Online Activism

Although I had been an active member of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) I only really became active in U.K. politics 9 years ago when I got a broadband connection. I returned to the U.K. in 1998 but it was only after I retired that I felt sufficiently settled to take an interest in matters beyond my immediate concerns. I didn’t even have a TV before then so I wasn’t well informed. I’m the proverbial rolling stone that gathers no boss. After a lifetime of struggling to earn a living and keep a roof over my head, I finally have sufficient stability in my own life to think of others less fortunate and put my socialism into practice.

My mentor at university gave me a written reference (as well as mentioning me in his book) in which he said that I was not an ivory tower philosopher but had plenty of life experience. While I was still at university and a member of the ALP a comrade asked me how I reconciled my studies with my party politics. I answered that I don’t – I’m asking questions but not waiting for answers before deciding how to vote.

One of the subjects I studied at university was Industrial Relations and, after graduating, I was briefly deputy workplace representative of my union. Nevertheless, it was only after I retired that I joined a union in the U.K. and that was more a show of solidarity than in expectation of personal benefit. (I have benefited personally, and it helps with the work I’m doing, but that’s another story.

The idea of standing for parliament did cross my mind, to be instantly dismissed. I was eligible under ALP rules to stand as a candidate when the chosen candidate had split the vote and cost us a state election. This is no exaggeration, we were one of the two most marginal seats in NSW. Winning those two seats would have given us a Labor government, and the vote was close enough to require a recount!

I was treasurer of our ALP branch at the time and the secretary of our branch was our candidate. I was disappointed when he withdrew his candidacy but chose not to put myself forward as a candidate because there was a remote possibility of my being elected! One of my favourite philosophers is John Stuart Mill, who was a failure as an MP. I couldn’t get through my maiden speech without breaching protocol by failing to address members as “honourable” when they’re nothing of the sort!

This is fantasy, I’m too old now to stand even if I wanted to and can’t even participate directly in demonstrations or union meetings due to lack of mobility. I was prepared to stand on a picket line with the FBU but that dispute was settled without a strike. I have great admiration for disabled activists like Paula Peters who are here, there and everywhere when there’s a strike or demonstration in London. Yesterday (27 May) she spoke at the #NotMyBill protest in Parliament Square and was trolled relentlessly on Twitter.

Transport is a problem in my case and my union, Unite Community, wasn’t helpful when I asked. I’ve bought myself a wheelchair to give me greater mobility in events, but getting to them remains a problem. It’s an hour on the bus from where I live into Leeds, and a fair distance to walk from the bus station. Train is out of the question.

I do what I can online and I’ve built up what one follower calls my “fan base” by promoting a variety of causes – people who follow me because we share an interest in one may learn something about another issue they hadn’t previously thought about. I don’t know how much good petitions are other than raising awareness, but I’m quite effective at promoting them. I’m also developing my skill at creating covering images for some of them, the most enjoyable part of my work 😊

I am nevertheless looking for ways to expand my activism, this blog is an example. I’m encouraged to write more by my friend and comrade Chris Williamson with whom I hope to have a Zoom meeting shortly. This will be a first for me and we’ll need to see how it goes before sharing, but it might open up another avenue of communication. The only experience I’ve had of speaking in public is presenting a paper for the Philosophy Club at university which was already prepared but needed to be pitched at a level that was intelligible to 1st year students while retaining the interest of postgraduates. I was aided by a lecturer who kick off a discussion with a question that he no doubt knew the answer to but was prompting me to expand a point for the benefit of 1st year students who might not have the confidence to ask the question themselves 😀 Perhaps I might develop the confidence to participate online in union meetings, webinars and livestreams. It would require me being available at certain times but much easier than travelling.

I’ld also like to collaborate with others in a blog if I can find a way to do it in WordPress. I have done some collaborations with images when I have a idea but lack the technical skill to do it and I’ld like to take that a step further.

I’ve had grateful acknowledgments from various NGOs for my support but I find myself bombarded with requests for donations, sometimes from organisations that I already support! Most recent was from a Democrat Senator soliciting funding for his re-election campaign 🙄 If I donated even £1 to each of them I’ld be destitute in no time!

I’ve always tried fundraising for various causes, but I have my limits and won’t generally ask for donations unless I put my money where my mouth is. At present I can afford to support several causes financially with monthly donations and hope I’ll continue to be able to do so for a long time despite the Cost of Tories Crisis. I’m intending to provide links to each of these in a future blog, with some explanation why I chose these particular causes when there are so many others that are equally deserving. In this way I hope to encourage others to spare what time and money they can to help others. That’s what I call Socialism in Practice 😊✊

I realise we’re sharing ideas without really affecting the world beyond our circle but we have to speak up to widen that circle. I do what I do not because I hope to see any change in my lifetime but because I cannot remain silent. I’m guided by this aphorism:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s