I’ve recently spent much of my evenings reading about different forms of organising within the trade union movement and how we can campaign for changes once we are organised.
I’ve spent much of my days campaigning for a great turnout at the “A Future that Works” demo in London on October 20th (O20 as it’s being called – or #O20 as it will no doubt be on twitter).
I guess this is an occassion when theory and practice collide. The major mistake a lot of people seem to make with campaigning is they confuse it with activity. People will say that they’ve done all they can simply because they’ve been busy. For many activists campaigning is a spare time activity and not part of a normal working day so this should be fully understood and excused to a certain extent. But for leaders in our movement there has to be separation between effective and ineffective forms of activity.
Leafleting for example can be a very worthwhile and effective activity but it is often all we focus on. A campaign is successful only when it results in a situation where people change their views, their behaviour or both. Take the example of leafleting. Let’s call it an activity rather than using the shorthand of “campaigning” which it is often labelled. If the leaflet doesn’t convince anyone to change or behave differently don’t kid yourself that by handing them out you are campaigning.
A few days a go I leafleted a London Underground station for the demo and whilst some people were picking up leaflets, the vast majority were marching past without taking any interest. I found that the most effective activity was in approaching people waiting outside to meet friends or colleagues. The leaflet combined with a discussion made a great deal of difference.
This has been similar in the workplace. I don’t think this is anything new but it focused my mind on how we can choose a range of campaign activities and mix and match to suit our needs. The sheer scale of organising around #O20 is staggering with coaches, trains, pledge cards, leaflets, posters and images projected on buildings. And that’s not an exhaustive list. By this time next week we need to ensure that everyone in the UK knows about it and is encouraged to join if they can.
I’m starting to feel that #O20 is going to be something special. The country will be coming together against austerity and for a different economic future, not based on making everyone poorer but instead based on a more equitable distribution of wealth. These are bleak times with major attacks on our rights, jobs, terms and pay but the fight back is strong and with effective campaigning we can win the argument for an alternative.