Packed with anger

Samir Jeraj reports on the Coalition of Resistance conference

November 29, 2010
4 min read


Samir Jeraj is a Green party councillor in Norwich.

I arrived at the Coalition of Resistance (COR) conference into a crowd of energy, anger and passion. The 1000 capacity venue was packed out, with an estimated 1200 delegates filling the hall and overflow rooms. What I saw started to make sense of disparate meetings and conversations I had been having with friends, colleagues and acquaintances since the election of a hung parliament and the establishment of the coalition government.

In the months leading up to Saturday, friends of mine have become increasingly worried about their personal situations in work and out of work. Those in work were worried about their jobs, their colleagues and the people they served. Those out of work were becoming stressed, depressed and withdrawn after sending tens of applications per month and being met by silence. What actions like the student demonstrations, Vodafone closures and the COR conference have provided is a way to make the personal, political.

The delegates listened with anger as the dismantling of the welfare state was laid out before them; and in silence when one of the school students kettled by the Metropolitan Police spoke from the platform. In many ways this was an educational rather than a policy or strategy-making event. In the workshops, delegates heard from speakers (including myself) and debated matters around political strategy, organising methods, and specific issues around women, benefits, and climate change. What was clear to me was that the movement was understandably pulling in many directions to face the broad attack on social welfare, but where it needs to go is to support specific struggles at the local level against cuts and privatisations, picking its targets well and building a successful movement.

In the workshop I was speaking at (‘What Should Political Representatives do?’) the conversation ranged widely between altering the nature of political representation by campaigning for AV, the individual commitment of MPs such as Caroline Lucas, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, and my own contribution which touched on the dilemmas of local government. What I tried to push and to impress upon the audience was that there are ways of resisting and opposing cuts in local government, but they will suffer the same fate as previous struggles unless it is part of broad and coordinated action such as with resistance to the poll tax.

Of course our movement, like any other, can improve itself. The workshop on women and the cuts produced a resolution asking for the national committee to be at least 50 per cent women, which seems only fair given that it is estimated that women will shoulder 75 per cent of the burden of the cuts. Similarly, despite the support of BARAC and great speeches by Lowkey and Lee Jasper, the movement needs to improve its links with ethnic minority communities. Hopefully in the time between now and the policy making conference being called for Spring 2011, these links can be developed along with building up a network of local campaigns

The elephant in the room was that, despite being united in opposition, we have yet to move towards a clear alternative. There was the start of such a programme in speeches calling for green jobs, in calls for a progressive taxation system and a welfare system which was about providing good jobs and training. Housing was barely mentioned in the sessions I attended – the delay to changes in Housing Benefit could well be the second point of weakness in the coalition after tuition fees. Civil society could draw upon the example of other European countries to propose and perhaps start a wide-ranging package of reforms to enable more social housing and to improve tenant rights in private rented housing. Once we have a programme then we can start to work with progressive politicians to bring it about. Above all, the message which came out from the conference was that turning the clocks may to before May 2010 will not be good enough. What we are seeking is beyond a change in government, it is a change of policy away from greed and towards justice.


Samir Jeraj is a Green party councillor in Norwich.


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving

Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue

Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK

A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank

News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions

Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release

Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts

‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette

The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.

How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op

Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU

Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity

Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson

Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release

University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.

Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.

Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History

Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.

A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas

Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'

The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion

The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.

Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.

Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism

What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry

Airport expansion is a racist policy
Climate change is a colonial crisis, writes Jo Ram


5