The first People's Assembly is the start of a process of mobilisation, it will need the commitment of every activist to make its early promise a political reality that can shape our future
The People's Assembly on June 22 is only the beginning.
Yes, it will be huge with over 3,000 in attendance.
Yes, it will bring together under one roof for the first time all the unions, campaigns and activists that make up the anti-austerity movement.
Yes, it has been preceded by local meetings in Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, Nottingham, Bristol and Brighton that are the biggest these cities have seen since the height of the anti-war movement.
But this will not be enough to defeat the government's austerity programme. So the People's Assembly must become the launch pad for a movement that can do just this.
The statement and the action plan, released this week for discussion at and after the People's Assembly, charts a course that can build the movement we require.
The statement aims to represent the widest possible interests of working people who face the attempt to solve the crisis at their expense.
The political elite are debating whether we should have "more cuts faster" or "fewer cuts more slowly."
The People's Assembly statement is unequivocal in saying that this is the wrong debate. There should be no cuts because they are counter-productive in their own terms, destructive of the lives of those who bear no responsibility for the crisis and democratically illegitimate.
In pursuit of the goal of making working people pay for the crisis the government is attempting to divide us between the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor, between "scroungers" and "hard-working families," between "immigrants" and "the rest of us."
These and a thousand other fissures are being worked on to cause division by the politicians and press.
The People's Assembly is resolute in its commitment to combating this strategy. This has to be a movement of us all, or it will be severely weakened.
So this is not a statement written for the left.
It's not about the left. It's not addressed to the left.
It's a statement issued in the name of an Assembly that is already broader than the existing left, aimed at hundreds of thousands of working people not in the left or the anti-austerity movement in any organised way. It seeks to draw them into action.
But what action?
Let's start with where we are.
Looking forward over the summer and up to the end of the year, there is currently industrial action by some unions on the horizon.
The first task of the People's Assembly will be to generate the broadest possible solidarity with these strikes.
We must aim to create an atmosphere where more co-ordinated strike action is both possible and successful.
But we also need a movement on the street. So the Assembly will be asked to issue calls for a day of direct action, a day of local demonstrations and a national demonstration before the end of the year.
Will this bring down the government? Probably not. Is it better than what we have? Definitely.
Can it be the start of a movement that can break the government's austerity? Yes, if it builds on the achievements so far.
To do that will mean building local People's Assemblies as centres of discussion, resistance and mobilisation.
So the statement will, we hope, be taken back to the growing Assembly movement. Further action should be debated and more proposed for discussion.
And all this should come back to a recalled second People's Assembly early in the new year.
The first People's Assembly cannot and should not decide everything. It is the start of a process of engagement and mobilisation, not the finished movement.
Of course we should have done this sooner. But now a start has been made. It will need the commitment of every activist to make its early promise a full-blown political reality that can change the course of our history.
From the Morning Star
The proposed declaration and action plan of the People’s Assembly
The declaration below represents the beginning of a democratic process leading towards a second People’s Assembly in early 2014. This declaration represents the views of all those who initially called for the People’s Assembly. We hope it will be endorsed by the People’s Assembly on 22nd June. It will then be open to the local People’s Assembly’s, union bodies and campaign groups who support the People’s Assembly to suggest amendments, additions, or deletions. These will then all be discussed and decided upon at the recall People’s Assembly in 2014.
The plans for action are simply the most obvious rallying points for a national anti-cuts movement for the remainder of 2013. They are not intended to supersede local or sectional action by existing campaigns or trade unions. They are intended to be focus national, collective action by the whole anti-austerity movement.
The People’s Assembly, meeting in Westminster Central Hall, declares:
We face a choice that will shape our society for decades to come. It is a choice faced by ordinary people in every part of the globe.
We can defend education, health and welfare provision funded from general taxation and available to all, or we can surrender the gains that have improved the lives of millions of people for over more than 50 years.
We do not accept that government’s austerity programme is necessary. The banks and the major corporations should be taxed at a rate which can provide the necessary resources. Austerity does not work: it is a failure in its own terms resulting in neither deficit reduction nor growth. It is not just: the government takes money from the pockets of those who did not cause the crisis and rewards those who did. It is immoral: our children face a bleaker future if our services and living standards are devastated. It is undemocratic: at the last election a majority voted against the return of a Tory government. The Con-Dem coalition has delivered us into the grip of the Tories’ whose political project is the destruction of a universal welfare state.
We therefore choose to resist. We refuse to be divided against ourselves by stories of those on ‘golden pensions’, or of ‘scroungers’, or the ‘undeserving poor’. We do not blame our neighbours, whatever race or religion they maybe. We are not joining the race to the bottom. We stand with the movement of resistance across Europe.
We are clear in our minds that our stand will require us to defend the people’s right to protest, and so we support the right of unions and campaigns to organise and take such action as their members democratically decide is necessary.
We stand with all those who have made the case against the government so far: in the student movement, in the unions, in the many campaigns to defend services, the NHS, and in the Coalition of Resistance, the People’s Charter, UK Uncut, the environmental movement and the Occupy movement.
We do not seek to replace any organisations fighting cuts. All are necessary. But we do believe that a single united national movement is required to challenge more effectively a nationally led government austerity programme.
We have a plain and simple goal: to make government abandon its austerity programme. If it will not it must be replaced with one that will.
We will concentrate on action not words. We aim to provide the maximum solidarity for unions and other organisations and others taking action. We support every and all effective forms action and aim to build a united national movement of resistance.
Our case is clear. The government’s austerity programme does not work; it is unjust, immoral and undemocratic. Alternatives exist. Debts can be dropped. Privatisation can be reversed and common ownership embraced. A living wage can begin to combat poverty. Strong trade unions can help redistribute profit. The vast wealth held by corporations and the trillions held by the super rich in tax havens can be tapped. Green technology, alternatives to the arms industries, a rebuilt infrastructure including growth in manufacturing are all desperately needed. We are fighting for an alternative future for this generation and for those that come after us.
- The People’s Assembly will support every genuine movement and action taken against any and all of the cuts. We support all current industrial actions by the unions. We encourage and will help to organise the maximum solidarity action with the PCS and teaching union members taking strike action the week after the People’s Assembly, as well as with other action by unions planned for the autumn.
- Peoples Assemblies against the cuts should be organised in towns and cities across our nations, bringing all those fighting the cuts together into a broad democratic alliance on a local basis.
- The national and the local Assemblies, in partnership with Trades Unions, Trades Councils, campaigning and community groups, can unite our movement and strengthen our campaigns. Local Assemblies will help us to organise a recalled National Assembly to review our work in the early spring of 2014.
- We will work together with leading experts and campaigners both here and abroad, and friendly think tanks, to develop rapidly key policies and an alternative programme for a new anti-austerity government. We will continue to welcome support from all who fight the cuts.
- We will call a national day of civil disobedience and direct action against austerity.
- We will call a day of co-ordinated local demonstrations in the early autumn.
- We will work with the trade unions and others to call a national demonstration in November.
John Rees is a writer, broadcaster and activist, and is one of the organisers of the People’s Assembly. His books include ‘The Algebra of Revolution’, ‘Imperialism and Resistance’, ‘Timelines, A Political History of the Modern World’, ‘The People Demand, A Short History of the Arab Revolutions’ (with Joseph Daher) and ‘A People’s History of London’ (with Lindsey German). He is co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition.