A meeting of left-wing activists in Newcastle on Thursday launched the Counterfire network in Tyneside. 14 people, most of whom are active in political campaigns locally, gathered to discuss the current crisis and the prospects for strengthening the movements against cuts, war, climate change and racism.
A major discussion point was how to connect the different campaigns we're involved in so that the left becomes stronger, and able to pose a political challenge to the dominance of neoliberal ideas in mainstream politics. Chris Nineham, from Counterfire's editorial board, opened the discussion by recalling the strengths and weaknesses of the anti-capitalist movement and suggesting how we can organise today in response to new - and ever more serious - problems.
Discussion covered a wide range of topics, from the forthcoming general election to what strategy we need to beat the racist EDL, from the role of protests in achieving social change to the explosive situation in Greece (and whether we face the same in this country).
A number of people remarked afterwards on how refreshing it was to have a space for thoughtful, open discussion of big political ideas. A further public forum is planned for Thursday 27 May, when John Rees will introduce a discussion on strategy for the left following the general election (meet at Salsa Cafe, Westgate Rd, 7pm).
There was agreement around the call for action promoting political challenges to politicians' attempts to make us pay for the crisis. We mustn't simply wait for strike levels to increase or for something to happen spontaneously. There is a need, and the potential, for mobilising in defence of welfare and public services - and over a range of issues.
The left will have greater impact if we can seize these opportunities and initiate a movement that insists we can't and won't pay for their crisis.
In other local news: see Mark Tyers' report of yesterday's May Day march and rally in Newcastle (from which the picture here is taken).