Please find below the minutes of our September meeting. Our next monthly meeting will be held on Wednesday 30 September (not the usual first Wednesday of the next month) at 7.30 p.m., at the CB2 Bistro, Norfolk Street, Cambridge CB1 2LD or a wheelchair-accessible venue to be confirmed.
Cambridge People's Assembly, 2 September 2015
- Minutes and matters arising
- Secretary's report
- Treasurer's report
- Anti-austerity music event, 3 October
- Protest at the Conservative Party conference, 4 October
- TTIP: (i) Note of City Council resolution, 23 July; (ii) Joint public meeting with John Hilary, 7 October; (iii) Day of action, 10 October
- Projects arising from the CPA special meeting, 19 August
- Action in support of migrants and refugees
- Activities in solidarity with Greece
- New report by The Cambridge Commons
- Union meetings tour
- Other business and announcements
- Next meeting
The venue was the CB2 Bistro basement, at 7.30 p.m. Present were Dena, Diana, Hilary (acting chair), Jannie, Jon, Justin, Lesley, Martin B., Maud (treasurer), Neil (secretary), Reed, Stuart, Sue, and Vern. Names may have been changed.
Stuart asked that the meeting should discuss organizing a demonstration or vigil in support of the refugees presently being refused help by European governments. This was added as a new item 10.
Apologies were received from Eva N., Kamila, Olivier, Owen, and Steve.
Neil apologized for the incomplete minutes from the August meeting, which he had had to leave early. Another member had taken over, but his notes had not been received: Neil would send a further reminder. The minutes were approved as far as they went and there were no matters arising.
Neil reported that the Cambridge People's Assembly (CPA) had 226 subscribers to its mailing list (last month 230), while 512 Facebook users liked it (507) and 739 Twitter users followed it (723). It had 25 members (unchanged).
Maud reported a balance of about £760, including a £300 donation from the Cambridgeshire National Union of Teachers (NUT; see item 4 in the minutes for June).
Jon introduced the Cambridge event, one of very many music and poetry events taking place across the country on the same weekend (see item 8 in the minutes for August). He believed that the organizers had now sent a letter to the group appealing for a donation to help with the performers' transport costs. Neil as secretary confirmed this, and moved that the group should donate £40. The meeting agreed.
Neil reported that 22 seats had so far been booked on the coach to Manchester being organized by the CPA, 10 of them by the UNISON trade union. The coach should have 50 or 60 seats.
The meeting noted the cheap accommodation being organized by the People's Assembly for the period of the conference. Lesley advised that the conference centre itself would be protected by fences and inaccessible to protesters; Diana, who had moved to Cambridge from Manchester, confirmed that this had been done before.
Maud noted that the anti-austerity candidate in the Labour Party leadership election, Jeremy Corbyn, was visiting Cambridge to give a speech on Sunday 6 September, and suggested that this was an opportunity to promote the CPA coach. The venue held 1,200 people and would certainly be full; the group presently had a stock of about 700 printed leaflets. It was agreed that Maud should have 500 more printed. Hilary, Neil, and (Maud thought) Olivier would be able to attend.
The coach was still not fully funded. Neil had circulated a model motion to the mailing list, and sent an appeal to the Unite GPM National Publishing and Media branch with no reply as yet. Jon would propose a motion appealing for funding to the Cambridgeshire NUT, Lesley or Vern to Cambridge University Unite the Union, and Jannie to Cambridge Unite Community. Maud would seek the help of UNISON Cambridge Health.
8. TTIP: (i) Note of City Council resolution, 23 July; (ii) Joint public meeting with John Hilary, 7 October; (iii) Day of action, 10 October
i. Note of City Council resolution, 23 July
Neil explained that city councillor Oscar Gillespie (Green Party, Market ward) had put a motion critical of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal to Cambridge City Council in its meeting of 23 July. Oscar's motion had been weakened by an amendment accepted unanimously, which removed all the statements given as beliefs (for example that mechanisms equivalent to that of TTIP's Investor–State Dispute Settlement had previously been 'used by corporations to overturn democratic decisions at all levels of government'), revoked the agitational and organizational action proposed, and resolved to hold a briefing before taking any action at all.
An undelivered petition for such a motion had been a separate ongoing project of the CPA. Neil suggested the CPA now had to reconsider whether to pursue its petition. The meeting agreed that it should. Diana suggested that student organizations could be involved; Jannie observed that the planned public meeting with John Hilary would be an ideal occasion to relaunch the petition.
ii. Joint public meeting with John Hilary, 7 October
Cambridge Keep Our NHS Public, Global Justice Cambridge, UNISON Cambridge City, and the Cambridge People's Assembly had been jointly organizing the event. Maud advised that another UNISON branch was now involved, Cambridge Health joining Cambridge City, although the two branches wished to contribute together to an unchanged quarter of the costs. Maud had also invited Cambridge Unite Community to participate.
iii. Day of action, 10 October
The meeting agreed that the CPA should demonstrate and distribute leaflets in Market Square as on previous days of action, meeting at 12 noon. Maud would find out whether local UNISON branches had any printing equipment that the group could use. Jon suggested an effort to involve the local Green Party and student Young Greens. Diana volunteered to supply a list of other Cambridge student groups that might be willing to help.
Neil noted that the main projects arising from the recent special meeting were mapping the local organizations with which the CPA should work, organizing a meeting with as many of these organizations as possible (perhaps in November), and jointly organizing a public anti-austerity event with the others (perhaps in May). Maud explained the sense of this agenda, which was to reinforce links and establish the CPA as an umbrella available to other groups.
Neil reported that he had received Kamila's initial mapping work, and would make it available as a shared online file soon.
Justin suggested that a problem with the People's Assembly in general was a lack of politics: people understood that the organization was against austerity, but did not know what it wanted instead. Neil believed that the People's Charter adopted at the People's Assembly's 2014 conference and the People's Manifesto published in 2015 outlined a clear alternative.
Jannie was concerned if the group was unwilling to work with political parties, which had been hinted in the discussion under item 8. Maud believed that what was important was only that the group should not be seen as linked to any one party. Jon believed that if the CPA wanted to establish itself as a forum to organize against austerity, it had to be open to working with any party: with Labour for example, or even with the Liberal Democrats (jointly responsible for austerity under the previous coalition government). The meeting agreed that the issue should be discussed next month.
Stuart urged that the group should organize a demonstration or vigil in support of the refugees presently being refused help by European governments. If he could not change the situation in Syria or Libya, he wanted there to be a voice in the country that said it was disgusted.
Jon said he would support this. There were things happening, such as the 'Cambridge to Calais' trips by the Cambridge Calais Refugee Action Network (CCRAN) with food, clothing, and other supplies, but the CPA needed to declare itself. It could have a regular stall to say that it was against stigmatizing migrants and in favour of open borders. Martin suggested that a stall could raise money for the work of CCRAN. Jon clarified that it would be a political campaign first of all.
The meeting discussed protest techniques. Jannie would be able to make tea-light luminaries, suitable for a vigil. Diana suggested a 'die-in' to represent the danger faced by migrants; Lesley suggested that dolls could stand for the children at risk. Neil was unsure about these dramatic techniques as representations of others' concrete, contemporary suffering. Jon suggested that an initial vigil could be followed by a march on another day. Diana suggested participants could identify themselves as migrants, though Stuart believed that the action should be focused on refugees.
Diana remarked that people would need the connection to austerity explained. Jon suggested that refugees were fleeing dangers that originated in the violent neoliberal politics now using the guise of austerity.
The meeting agreed that members would meet again to discuss a first demonstration at 7 p.m. on Thursday 17 September.
Jon, Justin, and Neil noted that a documentary film on the Greek crisis, Agorá by Yorgos Avgeropoulous, would be shown by Cambridge Left Unity at 7 p.m. on Wednesday 16 September in Keynes Hall, King's College. A talk on the new situation in Greece with guest speakers was planned for 17 or 24 November.
Stuart introduced a new report by The Cambridge Commons, Social Care: From Crisis to Catastrophe, and circulated copies. The author, David Plank, had analysed Cambridgeshire's social care spending from 2013/2014 to that projected for 2019/2020 and his conclusion was that a catastrophe was coming. People would not get the services they deserved. The report would be published on Monday 7 September. The group's next work would be on healthcare.
The group had been invited to send a speaker to the June meeting of the Cambridgeshire NUT. At the CPA's July meeting it had agreed that this was a useful way to improve relations with local unions, and so that it would seek invitations from other branches. Neil checked that this was still the group's plan, given the new project to arrange a wide meeting with local organizations.
The meeting agreed that it was. Jon believed it was a good way of getting the CPA's ideas into an area where they should be. He suggested, and the meeting agreed, that Neil as secretary should write a letter to the secretary of the Cambridge and District Trades Council suitable for circulation to all affiliated unions, asking if they might be willing to invite a CPA speaker to a meeting. The next Trades Council meeting was on Wednesday 16 September.
Jannie reported that Cambridge Unite Community had been campaigning on issues around zero-hours contracts, housing, and now employment terms at Las Iguanas restaurant, where staff were required to pay management a fixed percentage of their sales from their tips: a practice reported as forcing staff to 'pay to work' by the Guardian and Independent newspapers. She advised that there would be a protest against zero-hours contracts at the Sports Direct branch at the Beehive Centre from 12.30 p.m. on Wednesday 9 September, to coincide with the company's annual general meeting.
Jannie noted that Cambridge Unite Community would be constituted officially on Saturday 26 September, when it would combine its first annual general meeting with a discussion on housing. The meeting would be held at 3 p.m. at the Box Cafe on Norfolk Street.
Martin advised that there would be a bus from Cambridge to the Burston School Strike Rally on Sunday 6 September.
Neil noted that the Left Book Club of the 1930s and 40s was being revived, with Pluto Press as the printer and distributor (formerly Gollancz). Members would receive four books a year – the first on Greece's Syriza party – and could discuss them in reading groups.
The next meeting could not be held on the first Wednesday of the month as usual, as this was the date set for the group's TTIP event. The meeting agreed it should be held on Thursday 1 October. Maud had contacted the River Lane Centre as an alternative, wheelchair-accessible venue but with no response as yet. If she could not arrange a wheelchair-accessible venue the October meeting would be held at the CB2 Bistro, where Hilary had booked the basement until April 2016.