Monday, 22 April 2013

Visions for Change 2013 - Full Details Announced

Here's the latest press release from Bath People's Assembly on this Saturday's Visions for Change event - NOT TO BE MISSED!!!

After months of planning, Visions for Change 2013 will open its doors to the public at 11am Saturday 27th April. More than just groups with stalls, this year’s event features talks and short films, as well as the opportunity to engage with various groups active in the Bath area, find out what they are doing to make the world a better place and to get involved.

Organised by Bath People’s Assembly, the independent democratic forum that all residents of Bath are welcome to attend the meetings of, the event promises to be an exciting one, with a diverse range of groups and speakers, from environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Green Vision, groups concerned with business and economics such as Avon Co-operative Development Agency, the Bath Oliver and Bath LETS, groups campaigning for peace and an end to poverty such as Bath StopWar Coalition, Bath Amnesty and Bath Oxfam, groups opposing government cuts and the current handling of the economy including Bath Against Cuts, Occupy Bath, 38 Degrees and BARF, and many others, including Bath Foodcycle, New Hope and directors of radical films.

Last year’s event was a huge success – the event was packed out and many groups met each other for the first time and have since worked together more closely. It also inspired a similar event in Norwich, and an organiser from Visions for Change Norwich will be speaking at the Bath event. This year the event will be held on two floors – on the ground floor will be stalls and a cafĂ© run by South West Food Not Bombs, and in the basement will be talks, short films and a radical photography exhibition.

The event is free and is open to the public between 11am and 3pm,and is in the Friends’ Meeting House, York St., Bath, BA1 1NG. Up to date information can be found on the Facebook event page:

The full list of groups attending this year is as follows:

Bath Oxfam
Bath Against Cuts
Bath Amnesty
Energy Efficient Widcombe
38 Degrees
BARF (Bath Anarchists)
The Zeitgeist Movement
Occupy Bath
South West Against Nuclear
Bath Stop War Coalition
Bath Foodcycle
Frack Free Somerset
Bath People's Assembly
New Hope
Secret City
Bath Quakers
Bath Friends of Palestine
Bath Against the Badger Cull
Green Vision: The Bath Youth Climate Movement
Clevelands Pool Trust
Bath Green Drinks
Visions for Change Norwich
Forum Bath
Bath Oliver
South West Food Not Bombs
Avon Co-operative Development Agency

UPDATE: Film director Ken Loach has now been confirmed as the guest speaker, between 11:30 and 12:00

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Theory Corner #2: Rules for Radicals (Saul Alinsky)

Saul Alinsky's 1971 book "Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals", published shortly before his death, has been a significant influence on radicals from all sides of the political spectrum - from anarchists and other left-wing political activists to right-wing Tea party activists in America. In in he presents 13 rules for activist tactics, based on his extensive experience as a community organiser. As the book is still in print and presumably still under copyright, only the text in quotation marks is directly lifted from the book itself. The remainder of the text is my own interpretation for which I've tried to keep examples contemporary.

Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, p127-130

1. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have”

If you've got half a nation on your side, then you've got few issues showing your full force to your enemy. But if there's only a handful of you then you need to devise ways of making the enemy look like you're more powerful than you really are. Alinsky cites the example of Gideon: “Conceal the members in the dark but raise a din and clamor that will make the listener believe that your organization numbers many more than it does”

2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people”

Undertaking an action beyond the experience of the people leads to “confusion, fear, and retreat”, claims Alinsky. It is important that the people are capable of undertaking the action and can perform it well.

3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy”

While you don't want to cause “confusion, fear, and retreat” amongst your own kind, this is highly desirable amongst the enemy. Dumbfound them with something that they are under-prepared for, and you've won a significant victory. However, remember that this victory may only be temporary and be prepared for the possibility of them catching up.

4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules”

As Alinksy states: “You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity”. I would add to this the idea of making the enemy eat their own words. A very recent example of this is a 200,000 strong (and rising!) petition to make Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith live up to his claim that he could manage on £53 a week (sign it here: This also ties in with Rule 5.

5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon”

Ridicule is almost impossible to counteract. People like jokes, and when your enemy becomes one it is difficult for people to take them seriously. It also infuriates them and tips them off balance, causes them to react with impaired judgement, increasing the chance of making mistakes.

6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy”

This goes without saying. If you want people out trying to change the world, make it something they are going to want to do. One of the major reasons for the decline in the number of people on site at Occupy camps over time was that camping in October is not the same as camping in December or January. People stopped enjoying it, whereas it was fun to begin with. Make things fun! This leads into Rule 6.

7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag”

Yep, those tents weren't making the same impression in January 2012 as they did back in October 2011. I hate to admit it, but it really was time to move on and up the campaign a little using another tactic. Fortunately some people have done this, such as the occupation and subsequent community running of Friern Barnett library and Occupy Bath's seamless shift from camping to starting the Bath People's Assembly. The same tactic again and again gets boring and often annoying for the public and activists alike, and the message can often get lost in the process. Keep things fresh and exciting, and always have a plan of what to do next.

8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up”

Keep up the fight! If you score a minor or partial victory, don't let that be the end. Celebrate by all means, but then get back to work, knowing that things are already going in your favour. 

9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself”

The imagination of the enemy will probably make out that the action you've threatened them with will be far worse than what you're actually going to do. 

10. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition”

As Alinsky puts it: “It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign”.

11. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive”

Negative actions from the enemy can be used to your advantage and win over public support for your side, the victims of such inhuman brutality. Alinksy cites the example of Ghandi's tactic of passive resistance as a classic example.

12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative”

You may win the battle, but you will then be pushed for a realistic alternative. Best to have one of these up your sleeve for when that moment comes, otherwise you'll be in danger of ultimately losing the war.

13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it”

Possibly the most controversial of the rules. Alinsky makes the point that the target is constantly trying to shift the blame elsewhere (such as a company director blaming his board, a company blaming their suppliers etc.). He rightly accepts that a specific target may be not be the only cause, and suggests that by pinning down a target, the others will come out of the woodwork. Alinsky also favours targetting people rather than institutions - for instance going after the CEO rather than the company itself. On polarization, he makes the point that when a decision has been made, even if there are pros and cons either way, one must assume that their decision is completely the right one.

Theory Corner

1. Socialism (Alexander Berkman)
2. Rules for Radicals (Saul Alinsky)

Monday, 1 April 2013

Bath Lib Dems are April Fools

On the one day where practical jokes are a socially acceptable norm, Occupy Bath played a small prank on the local Liberal Democrats, with hilarious consequences. Around 11am this morning, Occupy Bath put out a message on Facebook and Twitter - "WE'RE OCCUPYING DON FOSTER'S OFFICE (31 James Street West)!!! COME FIND US!", a blatant April Fool's prank if I ever saw one. If our local backstabbing MP's office isn't secure enough to keep out the 99%, then he really is even more of an imbecile than many of us thought.

But it appears that the local Lib Dems are even more gullible than predicted. Rather than using his brain and realising what date it was, Lib Dem Councillor Tim Ball fell for the prank and went down to Don's office to see if anyone was about. Only after this did he acknowledge that it was probably an April Fool's joke (although due to his grammar it appears that he may still be unsure...) - "just been there no one in sight is this another April fool joke". Someone buy this man a calendar next Christmas.

While no-one from Occupy Bath has yet owned up to posting the message, when asked about the incident a former resident of the Queen Square and the Royal Crescent occupations said "Just councillor Tim Ball being gullible and probably not amused. He should have expected us". Another occupier said "Gutted for him... I read also Paul Wiltshire seemed interested in the occupation, thanking Tim Ball for his 'on the spot report' - a sign that the Chron would've shortly been out to find us also, maybe?". This is yet another example of the Lib Dems proving themselves to be a fucking joke and a bunch of fools, locally and nationally. Nevermind, they'll be finished by the next election.

This isn't the first time that Occupy Bath have had dealings with Don Foster. He came to the old camp in Queen Square once, when he was supposed to have been elsewhere at a meeting regarding the NHS cuts (but presumably didn't want to show his face), and instead got a mouthful from a university lecturer over his voting record on various wars. Dirty Don then stated (and I heard this with my own ears) "I have no objections to this camp!" and promptly left for a "sports meeting".

Don Foster at Occupy Bath