the people’s assembly: the fight-back begins?

24 06 2013

The gathering of over 4,000 people at the People’s Assembly Against Austerity in London on Saturday 22nd June was truly inspirational. To be together with so many who regard profit as a dirty word & who want a world based upon more humane values, such as equality, solidarity & dignity, it’s hard not to believe that there will be a fight-back. But as useful as it is to raise spirits, John Keeley attempts a more objective analysis of what the People’s Assembly potentially offers.

People's Assembly Photo

Will the People’s Assembly stop austerity? To do this it would need to bring down the Con-Dem coalition & reclaim the Labour Party as a party fighting for the class interest of the workers. The first part is relatively easy compared to the second. Indeed, the fact that Labour haven’t stood up for the workers is the main reason why the coalition has had a relatively easy time of it to date. Although there are still many good people in Labour, the leadership & the vast majority of MP’s care first & foremost about their careers. They want power & from their rationale this means not upsetting corporate interests. Hence on the same day as the People’s Assembly, Miliband gives a speech saying he won’t reverse the cuts. How much more evidence do you need of the pro-business nature of the Labour Party?

Labour is lost in history. Just as capitalism faces potential collapse & the case for socialism needs to be made more than ever, Labour are found missing. Labour only offer a vision of revitalised capitalism providing tax revenue for public-private initiatives financing public-private provided services. The promise of better healthcare & education funded by a buoyant capitalism that somehow produces ‘social entrepreneurs’ who have a social conscious, once of course they have made their millions. It’s the ideology of liberals who want to be remembered as ‘good individuals’. Blair, Brown, Miliband, they are all the same.

So can Labour be reclaimed? An optimistic scenario would have the People’s Assembly amassing support from a large section of the population & scoring victories over the coalition so that it falls & the new Labour government, in their gratitude to the unions, giving them a bit of say & launching a Keynesian fiscal stimulus – more investment, more jobs, more union members. A new boom then boosts the coffers in the Treasury enabling a confident, more self-assured Labour to renationalise the railways & the public utilities, as well as investing in the NHS & a fully state-controlled comprehensive education system. A return to the hope of 1945 & the parliamentary road to socialism.

Rather than optimistic, this is delusional. Only those who have no understanding of the nature of capitalism today can entertain such a possibility. Unfortunately, that’s the vast majority in the unions & the Labour Party. The problem is the confusion between the vast wealth created by capitalism & the fact that capitalism only produces for a profit. On top of that is the nature of debt & how it artificially supports profit rates. These are not easy subjects. This is why it is essential for those of us who have studied capitalism & the nature of its crises to engage with the leaders of the People’s Assembly to show them that social democracy – capitalism with a strong welfare state – is not a realistic possibility.

There is no Keynesian solution. Capitalism cannot be reformed. For there to be true democracy where the people are both legislature & executive, requires not just the common, social ownership of the means of production, but a whole new approach to politics. It requires embracing participatory forms of organising – something that is happening increasingly. Political parties & parliament are not democracy. New institutions, such as local Peoples’ Assemblies, are required to enable equality in decision-making. An alternative to austerity necessitates an alternative system. A new mode of production & a new form of politics. Can the People’s Assembly rise to this historical challenge?

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20 responses

24 06 2013
Dave

The problem with the People’s Assemblies are that they are not genuine organs of working class struggle built during a period of rising working class consciousness and confidence. Rather they are beaucratic responses from the left which embodies all the weaknesses of these organisations. Of course it’s uplifting to be amongst fellow thinkers arguing for a humane society yet this will not bring around a rebirth of meaningful class struggle and it’s no use pretending that it will.

On the question of trying to convince the leaders of the respective organisations to become involved in effective class struggle methods is like trying to convince a cat not to eat mice n birds. the John Rees”s, Mark Serwotka, George Galloway’s of the world know what they are doing and it’s not leading the class struggle. The reason why not is that they no longer truly beleive in the liberatory potential of the working class like Rees while for Galloway he never truly beleived in it. No what is needed is the attempt to win workers to a class struggle perspective.

There will be no easy route to building an organisation that can encompass militant class conscious workers who have a true organic link with their fellow workers. Only patience and perserverance will be the way forward and of course a rise in the class struggle itself.

24 06 2013
mike martin

Not for me to spoil the mood of euphoria but I see a groundswell of resistance developing and TU leaders would rather surf the wave than be drowned by it. There was a Sheffield PA launch 23rd May and I drafted some comments at the time, produced below;

Peoples’ Assembly Sheffield Public Meeting May 22nd 2013

Possibly 400 people crammed into a lecture theatre at Sheffield Hallam University to hear Owen Jones, Mark Steel and other speakers to launch the Peoples Assembly initiative in Sheffield. The main speakers were entertaining and the mood was bouyant with much talk of hope for the success of the multiple campaigns that were drawn together for the occasion. We need to step back from the euphoria and ask ourselves where this campaign is headed.

If we were to transfer those attending from the crowded hall to the less congenial location outside the Town Hall steps, we might note a similarity to the protest demonstrations called by the Anti-Cuts Alliance, without the elevated mood induced by being packed like sardines to hear Mark Steel’s humorous jibes against greedy bankers and demented Daily Mail editorials. All the regular activists and the paper sellers were there plus a few extra faces, not just those attracted by celebrity but a fair sprinkling of Labour Party supporters, perhaps seeking absolution.

One of the most striking things about the speeches was the total lack of any reference to anything outside the borders of the UK. No global crisis of capitalism, no international working class, no perspective south of Dover, no war. Since many of the leaders of this initiative acquired their reputations in the Stop the War Coalition this is surely no accident. The only reference to the outside world came from a brief intervention from the floor from a supporter of Socialist Appeal (Grantite) who correctly pointed to Hollande’s election on the promise of fighting austerity only to renege as soon as taking office. Obviously confident nothing like that could happen here he went on to call for a Labour Government on a socialist programme.

Austerity it seems is all down to greedy bankers who caused the crisis and ideological motivation from the Tories who hate working class people. These features have always been present and hardly amount to even the start of an explanation for what we are experiencing now. No global financial elite, no tendencies to crisis inherent in capitalism, just a series bad policies from mean-spirited people.

But we were told this could all be changed by a united campaign. The unions are playing their part in this. According to Marion Lloyd (PCS official) there would be co-ordinated strikes and even a 24 hour strike. The new policies would invest in jobs and housing and would end the cuts. As Owen Jones expounded on this he mentioned the word “stimulus” which hinted at remaining within the limits of Keynesian demand management so it was not clear if he wanted to go well beyond it to meet the real needs of the working class. The former would be an attempt to solve the crisis and avoid conflict, the latter would sharpen class antagonisms and threaten the system.

Jack Scott a Labour Councillor who had stood against Nick Clegg in 2010 also spoke from the platform. There were pockets of resentment at his presence, but more wanted to hear him out. There were comments that he was “brave” for coming to answer (sort of) criticisms, and very honest for informing us that he would not make promises to resist the cuts that he could not keep. He emphasised that it was the Government that was imposing the cuts, not the Council, which was doing its best with dwindling resources. He even boasted that the Council had started to pay all its staff the “living wage”. Someone unkindly pointed out that most low paid staff now worked for sub-contractors. Still, the meeting was in generous mood and he got away with it. It was mentioned in passing that Martin Meyer , a leading figure in the Anti-cuts Alliance would be standing against Clegg next time- presumably for Labour.

It was made explicit from the platform that since the centre ground in politics had been dragged to the right (by media campaigns against welfare and immigration) it could be moved left by a mass campaign. The Chairman -an SWP member who, contrary to common practice actually said he was a member – was also firm that the Labour Party could be moved to the left.

We can expect some noises to be made about moving left. There is a groundswell of feeling against the government. Union leaders and some Labour Lefts are conscious of this. We have only to note the 80,000 votes for a militant activist in the Unite union against an incumbent leader who was backed by a well financed organisation. It is not a matter of them wanting to lead a movement that will really threaten capitalism, but to capture and contain any leftward movement by the working class. This may explain why some Labour Party members attended the meeting. In the nature of a coalition such as the Peoples’ Assembly they are hardly likely to stand candidates against Labour; rather they will generate a base of support for Labour candidates deemed to be of the left. This in turn will morph into illusions about Labour generally.

24 06 2013
SteveH

Typical ignorant bullshit anti Galloway bile from the oh so wise let us ‘build from the bottom’ crowd. Galloway has actually built organisations, built movements that stand up for some of the most oppressed people on earth. he has formed close alliances with some of the most advanced sections of the union movement but those noble torch bearers of purity must spout distortion. And what has Dave ever built I wonder, how has he applied his energy to the movement? Absolutely nothing I would suffice, given the attitude he displays here.

The left are trying to mobilise, we are not just trying to hold public meetings, we have also leafleted town centres. We have put up stalls that say “Save our NHS” and we have got thousands of signatories. We are doing the best we can in very difficult circumstances, we could do without the sniping.

I would also argue that the current crisis is not so much economic, but financial. It is ironic that the ‘crisis caused by the inherent contradictions of capitalism crowd’ only refer to dubious data from the core and ignore the economies of the rest of the world. And they claim we are inward looking!

Down with Austerity, organise the fightback!

25 06 2013
commie46

Owen Jones said the trade unions were the driving force of the People’s Assembly,but this is true only in the sense that the trade Union leaders set the parameters of the campaign. The driving force is the Counterfire leadership. Having used the celebrity status of ken Loach and his call for a new left party to reclaim the spirit of 1945, It was an eye opener to see ken pleading with the organisers to at least put the issue of a new party on the table. But a leading trade union leader had ruled it was not to be considered.

John Rees of Counterfire has made his political method clear publically.(counterfire website) It’s not about leaps in consciousness,people transforming themselves and their circumstances or as Dave puts it the liberatory potential of the working class, it’s an organisation schema which goes something like this:

There is a knack of nudging the balance of opinion to the left slightly. This is about realism. So you have a spectrum of opinion. There is a political model of five workers . Their opinions are the spectrum. On the left is the worker who is on the revolutionary fringe wanting a different society, on the right is the reactionary worker,racist and wanting more of the same. The three workers in the middle are where the balance can be changed toward the lesser evil. So you have to adopt a strategy to embrace these workers and their opinions.

This is a method Rees claims he learned from Tony Cliff,and it does seem to be about manipulation, and it also resembles the election strategy of moving to the middle ground. What does it mean. Well forget the alternative to Capitalism that is abstract and isolating. So to unite the middle ground it has to be something real, or existing radicalism, so the sprit of 1945, old Labourism, the anti Tory constituency. Old Labour as a party does not exist, but you can capture the popular, anti austerity, defend the NHS spirit or public opinion to influence the Labour leaders. In this ever so realistic strategy you already have the support of trade union officialdom who have this strategy anyway.

Does the fight back begin with the thousands at the people’s Assembly? Well when over a million public sector workers went on strike in November 2011, many people were under the illusion the fight back was on,but Labourism is not about class war and the trade union leaders called off the strikes. The token protest had been made. And this is the British Labourite genius. Whether it is anti war protest or anti Austerity protests,as long as you have made your point in a respectable way, looking to parliament and the trade unions- then job done. Austerity and war ,but not in our name.

Owen Jones says he wants to bring hope to the working class. But this patronising intention does not deliver hope. You cannot reclaim the labour party for class war because it was never based on a class war. It was the party of the Capitalist Nation State. The cat cannot love birds. The labour party’s nature is containing class struggle in safe channels. You cannot create a new class fighting Labour party, as ken Loach wants, because the spirit of 1945 was the spirt of capitalism’s need to modernise at the time. Currently the system requires austerity. Its about Capitalist contradictions and inherent crisis as Martin points out above. It not about bad policies or calling for good policies. Capitalism cannot be made to work for humanity and human need.

25 06 2013
Dave

Just for SteveH information I have been for the past thirty years involved in a wide range of campaigns from the 84-85 miners strike through to the recent bedroom tax and one thing I have learnt from this is the centrality of politics a critical politics that places workers political independence at the centre of the struggle. Without this perspective then all that is achieved when the campaigns are sabotaged by the unionLabour Party leaders is demoralisation or cynicism.

Of course we have to be involved in as many of the current campaigns as possible but to be effective then we need to be as Commie46 suggests critical of leaders such as Galloway and Serwotka and place a clear socialist alternative to workers which is global in its perspective. Without such a perspective then all we are doing is fighting a loosing battle. After all the Labour leadership has made it clear that they will be carrying out austerity cutbacks just as determindely as the Tories or Liberals. Get rid of the ConDems and replace them with the cutting Labour party not a very good rallying cry.

One last thing we have been on the loosing side for the last thirty years and especially since 2008. Last weeks report that wages have been cut back to the levels of the early 2000’s and benefits being decimated the suggestion by SteveH to carry on with such a failed strategy reeks of reformist pessimism. No what is needed is a clear perspective that can show workers that a liberatory communist future is not only possible but also necessary.

25 06 2013
arranjames

One of the interesting things coming after the PA was the tweets of some of the people involved. Specifically, when Owen Jones was asked if there was anything concrete coming out of the Assembly he replied ‘a national programme of civil disobedience, protest, and strikes’. Did we really need an assembly to reach this position, a position that reflects what a lot of people are already doing. As far as I can tell a good deal of the PA was about demarcating the limits of the legitimacy of protest and opposition: which voices can be heard, on what topics, in what places.

Tellingly, the upshot- such as Jones described it- is pretty much the negative strategies of anarchists (minus the constructive community organising that some groups attempt) but had the proviso that ‘anarchists not get involved’. The exclusion of discussing a new party of the left is just more of the same.

What we have here is a populism with very marginal popularity attempting- some time after the fact- to contain and marshal the anger and disappointment so many people feel without actually producing much regarding organisations. It seems that one of the only concrete results of the PA will be the organisation of local assemblies…mirroring and competing with the existing LU groups.

I’d be interested to know how ,many people in attendance at the PA were under 30?

25 06 2013
SteveH

Well I come from a mining village in Sheffield, and Orgreave is about 2 or 3 miles away. The failure of the miners strike was based on the economic reality of workers staying out for long periods, i.e. they run out of money and begin to starve. It was only hand outs from neighbours that allowed some people to survive for as long as they did. i remember the local butcher used to give meat to striking miners. I even remember people helping each other out with jobs around the house, e.g. repairing walls, fences outside properties. It was a real economy of you scratch my back and I will scratch yours, sort of labour value in action, rather than money getting in the way. It was a glimpse into an alternative lifestyle. Interesting and depressing times. The other problem was a lack of solidarity from other trades, the steel workers were unwilling to help the miners as they had been less than helpful to the steelworkers!

But organising the working class as a class, e.g. using their combined funds to buy stocks, to buy skilled labour, to create fighting funds, to organise neighbourhoods, to build co-operative movements etc etc is no easy task. You speak of “politics that places workers political independence at the centre of the struggle”, but how does this happen in practice? It is just abstract ideas, with no real content. Superficiality in profound clothing.

On reformism, if you reject the idea of reformism, and speak only of the future ideal society, you really have abandoned the working class in my opinion. There is no inevitability to austerity and neo liberalism. If anything is part of the inherent contradictions of capitalism it is the need for the working class to fight for reform, to take part in those inevitable daily battles. I think the ‘socialism from below’ crowd tend to underplay the achievements of the union movement, this has been my experience.

Being critical of leaders should be a real critique, not mud slinging and un-comradely distortion. You cannot critique anything on that basis.

I want a socialist society free of money and based on the ‘free association of producers under their own conscious and purposive control’, but I still understand that capitalism can be reformed, and more importantly, I understand why the working class still believe that capitalism can deliver the goods.

25 06 2013
duvinrouge

The more negative individuals around need to realise the world isn’t black & white. If you only intend to support those who think are 100% right then you only end up supporting yourself.
The thousands that turned up at the People’s Assembly, including the key speakers, are on the side of socialism. They are not capitalists, even unintentional supporters of capitalism.
There may be a lot I disagree with Owen Jones about. But it is better to have an Owen Jones than not, fighting his corner in the Labour Party. I also recognise the hard work that John Rees has put in to at least try & build a broad coalition of the left that can influence the mood of the people. They do a lot more than those who just carp on about it not being pure enough.
Try putting the slogan of solidarity into practice.

25 06 2013
Dave

Lets not forget the tragedy of history. During 1919 in Germany workers councils were formed. Unfortunately the bulk of workers still supported the reformist SPD who quickly encouraged the slaughter of the militant sections of the Berlin working class. While I’m not arguing that we are in a comparitive situation to 1919 I’m saying that those leaders who refuse to criticise those leaders who always stick to capitalist legality such as McCluskey, Owen etc will and are helping to ideologically demobilise the working class.

The Peoples Assemblies are not the result of a rise in class consciousness or even class militancy rather they are a reflection of the weakness of the working class in the UK. The task is not to exclude omeself from the struggle the task is to recognise the limitations of the leaders and highlight these weaknesses in the hope of helping to faciliate a militant and conscious trend within the working class.

26 06 2013
mike martin

I think that there is a shift in mood. People (workers even) are looking at an increasingly bleak future and want a way out. Consider the 80000 votes against McCluskey in the recent election; not an explicitly socialist trend but enough to rattle the leadership. Peoples Assembly is their attempt to stay on top of whatever develops. PA might provide a channel for an outpouring of anger, but a channel leading where to? So far it leaves everyone doing more or less what they were before.

We should not be content to be sitting in the audience or being marched up the hill and down again, to be preached at, to laugh at a few jokes and feel good because Owen Jones makes just some of the right noises. Four thousand people in a state of self-induced euphoria is supposed to be an advance on the hundreds of thousands who marched or went on strike? The movement has been led, deliberately, into token actions and letting off steam. This is no longer enough so we have assemblies where people already doing stuff get together to do the same stuff, while listening to labour councillors make excuses. A very small improvement on having to listen to Miliband and Brendan Barber as was the case at one rally. I am reminded of an old song with a lot of vacuous waffle about friends and a refrain that goes “the more we are together, the happier we will be”.

Resistance to austerity will emerge in some form and, let us hope, will escape the control of the present leaders. However, it needs to coalesce around a programme that does not simply say “no cuts” but demands things that express the actual needs of workers for jobs housing etc going far beyond marginal Keynesian measures.

Yes, I am not satisfied with PA but we should tell the truth about it and not put off for fear of being called negative. The movement needs clarity more than it needs jokes or jibes about bankers (the last resort of a failed leadership, as Oscar Wilde might have said)

26 06 2013
leftunityglasgow

Reblogged this on leftunityglasgow.

26 06 2013
commie46

I agree with Dave ,Mike and Arran. Lets go through the points.

One of the features of the People’s Assembly was to legitimize one form of fightback : pushing Labour and the Trade Unions left. Those who want to push for an alternative to Capitalist society are deemed to unrealistic or dismissed, in caricatured tabloid terms, as purists, off message, inherent contradictions of Capitalism crowd or lets build from the bottom mob.

Furthermore,there is the aggressive intimidating demand : what are your credentials. How dare you criticise ? What have you built? This is intended to shut people up or close discussion. What young comrade would stand a chance. What have you done. Who do you think you are- Lenin? But Marx did take the view that it would be unethical not to criticise whatever deserved criticism.

Those who want to place hope in pushing the Labour Party and the trade unions left are obviously vulnerable to criticism and sensitive about a critical analysis. Are the Labour and trade union leaders and the TUC on our side, the grass roots working class? The general Strike in 1926. The lack of support for the miners strikes,1926, 1984/5. The unity with the state against wages militancy in the 1960’s. Did they defend pensions recently ? How can Labour councilors who are implementing austerity cuts be on our side? Were Green Party leaders on the side of the striking council workers in Brighton?

Trade union officialdom are not on the offensive against Capital, but can they even be regarded as a defensive force today ? . Hundreds of thousands of Jobs have been lost from the public sector and more will follow. Contracts and working conditions have been shredded without organised resistance from the Labour and trade union leaders. Is Len Maclusky on our side, when he praises Ed Miliband? 80,000 of his own members did not consider he was on their side, and voted for the rank and file alternative candidate, in the recent union elections.

John Rees does not need advice about the nature of Capitalism. But instead of acting on revolutionary convictions, he prefers tactical unity on the false basis of resurrecting and pushing whatever remains of social democracy, left. The attempt to reinvent old Labour with the nostalgia of the sprit of 1945, is a bureacratic response to the capitalist crisis, and self defeating. Like the false optimism of the pensions dispute it will lead to cynicism and disappointment. Is it better to have Owen Jones on our side? Is Owen Jones on our side, when he believes voting Labour is the way forward and transforming Labour into a working class party is a realistic option.

I Watched ken Loach’s film, The Spirit of 1945, last night. What a historical distortion. No mention of the anti working class policies and actions of the Parliamentary Labour party, in the inter war years. Putting the gold standard before working class living standards, during the first Labour government. The sell out and non support for the working class during the General Strike. The parliamentary Labour party refusal and failure to organise the unemployed. ( leaving it to the Communist party ) The Labour party is seen as an expression of the people against the greedy few. Yet I seem to remember Labour leaders admiring and seeking the company and advice of the rich and the Monarch.

There was the British nationalist theme of the state organising the people to win the democratic war against Fascism, and then going on to more state collectivism by the Labour party, as if it was inspired by the vision of the common ownership of the means of production. Not state capitalism and modernisation in education and health to reinvigorate British Capitalism you understand. There was a lot of rhetoric about society organised to benefit the few, but the Labour Government left most of the economy and industry in a few Capitalist hands. The Labour leaders stuffed the mouths of the consultants and doctors with gold to create a health service and stuffed thousands of pounds of compensation in the pockets of the ex coal owners. And so on.

It’s not our role to reinvent this Labourism. Or adopt nostalgia as a strategy. As Dave said : we need to show workers that a libertarian communist future is possible. Why settle for less?

26 06 2013
SteveH

“Furthermore,there is the aggressive intimidating demand : what are your credentials. How dare you criticise ? What have you built?”

This was simply in response to the mud slinging and un-comradely distortion in the guise of critique presented by Dave. If you ‘build from the bottom’ lot are serious about your politics then stop it with this mud slinging and you might find you are not asked to provide your credentials.

Though some concrete proposals on how to build from the bottom would be appreciated, seen as you bang on about it so often.

27 06 2013
duvinrouge

Due to the economic crisis the class struggle is coming out into the open. Rees is quite rightly trying to unite the forces of the left in the historical battle that has begun. Trade unions, despite their leader, are a significant fighting forces that are needed in the fight.
The rank & file members at the PA didn’t give Maclusky an easy time & Miliband would have been roasted alive if he had turned up.
Influential members of Occupy & other participatory protest groups were there, even if the students were less evident.
Bring the forces together & fight to make a difference.

27 06 2013
commie46

Unity on what basis? From a revolutionary socialist/Marxist/Communist perspective, how can Rees be correct ? The leadership of Left Unity is operating on the basis of Uniting the anti Austerity campaign on the terms acceptable to the Trade union leaders : public opinion to put pressure on Labour leaders. No new left party, electorally based or otherwise, has yet to be put on the agenda. The leadership, tailing Trade Union Officialdom are Creating the conditions for a Labour victory at the next election. How can all this be a genuine class struggle against Capital ?

This is not an independent working class position. Surely the alternative for anyone involved is engaging with the rank and file members of the campaign with communist perspectives , not engaging with the leaders or rather supporting or defending the leaders. Underlying your view seems to be some notion of catastrophic economic collapse, which will compel the union leaders to lead a historic fightback. But there is always a way out for capitalism, and the way out is usually via trade union leaders and Social Democracy or authoritarian barbarism or a combination of both.

27 06 2013
commie46

Can I just add to my previous comments that if tactics become separated from principles, then the result is inconsistency and ultimately political irrationality. The Bolshevik/Trotskyist tradition has the political habit of putting tactics first particularly towards the Labour party and the Trade Unions.

27 06 2013
duvinrouge

Barry, engaging with you & other ‘left-wing’ communists over recent years makes me understand why Lenin used the label ‘infantile’.
It’s a sectarian, purist, fundamentalist attitude that will achieve nothing for the working class.
The world is changing before our very eyes, yet you sit on side-lines refusing to engage & shape the consciousness of workers who are not as ideologically advanced as you.
Just what is the alternative you offer?
Writing articles on the Russian Revolution & the ‘foolish’ Bolsheviks & linking up with anarchists for a good dose of anti-Bolshevik rage.
The world will pass you by.

27 06 2013
commie46

Left communists do not sit on the side lines. That’s another Tabloid comment. You are engaging with the campaign as a follower of the leadership not engaging with the rank and file to change consciousness. You do not even back up Luke cooper who is attempting to direct the campaign into an alternative left party. you tend to reflect the mood.

Left communists are not purists. That’s another caricature. Since you force me to speak for myself, I have involved myself in all kinds of campaigns and organisations. Nalgo,Unison,GMB,SLP, Socialist Alliance, and this is just in recent years. Involvement in the Commune network is hardly political purity. I will be attending the left unity meeting in Sheffield on Saturday to see what forces are involved.

Anarchists? There are some very good anarchists, including in Sheffield. There was a debate at the anarchist Bookfair in Sheffield. There was no anti Bolshevik rant, but a reasoned discussion on the state, which was very successful meeting. Engaging with Anarchists, what’s wrong with that. Its not sterile like trying to give advice to trade union leaders or leaders of left wing groups who do not seek it.

The Commune has carried a wide range of discussion and debate across a number of traditions and points of view. I have made a small contribution across a wide range of issues:Nationalism,social democracy, The Paris Commune,David Harvey,The British Labour movement, local council cuts and yes Bolshevism and Communist history. The Commune website has played a tiny role, but many people have found it informative, interesting and sometimes relevant.

A large emotional gathering of 4,000 seems to have sent you on some road to Damascus. So I am afraid we will have to disagree on this issue. And I do not want to continue a debate in which a comrade pins tabloid labels on me. The discussion has probably run it’s course anyway.

27 06 2013
Dave

As far as I can see the Peoples Assemblies initially will or may have some sort of enthusiastic following which may number in the hundreds in the local groups. But because the leadership will refuse to seriously criticise the failed tactics of the reformist/centrist leaderships of the trade unions and Labour Party then they will fade into being a series of local ossified beaucratic groupings who will be expected to rally the activists to yearly rallies of Owen, Serwotka et al.If this situation develops the sad thing will be that many especially younger people will become demoralised and will be put of socialist/communist politics.

Of course I could be wrong and this time next year we could be seeing a truely mass movement against austerity that will be posing a radical alternative to the pro capitalist policies of the Labour Party. Then again those cats may have made peace with the birds and mice.

30 06 2013
Roy Ratcliffe

Wow! This one has generated a lot of debate. My own take on the People’s Assembly is titled ‘An ‘Assembly’ of Illusions? at http://www.critical-mass.net Regards, Roy




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