Essex Greenpeace planning day
Last Saturday in Southend saw the second annual Essex Greenpeace
These planning days mark a new departure for Greenpeace, who are
shifting from a highly centralised organisation - where the
supporter's role has been to give financial aid to the adventures
of the courageous elite who take part in high profile actions - towards an
organisation where the members play a real leading role.
This process will, of course, be imperfect but the dividends are
already paying off. Local groups are now far more involved in local
campaigns and the role of the 'rank and file members' is no longer confined to fund raising support to the more exciting
activities on the high seas, or in high places.
Through the day there were a variety of workshops where activists
discussed ideas and planned the way forward. I'll
not go into intricate detail on what was discussed but the most obvious
thing was that not only were there some stunningly brilliant ideas
thrown up but that it was possible to combine a focused attitude towards
making activity happen and have fun with it at the same time.
There were two sessions on GM for instance. One about the wider
campaigns taking place, the new period of legislation that will allow GM
to be more widely planted, and a second session that focused on Sainsbury's
and the fact that they give GM feed to their dairy herd - thereby
feeding GM milk to an unknowing public. Both sessions produced real
results, the first produced wide ranging and positive
strategies and the second knuckling down to planning specific actions.
There were also sessions on wind farms (which focused on informing
participants on new developments in governmental policy and exploring
how to push the government's positive, but slow, moves towards
sustainable energy sources), Esso and the upcoming US
presidential elections (which took the form of a firm and professional
opportunity for members to influence national GP policy - which I
suspect had a deeper impact than many would have initially thought
I'm particularly looking forward to the issuing of 'dis-loyalty
cards' that can both help give profile and importance to the impact of
multi-nationals on the environment and tie people more closely to a
bigger picture world view.
Lessons for the left
For the left one of the most interesting sessions was on recruitment
and retention. I'd wondered whether this session would deteriorate into
moaning and whining, but to my delight not only were people willing to
face the problems that all organised troublemakers have, they also set
about exploring the issues and looking for ways to improve.
This was undoubtedly helped by the sure and relaxed guidance of
Richard who started the session. The natural talent of many of the
activists there on the day was truly impressive, and strangely, rather
than attacking each other or trying to build their own little kingdoms
they would recognise each other's talents, trying to build each other
up. Far from naming and shaming they would name people to congratulate
them openly, disingenuously and warmly. I would defy anyone, no matter
how experienced, to come out of a day like that without having gained
The day in itself had a number of practical functions that have
certainly moved things forward.
- Bringing the groups together so that the word
'network' actually has content.
- Allowing members access to the central body, which
in practise amounts to a move towards democratisation of the
- Accessing the invention and talents of the group
members, rather than confining decision making to a small
'professional' group who can become cut off and, frankly, a bit
- Involving the members in the process making it
I don't know if the left would be capable of having such a fraternal
and productive set of local workshops - I suspect it could. We have the
talent. We have the deeply committed individuals, and we have the need
to bring ourselves together in a more organised and effective fashion.
This move towards communication and participation would be a real
asset to the left and protest movements in general - I noticed that the
Stop the War coalition has a similar proposal, it will be interesting
see how that pans out for instance.
If we value the members and participants of our movement they will reward
us with enthusiasm,
commitment, and unleash that talent that socialists know lurk within
each and everyone of us. We ignore that lesson at our peril, but
although this may be a small and modest example of how we can all learn
from each other I certainly think its an example worth considering.