An IHOOPS activist reports from the People’s Assembly –
On Saturday, Caxton House hosted IHOOPS’ Islington People’s Assembly. Over 80 people attended to be inspired by a range of speakers and participate in workshops covering the many areas in which the Tory cuts are impacting on the local community.
The day was kicked off by performance poet and local resident John Hegley who entertained the Assembly with songs and poetry.
The speakers: Think Globally, Act Locally
The opening session – ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’- was introduced by speakers from the unions including Peter Kavanagh from UNITE and Sean Vernell from UCU, who called for activists to get behind the strikes on Nov 30th.
Other speakers included local MP Jeremy Corbyn, Lee Jasper from BARAC and Costas Lapavistas who explained how the crisis which began in 2008 continues, threatening even more pain for working people unless resisted. Lapavistas also spoke of the need for alternatives to capitalist crisis.
The debate: How should we organise to defend local services and jobs?
The Assembly continued with a debate between Catherine West, Labour Leader of Islington council, and IHOOPS Secretary, Suzanne Jeffery, about how to defend local services. Suzanne called on the council to defy the government and set a budget which did not involve cuts and to begin a campaign to organise the local community and unions around the defence of such a budget. Some speakers argued that defiance was not possible as the government would come in and run the council, however many speakers from the floor argued such a campaign was necessary, as a “dented shield “ policy could not defend the most vulnerable in the community. Speakers from the floor also urged the council leader to stand shoulder to shoulder with IHOOPS in building for the strikes on the 30th November.
In the break, Sunnie Dae played several of her anti-cuts tunes – you will find videos for these in the post below.
The next section of the Assembly saw activists attend workshops covering issues on education, health, disabilities, pensions, racism, housing, the environment and arts and leisure. Each workshop was a great opportunity for local activists to work together and produce a series of campaigning demands and actions reflecting how to defend local services and what kind of services that we would like to see. Afterwards, the demands and actions were read out to the Assembly and added to the IHOOPS manifesto which will be developed in the next few months into a campaigning pamphlet.
A taster of the actions and demands:
– Demand that Islington council create a forum for all those involved in education to work together across sectors
– No cuts to winter fuel payments to pensioners
– Organise Defend Islington NHS conference in 2012, focus on organizing grassroots (not just big name speakers)
– ITUC want to hold a public meeting with tenants unions and Defend Council Housing – Set up Islington Defend Council Housing group
– Encourage as many people as possible to sign up for Boris Johnson’s conference on 20/10/2011, 9-4pm, on how ‘great’ the Tories have been at dealing with provision for disabled people
– Demand that the council endorse the One Million Climate Jobs report
– Calling for support for the establishment of Unite Against Fascism group in Islington, and in London Met
The closing plenary: Alternatives to privatisation and austerity
The Assembly finished with a final plenary with speakers talking about the way ahead. Weyman Bennett from UAF reminded people of the potential for victory, particularly after demonstrators had beaten the EDL in Tower Hamlets recently. John McDonnell finished the assembly arguing that the tide had turned and that people are no longer willing to live in fear, instead they are angry and ready to fight. He called on activists to join with others during the strikes in November to make the country “ungovernable”.
Some comments from those who attended:
“Excellent event today. Really glad I came” – Pete Beadle
“A great day for Islington and its people from now on we must build and expand” – Padraig Lynch
“A fabulously productive day. Made all the more brilliant by the always hilarious and poignant John Hegly and his awesome accompanist Andrew Bailey, dancing around in front of Lee Jasper and Jeremy Corbyn bashing an inflated rubber glove a’ top his head. Great day” – Steve Parry