There were repeated calls to use a variety of tactics, from electoral campaigns and lobbying through to demonstrations and civil disobedience, and a feeling of unity between all the different groups – both lefty political groups and those representing services and service users – that we have to fight together to stop the austerity at both local and national level which is failing to deal with the deficit and economic crisis, and will leave many people stranded without the support they need to have a decent quality of life.
As it was an open meeting with no platform speakers, there were lots of things said last night – if you couldn’t make it then have a look at @BrumProtestor twitter feed, as he live tweeted much of the meeting. It’s hard to pull out one or two things that were said for this, but speakers talked about wider strategical questions as well as specific issues arising from cuts and tactics to stop them. The issue of a needs budget was raised on multiple occasions, and there was a general agreement that tactics of civil disobedience were necessary to disrupt things so much that our elected representatives could no longer ignore us.
The only disappointment of the night comes for lefty catchphrase bingo players – there was just a single call for a general strike, one mention of Egypt and a solitary reference to Syriza. The poll tax was of course brought up but then with the council tax benefit cuts, we really do have a repeat of the poll tax with unemployed and some disabled people being charged 20% council taxes – a number that is likely to rise as Eric Pickles cuts funding for council tax benefit by an additional 8.5% next year. The speakers were focused on local issues, specific cuts and general tactics that could be used to pressure politicians into setting a needs budget, standing up for our city and defying the condem coalition’s austerity agenda, and beyond that how we can bring that pressure to bear on the national government that holds the ultimate responsibility for these cuts.
Concrete proposals were agreed on in the meeting – there will be a demonstration and lobbying of the Labour Group on the 4th February, as they meet to agree internally their budget proposals. Further to that will be a demonstration and direct action day on the budget day itself, which will either be at a special council meeting at the end of February, or at the usual council meeting in March. Keep an eye here for announcements of the details of these actions.
A number of working groups were setup to discuss these specific actions and wider issues. These include
- Trade Union Coordinating Group – Attempting to lobby, talk to trade unionists about bringing unions into the fight.
- Direct Action – Planning & ideas working group
- Accessibility Working group – Making sure all our events are accessible.
- LGBTQ – For all self defining LGBTQ people to work towards their Liberation objectives
- Womens – For all self defining Women to work towards their Liberation objectives
- Black – For all self defining Black people to work towards their Liberation objectives
- Disabled – For all self defining disabled people to work towards their Liberation objectives
- Council Tax – Working group for those looking into tax actions specifically for unemployed and disabled people who have to pay 20% council tax from April 1st.
- Claimants Union Working group – To set up a benefit claimants union.
- Expansion working group – Group aimed at getting anti cuts groups going in new sections of the city.
- Writing & Research group – Evidence and information gathering arm.
- Long Term Strategy group
- Community and Voluntary sector organisations
- Vulnerable people working group – This is a group for people who have the specialist communication skills to educate the vulnerable members of society about the solid facts on cuts. People that have skills such as those listed here are particularly welcome in this group: those can speak other languages; those that can use alternative communication systems such as Makaton and PECS (or any other forms of visual education); are skilled in communicating effectively with those that have any form of communication difficulties; provide or create resources in braille and local languages.
- Expansion working group – This is a group which will focus on ways to expand the movement and recruit new people. This may be anything from discussing community campaigns, to setting up new anti-cuts groups in new sections of the city, to discussing innovative actions which will win popular support, among other things
(Other working groups may be added to this list).
If you wish to get involved with any of these groups, please email email@example.com
Between here and then, we have two organising meetings on Monday 28th January and Monday 11th February. Please come along to these and start building for the action on the 4th February.
A report from communities against the cuts is available here: http://www.facebook.com/events/130283703803860/130347003797530/
Socialist Resistance report on the event