London Citizens/Citizens UK who are they?

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xslavearcx
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Apr 16 2011 01:01
London Citizens/Citizens UK who are they?

http://www.citizensuk.org/

does anybody know anything about them? A couple of com ed students where wittering onto me about them being an amazing model for community organising. have had a look at the site but looks a bit churchy for my liking - but that could just be my foibles. Does anybody know anything more about em?

posi
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Apr 16 2011 08:27

They are the UK expression of the Industrial Areas Foundation in the US. Largely based on churches. Close politically to right wing of the Labour Party, but have been quite effective in Living Wage campaigns. In my perception, they've notably failed to win anything much else on a big scale. For example, their campaign for a one off amnesty for 'deserving' migrants (Strangers into Citizens) has totally hit a brick wall. Their Community Land Trust project was never moving fast, and I believe has stalled since Ken left office. So they're not just a victory machine, as they like to imply - but the liberal left love them to bits.

They supported a campaign to get rid of sex workers from Whitechapel High St a few years ago.

Depth of organisation (and focus on training leaders from their base) undoubtedly impressive in some ways and - expressed at that level of abstraction - undoubtedly things we should seek to emulate on the basis of our politics. I would not suggest affiliation. It's impossible to work with them as individuals anyway, unless they employ you. They only respect institutions, because they can deliver people and power.

You can get a flavour of them from reading Going Public (Geccan) and Roots for Radicals (Chambers), if you want a glimpse into their idiosyncratic ideology - which arguably has elements in common with that promoted by L&S.

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fingers malone
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Apr 16 2011 09:42

I only ever heard of them around the immigration amnesty issue, actually I didn't know they did anything else.
They seemed to be very successful at getting known and getting people involved- suddenly my workmates were asking me if I was involved in this amnesty campaign, for example, but the actual campaign I thought was really dodgy. They had all these "good immigrant" criteria for getting papers, recommendation from your boss ffs, right, just give bosses even more power over vulnerable workers, great. Also you would have to pass an English exam, even though people without papers can't study free English courses at colleges.
However there was a demo for amnesty which attracted thousands of people, I suppose most of them were not necessarily demonstrating for this, quite reactionary amnesty, but just simply for an amnesty. LC were very aggressive with anyone criticising their proposals, I heard from other people.

martinh
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Apr 17 2011 08:14

Not sure they were aggressive. We did a joint leaflet for that march with the AF calling for total amnesty and criticising the "deserving/undeserving" dichotomy. It went down very well and not just with migrants, many of whom were enthusiastically joining in with Battlescarred's chanting. From our info it seemed that a lot of folks within Citizens, particularly their organisers, went for a demand they thought was achievable, rather than what thed'd really want. Hence the right wing labour approach - socially conservative but "reasonable".

Regards,

Martin

edited to add: also, they were able to mobilise lots of people because they did it through existing institutions, mainly churches.

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Apr 17 2011 11:04

Yeah I would say that they appear like conservatives because they take a very pragmatic approach. To the right of labour seems a bit unfair though. They got Cameron to promise to no longer hold children in Yarls Wood, I know its a long way from the abolition of migrant detention centres, but its more than Labour have done for anybody in Yarls Wood! The London living wage was also their campaign, again a long way from the abolition of the wage relation, but a lot more than Labour were prepared to do of their own accord.

I don't think they are a church organization, rather their membership is based on institutions, and if you think about it, outside of churches, what community institutions are there? I don't think you could get your local pub to sign up. Although I guess you might be able to get your workplace involved?

vanilla.ice.baby
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Apr 17 2011 16:51

They are church dominated to some extent however they also have broad support from non religious community groups and some trade unions and the like.

Maurice Glassman one of their main UK influences is the father of Blue Labourism which is basially a socially conservative social justice strand of thought.

I think they have done lots of worthwhile things - and their community leadership programme seems very effective, however they have recently made overtures to the Tories on "big society" stuff, and James Purnell and David Milliband both really like them.

I've never found them aggressive, and indeed anything but quite nice.

posi
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Apr 17 2011 21:17

I didn't say to the right of Labour, I said close to the right of Labour - e.g. close to David Miliband, whose leadership election campaign they helped to staff with organisers. Which was obviously a bit of a fuck up. At least in the short term.

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Apr 17 2011 23:35

well, you said 'close politically' I thought you meant the actual ideology, it's a simple mistake though right?

I didn't realize they had actually helped organize Milliband's campaign, I thought they were non-party aligned?

On the big society thing, I think they are saying is, 'well thanks for that guys, but we have been organizing ourselves for a few years now'. I think they are in a bit of a Catch 22 there....

posi
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Apr 18 2011 08:49

yeah, sure, simple mistake - just clarifying.

Quote:
DM’s campaign has recruited three community organisers from the CitizensUK (London Citizens), who have sort-of loaned them for a few months, to bring in outside expertise. It’s very likely that James Purnell had a hand.

http://liberalcons piracy.org/2010/07/27/does-david-miliband-believe-in-his-own-campaign/ (admin - link broken

See also:

http://www.citizensuk.org/about/centre-for-civil-society/
http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/dan-hodges/2011/01/labour-party-movement-citizens - also on how they've endorsed the Big Society thing... Arbeiten, I think it's more than you suggest:

Quote:
Citizens UK claims that it intends to "play a key role" in building the "big society". According to the organisation, "In the Conservatives' 'big society' paper and manifesto, Citizens UK is mentioned as the main resource for the training of community organisers, which the Prime Minister repeated."

And they may have been organising themselves for years, but they haven't been providing social services or running libraries for years at all. So their reaction to it must be about greeting something new.

Oddly, they have no anti-cuts strategy that I can see.

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xslavearcx
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Apr 19 2011 08:57

cheers for the info everyone.

I can see why they are such a case study in com ed courses. Vage notions of community empowerment with little if any political analysis underpinning their standpoints!

Yorkie Bar
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Apr 25 2011 06:08

Came across this today; it's an interview with Maurice Glassman who it says is "best known for his decade-long work with London Citizens and its Living Wage campaign".

Quote:
Indeed, he describes ‘blue Labour', the body of ideas developed by Glasman, fellow academics Marc Stears and Jonathan Rutherford, and Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas, as ‘a completely agitational idea to provoke a conversation about what went wrong with the Blair project'.

While Glasman's thinking has begun to pepper the speeches of Labour's leader, to whom he acts as an informal adviser, he is not an unalloyed critic of New Labour: ‘In the early Blair days', he suggests, ‘there was very strong language about family, there was a very strong commitment to what he called Christian socialism, there was a very strong discourse on responsibility and the work ethic, there was a real love of the history of the Labour movement, there was a real understanding of ... the daily experience of people's lives. There was a real combination of tradition and modernisation and I think the key to Blair's success was that alchemy.'

Blue Labour, argues Glasman' is ‘an attempt to improve and strengthen the early days of New Labour ... It is the place where New Labour needs to go next.'

‘The blue refers to the centrality of family life, a recognition of the importance of faith, a real commitment to the work ethic, a very casual but nonetheless profound patriotism that people feel about England,' he suggests.

Later on in the article he's quoted saying Labour needs to reach out to the EDL.

martinh
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Apr 25 2011 10:10

I think the whole "Blue Labour" thing will be pushed a lot more in the next few years. It is an attempt to reconnect Labour with what I'd call the respectable working class. People who are in favour of social justice, want the excesses of capitalism trimmed but don't buy into a lot of the Labour-left agenda around race, gender etc. (though often will support things like anti-deportation campaigns if they know the people involved). When the left of Labour rejects this, it's hard to work out what they are rejecting, and more what they are in favour of.
For example, the "mild patriotism" referred to above is probably just a reaction to the perceived anti-English attitude of much fo the left. It says "I'm English, that's good and I can still be a socialist".
Of more concern to us here I think is the avowed concentration on issues that focus on working class living standards. This is something that mainstream politicians have ignored for decades in their rhetoric, though Labour form 97 did address it through the tortuous tax credit system and investing in infrastructure through the discredited PFI schemes.
Obviously, "Blue Labour" can't actually deliver sustainable working class living standards under capitalism without there being a serious threat of disruption from somewhere else, the whole moral pressure assumes that shareholders and bosses have any ethics, which generally they don't.

Regards,

martin

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Apr 25 2011 10:14

Wow, I didn't know anything about this guy. I can't believe none of these New Labour types can't admit the real success of New Labour - a healthy economic climate where it was possible both to let the capitalists rampantly devour capital and tax them just enough to keep the prole thinking they may become middle class. Something it seems Barber and Milliband are basically wedded too.

I guess this is part of the problem of the institutions based membership they have. Really the only community institutions outside the pub is the church. I think it is really problematic in a secular institution like London Citizens having a spokesman calling for Christian socialism and strong religious (christian) values. The idea of 'tradition and modernization' is infuriating. a tradition that stretches back to 1066! my lord Britain can be infuriating!

Nice to see Glasman jumping on the 'wah wah Labour are liars and there are too many migrants' band wagon. i'm really not sure about his suggestions with how to reconnect with the EDL either. These sort of street level violent racism happens in waves in Britain, to pretend like this is the only time it has ever happened is to bury your head in the sand.

LBird
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Apr 25 2011 10:37
martinh wrote:
...much of the left... says "I'm English, that's good and I can still be a socialist".

Well, 'much of the left' is wrong, at least partially.

The phase should always be "I'm a worker, English, that's good and I can still be a socialist".

Even better would be "I'm a worker, white, English, that's good and I can still be a socialist".

Or "I'm a worker, white, male, English, that's good and I can still be a socialist".

Or "I'm a worker, white, male, straight, English, that's good and I can still be a socialist".

Because 'white', 'male' and 'straight' can be replaced with 'black', 'female' and 'gay', or any similar adjective in combination or separately.

What can't be omitted by 'the left' is the word 'worker'.

Because even "I'm a boss, black, female, gay, English, that's good and I can still be a socialist" is incorrect.

The challenge to Maurice Glassman, the EDL and the entire Labour Party is not defining themselves as 'English', but their not putting 'worker' at the front of the list, in opposition to 'boss'.

In fact, their problem is not putting 'class' first in their list.

Yorkie Bar
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Apr 25 2011 10:50
Quote:
For example, the "mild patriotism" referred to above is probably just a reaction to the perceived anti-English attitude of much fo the left. It says "I'm English, that's good and I can still be a socialist".

I'm not sure it's as innocuous as that. As he goes on to say:

Quote:
But it is immigration and multiculturalism which has become ‘the big monster that we don't like to talk about', claims Glasman. Mass immigration under Labour, he believes, served to ‘act as an unofficial wages policy'. The party's position, Glasman contends, occupied a ‘weird space where we thought that a real assault on the wage levels of English workers was a positive good'. More seriously, he charges the last government with having acted in a ‘very supercilious, high-handed way: there was no public discussion of immigration and its benefits. There was no election that was fought on that basis. In fact there was a very, very hard rhetoric combined with a very loose policy going on. Labour lied to people about the extent of immigration and the extent of illegal immigration and there's been a massive rupture of trust.'

...which is more than just the standard sort of harmless "footie and fish and chips" national sentiment. It's very much playing to the 'British Jobs for British Workers' side of things. It's clever, if unoriginal, and maybe even sincere - though it seems pretty unlikely to me that an educated academic seriously believes that immigration undermines wages when there's no evidence for this and afaik not even a basis for it in any credible economic theory.

martinh
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Apr 25 2011 10:51

@arbeiten: They're not secular. It is a consciously faith-based alliance that lets in secular groups like unions. It is an alliance of faiths, including most mainstream churches and congregations that see a social element in their teachings and other institutions, like schools and unions. The fact that it is institution membership rather than individual is a strength IMO, and mirrors how the working class used to organise itself.

@LBird: You're right that they need to put "worker" in there. They regularly do, though, it was me that left it out. Unlike most of the Labour Party they don't see a problem with being working class. Obviously they are a cross-class alliance, but as Arbeiten says, churches are among the few institutions still found in working class communities.

I think this lot represent much more of a challenge to the politics of this site than most, simply because they are proper reformists, implying that it is possible to reform capitalism, something no mainstream poltical party has done for decades.

Regards,

martin

LBird
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Apr 25 2011 11:02
martinh wrote:
Unlike most of the Labour Party they don't see a problem with being working class.

But that's not what I said.

I said 'putting class first'. Not 'recognising' the working class exists, but putting 'class' politics ahead of colour, sex, sexuality, nationality or religion.

Even Adolf didn't "see a problem with being working class" - he just wanted them to work, and leave politics to their 'betters'. A bit like Glassman and the Labour Party, eh?

martinh
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Apr 25 2011 11:03
Yorkie Bar wrote:
...which is more than just the standard sort of harmless "footie and fish and chips" national sentiment. It's very much playing to the 'British Jobs for British Workers' side of things. It's clever, if unoriginal, and maybe even sincere - though it seems pretty unlikely to me that an educated academic seriously believes that immigration undermines wages when there's no evidence for this and afaik not even a basis for it in any credible economic theory.

Hmm, are you sure that supply and demand doesn't apply to wages?

I think it's fairly incontestable that real wages have fallen a lot in the last 15 years. I also think that immigration, both legal and illegal, has played a part in that, though not the main part, which I'd reserve for destruction of any sort of economic defence, however imperfect. The continued existence of immigration controls is about making people without full papers be prepared to work for below minimum wage.
And if immigration didn't work for the bosses, why is it that they are in favour of it and having a go at the govt over cutting it back?

Regards,

Martin

Yorkie Bar
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Apr 25 2011 11:31
Quote:
Hmm, are you sure that supply and demand doesn't apply to wages?

Erm, well yes of course it does, but not in the simplistic way implied by the 'dey tuk ur jaabs' narrative. Economists call this the "lump of labour fallacy"; where people envision the amount of work available as a fixed thing that is divided up among the workforce.

Quote:
I think it's fairly incontestable that real wages have fallen a lot in the last 15 years. I also think that immigration, both legal and illegal, has played a part in that,

I don't think there's any evidence for that. And I've not heard a really convincing argument for how it has done so. I don't think history bears the argument out either; there was massive immigration throughout the 60s, accompanied by rising real wages.

Quote:
The continued existence of immigration controls is about making people without full papers be prepared to work for below minimum wage.

And if immigration didn't work for the bosses, why is it that they are in favour of it and having a go at the govt over cutting it back?

You've just answered your own question, haven't you? Because they're a cheap labour force. But that doesn't mean that everyone else's wages would go up if all the undocumented workers were deported tomorrow. Employers might respond to the decreased supply of cheap labour by making cutbacks, or by trying to force down the wages of the remaining workforce in one way or another, or by falling back on some other easily exploited group, or by investing in mechanisation of those tasks that used to depend on immigrant labour, or in any number of ways.

Yorkie Bar
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Apr 25 2011 11:45

And of course, even if the argument did hold water, that fact remains that the substance of what he's saying represents a defence of English workers against foreigners who New Labour recklessly allowed to run amok across the land. What Glassman is proposing is very much a "looking after our own" approach and not simply a defence of vague sentimental "Britishness".

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Apr 25 2011 12:04

I'm with Yorkie on this one. Even if in some way immigration has played a part in the lowering of real wages (and its debatable that we could ever isolate this is a causal factor) as political strategy goes this in an unimaginative cowing to ethnicity based populism. Glassman obviously hasn't read Capital in a while, if he had he would know that the real reason wages have lowered is because a capitalist has an interest in depressing wages. Whether he does that through immigration or through the exploitation of the blood and soil patriots its not really the issue, wages have gone down because capitalism depresses them as far as socially necessary. This is class politics mystified behind a cheap ethnic veneer of 'British jobs for British workers'. Implying that we were all gayly dancing around to the beat of tradition based christian socialism before Labour open the flood gates.

I hate this double-bind that exists in Britain right now where both the left and the right says 'we need to stop being silent on immigration and become proud patriots'. If you don't blame certain things on migration (rather than inherent laws of capital, the bosses, etc etc) you are accused of being silent on immigration!

vanilla.ice.baby
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Apr 27 2011 18:53

Mass immigration and multiculuralism under capitalism are very bad things and the sooner the left and anarchists can be honest about that the better.

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Arbeiten
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Apr 27 2011 19:07

care to elaborate further than 'bad'?

Yorkie Bar
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Apr 27 2011 19:35
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
Mass immigration and multiculuralism under capitalism are very bad things and the sooner the left and anarchists can be honest about that the better.

Hey baby, how about you make an argument rather than just a snide interjection which contributes nothing to the discussion (other than showing how hard headed you are in contrast to those wishy washy liberals who make up "the left and anarchists")?

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Apr 28 2011 21:51

If vanilla.ice.baby means that its pretty shit that people have to leave the communities they grew up in to help make sure they and their family reduce the harshness of the poverty they experience, then we should all agree, mass immigration is shit.

Multi-culturalism is a bigger issue. I think the feeling of the stripping away of community and shared culture that people have in the UK is not to be taken lightly. But immigration is such a small part of this for the vast majority of people who feel it happening (my guess, I don't know for sure) that it deserves very little of our attention, except in as much as we should support class cohesion and projects which overcome the divides of language and background.

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Apr 28 2011 22:02

I'm dubious about this idyllic time where everyone was frolicking around gayly with their shared community culture....

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RedEd
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Apr 28 2011 23:35

Sure, me too. But increased working hours, increased geographic mobility both in terms of working away from were you live and moving where you live more, increased inability of workers to keep family ties together due to various pressures, decrease in number of community based meeting places (working men's clubs, union halls, whatever) and so on do all mean that I think it is genuinely true to say that working class people have less 'community' now than they did a few decades ago on the whole. Which is not to say we should go back to the patriachy and parochialism that much of that 'community' was based on, but I think it's worth recognising the atomisation people are experiencing during this phase of capitalism in particular and capitalism in general and when people say that they feel like there is less community try to give class answers and class solutions, rather than tell them not to be so nostalgic.