WHY OBAMA'S VICTORY WAS DESPERATELY NEEDED

After commenting how Obama's victory is good news, Alex Higgins recalls how the victory was also desperately needed.

The Democratic victory has served a much needed defeat to one of the most destructive political movements in the West – the American conservative movement, a fractured alliance of corporate self-interest, racial resentment, neo-conservatism, and Christian fundamentalism.

After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the US came to be governed by an awkward consensus between an expansive American capitalism, a liberal establishment in the North,and an apartheid settlement in the South, all under the aegis of the Democratic Party. That lasted until the end of the 1960s. Lyndon Johnson’s overwhelming victory against the Republicans in 1964 (like George Bush’s victory in 2004) belied the major changes that were about to transform American politics.

The atrocious Vietnam War and the white backlash against the civil rights crippled the Democrats. With the American Left too small to replace a floundering liberal establishment, the Right had its opportunity.

Their new movement combined resentment toward black people, bitterness at a lost war in Vietnam and especially those who opposed it, opposition to taxation, and from the 1980s, wedded to Evangelical fundamentalism. They became the dominant force in American politics, succeeding in putting presidents who accepted their world view in the White House - Ronald Reagan, and to an even greater extent, George W. Bush.

Their ideology demands massive cuts in spending on services for the less well-off. It insists on cutting taxation for the rich and removing legal restrictions on the conduct of corporations. It vehemently rejects any questions about the value, application - or even limits - of American power overseas and allows absolutely no ethical obstacle to stand in the way of destroying its chosen enemies.

These positions are couched in moral terms – the commitment of America to promote liberty throughout the world, and a commitment to encouraging self-reliance, giving individuals freedom to pursue happiness in their own way with as little government interference as possible.

The reality of what that movement has wrought has been spectacularly different. The idealism in practice acted as poor cover for the outright self-interest of the rich. Both Reagan and Bush II enormously expanded the role of government at its authoritarian worst, while massively increasing the spending they claimed to be against, much of it in the form of corruptly allowing corporations to use the treasury as a teat. Their anti-tax philosophy demanded that this be paid for by creating a debt so huge that even if the Republicans lost power, it would be near impossible for the Democrats to find money for much-needed social spending, a side-effect that was not unintentional.

Like Nixon’s, both the Reagan and Bush II administrations have been marked by massive corruption and the criminal prosecution of its members. Their removal of necessary regulations on financial institutions permitted the rise of corporate criminality and recklessness. Ultimately, that led to the institutional collapses that cost many ordinary people hundreds of millions of dollars – the Savings and Loans scandals of the ‘80s (in which Senator John McCain was heavily implicated) and the huge crisis in the mortgage and banking sector we have faced in the last few weeks.

Representing the short-term profit interest of business allows no space for long-term decision-making or environmental concerns. Faced with the reality of environmental catastrophe, the conservative movement in the US (unlike the Right in Europe) simply opted for denial – pretending the problem does not exist and attacking the integrity of any independent source of expertise saying otherwise.

Governor Sarah Palin, who has yet to learn that Africa is not a country and proudly defended by the Republican Party base, represented the logical extension of an ideology that encouraged resentment of anyone with the expertise to expose its flaws – scientists, economists, academics, even school teachers. This is tediously presented as a courageous stand for the little guy of the American heartland with patriotic, good-hearted instincts against the supposed snobbery and contempt of East Coast intellectuals and bureaucrats.

These purposefully mindless instincts fired belief in the near-invulnerability of US military power and the virtue of war. It allowed strategists with the barest knowledge of the outside world to take the US into a situation where it now occupies a disintegrating Iraq, is losing ground in a war in Afghanistan, is entering into a war in northern Pakistan and still considers attacking Iran and facing off Russia in the Caucasus. Over a million Iraqis have died and the US army stretched to breaking point in a war of choice launched on a bogus prospectus.

The response of the American public is regret for a war they once supported and now see as a mistake. The response of the American conservative movement is to urge tired armies on to much, much more of the same. A position also taken by the supposedly moderate John McCain who sang, grinning, to Beach Boys’ tunes about bombing Iran.

The anti-Communism of and liberty-celebrating rhetoric of Reagan – and later Bush – was always part of a justification of a US policy of dominating the Third World through client states and force, supporting mass murderers from the twisted death squads of Central America to Apartheid South Africa (and even Pol Pot – US anti-Communism can be surprisingly flexible in its choice of allies). US attempts to dominate the political and economic life of poorer countries through ugly means will not cease under Democratic rule – the problems with US foreign policy go deeper than one party - but Democrats are less indifferent to human rights.

Finally, Hurricane Katrina brutally exposed decades of neglect in public infrastructure, a government uninterested in the role of rescuing its own citizens, and the reality of poverty and racism in the USA. The conservative movement responded by demanding greater self-reliance on the part of possession-less, homeless flood victims.

Obama has displaced a movement that destructive, that heartless and that unable to address any of the problems faced by the people of this world - and not a moment too soon.

Pictures by Nromagna and Orange Acid under the Creative Commons Attribution License.

I WELCOME LABOUR'S TAX PROPOSALS



Today Alistair Darling has an opportunity to radically alter Labour's tax policy. I hope it's an opportunity he grasps with both hands.

Reports over the weekend suggest that the two key tax changes in the Chancellor's pre-budget report will be a 2.5% cut in VAT combined with a new top rate of tax set at 45% for earnings over £150,000. Both these changes should be warmly welcomed by progressives. Some have complained that these proposals do not go far enough, but we must not underestimate the significance of what is being proposed: these policies, if implemented, will finally represent the start of a journey away from Thatcherite taxation policy. If the Government stays firm, we could be witnessing the beginning of the end of neo-liberal tax orthodoxy, if not in Britain then certainly within the Labour leadership.

To understand why these changes are so important, we need to look at the history of taxation in this country since Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979. A key part of her economic policy was the transference of taxation away from income and on to spending. In her first budget in 1979 she cut the top and basic rates of income tax whilst increasing VAT from two rates of 8% and 12.5% to a unified rate of 15%. This put money in the pockets of the rich whilst punishing the poorest who would see little reduction in their tax bills whilst facing increasing prices. Indirect taxes, favoured by Thatcher, always hit the poor hardest.

Ever since 1979 we have seen income tax cuts, most recently by Gordon Brown in 2007. At the same time, VAT has been increased (it was raised to the present level of 17.5% in 1991), although Gordon Brown did cut the Reduced Rate of VAT to 5% in 2001.

If Alistair Darling goes ahead with these proposals, modest though they may seem, he is effectively tearing up the rules that have governed tax policy in Britain for decades.

The political significance is also huge: Labour's last three manifestos have explicitly stated that Labour will not increase income tax. One of the "gospel truths" of the new Labour project was that we could not win if the public thought we would increase income tax. Alistair Darling may be about to slay one of new Labour's sacred cows. For many in the Labour Party, myself included, it's about time.

It may be too late, of course. Because of our manifesto commitment not to raise income tax, no tax rise for top earners would come into effect until after the next election. If the Tories win it will be lost. However, although still ahead in the polls the likelihood of a Tory victory is getting slimmer by the day. My belief is that Alistair Darlings proposals in the pre-budget report will erode that Tory lead further. The new Labour spin machine that once told us income tax rises for the rich would never be popular will now be charged with selling this very idea to the public. I don't think people will need much persuading. The 10% tax debacle earlier in the year showed that most people do have a social conscience when it comes to taxation. The disgust felt towards rich City bankers, who many rightly feel are responsible for the credit crunch, has only galvanised opinion in favour of the rich paying a little more for the benefit of everyone.

We will also need to look carefully at what else Alistair Darling proposes today. I hope to see action taken to close tax loopholes - not always as simple to do as the Lib Dems like to claim but vital for fairness.

No doubt all the media's attention will be focussed on the Chancellor's income tax and VAT proposals. If he goes ahead, then economically it will be the end of "new" Labour. But it is not a return to "old" Labour, as the Tories may cry. What I hope it will mark is the beginning of real Labour. Better late than never.

Tom Copley, Chair, London Young Labour

* Money shot photo by (c) FreeFoto.com

WHY OBAMA'S VICTORY IS GOOD NEWS

We asked our members what they felt about Obama's election as next President of the US. Alex Higgins, teacher by day and journalist by night gives a unique four series piece on why Obama's victory is good news.

Children, canteen staff, supermarket shelf stackers, random people in the street, I’ve heard them all discussing politics with excitement and hope. Something which just a few days ago so many people were claiming could never, ever happen – just did.

I’ve heard so many people say they thought white Americans were too racist to ever vote for a Black candidate let alone one pushing for progressive social change. That the American power structure would never tolerate such a thing. That it just could not happen. Now everyone has had their conception of what is possible in this world expanded. A bleak, shoulder-shrugging cynicism seems a little out of place.

We all just saw that the son of a Kenyan goatherd – once flogged by Kenya’s white rulers - become the elected leader of a mostly white country, the most powerful on Earth. In a world where power and wealth has overwhelmingly been in the hands of rich, white people for 2 centuries and in a country where black people were brought there forcibly as slaves, and even now cannot expect justice or voting rights in parts of the South and have a life expectancy below that of peasants in India. For African-Americans, knowing that the highest office in the country is not beyond reach is a powerful thing.

And consider – there has never been a black, Asian or even Irish Prime Minister of Britain. Or a Moroccan President of France, a Turkish Chancellor of Germany, a Roma Prime Minister of Italy, an Aboriginal Prime Minister of Australia, a Chechen President of Russia, A Muslim Prime Minister of India or – how about it? – an Arab Prime Minister of Israel.

European politics now looks rather uninspiring by comparison - see France’s embarrassing Nicolas Sarkozy and Italy’s flamboyantly corrupt and bigoted Silvio Berlsuconi. Our more impressive leaders are a prudent German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and a flailing, uninspired Gordon Brown.

Around the world, people are looking at the United States with higher expectations and goodwill. Possibly naively, but suddenly the prospect of democratic change in the heart of the superpower which has acted as if the rest of the world is irrelevant seems real, and it could be.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was among those who declared that there could be no such thing as a black US president, particularly one running on a war-sceptic platform. It is harder for him now to act as if what elements of liberal democracy the US has are quite so feeble, and harder for him to put it the desire for political change back home.

Pictures by Jetheriot and Blakespot under the Creative Commons Attribution License.

COMPASS YOUTH ORGANISING COMMITTEE ELECTION RESULTS ANNOUNCED


The Compass Youth Organising Committee 2008/2009 has now been elected. Ballots were cast a few weeks ago and yesterday the votes were counted. The count was conducted by Michael Calderbank form the ERS in a voluntary capacity, using professional software to process the results. The following 11 people WERE ELECTED:

  • Katy Dillon
  • Daniel Elton
  • Amisha Ghadiali
  • Noel Hatch
  • Tom Marley
  • Tom Miller
  • Luke Pearce
  • Joe Riches
  • Cat Smith
  • Samuel Tarry
  • Ruth Walker-Grice

There were 12 positions available. Because there was a quota applied of at least 5 women and 5 men, all the women places were filled leaving one place vacant (as only 4 women stood for election), this means a woman needs to be co-opted to that position in order to fulfill the quota requirement for this election.

The new CYOC will also be making a number of co-options in addition to the mandatory womens place. If you would like to put yourself forward for co-option the please contact Samuel Tarry for further details: youthchair@compassonline.org.uk

DEAR SENATOR OBAMA

Earlier this year Cllr. Kris Brown; one of the youngest Councillors in the UK, and a Compass Youth activist went to the US of A to help Barack Obama in his Primary Election's bid. Here he asked us to publish the letter he has written to President Elect Obama following his historic victory last week:




"Dear Senator Obama,
Although I know I am not the first nor will be the last to do this, I am writing to congratulate you on your historic election win to become the 44th President of the United States of America.

I was elected to my role as a Councillor on the London Borough of Enfield in 2006 at the age of 21. I am often being praised for getting elected so young. Sadly, my story is not reflective amongst the majority of my generation. So many young people care deeply about political issues – like the many millions who marched against the war in Iraq, against climate change or joined the Make Poverty History campaign. However, they feel the vehicle of our democracy, through voting or standing for public office is no longer a force for change while politicians continue to move towards the centre ground and continue with the status quo.

The area I represent is called Edmonton Green – a place I have lived all my life. It is an area of high social deprivation with unemployment and worklessness above the average of the UK. Edmonton is also a place of great and rich diversity, with Afro-Caribbean, Turkish, Greek, Irish and Bengali communities living and working together. I think our diversity gives us character and makes us stronger as a community. Sadly again, there are people in Edmonton that do not see politics as a power to change things. But despite this I never lose heart and will continue to fight to make my constituents lives better. It is because I still believe in politics as a force of change that lead me to support your campaign.

Up until March of this year, I had never travelled the United States before – in fact, I had never left Europe. But for a couple of weeks in that month, I journeyed to your office in Chicago to work on the campaign. Despite the cold, I worked tirelessly calling voters on using phones, working on the internet and more, determined to win you the Texas primary. Sadly, you lost to Senator Clinton (who I have very much respect for) but I was still immensely proud to work with such brilliant people. Previous to that you had something around eight straight victories. When I returned home friends jokingly mocked me that it was I who broke your chain of success. I seriously hope not.

Many people from the UK went to help you during the actual Presidential race against Senator McCain. As much as would have liked to have done so too, I felt it was incredibly important to help you during the nomination period. Through my own personal experience with the Labour Party, sometimes securing the support of party members is the hardest part.

Whilst in Chicago, I was amazed by how many ordinary people were working on your campaign, particularly those who had never voted before, or the many young people I met who were not at an age to vote in these elections but still wanted to help. It is a real testament to a campaign that was grass root led and empowered millions of people under the common cause of “Yes we can”.

I was equally amazed at all the innovative new ways of campaigning, particularly using personalised social networking media like Facebook and my.barackobama.com. Recently, I bought an Apple iPhone and was excited to see an application to connect with voters through it. There is much my party can learn from this style of campaigning to help us with our efforts in the future.

More recently I have been working with Democrats Abroad to help register Americans in the UK to vote in the election. We registered a record amount of people and the voting numbers reflected that. The determination of your campaign to reach out to Americans abroad as well as at home is to be commended. Your campaign understood Americans abroad love and care about their country and should have an equal influence on its future.

I will never forget 2008. I hope this year will remain in history books for centuries to come, as it will teach generation after generation, that the politics of hope is very much alive, that nobody can tell you something is impossible. When things are bad there’s nothing to suggest they cannot get better.


I am not going to pretend, and I believe you will not either, that your Presidency will make everything perfect, the same way I do not believe being a Councillor will make everything perfect. It is not our job to do that. It’s our job to be the building blocks for people to decide their own fate so they can live long, healthy and happy lives.

We face huge challenges in the world. I am now a bit more confident we can see through them.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Kris Brown
Labour Party Councillor for Edmonton Green

COMPASS YOUTH SEEKS CONTRIBUTORS

Got something to say about progressive ideas and campaigns? Get in touch - see the contact tab above.

IF THE US ELECTORATE WAS UNDER 30...

It is with interest that Compass Youth note this post from Aberdeen University Labour Students. Not only are they an excellent barometer of the American electoral college, they also have this:

MATERIALISM, YOUTH, APATHY & ART: HOW WE CAN ALL MAKE A DIFFERENCE

At the Pin the Pits screening, I met Matty C Roche, a cultural activist from Liverpool involved in the campaign. We may swoon about how well Obama's speeches manage to capture the fears and hopes of a generation, but there are young people over here who can unlock our imagination and turn the pressure up on the way we live our lifes and treat each other. In the latest chapter of our "Born free and equal" stories, here comes another, over to you Matty:

There are many who constitute today’s youth who have a voice but who choose not to use it. Materialism and the pursuit of ‘quick fixes’ to one’s personal political awareness and a desire for change, both on a local community level and on a national level.

I would quote Nicky Alt, a Liverpool playwright, who in an interview complained:

“Where the angry young people these days… They all seem happy with their material possessions and no-one wants to climb any ladders. There is so much apathy about – people want change, but they want someone to do it for them”

In a society where values are being constantly eroded and many youth choose irresponsibility, escapism and selfish pursuits instead of looking at problems and trying to address issues, instead of finding cohesive long-term solutions; I think the problem of youth is greed, a lack of empathy and a culture that has been bred of materialism that promotes instant gratification.

The youth have been given a voice, and many schemes are in place in communities to hear their voice, but it seems nobody wants to speak. The youth have lost their ability to connect with politics and the stubborn self-centred lot even choose not to listen. People have closed their ears to the world around them only to become introverted and concentrate only on their own existence, building on superficialities instead of focusing on core personal development or their humanity – that is to be able to reflect on and develop one’s self but to also appreciate the self as a part of a whole, a neighbourhood, a community, a family, a people.

Community breakdown stems from the ethos “You get out of it what you put in” and people are putting everything into themselves, and little into the community. Helping yourself - instead of helping others for the greater good - has become our institutionalised way of life. Even in the home, the family unit is broken up more increasingly, sacrificing familial bonding and sharing experiences at the dinner table for the wisdom and allure of the god with the plasma flashing face and the four corners, be it the television or the monitor of a computer screen.

A lack of discipline, morals and understanding of where you’ve come from, the value of how hard those who before us have worked so we can own and enjoy what we have now had caused us to lose our connection with the previous generations. There is a lack of respect for parents, teachers, employers and no real interest or connection with our roots or the struggles that were faced, the values of the older generations and why these values are so important. Youth and the pursuit of never-ending youth is deified in the media and nobody wants to grow old, nor the responsibility that this comes with. Role models and the people that the youth aspire to be these days are not the wise or experienced; talent, wisdom and experience has given way to glamour, glitz and sex appeal.

We can talk about poverty and the lack of opportunities for the young, but materially we are much better off, much less deprived than the children of our parents’ and their parents’ generation. People had to work hard and fight to earn things in the past, and so people understood the value of what they spent their money on.

Poverty still exists now, but for many of us, poverty is a relative concept, one in which you perceive you need more than you have, and that your life suffers if this desire or want exists.

A person and their success today is measured on what we have, what we own, how we are entertained, as opposed to their values or morals or to forge your own sense of belonging and to be accepted.

And even to be accepted to belong, a child has to be seen to be conforming to these trends and outward displays of material possession. If, as a parent, you try to exercise restraint and oppose these trends and try to instill morals over materialism, often the child will stick out like a sore thumb and begin to think they are deprived, suffering with their peers and at school. All too often, the parent will give in to the child’s whims, where to some unenlightened parents, they think providing materially for their kids is more important than tackling education and values.

Throwing money at these problems creates yet again another ‘quick fix’ and so the child is conditioned to become self-centred and greedy. This accepted trend leads to a mentality of “If I don’t get what I want, I’ll cause trouble”. So in homes, there is a lack of respect for the parents who can’t control them, these same parents who admonish teachers who try and discipline the kids, so by secondary school, youths have no respect for teachers whatsoever. This is not always the case, this is not what I’m saying – but many of the disaffected youth who present us with so many of these problems will fall into this category.

There is an increasing lack of boundaries and morality – such as seen by the recent popular phenomenon of ‘happy slapping’, casual and pointless violence, and the recent atrocity in Derby on the 17th of September, where a flash mob of youngsters and shockingly even middle aged people were baying for a suicidal man to jump. One witness described the scene: "People were filming… we could hear people shouting "jump you…" followed by a stream of expletives. They weren't all just young people, some were middle-aged. To be honest with you I was sickened." The mob ‘successfully’ encouraged the young man to leap to his death, against the work police negotiators were trying to do.

How did these breakaway and disaffected youth become so feral? How has such amorality permeated to even the supposedly more mature people who should know better, who should be acting as role models to the youngsters, and what kind of example of hope does this bring us? Why is youth violence and disorder on the rise so much?

Some would say the solution to these problems would be an iron fist and the jack boot – and I might agree. But this would still not help in raising political, social or independent moral awareness, or a change from within, such as through inspiration.

There is no one solution – I would say more police powers, more power to teachers, heavier penal sentences and punishments that reflect the crime and so there is fear of recrimination, even conscription for national service, but in a strictly enforced non-combat role for 12 – 18 months, where mandatory training, discipline and personal development would be the focus, where we could instill values and a common thread of unity throughout the classes – where abilities and achievements could be recognized and funneled through training schemes instead of this futile pursuit of higher education for all, where people with abilities not suited for academia are not allowed to express themselves and are stifled and so lose sense of purpose and thus become “the disaffected”.

All at least would have a sense of responsibility, and even if one might loathe the experience, upon leaving service they would make their own choices, or one might feel they have learned something valuable. There would be no fear of losing our youth or missing out, as we would all be in the same boat, working towards a common thread - and at the very least, everyone would have an opportunity to make something of themselves, to enter work upon leaving service, and the core problem, which is apathy, would be a very rare thing indeed.

But these are but ideas – no doubt exceptionally difficult to implement, and I’m sure a great proportion of the public, many of you reading this would cry out against such measures. I’m sure that this is a topic that would ignite fierce debate and opinion from all sides. And we, as the public cannot make these decisions anyway, these are made by those whom we elect, or by the lords who are appointed by those we elect.

Empathy, anger management, a lack of individual and social conscience and few constructive vents for the energy of youth of all major issues which now face us.

In Liverpool, during the 80’s unemployment was at an all-time high. People had little or nothing – but they all had nothing together. Few prospects, poverty, and dead-end jobs made people want to fight for a better existence. Workers would be politicized and made aware of issues by their trade unions and there would be a cohesive and constructive vent for their anger and frustrations.

Now, the youth choose hedonism, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, violence and escapism as their vents. Occasionally politically minded people might meet by chance through these pursuits of escapism, but there is no magnet, no common thread with youngsters to unite under one banner and turn their collective voices into a solidarity, a piece by which to make our voices into a megaphone.

A breakdown in families, religion and trade union action; the class divides, apathy and materialism have caused a rupture in society, fuelled more and more by our consumer culture and our desire to be entertained.

But therein lies the key! Many youth shy away from politics because they see it as ‘boring’ or that there is no point in listening or participating because it will make no difference – the politicians never listen. Some are blissfully unaware of the existence of politics and social thought as they will see no further than the horizons of their own immediate life.

But we can all make a change without being dependant on decisions from Whitehall. By using expression and by using this consumer culture and the desire for entertainment, indulgence and spectacle, we can politically motivate or inspire the youth. We just need to know how to sow the seeds.

By using the arts – via displays, exhibitions, installations, theatre, music, film, literature – with even the most subtle of social and political agendas can its audiences be inspired. Art which is accessible and interactive for all, can reach the places the voices of politicians cannot.

Art brings people out of their own lives and unites people in a common interest or admiration, or even disgust. It can serve as a banner, where we can forget our differences and individual pursuits and where our eyes and ears are fully open. Sometimes it can also make you aware of your individual pursuits and differences encourage analysis and independent thought, perhaps to realization of the futility of one’s path, or how to assess, question or strengthen one’s own views on life and the action that we should be taking.

People should realize that “The Arts” are not a commodity for the elite, and the snobbery that can be applied to viewing the arts should be forgotten. Art is simply about expression and communication, and anybody can get involved. People with little interest in “The Arts” will still engage in large-scale projects out of curiosity and to follow the masses which do so.

By providing a spectacle, a stimulus, displays of artwork or creativity, this will provoke interest from curiosity and wonder, and again, possibly even admiration or disgust.

Art can move us in many ways – it can stir emotions, evoke conscious analysis and elicit self-reflection, it can show us our hopes and fears and these are all key in the seeds to social awareness and activism.

Even art in its most abstract form can unite seemingly unconnected people who might share similar realizations, views or aspirations or it might even give a realization to viewers and participants that they are part of a whole, instilling a sense of community and pride.

One recent example of this is the “La Machine” project in Liverpool, a giant mobile exhibition of a huge walking mechanical spider, roaming the streets of Liverpool, complete with interactive special effects, a storyline to evoke a fairytale-like magic and a full live soundtrack from a multi-piece orchestra. Many people in Liverpool decried this as a waste of public finance and grants given by the EU for Liverpool’s nomination as “Capital of European Culture 2008”. It was seen as a gimmick, purely for show, temporarily masking the real and vast problems Liverpool has. The money could have been used elsewhere, they said – and myself being one of them.

However, public schemes and throwing money at problems does not always offer solutions. Thousands came out en masse to unite and marvel at this exhibition, putting aside their pre-ordained views of the spectacle, thinking “what the heck, it’s here, we might as well get involved” and everyone decided to participate, and for the first time in a long time, I experienced and felt a universal sense of pride and togetherness amongst the people of Liverpool and also from those outside Merseyside who’d travelled to see this beast, which albeit a piece of art, felt alive.

To change the problems in society, you first need to change the people in it.

After this three day exhibition, the atmosphere among the locals was still buzzing.

The life in the artwork seemed to have infected the very people who had come to see it, and the city felt more alive, more positive as a result. The spider had gone, but something had changed. Scousers had a sense of pride, a sense of hope that was not apparently there before. Scousers felt united, and violence and disorder over the days the exhibition was on was virtually none-existent.

And seeing that this could be achieved, and feeling a sense of responsibility to prove that pride and seeing that perhaps Liverpool could be on the improve and be worthy of being a world-class city, the people became ambassadors to their city. I have no statistics on the event, I only go on what I could feel and my personal experience and the feedback I have received from locals, but given a sense of pride, purpose and identity, I felt a genuine change in attitudes and vibes, whereas but months ago, I would decry Liverpool as a hostile, aggressive and deprived place.

Sometimes, all people need is a banner or a symbol to unite them, and their humanity can do the rest. But imagine all that interest, all that involvement in such a project, and then imagine the creators gave it a personal or political slant or a social agenda or dedicated the exhibition to a particular cause? Think how many people would be influenced. Think of how many people would have lit a spark inside them to become a light to open their eyes in the darkness?

That is the essence of the “Pin The Pits” campaign, and how I feel that it is an important and powerful example of how art can be used to reach and touch people.

In April 2006, Rachel Horne -the founder of the “Pin The Pits” campaign- put on a project called “The Out Of Darkness Light” project; dedicated to the miners and to those who’d lost their lives in Cadeby colliery during the 150 years the mining complex was open, with a series of light installations, each light representing one life that was lost in that time. Previous PR had informed those present of the purpose of the exhibition, what it was about and what it was trying to achieve – and no doubt those present would have spread the word. Alas though, through lack of resources, the installation was only up for one day and night, and advertisement via flyers for houses, which was initially in the proposal for the project could not be done due to the limited manpower and again, the lack of funding.

But I have no doubts in my mind that those who would have seen the display from near or afar and who would have had no information on what it was or why it stood, or where it had come from would have been asking these questions to themselves.

Our desire to know has been replaced by a demand to be entertained. So why not combine the two? Entertainment which provides insight and learning, education and provokes thought.

People mistrust politicians due to their lies, spin and propaganda – but art allows those to form their own opinions and feelings and to make their own mind up. When before, I said that where art connects, it is also a place where a person’s mind is open.

If a person hears a speech, wherein the political agenda is not to a person’s liking or in opposition to a person’s beliefs, the person can choose not to listen or to walk away from what they are hearing, regardless of how valid or impassioned the piece may be. The content might offend them, and so you close your ears and close your mind to it. You won’t even question it, or allow yourself to question why you are so fundamentally opposed to it.

With a speech, you are taken wherever the speaker wants you to go – you have to follow hurriedly after their footsteps lest you miss a beat. But with art, you can pause, sit, observe, examine, ponder and reflect. Even if you oppose with all your soul the principles or ideas behind a piece of art, you would still find yourself questioning what it represents to you, why it makes you feel the way you do, and refining your sense of self and identity in the process.

The disaffected feel they have no path, not do they feel they need one. The wander aimlessly looking for their own fruitless pursuits, and as they wander, boundaries become less and less clear.

But if artwork can bring someone to examine their roots, then it might instill a sense of connection and cultural authenticity, and then pride. As the great Bob Marley once said: “If you know your history, then you would know where you’re coming from”.

And if you can draw a line from where you’ve come to where you are today, then you can see the events that have led up to this day in your life and with that you can find a direction. And by examining this direction, you can look at which way you’re facing, and find out if you’re going in the right way. If you can give meaning and value to what’s happened before you and what is happening now, and encourage someone to understand this, then there is hope in unlocking empathy for today’s youngsters.

It is projects like “Pin The Pits” and projects which Compass Youth seek to actively support and promote that can bring people like us together, each with their own political voice, to listen and to be heard, like with the “Pin The Pits” campaign which united people under one roof, in the very place where to be heard, there is every hope of real change, where politics, expression and opinion have so much power in this country, where dreams can become real and change can become possible.

But let us not forget, in such projects, many of the people involved are primarily artists – trying to use their passions to live, but also to touch others, to inspire and to educate.

If art can do so much to bring people together in such a manner, and motivate people in such a way that artwork can become a campaign, and then from a campaign – real change – then surely more should be done to credit these artists.

I’m not saying art alone can change the world – I’ve already established I don’t believe in quick fixes or singular solutions to today’s complex challenges. But art which plants or awakens the seeds within us can cause subtle changes from within to instigate movement and realization and can inspire these people individually to come together and become a collective and want to change society as a whole.

Sometimes it takes a symbol for people to examine the reality of their situations and to focus their energies.

People can’t be changed by pushing them form the back, nor can you drag along an unwilling dog and expect him not to dig in his heels. But if you can kindle something inside and show people their past, present and future, if you can give people recognition, if you can awaken awareness and open someone’s mind – then therein lies the key to social change.


Do you want to share your experience of being involved in campaigning, your thoughts on an issue that matters to you? Get in touch at noel.hatch1@gmail.com

PROGRESSIVE LABOUR GOVERNMENT DEFEATED IN NEW ZEALAND


Compass Youth would like to commiserate with the New Zealand Labour party who were defeated by the National Party in elections earlier today. NZ Labour leader Helen Clarke has lead a progressive Government that showed just what a progressive Government could achieve in power and how limited the achievements on 'New Labour' in the UK have been. Despite strong growth and pro-social reforms it looks like the global economic downturn that has affected New Zealand particularly strongly cost NZ Labour the election. The right wing opposition won 45% of the vote, against 34% for Labour, leaving it just short of an overall majority. It will be able to govern with the help of two smaller parties - the United Future and ACT parties - and will also look for support to the Maori Party. According to official figures, National is set to win 59 seats, Labour 43 and their allies the Greens, with 6% of the vote, eight, in the 122-seat parliament.

Despite this setback for democratic socialists and social democrats worldwide we would like to offer our sincere congratulations to Jacinda Ardern, the President of the International Union of Socialist Youth, good friend of Compass Youth and now an elected Labour MP in New Zealand!



Jacinda said during the election campaign: "Labour has strengthened families through the 'working for families' package, supported students by removing interest on student loans, made healthcare more accessible with cheaper doctors' fees and prescriptions, assisted older people by lifting the rate of superannuation, and overseen the lowest unemployment rate in decades. I want to be part of the Labour team that continues to reduce inequalities in our country, further strengthens our public services like health and education, builds a truly clean, green and sustainable country, and maintains principled foreign policies."

IUSY SUPPORTS EVO MORALES’ GOVERNMENT





Our brothers ans sisters in the International Union of Sociliast Youth have released a statement in support of the Bolivian Preseident Evo Morales. The International Union of Socialist Youth is the largest international political youth movement in the world. It represents 150 organizations from over 100 countries and is an organisation that Compass Youth is actively involved with

IUSY Statement in support of Evo Morales' Government

"In view of the seriousness of the situation and all the negative events that have been developing these days in Bolivia, the International Union of Socialist Youth supports the government of Evo Morales in Bolivia as well as its defence of the democracy, the liberty and the sovereignty of its people against those in favour of a coup and responsible for the current situation.

 

IUSY express its rejection to all actions the right are committing which includes violence and confrontation. This position does not respect the Bolivian people will that democratically elected and ratified the Evo Morales Government, who got the 67% of acceptance in the last referendum just one month ago.

 

In addition, the obvious racist attitude of the Evo Morales’ government’s opposition expressed through murders of native Bolivians and several declarat

ions of people from the right are unacceptable and it will not drive to the imposition of any government or system. Before these circumstances, IUSY supports all related actions carried out by our youth members in Bolivia: Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS- ISP) and Movimiento Sin Miedo (MSM).

As an international organization, IUSY demands total respect for the principles expressed in the Letter of the United Nations about the sovereignty of the countries and rejects the inappropriate intervention of the United States as agent of uncertainty. While we totally support the multi lateral role of the meetings of UNASUR and OAS as mechanisms of conflict resolution which would be able to contribute to end this dramatic situation.

 

As a sign of our support to the Bolivian Government and with democracy in this country, IUSY will be holding our meeting of the American Committee in Bolivia from 13 to 16 November."

Samuel Tarry Chair of Compass Youth said: 

"We fully support the statement issued by our comrades in the International Union of Socialist Youth and wish to offer our support and solidarity to working people and Trades Unionists fighting for a progressive future for Bolivia and against aggresive interventions by those supporting the racist backed coup"

Compass Youth contacted Colin Burgon MP, Chair of Labour Friends of Venezuela who said: 

“Bolivia and Venezuela have been at the forefront of building a progressive alternative to the neo-liberal model that caused widespread social chaos in Latin America. This is why reactionary forces in these countries, and their supporters in the US, are seeking to undermine these democratic governments. The current economic crisis underlines why such alternatives are needed now more than ever”



UPCOMING ONEVOICE EVENTS


Dear Friends of OneVoice,

We really hope you will be able to join us for our event on Sunday 9th November to hear from Ana Lipnik and Abeer Natsheh, two of our Israeli and Palestinian Youth
Leaders.

Sunday 9th November at Friends Meeting House, 7 - 8.30pm in Room 7,8, and 9.
Friends House
173 Euston Road
London NW1 2BJ

They will also be speaking at the Universities of Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Birmingham.
Full Schedule of Events:

* Sunday 9th November, Friends Meeting House, London, 19:00 -20:30
* Monday 10th November, Glasgow University, Glasgow University Chapel, 18:15 - 20:00
* Tuesday 11th November, Leeds University *, Conference Hall, 12:00-13:30
* Tuesday 11th November, Manchester University, Room 4, 19:00 -21:00
* Thursday 13th November, Nottingham University, A48 Clive Granger Building, 19:00 -21:00
* Friday 14th November, Birmingham University, Guild Council Chambers, 14:00 -16:00


*Our Leeds events is ticketed only. Please be in touch with Hitham Kayali, hitham@onevoicemovement.org.uk to reserve your place.

Please do forward on to your friends and contacts who would be interested in attending and finding out more about OneVoice.

Press Release: OneVoice Israeli and Palestinian Youth Leaders to speak at UK Campuses

4 November 2008 / London / Young Israeli and Palestinian leaders from the OneVoice Movement will be speaking at the Universities of Glasgow, Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham and Leeds, as part of a week-long university tour to UK universities, which aims to counter polarisation on university campuses by bringing one Israeli and one Palestinian to talk about the realities of living with the conflict, and how absolutist agendas outside the Middle East are harmful and counter to what the majority of Israelis and Palestinians actually want.

In addition to speaking to university students OneVoice Youth Leaders will be meeting with the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, to talk about the importance of civil society in pushing the peace process forward.

Ana Lipnik from Israel and Abeer Natsheh from Palestine are just two of the 1,800 OneVoice Youth Leaders who have had enough of the occupation, conflict and violence and are standing up as leaders to push for a better future for themselves and their children. As part of OneVoice’s International Education Programme, the University Tour aims to give students in the UK the opportunity to be part of the solution and support those in the region working to find a way out of the conflict. This is a unique opportunity for students to ask questions and hear answers, not from politicians, professors, and advocates but from young average Israelis and average Palestinians.

University campuses worldwide are becoming increasingly polarised over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Student groups outside of the Middle East are developing views that are often more entrenched than those within the Region.
Anthony Silkoff, Chair of OneVoice Glasgow's University Chapter commented: "OneVoice's Israeli and Palestinian Youth Leaders are an example to us all. They know the realities of living through a bitter conflict, but they can see a way out. As students in the UK we have a choice; we can take sides and be part of the problem, or we can work together and contribute to the solution."

OneVoice (www.OneVoiceMovement.org) is a grassroots movement of Israeli and Palestinian citizens and international supporters who are fed up with the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and who are ready and eager to support a serious peace process, leading to a comprehensive agreement that will fulfill the hopes and beliefs of both the Palestinian and the Israeli people to end occupation and all forms of violence and establish a two state solution. Operating out of offices in Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and Gaza, OneVoice has engaged 600,000 Israeli and Palestinian citizens and trained a cadre of 1,800 Youth Leaders who volunteer their time to drive the movement forward.

The events will be open to media.

For more details, to confirm your presence, or for interview requests, please contact:

Hitham Kayali

Hitham@onevoicemovement.org.uk
0208 948 5222

LIVE US ELECTION RESULTS FROM COMPASS YOUTH