Change comes from mass action by working people - and as the movement grows, socialist organisation in the movement needs to grow too writes Chris Nineham
A huge protest movement is erupting against austerity. Hundreds have come to People's Assemblies around the country to plan action. City after city is calling mass protests for May 30 and thousands have signed up for action on the day of the Queen's Speech on May 27. Cardiff has had two demonstrations in the last two weekends. Manchester school students are following Bristol's example and calling for a massive student demo. And all this is feeding into record interest in the June 20 demonstration from the Bank of England.
There are a few things worth noting about all this.
1First – these kind of movements make a difference. The anti-poll tax campaign, which climaxed in a demonstration of a quarter of a million of 1990, didn't just end that hated tax, it broke Thatcher. The anti-war movement didn't manage to stop the invasion of Iraq but it helped create a body of anti-war sentiment that still blocks military plans. And, over time, it did for Blair. As if to illustrate this point this Thursday's nationwide screening of Iraq War doc 'We Are Many' is a must-see event, coming to a cinema near you.
2A huge demonstration on June 20 can create a spiral of resistance – increasing confidence for local campaigns, direct action and strikes. It will strengthen the local People's Assemblies in localities, universities, even workplaces. All this in turn creates the conditions for a further, even bigger mobilisation in the autumn.
3Such a movement is not spontaneous nor will it ever be built on Facebook alone. To reach the millions of people dismayed by the election and distraught at the government's venom, the People's Assemblies need to be visible everywhere. As fast as the movement swells, we need to get people organised and outward-looking, doing leafleting, street meetings, postering in their own localities and pushing out into less organised areas. In London this weekend there are going to be street events in outer areas like Croydon, Barking and Enfield, where most working class people live, as well as Brixton, Brick Lane, Camden and more.
For some tips on pop up street agitation check out our recent article with 10 handy steps to making the demo massive. There is a list of People's Assembly activity in the next few days up on the PA website.
Why socialists matter
The strongest kickback to the election defeat has been in areas with some socialist organisation. People can respond to a setback in a number of ways. Some will just feel paralyzed, some will get involved in an internal debate in Labour – though it looks very much like there won't be a convincing left candidate in the election campaign and, anyway, few can stomach the thought of waiting for five years. Others will organise action which just involves radicals, which is better than nothing but doesn't keep the government awake at night.
In these circumstances the argument and attitude that, in general, change comes from mass action by working people is priceless. This is why, as the movement grows, socialist organisation in the movement needs to grow as well.
Counterfire is involved in a few important initiatives as we help take the fight to the government:
- Counterfire.org goes real world - our free tabloid newspaper will be out in a couple of weeks. Please give generously to the launch appeal and spread the word.
- The Dangerous Times Festival - the biggest and best post-election gathering of the left and the movements, this year's Dangerous Times Festival on June 27/8 brings together David Harvey, Owen Jones, Natalie Bennett, Tariq Ali, Lindsey German and a host of others. Cheap tickets are still available before May 30.
- Membership drive - In the last week people have joined in Newcastle, Norwich, Hackney and Camden. Please ask your friends, workmates and co-campaigners to do the same. Every new member will help grow the movement and the core of radical activists at its heart. You can join on the Counterfire website, and get involved!
Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.
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