Last summer saw a mass coming together of individuals and groups opposed to austerity under the banner of the People’s Assembly. Following the launch attended by thousands, on 22 June in Westminster Central Hall, local People’s Assemblies have sprung up across England and Wales. The difference between the People’s Assembly and other anti cuts groups and movements is that it is sparking mass support for an alternative vision to austerity.
Saturday 25 January is Scotland’s turn – and you are all invited to the launch of the People’s Assembly Scotland from 11am in Renfield St Stephen’s Hall, Glasgow. Come join forces with Katy Clark MP, Ricky Tomlinson, Christina McKelvie MSP, Andrew Murray and other speakers from our movement in making a success of the Scottish launch.
Although People’s Assemblies have been formed in Dundee and Fife, most of Scotland is yet to be mobilised to unite our struggles against austerity –bringing together trade unions, community campaigners, pensioners movement, campaigners for better welfare. Some fantastic local anti cuts movements have built around local issues, trades unions have made valiant efforts to harness forces, but we have yet to harness successful mass mobilisation.
Let’s seize genuine opportunities to unify forces against austerity. Use the opportunities that have sparked thousands across the country to People’s Assemblies to deliver mass support of workers and communities to a real alternative to the decades of market-driven political hegemony and corporate led economics. The People’s Charter that came before it presents a clear manifesto for the Assembly movement to take forward. Investment in public services, house building, tax justice, renewable energy, education, universal welfare provision, scrapping Trident – are all listed. Opportunities to unite and campaign against austerity must be seized if we are going to defeat the political and economic hegemony that has overshadowed our generation.
Not everyone agrees with me though.
Some have suggested that the People’s Assembly may be too pro-Labour. I don’t see that – instead I see a clear challenge to the Labour Party and its leadership through mass organisation beyond the boundaries of party membership or affiliation. Others argue that the People’s Assembly call for mass civil disobedience on 5 November last year was a diversion from the demand for trade unions to mobilise for a general strike.
However, while we cannot wait on a Labour Government to fight back against the cuts, we cannot wait on the ranks and forces of our movement to all agree and overcome anti-trade union laws to get behind an industrial strategy that a general strike requires. Of course a general strike would deliver mass support, but in the meantime peaceful civil disobedience organised by communities and People’s Assembly movements have an extremely important role to play in building momentum and demonstrating the strength of support for the alternative.
In Scotland, some claim – from both left and right that because of the referendum, there is no appetite or need for People’s Assemblies here. This is a two headed monster that has become the mainstream debate on Scotland’s future. Arrogance on one side and Complacency on the other.
Those nay-sayers to the right for whom the dark age of austerity is indefinite and unchallengeable can only be put right by bottom up mass mobilisation and support for a genuine economic alternative. And the left mustn’t let the indy debate cloud their socialism. Whether you are for independence or not – the tartan cover on offer from a future SNP or Labour Government in Scotland would not protect us from the vicious attacks on our people that it the neoliberal austerity hegemony that has gripped all mainstream parties. We all need to stand together to challenge the political leaderships to be more bold and stand for the people they claim to represent.
The challenge for all who wish to build a mass movement against austerity is to stand united. Tomorrow’s launch of the People’s Assembly Scotland is only the beginning.