99% People’s Assembly Festival Ousting Austerity

99% People’s Assembly Festival Ousting Austerity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Post-Blog

A weekend of demonstration and debate

First session with James Meredith and John Weeks

Last
weekend began with a demonstration of about 150,000 against austerity that
rallied in Trafalgar Square.  I took the
opportunity to dine in Jeremy Corbyn’s favourite Jewish deli Gaby’s in
Trafalgar Square.  It was an immense
celebration of joy and determination that there was another way.
A
group of us went up on the train from Brighton.   In the evening there was a variety of
different musicians and acts at Brighton’s Synergy centre in West Street.
The
main event was on the Sunday, a day of debate and discussion from mid-day to
early evening.  There was an afternoon of
speakers, debate and films that debunked the various myths and explored
alternative solutions to capitalism’s endemic problems. The event focused on
themes such as housing, health, climate change, local cuts and
national/international economics. 
At about 11.30 we were
also greeted with a picket by the Brighton Against Benefit Cuts/Aufheben
group.  BABC is a small group which has
grown smaller since it was founded 6 years ago.

The
day was introduced by Attila the Stockbroker ~ a poet/musician who is a well known fixture at
demonstrations.
The
first session was ‘Economics of austerity and the alternatives’ with John Weeks, an economics professor at SOAS who exposed the myths
of mainstream economics & James Meadway, a radical economist, formerly at the Treasury and an
advisor to John McDonnell.
The
next session was ‘London, the money laundering capital of the world’ with Nick Kochan a financial and political journalist exposing
financial crime and terrorist financing. 
Other sessions included ‘Solutions to Austerity and Bitcoin’ with Dominic Frisby ~ performer, comedian, financial commentator and
author and ‘Murder by austerity’ with Kerry Anne Mendoza ~ Editor-in-Chief of The Canary
Other
sessions included ‘Meet the Renegades from the makers of the Four Horsemen’
with Ross Ashcroft ~ Film maker, Director and Host of the Renegade
Economist; ‘Free Market Global Warming’ with Hannah Barker and Jonathan Neale; Hannah Barker ~ Brighton Climate
Action Network, expert on climate change and its origins and Jonathan
Neale ~ Author of “Stop Gobal Warming – Change the World” and Editor,
“One Million Climate Jobs” Report 
The
penultimate session was ‘Defending the 99% Alternatives and action’ with Andy Richards ~ President of Brighton Hove and District Trades
Union Council.  When many people entered
the Synergy Centre there was a pointless picket outside by the misnamed
Brighton Benefit Campaign.  See 
Small picket at Synergy Centre by Brighton Benefits Campaign
Film
Lounge was curated by Dr Lee Salte, a film maker, lecturer at Sussex university
and staunch critic of austerity.  Food was
provided by the Real Junk Food Projects.

I
estimated that nearly a hundred people attended during the day.  It is also good to have a debate amongst
radicals and socialists about the way ahead. 
Some of the sessions were too short, for example  the opening session by John Weeks and James
Meredith.  How to tackled austerity
within capitalism.  Is it possible?  What are the pitfalls that Corbyn and
McDonnell are likely to face?  Is it
simply trying to manage capitalism rather than overthrow it?  These and other questions kept recurring in
one form or another.
Student debate
It
was noticeable that the traditional left groups, the SWP and Socialist Party
didn’t seem to send their people to the event. 
The Greens were also thin on the ground. 
Brighton’s anarchist were also largely absent though there was an
interesting debate between 4 university students representing the different
political traditions from social democratic, anarchist, Trotskyite and
accelarationist (the latter I’d never heard of before!).  
In
the session on trade unions the question of Workfare, the issue raised by the
BBC picket was raised.  Those responsible
for running the Synergy centre explained the position and made it clear that no
one was compelled to work there, quite the contrary, those who were working at
the Centre wanted to be there.  As Andy
Richards said, the question of compulsion was the main issue.  Were people being forced to work because of
the threat of sanctions or were they happy to be there.  It was clear that the latter was the
case.  If BBC were serious, and only one
person spoke up for their position, they would have come to the conference
rather than boycotting it.

Tony Greenstein 

 

 

 

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