Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Mass Movement

In her pitch to become Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Stella Creasy spoke much of the need to create a movement as opposed to just an organisation. It is unclear whether she regarded what happened as achieving that aim, for a Corbynista tsunami was clearly not what she had in mind. Nonetheless, this raises the question as to how a movement comes about; and whether it can ever be deliberately created.

Charismatic leaders can lead a movement, it seems; though timing may be equally important in achieving buy-in. Where people feel excluded, a leader who speaks to their needs will attract a following more than a similarly beguiling personality might when life was comfortable and fair. Perhaps, therefore, it is the response to a need that makes a movement come about.

Take as a example how the people of this and other countries have responded to the plight of the myriad refugees fleeing their homes with nothing, to escape bombs and persecution. There has been a thunderous absence of leadership from those we put there to provide it. Indeed it may be that what has happened is a direct result of this vacuum. All over the country individuals have decided that doing nothing is not good enough; that it is unacceptable to leave so many to die or fall ill from exposure, especially small children, as politicians vie to "protect our borders" or save money rather than show common humanity. The people have decided. A movement has happened, unled.

Volunteers have simply gone, to Calais, to Lesbos, to Serbia, to take human warmth and generosity to others in need. Tonnes of clothes and food have been collected in communities all over the country. Others have collated these offerings and transported them to the destination of need, where yet others sort and distribute them to the cold and hungry. There is no Disasters Emergency Committee arranging all this; it is just happening. People use social media to find other people who can complement what they are doing. There are countless tiny groups and soloists acting because they feel an imperative. This is a movement.  It is unlikely that anything like it can be constructed to order, no matter who takes a lead, unless there is a true need which motivates the willing. The Labour Party was originally a movement responding to the need for rights for workers. What need it should fulfil now is the key question.

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