G20 OR WE20?

As I crossed the road from Euston Station - leaving the masses of commuters and travellers to join the policy wonks and campaign wizards at the aptly titled Friends Meeting House, I wondered if the people jumping on the trains really thought there was "no turning back" from the business as usual mix of work till you drop, earn till you burn society we live in.


As Neal Lawson said welcoming us to the day, "the crisis was the consequence of someone's utopia, it just wasnt ours". But do the people on the dole queue still believe in this utopia, do they even remember the ideals they once had before they got sucked into the rat race? This is why it's not just about adhoc solutions, we need to understand what went wrong. The apparent aims of the day were to focus on joint demands for the G20 and coordinate what happens next.

It's well fair...initt?

And there was enough intellectual magic to make this happen - with everyone from the trade unions ASLEF, CWU, Unite, TULO & TUC to the thinktanks Fabian Society, Global Policy Institute, IPPR via the campaigning groups Jubilee Debt, Public Interest Foundation, Compass and even international comrades Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Although there were more people praising Vince Cable than chanting "burn the bankers", everyone pretty much agreed that markets need to work for people, not people work for markets. Larry Eliott argued that if Labour was to have any chance of winning the elections, it needed a policy programme that was punchy, ambitious and well fair...initt?


If all it takes is a journo and a libdem and riding the horse of the apocalypse...

Is all it takes is a journalist and a liberal democrat to get us out of the crisis? Apparently, that's pretty much what the SDP was. In the real world, I guess we also need a blue peter style guide to (re)building the green economy, something like the "think and do" tank - the new economics foundation.

Andrew Simms, the research director for nef, warned the room that not only will we be going into ecological debt in September - probably the same time freshers start getting into debt - in 92 months we'll lose the climatic conditions under which civilisation emerged. At least Labour won't have to worry about what happens after this, as it's unlikely to be in power. Always amazing with analogies, Andrew then compared consumerist capitalism "like trying to warm your house by burning it down".

Will Hutton, chief exec of the work foundation (do we have an out of work foundation, or will that be most of the left-wing thank tanks if the Tories get into power, minus Demos who've been given the "progressive tory" marketing account) kicked off his session by flagging up "popular protests this week have never been targeted at a better time".



I can't say I could ever imagine Will riding the horse of the apocalypse with the anarchists, but maybe he was thinking of the amazing organic bread being handed out at Climate Camp. He quickly dispelled any notional solidarity with anarchism by arguing that we can't do capitalism without institutions holding people to account.

Anna Coote, head of public sector policy at nef, went even futher and asked that was most important wasn't even whether we do capitalism differently but ask ourselves what is it that we cant do without? It's building relationships rather than owning stuff, it's having our say not getting pushed around. It makes us happier and it makes us healthier.

The tragedy of the welfare state

She then went all controversial and provoked that we can't afford the NHS financially or environmentally, that the "tragedy of welfare state is not relying on human capabilities". Although I didn't quite phrase it in that sense, this is something I agree with, we focus too much on hitting our targets and cutting costs and not enough on using people's skills and wisdom.

After we went into different workshops to work out proposals on everything from the "core economy" to "counter cyclical measures", from the "reform of multilateral organisations" to the "role of the state", from "climate change" to "debt and development" via "equality". After that orgy of jargon spouted out, I wandered into the "core economy" session - which is actually far easier to understand when it basically means all those activities like raising children, caring for the sick, feeding families, building relationships and getting involved in community action.

If the right created a Patriot Act, what does the left need to create?

Following a special video message from Jayati Ghosh, we returned to share this with the crowd. Apparently what we need to ask ourselves when developing legislation is "if the right created the Patriot Act in the US to embed their stronghold, what does the left need?". Admittely, New Labour has taken that question to its natural logic and tried to get as close as possible to copying the Patriot Act, but I guess it was meant to be a provocation not a suggestion.

Anyway, it was interesting how the "tobin tax" and the "maximum working week" came back again and again.

Playing away from home

Other policies started off at the local, like empowering people to make demands to their councils (like London Citizens do), enabling councils to raise funds to respond to the green stimulus (like in Sheffield) and accounting for the core economy (like SROI), then went national, like introducing land value tax and then just went global, calling for a debt wipeout for the developing countries, double majority voting in global institutions.

Then it was all about how to use the evidence to campaign using Compass' secret ingredient - "insider/outsider" (and I don't mean in a RedRag/LabourList way). Up next was Kate Pickett, co-author of the Spirit Level, which I would recommend anyone who thinks campaigning for equality is still all motherhood and apple pie. She sees statistics like a social microscope and in her research what she and Richard Wilkinson found is that a more equal society is happier, healthier, more trusting and...they recycle more...

Burst the Westminster bubble


Then "our man on the inside" Jon Cruddas gave a few hints about what the atmosphere in Westminster was like, with all the internal divisions within the parties, between the third way or the highway New Labour and the social democratic left, between the Orange Book liberals and the social liberals and between the "red Tories" and the err...blue Tories. If there was a 3 a side competition, would we have Purnell, Clegg and Osbourne (with Hannan as super sub) versus Cruddas, Featherstone and Lucas (with Philip Blond as sweeper?).

In a way, this just shows how we really need to burst the Westminster bubble so it can come up for fresh thinking and learn from the most innovative cross party campaigns like "hope not hate", "living wage" and the "people's bank". Compass Youth are involved in all of these!

Surf the waves of social change, don't try and recreate them

Paul Hilder, campaign director for Avaaz suggested that what this all means is that we need intermediary institutions to broker relationships betwen insiders and outsides and we need to meet more regularly where people are, more than just organising big conferences. Build a campaign from the bottom up always sounds paradoxical, because if you're building it for other people then surely that's top down? We need to go and do more outreach, look at what local organisation is going on and then work with them.

What Paul suggested was that we surf the waves of social change rather than think we have to create new waves. I guess Avaaz' way of surfing the "green new deal" "people's protest" waves was to get green hard hats down to the protesters at the Put People First rally. It's less about coalition building and more about swarming together on key issues.

Apart from surfing Avaaz' own waves and mixing up the green hard hats and our blazing red banner at the G20 rallies, what moments can Compass Youth identify and then how can we swarm, swarm, swarm?

Noel Hatch

If you want to continue the conversation, just follow #noturningback or #we20 on twitter or the blogs.

Thanks to Lutastic and RachelBlue for the photos published here under Creative Commons Licence

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