Britain: People's Assemblies electrify anti-austerity movement

Issue 

The People's Assembly is electrifying the movement against austerity in Britain. Hundreds of new people are flocking to People's Assembly meetings around the country to hear speakers like author Owen Jones, comic Mark Steel, anti-war activist Lindsey German, trade unionists and local campaigners outline the need for coordinated national resistance to the government's plans.

Recently, there was the day-long launch of the Nottingham People's Assembly with more than 400 people attending; a 200-strong rally for the Assembly in Newcastle; 400 packing out Sheffield Hallam University; and a monster 700-strong meeting for the Assembly at Manchester's Central Hall.

All of these meetings were among the biggest radical events in their respective cities for years. The aim of the assemblies is to bring together all constituencies under attack and draw hundreds of thousands into action.

Stewart Halforty, the key organiser of the Nottingham event, admits to being taken aback by the mood and the sheer scale of the event, saying: “It was way bigger than even we expected. There were hundreds of first timers and the participants were incredibly mixed, though women predominated.

“People are so angry and desperate for alternative ideas and arguments ― the workshop on alternatives to austerity was the biggest by far. The movement in Nottingham has been transformed.”

Penny Hicks, who chaired the Manchester meeting said: “The vast majority of the audience were new to the movement, you could tell by the incredible atmosphere and the enthusiasm of the applause in the room.

“Maria Brabiner from the Broughton 'No Bedroom Tax' campaign made an incredible speech summing up the pain the government is inflicting and the rage people feel.

“People were really moved but also buoyed up and ready for action. There has been nothing this inspirational since the anti-Iraq War rallies.”

The series of People's Assembly rallies and meetings will culminate in a national People's Assembly Against Austerity in Westminster Central Hall, London, on June 22.

It is backed by eight national unions, key national campaigns and hundreds of local trade unions, community and anti-cuts groups. Already nearly 2500 delegates and activists have registered to come.

The Assembly will discuss and decide a program of mass opposition to the government's austerity program.

[Abridged from Counterfire.]