Fighting the Austerity Narrative is too important to leave to political parties.
Note: This post is an expansion of a comment that I left on Paul Bernal’s blog post about Labour’s failure to challenge the striver-skiver austerity narrative.
More and more it looks like Labour is going to break for the political centre ground, which is fine if you’re a centrist but not so great for Labour’s left wing. However in this post I am going argue that Labour’s left and indeed the left in general needs to decouple itself from Labour (and other political parties) in order to get the anti-austerity message out.
Now I don’t mean in terms of voting but rather that this is not the time to be looking to a political party (any political party) to lead from the top. To get anything done we need to act from the bottom and show them which way the wind is really blowing.
No longer can we just shout at politicians to change the conversation — they’ve proved they won’t. Nor can we keep screaming at the media for towing the line — they aren’t going to stop. If we want to change the narrative we have to do it ourselves and we can’t do that as a thousand individual voices shouting in the wilderness, we have to work together, and we need to stop relying on noise alone and act. This is not to say we should stop shouting and screaming, but as we are learning to our regret demonstrations are all too easy to ignore or spin.
I think it was Jack Munroe I saw say on Twitter a few days back that “sun and rain make the flowers grow not thunder” or words to that effect.
Right now we need to be sun and rain, we can thunder as well but a dry thunderstorm won’t make the crops grow. We have to be the hand of hope in a time of despair.
So it’s time for grassroots action, we need to take our cues from the solidarity movements in Greece that prefigured the rise of Syriza and from those in Scotland that underpinned the Yes campaign. We need to learn from our own past and the successful campaign against the Poll Tax.
We need a new media (again Scotland is the model), the old media are too prone to support the current narrative. A little book of anti-austerity facts would be cool.
We need a positive campaign against austerity in every town and village. A campaign that both informs people of what is really going on (via leafleting and canvassing as well as online — we aren’t reaching everyone we need to online) and working on the ground to directly help those affected by austerity. We have to get people engaged and they aren’t aren’t going to engage with parties right now (and who can blame them).
Most importantly right now we need brainstorming spaces in which to work out how to do all this.
Come on people. We can do this. We have to do this. Let’s start talking about how.