Tag Archives: peoples assembly

The spectre of Victorian Britain as opposition is subjugated

Soon after the industrial revolution began in the 1900’s  there were mass strikes and workers revolutions. The people fed up with the direction of the country as a whole and worse yet, the subjugation of a whole section of society, decided enough was enough. What followed in the years after was the founding of the NHS, workers rights, maternity pay and all the other things we take for granted now. The vast overwhelming majority of that came from the Labour Party. In fact the revolution came after people rejected the then Conservative Party. 

Fast forward to somewhere in the 1950’s and productivity of the worker was so high that they ‘wondered what they would do with all their free time’ as machines halved the work hours and just one worker was needed to bring home enough money to live on. It was seen as a golden age in many respects, certainly for working families. 

Fast forward again to the late 1970′ and 1980’s at a time again of recession and what came to arguably be the birth of corporate capitalism, no longer was it good enough to just earn a living, make some profit and be happy with that, this was the birth of the mantra that ‘ever more profit’ was needed if you were to make your business successful. Those that couldn’t keep making ever more profit in the world would fall by the way side. The advantage to this was lower prices on goods and food but it meant the best way to eventually achieve ever more profit was to squeeze the worker, squeeze what they could out of people to make their businesses gain that extra profit. Around that time under the Conservatives, Margaret Thatcher was closing down Labour intensive industries such as the coal mines with nothing to replace them, she was slashing social housing and cutting back on the welfare state and the NHS was in turmoil. Does this sound all too familiar?

So to the present day and perhaps the fault we are here in this position today is Tony Blair. The man who took Labour to the centre ground. It must be said that he did oversee some prosperous times but what it meant was that the left vanished, financial caution went out of he window as Labour spent big but saved nothing for when times got tough and as such became the party no one trusted with either the economy and indeed on the question of trust. Master of spin and deceit and ultimately a liar, his single most memorable contribution to his tenure will be taking us to an illegal war in Iraq and setting in motion the complete destabilisation of the Middle East. That’s some feat for a leader of what should be a socialist party. 

Then came the recession of 2008 and by 2010 the Conservatives had taken back control again and this had led to the utter collapse of the left and a repeat of the Thatcher years. Whereas Thatcher promised patriotism and a hardline in world affairs, so too Thersea May promises patriotism (Brexit) and a hardline in world affairs (immigration). Thatcher offered a closure of the mines, David Cameron effectivley closed the steel works industry. Thatcher offered a slash and burn of the welfare state and social housing, the Conservatives today are slashing the welfare state and failing to invest in housing. Don’t be fooled by their house building claims in this recent Autumn statement, they made promises to build 250,000 homes every year in 2010 and in 2015 but delivered on neither occasion. Affordable housing is far from affordable and right to buy is being extended to more housing association properties which will mean less social housing being available. Food banks, stagnation in wages now until beyond 2020/2021 and the official economic experts stating that we have lived through the worst 10 year period for wages in modern memory. 

There are many other issues today including benefits, where the poorest in society as well as the working poor, are about to feel the effects of further cuts to the welfare state and we must not forget the NHS. With the implementation of STP’s looming, behind the scenes privatisation, the implementation of an unworkable 7 day NHS service it won’t be long at all before we say goodbye to what we know today as the NHS. Hello private health insurance. 

What’s worst about all this is we have a left movement in this country that is so hell bent on trying to elect Jeremy Corbyn that that’s all its doing. The Conservatives have gone unchallenged in many areas this past year and the Tory’s have pushed through every piece of legislation that is a detriment to every person in the UK and yet silence. The people have truly become subjugated. Organisations such as the People’s assembly and UK Uncut are no longer on the streets, protests are hard to come by and the average Street protest that does take place brings no more than a few thousand people. Larger peacefull protests back in 2014/2015 failed to inspire and now we appear to be at a loss on the way forward. What we can expect, bar a miracle, is more hardship in terms of rising inflation over the coming years and a trillion pound debt by 2020 according to official statistics, far from George Osbornes original plans, and that’s the point, the Conservatives can promise what they like, roll back on what they like, do what they like. They have no political price to pay for their actions either from the opposing parties or the people. 

What you will notice from all this is that we have come full circle and people are working longer than ever before, two people have to work just to make ends meet. Sometimes individuals are working two or three jobs, this is a far cry from the 1950’s and a move instead towards a return to Victorian Britain. 

What all this tells us is that our political system is broken, we are unable to break away from this cycle of boom and bust and that we must find another way forward other than corporate capitalism. 

Our political system however doesn’t allow for systemic and radical progress. It allows only for minor progress and then realignment, a one step forward, two steps back approach because the mantra of the political parties is one of party lines. Maybe it’s time we did away with party politics. 

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Church of morality. Charlotte should have kept quiet. 

 

Charlotte Church, singer and wet fish
 
We condemn the spitting incidents at the Conservative conference at the weekend but we do not condemn in any way the shouting of the word ‘scum’ or the surrounding of the press. 
Miss Charlotte Church will have now fallen foul of the down trodden.

In this article she condemns the behaviour shown towards people at the Tory conference and is to write an open letter of apology on behalf of ‘most’ of the protesters in attendence, as explained in this Sky News article.

“I would never call anybody scum. I think it’s fundamentally unhelpful in the issues that we are trying to talk about.

“Name calling is never a good thing. These are tiny instances which have happened in tens of thousands of people. 

– Charlotte Church

Church may soon realise that celebrities that put their head above the parapet in support of a cause, especially one such as austerity and anti government are held to a special kind of accountability and that is one of understanding and a shared element of hardship. 

They say that ‘Riot is the language of the unheard’ the same can be said of expressions of anger towards the very people in charge of the establishment that rules over them in times of boom and bust and right now for many people, it’s bust. 

One million people use food banks. Thousands are homeless and austerity continues whilst the bankers continue to get bonuses and Osbourne gives more money to businesses and the rich through tax breaks and incentives. It’s no wonder people are angry and they have every right to confront those politicians when they have an opportunity. They have a right to be angry towards people who voted for a regime that condemns the most poor in society just so they can be a little richer than yesterday. 

They also have a right to be angry at a press that condemns them through news bulletins and programming. The poor in society make up much of the car crash TV we see on our screens. They fail to bring politicians to account when interviewed and allow them to spout lies and deceit without challenging those very lies. 

People feel betrayed by the system that sets them up to fail. 

So when Miss Charlotte Church says she will apologise on behalf of ‘most’ protesters, she is saying that she is distancing herself from the most vocal element. She is distancing herself from the unruly. She is seperate from them. They are beneath her. Instead she will apologise to the establishment to save her own reputation.

This smacks of a situation where she wants to raise her voice.. But only so much, so as not to offend. The same can be said for the organisation that is The Peoples Assembly, set up and Ratified by members of the Labour establishment some time ago now, they behave because they need to keep the support of their Labour friends. After all, a Labor MP can not be seen to be associating with aggressive demonstrators. The People’s Assembly in this respect are nothing more than controlled opposition and Church is part of that as evidenced by her reaction. 

This is what is partly meant by controlled opposition. 

In May 2015 the People’s Assembly had organised a protest to coincide with the State opening of Parliament in Parliament Square. The People’s Assembly had every opportunity to be heard by millions on TV and thousands lining the square. 

They never did go into Parliament Square. They didn’t disrupt and they didn’t make themselves heard. State opening passed off peacefully without incident. A great opportunity deliberately missed. 

Well, you can’t have Labour MP’s disrupting an official government organised event can you now? 

(Polly Toynbee of the Guardian puts it in a slightly better way)

The Protest Players – Part 1

This mini series of Blog Posts, all entitled ‘The Protest Players’ will look at recent protests, who organised them, who backs them and also poses questions around their methods and tactics. 

Do you know who you are backing? Are they the right way forward? How much power do they have? How do they operate? Are their tactics working? 

In part 1 of this mini series we look at the recent protests at the State opening of Parliament on 27th May 2015. Who was behind the protests? What happened on the day? What can we learn?

On 27th May 2015 at around 11.30am the Queen gave her speech at the State opening of Parliament at the Houses of Parliament in London. Earmarked for that day were two main protests, largely against austerity and cuts under a Conservative government.

On social media you could find several videos depicting the days protests including; 

Video from Nuzulu / Video from Urban Pictures / Video from BluelightTV

One thing is clear from these videos. Not one of these videos shows any form of protest or disruption of the State opening of Parliament, the very thing the protests were meant to target. Perhaps the protesters couldn’t get near to the event? 

This next video would suggest otherwise. In it, two men are arrested to prevent a breach of the peace for seemingly just having anti austerity placards on their person. They were situated at Parliament Square itself right at the time of the State Opening. 

Video of protesters being arrested at the State opening of Parliament at Parliament Square 

Why were these the only two lone soles to protest at Parliament Square at the time of the State Opening? Where was everyone else and who were the people behind organising the days protests?

The People’s Assembly against austerity had arranged for a protest on the day, to convene on Downing Street at 17.30. Hours after the State Opening had occurred.

The Peoples Assembly protest event page on Facebook

The second protest of the day was organised by a few groups, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), NUS london and The Brick Lane debates. This time it was arranged for Trafalgar Sqaure at 17.00. We will look at the main group that arranged this, NCAFC, later in the blog.
 

NCAFAC protest event page on Facebook
 

So why did The People’s Assembly and National Campaign against fees and cuts arrange protests on the same day, at different times and at different locations that had no influence or impact on the state opening of parliament? 

First we will examine The People’s Assembly. 

According to their website; 

‘The People’s Assembly Against Austerity was launched with a letter to the Guardian by the initial signatories below’

  • Tony Benn President, Coalition of Resistance
  • Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite the Union 
  • Mark Serwotka General secretary, PCS 
  • Christine Blower General secretary, NUT
  • Michelle Stanistreet General secretary, NUJ
  • Manuel Cortez General secretary, TSSA
  • Dave Prentis General secretary, Unison
  • Billy Hayes General secretary, CWU
  • Bob Crow General secretary, RMT
  • Mick Whelan General secretary, Aslef
  • Kevin Courtney Deputy general secretary, NUT
  • Paul Mackney Former general secretary Natfhe (now UCU)
  • Vicky Baars NUS union development
  • Kevin Donnelly Trade Union Council JCC
  • Caroline Lucas MP
  • Katy Clark MP
  • Jeremy Corbyn MP
  • John McDonnell MP
  • Murad Qureshi London assembly member
  • Dawn Butler Former Labour minister for young citizens and youth engagement
  • Tariq Ali Author
  • John Pilger Journalist
  • Ken Loach Filmmaker
  • Owen Jones Writer
  • James Meadway Senior economist, New Economics Foundation
  • Wendy Savage & John Lipetz Keep our NHS Public
  • Merry Cross Disabled People Against the Cuts
  • John Hendy QC Co-chair, People’s Charter
  • John Hilary Director, War on Want
  • Sam Fairbairn National secretary, Coalition of Resistance
  • Imran Khan Solicitor, co-chair, People’s Charter
  • Rachael Newton People’s Charter
  • Romayne Phoenix Chair, Coalition of Resistance
  • Zita Holbourne Co-chair, Black activists rising against the cuts
  • Clare Solomon Vice-chair, Coalition of Resistance
  • Andrew Burgin Vice-chair, Coalition of Resistance
  • Colin Hampton Co-ordinator, National Unemployed Workers Centres Combine
  • Anita Wright Secretary, National Association of Women
  • Joginder Bains Association of Indian Women
  • Shang Gahonia Indian Workers Association
  • Carolyn Jones Director, Institute of Employment Rights
  • Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition
  • Kate Hudson General secretary, CND
  • Bruce Kent Peace campaigner
  • Lee Hall Playwright
  • Roger Lloyd Pack Actor
  • Josie Long Comedian
  • Iain Banks Author
  • Arthur Smith Comedian
  • Roy Bailey Folk singer
  • Francesca Martinez Comedian
  • John Rees Counterfire editorial board
  • Natalie Bennett Leader of the Green Party England and Wales
  • Fred Leplat Socialist Resistance
  • Robert Griffiths General secretary, Communist Party of Britain
  • Bill Greenshields Chair, Communist Party of Britain
  • Richard Bagley Editor, Morning Star

  It goes on to say that the Assembly  ‘Is a broad united national campaign against austerity’

and ‘is linked to no political party’

It ‘Is based on affiliation by individual supporters, unions nationally and locally, anti-cuts campaigns, and other student, pensioner, unemployed, disabled people’s, women’s, Black people’s, youth and LGBT campaigning organisations’

and ‘Aspires to support, encourage, coordinate joint action, and facilitate a transfer of experience rather than to command’.

On their website a rookie member of The People’s Assembly completed a report on the days event. Read the full article at the link.

Article from queens speech state opening of parliament

Here though we wanted to focus on the two following paragraphs from that article.

“…. Jeremy Corbyn, (Labour) MP for Islington North voiced perhaps the defining words of the assembly: “Keep the spirit of that world you want to live in – not the nasty divided one we’re in,” he told the crowd..”

“…As Richard Burgon, Labour MP for East Leeds candidly called to the crowd. ‘Don’t wait for politics to fix it. Politics is broken…” 

 

Peoples Assembly Protesters outside Downing Street during the Queens Speech

We notice a common theme amongst the supporters and signatories that despite the Assembly insisting they do not support a political party it’s hard, almost impossible to imagine there is no Labour Party agenda or at least Labour will be using the Assembly as a platform for their Party message.

National Campaign against fees and cuts is a movement of students against tuition fees, education cuts and wider public service cuts and has been operating since 2010. It has the support of the NUS.

I think this is fairly straightforward with only two questions to ponder. 

Why are the the NCAFAC not affiliates to the People’s Assembly when Vicky Baara of NUS development is? Why did they also arrange their protest away from Parliament Square?

Now we have had a look at the groups involved let’s focus on the questions;

Why did both groups arrange their protests at 5pm or 5.30pm? The State opening of parliament occurred late morning into the early afternoon. What better way to make your point than to protest live on TV. 

Everyone has been talking about ‘fighting back’ and not giving the government any rest and protesting at every opportunity. As long as, it seems, we don’t upset too many. people. 

To keep the backing of the MP’s does the People’s Assembly have to conform? After all, the MP’s, even if every party is represented except a Tory one, can’t be seen to be condoning disruptive behaviour. It raises the question doesn’t it? A movement for the people, so long as the MPs don’t get shown up. Is this why the protest was arranged later in the day? Is this why the two protesters in Parliament square who were arrested were the only ones there at all during the State Opening. Are these the only two activists who can think for themselves?

What about the NCAFAC? What was there excuse? Could it be that to be ‘official’ they have to get the backing of the NUS? Would the NUS allow their students and membership to be seen to be disruptive at the State Opening? After all, the bite of the Unions seem to be weaker and weaker with every passing year. 

The likelihood is, and we haven’t verified this, that both groups had notified the police in advance of the protests which meant they were limited in their approach. 

Oddly enough with the People’s Assembly being as big as it is its a wonder why they had less supporters representing the PA than NCAFAC did. Even if they did eventually combine to march another long trek around half of London, leading nowhere but eventually back to Trafalgar Sqaure. 

Why does everything end up back at Trafalgar Square? Why do we march aimlessly around London for a couple of hours. Footage from the protest shows at one point everyone keeping to the pavement. Poor innocent pedestrians, must have taken ages to walk through that throng of people. Still, at least it meant the cars could move freely from A to B.

We witness one video of a member of Anonymous facing off against police all on his own, despite being surrounded by dozens if not hundreds of fellow protesters. Walking into and backing into the police line won’t get you very far, and it didn’t. Despite his best efforts, the crowd couldn’t be convinced to commit any sort of civil disobedience. 

The purpose here is not to lambaste the people taking part, after all, they are making an effort and doing more than most. No, the idea is to ask the questions. To make us question, what are we doing here? Who are we backing? Is this making the right impact. 

People will say my comments are divisive, I would say that two separate groups arranging two separate protests at two separate times of day both of which were totally irrelevant times, is the more divisive action.