by Stephen Hall, Wigan Borough Green Socialist candidate in the forthcoming local elections in the Atherton Ward of Wigan MBC.
A co-operative community ‘farm’ utilising unused Council owned, ‘waste’ and other land which might be obtained via local ‘landshare’ agreements;
A renewable energy generation co-operative;
A co-operative direct Labour employment agency, and
The greater use of credit unions;
These are just four of the eminently practical ideas in keeping with the spirit of Wigan born Gerrard Winstanley, which the Wigan Borough Green Socialists are suggesting might help local communities like Atherton and others across the Borough, collectively meet the challenge of the potentially prolonged period of austerity which lies ahead of us.
We say potentially prolonged period of austerity, because even if Labour were to get back into power nationally in 2015, they have already promised us more of the same. In their case however, so they say, it will be a less harsh an austerity than under the Tories or the existing Coalition Government. In either case the huge scale of the sovereign debt they are faced with (and interest burden on it) might take 30 years or more to pay back and necessitate further cuts of more than £50 billion to pay off any quicker. Under these conditions, more local services face the axe or sell-off, Council rents will continue to rise, food and fuel bills will continue to go up. The prospect of any local improvements will also become ever more difficult to attain, whoever we elect.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT?
Until such time as there is a fundamental change in the national political situation, which we are obviously also working towards, things aren’t going to get better but worse. So what can ordinary folk do about it in the meantime?
Well, we can sit around and moan and do nothing, or we can rise to meet the challenge presented to us. As well as opposing ALL the cuts and privatisations, and defending what we still have, we can work collectively to help ourselves as communities get through the difficult times ahead. We can help to set up and support self-help community co-operative projects such as those outlined above.
The ones mentioned already will help ALL those who want to get involved to address rising food prices, rising gas and electricity bills, as well as being ‘ripped off’ by private employment agencies and door step loan sharks. There are obviously many other ideas which might enable us to do a whole lot more. We think such projects might win the backing of unions, such as UNITE, who are now very much wanting to organise in communities as well as workplaces to defend the interests of ordinary people. They are also ideas which, with sufficient pressure from below, we might even get official Council backing for too, and who knows, may even become ‘model’ projects which could be replicated elsewhere across the Borough.
At the end of the day of course, whatever we might do, it is only going to be limited. As we state in our election leaflet, only major public investment, along the lines of the proposals of the One Million Climate Jobs campaign, as well as in building new high spec zero carbon Council Houses, expanding public transport, etc, are ever going to alter the continuing economic and social decline of towns like Atherton, not private sector business or even having their own ‘town’ Council, though that might be of some assistance.
We’re only ever likely to get any of that though, by waging a massive fight for it nationally, and most likely by bringing about the demise of the existing Government in the process. At the moment however, there are insufficient numbers prepared to wage such a fight, and for them to hope to succeed, however, there are surely sufficient numbers prepared to help themselves along the lines Wigan Green Socialists are suggesting, and whose efforts might inspire many others to do the same.
AN OLD DIGGERS’ IDEA RE-BROUGHT TO LIFE
The idea of a co-operative community farm, in reality is not too different an idea from that of the 17th Century ‘Diggers’ or True Leveller Movement in practical terms, and the production of our own electricity a modern day extension of the same self-reliance principle. The same would obviously apply to the other ideas.
While most ordinary people have self-evidently not yet come to the conclusion they need to do something to get rid of the existing un-mandated Government, let alone the global Capitalist system, this does mean they necessarily think either are a good thing, or that they are not prepared to do anything at all to change the situation they find themselves in. We are hoping one of other of these ideas might be something that captures their imagination and which they might also find immediately practically useful to themselves.
From this perspective, concerted work by us, aimed at securing the success of one or more of them, might also be a good way for us to gain a much greater public ear for our broader politics and to winning the trust and political support of the majority of ordinary people who are in the main pissed off with party politics and the main party politicians, and who are looking for answers. Some of our past proposals and ideas clearly haven’t done that.
The abolition of Capitalism might well be our aim, but as yet it is not the aim of the vast majority of ordinary people. We can only help them to come the conclusion that the abolition of Capitalism is necessary, by engaging them at the level of their existing political consciousness (rather than were we would like them to be), around their immediate needs and wants and by suggesting to them what we believe might be the right way to go on a practical level. Also, by suggesting slogans, demands and forms of action, which might attract broader support.
We’re certainly aiming to promote all these ideas further after the elections, regardless of the outcome. Watch this space for details.