Posts Tagged ‘movement for change’

Why “wait and see” is a fool’s strategy

14/10/2015, 07:45:44 PM

by Rob Marchant

It is now taken as accepted everywhere in British politics, with the exception of some parts of the Labour Party’s rank and file, that Labour cannot win an election with Corbyn at the helm. You can attempt to argue with this premise, but you’ll find few allies outside of the echo chamber of party activists and three-pound associate members who voted for him.

This leaves sensible members with two options: engage and hope things get better, or reject and look for a new plan. Many MPs are, in good faith, choosing the former option.

But as Ben Bradshaw MP must have seen on Tuesday night, any decent attempt to play ball with the new leadership seems doomed to end in the frustrating realisation that it is hopeless. MPs in the Parliamentary Labour Party looked on in dismay, as the party’s flagship economic policy did an unceremonious U-turn.

Within two weeks of its announcement.

And here is the problem with “wait and see”: with every day that passes, the political situation gets progressively worse, not better. It is not enough to merely let Corbynism burn itself out, or let it be comprehensively defeated in five years’ time. Here’s why.

One. The obvious: the general shambles of the party’s policy and appearances on the media is undoubtedly further damaging the party’s image, to the extent that that is still possible. Corbyn has the worst ratings of any incoming leader since such polling began in 1955. This alone is enough to make waiting and seeing untenable.


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We don’t have to choose between the party and community organising

20/02/2011, 05:00:23 PM

by Karin Christiansen

With the re-launch of “movement for change” there are some important debates that need to be started within the party, but also a few that we really need to move beyond.

We should stop debating whether community organising is an ends or a means, whether it is about winning elections or empowering communities.  It is both. People can prioritise and see the sequencing in different ways, but we can still all let’s get on and do it.  As Anthony Painter pointed out in Uncut on Feb 4, when the original Chicago modellers hit the barriers of political power, they shifted their techniques to “hard” direct party-political campaigning.

But beware straw men in this “organising as means or ends” debate. Community organisers are well aware of the importance of who wins an election to achieving and delivering on community empowerment objectives. Similarly, even those who see community organising in purely instrumentalist terms, as basically a great technique for recruiting door knockers to up our contact rates and get out the vote, don’t believe that winning elections is the sole function of the Labour party, but that empowering communities matters too. Differences in emphasis, articulation and ideas about what causes what don’t mean there should be oppositions of either principle or practice.

Anthony Painter emphasises that we shouldn’t be looking to pick a winning model right now, but need more experimentation and evidence. I would go further and suggest that we shouldn’t be looking to pick a single model at all. There is no single approach to organising that will work everywhere or for everyone. Context matters – in terms of party, people and place. Our organisers need to be given a full range of models, skills and techniques that they can select from, experiment with and adapt to the situation they find themselves in. A central London or Birmingham constituency is likely to respond very differently to its counterparts in the semi-rural home counties or the industrial heartlands of the North.

So the movement for change is an approach that should be central to the future of the Labour party, simultaneously as a way of winning elections, re-engaging with communities and empowering people. But the movement cannot mean everyone marching in line and in time. Rather, it should be seen as an approach to experimenting and skilling up a new cadre of organisers armed with a wealth of techniques and approaches with which to support our activists, supporters, members and comrades.

We need to try different approaches and collect the evidence on how and why they work. What we must not do is pit them against each other or encourage factionalism around particular schools of thought or practice.

The Labour party needs the movement for change not just to transform communities, but for those very community organisers and communities in turn to transform the Labour Party.

Karin Christiansen is part of Labour Values and a contributing author to The Change We Need.

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Movement for change: the man who coined the phrase questions its embrace by Labour

04/02/2011, 11:47:10 AM

by Anthony Painter

It is rum that community organising has risen to such prominence as a result of the election of Barack Obama. Because, of course, he would never have been president had he not turned his back on community organising. By the time he went to Harvard to study law, he had lost faith in the ability of organising to achieve significant change.

One of his leading activists turned around one day and said to the young Barack, “Ain’t nothing gonna change, Mr Obama. We just gonna concentrate on saving our money so we can move outta here as fast as we can”.

David Mendell, Obama’s biographer, also chronicles his loss of faith in organising by his third year on the south side of Chicago. He had come to the conclusion that without hard political power, his time was wasted. Upon the untimely death of his political hero, Harold Washington, Obama “felt shackled by the limited power of a small nonprofit group to create expansive change”, writes Mendell.

His campaign certainly adopted some of the insights of the community organising tradition: focus on organisation building, networked through kith and kin, focus on the ultra-local. Equally, it concentrated ruthlessly on hard political power, was centrally directed and had intense message discipline. In other words, its core narrative came from the top, while its organisation reached into community grassroots. It was focused on the hard power of community campaigning rather than the soft power of community organising.

When the Birmingham Edgbaston campaign looked to learn from the success of Obama ’08, it sought to understand it as a community-based hard political campaign, as opposed to looking back at Obama’s community organising years. Obama ’08 – the movement for change – was a political movement. Its plan was to mirror the “new (political) organiser” model described by Zack Exley, and then develop ever more sophisticated means of issue-based community engagement once victory had been secured. And that is what it is now doing. (more…)

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Ed Miliband must keep alive the movement for change, says Ben Maloney

29/09/2010, 05:25:59 PM

Following Saturday’s result it’s vital that Ed Miliband gets to grips as quickly as possible with the scale of the challenge ahead of him.

And the most important thing he can do, if he’s serious about taking Labour forward, is recognise that if we’re going to pose a genuine challenge at the next election we need to rebuild the party from the grassroots up.

Based on my experience of the last four months, the answer for Ed is to embrace the hugely successful model that has already been implemented as a result of David Miliband’s movement for change. (more…)

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