Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Amigo month

Thursday, 13 September 2018

The 100 Women ‘happening’ in Parliament Square yesterday, Weds. 12 September:


















1. The 100 Women ‘happening’ in Parliament Square yesterday, Weds. 12 September:

see  the video at https://www.facebook.com/tinalouiseuk/videos/10160916445615258/

Thanks to ALL who planned this, and/or who went down to London on the day! The photos/videos look BRILLIANT - and the protest marks an important step in taking the campaign against the fracking of OUR planet to those who sit in their ‘ivory towers’ and facilitate this democracy & climate crime.

ALL those who either perpetrate or facilitate this ecocide have DIRTY hands - and have already been found GUILTY in the courtroom that matters most: History!  

So….where next?!!





Sunday, 9 September 2018

greener jobs alliance newsletter: TUC Congress 2018

TUC Congress 2018 Greener Jobs Alliance Briefing: 

Full spectrum’ of unions support motions on climate change, energy and a Just Transition Delegates to the TUC’s 150th annual Congress will debate six motions https://bit.ly/2wHjYWN setting out new directions for TUC policy on climate change, energy and a Just Transition.

The Greener Jobs Alliance welcome the GMB’s proposal for a TUC-led conference in their motion, Just transition and energy workers’ voice. But we have a duty to express our concern that this motion limits input on TUC policy from other unions, making ‘energy unions’ views ‘paramount’. Although the proposed conference on Just Transition is long overdue, when it comes to fighting climate change, every union should have a voice: in the fire and rescue services, food manufacturer, rail transport, public services, the NHS. No less than nine unions have motions or amendments on climate change and a just transition at TUC 2018.

Motions in brief

01: Industrial strategy: an economy for the many Unite’s motion calls on the TUC to campaign for an industrial strategy that includes: • Strengthening collective bargaining in the workplace and across industrial sectors. • Investment in UK manufacturing, electric vehicles, construction and infrastructure. • Support for high-quality apprenticeships. ASLEF’s amendment links industrial policy to a just transition: ‘Support for investment and strategic planning to ensure UK industry is at the forefront of a just transition to a low-carbon economy and the fight against climate change, including by means of an integrated transport strategy.’

07 Just transition and energy workers’ voice In support of gas industry members, the GMB motion argues that ‘lower carbon gas’ is an essential for the UK’s secure, affordable and lower carbon energy supply. Backed by Prospect, the motion, ‘congratulates GMB, Prospect, UNISON and Unite for calling a just transition conference to ask members employed in energy precisely what they, their communities and industries want and need from an energy sector of the future…The views of the workers affected, as expressed through these trade unions, should be paramount to development of all TUC policies on energy, industrial strategy and climate change.’ 










Wednesday, 5 September 2018

pressure on trade unionists to adopt the IHRA





Dear colleague,

I am writing to ask for your support for the open letter below. As UCU president-elect I’m deeply concerned by the mounting pressure on trade unionists to adopt the IHRA definition and examples and feel it is crucial that there is a broad response to this from across the labour movement. In UCU we are particularly concerned about the threat that the IHRA definition and examples poses to academic freedoms, but I feel this is a much bigger issue which concerns the whole of the trade union movement.

We have a proud tradition in the UK trade unions of both fighting for Palestinian rights and standing firm against racism. In the current context where the far right is now becoming a real threat once again, this letter appeals for unity and solidarity rather than the division and confusion which will result if the IHRA definition is widely adopted.

The aim of this open letter is to circulate with initial signatories as soon as possible, preferably in advance of the outcome of Labour’s NEC meeting tomorrow (or as soon as possible afterwards), but then to broader layers of union members to sign via an online form which I’m going to set up later today.

I’d really appreciate your support for this initiative and would be grateful if you could let me know your thoughts as soon as possible,

Best wishes,
Nita Sanghera, UCU vice-president and president-elect.

Open letter from trade unionists on the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism and examples

We are deeply concerned by the accelerating pressure on the labour movement to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism and the associated examples and urge our fellow trade unionists to stand firm in opposition to this divisive move.

Trade unions and the Labour Party must be at the heart of building a movement against racism and fascism, and there is no place for antisemitism, Islamophobia or any other kind of racism in our ranks. In an era when the far-right is growing in confidence it is more important than ever to stand against Holocaust denial, anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and any other forms of antisemitic prejudice and hatred.
However, the examples which accompany the IHRA definition systematically conflate opposition to Israel with antisemitism, threatening to undermine many years of practical solidarity with the Palestinian people in the face of decades of dispossession and occupation. We believe it is vitally important that trade unionists can speak out to challenge Israel’s history of racism towards the Palestinians without being labelled as antisemitic.

The IHRA definition and its examples also pose a serious threat to academic freedom. Specifically, there is a wide body of scholarly research and teaching that locates the origins of the state of Israel within the framework of a European colonial settler project. This draws on historical evidence of widely-held racist ideas about the ‘indigenous population’ among Israel’s founders and acts of ethnic cleansing and exclusion in building the new state. Historical interpretations are of course subject to challenge, but the very principles of scholarly research will be under threat if legitimate interpretations of Israel’s founding as “a racist endeavour” are falsely conflated with antisemitism.

We note that the general secretaries of several major trade unions urged Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party to adopt the IHRA definition in full. We do not share their view that compromising over this issue is necessary in order to boost Labour’s chances at the polls.

We pledge to continue the campaign against the adoption of the IHRA definition and examples within our own trade unions, and urge others to do the same in their institutions. What we need is to build unity across the labour movement in the face of the growing threat from the far-right, while remaining uncompromising in our opposition to all forms of racism, and steadfast in our solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Nita Sanghera - UCU Vice president and president-elect
Jane Doolan - Unison NEC (PC)*
Mike Calvert - Unison - Deputy Branch Secretary Islington (PC)
Diana James - Assistant Branch Secretary - Islington (Unison) (PC)
Ian Allinson, Former EC member, Branch chair and NISC member, Unite the union
Sean Vernell - UCU NEC
Carlo Morelli - UCU NEC
Rhiannon Lockley - UCU NEC  -Dudley South CLP
Mandy Brown - UCU NEC - London Regional Secretary - Lambeth College
Chris Jones - UCU NEC
Christina Paine - UCU NEC
Sean Wallis - UCU NEC
Elane Heffernan - UCU NEC
Mark Abel - UCU NEC
Dave Muritu - UCU NEC
Julia Roberts - UCU NEC
John Sullivan - UCU NEC

*Personal capacity

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Europe for the Many

Peter

Progressives from across the continent are coming together for two days of discussion, reflection and planning a strategy to transform Europe. Join Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalatos, Momentum’s Laura Parker, Ash Sarkar, Zoe Williams and many more.
We will meet at a time of great urgency for the future of progressive forces on the continent. Peace and democracy in Europe are today under huge challenge by the rise of the far right. With some exceptions the left has not been the ‘go-to pole’ of the political system blown apart by the fallout from the global financial crisis.
Today we are paying the price for the failure of previous reform efforts; of not being bold and visionary enough. This can’t go on. Europe needs a new agenda for transformative social change.
To aid in these efforts Europe for the Many will provide an opportunity for civil society movements and politicians to enter into dialogue and discussion on what our next steps will be. How do we go beyond the dichotomy of status quo Europe versus no Europe? What transformative possibilities are opening up? And how can the growing threat from far right nationalist forces be effectively challenged?
We will bring together a range of speakers – and you – to answer these questions. See you there!
Tickets available soon

Sunday, 2 September 2018

German anti-fascists are asking for support and international protest around events in Chemnitz.

German anti-fascists are asking for support and international protest around events in Chemnitz.

Written by Liz Fekete from the Institute of Race Relations website...
On 27/28 August, in scenes reminiscent of the 1991 pogroms in Rostock and Hoyerswerda, police in the east German state of Saxony all but lost control of the streets to the far Right in the former industrial city of Chemnitz, once a Communist stronghold. Far-right protests against immigrants and crime quickly turned into anti-foreigner riots, with many describing the current situation in Chemnitz, where the electoral far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) is strong, as a pre-pogrom situation. As concerns mount that sections of Saxony’s police force are colluding with the far Right, Germany’s well-organised anti-fascist committees are mobilising. They are asking politicians, NGOs, anti-fascist committees and all concerned individuals in the UK to closely follow events in Chemnitz and, if possible, write to top state officials and the police in Saxony, as well as the federal interior minister, demanding action. As Ulli Jentsch, from the Anti-Fascist Press Archive (Apabiz) in Berlin, told IRR News: ‘Many thousands of anti-fascists and democrats have stood up against the Nazis in Chemnitz. They are in real danger in the days, and weeks to come, as the police, even if they wanted to, are unable to protect everyone. Every report from abroad is helpful.’

Chain of events
An English-language timeline of the violence in Chemnitz, can be found on the website of the newspaper Deutsche Welle and an even more complete version of events will be published on the websites of Apabiz and NSU Watch in the days to come. To summarise, the far Right started to mobilise after a fight at a local town festival on 23 August left a Cuban-German man, named only as Daniel H.,  dead from knife wounds and several others injured, with an arrest warrant issued for two men – one Syrian, one Iraqi. The first far-right mobilisation came after an online call from neo-nazis and  a local far-Right football hooligan association, Kaotic. Taking advantage of the tragic events during the street fight, they claimed that a German man had been stabbed to death because he was protecting women and that a second man had been killed. Let’s show the people ‘who is in the driver’s seat in the city’ they  boasted  on social media. The next day, 25 August,  the far-right anti-Muslim organisation Pro Chemnitz organised an official demonstration, with an estimated 8,000  far-right supporters met by 1,500 counter-protesters. During this demonstration, far-right groups broke into smaller mobs, with many masked men hunting down foreigners, with some shouting ‘For every dead German, a dead foreigner’ and making the Hitler salute. Security experts say there is evidence that the rioters had been mobilised from different groups around the country and probably elsewhere in Europe.

Criticisms of police grow
Initially, the police responded to allegations that they were unprepared for dealing with the violence because of cuts in police staff numbers, by stressing that although only 591 police officers were mobilised they had responded magnificently in the face of far-right violence and leftwing counter-protests. But their claims were quickly rebuked by Saxony’s Office for Protection of the Constitution which said that they had warned the police in advance that large numbers of extremists from across Germany, as well as football hooligans and martial arts fanatics with a known far right background, were expected in the city in the ‘low to medium four-figure realm’.

Then, on 29 August, the scandal involving police inaction escalated. The authorities announced that a judicial investigation for official secrets violations had been opened because the arrest warrant for the Iraqi man wanted in connection with Daniel H.’s murder had been leaked to the far Right  and tweeted by Lutz Bachmann, the founding member of Pegida. The photograph quickly circulated online via a WhatsApp group of the far-right movement Pro Chemnitz, which originally called the demonstration.

Saxony – a neo-Nazi stronghold
The neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) has always had a base in Saxony and it was in another Saxon city, Zwickau, close to the Czech border, that the terrorist cell, responsible for ten murders, the National Socialist Underground first went underground in the 1990s. The far-right movement Pegida began in Dresden, the capital of Saxony, and it was in Dresden, too, that the Egyptian pharmacist Marwa El Sherbini, who was three months pregnant, was murdered in 2009 by a neo-Nazi in a courtroom.

Police officers in Saxony are largely drawn from a region of the former GDR that, until recently, was largely white and monocultural and there has long been concern that sections of the police have been colluding with fascists. After the NSU case, in 2017, more allegations of police collusion emerged during the trial of ‘The Freital Group’, an anti-migrant vigilante and terror group linked to a number of attacks on refugee accommodation, leftwing centres and politicians. Amid disquiet about soft-peddling from the local prosecutor’s office and allegations that the Saxony police not only knew about the group but failed to intervene, it emerged that at least one police officer tipped off its members about police operations. A federal prosecutor was called in to take over the investigation .

While institutional racism in the police has never been formally acknowledged in Germany, the signs are that Chancellor Merkel, who has indicated that she wants more involvement of the federal police in Saxony, recognises that Saxony’s police force is in urgent need of reform. But when will she take action, and what will happen in the meantime? Pegida have called yet another demonstration for the first weekend of September.  Ulli Jentsch implores us to ‘Ask questions of the police, ask questions of the government of Saxony. Ask them what they will do to stop this racist outrage and protect foreigners and refugees in this country.’

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

part 1 The Tories' ‘scatter-shot’ strategy AND part 2 Rural activism – Tales from the sticks


Unseat Stephen Crabb event. Photo: Twitter/Dinah Mulholland


 part 1
The Tories' ‘scatter-shot’ strategy has finally backfired on them and will eventually send them running for the hills argues Jim Scott
Re-wind to 2013, The Tories are nigh-on invincible!

Cameron and Osborne are riding high on a wave of their own absolute power and are three years into the biggest onslaught upon the fabric of our social structures that Britain has ever seen.

After years of a Blairite, Labour Government which oversaw the UK Government’s cosying up to big business, effectively giving them free reign yet at the same time investing in public services and dishing out easy credit to keep us all quiet. The Conservatives had ridden into power on the back of the global economic crash and they had begun work like there was no time to spare!

With everything going in their favour, they didn’t mess about. Any criticism of their economic austerity policies could be easily fended off by blaming the ‘still raw’ economic crash on Gordon Brown, and repeating their mantra that ‘there was no money left’ gave them carte-blanche to set about fulfilling their program of dismantling the state and carving up the spoils of UK assets to their friends, donors and allies among the super wealthy few who circled like vultures around the carcass of the UK public purse.

Everything was up for grabs, so Osborne wheeled out a metaphorical Gatling gun, loaded it up and began firing indiscriminately into the crowd, his new playground: the UK economy.
Cameron and Osborne knew, that our defences were down. With the failure of the 2003 Iraq demonstrations to halt Blair’s illegal war in Iraq, morale was low among activists and campaigners - or at least our belief that we could make our voices heard was. Blair was hated enough because of Iraq but by drip feeding the state with investment he had created enough comfort that a gradual despondency and disenfranchisement with our political system had taken hold among many, His ‘nothing to see here’ style of politics had created the perfect storm for what was to come, and a country which in the eyes of the Tories, was ready to be harvested.

Anyone who has scratched at the surface of the so-called Conservative’s actual policies knows that they are far from ‘conservative’ when it comes to our economy or our ecology for that matter, quite the opposite, they are short-termists, opportunists, they’ll take now and run later if it fuels the machine, the wealthy elite that feeds them, that is them.
So as Osborne continued to fire his Gatling Gun into the crowd he began hitting his targets with wanton abandon. Royal Mail – sold, NHS – dismantling, underfunding and privatisation, probation services – privatised, fracking sites – open for business, welfare – slashed, tuition fees – raised. Hospitals, schools, libraries – closed, cut or sold off. But on TTIP, Trident, new nuclear power stations and mega prisons, they were going all-out! Throw in a bit of bombing in Syria and the few activists who were combating all of this, on so many platforms were so busy fire-fighting that they could barely keep up with individual campaigns let alone set about creating a unified opposition to the Tories' onslaught or their strategy to hit us in so many places that we couldn’t possibly fight back!

As a rural activist where I live in Pembrokeshire, 2013 was a very bleak year. I travelled down to London to attend the inaugural conference of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity because the one thing I did know was that we had to start organizing and collectivising. But back home when I went to a local hospital closure meeting, I was practically laughed out of the room when I mentioned austerity. Health is devolved in Wales so it was all Welsh Labour’s fault apparently! I networked with as many campaigns as I could, joined groups on social media who were fighting cuts, privatisation, fracking, etc. This was helpful but when I tried to disseminate our message onto wider public forums, again, I was shouted down & ridiculed. The word ‘socialism’ had become a dirty word in Britain and any talk of the need to collectivise and support the unions was met with scorn and derision. “The unions!? Oh they ruined everything” I would be told.

The Tories seemed unstoppable, Theresa May, the then Home Secretary was busy at work plotting and rolling out the most rancid of policies, all designed to erode our civil liberties and our civil rights while at the same time propagating anti-immigrant, racist, xenophobic narratives all fuelled by the growing popularity of the far right UKIP. Most of our media seemed to have turned into a direct channel for UKIP’s racist, ‘hate thy neighbour’ doctrine with some bashing of disabled people who they branded as feckless and scroungers thrown in for good measure. The recent revelations surrounding Windrush epitomise the arrogance and contempt which the Tories (particularly May) held for all of us at that time - and still do. They really could do whatever they liked at that point, because there was nothing or no-one who could stop them. Even if the Windrush scandal had broken back then the media was so drunk on UKIP’s racist narrative that it would never have made the big story which it has done today. They would have spun it in UKIP’s favour somehow, I very much doubt we’d have seen any resignations like we’ve seen with Amber Rudd.

But the one thing the Tories don’t ever take into consideration, mainly because they just can’t see beyond their own insatiable greed and desire to demolish any traces of equality, social justice or social conscience, and also because that arrogance is so deeply ingrained in them, is that by deploying this scatter shot strategy, they would, eventually hit so many of us and seed such a dystopian environment for us all to live in, that they would create the very resistance movement they thought they were so effectively stamping into the mud from whence it had come!

Scroll on to 2015, the General Election, Miliband’s hollow and lifeless, ‘austerity light’ Party was effectively a rabbit caught in the headlines of neoliberalism and had literally nowhere to run. Miliband's Labour had about as much drive for an equal and just society as Cameron’s Tories had to become “the greenest government ever”. Apathy among Labour supporters was tangible with the Greens, Plaid and SNP offering the only genuine socialist alternatives at that point. But churning away in the background, us activists and campaigners were beginning to find our feet! Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) activists were there on the front line barricading roads with their wheelchairs and invading Parliament. Hospital groups like the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign had beaten Hunt in court and were showing others how to fight back. People were beginning to sit up and take notice, putting down their newspapers and instead turning to the likes of The Canary, and the Artist Taxi Driver to get an alternative view untainted by corporate & establishment bias of what was really going on.

As activists, we were still low in numbers but each day saw a gradual shift - new people, new energy, and those of us who were campaigning hard could feel that the cultural lag which had shielded the Tories until then was soon to catch up with them. There were also many old time campaigners waiting in the wings to show us the way and pass on their valuable activism tips and advice, and importantly, their solidarity!

Another thing that the Tories never had a hope of seeing coming was all the unintended consequences that their austerity policies, cuts to public services and cuts to council budgets would create. They assumed we’d all be too busy working several zero-hours contract jobs or trying to fend off homelessness for our kids to care or even notice that our communities were falling into the ground. They obviously thought that we wouldn’t care if our neighbour, the nurse, teacher or firefighter was having to turn to food banks in order to feed their family. But we did notice, and we did care! Here in Pembrokeshire local greening groups formed and began tending and planting council land that had been left to go to ruin by a council with no funds. Community waste food caf├ęs opened, as did community fridges & community hubs…and all this in aid of supporting each other and building community spirit and cohesion. In times of such austerity even consumerism goes out of the window, people are forced to re-use, re-purpose and re-cycle rather than spend the money they need for food and bills on an unnecessary new settee! The Tories would never have dreamed in a million years that their own policies would actually sow the seeds for a more socially conscious and environmentally minded society!

They never banked on us looking out for each other or collectivising, but that is exactly what we did, because most of us do have humanity in our hearts and can recognise the signs of unfairness, especially when it’s being rammed down our throats and our kids can’t even afford to move out or go to university!

As someone who has always favoured ‘creative activism’ in most of its forms but was finding that our efforts to fight the Tories were being constrained by the limitations of campaigning in a large rural county which was low on activists, I joined forces with a couple of other people based in different parts of Wales and we launched 'Stick It To The Tories': a not-for-profit sticker campaign that would go on to distribute 170k anti Tory stickers and 10k badges in under two years, that was one way that we felt a few of us could make a bigger impact just working from laptops and a small print shop. By thinking outside the box, we could achieve a lot, make the maximum impact with the minimum effort and we didn’t even have to have meetings!

By 2016 our demonstrations here in Pembrokeshire were starting to be noticed by the wider public and local press, we held a demo aimed at pressurizing Stephen Crabb MP to resign his Patronage of the local Mencap charity following his vote in Parliament to cut ESA for disabled people by £30 per week. Our demo was supported by DPAC and People’s Assembly at national level. I realised then that although still small; around 40 protesters, our demo had been attended by people from the progressive Parties and supported by activists from many different campaigns and groups. We’d all got to know each other; we’d had to because we were fighting on so many fronts. We had become networked and were supporting each other’s struggles in solidarity.

Fast forward through 2016; Jeremy Corbyn, Momentum, the EU referendum and to May’s disastrous and ill-fated 2017 General Election, we were getting stronger by the day. As an activist, I could feel the buzz on social media in the run up to the General Election, and I knew that something had shifted. Many of my friends were literally terrified of what a Tory landslide would mean to them, their kids, their families. I tried to reassure them that I could feel that public opinion had shifted, the level of activism and debate that was taking place in support of Corbyn showed me that the Tories weren’t in for the outright victory they had set out for. ‘Socialism’ was no longer a dirty word, it had become something we were all striving for. Even that neighbour who shunned our views a couple of years ago was coming round. Our collective voice had been not only listened to but heard and was now being repeated!
We put a rally on here in Pembrokeshire in October 2017 as part of ‘Un-seat Stephen Crabb’ day to have another nibble at his now tiny 314 vote majority. The Canary covered the story for us with a section reporting that it had been the biggest political Rally in Haverfordwest since the Suffragettes’ movement! Then, more recently we put on a Stop the War march following May’s bombing of Syria and with just 3 days’ notice we mobilised 200 people onto the streets for our demo. This may not sound like much, but believe me, if we’d tried that even two years ago, we’d never have garnered such support as this! We’re now primed and ready and growing in number by the day. The more activism we put on against the Tories the more people want to support it and to get involved too.

Osborne and Cameron’s Gatling gun approach to keeping us all down by hitting us all so hard, so fast and whilst we were already down may have worked for a time, but now they really have hit so many of us that they have themselves created the mass resistance that will eventually topple them and hopefully take 30-40 years of neoliberalism down with them.
Our job as activists right now, is to build on this movement, now more than ever, we can take them down, we can take them down hard, but we need to go keep organizing, keep mobilising, keep pushing the snowball until we have grown it into the unstoppable force that’s needed to finish them off!


 part 2

Rural activism – Tales from the sticks – ‘How we built the activist movement from nothing in rural West Wales!’
From Pembrokeshire with love …and solidarity!

In 2013 the Tories under Cameron and Osborne had taken the country by storm. A few of us travelled down to London for the inaugural conference of The People’s Assembly and we soon founded our own local PA group here in Pembrokeshire with around 30 people attending our first meeting. Rob Griffiths came down for The People’s Assembly and supported this first meeting, It all looked good, we would unite, take on the Tories, our local MP Stephen Crabb and expose the vicious austerity policies which were already causing wide-spread suffering among our communities. A few of us even attended the People’s Assembly delegates conference later that year and heard inspiring stories of how other People’s Assembly groups around Britain were tackling the Tories head on; A delegate from Norwich People’s Assembly told the meeting of how they were making sure to greet all and any Tory ministers who ventured into their county with protests and as he spoke, told us of how his Norfolk comrades were mobbing Iain Duncan Smith who was visiting Norwich that day. Yes! We thought! This is the kind of thing we will do in Pembrokeshire! Let’s get organised!

Sadly though, it soon became apparent that activism in rural situations like here in West Wales is a whole different story to that of places like Bristol, Norwich and even Cardiff where activists are much more concentrated in numbers and therefore can organise meetings and collectivise far more easily. Here in Pembrokeshire, the will was certainly there, all 30 people who had attended our first meeting were passionate and driven and desperate to stand up and fight the Tories, but with people having to drive for an hour in each direction to attend meetings and without an ‘existing’ activist base or network we found our efforts thwarted by the realities of our jobs, lives and the rural spread of our activists and before long our meetings had dwindled and we were forced to stop holding meetings and to re-think our strategy.
Around a year went by and with an upcoming general Election many of us put our efforts into electoral campaigning, The local Green Party was founded and with Miliband’s Labour offering only austerity lite many progressive types put energy into campaigning for the Greens and Plaid Cymru etc.. but in 2015 this ultimately lead to yet another Conservative victory and the promise of 5 more years of misery for many under the Tories.
Behind the scenes though, many of us had begun to get to know each other here in Pembrokeshire and those of us who were determined to put up a vocal opposition on the streets to the Tory’s dangerous policies had begun to be able to pick each other out among the political crowd.

One thing that was certain was that if we were going to make waves in a large rural county like Pembrokeshire we were going to have to make some noise! We were going to have to use every tool available to us to hit the Tories where it hurt and we were going to have to be creative and imaginative with our activism. So we started dreaming up campaigns that we could organise without the need for everyone driving miles to meetings. Campaigns that we could run from laptops and social media and utilising the local press. Importantly while we were relatively low in numbers and very spread out, campaigns that would take the ‘minimum effort’ but have the ‘maximum impact’ a doctrine that I now think is absolutely essential and key to the success of rural campaigning and, making the most out of what you’ve got in a rural setting.

Throughout the previous two years we had made sure to keep in touch with key organisers at People’s Assembly national office, People like Sam Fairbairn and the then People’s Assembly Co-chair Romayne Phoenix, I had also been lucky to have had an auspicious chance meeting with Mark McGowen (The Artist Taxi Driver) at the People’s Assembly conference back in 2013 and had made sure to keep in contact with Mark too! Locally we had followed the national advice and contacted all the local existing 
campaigns and unions, we’d made ourselves known, even if we weren’t putting on that much activism at that point. One of the groups we had contacted was CND Cymru asking for campaign literature from CND that we could take with us when we held street stalls, with brutal honesty this was to bulk up our stall in terms of appearance and content! But of course we naturally supported campaigns like CND Cymru anyway so was a natural fit for us. These little acts of networking though can pay dividends. Jon from CND Cymru emailed us back and offered us cheap printing for our campaign materials and invited us to a ‘Drape the Drones’ event. Before long we’d got talking about an idea we had for a ‘national anti-Tory sticker campaign’ that we’d had and ‘Stick It To The Tories’ was born which would go on to distribute 170k anti Tory stickers and 10k anti Tory badges across the whole of Britain in just 18 months. Meanwhile we were also turning our attentions to Stephen Crabb at home and in particular a campaign to try to force him to resign as ‘Patron’ of our local Mencap group following his vote to cut ESA for Disabled people by £30 per week. The key, we decided was going to me making waves and networking with as many national campaigns and activists as possible in order to amplify whatever work we were doing here in the sticks in rural West Wales.

So we set to work! Before the launch of Stick It To The Tories we had contacted people like John Rees, Lindsey German, Romayne Phoenix and Amelia Womack and twisted their arms to persuade them to be official supporters of the campaign! We got in touch with Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC), both campaigns loved the idea and even agreed to work with us on sticker designs for their own organisations. We got in touch with Counterfire, The Morning Star and The Canary and managed to get all of them to agree to publish promotional pieces’ covering our launch. We just had to hit the ground running so we had to aim high! Another stroke of fortune saw Stephen Crabb promoted to the toxic position of ‘DWP Secretary’ the same week we had launched the petition for him to resign as Mencap Patron, so our petition went from 2,000 to 10,000 over the weekend just in time for 9 am on the Monday morning when he officially started work as the DWP secretary. The petition was mentioned in all the national press so we jumped on this and organised a demonstration outside his constituency office in Haverfordwest too. The demonstration (in the rain!) was attended by a modest 40 or so protestors, but this was fantastic for a demo in the sticks! And the seeds of a movement here in Pembrokeshire had been born.

It’s not so much that local PA groups need to be hassling the National campaigns or The Canary for coverage of their events because let’s face it this might actually end up being counterproductive. What am suggesting though is that existing campaigns and alternative media outlets are almost guaranteed to be run by likeminded, dedicated comrades who will help wherever they can and will always support other progressive campaigns when they can. We took the slowly slowly approach and made ourselves known to these key figures and organisations hopefully without being too pushy! (ha!) but hey, if you don’t ask, you don’t get and one thing that really is for sure is that you need a certain level of determination and self-belief to be an effective campaigner or campaign group!

So with an Artist Taxi Driver interview also in the Bag for the Stick It To The Tories launch and the Canary, Morning Star and Counterfire promo articles things went a little mental! Our website crashed in the first few hours and orders for our not-for-profit anti-Tory stickers came in in numbers we just couldn’t believe! Three of us, from laptops and a small print shop were making a difference to the National narrative, a small difference maybe, but a difference none the less and it felt good!

One other obvious but hugely important campaign tool was Facebook and other Social media. By joining every left wing / progressive Facebook ‘Group’ page we could find, then sharing our new Sticker designs from our Facebook page to 100, sometimes 200 Facebook group we could way surpass the algorithms and do the leg work ourselves! It’s a pain and I won’t say it doesn’t cause and repetitive strain injuries but every new sticker we launched we would reach around 20,000 people in just 24 hours by posting it to all these groups manually! It really does work and is essential to make a small campaign achieve a ‘national reach’.
Later we’d go on to distribute 70k stickers in just 12 weeks in the run up to Theresa May’s ill-fated 2017 General Election with the help of another Canary piece and back at home the movement was building, all attentions were turning to our now largely disgraced Tory MP Stephen Crabb, We crowd funder £500 in just 24 hours to raise funds for an elephant costume which we took to all of Stephen Crabb’s election hustings as the ‘Tory Elephant in the room’ highlighting his voting record and UK poverty statistics created by Tory austerity, Crabb was marred by a sexting scandal but with a mere 314 vote majority following the General Election still shamelessly hung on to power with a claw like grip! Maybe him and May have been comparing notes! We had seriously affected Crabb’s vote share though!!
Another absolutely key factor in building the activist movement here was the all-encompassing approach that we took to encouraging all and any who wanted to get involved to join in and get stuck in. 

One of the most gratifying parts of building an activist movement is the amazing, inspiration and dedicated people we all meet along the way. One of our group members is a guy called Bob, Bob has been on the right side of a campaigning history for quite some time! Not only does he bring to the collective an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of every revolution that has taken place throughout history, he was involved in a demonstration that saw Enoch Powel seek refuge in the basement of a University Campus back in the late 60’s, and ensured that Powel never attempted to speak at a University Campus again! It’s people like Bob, who have been doing this all their lives who inspire us fresher faces as we come through and Bob often says; “The Movement is about keeping the ideas alive!” From one generation to the next and one activist to another it’s from each other and by sharing our ideas that we gain strength. Not only that but it creates a kind of positive feedback loop, the older and more hardened activists are encouraged by the fresh energy we bring and we are in turn inspired by their dedication and experience of activism, so each acts as positive feedback to the other.  …And here in Pembrokeshire we really were gaining in strength!

2016…And along comes Corbyn, or to put it more accurately, considering Corbyn had been steadfastly campaigning and supporting all the issues we stand for -for 40 years previously, along comes the vehicle for a national movement that can get behind Corbyn in the form of an internal Labour Party leadership election. As People’s Assembly activists we instantly recognised what this opportunity meant and immediately got behind Corbyn, Here in Pembrokeshire even some long standing ‘Old Labour’ members didn’t at first realize what was happening and instead bought in to the myth that a ‘left wing’ labour Party would be ‘unelectable’, but the Tories had inadvertently put in the ground work themselves and had created a mass movement ‘in waiting’! The work we had been doing here as campaigners, even back when the word socialism was still a dirty word meant that as a movement we were primed and ready. We had planted enough of the seeds of a movement that with the influx of pro-Corbyn activists we could now take a lunge into the Tory narrative and mobilise like never before out here  -in the sticks  -in rural Pembrokeshire.
Demo’s got bigger and more well attended, where once a few of us had been fending off vile right-wingers on Social media, now a new contingent of online debaters took over the baton and freed up our time as key activists to organise! We held Cross party meetings where all left of centre party reps agreed to unite efforts against the Tory’s cruel and ideological austerity policies.

Some Comrades from Momentum West Wales got in touch about putting on an #UnseatCrabb event as part of Owen Jones’ UnSeat campaign so again we adopted the strategy of ‘build it and they will come’ activism! We billed it as an event that would be the biggest political rally Havefordwest had seen since the Suffragette’s’ movement and so it became! We had not one but two Canary pieces covering the event! Bex Sumner (Canary UK editor) who lives in West wales even attended the rally and covered it personally! We hosted a people’s Assembly comedy night themed; ‘Stand Up Against Austerity’, Francesca Martinez helped us find acts for the event, Chris Nineham from Stop the War came all the way from London to speak at the Rally and host the comedy night, Mark McGowen came and did a 20 minute stand up performance for us and many local comedians came and performed It seemed everyone was supporting the day’s activity! We took an 8 meter #CrabbMustGo banner on a tour of Haverfordwest’s bridges and roadsides and hit social media by storm. Creative activism in action, Minimum effort – maximum impact! It only took a team or five of us to do the banner tour but we were seen on social media pages all over Britain!

And now… progressive activists from across the political spectrum, Greens, Labour, Plaid and non-Party affiliates are all working together, we’re networked and ready to go at a moment’s notice. When May sent the bombs into Syria in April we mobilized a 200 strong demo with just three days’ notice. Then just last weekend following a disgusting incident of homophobic hate speech where some fanatics were trying to hold a Transphobic hate meeting we joined forces with the new Pembrokeshire LGBTQ+ group and got 100 people on to the streets of Fishguard with just 24 hours’ notice, and we closed down that meeting! Filling the local press with coverage of our demo, showing that as a County and as activists we can now act and act quickly in the face of such discrimination.

We are going to hold a ‘Rural Activism’ & ‘creative Activism’ training weekend in a few weeks from now, we have activists from as far afield as Cardiff, Bristol and London wanting to get involved and to support the event in solidarity. Maybe this could even form the basis for a ‘Rural Activism’ training roadshow that People’s Assembly or Counterfire could send around the country? One thing is for sure, here in Pembrokeshire we have built a movement from out of nothing. We can only get stronger, more unified and more organised as more and more activists join forces with us. Getting Corbyn in to power is an important objective, yes, we all want to see that and we’re all working towards it, but getting Corbyn in to power will not be the end of the battle, it will, actually signify the beginning and as a movement that is when we will be needed more than ever before. As we have seen in recent weeks with the Anti-Semitism campaign against Corbyn, the right wing within Labour will align with the establishment will truly close ranks and will do anything they can to undermine and destabilise a Corbyn Government. We have to keep building the movement like never before, we don’t just need to be ready, we will need to be one step ahead. The extra parliamentary movement is going to be vital, in fact; essential in the uncertain times ahead if we are to keep making the gains that we absolutely must make in order to restructure our society for the benefit of all and bring down 40 years of neoliberalism.

Here in Pembrokeshire we can promise that we will be doing our bit, and playing our part in that struggle! So to all the activists out there in the Towns, big Cities and out in the sticks like we are, we send greetings and solidarity from Pembrokeshire with love!

Keep on fighting, keep on building and mobilize like never before for the times ahead!

Jim Scott is a Rural Activist & Campaigner.

ENDS.
Note to editors;
Canary link (above) https://www.thecanary.co/uk/2017/10/15/owen-jones-kickstarted-quiet-revolution-promising-sweep-country-video/

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