Coalition of Resistance National Council Report
I wrote the following for the Common Wealth Network blog, so it has a fairly specific set of recommendations at the end, but I also thought that many of you would be interested to read about my experience attending my first decision making council in London for the Coalition of Resistance, a major endeavour to unite people against cuts and privatisations.
A bout of flu means I’m writing this article over a week later than was intended. On Saturday 15th January, I set out from York to travel to London to attend the first National Council of the Coalition of Resistance. How I got to this point is still a subject of some amusement. At the Coalition of Resistance conference on 27th November, a call was given for people to come forwards and nominate themselves for the National Council.
Everyone assumed some attempt at an election might be played out – though to give everyone a minute to introduce themselves would have required more than 2 hours. In reality what happened was that everyone was allowed onto the Council. So over 120 were due to turn out in London for the inaugural meeting on the Council. Its role essentially to vet to the work of the steering committee and make policy decisions in the absence of a timely enough conference.
I would like to say my experience was positive and empowering, that representatives of local groups were able to make an impact and to raise the issues that matter on the ground. In reality, this wasn’t to be. The morning session was essentially 2 hours of listening to people mostly representing organisations and factions with little if any difference between them bang on about things we already knew. Students this, workers that, only the briefest of mentions of the Vodafone actions, mostly very nebulous stuff that was more concerned with the correct line for socialists than people’s actual suffering. When someone stated “Its only a matter of time before the police kill someone in Britain”, it was very matter of fact; nothing said about the practicalities of preventing this.
The afternoon rolled round and with it the task of working on the motions and amendments that had been passed over from the main conference. The resolution itself is not bad, but the discussion that got there was fraught with agendas rather than the result of a open, participatory process to agree a statement. It became apparent half way through that almost half of the people in the room had no idea what the process was, or why it was being imposed, as it had been assumed we should just follow some variation on a union rule book.
The one breath of fresh air was from the representative for Disabled People Against Cuts, who spoke eloquently about the real ways in which people are being affected and real actions being taken to tackle this. It was a reminder that whilst some organisations have the luxury of maintaining hierarchies and grandiose structures, real people are struggling. Real progress is being made – besides a conference now scheduled for mid July and ongoing discussions for a European anti-cuts forum, a week of action is being called in February, with protests ranging from Libraries and the NHS to a “Valentines Day Massacre” themed protest outside Downing Street on the 14th.
The March 26th demonstration in London was given as the high-peak to focus on. This was the one subject on which no one seemed to have any disagreements. It is becoming clear that this will be a huge protest – some suggest as many as a million may take part. Whilst I don’t think every church should preoccupy itself with every demonstration, I really hope that Church banners will be seen alongside union and community banners. It will take work on many levels to build such a big demonstration just two months from now, and Churches can and should take on a part of that role as they did with campaigns like Make Poverty History and Jubilee 2000.