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Demonstrations, unions and charities do not seem to be pressuring those in power and creating positive change fast enough. There has to be more that we can do.
I have spent many years teaching around the world, including in several of the old ‘Eastern Bloc’ countries and that includes one full year living in St Petersburg, Russia.
I have of course talked to many people in these countries and can say that I know firsthand that, despite Western media insisting otherwise, many people say that Soviet times had a positive side for many people.
Of course, the former Soviet Union was also unquestionably tyrannical and oppressive; furthermore, it had nothing to do with true socialism, and has only really served to leave a terrible stigma attached to the words ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’.
So when I contacted the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) for more information after seeing their party political broadcast here, I was not exactly sure what true socialism really is, or what socialists actually believe.
I was put in contact with a member of the Socialist Party of England and Wales (here) named Tom who, calling me ‘comrade’, invited me to ‘pop round for a cuppa’, so I popped round for a cuppa – with my many questions.
It turned out that Tom works as a nurse, with Bob Marley and the Buddha on his living room wall, and an excellent collection of LPs to accompany a very impressive sound system.
When I started with my questions, Tom didn’t know much more than I did about the intricate differences of opinion between all the left philosophers (such as Marx, Kropotkin, Bookchin, or Chomsky) on the political ideology of socialism versus capitalism, or as John Dewey prefers to call it – industrial feudalism (here).
But what he did explain was that, fundamentally, socialism is about the working people having control of the wealth they create. It was up to the people to decide how socialism will work by collectively deciding how the money should be managed and spent. Socialism, he explained, is about communities cooperating – instead of competing – to create a fair society for everyone.
It felt good to talk to someone who didn’t call out “naive” or “dreamer” when I expressed how obvious it is to me that everyone on this planet should be treated with compassion, and how there is no justifiable reason why everyone on this planet today does not have access to clean water, a healthy diet, clean clothes, a home, electricity, health care, education, and motivating work.
Morally and ethically, we were in total agreement, and we have become great friends.
Before I left that day, Tom told me that he was going to an anti-austerity demonstration on 30th May in Nottingham.
What better way to check out my first demonstration than by meeting in front of a statue of the heroic outlaw, Robin Hood, in front of Nottingham Castle? So I said I would join.
The demonstration was a great new experience, and as anyone who goes to a peaceful demonstration will tell you, unless the police provoke violence (see here, here and here), everyone is in good spirits, enjoying the feeling of comradery, community and friendship.
But my motivation for joining the demonstration was to see how effective they are in creating real positive change, and in that context, I felt dissatisfied.
First, there was no unified collaboration. People were sharing flyers and leaflets on anti-fracking campaigns, ant-austerity campaigns, anti-Tory campaigns, etc, but at the same time, I found myself demonstrating under the banner of the Socialist Party in the same crowd as the Socialist Workers Party (here); yet I discovered even these two parties were unable to work together effectively due to some differences of opinion.
Second, the demonstration was organised by UK Uncut (here) who usually “use acts of creative civil disobedience”, rather than demonstrations, to show their opposition, but when, at the end of the demonstration, a young woman from the Revolutionary Communist Group (here) stood up and took the megaphone:
“Just asking the government to stop exploiting us will do nothing!” she cried. “We need to occupy the Town Hall! We need to occupy the banks!”
A few people laughed uncomfortably – and nothing happened.
Occupy Wall Street has done wonders to bring the reality of wealth distribution (here) to the general public, but it has done nothing to change economics; worldwide demonstrations against war have done nothing to stop ongoing fighting in countries like Iraq – and now Syria; massive recent anti-austerity demonstrations in the UK may have temporarily slowed down tax cuts for the poor, but they have done nothing to stop Westminster continuing with austerity measures, and while there are mass demonstrations in Greece and Spain against further borrowing of money from the privately owned European Central Bank at interest, politically-speaking, the entire European Union is against helping them.
Demonstrating by participating in mass protests lets banks, governments and corporations know that people want change, and everyone should voice their demands for a fair and just world. Being surrounded by like-minded people from many different backgrounds, movements, unions and campaigns who are all doing exceptional work to improve society and create positive change is also highly motivating and unifying.
However, expecting demonstrations, unions and charities to successfully pressure leaders to listen to the people does not seem to be creating change fast enough (here) (here) (here). There has to be more that we can personally do.
So what do you think?