Skip to content or view screen version

Portsmouth anti-cuts meeting - What went wrong

Rowner Eddie - Portsmouth Anarchists | 21.11.2010 15:22 | Public sector cuts | South Coast

Thursday 18th was the launch meeting of a coalition group in Portsmouth to fight the cuts – Portsmouth Against the Cuts Together (PACT).

The meeting started off well with some speeches from Laurie Heselden (Southern and Eastern Region TUC), Ben Norman, Sam Bogg (Portsmouth university student) and a local school student (sorry I don’t recall her name).

Unfortunately the speeches didn’t stop. It seems that many people had prepared lengthy, drawn out speeches about the cuts and were hell-bent on saying their piece despite being severely restricted for time.

All the speeches were pretty good but went over the same themes with perhaps a slight slant on it. This was not a rally where we were trying to put out a message to the wider public, this was supposed to be about getting organised and deciding on some action. Instead it ended up with people who see themselves as the prominent activists getting their egos massaged.

There were three things on the agenda for the meeting; a name for the group, how to structure the group and when the next meeting will be.

These three things were all decided within the last five minutes with minimal if no discussion at all.

So what have we got from the meeting? We have a name, we have everyone’s contact details, we have an unelected steering committee and a next meeting date that is so early it risks alienating many people who work past 5pm (but care was taken to make sure the steering committee could all make it).

The situation we have currently in the group is no better than we had before, we’ve still got a group of activists making all the decisions and a group of supporters responding to a call for marches, etc.

This should not, however, be a reflection on the people who put together the meeting as they did try to get some discussion going on the subject of organisational structure. The only failure on their part was allowing people to go on with their speeches and not getting through the agenda.

It is not all bad though, at least we know what went wrong and these things can be corrected.

My practical suggestions for the next meeting are:

Starting the meeting off with invited speakers only
Getting through the practical agenda of the meeting
Then having speeches from the floor if time permits.
Topics for the next agenda should include (in my opinion):

Structure of the group (preferably having a collective decision-making process with an electable and re-callable committee without decision-making powers)
Sorting out a regular meeting time suitable for the majority of members (not just committee members)
Finding out what skills people have to give the campaign (website, printing, logo making skills, etc)
Tactics (should we just have marches or should we be doing other things aswell?)
What actions do we support? (Do we support the Millbank students, for example?)
A plan of action
Hopefully what will come out of this is a democratic campaign with a lot of fighting spirit that is able to take on the cuts by going past the usual A to B marches.

Rowner Eddie - Portsmouth Anarchists
- e-mail:
- Homepage:


Hide the following 8 comments

First step

21.11.2010 16:43

Has to be to establish an online presence. Allows people to find you and get involved.

Blog, Facebook, Website or a combination of these. Twitter can be effective too.

You can get something effective set up in 20 mins.

Agreed on preaching to the converted meetings.


Step 2,3,4

21.11.2010 16:49

2. Arrange a Public Meeting for those speaches etc.

3. Set up a stall on High St publicising it.

4. Arrange a date for a Local Protest

5. Hold Public Meeting, announce Local Protest

6. Repeat 2, 3 and 5

7. Hold Local Protest

All whilst gathering email list, forging union links, forging links with all other local campaigns and groups affected by cuts, starting offshoot groups in estates, neighbourhoods, workplaces, particular issues (e.g. sports cuts in education announced today) that affect folk who wouldn't get involved in anticuts itself but are directly hit by one cut and are angry enough to take action and can be brought into the wider campaign over time.

8. Win


And the broader fundamental questions?

21.11.2010 16:50

Were any suggestions made about those?

An effective anti-cut campaign "don't cut program X" is going to have to address possible solutions:

a) What program Y should be cut instead?
b) What possible source of resources to fully fund project X? (without cutting somebody else's)

JUST organizing to make a lot of trouble if program X is cut (so those who want to cut to balance their budgets look for a softer target) IS going for option "a" but ignoring whose ox does get gored. Presumably whoever in the society is weaker than you are, can't make such a fuss. Meanwhile those in power will play you against these others since you provide them with the oportunity.

Or do you perhaps just care that your pet program doesn't get cut and the hell with the fate of the poor devils at the bottom whose program gets cut instead. At least think about it.


same problem in London

21.11.2010 16:51

I think we need to start off the meetings with ten minutes writing the agenda on the wall.. Some people always want to speak at length but usually it is abstract general stuff. Almost every one at the meeting agrees with each other already so it is just preaching to the converted if endless speeches are taken. It is important that discussion on actual practical plans take place.

This anti-cuts fight is going to be a long one, so all is not lost. Just make sure the same thing doesn't happen next time at the meeting!


The tactic of Dont cut X cut Y does not work.

21.11.2010 17:21

"Dont Cut X Cut Y" is exactly the tactic taken by the left in the 1980's. It was a rearguard and failed tactic that allowed the mines to be closed and market economics to be introduced into the NHS.

A better tactic is to relate every single cut back to the source of the crisis: bailing out the banks. If the previous Government had not bailed out the banks there would be no deficit. If the current Government valued X as much as the electorate it would not be cut.

"Don't cut X cut Y" leads to the stupidity of

"Dont cut X cut Y instead because we prefer X to Y"
"We won't cut X we will cut Y instead"
"Don't cut Y cut Z instead because we prefer Y to Z"
"We won't cut Y we will cut Y instead"
"Don't cut Z cut X instead because we prefer Z to X"
"We won't cut Z we will cut X instead"

Which results in XYZ going under the hatchet.

The ideological truth of the cuts is that they are an extended bailout for returning the financial sector to profit. The kind of accountancy based negotiation that ranks programmes into "i prefer this one to that one" are all used to push through larger cuts. The only position to take is: no cuts. full stop.

Arthur Scargill

Lets have some cuts

21.11.2010 19:41

Fuck this no cuts rubbish...

They can
* cut trident
* cut MPs allowances
* cut the monarchy
* cut the "war on drugs"
* cut the tax exemptions
* cut subsidies to big businesses

no cuts?

That doesn't work either, Arthur

21.11.2010 20:54

Yes of course, the reason for the cuts is that if expenditures aren't brought into balance with income, inflation, under those conditions the lenders can't profit, SO THEY WON'T LEND.

By all means choose that route if you believe you can make it work. You have available to spend whatever you have coming in cash, in hand (can't borrow). Think you won't have to cut somewhere? By all means cut the projects of the powerful. DUH! If you had the power to do that then it would be YOUR projects which were untouchable in the first place. YOU'D be running things and suggesting what projects of others were goign to face the ax.

Let's look at basics:
The most powerful in the society want their projects funded. They don't want to pay for those any more than they have to and to the extent that they can it will be taxes on the weaker instead.

The least powerful in the society can't get any of their projects funded and can't prevent themselves from being taxed to pay for other people's projects. That's only limited by the reasoning that theirs only so short you can shear the sheep if you want a wool crop next year. So yes, some projects benefit them if these are needed to keep them surviving for future exploitation.

It's those in the middle where it gets interesting. They have enough power to get SOME of their projects funded in exchange for allowing themselves to be taxed mostly to benefit the projects of the people on the top but also managing to get some of that used for the things that they want.

And I insist on using "social power" (as opposed to wealth). In ANY society those with a greater than fair share of social power can take to themselves a greater than fair share of whatever the society values. Ours values wealth; so the powerful are rich.

This isn't a case of the powerful trying to "divide and conquer" the middle power folks but that they don't give a damn which segment of the middle gets hurt. They'll let you protest the cuts, even shut that project down (the uni's). No skin off their backs.

That's why I was asking about "broader strategy". I was NOT suggesting that you propose what Y should be sacrificed instead of your X except to be pointing out that JUST saying "don't cut X" amounts to "cut SOME Y" unless you have an overall solution to propose.


The Points that You Make

21.11.2010 22:34


The points that you make are essentially:

work within the system to undermine it contrasts with work from outside the system to undermine it. The point I was making is that is the typical liberal dimension of thought.

The condem coalition is a coalition of liberals: economic and social. The social liberals give one argument to justify cutting X and the economic liberals another argument to justify cutting Y. What they both do not address is the substantive question: "what is the nature of the catastrophe?"

Greece instituted austerity measures. Greece suffered riots and economic collapse. This was predicted by others based on the answer to the question "what is the nature of the catastrophe?" Ireland instituted austerity measures. Ireland is about to suffer the same kind of collapse.

The Condems are in the process of creating an austerity package that will have the same baleful effect on the UK within a year or three. They have not answered the question: "what is the nature of the catastrophe?"

The truth is that opposing the cuts is not about saying that X or Y program should not be cut. It is about saying "what is the nature of the catastrophe?" And the proposals you have made do not address that question. The proposals for opposing the cuts have always been "do not cut this" or "do not cut that".

The truth is. We need cuts. We need cuts for several decades. Those cuts can come from the public sector - and indenture us to the banks for a generation - or those cuts can come from the banks. Ask "what is the nature of the catastrophe?" and you find that cutting the financial sector places them in the service of society for a generation.

We need cuts. As has been pointed out. We need cuts to such programmes as trident, corporate subsidies, bonuses, profits and so on. More than that we need cuts that bring all of those programmes into control. Unless there is a cut to the ability of banks to create credit out of thin air we will be back here in a generation having the same argument.

Just like the real Arthur Scargill pointed out.

Arthur Scargill