Edd Bauer from Birmingham Communities Against the Cuts spoke to Solidarity about the campaign.
We are a grassroots community movement based in South Birmingham.
It’s different from other campaigns because it organises direct action and calls for protests, not just lobbies. It’s also willing to run candidates in elections.
In September last year it was involved in a successful anti-academies campaign in the west of the city. Last month it was involved in protests against the City Council cuts budget — occupying the Council chambers and then later blockading the Council Chambers to stop councillors passing cuts.
There isn’t an active Labour Representation Committee or Labour left in Birmingham,. In fact, the group was originally set up by a group of leftwing Labour Party activists who split from the party when they were carved out of council selections for being leftwing. The local Trades Council is very supportive of us.
The question of standing anti-cuts candidates has to be approached carefully. The last election campaign allowed the group to build itself. We were able to build relationships with a lot of people who felt familiar with that form of campaigning.
It shows that there is a great desire for a party of the left, but it’s hard to see how that might emerge in the future. I think it’ll come about by splitting from the Labour Party and merging with other left-of-Labour groups; organisations like ours can be a part of that mix.
Previous attempts at this parties — like the SLP, Socialist Alliance, and Respect — fell apart for different reasons. But I think it is possible to create one which is fit for purpose. How to do it differently? In a word, democracy. You can’t build a party on the basis of undemocratic lash-ups or cultish hero-worship of figures like Galloway.
At our conference (on 16 March) we want to involve people from across the city on the basis of more militant tactics and politics. Building an organisation that can take on Labour from the left, fighting in local areas, takes citywide organisation.
We need two sticks: one stick, a strong left in Labour and the other stick a strong left outside of Labour. Both are needed. But people like me would be kicked out of Labour in a flash. Many people are alienated from the party. While Labour has historic links to the class, those links are under pressure, so there are just as many working-class people who feel no connection to Labour.
The budget has predictably gone through. The point now is to build up the grassroots to the point where you can defeat the cuts in future years. By taking action, by making clear arguments, we are growing and getting people involved.
Next on the agenda is the bedroom tax. We need to get people organised around something that’s going to hit them hard.
Activists are also talking about forming a more revolutionary left group in the city to undertake political education. We want to take the most enthusiastic anti-cuts campaigners and get them involved in these broader political discussions.
If you want people to be involved in the long term, not just around a one-off campaign, you need to offer them something else, a discussion about ideology and broader strategy.