The Recall Conference of the People's Assembly in London on 15th March 2014 was attended by over 700 delegates including 4 from Oxford PA and the Oxford & District Trades Council.
The People's Assembly did not spring fully formed from the minds of a few idealogues, it was birthed in cooperation and alliance. So while some might say that most of the decisions voted by the delegates yesterday were predetermined, obvious, no-brainers or low-priority, many of the motions were geared to solidify the aims of the alliance, reaffirm cooperation and establish guidance for the movement to grow as directed bv the people it represents.
And, of course, we had a good time.
It was expected when the People's Charter was adopted, as well as motions reaffirming commitments to groups of people non-proportionately hit by austerity. The reminders of the need to fight for the education system, the health service and public services may have been obligatory, but it wasn't necessary in that room to remind us all who our enemies are.
A motion was passed on the general shape of the PA, with an Assembly made up of signatory and local group representatives, a steering committee, and a management group nominated by the steering committee and ratified by the Assembly. The Assembly will meet at least twice a year between conferences, and the steering committee and management group will meet as often as necessary to handle the executive business. An amendment motion for a decentralised structure was defeated.
Unexpected was the failure of the primary finance motion. Instead of defined individual membership and membership fees to local groups, an amended motion was voted for voluntary membership. Since this contradicts the primary finance motion, the steering committee and management group will have to reassess the situation (and the atmosphere around formal membership and fees) to find a plan that will sustain the movement while respecting the conference's decision.
The motions on future action, which were all passed, are better mentioned in calendar items for all the new days of action we have to schedule. But the goals of scrapping the bedroom tax, supporting fighting unions, fighting racism, zero hours contracts and more, these are the staples of the battles we have been fighting.
A novel motion at the end for the People's Flotilla Against Austerity was a reminder that it is possible to overlook a population of people suffering from austerity, we are all affected, and different people can come up with surprising ways to help. There was never any doubt that the flotilla would be embraced, but the tales of blocking canals may have inspired visions of a naval arm to the movement.
Throughout the conference, tributes were paid to Tony Benn and Bob Crow as well as Roger Lloyd Pack and Iain Banks, but the overwhelming themes were of the victories we have had and the distance there is yet to go. Conference succeeded in its most important goal, reaffirming the will to fight in everyone who attended. We needed to hear the inspirational stories, and we hope to be able to share some of these in more depth later, while this is more of a preliminary report.