What are we hoping for?

Standard

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.

Advertisements

Left Unity East Midlands: Where do we go from here?

Standard

I would like to start by thanking everyone that voted for me in the elections, and I’m looking forward to building a vibrant Left Unity base within the East Midlands with you all. I would also like to congratulate Liz Silver, and I’m looking forward to working with her in representing the East Midlands on the national council.

So where do we go from here?
1. Skype e-conference
2. Arrange East Midlands Council
3. Arrange East Midlands day of action

We can and should look at how we can improve communications between East Midlands members and branches, so that we can keep each other up to date, share ideas and support one another where and when needed. If we can add each other on Skype, share our e-mails, and work towards getting a meeting organised for the East Midlands branches, that would be the first step in pooling our resources and sharing our experience. Until we have the right communications with one another, it will be hard for us to create an effective development strategy, with which to move forward together.

I feel in the immediate future these should be our five over-reaching objectives.

1. Establish a social media presence
2. Establish a media presence
3. Establish a structure (council,newsletter, communications, etc)
4. Establish a support network
5. Formulate a short term and long term development strategy

I have spoken to Simon and requested up to date information regarding membership within the East Midlands, and my next step will be e-mailing out to branches, so I can begin to get an accurate picture of where we are now, and what we can do to get to where we want to be. If you have any advice, want to get involved, have any feedback or are a member within LU:East Midlands, please feel free to contact me
My contact details:
Email: s-a-miller@live.co.uk
Phone: 07957917763
Facebook: http://www.facebook,com/comrademiller
Skype: s-a-miller@live.co.uk
Twitter: @Blogolution

One member one vote – but please vote our way.

Standard

Left Unity a party that was built with internal democracy in mind, with yearly elections a prominent feature of how we hold the party to account. We operate a one member, one vote system, where ideally members are free agents to choose who they want representing them.

How turned off I have been then to see key groups within LU (no groups are recognised as a subset of LU, so these operate within LU unofficially) releasing list after list of who their members should vote for. It makes a mockery of our democracy, and is completely alien to the principals LU is trying to further within the workers movement, and the wider community.

The kind of politics I’ve started to witness forming around and within Left Unity this past year, is exactly what I joined LU to get away from. It was a breath of fresh air away from the sectarian ramblings of madmen, cultist despots and thought police.

It will be a sad day for LU, for the left and also the masses of working people that have been alienated by the left if anyone of these outside factions assumes control through majority representation on the NC, as we already know they vote the same, free debate and thought within the party would be finished, and as a result the party would be finished also.

Vote however YOU want, vote for what YOU believe yourself, vote for what YOU believe in – I don’t know kind of left politics you’re trying to build or be part of, but I’ll tell you what we don’t want, uniformity of thought, uniformity of process, – centralised control over how we should act. We joined LU to get away from these failed past models of thought control, and alienation.

Down with this democratic deficit, this undemocratic beast we have nurtured within the party and allowed to grow unchallenged, enough with this shit! Normal people unaffiliated to any of these vultures, without some kind of sectarian loyalty to this brand of socialism or the next, are going to be left behind, they’re already being pushed out.

What is socialism? What is the workers movement, what does it mean to be involved with left politics? What does it mean to you to be a member of the working class? I don’t need to look to someone for the answer, I don’t need to report to someone for “suggestions” – neither do I need to think about it, because I feel it in my gut, it is in my heart.

Some of these positions are representative, and I find it extremely difficult to understand how someone can truly represent sections of the party, if they being forced (coerced/softpower) to vote in a way which has no direct link to the people they are representing.

This is a problem that Left Unity needs to face up to and address, otherwise democracy within the party is a mockery, a thinly veiled facade and LU will fall even quicker into the abyss of failure, a train wreck and a failed experiment. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that to happen.

How angry we would of all been if the current EC or NC released a list telling people who they should vote for, what kind of party do we want to be involved with? Like the Grand Old Duke of York marching his men up and down the hill, how long are we going to be stuck doing the same things over and over again? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Lets face it the left has been a sinking ship for a long time now, with groups diminishing in size and capability, we can either bury our head in the sand and think everything is peachy fucking creamy, or we can look at ourselves, because we can spruce it up with fancy words and theories as to why the left is weakening, ultimately we are to blame for it, groups are to blame for it. We either change, adapt, advance and grow, or we are dead, and we have lost.

The most positive forces which have come to the fore in recent years haven’t come from the traditionally walked path, like the FocusE15 Mothers, there is a lot of hope and new ideas circulating not only in the UK but in the world, so lets end this stale politics of the past, it is time for a new kind of politics.

The path to unity is not paved with swords, the road to socialism is built upon the cooperation and friendship of the people.

Northampton Council Meeting of Contempt

Standard

Not_facebook_not_like_thumbs_down

Northampton Borough Council has shown complete and utter contempt for the chamber, the position and most importantly the people of Northampton, as they spend their last full meeting before the elections patting themselves on the back and electioneering.

They seem to have forgotten the problems facing the administration, and will face up until the time of the election, they seem to have completely forgotten that their position is to represent the people that elected them.

I wish I could say this kind of behaviour shocked me, surprised me even but time and again they have ignored the concerns of residents, time and again they have ignored our views and warnings, and time and again they have put their own interests ahead of the people of Northampton.

Lets not forget how the Chron have played into the egoist fantasies of the council leader Mr.Mackintosh without a week going by when his face isn’t offending my computer screen. I could write endlessly listing the failures of this council, but everyone living in the town is already well aware of them.

They seem to be living in a different town to you and I, for among their many glowing achievements (which the council recognised) were the Northgate bus station, which has been a complete and utter disaster, causing untold amount of traffic delays, let alone the distress it has caused bus users and the general public.

Mary Markham even goes on to congratulate them all on how well they have done at combatting homelessness, even though figures released suggest homelessness has increased year on year during their control of the council.

The only shocking thing from the whole night is that the Labour group walked out in protest, finally an opposition – shame they are only four years too late. It would have been great if they had shown this kind of passion while we have had to put up this this lot.

[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://goo.gl/QR8kbq ]

Kindness doesn’t kill, cuts do!

Standard

i_want_change

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

Left Unity: Two steps forward, one step back.

Standard

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!

Doing conferences differently

Standard

Our conference has been and gone, but our commitment to a new kind of politics should be as strong as the fire from whence it came. It is great we have made it to our one year mark but the journey we set out on is far from complete, the masterpiece we are carving out on the political landscape still needs plenty of chiseling.

Ideally it will never be finished as the party adapts and changes along with the rest of society. We need to adapt to the challenges we face, discard what is useless while promoting that which is useful.

Politics needs to be open, it needs to be inclusive but most importantly, it shouldn’t feel like a chore. I could only attend Sunday and after being there for the first hour I felt like I wanted to walk out. It felt like a big waste of my time, and it shouldn’t be that way.

So how can we improve on our conference format? Where can we take our inspiration from? Podemos regardless of their politics held their conference in a football stadium with 20k people, with many more taking part online. We are calling for delegate conferences at 2000 members, is that the sum of our ambition and inventiveness?

We can implement these four things to improve our conferences:

  1. Conference should signal the start of a voting period which takes place online and via post.
  2. Greater use of social media i.e tweeting and facebook discussions so there is online participation
  3. Skype or video conference software in use to allow those watching online a way to interact with the conference
  4. A mechanism for internal referendums needs to come into existence

Conference should be where we have discussions, debates, workshops – a place to feel plugged into the wider LU machine. Debates it seems were rushed at times, large swathes of votes get pushed off the agenda. How we are doing things now is not only impractical in this day and age, it isn’t working.

If we were to have two day conferences which used multiple rooms and fulfilled multiple purposes, we could not only accomplish more, we would have a better experience.

As it stands conference exists for those with the funds, time and capability to participate. This creates less internal democracy, where we have the tyranny of the attendee and it just doesn’t have to be that way in the 21st century.

We are really starting to utilisize modern techniques of media, the website is coming on and the Facebook page is doing great. The more effective and inclusive we are at this during conference, the more people we can include in our debates.

This could be something as simple as a few words describing the topic we are currently discussing, or detailing a specific workshop. To more time consumed infographs, detailed information, pictures and videos.

The more people we can engage in our debates, whether they are members or not – the better they will be and to this end we should utilise video conferencing software. We have less spare time, but more things to do – we are overworked and should have the luxury of engaging with politics how we choose.

If you suffer from anxiety the conference atmosphere might not be for you, but why should you then be excluded from having a voice? If you are a single mother working two jobs, why should you then be excluded from having a voice? If you cannot get to the conference without physical support and are unable to get it, why then should you be excluded from having a political voice?

We have a great part in our constitution which allows us to have e-conferences on specific issues, this is great and needs to be expanded so there is a mechanism for members to call party-wide referendums.

This will ensure that if an important event takes place, we can react to it quickly and with the backing of the majority of the party. The greater power the membership can have over the decision making process, and more importantly the easier it is for us to wield that power, the more inclined we will be to do so.

We need to digest our politics how we digest everything else in the 21st century, that is at our convenience and quickly. Political participation needs to be brought dragging and screaming into the 21st century, and if we are to be doing politics differently, we need to be doing it with more than just words.