The Coalition is hoodwinking us towards totalitarianism. Will the ‘People’s Assembly’ halt this?

Wise words: The 'People's Assembly' hopes to stir people out of their apathy and encourage them to oppose the right-wing, ideologically-driven and austerity-led destruction of British society. Are you interested, or is it too much like hard work?

Wise words: The ‘People’s Assembly’ hopes to stir people out of their apathy and encourage them to oppose the unelected and unmandated right-wing, ideologically-driven and austerity-led destruction of British society. Are you interested, or is it too much like hard work?

“The people are not ready to embrace Socialism and may never be ready.”

“What, a cobbled together bunch of leftie socialists?”

“It will take more than a few breakfast TV celebrity socialists turning up in community centres to shake people awake, and armchair socialism – like conservatism, capitalism, fascism, communism and any other political ism that involves a minority seeking to impose its will on the masses down at their local community hall – is the last thing that anyone needs.”

“It would just be a talking shop of unelected and ‘celebrity’ allegedly left-wingers, who like to hear the sound of their own voices. It does not have any democratic structure, and would just be a sort of an admiring glee club, that would allow its supporters to have the illusion that something is being done.”

“Even if you got five million people to march through London protesting over the austerity program, the Palace of Westminster wouldn’t hear it.”

These are just a few of the negative responses to a recent article by Owen Jones, on the forthcoming meeting of the ‘People’s Assembly’, organised by the new socialist organisation Left Unity. None of them are saying anything we haven’t heard before. It seems the constant refrain, to which the British people sing along, is “Don’t bother trying to change it; there’s nothing you can do”.

This is, of course, lazy nonsense. You hear it from people who genuinely can’t be bothered and, more perniciously, from supporters of the status quo (in this case, the Coalition or UKIP) who know that a discouraging word at the right moment can nip a potential rival organisation in the bud. It’s called conditioned helplessness, and I’ve discussed it before.

Remember, the ‘People’s Assembly’ has not had its first meeting yet. Already people are trying to tell us it is a failure, a “talking shop” for “armchair socialism” that would not be heard in the corridors of power.

I wish I could attend, but geographical issues and other responsibilities mean this is impossible (I live in Wales and have responsibilities as a carer).

One thing we should all remember is that this is a socialist movement, not the creation of a political party. We already have a democratic socialist political party, although our Labour members of Parliament seem to have forgotten that (here’s a clue, folks: Read the top line on the back of your membership cards). They appear to be taking the soft option and following the Coalition narrative. But that’s no reason to let them get on with it.

It seems to me that the ‘People’s Assembly’, like the Left Unity organisation that is staging the event, will work best putting pressure on systems that are already in place. Labour presents the best chance we have for ousting the Tories and their little yellow helpers, without putting something equally right-wing in their place. People of good faith just need to encourage the Party to do the right thing.

And that is: Ditch all the idiotic follow-my-Tory-leader austerity-driven policies announced in recent weeks. Austerity has failed as a way of balancing the books; it was never intended to do so in the first place. Ditch the divisive Tory-soundalike rhetoric that shows Labour also wants to blame the poor for problems that they never created. Clear private sector ‘advisors’ out of Labour Party meetings and thinktanks – corporate influence will only benefit corporations and their shareholders; they have the Conservatives for that.

Adopt the line taken by Michael Meacher MP: “We will end austerity”.

Devise new policies for health, workplace safety and social security that will aim to prevent not only workplace-related sickness and disability, but also congenital conditions that blight lives. That will bring down the bills for health and social security far more than misplaced attempts to punish those whose ill-health is already an unjust punishment, as they have not committed any crime.

Reconsider policies relating to business. Labour has long since admitted that nationalisation of all industry does not work, and it doesn’t. But there are some services that should be run – as a business, perhaps, but under the authority of the state – in the national interest. These are the public utilities – water, electricity, gas. Possibly rail transport as well, because the current privatised situation is costing the taxpayer far more than when the service was nationalised.

Encourage self-employment where practical. People can only be assured of the ability to sustain themselves if they own the means of production. The best way to do that is to work for themselves. For businesses involving more than a single trader, encourage mutualism or co-operatives. This is the best way to ensure that all workers get the most benefit from the products of their labours. With employees encouraged to put more effort into their trade by the promise of getting more out of it, progress towards meeting and exceeding the Living Wage seems more likely.

And support new technologies, especially those that are environmentally-friendly. This is where many of the new jobs will be generated and the UK has delayed its support of these advances for far too long.

I don’t think these are impossible ambitions.

They can be achieved if the progressive members of British society get their act together and stand up for them. And let’s all admit it, they would be much healthier than the cuts that have spawned a continuing storm of protest ever since the Coalition first inflicted them upon us, just because most of us are poorer than they are.

I can see a willingness to take part in this activity, all around. I recently commented on attempts to silence progressive thinking in the letters page of my local newspaper – that has only happened because people (not just me) were willing to put pen to paper and say they think the Coalition has got it wrong.

People are realising that they can’t expect their political representatives to do the right thing without being told what it is. What’s holding them back is the concern that this is a minority view. That is why they may welcome an umbrella organisation like Left Unity and the ‘People’s Assembly’, to show them they’re not alone.

I would like to say that in Central Hall, Westminster, on Saturday but I can’t be there.

Would anybody like to say it for me – or something better?

Or shall we all just sit back in our armchairs and mutter, while the country goes to hell in a handbasket?


  1. Hen June 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    There have been People’s Assembly meetings all over the country already. I went to one and very well-attended it was too! Slightly encouraging at least….

  2. phil webb June 18, 2013 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    How can I join peoples assembly? Positive action not negative thought

  3. These are not impossible ambitions but I do worry about those so stuck in their own ‘mind-sets’ and generalisations that it would take an avalanche to shift their thinking just a fraction or two, let alone act upon it. I had an argument with someone the other day. It should have been a debate. He was a typical Labour-voting guy whose generalisations appalled me. We were talking about child abuse and good parenting and he was prepared to stand by his statement that because all the people he was friends with were good parents (he can clearly see through closed doors), that meant that all the people in his area of the country were good parents. If that’s not a generalisation, I don’t know what is! On another occasion, I explained to him and his wife that the Coalition had evidently decided that as soon as my husband retired, I was suddenly much healthier because they have cut the Carer’s Allowance he gets to look after me by two-thirds and not – as yet, if ever – made up the difference in his pension. I try not to despair but you will know it’s not easy. This couple gave no reaction whatsoever. I wasn’t telling them for sympathy. I was telling them because I wanted them to understand, even though they’re not Conservatives, that the Coalition is destroying people’s lives. While she may have sowed the seeds, Thatcher didn’t come anywhere near what the current lot are doing.

    • Mike Sivier June 18, 2013 at 2:35 pm - Reply

      There’s a consultation on what makes a good parent being run by the Labour Party at the moment (for those who aren’t aware). The results will inform policy.

    • Mutlee June 19, 2013 at 6:47 pm - Reply

      Impossible is a myth. There is no such thing – science and reason show us this every day. There is only truly that which you work for, and that which you do not. What you do not work for will be claimed by someone else, and stands to be corrupted.

      That is the price of laziness. The coalition. Enjoy your corporately-steered future, and thank you SOOOOO much for thinking of the future generations, and how crap this life is going to be for them if the likes of us don’t do ALL WE CAN to bring lawfulness back to our courts, instead of corporate legislation; peace-keeping back to our police, instead of inciting more violence; benefits back to being benefits, instead of punishment because you don’t fit into some rich asshole’s view of people; productivity where there is joblessness; purpose where there is none but greed and slavery…the list goes on.

      YOU carry on saying it’s not possible if you want to. Personally, I have a conscience, and a heart, and a mind, and a soul, and they ALL go to make up someone that can make a difference. WE ARE THE CHANGE WE WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD.

      Because it’s GLOBAL!!!

      • Steve CK June 19, 2013 at 10:09 pm - Reply

        Thank you. My sentiments exactly. Nothing in history was ever achieved by the people seeing hurdles and going “ah f**k it, nothing we do will change anything, lets go home”.

        The bottom line for me is, can I live with myself if I don’t try to get things changed for the better? No I don’t think I can.

        • Mike Sivier June 19, 2013 at 10:20 pm - Reply

          I think we’re all on the same page here, although with different exit points from it. We can see something must be done. If not us, who? If not now, when? So we’re going to do what we can.

          Is that right?

          If so, then good luck, everybody.

          If anyone finds out they’re doing something that is working, let’s all pile in to make sure it sticks!

          • Steve CK June 19, 2013 at 10:46 pm

            I’ll drink to that!

            Oh I nearly forgot something…. I was at the fortnightly meeting for Left Unity Manchester South last night and I mentioned your blog and the article (I’m a big fan, it was all good) and the organiser dished some interesting dirt.

            Turns out, The People’s Assembly aren’t born of Left Unity at all. Left Unity is entirely the creation of Ken Loach’s appeal for unity and a new front of left politics, but, absolutely Left Unity support the Assembly and what they want to achieve, it’s all for the greater good.

            The interesting bit….. vice versa; its not so pleasant. There have been incidents of the People’s Assembly cutting Left Unity people out of it’s circle of communications as much as possible. It ‘seems’ like the organisers are a tad possessive over the cause and don’t want us to hijack it, which we wouldn’t, we would just support in any way we could. Twas a most eye opening discussion!

          • Mike Sivier June 20, 2013 at 12:04 am

            I’m very sorry to hear that, It seems the divisiveness that has dogged the Left for decades is still creating problems. Why can’t people put their own egos away and get behind the cause?

            Thanks for mentioning the blog!

  4. b-b-p June 18, 2013 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    Cameron and his cohorts similar to Miliband and his have reached the conclusion we the General Populace are apathetic and resistant to change ,so force it upon us .Mingled within those changes are their own hidden agenda’s .Our Previous faith in voting for the Party that seemed to have suited our wishes is now long gone because of our resistance to any change .But who’s right and who’s wrong .Governments look to the Global outlook on issues we the public are quite satisfied with our daily lives without the routine being affected .
    The last two years of radical change within this Country ,with more to come have upset the General Public’s normality of plodding along . Government have forced draconian Policies upon us .Where is the Happy Medium there is none until Politicians realise that they represent us and are in power for our benefit but without damaging the overall wellbeing of the Country .That I am afraid is a very long way away .

  5. Elspeth Parris June 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    What bothers me is that a lot of the activists seem to think the people’s assembly is a waste of time. but all the activists are doing is to say ‘stop this, stop that’ nobody is offering constructive alternatives. Peronally, I don’t believe in the labour party any more, it hasn’t been a socialist party for many years. If it were possible for it to become a socialist party again, credibly, then I’d go for it. As things are though, I’d rather see the creation of a new party to represent the ordinary folk of this country.

  6. Alan Sharples June 18, 2013 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    Even your modest proposals:, for some type of nationalization of some industries, cooperatives and to “Devise new policies for health, workplace safety and social security” are “impossible” demands,even for our new pragmatic Labour party. All over the world ‘things are kicking off’,or hadn’t you noticed? because people are making a stand over quite small issues. As I see it, its all or nothing, reasonable requests are treasonable, a plea for a say is met with tear gas. People here are apathetic because they sense this, and the task is enormous itrequires more than petitions and protests. Maybe they hope,if they sit tight, it will all blow over and things will return to normal. But things have never been “normal”,and they are getting less normal by the day, or hadn’t you noticed that either?

    • Mike Sivier June 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      Yes I had noticed.
      I decided not to overreact, though.

  7. Steve CK June 18, 2013 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    I think you might have the plans of Left Unity a bit out of kilter Mike. They are planning to try and form a political party and you won’t find a supporter amongst them who will agree that Labour are our best chance of changing direction. Myself included. I ended my Labour Party membership after realising that the party leadership has become an almost carbon copy of the current Etonian pigs that have their snouts in the trough.

    Labour are and have been for a long time; part and parcel of a terminally broken political system that needs wholesale reform. A large part of that reform needs to be a refreshing influx of more regular people representing their peers in Parliament. Bland careerism has taken that away, we need to take it back.

    I don’t agree that it’ll be enough to just ‘try and put pressure’ on Labour to remember their roots. It needs to be a sustained, organised party that are serious in their intention to take seats in parliament and re-educate the masses of this country to not just ‘look after number one’ first and foremost.

    If that sustained effort then had a side effect of making those within the Labour Party who are true to its roots take action and try to put the party back on course, then great, but that doesn’t guarantee out future. It’s up to us to make it happen.

    • Mike Sivier June 18, 2013 at 4:56 pm - Reply

      I take your point about Left Unity. My problem with the formation of an entirely new political party with an intention of winning elections is, it won’t.

      I don’t know how to put it clearer than that.

      However, if the idea is to create a left-wing version of UKIP, to steer Labour back in the proper direction (which is the only way I can envisage such an organisation working, or having any effect at all), then people still need to be in the Labour Party who will push it that way.

      • Steve CK June 19, 2013 at 10:06 pm - Reply

        I guess those of us involved will try anyway.

        There’s no way in gay, pink fluffy hell that the Labour leadership will ever pay attention to its grass roots members anymore. That ship sailed, hit the rocks and burned a long time ago. Or, they would if enough of them created a big enough stink but a) they won’t and b) now Unite Len has popped his head over the parapets and supported Ed M with his economic intentions, they’ll feel brave enough to go forward with trying to out tory the tories.

        But again, if it does nothing more than manage to create a realistic amount of attention and belief in healthy left politics again, then so be it. As a minimum that needs to happen and it needs to happen soon.

  8. guy fawkes June 18, 2013 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    I think if labour start adopting the socialist policies they once had, we may see an exodus of the middle class who entered new labour under Tony Blair and I say good riddance to them, because they have helped formulate the policies John Reid was sticking to today on “daily politics” bbc.

    • Mike Sivier June 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm - Reply

      I’m glad that this is not a view taken by all Labour MPs.

      Michael Meacher’s blog had this to say about last week’s announcements: “In the last week Labour has tried valiantly to get across the message that it can be just as tough as the Tories in taking unpopular decisions, but with ingenuity it can be done without causing harm. It is a message that strains credulity, though it has delighted the Blairites. Contrary however to what the latter faction believes, it is not a message that the great majority of the British public has been waiting expectantly to hear. They see it as the wrong message. And they’re right. The policy the public are looking for is not how far Labour can out-tory the Tories over austerity, but rather a policy of growth and hope for the future. And the public is right too that such a policy is perfectly possible, and that that is what Labour should now be promulgating.”

      Read the rest at and tell him I sent you.

  9. garstonlad June 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    I hope the labour party are sh*tting themselves, but somehow I doubt it!!

    • Mike Sivier June 18, 2013 at 6:05 pm - Reply

      I doubt it too. But then, the Tories couldn’t give a fag about UKIP until the Purple Peril started winning votes from them.

  10. sakollantai June 18, 2013 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    A reblogué ceci sur sakollantai and commented:
    spot on

  11. Mike Magee (@askwhybooks) June 18, 2013 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    Just what has The People’s Assembly got to do with the mew party, Left Unity? I just checked this page, and cannot see any mention of Left Unity. Of course, the aim is indeed left unity, among other things, but the Left Unity party, I believe is a separate initiative.

    • Mike Sivier June 18, 2013 at 10:06 pm - Reply

      Left Unity supports the People’s Assembly. Look on the website and there’s a page publicising the Assembly meeting on Saturday. Left Unity is not a political party, although it is correct that there seems to be an intention to create one.

  12. ghost whistler June 19, 2013 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    I have found the response from some to be extremely disheartening.

    I understand the trepidation and the fear that the PA may turn out to be another ‘talking shop’, but to call for a sneering campaign next door on the same day is beyond pathetic. This is just the worst aspects of working class warriors. It’s almost inverse snobbery.

    That said, and while I think it behoves us to give the PA their chance this weekend to say what NEEDS to be said, I am not prepared to sit back while they end up liek the unions. We need action, not words; the unions like Labour have abandoned us. If this does turn out to be a back slapping festival of self indulgence for Owen and his friends then I will certainly be among the first to criticise.

    Anything else is divide and rule; criticising the PA before it’s first proper meeting is playing directly into the media portrayal of socialists and lefties and it saddens me to see people like Johnny Void do exactly this.

    • Mike Sivier June 19, 2013 at 2:42 pm - Reply

      Johnny Void’s article criticised the organisers of the People’s Assembly, particularly for charging an entry fee.

      They have responded as follows:

      “For everyone enquiring as to why we are charging for registration:

      “Most unions and local groups who are signatories for this event are sponsoring local people to attend. Do get in touch with your local union.

      “Also, if you are unwaged the registration cost is £4.

      “We do understand that paying to register is a contentious issue, however the costs with setting up and running such a vast meeting as this alone will mean that the event will run at a significant loss anyway.

      “If you are having real trouble in finding a way to attend and would like to, then do please get in touch with us and we will do all we can to accommodate you. The bottom line is that anyone who wishes to attend but cannot afford it, will not be turned away.”

      • ghost whistler June 19, 2013 at 2:55 pm - Reply

        His article wasn’t just aimed at the cost of entry, it was lazy class warfare.

        I think they could have handled the cost aspect a LOT better, but sitting their and taking sideswipes at Owen Jones is beyond lame.

        If people have an alternative to hearing the PA out or to putting on events that, presumably aren’t free to stage, then by all means.

  13. Paul J June 20, 2013 at 1:26 am - Reply

    The time to do this was 2004. Call me in 2017 if Labour turn out to be no better than the other lot.

  14. richardbroomhall July 18, 2013 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Reblogged this on this 'n that.

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