A new year’s revolution

A new year’s revolution

Date: 5 February 2013

At 11.34am on Tuesday 22 January, more than 260,000 of us who had campaigned for a radical Robin Hood tax had big news: we had won.

Even the EU head of tax admitted that we made “tax history”. I think that’s a bit like making history, but with more paperwork and probably less fun. To be honest, I don’t know: as far as I’m aware I’ve done no “making history” to compare it to. There was that time I made a lego statue for my grandma and she said I’d truly made history, but I think she was just being nice.

We deserve to celebrate being one of the hundreds of thousands of grassroots optimists who wrote to our MPs, shared links on Facebook and dressed up as Robin Hood on marches. Strong public pressure forced 11 EU countries, including Germany, France, Spain and Italy, to seek – and win – the green light to introduce a tiny financial transaction tax. This tax of less than 1 per cent could raise £29.3 billion a year. There’s still a lot to be done before we’ve truly won, though: we need the tax in more countries, including here in the UK, and along with 127 coalition partners, the World Development Movement demands that this £23.9 billion should be spent fighting climate change and poverty.

Seven hours after the news, 20 of us met at the World Develpment Movement’s office with a simple objective. We had two hours to produce a global revolution of world peace. I think we did as well as we could have. As one Londoner pointed out, we may not have built a global utopia, but at least she hadn’t had to use her recently acquired first aid knowledge because, thankfully, we all remained uninjured during the two hours.

We were delighted to host leading experts in social and political change, who shared their skills with us in small workshops.


Ben Dyson from Positive Money opened a box of tricks for raising awareness. Thanks in part to punchy animations and the two-hour viral documentary 97% Owned (below), Positive Money’s free online videos have been watched over 230,000 times. Demystifying full-reserve banking, a potential solution to the broken banking system, enabled Positive Money to win support from across the political spectrum, from Conservative MPs Steve Baker and Douglas Carswell to Labour MP Michael Meacher.

Positive Money are inviting people to spread the word, join a local group, volunteer at their office in London, or meet up with other supporters.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3mfkD6Ky5o width:500]

From the technical details of full-reserve banking and the market distortions in housing caused by the speculative investments of debt-based economic architecture, we moved on to learning how to lock yourself to the doors of a multinational company’s HQ. The Occupy London activist Heather shared legal advice for direct action.

Along with over a dozen community gardeners, Heather occupied Heathrow’s third runway zone where activists have set up a plant nursery and food growing education centre, blocking any third runway construction. Despite government attempts to further criminalise squatting, the Grow Heathrow community garden has support from their local MP, Council, Police and Residents’ Association, and the activists say they are set to continue their non-hierarchical occupation and continue helping other activists set up similar non-hierarchial projects elsewhere too.

Grow Heathrow is open to visitors every day, and is calling for help to save the local common land.

Despite the hard work of Ben, Heather and all of the participants it was suggested that, compared to the uprisings of Egypt in 2011, France in the 18th Century and Mexico in the 1910s, the WDM London revolution of 2013 might mobilise fewer millions of revolutionaries. However, even if we didn’t overthrow the World Bank, we still made some really cool recycled wallets from waste juice cartons that are extremely trendy. They are both practical and affordable, and they come in a variety of different designs. And that’s important too.

We managed to make up-cycled juice carton wallets in the record time of two minutes: all you need is a pair of scissors and an empty soya milk or fruit juice carton. Although it is tempting to recycle and feel proud, in fact a lot of what British people put into recycling is incinerated or put into landfill.

Drinks cartons are almost impossible to recycle because their various different materials all need to be separated. Their multi-layer structure is made up of polyethylene liquid barriers, paper for strength and advertising, aluminium as a barrier to oxygen, light and other flavours, and more polyethylene. Plus there’s a hard plastic lid. That’s why it was such a joy to forget attempting to recycle, and to make them into something better: to up-cycle.

So, with our freshly made wallets safely in our pockets, we met Deuan German from the Communities Empowerment Network, who co-hosted the evening. Getting us excited about the potential of local volunteering as a tool for revolution, we were inspired by the over 4,000 local students who had been at risk of being out of school, but that the Communities Empowerment Network had helped back into education.

It was, however, painful to discuss the searing inequalities in London and how heavily the scales are tipped against minorities. This song was a call to action for us:

We remembered that when we work together, people are powerful, whoever we are. Dani Paffard from Move Your Money reminded us how easy it was to join the half a million activist bank customers who had recently moved their money to ethical co-operatives and mutual banks.

After remembering our power to work together for boycotts, we also began to feel empowered to ask our MPs for change. Sarah Reader from the World Development Movement gave us the confidence boosting advice: “even if you only know a little bit about a campaign’s issue, that’s still probably more than your MP knows”.  

  • @wdmuk
  • Facebook: World Development Movement

Lots of the participants were from London, and took part in the Save Lewisham Hospital march on Saturday 16th. Following 25,000 people hit the streets in protest, the health minister Jeremy Hunt was forced on the back foot, cancelling a limited number of some of the most infamous threats to the A&E. However, activists warn that the hospital’s survival is still at risk.

We’ve got some thrilling events in the next few weeks, so if you couldn’t make the WDM revolution of 2013 then don’t worry. Revolution’s on its way:

Friday 8 February, Inverness

Free film screening of food sovereignty documentary ‘Growing Change’ plus photo exhibition.

Sunday 10 February, Bristol

An opportunity for producers and anyone organising for food sovereignty to engage in national and local planning.

Saturday 2 March, Dundee

A double bill of inspirational films with a global view of food justice, a free workshop and WDM get-together.

Saturday 16 March, London

Austerity is designed to hand wealth to the wealthiest and power to the powerful. And it’s working. Activist conference with international speakers.