How a diverse platform of speakers can pull in a diverse audience of over eight hundred people on a Thursday evening in Liverpool, should be a salutary lesson for everyone looking for a radical political alternative. From the opening remarks of the Chair of the event, Sheila Coleman, in respect of putting social justice at the centre of any radical alternative, the meeting never looked back. The organisers of the event need to be congratulated for creating a space whereby the normal sermonising and predetermined attitudes of a lot of the Left and their speaking at people rather than to them, was thankfully missing.
Steve Turner of Unite reminded the meeting of the importance of linking both community and work-based struggles. Owen Jones, Colette Williams, speakers from DPAC and anti-bedroom tax campaigns provided the variety of responses needed for any fightback. All this inter-dispersed with the satire of Mark Steel (killer line? How the country is being run by Ryan Air.) Martin Kelsey of PCS also reminded us of how the debt crisis was being used as an excuse to eliminate the public sector.
However it hasn’t taken long for some of the ‘politico’s’ to begin griping. No doubt that it was probably the biggest meeting since the Liverpool Dockers Dispute has helped fuel a tinge of jealousy. Plus another criticism has been based on the failure of the meeting to finish with a clear strategy. I do not accept this point. It is similar to some of the complaint about Occupy Wall Street. For me the idea for the Peoples Assembly is to provide space for ideas and discussion rather than for groups to impose programmes and strategies using a form of language indecipherable to anyone under thirty. Utilising a construction of a working class: male breadwinners working in mines, shipyards or manufacturing ignores the salient points of de-industrialisation, finance rather than factories and that the new demographic of the average worker is one of a female working as carer or a nurse. The error of the Left, lies in importing the past wholesale into the present. The point of history is to learn from it and not to proceed as if still living in it.
For the times we are now living in whereby the financialisation of every aspect of life is both corrupting and corrosive, also mean that there are multiple circuits of exploitation felt by diverse and multiple people, from rents, student loans, health, housing , to food and pollution: everyone is being stiffed in an avalanche of debt. So the possibility of glimpsing an alternative future will not be solely based on a class consciousness but also on a ‘mass’ consciousness.
The People’s Assembly can open up spaces whereby industrial and community based struggles can link to demands for social justice, incorporating rights to housing, education, health, transportation, sustainable living, clean environments and the right not to be spied upon by the State. There is no longer a one size fits all solution. We should welcome the opportunity for widening and combining all elements of solidarity, social justice and resistance. As one door closes another one opens… even on RyanAir.
UNITE 567 CASA COMMUNITY BRANCH.