Sometimes, it's just a cigar

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When a campaign isn’t…

When I grew up campaigning on an issue was an easy process. You campaigned locally. You got a clipboard, and a leaflet, and you knocked on doors or buttonholed people in the shopping centre. If you were of the left knowing how to found a campaign group was a fundamental skill. Mass campaigns, like CND in the early 80s, were built in hundreds of rooms in small towns by people who felt angry and who shared some or all of the skill set.

Often those campaigns were politically charged. Wearing a CND badge was regarded, by some as being tantamount to wearing a hammer and sickle badge, and you got used tobeing called a commie or a communist dupe, or, by the more sophisticated bigots, a useful idiot. Oddly, the fact that you knew how to build a campaign door to door or on rainy Saturday mornings in the empty shop doorway next to Fine Fare was far more consolation than any fine words.

In private,with friends, you might have theoretical discussions about how the bureaucratization of the Labour Party, as described by Ed’s dad in his book, meant that political activity in campaigns was far more meaningful than resolution mongering in CLP meetings.

Thirty years on the same process of bureaucratization appears to have overtaken many of the mainstream campaigns.Instead of earnest young school leavers outside Fine Fare asking you to sign a petition to get decent housing you get chuggers asking you to give money to a charity that used to have a network of local activists who organized jumble sales.

This isn’t nostalgia for its own sake. Once upon a time single issue campaigns were a training ground for activists who learned skills they could use on any campaign. In effect, the knowledge of how to campaign has been professionalized and privatized. Democracy, it seems, has no space for amateurs,and that thought worries me.


One comment on “When a campaign isn’t…

  1. Wickedjulia
    March 22, 2015

    The worst of it is that organizations fighting for change aren’t really interested in recruiting an army of eager volunteers. They don’t want amateurs. They want our money so they can hire professionals to do the interesting stuff and grunts to do the boring.

    I know this firsthand. I was a paid fundraiser for an environmental group. Sounds great, right? Wrong. It was one of the worst jobs I ever had and our boss regularly exploited our desire to make a difference in the world to keep us working at a place that offered poor wages and absolutely no job security.

    In the U.S. charities subcontract out their fundraising companies that fun offices in ‘Right to Work’ states. This is to shield the charities from any negative press concerning workers’ striking for improved working conditions and to make it almost impossible for workers to organize. They

    Because of that experience as a paid fundraiser, I don’t give money to any charity. I refuse to support any organization that uses a legal trick like subcontracting to justify treating the people that keep it solvent like second class citizens and uses their idealism to keep them quiet.


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This entry was posted on March 18, 2015 by in Uncategorized.

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