Project for Peace and Justice Launch Recap
The following is a summary, taken in real time and subject to mild editing afterwards, of the launch of the Project for Peace and Justice on Sunday 2021-01-17, written and edited by Alexandria Thurnherr.
Project for Peace & Justice Launch Summary
15:08: Event begins. Various people introduce themselves in pre-recorded videos, talking about their support for the P.P.J. Quite the international spread – there’s been someone from South Africa, and others from Asia. There’s also someone from the BFAW, and an Orgreave campaigner. Appears to be from the video “Why we’re supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s Peace and Justice Project”, also uploaded to the same channel.
15:13: Event begins proper, with Labour Lord Christine Blower (former NUT leader) (6951 watching) speaking and listing the speakers. Says the real focus is the viewers, and says it’s still possible to ask questions to the relevant e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org)
15:14: Scarlett Westbrook introduced (organised school strikes in the UK). Says politics is a means of resolving conflicts, and that no greater conflict exists than the climate crisis. Points out that colonialism has a very large hand in how poorer countries cannot adequately respond to the climate crisis, which has been largely driven by imperialist nations.
15:17: Calls the climate struggle a class struggle, amongst other things.
15:20: Ronnie Kasrils introduced (minister in Mandela’s government). Says that understanding the modern world requires us to understand the colonial system of centuries past, and that B.L.M. has to overturn centuries of white supremacy and slavery. Points out the hypocrisy of the western bloc about the shock at the near-overthrow of US democracy whilst disregarding democracy around the world (e.g. “normalisation” of relations between Israel and other parts of the middle east, funding many coups) King’s most important speech was “Beyond Vietnam”, which called the US government the greatest purveyor of evil in the world, and highlighted the interlocking of racism/poverty/militarism, and celebrates the internationalism of the project, and gives support to the 250m strikers in India. Quotes Bertolt Brecht: “The bitch that bore him [the bastard] is in heat again.”
15:30: Len McCluskey (Unite Leader) introduced. Talks about Orgreave protests and Shrewsbury pickets, and Grenfell. Calls removal of Corbyn’s whip disgraceful. Says Corbyn gave us hope in 2015, which is just as important as peace and justice. Re-affirms his statement that Corbyn has changed British politics forever, citing that all three candidates in the leadership contest had to adopt a “Corbynista” platform, even if there is a need to remind Starmer of that. Discusses the need for reconstruction (of our society). Even business leaders and some Tory MPs have agreed that ‘we cannot go back to normal’, but notes that any changes they back will be to workers’ detriment(e.g. public sector pay freeze). Says Corbyn and McDonnell took on the world’s economic orthodoxy of the last 40 years, and within 9 months almost no MP (even Liberal Democrats and Tories) would publicly support austerity.
15:39: Blower talks about the need for union struggle.
15:40: Jeremy Corbyn begins speaking, thanks all those who took part. Says people of all backgrounds working together is more important than ever. Gives examples of what mass movements have achieved (suffrage, the eight-hour day, the anti-slavery movement &c.), points out that far more people nowadays know Sylvia Pankhurst than the home secretary who imprisoned her. Links economic problems, climate crisis and the global order which holds most people in the world back. Global response to COVID held back by authoritarian nationalist leaders and the drive for profit. “If you don’t argue for your side, your opponents win by default.” Praises the importance of community organising and demands. Focuses on four areas of work, asks for your help to take part:
Green New Deal, which produces union jobs as a standard, at the cost of the greatest polluters. Says that Labour’s G.N.D. in 2019 was perhaps the best in the world, and they will work with movements.
Economic policies – publicly owned public services, properly funded, tenant security, rights at work from day 1 for all workers.
International Justice: Anti-arms trade campaigning, decries UK involvement in Yemen and their support of the Saudi government. Talks about need to support war’s victims (e.g. refugees). COVID – points out some countries have enough vaccines for their whole population 3 times over, whereas some people will get nothing this whole year. Plans to add weight to people already trying to get a more rational system, without bigger than my neighbour nationalism. Praises petition to UK government to push WHO to allow poorer countries to get the vaccine quicker.
Pro-democracy movement – “we want to see democracy dramatically extended”. “If something has significant power over our lives, we should have some say in how it works.” Wants to start with the media, decrying the influence of billionaires’ interests, including the 2 new UK TV stations. Says that the media is not like the weather, something to be complained about but with nothing to change. Plans to take on Murdoch and his desire to enter the UK TV market once again.
15:53: “History doesn’t flow in straight lines, and history can give us hope.” Says that more effort is put into making the current system seem necessary than into improving it.
15:55: Questions start to be answered. Question about media bias, to McCluskey and Kasrils: “How should our movements deal with this [media bias]? To Westbrook: “Young people feel left out of politics and ignored. How can we change that?” To Sultana “The pandemic has highlighted problems with how our society has been set up. How should this have been done differently?”
15:57: McCluskey answers:
Even liberal newspapers are reliably anti-socialist (throwing cold water on any group fighting the establishment).
Discusses previous trade union failures to set up any newspaper, but says that social media has allowed for an alternative view to flourish, and suggests that Unite could support alternative media outlets (e.g. Novara, DDN, etc.)
Calls social media the “one shining light” that can “speak truth to power”.
Pressure on government to challenge media moguls is urgent.
16:02: Scarlett answers her question.
Government structured to invoke apathy (e.g. 16 year-olds cannot vote) and to concentrate power into few hands – apathy is a recognition of this powerlessness.
“It’s about taking that apathy and turning that into action.”
Wants P.P.J. to help link up groups which are already organising for liberation, to carry the struggle forward.
16:04: Sultana answers:
Starting position was very vulnerable because of government’s commitment to private profit over public health.
Points out that New Zealand could hold a 20,000 person concert safely because they always had a zero COVID strategy.
Points out that vaccine roll-out needs to be watched very closely.
16:07: Corbyn weighs in on media – we need to be able to communicate with each other, and praises radical newspapers of old and says that Morning Star ought to have larger circulation. Thinks more meetings need to be publicly available using online methods. “What I want us to do is establish a much stronger social media network – globally – but also to look at the power of media giants.” Says broadband policy in 2019 manifesto was an extension of this principle.
16:10: Special guest Noam Chomsky introduced. Says that there are several truly existential crises, and that the “human experiment will have come to an inglorious end” if these are not dealt with quickly. In particular, the climate and nuclear crises. Says that Trump’s removal opens up opportunities to make progress, and that there is further good news that we know how to solve these problems, and that a UN anti-nuclear-weapon treaty will soon come into force, although the US has not signed this, and sufficient action is not being taken. Only most of the world is in COVID’s grip – lessons can be learned from the countries which shrugged it off. All of these crises are international and know no borders, and therefore our response must also be international. Solidarity is indispensable.
16:17 Noam Chomsky is thanked for his remarks. Almost 8000 people are watching right now. Zarah Sultana is re-invited to speak properly, rather than as a response. Starts by paying tribute to Corbyn, hopes she doesn’t cry. Says she was politicised by the coalition government, and its scapegoating of benefits-takers and ethnic minorities, and criticises the lack of real opposition from Labour, but praises Corbyn for his reliable opposition to these policies, his championing of internationalist struggles, and his standing for students. Disparages wealth and racial gaps in how COVID has affected people, and Tory contempt for the working class (e.g. children relying on UNICEF, nurses not getting a pay rise, corruption in the order of billions of pounds). Asserts that the public is not to blame, but the government. “We don’t just need a more competent government, we need a socialist government.”
16:25: Yanis Varoufakis introduced (Syriza’s finance minister): “We live in a state of paradox. Never before in the history of capitalism has there been a more urgent need for radical change, and never before has the political system been better at stemming such change.” There is no guarantee, just because things will change, that they will change for the better. Need to imitate the international coalescence of the bankers post-2008 in their interest. Talks about the nationalist internationalism, and how their policies seep into the right and centre left parties even when they lose elections. Labour became a danger to the oligarchy and so he had to be demonised – not like the McCarthyites in which people were accused of being communists, but rather in a manner to hurt us directly – by making accusations we cannot stomach, and so there is a need to purge anti-Semitism and so on from ourselves, so the working class turns against itself. Calls current order “techno-feudalism”, rather than capitalism. “Democracy has never failed, because it has never been tried.”
16:33: Corbyn gives final message: Thanks everyone for coming, “The whole point of the project is empowerment of people.” Meeting ends 16:36.