Coalition of Resistance Conference Report
Well, I thought I’d start by writing up my coalition of resistance conference report here for everyone to see – and putting it in some other places as I go. It was an amazing day, and please don’t read any quibles I’m going to make as a reflection of the whole – they were simply some signs that not everyone is up to speed on what’s hot and what’s not in social movements in 2010.
The venue wasn’t ideal – it wasn’t big enough. Its a problem we all wish we faced more of the time, but its also a problem they could have seen coming. I’m so glad I made my way to the balcony – what a view we had. The parade of heavyweight speakers that we heard from was really inspiring.
Yes, there were sound bites. Yes everyone “just wants to start by thanking everyone for turning up and say how important unity is”. Yes, there were overly familiar faces. These movements need to generate many many more speakers and leaders. And they need to do it now. As Ralph Nader (who I admire for no other reason than this quote) once said: “Good leaders develop new leaders, not new followers”.
There were also a worrying number of men speaking – sadly we have to return to the days when women need separate campaigns. Women Against Cuts is necessary, and I will stand aside when they choose to speak because I won’t be affected by the cuts half as bad as they will (70% of the monetary burden of the cuts will fall on them, half of which would be 35%, which is actually more than the 30% left to fall on men).
But wow, the atmosphere was practically electric – I must have heard a dozen speeches that in a normal rally would be the defining speech. Particularly amazing were Lee Jasper of BARAC (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts), Dot Gibson from Pensioners Convention, John McDonnell MP – I want to say he’s from the Labour and Direct Action Party. And of course, the woman we’re getting used to seeing a lot of, Claire Solomon. She blushed as the chair recounted her performance against Paxman, but she spoke with unceasing vigour.
I said there weren’t enough women speakers, but I will mention one more – Laurie Penny. If you haven’t read this article about her experiences on Whitehall, go and read it. It turns out, she has connections in York, and would be happy to come and speak! She’s on twitter too – PennyRed is the name. One public meeting, hopefully, coming up.
One thing that bothered me the whole way through, and hell, it bothers me at every one of these conferences, is the lack of a Christian on the panel. Bruce Kent isn’t an anti-cuts campaigner, I guess, so who is? When they asked for honesty about who was signing up to the council, and for people to write down their affiliations on the form, I was curious as to whether anyone would say they were from Common Wealth Network – the Christian statement against the cuts.
Convinced by my fellow Yorkies on the delegation, I decided that maybe I should put myself forwards – maybe I’m not a representative, but I am a member of both a fairly advanced city-wide group and an initiative representing a category of people completely unrepresented in the campaign – and sure enough, no Christian affiliations were declared. Turns out they didn’t even have an election, I just got on anyhow. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
I was also worried by just how many people wanted to talk about leadership for the movement and just how few spoke about serving the movement, serving the people around us. Loads of people want to build campaigns, but almost no one wanted to build communities – the very things that are being dismantled piece by piece everytime an article is written point us towards an obscure case of a scape-goat group failing to follow the letter of the law.
But the one over riding feeling I had was that maybe, just maybe, we could have a movement that actually turns back the course of history, and reminds people that we can still make demands – just because we can’t use the threat of pulling our money out of the country doesn’t mean we’re powerless. There may be many set-backs along the way, and even if the students don’t win, what will we do next? There’s still a dozen other major areas of cutting to stand up for, and each time we can learn new things from the previous attempt.