Solidarity meeting in Newport
We have often heard it said, “what is the point?”, “you can’t achieve anything by protesting or demonstrations”. Well, it is debatable whether this is entirely true because history tells us a different story and also it is dependent upon any particular definition of achievement or change or whether any aims, objectives or specific goals have been achieved.
Well for sure there are many different ways campaigns in themselves can organise.
This is where we look towards uniting in action and “Solidarity”. Linking up with common goals exchanging ideas and mutual support is what is being talked about here. But overiding this is whether something is sustainable or not. Whether the organisation or group is here today and gone tomorrow. Whether the limitations of a campaign prevent sustainability and continuity.
We hear about sustainability in many ways today, whether it is in the economy, Government or any social programmes.
I am sure tonight we will here about sustainability transition plans for the NHS, there is sustainable issues and “Green” plans long talked about at Council level, some have been ditched, half heartedly implemented or temporarily shelved. We have heared about sustainability in energy production, oil gas, fossil fuel supplies etc, etc.
What we have to consider is whose sustainability we are talking about. Is it for us, for the community or for big business? Let me tell you now, the powers that be only want one kind and that is theirs and do you know what? – Theirs do not work. The sustainability plans for the NHS represent an American style private NHS as an alternative, here this plan was scratched together for Health and Social Care, which is only a notion and “My Life a Full Life” has yet to provide any results of any consequence, not one new care home or respite centre or nursing home that can alleviate the constant pressure on the NHS.
Very close to sustainability is the notion of “strong and stable and effective” and efficient, often used to undermine the NHS, such as the Stafford issues and practically every hospital in the country. The political rhetoric we know, but we know also the propositions for a stable alternative are simply that, all talk and no substance and definitely show no signs of sustainability or stability, hence the collapse, the wrecking and chaos we see emerging inside and outside of the NHS.
We have seen it with the education system on the Isle of Wight over recent years and also with the Academies. So when we talk about saving our schools we are clear what we are saving them from and also it begs the question, “What are we going to do to make them sustainable?” It certainly cannot be the methodology of previous administrations and Government.
We have also seen how these Brexit talks are going or not as the case seems. Where is the essence of a deal? Where is the sustainability of economy or trade? What is on offer for EU citizens now resident in the UK? How is the Irish peace agreement sustainable? How is the partnership with Scotland sustainable?
In the anti-war and peace movement how, after massive opposition to wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine, Libya, how is peace sustainable when the demonstrations of the past were so massive? Yet no war has been stopped. This is the greatest test of sustainability to date. Yet whose sustainability are we talking about here? I am willing to suggest even here it is not ours. It is to do with isolation of the cause, separation from what else is happening and solidarity.
Today we have the issue of “frack free”, we have the notions of shale gas extraction replacing other unsustainable sources with new “sustainable” ones.
In transport and connectivity we are told of the sustainability of our ferry service, our railway, our PFI roads, our floating bridge. We are told that our recreational facilities such as parks, ice rinks, are not sustainable in their present form. Which brings us to our sustainability as opposed to theirs.
Without common cause we cannot be commonly effective so therefore we have to link up, we need our solidarity.
There are two distinct but interconnected aspects to organising. What are we against and, what are we for? One is reactive and one is proactive. One is the resistance to what is going on, whether it is cuts, funding restraint, Austerity, private monopoly interest. It is how these individual interests operate and how the tactic of divide and rule holds people back in achieving their aims and objectives that matters.
Second is to look at not only what we are against but what we are for – this is our proactive and creative side. What are we proposing to put in its place? Astonishingly in good old down to earth Northern fashion, in South Tyneside, they have a strong movement to safeguard the future of their local hospital and local NHS. What are they saying? They have the audacity to come up with a completely new notion. They are saying that their campaign has grown, they have protested, they have demonstrated, they have exposed the fraudulent sustainability and transition plans but now they are saying, “Well, it looks like we are going to have to do it ourselves!”. They are in fact telling us that they may have to run the health service, locally, without ouitside help!
Is this a solution? It is very interesting though!
The idea transforms the regular notion of how things are decided upon. It challenges the notion of dependence and decision-making to one of empowerment and confidence in the abilities of the community. We have seen how the people of the Undercliff wanted to take matters into their own hands by resurfacing the road after the hesitations of the Council and Island Roads who made them rip it up again. This showed how the PFI firm’ only consideration of sustainability was not left to stabilising the road but the sustainability of a lucrative contract, which even the Government deflected the issue of natural disaster funding and coastal maintenance by abdicating its responsibility to the community saying that it was a local issue where PFI was in place.
There is much experience in the community for education on the Isle of Wight that goes back many years on children’s educational rights, it has been determined by the struggle for the alternative. So saving our schools has not been simply about saving one particular school such as Sandown. There have been many instances of here today and gone tomorrow, but the issue has never gone away. The movement for decent education has only been interfered with and disrupted by the decision makers and politicians. There have been many instances of advocation of various alternatives to the system. Some have self educated, some have attempted Child and more human centred education. All with the notion that education is a right of all and not a privilege of the few, somehere instilled in the psyche, which has driven one to defend or attempt something new. What kind of education do we want? Do we want education that serves us and for a happy and safe milieu for children to learn in. Do we want a system that serves only the production needs of the economy providing only the so called sustainable skills for an elusive sustainable economy or do we want to sustain our cultured, caring, peace loving, rounded future generations – educated in an all sided curriculum?
In all of this we cannot simply look at campaigns in themselves but something that should be enduring and sustainable, as necessary components of people themselves being democratically empowered. We believe in the present but want to take care of the future, so this is why we participate and speak on this broader issue of linking up and helping to provide the necessary solidarity requirement, where all movements can exchange views and experiences and tell us all what you require in terms of support. Also hopefully to start the process of transcending the obvious bare essentials and go beyond the here and now and provide something new and sustainable, something that is a forum for the future of our needs in society.