The People’s Assembly was launched this year with a letter to The Guardian, complete with signatories including as Tony Benn, the columnist Owen Jones, many union leaders and the chair of the Green Party.The letter is brief so I will reproduce it here in full:
“This is a call to all those millions of people in Britain who face an impoverished and uncertain year as their wages, jobs, conditions and welfare provision come under renewed attack by the government. With some 80% of austerity measures still to come, and with the government lengthening the time they expect cuts to last, we are calling a People’s Assembly Against Austerity to bring together campaigns against cuts and privatisation with trade unionists in a movement for social justice. We aim to develop a strategy for resistance to mobilise millions of people against the Con Dem government.
The assembly will provide a national forum for anti-austerity views which, while increasingly popular, are barely represented in parliament. A People’s Assembly can play a key role in ensuring that this uncaring government faces a movement of opposition broad enough and powerful enough to generate successful co-ordinated action, including strike action. The assembly will be ready to support co-ordinated industrial action and national demonstrations against austerity, if possible synchronising with mobilisations across Europe. The People’s Assembly Against Austerity will meet at Central Hall, Westminster, on 22 June.”
With nearly everyone I know feeling the pinch at the moment and with the Labour Party providing no credible opposition (and Miliband even stating he will continue with the Tory’s cuts if elected) I thought the rationale of The People’s Assembly would appeal to many. Yet apart from Owen Jones’ full page column in The Independent about it, coverage has been sparse to say the least and consequently few are aware and even fewer have the motivation or inclination to support this movement. An estimated 4,000 people attended the London rally on Saturday which I suppose isn’t bad but there will need to be many many more attendees to future events to garner any real media coverage. The BBC and a Telegraph blogger had brief internet articles on the rally but the BBC led on threatened strikes by unions and Dan Hodges portayed attendees as loony leftie right-on types with ” with plenty of Kagools, rucksacks and sensible shoes in evidence.” He concluded “To me, it was just the same old people, handing out the same old leaflets for the same old causes. Yes, there was a good turn out, and I suppose a sense of solidarity. But mainly because everyone from the fringes of the Left had been successfully shoe-horned into the same corner of south-west London at the same time on the same day.”
It is very easy to be cynical about movements such as The People’s Assembly in exactly the same was as so many of us now became cynical about Trades Unions under Margaret Thatcher’s blackening of them. But what is the alternative? The politicians would have us believe that there is no alternative and that we will all have to tolerate the welfare state being torn down, at great expense, before our eyes. Meanwhile the bankers get away with criminal activity and our largest corporations pay no taxes-we hardly have a fair and just society but few of us can be bothered to get hot under the collar about it. We need the inflamed passion of The People’s Assembly if we are to have any hope of ordinary citizens having a decent life.