People Power: Where are we marching?

2 months ago
What does a good protest movement look like? This was one of the issues explored at 'Where are we marching?', a panel debate produced by the IWM Youth ...

English subtitle

And with that in mind we're going to
go on to the next topic which is the
idea of what a good sort of protest
movement looks like, whether it's a
single issue one or whether it's a
broader sort of often from the left
movement that covers a wide variety of
topics and I guess maybe...Kate I keep
coming back to you but I think you're
actually running an organization it's
quite....one how do you sort of get
you know a coherent organisation, with a coherent
message out of a lot of
different people, a lot of different
members, a lot of different activists who
coming to something for very different
reasons?
Well through a very simple democratic
process which is if you're a member you
can come along to our conference every
year, you elect the leadership and you
decide what the policy is you know and
there's an incredible unanimity of
purpose you know? In our constitution
basically you have to be against nuclear
weapons that's it. But then you come
along collectively and put flesh on how
you do that at this moment you know, what
is the priority you know in 21st
century or what's the priority in 2017
2018
you know and you devise your strategy and
tactics accordingly but yes the
unanimity of purpose and the fact that
we've got a grassroots membership
organization, it's a democratic
organization, that's what keeps us on track, we haven't
gone off doing some weird things or
including everything under the sun,
you know we're pretty focused and pretty
democratic and dynamic. And Ben, have you ever
noticed within the peace movement sort
of the various factions I mean, do
you ever find yourself running up
against people who feel you shouldn't be
doing it that way or that you, you know, your
you're not the person to be leading that
one or they're not the people to be
leading that bit of it. Is that sometimes
hard to balance as Mark said? Who knows
what the peacemaker hears people use
that term you know what does it look
like you know there are a series of
organisations some long term, some set up
just for specific short term
campaigns and then there are people who
attend these protests who are what I
call the usual suspects you know. One
of the problems that we've got in the
peace movement is that the fundamental
bedrock of it could be boiled down as in
the people are always there,
you could simple simplify things and say
that it's pacifists,
either of an anarchist or Christian bent
and communists of a you know, like the
sort of Trotskyist bent. And the reason
they're involved is because
fundamentally they're ideologically tied
to the idea of being against war, The
Communists I'm talking in general terms
here and I don't - Let's not get into
factionalism tonight yeah - Communists
because you know they see war as an
imperialist pro-capitalist adventure and
the pacifists because they're
fundamentally anti violence and so I
must be against war because it is an
extremely violent endeavor. These are the
bedrock of the peace movement because
they will always be there because
they're ideologically driven to be there.
Where that can become a problem is when
people want to come into the peace
movement to oppose war in the 21st century
but in order to feel a part of it
or in order to participate, they get tied
into a whole load of issues outside of
that so rather than just accepting okay
we're all here because we're against the
the war in Syria or against war in
general, you also have to be against
Trump, you have to be pro-remain, you have
to be pro-immigration, all these things
are actually within our country there is
a division, there are divisions on so if
we if we're focusing on being an
effective anti-war movement, that is what
we should be focusing on and maybe it's
being a bit more accepting of people
with different underlying ideologies,
different politics because as far as I'm
concerned the most important thing for
me and my organisation is to restrain
our government from intervening in other
countries, okay, that's the priority. Not
whether Trump is coming to the UK or
not. Can I just add something to that that? I mean I absolutely
agree on that and last year, we had our
stop Trident demonstration which had 10
sixty seventy thousand people on it and
there are 29 national organisations that
signed up to support that and they were
faith communities, they were trade unions,
they were development organisations, they
were anti cuts groups you know all these
things and the only....they didn't have to pass a test to support the demo, they just had
to say stop Trident you know. So Matt, I
always keep giving these sort of these
humdingers to sort of explain the entire
thing in
two minutes but in terms of sort of
whatever the peace movement actually is,
in terms of having a sort of single
message, having a coherence and sort of
avoiding splits, you know,
are there any examples where this has
played out badly, where sort of a
movement that was incredibly popular and
have mass support crumbled because of
differing visions of where it should go
next or how people come into it from
different angles and you know they're
together for a short while but then fall
apart I suppose?
Well I think what's what's interesting
is how there's, you know, one of the
things again looking at 100-year period
is there's all these peaks and troughs
and activity and you get these massive
explosions sometimes of popular protest
you know we think of maybe the late
fifties, early sixties against nuclear
weapons, again in the 80s against cruise
missiles, in 2003 against the Iraq war
and I think one of the things that kind
of characterises those those incidences
obviously you know, an urgent event that
requires some kind of response and
galvanises people into a response
but also a kind of unity of purpose and
a kind of you know quite a wide-ranging
unified sense of protest so you know for
example in 2003, obviously Stop The War
coalition were heavily involved, CND were
too, Muslim Association in Britain as
well were actively involved and it had a
you know people that were taking part in
that protest that some of whom, many
of whom, had never been on an anti-war
demonstration in their life so you get a
sense that at these moments it's kind
of a, it is more of a unity of purpose. What
was was the name of the, the full
name of the 2003 protest was I think it was
was also I think a Palestine in
the title....Yeah there was a sub theme
so I don't you know there's always, there
was the question at the time of whether
people were aware you know, which
part they marching for and sort of the
involvement on....Just stop the war wasn't it? I
mean that's the thing, I mean what I
think what was really important about
that demonstration was that was the
moment where people felt that they could
really make a difference because we
hadn't yet gone to war and it was so
extraordinary because I mean for us in CND
we were very aware that prior to
that demonstration, the largest
demonstrations ever in Britain has been
the anti-cruise demonstrations in the
1980s so that was because we
were all terrified of dying, that was a very personal thing
and there were these million or two
people
protesting to sort of save the
population of a country that they've
never been to, they didn't know, that
we're never likely to go there but you know
but it was a totally... Can I
just say but some of those people as
well and this is the important bit I
think, which is actually it's that broad
spectrum of opinion within it and
respecting each other's space, some of
those people will not be automatic into
anti-interventionists and in the sense
that actually I would describe myself as
you know, I've opposed the arms trade, I've
been arrested and put on trial for
opposing the arms trade and doing court cases
all that kind of stuff but actually I
think Sierra Leone was fine as an
intervention, I actually think the I
actually think that people we should
support the Kurds fighting Isis and
Assad I think that is that those are
military things which actually involve
military effort where I find myself
supporting that and we have to accept
that there is a broad range of opinion
within and I think you're absolutely right
when you said that you don't have to
sign up to everything on the card...no, and that was just about Iraq.