Sunday, 16 March 2014

The beginnings of a structure to build a movement and the sense of shared purpose that can make it happen.

Saturday, 15 March 2014 from Wembley Matters Martin Francis' blog

People's Assembly makes itself fit for purpose

Today's recalled People's Assembly Against Austerity began with a warm minute of standing applause for Tony Benn and Bob Crow which seemed to set the tone for a serious but friendly day in which the organisation sorted out its aims, structure and priorties in an atmosphere refreshingly untainted by sectarianism.

I could have been there wearing one of several different hats but settled for the Green Party Trade Union Group which had put forward a resolution committing the PAAA to campaign for effective action against climate change. Natalie Bennett's moving of the resolution linking austerity, neoliberalism and clinmate change was well received and the resolution was passed overwhemingly.

The Assembly adopted the People's Charter for Change which states: We need a government to reverse damagaing austerity and replace it with a new set of policies providing us with a fair, sustainable and secure future. We can no longer tolerate politicians looking out for themselves and for the rich and powerul. Our political representatives must start governing in the interests of the majority in the direction outlined by this statement of aims.

The aims were:
1. A fairer economy for a fairer Britain
2. More and better jobs
3. High standard homes for all
4. Protect and improve public servies
5. For justice and fairness
6. For a secure and sustainable future

Supplementary motions were passed adopting the People's Charter; supporting the nationalisation of those firms and banks that do not invest to build a high-skilled, high-wage, high employment economy; supporting house building, rent capping and opposing fixed term tenancies and 80% market rents in Council and Housing Association properties and supporting regulation of rents, conditions and tenancies in the private rented sector; stepping up campaigns to defend the NHS and abolish the NHS and Social Care Act, brnging privatised NHS services back under public ownership and control; and resolving to campaign for money to be spent on welfare rather than warfare,

The structure that was agreed created a body to be known as 'The Assembly' which would manage the PAAA between conferences and would be made up of one representative from each signatory group and one representative for each local, national or group assembly and this will nominate a management group to be endorsed by the Assembly. The Assembly will meet at least twice a year. 

A supplementary motion from the Coalition of Resistance was approved which set out the People's Assembly's commitemnt to be a broad united campaign against austerity, cuts and proiatisation in workplaces, commity and welfare services based on general agreement on the signatories' Founding Statement. It was made clear that the PA would be linked to no political party and would be committed to open non-sectarian working. An amendment to adopt a less formal, decentralised structure with participatory democracy and consensus decision making, on the lines of Occupy, across the PAAA was defeated.

Two slightly contradictory motions were passed on Finance with some confusion about what constituted membership and membership fees, and whether these should be paid centrally or locally. This will need sorting out in the near future.

The Assembly adopted a future programme based on mobilising hundreds of thousands of people in activity and coordinating national events, days of action and support groups, It was agreed to work to set up new People's Assembly groups, strengthen local groups and central organisation (finance will be essential for this) to hold 'meetings, rallies, protests and actions in every locality possible' and to mobilise for the following national events:

• March 19th Budget Day Demonstration
• March 22nd Stand up to racism demo
• March 26th Support for NUT strikes
• April 5th Day of Action Against the Bedroom Tax
• May Day Events
• June 21st People's Assembly National Demonstration (support by the NUT)
• August 31st NATO Protest Cardiff
• September 28th Tory Party Conference protest
• October 18th TUC National Demonstration

 The day ended with a rousing speech from Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT, making a strong case for community based campaigning in the form of the Stand Up For Education camaign that has seen NUT members out engaging with the public at high street and market places stalls throughout the country.

There is clearly a massive amount to do but the day left me feeling that we now had the beginnings of a structure to build a movement and the sense of shared purpose that can make it happen.

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