Kindness doesn’t kill, cuts do!

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A campaign recently launched in Northampton called “Kill with Kindness” (yes that is its real name), has the aim of encouraging people not to be kind to homeless people.

It declares that homeless people are drunks and drug addicts and by giving them money you are therefore feeding their habits and killing them.

It declares that you should instead give your money to charity which has already been butchered in this county, maybe its time the council supported its services properly, so we didn’t have to prop them up!

This campaign is dehumanising, demonising and degrading and feeds into the myth that homeless people are to blame for their situation.

Not all homeless people are drunks, and not all of them are drug addicts and any campaign which starts off with this assumption is very insulting and damaging.

Instead of attacking the powerless, vulnerable and poor, they should run a campaign that tackles the root causes. Why not have a campaign called “help the homeless” or “home the homeless” – why run a campaign that sends the message that homeless are undeserving of kindness?

This campaign takes place within a backdrop of our county council butchering its services, meaning more adults are going to be vulnerable, and ultimately thrown on the scrapheap.

When are they going to tackle the underlying problems and come up with proper solutions to these problems? Homelessness, addiction – they take away our support network and then have the cheek to say we’re less than human (not worthy of kindness).

Social housing programs are few and far between not only in Northampton but the whole country, social enterprises and charities have had their funding cut and removed by local government, meaning less services and support for the homeless.

Homeless people are wait for it – people too. If a homeless person spends a couple of quid on alcohol, then who are we stop them? Would it be better if they drunk a bottle of wine a day?

What are the underlying causes of homelessness addiction? I don’t think the cause of these problems are created by the kindness of strangers, or by homeless people getting a few quid begging.

More than likely the causes of these problems relate to where they find themselves I.e on the streets, mental health related, there are a myriad of reasons why a homeless person may drink but one thing we can be certain of it definitely isn’t kindness that is killing them.

[each week I will pick a local news story and cover it with my own opinion, the news article this blog is in relation to can be found here: http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/local/shoppers-in-northampton-urged-not-to-give-money-to-beggars-in-the-town-centre-1-6600489%5D

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Left Unity: Time to get simple

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As we know it Is election year and Left Unity will have about as much impact on the election as the bedroom tax on the deficit. Regardless of how much of an impact we are going to have however we need to be having a simple and clear message with which the people can relate to us with, UKIP have for example anti-EU and anti-immigration.

We need to have these simple messages with which to engage and strengthen our arguments:

  1. Anti-bankers, anti-corruption
  2. Anti-cuts, pro-hope

Forget the election, it is going to be a big waste of time on our part but we can and should begin campaigning around these issues. Not a week goes by where there is not another scandal within the banking sector and we should really be capitalising on that hate and inequality to begin hammering home our anti-capitalist message.

Left Unity Northampton tried to arrange for Left Unity to have a national day of action calling for bankers to face criminal charges. Our motion never got heard at the NC, and we have heard nothing back from it but this is the kind of thing LU needs to be campaigning on to begin whipping up support among the general population.

Anti-cuts and pro-hope should be linked together, our anti-cuts message should be more positive in its message in that we have to describe and explain in clear and concise terms what a possible society post-austerity can look like and what kind of country we can live in. There is another way, we just have to make it possible.

This way LU can begin building up an identity of one that fights inequality and injustice, while at the same time promoting a new society, a new way of doing things – it can be the vehicle and voice of change. At the moment there is no clear identity, which creates confusion – we need a long term marketing strategy.

One message is clearly positive, the other is a negative campaign we can however unite around both messages, the anti-banker thing is simple and easy for people to relate to while at the same time the positive message can give people hope. We are going to have to fight tooth and nail if we are going to achieve anything.

Left Unity nationally should begin this and it should be rolling out support to all branches in campaigning on these issues, while promoting the message on a wider scale. National call outs, national days of actions, posters, campaign materials and of course creative and inventive actions. We need to regain the initiative, make it fun, make it colourful and make it loud.

Left Unity is new, we are not an established brand, nobody knows what we are and who we stand for and this is what we need to change if we are to achieve our objectives, unify the left and create a social movement with which to change the country and hopefully the world.

Left Unity has a diverse array of people all with varying skill sets and we need to be educating and sharing those skills with branches and activists so we are a campaigning force, and a force for change within our communities. We need to support local branches where needed, promote the creative element of our members and get out on the streets

There are people with a shit load of experience and they need to be utilised so that we can all be effective, I carried a call out for volunteers we had nearly a hundred people wanting to volunteer for us, this was last year but nothing happened (was originally to help with web site/social media but LU employed somebody instead). If we had utilised those volunteers effectively, we would be in great place to campaign come the election and be promoting a better internal culture of cooperation and collectivism.

So what are we waiting for? It is ours for the taking, we need to get busy and get active – show the country and the people what is possible, what we are made of and what we want to achieve. Enough of being on the defensive reacting to this and that, it is time we go on the offensive take the fight to them and build up some momentum.

Blackhole In My Belly

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I’ve been forsaken in my hour of need
forsaken due to societies greed
I have nothing left to feed my family
My cupboard and fridge are all empty
The reality of living in poverty
Each day I am getting weaker
My clothes no longer fit as i get thinner
I turn on the tv and hear I am to blame
The doctor has the cheek to tell me I’m insane
Politicians try and say that everything is alright
I now struggle getting out of bed try as i might
I can’t give up the fight for my families sake
but I don’t know how much more I can take

I’m behind on my rent so the debt mans due
I’m getting hopeless now who do i turn to?
missed my signing on date as I was sick
now I have nothing not even mortar or brick
as I lie on the floor comforted only by the cold
life starts to fade I remember what I was told
We are all in this together its a big society
guess its easy to say that when you’re high and mighty
I get it thrown in my face each day and night
they always walk on by like i’m out of sight
soon i wil be just another faceless victim
one of the many let down by this system
my eyes start to close for the very last time
I question the fault of it all could it be mine?

Left Unity: Two steps forward, one step back.

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Left Unity’s internal elections are fast approaching, the yearly elections we have to stop the kind of cult worship, and long standing power-grabs that can and have existed in the past. I would encourage everyone to get actively involved, the more new people we can get standing for positions the better, but not only do we need to encourage those who are new to politics to get engaged, we need to support them – politics and especially the left can be quite a scary place.

While the officers have done some great things this past year, building a party is no easy task, there have been mistakes made, and there have been allegations thrown around. Words all too familiar to anyone that has been on the left for more than a day, undemocratic, Stalinist, conspiracies, you know how the list goes on and on.

I can’t help but think this is part of the internalised culture that exists within the left, a kind of internal paranoia, scepticism, and cynicism. Where every mistake is seen as an intentional act of power hungry megalomania, or when a certain decision doesn’t happen in the way we want it to, rather than the fault be within incompetence or political difference, it is calculated political manoeuvrings or subverting the will of the party.

I won’t be going into detail about each and every issue or allegation that has been hurled around this past year, instead I think all of us need to have a steadfast resolve in improving the parties infrastructure, to improving our internal democracy, transparency and accountability.

Some have abandoned Left Unity and wrote it off as a failure, which to me seems a bit short sighted when we haven’t even had our second election. The party is still being built, have we done everything right this past year? No. Are we a perfect organisation? No. The important thing is however, we can shape Left Unity, it is up to us what kind of party we are involved in.

Once the dust of the election settles there are definitely things that need to be looked at and improved, we need to look at how the party operates, how we communicate with one another, how we formulate policy and ultimately how we improve on the foundations and principles we were founded on.

The party system of old is dead, it doesn’t belong in the 21st century, it isn’t suited to the internet age, and we need to be looking at how the internal workings of Left Unity can be upgraded and incorporated so that every single member has the maximum amount of power.

The constitution was a start but that was it, a start, it wasn’t the end it was the beginning. We are not doing this in a vacuum, we can build on what has come before, we can look to how Syriza and how Podemos operate. I however don’t want to build a party like Podemos or like Syriza, I want to build a party like Left Unity, one that we can call our own.

So how do we do this? Left Unity needs to adopt direct democracy internally in the realms of decision making, I’ve already wrote a small piece on how we can improve conferences which will have a knock on effect. We need to be as open as we possibly can about as much as we can, we have nothing to hide and nothing to fear.

We really need to rip up the rule book of organisation, and try out radical new ways out engaging members, supporters and non-members alike. In the meantime however and of a matter of urgency we need to improve communication, when there is a lack of communication, people who make allegations have free reign on opinion, and in the age of the internet that means they can influence others, as information spreads so quickly now.

Members area of the websites needs to be improved to accommodate more information, as well as a way for members to interact with one another, at the moment the main area of communication across the whole of Left Unity nationally is an unofficial Facebook group, which had to get shut down once already, it is ridiculous.

Left Unity needs to step up to the plate and embrace the internet, just running with the website idea each member could have their own profile, there can be some form of internal message board where we can communicate with one another, there can be an official statement one for Left Unity to keep everyone up to date with what is going on, with disputes, problems, etc.

Mass Skype meetings? Email? Forums? Apps? Polls? There is literally an untold amount of ways we can communicate with one another and keep each other informed, there is no excuse in this day and age – we are not living in the dark ages.

The very structure of how Left Unity operates could easily fall into the trap of alienation of its core supporter by making them feel powerless and disengaged with the whole creative and informative process. Branches have a lot of power, but they are not being supported enough. How many effective and operational branches do we have? What steps are we taking to improve upon these?

The majority of the problems I alluded to earlier were directly caused because a lack of communication, so lets go back to the constitution and see how we can be more transparent, lets go back to the spirit of 45 and lets see what we can do to improve the party we founded, and that we are building here. The future is ours, we only need to grab it!