Practical solidarity: Labour must adapt the way it campaigns so it helps those most in need

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One day campaigns and calls for Theresa May to sling it are great at galvanizing support, but if the next election isn’t within the next six months, we run the risk of running out of steam.

Words have power that is clear, but words and actions working in unison will lay the foundation for the kind of change we need to see in our society. Which is why it is unsustainable in the long run to keep up momentum indefinitely.

Why? Because if there are no results, people will grow bored, people drop out, and slowly but surely the momentum slows to a crawl before going in to reverse. We have momentum on our side, at the moment, and no doubt the Tories will be trying to delay until the winds change in their favour.

So what can we do to help sustain activity, to keep our momentum up?

We need to adopt a more community minded, grassroots approach to our campaigning – non traditional forms of campaigning which seek to build up networks within communities, and effect real change within them.

It’s great marching to end homelessness, or against the harsh reality of the cuts, those kind of public displays of peoples anger, and dissatisfaction with the system are integral but you hardly ever see immediate results.

Contrast a march against homelessness with a Labour led drive to support the homeless within their communities, to alleviate the harsh realities of the cuts. When you see that a homeless man is going to get a roof over his head, or isn’t going to go hungry that night, you see a direct return on your political capital.

When you are bringing your politics to life through your work in your community and help stop a family getting evicted, or put food on a single mothers table, so neither her or her child go hungry that night – you see results. Politics in action effecting change on a community level, which feeds back into a national narrative.

Not only this but it is through these networks of resistance that we can sustain momentum, we see small successes, thus keeping people engaged politically. While at the same time engaging with the people that a) need our help the most and b) we need to have a political voice c) providing the apparatus/network for future political work

We need to be radical, we need to be innovative. Combine the social, community and the political, and provide cross community solutions – you have a presence, you are fighting back at the system, and you’re carrying out practical politics.

History is littered with examples of it being successful, and it is a political necessity in this country already. People on the bread line can’t wait to the next election, a disabled person house bound due to cuts, cannot wait to the next election. The people who are suffering most cannot afford to wait, and we shouldn’t leave them behind.

While momentum is on our side, while we have the Tories on the run, it is the perfect opportunity to expand our political activity and get out into our communities supporting those in need, with our actions and deeds.

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What are we hoping for?

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What are we building? What are we fighting for? I’m no longer sure. It seems to me that the left has become the most complex and convoluted system for lobbying the government that has ever existed.

While communities have come under prolonged and sustained attack, completely ripped apart for generations now, it looks to me that we are arguing over what kind of biscuits to bring to the revolution, and lets not get started on the tea, or we will be here till tea time.

Where is the vision? The ambition? The hope and the passion? Where is the strategy in acting as a glorified lobby group?

This week we witnessed the Greek people vote oxi (no to me and you) to austerity, and from the response you would think they had just smashed the capitalist hegemony of the globe. I think it is great that they did mind you but I don’t want to look for Greece to hope, I want to look to the left in the UK to provide my people with hope.

What are we doing? Arguing over austerity and like Canute trying to turn back the tide, or in our case convince the Tory party or the Labour party to change course? To take pity on us poor peasants and allow us to have a little bit more of the harvest next year? Or to find a heart and stop sending us to our deaths with a stroke of their pens?

In the meantime how insignificant are the left becoming? Take Left Unity for example, the party I am involved with – it is trying to emulate and act like a traditional party. Like it stands any chance of beating these guys at their own game, like it is in any position to even contemplate taking them on at their own game.

If Left Unity is to survive it needs to stop trying to be a traditional party, it needs to rip apart the rule book on what a political party is, and create something new, something new and inspiring that the people of the country can believe in and get behind!

All I am seeing is more of the same, and more of the same has got us into this mess in the first place. We know the fight to change society and the face of this country is a long one, but what are we doing to bring about that goal? A campaign here, a petition there and a march on the odd occasion.

Yes these things sometimes do have the desired effect, our masters change their course and we gain a small victory with which we may build something a little better or bigger in the future. Or people pack their things up and go home, it is all the same.

We have been operating that way for generations, and it clearly is not hitting the mark anymore. It may have had an effect in the 20th century, but we are not in the 20th century anymore. We need to adapt, we need to grow and we need to stop flogging a dead horse.

I do not have all the answers, I do not even know all the problems but please just try to think outside the box, stop trying to do what you’ve always done because it is what you’ve always done. We need to change, we need to stop pushing blame onto everything else and accept our responsibility in the downfall of the left.

We need to take stock of where we are, re-evaluate where we want to be and actually come up with something worth while. I don’t want to be in a focus group, I do not want to just be a lobbyist to whatever overlord we have that year. I want to be part of something fresh and new, new not just in name but in structure, outlook, strategy – something we can actually call revolutionary.

By revolutionary I am not saying we take out the pitch forks and storm Buckingham Palace, but something the left have completely lost the ability to do and that is talk to people on a level, talk with people, not down to them, not preaching to them but with them.

By revolutionary I’m talking about our outlook, how we conduct ourselves, what we consider to be political action. This linear form of politics is getting us no where, it isn’t even fit for this day and age.

We can hold a rally of 250,000 people and you can all pat yourselves on the back and say that it is a movement now, but rallies don’t make movements, at a rally what are you doing? Standing still listening to someone tell you something. Then you can go home, you may have learnt something but what has changed in your community? Unless you live in London, not a damn deal.

We need to be building up resistance, we need to be building up networks and be engaged in activities which are empowering to communities and empowering to ourselves, this has to be creative and it has to be local.

All political activity and the voice of opposition against these unjust, unfair and immoral acts are great but what purpose are they serving in the long run? What are we doing outside and around that which truly is creating a movement, truly is doing something beneficial to the cause?

There is this hollow shell in the place of communities up and down the country, what are we doing to solve that problem? The left is a husk, it must be great for academics that love boring meetings and arguing the finer points of the events of the Russian revolution, but what else?

Surely there has to be more to what we are doing than this? Surely there is something we are missing? Otherwise, if this is all there is, if this is as good as it gets? We may as well pack our bags and give the revolution a miss, the weather will be shit and it’s not like it’s going to be on the tele anyway.

How long are we going to be defined by which punches the government are throwing at us and which ones we are quick enough to dodge? These negative reactive campaigns which are ultimately not providing hope, not creating positivity, not rolling out change within communities. I do not want to survive anymore, where the best I can hope for is if we manage to bloody the governments nose once in a while.

We need to build something, we need to create something, we need to thrive.

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.