Radical political analysis, commentary and discussion in Wales
Dadansoddiad a thrafodaeth radicalaidd o wleidyddiaeth yng Nghymru
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'Left unity' could be happening, but needs to be inclusive.

There's some hope for ordinary people in the People's Assembly. Elspeth, a lay preacher from Merthyr, present at the meeting, asked the room "Where are all the existing community groups of Cardiff? Why don't we ever see in our meetings those actually struggling to make ends meet? Where are the black women's groups, the community centres, the refugees, the wider community?"
She had a timely point for everyone who considers themselves an activist today.

The room agreed that more could be done and that we had a responsibility to invite people to the meeting, without expectation that they are in a trade union or ready to join a socialist party. It got better. The proposal for a Cardiff and the Vale People's Assembly was rejected, as this would have made it difficult for single parents, anyone on low income, and those without means of transport to get to. This was a rare sign of different-from-the-usual 'centralisation' that we expect from most of the left.

As it stands, in the emerging People's Assemblies around south Wales, there are no committees, steering committees or clear way forward for organising for those that have so far met twice in the Unite building in Cardiff. Even the proposal to decide on whether to have a steering committee at all was postponed until tonight so that further reflection could be had. This is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign that the old way of doing things might be being updated. The left might just be ready to try what others have known since before Stop The War didn't stop the war - that living the alternative to the system is important as well, and that real changes come from below, while committees just add an unwelcome layer of bureaucracy that stifles change.

It feels like the left is trying to do something different this time. But without support from groups that are used to using non-hierarchical methods, such as anarchist and unaffiliated left-liberal groups in Cardiff, it may lack the vision and courage to "just do it". As well, some within the socialist left are also disillusioned with the Trade Union Congress (TUC), and may see this as an opportunity to build another version of the TUC up from the grass-roots, by attempting to create a committee made up of Union representatives. This must also be rejected also. As, Eslpeth, while she called for community inclusion, noted last Monday - in the valleys and elsewhere, the unions just don't connect to people in the way they used to. Rather than using the People's Assembly name to bring people to the Unions - we should build a movement where Unions work alongside people, in everyday community struggles as well, building a real democracy together, up from the grass-roots.

As it stands before tonight's meeting, the option is still there on the table - for the People's Assembly to remain local where possible. Which isn't a new idea - a year ago, residents of Splott and Adamsdown tried to do just that - long before Owen Jones, Tony Benn or anyone who was ever in the Socialist Worker's Party (SWP) had considered that a People's Assembly could be for them, or indeed, for the Trade Union movement as a whole. In fact those of us who began this initiative in east Cardiff were relative newcomers, when some have campaigned and called for People's Assemblies across the UK since 2006, since when, many were set up and maintained, without access to mainstream media and the kind of funding the Unions have to publicise this newer wave of support for the idea that has changed communities and outlooks for much of the last decade.

It should be very welcoming to autonomists in struggle that Trade Unionists and socialists now seem to be showing solidarity, not with the left parties, but with the autonomous struggle in Greece, where the People's Assembly movements have long been fighting austerity through direct action in their neighbourhoods and communities, and in Spain, Egypt and more recently Turkey, where massive protests in recent weeks have helped to build People's Assemblies across many districts and cities, while most of the socialist left in all these places sat outside and called instead for support for initiatives through the ballot box.

People's Assemblies will be stronger where they are local and accessible, and we could see a network in Cardiff, supported by the socialist left, without chairpersons or committees. And with roles being rotated, possibly even through consensus decision making...just how historic would that be comrades! But, if the Trade Unions don't get this, it could be another failed attempt at the change we need, or according to the often-read blog of 'Johnny Void', potentially a kind of "manufactured surrender" that will lead to defeat for us all at the hands of those still in Westminster, and more widely, other right-wing governments, and power structures, on the same course. Instead of calling the present situation a defeat, those in south Wales, or across the UK, who are already criticising the People's Assembly movement as it stands here, could just hopefully pause to imagine that this isn't necessarily going to happen. And indeed our strength could be to stop it happening.

We have to thank the Trade Unions for their help and support to launch this network, but they, in return, have to step back from any central roles they might wish to create. We could all also still invite everyone we know, who would wish to be a constructive part of this currently emerging network, to it's meeting. If we don't, the old-way of doing things by the Trade Union and affiliate left, might just win out. Then we will have missed that opportunity to keep the People's Assemblies network open and accessible to everyone, and as something that anarchists, autonomists, and others who also want to change the world, could work with, and score victories together through.

Rather than see this as something that will, for certain, become another lost left initiative - instead of looking at the history of the Socialist Alliance and The Campaign for a New Workers Party - we could instead witness the history of modern People's Assemblies, such as those used by the Zapatistas in Mexico, and now even being built through the recent protests across Brazil, and by making clear to those around us who have doubts, this could yet survive and thrive.

Though these genuine attempts for real democracy - rather than inviting anarchists to another socialist meeting - we are more notably about to strengthen a global autonomous network, that is about to welcome and include socialists, among others, in Wales and around the UK. And when we can work together, there is more than just hope.