Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Beyond the Ballot Box: event report

The wide range of grassroots campaigners at a Red Pepper hosted event showed there's more to politics than elections. Clare Walton reports

April 30, 2015
5 min read

btbb1Photos: Zakariya Gacal

With the general election fast approaching, last Wednesday Red Pepper hosted ‘Beyond the Ballot Box: Ways We Can Win!’ The aim of the event was to explore, celebrate and be inspired by grassroots politics and the people that are fighting and winning on the issues that matter to us – from stopping social cleansing to education to ending Israeli apartheid.

While the political options on offer from the mainstream parties tell us we should accept austerity (or a watered down version), endless war and capitalism, there is an alternative political reality that already exists in grassroots campaigns and groups – with solidarity, social justice, mutual support and personal liberation both the means and the end for many of these groups and organisations.

Unite the union kindly hosted the evening in central London, and it was led by speakers busy making change happen in five areas: education and the arts, direct action, workplace organising, community organising and solidarity organising.

We kicked the evening off with films from the Economic Justice Project’s ‘We Can Win’ website- listening to Laxmiben, who struck in the 1976-1978 Grunwick Strike, as well as Ann Scargill and Betty Cook from the Women Against Pit Closures group, and Tony, who organised against the Poll Tax in north London in the early 1990s.

Their words provided a context of past struggles and successes for the individuals and groups who spoke for a few short minutes each about the current campaigns they are involved in. Henry from the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain was first to speak about the successes of the 3 Cosas campaign, followed by Roger from Disabled People Against Cuts, who described the politics of solidarity that pins together the group and inspires its direct actions.

lpaClaire and Naia described in detail how they were part of a collective of activists from London Palestine Action and other Palestine solidarity groups who shut down drones-part arms factory Elbit Systems for two days last summer to highlight the company’s complicity in arming Israel during the latest attack on Gaza. Jinan from Shake! talked about how the project’s arts for political and personal liberation programme had led her to understand self-care as a radical political act, while Farzana, also from Shake!, challenged the traditional left to take art as a medium for radical political change seriously.

The youngest speaker was sixteen year old Tasnima from the Globe Poets, who spoke about her alienation as a young Muslim woman from a Left that refuses to use accessible language, and finished her speech with a tongue-in-cheek spoken word piece that challenged those who speak on behalf of Muslim women. Speakers from Unite Hotel Workers branch talked about the difficult work of organising in hotels, activists from English for Action London spoke about how ESOL classes were vital in supporting migrants to challenge political and social inequality, and Maya from Voices for Creative Non-violence described the challenges of building effective solidarity with peace groups in Afghanistan.

mfjThe evening was finished by a short talk first from Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary, who detailed the ramping up of organising around migrant detention and the need for action, before Jasmin from Our West Hendon sent the room out on a high with a rallying call to action against social cleansing.

Dozens of people stuck around for nearly an hour afterwards to continue the too-short conversations, to swap numbers and contact details, to discuss ways to work together in the future, to share admiration. Many of these people continued these conversations for many more hours in the pub – perhaps showing that inspiration really is contagious.

The speakers were predominantly women, and they demonstrated very clearly that there is a wide and exciting range of struggles going on in lots of different spaces and places, from the classroom to the streets to the home. We need it all to win – and we need to recognise it all for it to win.

With the event over the challenge now is to respond to the calls from the speakers: join the movement against detention centres, take art seriously as a medium for political expression and change, use language that politically inspired young people can relate to and understand – and overwhelmingly to keep listening to each other and supporting each other’s struggles.

For more information about these campaigns and many more, see our People’s Agenda series.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright

Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones

‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression

Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death

‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum

The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes

Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference

Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki

Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase


11