State of Activism – September 2015
I’ve had a bunch of ideas that should be blog posts pop into my head lately, which means I should probably get writing again. Before I do that, though, here’s a bit of a survey of where activism seems to be as September ends, and some modest (ish) suggestions.
The last few months have been intense and unrelenting for activism in Britain. There was no post-election break, no post-demonstration break after 250,000 marched through London, and for every moment when the national scene has been quiet, local fallout from national policies have been overwhelming.
On the Environment, Fracking has switched from a Lancashire Issue to a Yorkshire Issue. There’s a very real risk that we’ll see approval given to fracking wells in the North Yorkshire area of Ryedale next month. The government’s abandonment of support for solar and wind energy is getting some attention, but not nearly enough.
Meanwhile the Paris Climate Summit in December is now on the horizon – but awareness of this fact is low. I’m delighted to see lots of ‘Paris and Beyond’ things going on, though I’ve already caught an NGO calling the summit a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity. I suppose Copenhagen 09 now feels like a lifetime ago, but its recent enough that some of remember just how much the hype contributed to the sense of failure afterwards.
For Peace campaigners, the recent DSEI arms fair seems to have been a more successful mobilisation than two years ago. However, preventing an imperialist military ‘solution’ to Syria needs to move up the priority list. The general state of anti-war groups around Britain isn’t great, and I hope people are ready to re-engage these if necessary.
On the Human Rights front, the tidal wave of activism around Migrant Issues has been amazing, but needs clear thinking on the way ahead. There’s no way that the huge demonstrations of the last few weeks will repeat themselves, but that doesn’t mean its all over. There is a window of opportunity to highlight ancillary injustices, such as returning 18 year old asylum seekers to their home countries and restrictions on support for migrants.
Cameron’s decision to send £1million to provide refugee camps around Syria must be exposed as a racist containment strategy. The racism of the French police needs exposing, after they ripped up encampments around Calais this week, forcing Syrians to join the Afghanis and others in the older ‘Jungle’ encampment outside the town
Alongside this, the anticipated tussle over the Human Rights Act has morphed into a (largely silent) fight over worker and union rights. The issue risks getting lost amongst everything else that’s going on. And the Roma, Traveller and Gypsy communities look set to march in London next Spring as the government is now refusing to recognise the existence of any member of a traveller community who isn’t currently travelling (I note this was a particular campaign by Julian Sturdy, MP for York Outer).
On the global economics front, there’s a really annoying date clash between a global day of action on TTIP, CETA and TISA trade deals and a national day of action on Fracking on October 10th. TTIP has been a bit overshadowed in recent months, but is definitely not going away. Thankfully, our efforts are being supported by some amazing work in Germany and elsewhere.
And finally, Jeremy Corbyn’s victory and all that that means. Whereas Corbyn’s success is amazing, and the vitriolic response from the Right equal parts horrible and hilarious, the impact on activism levels seems rather worrying. There’s at least some evidence that next week’s events at Tory conference will be much smaller than previously anticipated.
There may be many factors, of which general movement fatigue is probably one. As the two biggest parties that turnout on protests, the Greens and Labour are both being drawn inwards instead of outwards – the Greens are losing members and therefore picking up the pieces as a result, whilst Labour are trying to figure out what to do with a large influx of members – apparently its not occurred to them to get them out on the streets with the Trade Union movement.
For the Greens, this is understandable, as the Green Surge collapses, but for Labour, this is short-sighted. The evidence from Greece and (more importantly) Spain is that leaders like Corbyn win because people are out on the street, backing up their message with infectious hopeful enthusiasm. The spirit of the Corbyn rallies during the leadership election aren’t just intrinsic to his becoming leader, but to the whole project succeeding.
The message in the final days of mobilising for the October 4th demonstration in Manchester needs to be this: back Corbyn by marching in Manchester. Its really that simple.
Entry filed under: Activism.