Bill Greenshields Chair, Communist Party of Britain Member of the People’s Assembly Steering Group, sets out the tasks facing the recall conference of the People's Assembly.
Today the fastest growing political force in Britain, The People’s Assembly , comes of age after just 9 months of rapidly growing activity against austerity right across Britain. In a week that has seen the loss of two great leaders of the people’s movement – Bob Crow and Tony Benn - the first national delegate conference of The People’s Assembly will develop the anti- austerity fight in the light of real practical experience of starting to build not just another campaign group, but a real movement of ordinary people, deeply rooted in communities and union memberships.
This movement will act as a great and lasting tribute and memorial to their fighting lives. Our founding event last June saw 4000 people come together to start the process. Today the people attending represent not just themselves, but are delegated from an impressive array of national organisations, trades unions, campaign organisation and over 80 local People’s Assembly groups.
We come together to restate our conviction that there is no need for any cuts or austerity - and that the intention of these government policies is simply to enrich the wealthiest section of society who spend their lives in the service of big business and finance in Britain and abroad. That enrichment of the few is to be achieved by the impoverishment of the many through pay and pension cuts, savagely reduced conditions at work, public service cuts and privatisation etc. It is a truth that is becoming increasingly and painfully obvious to the mass of the people – but which is denied vociferously by the Tory led Coalition – despite the desperate yelping from time to time of the Lib Dems, anxious to save their skins. It is denied almost unanimously by the press and media – with the great exception of course of the people’s paper, The Morning Star. It is denied too, to their shame, by the leadership of the Labour Party. It is, as Frances O’Grady said at the founding event, a class war. They are seeking to inflict a decisive defeat on us. Protest is not enough.
We need to inflict a decisive defeat on them – there is no other way. The ruling class will do all it can to divide us – public sector and private sector workers, men and women, black and white, long term residents and new immigrants, those in work and claimants. Against their attempts to divide and demonise, the Assembly will play a key role in building solidarity and unity across all our people. We will commit ourselves to ensuring the active participation and leadership of the movement of all sections of the people – particularly those most damaged by “austerity” - claimants, women, minority ethnic groups and disabled people. We will today commit ourselves to fight back in unity and solidarity in the movement as a whole, with the organised working class in the Trades Unions at the heart and head of our movement – and demanding the right of workers to organise freely in those unions, opposing all current and further attempts to undermine our right to resist .
Our Conference today illustrates clearly that there is a real crisis in the political representation of the working class. Our movement enables that class, and any others opposed to the manipulation of society by the big monopolies and their demand for “austerity”, to develop a strong and powerful voice. So today’s conference will not simply restate what has become increasingly obvious.
It will formulate our own plans for a Britain in which people’s needs become the driving force, instead of millionaire’s greed as at present. We will have the opportunity to fully support and endorse the People’s Charter and its broad range of economic, social and political policies. And we will be going into detail to call for a focused campaign for public ownership of energy, water, transport and mail – and of the banking and finance industry.
We will be adopting active opposition to specific issues such as the bedroom tax, and looking at the wide picture by declaring opposition to the European Union/US Trade agreement which makes privatisation legally enforceable. In fact we will set up a Committee of Inquiry into all the workings of the EU that enforce austerity and privatisation across Europe – and beyond.
We will be looking searchingly at the central issues of Education, NHS, NATO and Trident, the effects of austerity on Climate Change – again not only in what we think and say – but what we can do throughout Britain. And we will be expressing our solidarity with those fighting austerity throughout the world – focusing on Greece. 180 years ago in 1834 rural workers in Tolpuddle and industrial workers in Derby stepped up the fight for Trade Union rights, decent working conditions and pay, and democracy. We are still fighting the same fight today – and just as the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the heroes and heroines of the Derby Turn Out have gone down in history, we will make history too. We will build a real people’s movement against those who have attacked us throughout history.
We need and will build a real anti-monopoly alliance. As Bob Crow said at a 10,000 strong rally for jobs in Derby, “We can’t win if we don’t fight. And in fighting, we will unite and ignite the people – and then we’ll be unstoppable”. That’s the task that we eagerly take up at The People’s Assembly.