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Leeds Anticapitalists get organised

On 25 January 28 activists from different campaigns and leftwing groups met in Leeds and after discussions agreed to set up an anti-capitalist alternative.  Activists from Leeds Against the Cuts, Keep Our NHS Public, Occupy Leeds, Coalition of Resistance, Workers Power, and the youth organisation Revolution were present along with independents. There was a good mix of young and older activists, trade unionists and students.

The meeting was chaired by Kath a Unison rep and led off by Andy a Communication Workers Union rep from Workers Power. He emphasised that capitalism faced an historic crisis, Tory austerity was an historic attack on working class living standards and welfare state. The resistance so far while magnificent – from the student revolt to N30 public sector strike – and had created thousands of new activists and hundreds of thousands willing to take
action, and they needed to be organised since the established leaders of the trade unions, NUS and Labour were disorganising the struggle or accepting cuts.  An anticapitalist political alternative, based on democratic discussion to discuss alternatives to capitalism and organise action, was needed.

The discussion was open and free, just about everyone present chipped in.

Some pointed out that while there are real problems, the left does some good things – Matthew, a UCU member from Leeds Met, noted that the recent pension strike would not have been as successful were it not for the role of the Socialist Workers Party on the leadership of the UCU union.  However as he and others pointed out, the left was too small as is to make the breakthrough we need in the face of historic austerity, and that the sectarian practices (for instance the three national anticuts campaigns that exist!) actually cripple the resistance. It means failing to develop rank and file initiatives independent of the very union and NUS leaders selling short – or selling out – our struggles.

A healthworker spoke with frustration about the support given to Labour at his recent union AGM, and the need to do something to change things in Leeds, as the left at the moment is in a blind alley.

One socialist said we would have to support Republican prisoners and be anti-imperialist if we were to be genuinely anticapitalist, but a couple responded saying we could take up such issues as they came up in the struggle, a new organisation or network would have to develop its politics as it developed itself, through democratic debate.  But when he said that “Occupy would be forgotten in ten years time” it caused a bit of a ruckus though, as alot of people came back about how important Occupy had been in changing the public debate about capitalism, and the left could learn from the #occupiers and vice versa.  Others stressed the environmental crisis and problems of consumerism linked to capitalism.

All in all it was a very wide open debate.

There was a lot of enthusiasm to get stuck into activity.  Ideas for action ranged from a human scrabble game against cuts aimed at Leeds City Council to work around the hospitals to agitate for a “no” vote in the coming ballot, organised by Unison leaders, to try to take healthworkers out of the coordinated strike movement.  Everyone agreed to support the Keep Our NHS Public meeting on the 15th Feb and help build the Leeds against the Cuts demo at the Tory Party local government conference in Leeds on 25th Feb. A facebook group is being set up, and we agreed to meet up again in a couple of weeks.

One idea was very popular, the idea that open discussion and debate on every aspect of the way forward and the goal was something that came up again and again and is obviously a strongly felt need among many activists, that the people involved had to own the group. We agreed to meet again in a couple weeks time (23 Feb) to discuss what does anticapitalism mean, and organise for the Tory conference demo that weekend.

We hope this is the first step in bringing together into one campaigning, political organisation all those activists in the various movements, campaigns and the left who see the need to develop a strategy to defeat the Tories and austerity, and raise anticapitalist ideas and solutions in the struggle. Come along to the next one, chip in your two pence, its time the anticapitalists got organised!

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