“This is the left’s once in a lifetime opportunity to push for radical change in the system.
”If we blow this chance another one is not going to come along in our lifetime.”
That was what the Guardian newspaper’s economics editor Larry Elliott told a packed meeting on the global economic crisis held in central London last week.
Some 300 people attended the meeting, which was organised by supporters of the People Before Profit Charter.
The charter puts forward ten demands to improve the lives of working people in the face of economic turmoil.
Other speakers included Jeremy Corbyn MP, Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU lecturers’ union, Charlie Kimber of the Socialist Workers Party, bus driver Paul Brandon and National Union of Journalists president Michelle Stanistreet.
Larry Elliott was angry at the response of our rulers to the crisis. He said “It’s a bit rich for Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling to go on about how they’ve saved capitalism.
“They left it up shit creek. It’s there because they’ve been brown-nosing the City and the financial sector.”
Charlie Kimber explained that the charter was set up to present demands wide numbers of people can agree on. He said, “If the rich can go through contortions, and change their neoliberal policies, we on the left should shift to work together.”
He said that there must be protests at the councils, the universities and the health authorities who invested in failed Icelandic banks, which threatens jobs, pay and services.
Kimber said, “Show them that we will not allow workers and services to be penalised.” He concluded that, “If the Belgians can have a general strike over the crisis why can’t the TUC call a demonstration here?”
Sally Hunt said, “Unions have got to look very carefully at how we protect our members and how we build solidarity.
“We can’t simply respond to a cut here and a sacking there. We have got to have a way to fight back. Now is no time to move away from industrial disputes – it is the time to press them even harder.”
Jeremy Corbyn MP said, “We have to ram home the message that free market capitalism makes the rich richer, but doesn’t close the gap between rich and poor.
“Nationalisation does not mean socialism. It can be a very important step, but how those nationalised industries behave is a crucial factor.”
He cited the example of Northern Rock’s harsh actions over repossessions since nationalisation.
Corbyn outlined some of the demands that socialists should make: “Think of the horror of people having their home repossessed.
“I want local authorities to have the power to buy those homes and convert their residents into council tenants.”
The meeting finished with the audience breaking up into groups to discuss taking up charter initiatives in their local areas.
Trade unionists mixed with students and representatives of Turkish, Kurdish and Somali community groups.
Support for the charter continues to grow.
Recent signatories include Sally Hunt; Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party; the Unison branch in Tower Hamlets, east London; Councillor Ray Davies, Caerphilly; Richard Hart, chair of Beckenham Constituency Labour Party, and the European Left Network.
For more information about the People Before Profit Charter go to » peoplebeforeprofit.wordpress.com