Sunday, 23 June 2013

People's Assembly generates hope but this must result in action

It was always going to be hard to enable as many voices as possible to be heard in a gathering of more than 4,000 people but yesterday's People's Assembly got close. Central Hall, marquees outside and the Emmanuel Centre down the road were buzzing with ideas and viewpoints, as well as simply heaving with people.

Much more united us than separated us, this included a deep dislike of the Coalition and the Conservatives (there was laughter when the caption maker misheard a quote and described Tories as 'worse than Birmingham' instead of vermin)and there was a determination to not only describe what was wrong but to provide hope that together we could bring about change.

Although many wanted to see trade unions take a lead, and there were calls for a general strike, there was also an emphasis on community organisation and resistance, and providers and users of services such as health, social work and education working together.

I attended the sessions on 'climate change and jobs' at which Caroline Lucas spoke (clip above), 'protecting public education'; and 'democracy and decision-making-fixing our broken political system' at which Natalie Bennett ran a workshop.

Caroline Lucas's call for renationalisation of the railways received enthusiastic applause as did her statement that capitalism was incompatible with solving the climate crisis.

In the education workshop speeches from the platform were interspersed with batches of one minute contributions from the floor. I managed to get a rather incoherent one minute plug in for a 'Reclaim Our Schools' movement made up of teachers, parents, governors and school students and that seemed in line with Christine Blower's (NUT) suggestion of a Reclaim Education campaign. It was important to resist and challenge efforts at divide and rule.

Throughout there was a thread of argument about the crisis in democracy, representation and accountability and this came together in the sometimes chaotic democracy workshop where issues of electoral reform, community organising, local people's assemblies came together and many were introduced to 'jazz hands' for the first time. (Hands are waved in the air silently to express approval rather than clapping).

Discussions and debate continued in the nearby cafes, pubs and restaurants afterwards and are due to continue at local people's assemblies in the future as well as a student assembly in November. It will be important not to lose the momentum, enthusiasm and hope as well as to refine and spread the emerging ideas.

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