13 06 23 PAAAI had registered long before responding to a cry for volunteers. But my back couldn’t stand it. So I used my tablet to take notes and photos and act as promoter of the ideas in bullet points.

People’s Assemblies are

It should

  1. stop cuts and halt privatisation
  2. tax the millionaires and big business
  3. drop the debt and put banks under democratic control
  4. invest in jobs, homes, public services and the environment.

The excellent programme of speakers was opened by:

  • Owen Jones who calls himself a fourth generation socialist
  • Frances O’Grady – the first woman to be Secretary General of the TUC – who got us all to link arms, as it’s all about solidarity
  • Mark Steel – the comedian who made too many jokes for me to remember and says in his bio: and yet capitalism still seems to rule the world. But YouTube comes to the rescue:

Stephen Morrison-Burke

  • Stephen Morrison-Burke – Birmingham Poet Laureate 2012/13 – who said that “austerity was their stun gun” and repeated in his wonderful recital “this is serious”.

Topics covered included:

  1. Tactics for the Anti-Austerity Movement
  2. Tackling the Housing Crisis
  3. Mobilising Millions: Re-Unionising the UK
  4. What Cuts are doing to Emergency Services, Local Government and the Communities they Serve
  5. The Climate Change Threat and One Million Climate Jobs
  6. Protecting the NHS: Stopping Cuts, Privatisation and Closures
  7. Welfare not Warfare
  8. Immigration is Not to Blame – Countering Racism, Islamophobia and the Far Right
  9. Democracy and Decision-Making: Fixing our Broken Political System
  10. Stand Up against the Cuts: Comedy and Performance
  11. The Next Step: Creating Local People’s Assemblies
  12. Protecting Public Education
  13. The Economics of Anti-Austerity: Jobs, Investment and Tax Injustice - where I couldn’t get in
  14. Defending our Welfare State
  15. At the Sharp End: Child Benefit

Various speakers of the day made it clear:

  • ‘they’ are waging class war
  • it’s as broad based as possible, from pensioners to community groups.

Nugget quotes were:

  • we are truly in this together
  • austerity is failing the 99% while working for the 1%
  • if you want to govern the country like this, we will make this country ungovernable
  • Stuff your austerity – we want prosperity!

My gem of a discovery was of course Rosa Curling – a solicitor acting for victims of austerity!

People may not see through what’s dishonest about our money system. But they do see

  • that cutting public services means putting profits above people
  • those who did least to cause the crisis are paying most
  • it is time to derail this oppressive regime
  • welfare costs 1.2 bn
  • tax avoidance 25 bn
  • poverty is political
  • too much economic power is in the hands of too few

People are angry, speak with conviction and demand:

  • don’t patronise us with “we have run out of money”
  • start a mansion tax for millionaires
  • acknowledge our right to a fair wage
  • we need to campaign for new economy of greener growth – see our submission to the Treasury Green Credit for Green Purposes
  • we want a different kind of country

Messages of inspiration and empowerment were:

  • We will not be divided!
  • You are either political or a cabbage!
  • It’s nice to be here but it’s not enough!
  • The stakes are too high to get it wrong!
  • Stay strong, stay solid, together we will win!
  • We are all in this together – against the cuts!
  • We must become one great river of protests and an unstoppable force!

There are alternatives to austerity – to lead us to prosperity – but that word wasn’t mentioned (yet):

Tony BennThe star of the closing plenary was Tony Benn whom I had the pleasure of meeting behind the stage. He had reminded us that he was in the Methodist Central Hall in 1945, when the first United Nations meeting was held there and people asked:

If we can have full employment killing Germans,
why can’t we have full employment building hospitals?

We must support all organisations, looking back over the history of slavery, votes for women and apartheid. They succeeded, because people stuck to their campaigns!

Austerity policies are not working.

Governments cuts are not adding to economic growth.

Strike against austerity!

Austerity breeds fascism!

This was a magnificent start. Next time, come back as delegates of lots of people you’ve organised. Don’t come back as individuals. Nov 5th is the perfect date for direct action next.

A most magnificent speech was given by Francesca Martinez:
She feels proud to pay taxes to support the needy – for that is a civilised society. But she feels ashamed to pay taxes to support illegal wars!

Politics is life. If you’re alive you got to be involved!

Stand up and we will stand with you!

What obscene system capitalism is!

In a private conversation, I learned about 23 things they don’t tell you about capitalism by Ha Jun Chang.

Very interestingly, the message of austerity victims to MPs matches the one by those whose children were snatched:

If you are not supporting us, you are not going to get re-elected!