"Naive and out of touch" concluded Gerald Kaufman MP (Lab, Gorton) on the "Manchester Meet Manchester" event attended by 100 campaigners - from Earth
First! to Wages for Housework, from Oxfam to Animal Rights. The conclusion reached by the campaigners was more practical - although lots of good work
is being done, there's room for more "leading by example" to get across the messages.
The event was aimed at campaigners and those wanting to find out more, with the emphasis of moving forward together and finding ways to enhance our work. Saturday saw campaign issue workshops, from genetic engineering and climate change, to Solidarity work and vegan-organic gardening.
Gerald Kaufman was invited to explain how we could influence the new government. He made it very clear that he thought we were barking up the wrong tree - "direct action never changed anything". When pressed on the issue we were told that we were out of touch with reality. Somebody asked about Martin Luther King, Ghandi and Nelson Mandela... apparently we are in their league of no-hopers!
Sunday involved training workshops including press work and group facilitation. Finally the event finished with solid proposals of how groups could be supported. One conclusion was that handing out leaflets full of facts and figures is fine, but we also need to live by example to illustrate how it's possible for our ideals to be put into action. There was much excitement about running a "food campaign", boycotting genetically engineered products, sharing an allotment and DIY home composting.
All those who attended the event commented positively on the atmosphere and the interesting workshops. It was felt that the next event should be held in the Autumn - volunteers needed to help organise it! For comprehensive minutes, or to offer your help in staging the next event, contact Manchester Meet Manchester on 0161 819 1139.
Chris, Manchester Meet Manchester
The day started proper, after introductions and the inevitable game, with a workshop on Genetic Engineering. Really scary - scientists are taking genes from one species and putting them into another. No one knows the long-term effects of releasing this completely new
genetic combination into the environment or food chain. The first genetically "enhanced" crops are on sale now - eg tomatoes (labelled) and soya products (unlabelled despite about 60% of our food containing soya in one form or another). As consumers we may not want genetically modified crops (and with all the food mountains in the West do we need them?), but because of the GATT (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs) we have no choice.
Climate Change was next and it is official - scientists have recognised a discernible human-made alteration in the climate. We all need to take steps right now to stop this situation worsening. So, if most life on Earth isn't wiped out by rampant genetically modified viruses it looks like climate change will do the trick!
The highlight had to be the workshop by Gerald Kaufman MP (Labour, Gorton). He got off to a promisingly obnoxious start by mocking Spencer Fitz-Gibbon (Green Party) and ended up by exclaiming that nonviolent direct action had never, and would never, achieve anything. Kaufman exposed the political system to be the mockery it really is. In the, albeit unlikely, event that everybody in the Gorton constituency wrote to Mr. Kaufman expressing concern about a particular issue, he would indeed reply to each letter, but would he take any notice? Would he take any steps to do anything? Would he buggery, if he disagreed with his constituents' views. So the idea that an MP will represent you in Parliament is a compete fallacy if the MP disagrees with the majority view of his or her constituents. Do all MPs operate like this, or is Gerald Kaufman alone in habouring dictatorial aspirations?
Finally, I attended a green politics workshop. I can't remember much about this one, except that Spencer Fitz-Gibbon came across as being much nicer than Kaufman... Unfortunately, you don't elected for being nice!
Thanks then to MERCi and the Networking Newsletter Project for organising this interesting and informative event.
Esther, Central Manchester Oxfam Campaigns Group