‘Get Organised!’: developing a new way of working on the left
After the successful Up the Anti event the day before, Anticapitalist Initiative supporters gathered for our “Get Organised!” meeting on Sunday 2nd December. Activists from groups in Brighton, Manchester, and London joined the meeting and there were 40 people there altogether.
The gathering was aimed at discussing tasks, strategy and policy for the ACI, and there had been some debates online in advance, which reflected the diverse political viewpoints contained within the project. Although it had a “morning after the night before” feeling, with so much energy having gone into the big Up the Anti event by ACI activists, it was a useful day of discussion and practical collaboration.
The day started off with reflection on Up the Anti the day before, followed by a round-table type discussion on the left in Britain, and how this may impact upon the tasks of the initiative. Before we got going, a member of IOPS (International Organisation for a Participatory Society) sent solidarity greetings and spoke about how IOPS was functioning and discussing what a new type of revolutionary organisation should look like.
Some of the key discussions in the next session looked at potential tactics that have not usually been core areas of work for the left in Britain. This was partly inspired by the IOPS speaker who had said he was attracted to the idea of developing an organisation along similar principles to Occupy but was more lasting and durable. Dave Esterson from Permanent Revolution raised the example of the Black Panther Party and how they had successfully developed advice clinics, unemployed centres and charitable-type work in communities – using this practical support they provided to build their revolutionary political project.
Dan Jeffreys, a Unison activist asked whether there needed to be a dichotomy between setting up new direct-action based unions, as the IWW have in London, and remaining part of the mass membership trade unions like his own to pressure leaderships to go further. He argued that the ACI could see such projects as complimentary and that both have a place in Britain today.
Ishan Cader from Brighton New Left Initiative spoke on the importance of interacting and building up our relationship with cultural resistance projects. He spoke about the success that the Brighton group had found with meetings aimed at the art community, and that he would like to work with Subversed, a new revolutionary hip hop project formed in Manchester by ACI supporters. He put forward a proposal for a Culture Working Group to drive this forward which was passed. The conference also set up a workgroup on Debt – looking at what we can learn from the campaigning Occupy has undertake on this issue, the new campaigning networks that have been set up in Britain, and different theoretical approaches.
After a discussion, the conference heard motivations for documents which had been proposed to conference in advance, laying out proposals what the ACI stands for. Some argued that a series of general principles of revolutionary change – such as the goal of communism, the importance of working class struggle, and so on – should be compiled into a policy document. Other proposals raised more concrete positions in relation to contemporary struggles of the working class, democratic and social movements, such as support for the Syrian Revolution and grassroots movements in the unions.
On one level, these reflected age-old debates in radical movements about how to connect the day-to-day struggles with the final goal of human liberation. On another level, some argued that there were considerable differences over some of the immediate issues of daily struggle, and that, for the time being, the ACI should provide a space for those to be discussed rather than come down on one particular side.
Others still questioned whether any kind of political policy was necessary at this stage in the anticapitalist project and whether it would not be better to develop it simply as a space for discussion and practical collaboration, with the view to formulating a worked out strategy at a later stage.
This discussion was good-natured and friendly and the conclusion was that there was a lot more to debate and discuss. In a sense the conversation had only just got started. We needed more time and more discussion in local groups before voting on policy specifics. An interim statement was passed by the conference as a collective statement of what we were trying to achieve in the period ahead.
The statement talked in particular about reinvigorating local activism. We have organised a number of good events in Manchester and Brighton on diverse themes, from imperialism and neoliberalism, to reading groups on capitalism realism and its alternatives, as well as events looking at art, music and culture, and there was a feeling amongst activists in London we needed to generalise this work further.
We also committed the ACI to looking to positively develop our further collaboration with all the groups that supported the Up the Anti event, and investigating whether there was scope to develop similar initiatives in the future.
‘Get Organised!’ was a useful meeting of activists, it helped clarify to all involved where most people in the initiative stand on different issues, where agreements and disagreements are.
Many ACI supporters from across the country met at ‘Get Organised!’ for the first time. We now start from a much stronger base in terms of knowing the pace we need to take things, the issues which we need to discuss most importantly, and those which we can take longer to consider. ‘Get Organised!’ started discussions going and brought the ACI together as it currently stands.