Stopping the Cuts: Communities, the next frontier?

Sunday, 3rd April 2011 at 14:38 UTC 5 comments

Right, so we’ve been to London, tried out a few different methods of streets protests, and experienced some fairly linear growth over the last few months. Its truly amazing to see the numbers of people showing up to stuff, but this presents problems on the inclusion front and also on the self-perception front. We’re a big, powerful movement, right?

As a movement, very clearly we need to be moving. To say we need to be moving forwards is a cliche, and often one used to endorse a simplistic and often-times linear understanding of where we should be going. Linear in this sense explains the pathway towards change as being singular. Perhaps its fairer to say we need to move forwards on many fronts, advancing through a diversity of tactics.

It would be a mistake to think we could have a movement proceed in a single strand for any number of reasons, but the two which spring to mind as positives are the numbers of people wanting to get involved (and I mean involved, not just show up on the odd Saturday, select a placard and follow us around like goons). This has to be a movement of leaders, and we have to be creating many new leaders every week. It also has to be a movement of new ideas, which is why its so important that discussions are framed as “what would you like to do to stop the cuts”, with the more experienced activists avoiding the temptation to dump gloom on people’s plans.

Also, we need to recognise that there are many sets of experience coming into this movement. I’ve noticed Trade Unionists making some assumptions about how their experiences are more valid than other people’s, and maybe you’ve noticed some anarchists playing up their arrest count or whatever. Seriously, this isn’t going to win us the struggle.

One rather intensive suggestion would be to have people who have longer involvement in the movement sit down with a pad and pen and some rough list of questions and informally interview people to learn what skills they can offer and think creatively about how to use them. I’d suggest you don’t try this, but rather everyone make an effort to learn about five newish activists skill-sets. You may be surprised as to what comes out, including things people are adamant are not skills for movements.

But what I really want to get over is the desperate need for campaigns to move from burgeoning pressure groups into real expressions of community uprising. We can’t just wait for the local day centre or pool to be threatened with closure, we have to get out their and be recognisable now.

York Stop the Cuts has been experimenting with local stalls. We’ve run city centre stalls for years in different campaigns, but we’re now taking out stalls to the suburbs rather than hoping people will spot us when they pop into town on the odd occasion that they do so on a Saturday. We must remember that just because town has the most people, it doesn’t mean most people are in town.

Meeting people where they’re at is important, as are the discussions that we’re having: usually much more detailed in Acomb, Haxby and Bishopthorpe Road, away from the tourists and heaving crowds. Major plus point: we get new campaigners out onto stalls in more familiar surroundings, as there are more opportunities closer to where they live. Next stage: hosting public meetings in these areas. People from these areas keep telling us they don’t want to walk into town for a meeting, especially on an evening. We can, and we must, have our ideas and tactics become mainstream in the coming months if we’re to win out.

It is clear that Britain’s working classes, from Milliband’s “squeezed middle” to the growing “underclass”, need to find a sense of solidarity amongst and between themselves. Community and Solidarity are intertwined, one being a meaningless statement without the other. The Conservatives attack and divide communities because only through fragmenting society can they possibly win. Collectivism is really their enemy, and very definitely our friend. In fact, collectivism, community, solidarity, justice and equality should probably be our 5 watchwords in the anti-cuts movement.

For most people, vague notions of theoretical solidarity are vacuous, difficult to grasp. For myself, I know I find it easier to have solidarity with a group of people when I’ve met at least one of them. By bringing things down to people’s levels we can build solidarity for it counts. In the gap between the March 26th protests and the proposed Public Sector strike in June, this should be the next phase. Having an anti-cuts group in your city isn’t going to be enough – pressure groups won’t win this. The next step is to become engrained in the fabric of our communities, offering a broad range of tactics to people and bringing new faces into full participation.

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Entry filed under: Activism, Community.

The Ramifications of Free Choice Comments and Writer’s Block

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Greg  |  Wednesday, 6th April 2011 at 11:28 UTC

    Yep, the Tories want to destroy community. In fact, they’re a bunch of diabolical evil sith-lords who tormented kittens when they were at school and are currently refining their torture methods for when they get their hands on you.

    Alternatively, you’re a frustrated activist who can’t get his head around the idea that people can honestly disagree with him, that he can’t see the whole national picture and that he may just be wrong.

    Please Graham, can you stop this self-evident rubbish? I’m not trying to defend anyone here, but your increasingly hostile and partisan posts don’t do any favours to anyone. Do I believe that David Cameron is genuinely evil? I find it easier to believe that Graham Martin’s got things a little out of proportion. In a middle-of-the-road democracy, calling the other side the antichrist doesn’t prove anything, it just shows how the party machine has swept you off your feet and how little touch you still have with reality.

    If you want to do some good in the world, you won’t get there by living in some fantasy land where Tories are hook-toothed ogres, Labour are blameless modern-day Robin Hoods and the common people are decent folk to a man, united against the common enemy. Once upon a time, I thought you cared. I may have disagreed with you on many things but I could see your Christian compassion and drive to make things better for people. Now, I don’t see that anymore. It’s like party politics has eaten your soul, so you have to take the side it says whether that’s for good or bad, and that’s neutered the good you could have done. I want the real Graham back, where has he gone?!

    Reply
  • 2. transactivist  |  Thursday, 7th April 2011 at 7:49 UTC

    I don’t comprehend how anyone who cares about the underprivileged in our society could possibly disagree with Graham’s post here. Tory policies are genuinely hurting people, and it doesn’t have to be this way. Individual Conservatives may not be evil, but the party’s actions have evil consequences.

    This isn’t about party politics, it’s about resisting measures that will make the rich more rich and the poor more poor.

    Reply
  • 3. Greg  |  Thursday, 7th April 2011 at 11:44 UTC

    Graham’s previously said that he wants to keep the rich rich and the poor poor, so I don’t see why that’s any problem to him. Also, in case you hadn’t noticed, Graham’s been a party animal for the past year or so. It was funny until it became heartbreaking.

    As for your assessment of government policy, it’s good to hear that you’re sure your way is right and everyone at the top is either stupid or evil. Do you really think that if fixing the country was that simple, we wouldn’t have done it yet? The law of unintended consequences is a hard master, you know.

    Reply
  • 4. Emily  |  Saturday, 9th April 2011 at 17:24 UTC

    I suppose following from Greg’s point rather than Graham’s blog – it has to be asked who are the political alternative at the moment. Are we genuinely of the belief that labour’s slightly lesser cut is of sufficient difference to make it worthy of Milliband standing in London’s hyde park and preaching to us. Indeed why is Milliband not attached in the same way as Cameron is.

    Hate or love the cuts it is undeniable that this is the mismanagement of the Labour party that has caused this position and they have similar cut measures proposed.

    (My hatred for the labour party has grown as I listened to that hypocrite Miliband compare himself to Martin Luther King and Mandela. Luke 18:9-14 comes to mind).

    There is no political alternative. And no I am not a Tory.

    Reply
  • 5. Emily  |  Saturday, 9th April 2011 at 17:26 UTC

    Sorry lot’s of spelling mistakes – “attached”=attacked. “lesser cut is”= lesser cuts are … etc..

    As you can tell I am dyslexic and also in a hurry – I hope that does not detract from my point.

    Reply

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