Saturday 21 February 2009

'Community organising is the answer'

Neil Jameson of London Citizens is speaking to the Fabian/Webb centenary conference at LSE in the session on how coalitions for change are built. 'We only speak at living wage campuses - so we can only speak in London here at LSE and at QMW', he said.

Jameson made a passionate and effective pitch for community organising's role in

'We have found nirvana. Community organising is the answer to globalisation. It is the answer to the collapse of politics. The issue for us is the governance of the city. Public-facing is what we do. We are not particularly focused with governments or with policy. But we are obsessed with civil society'.

The election of a community organiser to the White House has increased the interest of the media, but mainly in America, he said. A new move in the UK was the creation of a community organiser's guild.

The pockets of power in society needed to be connected together - and faith communities and institutions would often provide the glue, he said.

The institutions of faith and the institutions of labour are the last surviving remnants of a democratic society, along with the charities and voluntary organisations. But the voluntary organisations are the weakest of the three; the trade unions are the next weakest. Faith is, pragmatically, strong. These are pockets of power, and if you can connect this Church to this Church to this Mosque on the things they agree on, then you can connect those pockets of power'

'What they agree on is never ideology, of course', said Jameson. 'What we have pioneered is the politics of assembly. There is no problem of disengagement from that politics. If you get a full room, then you can make things happen'.

This would, Jameson said, bring back the spirit of progressive politics of the late 19th and early 20th century.

'In the Webbs' time, women had no vote. All they could do was march up and down with banners. It doesn't have to all be about Westminster.

And he argued too that the Webbs had a major impact but depended on the tensions created in society since the 1880s. "The Webbs did the business and seized the moment. We must honour consistently too the labourers, the workers, the priests who created the tension which allowed politics to change", he said.

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