no doubt will at the People’s Assembly, only to the very next day carrying on doing nothing to fight back. It’s right that the unions are involved, but there needs to be be a voice for the grassroots in the hall too.

2. Labour

Secondly, the major union leaderships all have a strategy: to do everything in their power to ensure Labour wins the next election. If Labour were presenting a powerful and coherent alternative to austerity, this strategy might well look appealing. But what if – as is obviously the case – Labour have no intention of turning back the cuts and, in a stream of recent announcements, have even expressed their commitment to many of the Tory spending and welfare policies.

It’s tempting to see recent policy announcements on welfare as falling into line with Tony Blair, who back in April took a swipe at Miliband’s leadership and warned against Labour becoming a ‘party of protest’. But these announcements have been long prepared for. Labour are happy to vote against the government today, but everyday make it crystal clear they stand for austerity-lite tomorrow.

These facts pose big questions to all of us who want to see a real alternative to austerity. And its one recognised by many Labour Party supporters of the People’s Assembly. Independent columnist Owen Jones, who has gone up and down the country rallying support for Saturday’s meeting, is the first to admit that Labour has offered no alternative. He sees the Assembly as ‘giving Labour some real competition’ because ‘finally, the left is entering the ring’. Jones might sound convincing, but think it through for a moment and the logic starts to unravel.

The People’s Assembly might, hopefully, become a powerful social movement (more on which in a moment). But the Labour Party has long been unresponsive to those – remember the Iraq War when millions marched to say no to Bush and Blair’s crusade? Despite funding the party to the tune of millions, even the unions have no say over policy. But Labour is not entirely immune from pressure. Ultimately it is accountable to a working class electorate that it arrogantly takes for granted. What would start to shift Miliband and co is a party to the left of Labour eating away at their electoral support: a party doing the same to Labour as UKIP is doing to the Tories.

A debate has to take place at the assembly about Labour and the possibility of alternatives. Its one the unions aren’t keen on because it challenges the very heart of their strategy: to sit on their hands, wait for 2015 and hope for a Labour return. To go away from the Assembly having not talked about Labour, and having not had the opportunity to subject its leadership to trenchant criticism for not putting up an alternative, would be a terrible waste. This is especially so when an exciting call has been put out by filmmaker Ken Loach for a new party of the left, one that has already been signed by over 8,000 people. So, Labour has to be at the centre of the discussion. Loach, who is speaking at the Assembly, can use the platform to inspire a debate on a political alternative to the pro-austerity parties. There is far too much at stake for it to be otherwise.

3. Unity

Finally, there is the democratic deficit in how the People’s Assembly is organised that others have highlighted. A statement will be put to the Assembly that neatly side steps the first two big issues – Labour and the union leaders – and can’t be amended by conference participants.

This might seem reasonable. After all, with over 3,500 people set to turn out what if they all wanted to amend the statement? Chaos would indeed ensue.

But it’s not as simple as that. Imagine if the local people’s assemblies that took place all over the country had discussed the statement. Imagine too if they had been able to submit amendments that could then have been composited into the main debating points. Even then perhaps not all of them could have been taken but the most popular amendments could then have been put to a vote. The base at the bottom would have then had a genuine sayabout the outcome at the top.Unfortunately, this isn’t set to happen – the statement will only be amendable by local people’s assemblies in the run up to a conference in… 2014. Not only that but it doesn’t appear that the organising group will be elected at the conference either. Despite the many workshops on excellent subjects – a refreshing difference from the day-long-rally-conference – the People’s Assembly risks being a top-down affair, when the movement we need has to be a bottom-up one.

This is intended as an entirely constructive criticism. Because at the very least it’s worth reflecting upon how this new People’s Assembly Movement – which I certainly hope is here to stay – can be organised democratically after Saturday.

A big problem with how the left in Britain does things can be summarised as ‘the cult of the next big thing’. The huge spectacle of the grand conference. The next major protest and demonstration. It is all too easy for activists on the left to jump from one thing to the next without laying down proper roots in communities.

If the People’s Assembly is to play the role that Owen Jones clearly wants it to play – a mass social movement, rooted in localities and built from the bottom up, promoting an alternative to austerity – then it needs to develop a democratic structure that grassroots groups can relate to.

There is no great mystery in how this might be organised. If the wide variety of local and national campaign groups and unions that will all be there on Saturday are able to affiliate to a People’s Assembly Movement, then they can send delegates to a conference to represent their views. The organising group can be elected by and accountable to this delegate conference. Delegation sizes can be suitably weighted from different organisations to make it appropriately democratic. Local People’s Assemblies can be convened to channel proposals into the next huge conference – which should should aim to be 10,000 strong. The People’s Assembly, with this structure, would soon be transformed from a meeting into a real movement.

It’s good that ‘building from below’ is becoming a new mantra on the left. It’s a sign of a cultural change in thinking we are only slowly coming to terms with. But it’s equally important that we start to take it more seriously. That we don’t just let it become a phrase divorced of all meaning. If the People’s Assembly kicks off a debate on what ‘building from below’ looks like in practice – as material prescriptions, and not just vague aspirations, then that will be really welcome. The People’s Assembly is already a success as a conference. The question is what comes next?

This article first appeared on the Anticapitalist Initiative website:


22 responses to “The People’s Assembly: what might ‘building from below’ really mean?”

  1. John Penney says:

    A very good dissection of the various key issues around the 22nd June Peoples assembly, Luke. I think though that you are being far too generous to the likes of Owen Jones. The motivation of those like Jones, Benn, and of course the trades union bureaucracy (who you have very accurately analysed , in their Left rhetoric but collaboration reality), is definately NOT to build a radical mass movement to stop the Austerity Offensive in its tracks through militant direct action. Their aim instead is to try and jump on the growing grass roots anti Austerity “bandwagon”, and ride it to a Labour victory in 2015, by “posturing Left” to its traditional working class voting base. Whilst of course in government , steering firmly RIGHT in its ACTIONS. And let’s not kid ourselves about a possible Labour victory in 2015 resulting in “Austerity lite”. If only ! In fact it’ll be the “full cream” Austerity programme as planned by the capitalist class whichever of their political stooges is in “office”. And remember by 2015 the relatively “easy” parts of the Austerity programme will be done – and we’ll be into the really, really, nasty attacks on living standards across the board !

    Like you, I think the gathering together of 3,500 anti cuts militants on the 22nd is a great opportunity to put across the message of the need for a brand new party of the radical Left. The “workshops” will be good fora to make contact with people who so far haven’t got involved in Left Unity . But don’t expect them to have any impact on the policies or actions of the Peoples Assemblies Roadshows – the structures of the day are specifically designed to ensure that doesn’t happen. “amend the preprepared Conference Statement in 2014” indeed ! You couldn’t make it up !

    The danger, as opposed to the huge undoubted opportunity, of the day, and the nationwide “Roadshows”, is that lots of people starting to engage in militant action will be fooled by the windy “anti capitalist” Left rhetoric of the Labourites like Owen Jones and Benn, and the trades union bureaucracy, and will actually demobilise from direct action – in favour of joining/campaigning for a Labour victory – and not doing anything that might “give a bad press” to the Labour Party and its courting of the marginal constituency swing voter. I’m afraid we are waaaay beyond “leave it to Labour” for an effective resistance strategy to stop the Austerity offensive.

    Some of us oldies remember the cynical demobilisation of the fast rising early 70’s anti Edward Heath Tory grass roots struggle after the 1974 election – through the Wilson Government’s “Social Contract” contrick . It’s impact – the start of the era of the neoliberalist offensive , with a subsequent 35 year transfer of wealth and income to the richest 1% last seen in Victorian times ! And that also is the intent of the “People’s Assemblies” Roadshow “process” – to capture leadership of the currently diverse anti austerity struggle, “rein it in ” in terms of direct action /civil disobedience” militancy, and so leave a new Labour Government with an effectively demobilised anti Austerity movement to oppose their continuation of the bosses’ Austerity plan from 2015 onwards.

  2. Eleanor Firman says:

    Just posted this on PA website:
    In the People’s Assembly Against Austerity statement and proposed declaration and action plan certain social divisions are specifically mentioned – children, students, race and religion. However there is no reference to the unemployed, women or disabled people and this is a concern to me, as it potentially signals a boundary marking who is entitled to certain resources and who is not, in the vision of the organisers. Unfortunately if this boundary proves real, it will reflect the austerity policy announced recently by the current Labour Party leadership.
    History will judge.

  3. Alan Story says:

    Serious weaknesses in democratic functioning within PA organising committees, as well as being exclusive and failing to break down barriers to the participation of ALL anti-cuts activists, emerged in how the Notts PA was organised last month.
    See two docs:
    But a small victory MAY have been won in the past 24 hours. A union branch here may agree to fund a crèche at a future PA in Nottingham.

  4. Ben Timberley says:

    Why is there an ego-driven OBSESSION from wanna-be politico’s with CONFERENCES?

    A virtual session via the internet would be far more inclusive, and less time consuming – along with negating the need for childcare coverage etc.

    I know it’s a particular point, but as usual it highlights the problem with politics in general, the unbelievable need for ego satiation. Will luddites please stop avoiding the use of technology in providing a greater democratic basis for politics!!!

    • Alan Story says:

      Could you give us all a few more specific ideas of how Left Unity —and progressive campaigning groups in general — could use technology in a better fashion?
      In the case of LU,we are widely spread across the UK and have a lot of work to do COLLECTIVELY from now until November 2013. I do take your point about the need to be inclusive ( e.g. re child care) and we don’t want to put any more money into the coffers of Virgin trains owner Branson than necessary. In any event, we simply do not have it.
      Your thoughts and ideas would be welcome. And I am not a 12 year old adolescent!

  5. Jimmy Haddow says:

    So Ben Timberley says “Why is there an ego-driven OBSESSION from wanna-be politico’s with CONFERENCES? A virtual session via the internet would be far more inclusive, and less time consuming – along with negating the need for childcare coverage etc. I know it’s a particular point, but as usual it highlights the problem with politics in general, the unbelievable need for ego satiation. Will luddites please stop avoiding the use of technology in providing a greater democratic basis for politics!!!”

    Ben quite clearly you do not believe in democracy whether it is a faulty bourgeois kind or a working class oriented kind. Let’s have a dictatorial plebiscite with no discussion amongst the participants hearing all points of view. Let’s just say a few words superficially internet style and have a vote. If this is what Left Unity is all about god, metaphorically speaking that is, help us all when Ben is put in charge.

    Democracy is the life blood of any organisation, that is freedom to put forward one’s point of view, discuss it and follow the majority ruling until it is proved correct or not. Under the stupid method Ben suggests that will never take place. In fact the internet style democracy will be used to stifle debate and democracy because it does not, and will not, allow the mass of the population to be involved in in defending, themselves against the austerity programme in general and the capitalist system in particular. It will also not allow the working class to take action to change the capitalist society into a new socialist society.

    The internet is one, and only one, tool as a means of communication just like handing leaflets or selling one’s Socialist newspapers. It is nothing more nothing less. It is naïve and child-like, and sorry but Ben here sounds like a 12 year old adolescent, to talk of a serious Left organisation not having member discussions with local branch meetings, regional and national member conferences to discuss policy, strategy and tactics. While I may have a quandary over some of the issues relating to the People’s Assembly it is absolutely right for a conference to take place

    • Ray G says:

      Yes Jimmy – well said

      • Ben McCall says:

        Sorry Ray, disagree.

        We know as we were there, that there was precious little “freedom to put forward one’s point of view, discuss it and follow the majority ruling until it is proved correct or not.” The participation at PAAA was either farcical (session in the ‘church’!!), awkward (regional / local sessions – as the hard/ultra-left insist on using the most boring and old fashioned meeting methods; or a way to kill time until the final plenary they had all been waiting for when the big guys got to shout at us and ‘we’ – in good Nuremburg style – rose to our feet, with nauseating regularity, in standing ovation.

        By far the best speaker in this session, transcending her tokenness, was Fancesca Martinez. McClusky, Sewotka and Rees’ plazzy passion was shown-up by her articulate polemic.

        BUT the Peoples’ Ass did do one thing, it brought together a lot of people who would not otherwise have met each other and probably led to good debates and plans for local action. It was also a good opp for LU people to meet up, who had not met before, including you & me – which was the best part of the day!

  6. Peter Burrows says:

    I do not want to get wrapped up in what may or may not be peoples motives or so called political agenda .We have before us a large scale assault upon equality,fairness & freedom & not surprisingly the tories are at the forefront assisted by the Lib Dems & those upon the receiving end are ordinary working people in every town,city & village the length & breadth of the British Isles.

    Its imperative that those who rightly wish to organise/mobilise against this unjust government do so with a common sense of purpose ,do we have time for looking for hidden agendas amongst ourselves (of course not!).

    The peoples assembly & others on the left MUST ,set about locally.regionally & nationally co-ordinated resistance & campaigns setting out the social cost to individuals & families of this governments austerity measures .They must also set about providing an alternative vision & pathway ,its not politically acceptable to be just a movement of opposition ,its important the left takes on the opposition in terms of knowing what we want locally,regionally & nationally.

    Its a huge task but are we to believe that within the ranks of such a broad political church the vision & skills are not at hand to co-ordinate OUR view of the sort of local community we want ,how that flows into regional policy & as a consequence the bigger picture nationally.

    We must allow the grassroots campaigns to evolve (as they have been in some areas already) ,sectionalise peoples strengths/knowledge into the areas they have expertise in ,allow the organisers/campaigners to do just that ,bring together those with specialist knowledge/expertise in various fields be they local,regional or national & set about not only winning the moral arguments but set about establishing a fresh radical vision of OUR kind of society be it social economic ,environmental etc.

    We cannot just know what we oppose we must begin to map out what we are for ,not because our political opponents have to know or the media ,because thousands out there are unrepresented & disenfranchised by the establishment parties & we must give them equality,justice & freedom ,three key principles they have been denied for probably 30+ years.


  7. BristolWob says:

    @ Jimmy Haddow

    It would be a waste of time to fully reply to you as you are clearly set in your ways. I will however say that kind of condescending attitude has turned thousands of young potential activists away, me included.

    Ben merely suggested using the internet as a way to engage a wider demographic and you accuse him of being undemocratic? If anything an online conference would open up these events, or do you prefer the top table approach? You sound like you’re used to being up there.


  8. Jimmy Haddow says:

    BristolWob says “@ Jimmy Haddow It would be a waste of time to fully reply to you as you are clearly set in your ways. I will however say that kind of condescending attitude has turned thousands of young potential activists away, me included. Ben merely suggested using the internet as a way to engage a wider demographic and you accuse him of being undemocratic? If anything an online conference would open up these events, or do you prefer the top table approach? You sound like you’re used to being up there. Yawn.”

    BristolWob utters “Yawn”, now is that not a condescending and patronising attitude that has turned away thousands of potential working class people away from fighting the capitalist cuts. One does not yawn because they think what is being said is not correct, but one engages in a discussion in an attempt to convince them of their argument.

    Now let us look at what Ben Timberley actually said: “Why is there an ego-driven OBSESSION from wanna-be politico’s with CONFERENCES?” Now is that not a patronising and condescending attitude to the thousands of new activists who have got involved in the anti-bedroom and anti-austerity campaigns who go to the meetings up and down Britain; and who want to hear how to fight and be involved in a movement against capitalism.

    Let us look at this statement: “A virtual session via the internet would be far more inclusive, and less time consuming – along with negating the need for childcare coverage etc.” Firstly, how patronising, condescending and arrogant to suggest to working class women and men that they should not be involved in the mass movement and activity because they need child care. What this is saying is they should stay at home and play on their computers because childcare coverage is too much trouble, rather than find ways to help workers with children to become active. Secondly, no it is wrong to suggest that a “virtual session via the internet would be far more inclusive” because a meeting, and or/ a demonstration, of whatever size or value allows the ‘people’ to feel their strength of hostility against the capitalist offensive. Again arrogance and condescending to suggest that the internet techies know best when in reality it is the active working class who knows better.

    And look at this: “I know it’s a particular point, but as usual it highlights the problem with politics in general, the unbelievable need for ego satiation” Psycho-babble gobbly-gook!!!!! Now-a-days a certain section of people who cannot win a political point always throws in that their opponent is being egotistical; and I have always found they do not know what it means?

    But this last sentence: “Will luddites please stop avoiding the use of technology in providing a greater democratic basis for politics!!!” Patronising, arrogant and condescending to suggest that activists who have been campaigning for years and have used numerous methods to communicate with the working class of Britain as Luddites just shows their political immaturity and low level activity in the real world. Now BristolWob if you want to call me condescending so be it.

    Now let us turn to what BristolWob says: “Ben merely suggested using the internet as a way to engage a wider demographic and you accuse him of being undemocratic?” Actually Ben does not merely suggest that using the internet is a way in engaging a wider demographic, he is suggesting to use the internet to replace conferences and representative democracy. Now maybe this is condescending, but the amounts of people who only see what is in front of them and only looks at the short term static picture, rather than looking at the long term moving picture is why people drop in and out of politics and has nothing to do with the condescending attitude from more experienced activists.

    Nevertheless, it sounds more like an excuse than a reason, because if you were really serious in campaigning and fighting against the austerity programme and the capitalist system then you would not take a superficial and shallow personal knocks such as condescending as a reason not to be involved in a serious project to change the situation. And you can take that from someone who has been involved in trade union and socialist movement activity for 35 years and who has been patronised, condescended to, abused by numerous people over the years. But of course I bet that BristolWob does not want to hear any of this because s/he dismisses the experience of anybody older than themselves.

    However my experience, for example in the Labour Party from 1980 until my official expulsion in early 1993, for opposing Labour Party policy over the Poll Tax, suggests that something that is superficially recommended to make democracy better actually turns into the opposite, a proposal that I opposed at the time by the way. At this moment the Left Unity project counter-pose ‘one member, one vote’ (OMOV) to the democracy of organisations electing accountable representatives, they have often echoed the propaganda of the Blairite right-wing in the 1990s as they sought to transform the Labour Party into New Labour. John Prescott, who pushed through the OMOV constitutional changes – which, for example, abolished the role of local union delegates in selecting parliamentary candidates in favour of an individual membership ballot, saw this as more significant in changing Labour than the abolition of its Socialist ‘Clause Four’. The plebiscitary ‘online democracy’ of Grillo’s Five-Star movement in Italy, or the German Pirates’ Party, a cyber-equivalent of US-style party primaries, is not a model for the potential Left organisation and movement.

    Finally, BristolWob articulates this: “If anything an online conference would open up these events, or do you prefer the top table approach? You sound like you’re used to being up there.” An online conference sounds like a bourgeoisie business strategy to control the mass of members!!! But, if I am at the top table, which I am not by the way, I would have earned it by building the movement from below out in the communities and estates of the working class. I am out there with the anti-austerity stalls week in week out, Scottish weather permitting of course, campaigning and building the anti-capitalist, pro-socialist activities as a means to construct a powerful working class political alternative to the capitalist system. I am not, on the whole, sitting in front of a computer dictating what the working class should do and not do without being involved in the movement itself. As I said before the internet is just one method of communicating one’s message and organising, but the object is to get the mass of the population to change society and that can only be done by direct participation and democracy of actual meetings and conferences discussing the practical problems.

  9. BristolWob says:

    Jimmy: TL;DR but the bits I could see were addressed to me.

    8000 people signed up to LU online. How many turned up to PA? It’s not a bourgeoisie conspiracy to rob you of your “I’ve been alive and pissed off longer than you so listen to me” credentials, it’s a way to engage with more normal people rather than a tiny group of already converted socialists.

    I “utter yawn” because I’m used to being talked to death by older activists and I’m bored of it, it was exactly the same with TUSC. I shouldn’t have to agree with every method my elders went with, if they worked so well why do we have no visible resistance to austerity? Why is LU even being suggested? Honestly I believe this whole thing is doomed to fail, you just want to control and do the same thing that’s failed over and over again with the other united fronts. Every time it saps more and more energy out of young, hopeful activists.


  10. BristolWob says:

    also: UK Uncut, Occupy. All online. Student occupation of Millbank, nothing to do with the old guard. These are things that capture public imagination, not closed, top-table “people’s” assemblies.

  11. Jimmy Haddow says:

    BristolWob you know best and better than the rest of us, nevertheless, the style of activities of UKUNCUT and Occupy, I, and my comrades, were doing all that during the Poll Tax days 20 to 25 years ago and all without the internet; how did we live in those retro days. There is nothing new under the sun as they say, :)

    • BristolWob says:

      Jimmy – There certainly isn’t. Enjoy your dwindling numbers.

      • Ben McCall says:

        Hey BW and Ben, don’t give up that easily. Yes Jimmy H is a boring old fart, overly aggressive in his debating style and puts words into your and others’ ‘mouths’; but weirdly I don’t think there is that much of a gap between you. If Jimmy could just calm down for a bit, he’d see that BW and Ben are just frustrated by the sameold-sameold formats that do not just bore youth (I am getting on!).

        Jimmy, are you really serious? Have all people on the ‘top table’ “earned it by building the movement from below out in the communities and estates of the working class”? Come on Jim, step back and you know what Ben and BW are saying is at least partly right.

        Is “…unbelievable need for ego satiation” really “Psycho-babble gobbly-gook!”? McClusky, Rees and Sewotka; Tariq Ali, Lindsey German (I’ll stop there, but could go on) … I rest my case.

        Ben and BW, it seems to me, are saying: we need to try new methods instead of (whereas they could say, as well as) the old ones, which have failed to build a mass movement to oppose austerity – most notably, have failed to persuade many “working class people … to be involved in a movement against capitalism.” We need to stop fooling ourselves that hard work and committed activism equals effectively winning people to our ideas and – even more importantly – actually combatting austerity, let alone capitalism.

        Young people are – quite rightly – questioning the long-winded, boring, wasteful and overly time-consuming methods that the old hacks say are the only way of doing things; and then stick the boot in when anyone questions them. OK Ben started ‘SHOUTING’ first, but your response is not debate, Jimmy, it is verbal bullying.

        Ben did not propose “a dictatorial plebiscite”; and there was certainly very little “discussion amongst the participants hearing all points of view” at the Peoples’ Ass! I’m all for heated debate (can hardly deny that on this site) but let’s at least try to ‘listen’ to each other and respond to what is written, not a twisted interpretation of it.

  12. Ray G says:

    Jimmy – I agree with your view but just on the ‘one member one vote’ point – what is being suggested by most people in LU is a delegate based, accountable democratic structure, building up from local groups. This is not the same as the OMOV in the Labour Party with people voting at home in isolation with no local bodies to hold elected officials or representatives to account.

    OMOV in Left Unity is counterposed only to the competing idea that LU should be a federation of existing parties who take part in it via their own party, not as individual members of LU.

  13. Paul Dunn says:

    If we really want to build a movement, we need to listen more and talk less.
    Most electronic communications have the disadvantage of appearing superficial and not facilitating eye contact.
    Surely, if we disagree with a statement, we should pose a question to seek clarification, not just condemn?
    We cannot build anything without first building trust and attacking people with (apparently) different views will only do the opposite.
    I will go to the PA meeting in Bristol on 8th July intending to listen and influence. Not to dictate and tell people why they are wrong.
    Building alliances takes patience and skill, not hot air and hate.
    Can we get back to the policy issues and what we can agree on, please?

  14. BristolWob says:

    Ben McCall – I agree 100% and thank you for your defense. Jimmy, you should check this out: might take something away from how online meets can work.

  15. BristolWob says:

    p.s: I’m not giving up. I’m just backing off from LU. I can see it’s just another “democratic” centralist cult that will do nothing for the disaffected. There are other, less backward groups to be part of.

    • Ray G says:

      Sorry but the idea of LU being a democratic centralist cult is simply laughable. If it were any more decentralised or bottom up it would cease to exist as any kind of organised force at all. We need to stop this self-indulgent chatter and get something DONE!

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Broadsheet: Make The Rich Pay

Broadsheet: Ecosocialism Not Extinction

Transform Journal – Issue 10

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