Saturday, 18 May 2013

A movement that can win

Here's the final part of my in-depth Counterfire article on the People's Assembly.

Let's outline - more positively - the potential of the People's Assembly, and the way socialists can utilise it to take the whole anti-cuts movement to a higher level. A few key points should be stressed.

1) The single greatest task for the movement at present is to overcome fragmentation, localism and sectionalism by providing co-ordination, including national-level forms of protest. We need to strike at the heart of austerity policies, which is the government. We need a coalition with such broad forces and such social weight that it can offer people a sense that we really can make a difference. Leaving protests at the local level, allowing campaigns to be separated from each other and keeping the movement narrow or divided are all recipes for defeat.

2) The 22 June event has to be seen as a springboard not only for action, but for the long-term national and local coalitions needed to call and deliver protests in the future. This is a process, not merely an event, one that has to be sustained and taken to higher levels of action.

3) If we want more co-ordinated strike action then we need to strengthen the unions by linking them with the rest of the movement in large-scale action. The push for strike action is not simply a matter of what trade unionists do within their unions; it is a matter for the whole movement. A bolder, bigger and broader movement on the streets raises the likelihood of renewed national strike action, feeding into the unions and the confidence of their members.

4) A national co-ordinating body is an essential pre-condition for serious international co-ordination. Austerity is Europe-wide and so is the opposition. With the European Union figuring prominently in current domestic political debate - but in a way that is shaped by right-wing arguments, from both Tories and Ukip - it is more necessary than ever to develop a common, continent-wide front against the disaster of austerity, which in some countries is even more devastating than in Britain.

5) The People's Assembly - not just the event itself, but as a continuing coalition - is the best context in which the left can promote its arguments, slogans and demands. This is the central way to build a stronger left-wing pole in British politics and society and shift the terms of mainstream debate. Extra-parliamentary activity, not electoral politics, is where we are at our strongest. It is, if you will, our counterweight to Ukip. A mass movement is the framework for articulating an alternative set of ideas: taxing the rich and pursuing the tax evaders, investing in jobs, transport and the green economy, scrapping the wasteful spending on weapons and war, countering the myths about immigrants or 'scroungers' being the source of our problems, democratising the banks and challenging the rule of finance capital.

No other strategy or initiative can come close to delivering all this. That is why the People's Assembly is not merely a nice idea or a worthwhile event, but the main basis for co-ordinating resistance to cuts for some time to come. We have to make it work. The stakes are too high for us to fail.


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