I’m really interested in the growing People’s Assembly movement, and I usually end up discussing it in relation to strategic optimism in some of my recent articles. Indeed I’m looking forward to a big event this Saturday where the national People’s Assembly will meet for the first time, and it’ll be curious to hear about what hopes and energies can animate a new democratic movement.
But I’ve been around the block long enough to know that simply talking about problems won’t help them go away. Politics should not be just a theory but primarily an activity, and given that assemblies don’t yet possess any power, some of their first discussions should be about how to get this. The major marches, petitions and protests we’ve taken part in over the last ten years in the UK failed to achieve their goals, and depressingly underline that popular anger may be cynically heard, but in itself will not alter the decisions that politicians make. But popular movements that take over the streets, disrupt the production of wealth, and refuse to hide away against police brutality can shake down dusty and grubby institutions. They must be animated and directed by the collectivity, by those people in the assemblies, and not the big names who have already established an income, identity and sense of success in forever representing this downtrodden rage. If nothing changes by next year, or the year after, they will still be there, gazing down from the stage with their quick soundbites and promises that capitalism will collapse of its own accord very soon. No, enough of this. Enough generations have heard this talk. There must be no more looking up, obediently, for answers. The power’s within, if it’s wanted. But Kevin McKenna’s written far better already on this.
If you’re interested in my arguments, take a look at my piece on the Strike! magazine website. It’s titled ‘Reasons to be cheerful’, and yes there are. Strike is an excellent newspaper, and one that seems to be unique in bringing together such a swathe of the British Left in one cool and very cheap publication.
If you want to more about the People’s Assemblies themselves, and the event this Saturday, check out the organiser’s site.