The People’s Assembly, held at Central Hall Westminster on 22 June, backed the demonstration called by the Unite and Unison unions for the NHS at the Tory Party conference in Manchester on 29 September.
It also called for a “day of civil disobedience, everywhere” on 5 November and “local People’s Assemblies in every town and city”.
The Assembly, which was initiated by Counterfire and the Coalition of Resistance (CoR) but gained sponsorship from many unions including Unison and Unite, declared that: “We have a plain and simple goal: to make government abandon its austerity programme. If it will not it must be replaced with one that will...
“We will work together with leading experts and campaigners both here and abroad, and friendly think tanks, to develop rapidly key policies and an alternative programme for a new anti-austerity government”.
Red Pepper magazine tweeted after the Assembly: “Inspiring day at the People’s Assembly — so many people who are serious about fighting austerity and winning”. Others who attended were more critical of the way the event was modelled on previous rallies (Coalition of Resistance, 2010; People’s Assemblies Against War, 2007 and 2003) which allowed for rousing speeches by celebrities but no detailed debate.
It is not clear whether the local People’s Assemblies are meant to be one-off local gatherings which can help give new impulse to the anti-cuts campaigns which exist almost everywhere, or “branded” alternatives to those campaigns.
The Assembly declaration said: “We do not seek to replace any organisations fighting cuts”; however, in Newcastle, the one place where there was already a local CoR group, it seems to be planning for a local People’s Assembly as a rival to existing anti-cuts committees.
The cuts will best be fought by united campaigns, democratic and based on delegates from labour movement and working-class community organisations.