Mike Wood reports on the People and Planet annual forum held over the weekend of 4-5 March at Leeds University.
People and Planet’s trade justice campaign is drawing to a close, and the forum, attended by around 70 student activists, was initially intended to take a discussion on the direction for a new campaign. Instead a representative of the central office merely announced that a new campaign was not economically viable.
This ruled out the possibility of a new anti-sweatshops campaign being launched.
Instead, the Trade Justice campaign discussion focussed on ways to expand this existing campaign strand. No Sweat activists proposed that we should run a campaign on workers’ rights, as many People and Planet groups are already running such campaigns, and they’ve generally been popular and successful. This proposal attracted some support, but the alternative proposal to attempt to extend Fair Trade onto other products was more popular. Many activists recognised the limits of Fair Trade as it currently stands, but only want to extend Fair Trade style politics, not extend our work onto new ground. Many activists protested that they did not want to appear too left wing, or radical.
The discussion on funding, on the second day of the Forum, was depressing. It was revealed that the P&P staff wanted to “consult” the Forum on a set of guidelines for corporate funding of the network! The discussion was focussed on the guidelines presented, and activists were told that there would be no opportunity to discuss the principle of corporate funding, merely those guidelines the management team had drawn up.
Fortunately there is no guarantee that this kind of event is in any way representative of many groups on the ground.
The national direction of People and Planet must be contested by people in local groups linking up across the network.