Chris Williamson has a plan to ‘resist’. We can all be involved.
A movement has grown in the wake of the Labour Party’s ousting of an MP. Now, it’s on the verge of something big. Because it’s launched a grassroots-led group to make change happen from the bottom up. But it’s also already branched out into media, too. And it has its sights set on becoming a political party very soon.
Chris Williamson’s story
Former Labour MP Chris Williamson resigned from Labour in 2019. As The Canary reported at the time:
The [former] Derby North MP was originally suspended in February  after video footage emerged of him criticising what he considered to be the party’s disproportionate response in the face of criticism regarding its handling of complaints of alleged antisemitism.
Labour then readmitted him to the party on 26 June 2019. But two days later, Labour removed the whip from him. It then suspended him again on 3 September 2019. A court case followed, with the judge saying Williamson’s February and June suspensions were unfair. But as The Canary previously wrote:
He resigned from the Labour Party in November 2019 after the party told him he couldn’t stand as an MP in the upcoming general election.
Time for Resist
So, Williamson decided to form Resist: Movement for a People’s Party. As its website says:
We are promoting a bold agenda and we plan to bring community and political activists together to create an unstoppable momentum for change that politicians will find impossible to ignore and to ensure those elected to represent us are held to account.
But Resist has already gone further than that. Williamson hosts its weekly online TV show, ResistanceTV. And the group is hoping to eventually turn into a political party. So, as part of our #MeetTheMovement series, The Canary caught up with Resist’s director and national coordinator Sian Bloor. We discussed why the group was formed, the current political landscape and how Resist can be part of change for the better.
It was the 2019 election and its aftermath which prompted people to form Resist. Bloor told The Canary the group’s founding:
was due to a combination of the disappointing results of the General Election and Jeremy Corbyn stepping down. We felt that there was a gap that we needed to fill for the socialist left. Also, we wanted to help begin to unite communities divided on the Brexit issue. And we wanted to empower them. Because they’ve been systematically ignored by governments of every stripe for decades.
We initially got together to organise a conference for June 2020 that we titled as ‘The Festival of Resistance’. The idea was to gather together the best left thinkers, activists and campaign groups from around the world to launch a movement for change. It was to be a movement that could build socialism within communities; raise the political consciousness of people to empower them to bring about change; locally, nationally and internationally.
But Covid-19 came along in March 2020 and we were forced to put the conference on hold. We then decided to launch ResistanceTV on YouTube. The idea was to interview some of the people we would have had at the conference. We air the show live, every Wednesday evening at 7pm on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. By this time, Keir Starmer had been elected leader of the Labour Party. It was clear from people’s responses on social media, that they were looking for an alternative political vehicle.
It was from here that Resist really took off. And when you look at its aims and principles, they’re grounded in modern socialist values.
Bloor said of Resist’s broad aims:
We are a grassroots movement which aims to empower communities and workers through democratic, practical and political means. We will develop activities that build trust, capacity and skills. These will promote industrial democracy and reduce inequality; eradicate poverty and improve the quality of daily life for all. They’ll also be based around essential and innovative environmental policies. As an internationalist movement, we will work to build solidarity with progressive and liberation struggles around the world. We’ll also seek to unite communities, movements and organisations in the UK. By working together to raise aspirations and achieve practical solutions, we believe that anything is possible.
No mean feat. But Resist is already making progress. It has 12 regional groups. It’s social media has thousands of followers. And its online TV show has consistent output.
The group has been ‘overwhelmed’ by the public response. Bloor told The Canary:
We are planning to reorganise The Festival of Resistance. We’ll hold it in October, where we were going to launch the movement. But we’ve had such a big response, we’ve had to just get on with it. The response from the public has been overwhelming at times. We’ve already got organisers in every region in the UK. And we even have an international group. Those organisers are now busy holding meetings; creating branches; organising local campaigns and uniting with other left activists and groups in their areas. Our aim is to connect with community groups; promote their work and to showcase what they are doing through social media and ResistanceTV. We hope these models can be used in other areas throughout the country.
Bloor thinks organising among individual groups is crucial. She says this is with the caveat that the left as a whole needs overall, collective objectives. Bloor told The Canary:
Our philosophy is that the left should be a flotilla of political organisations, campaign groups and activists. They should all be working together to achieve the same goals. We’ve all experienced what can happen if you put your eggs in one basket. The Tories and the elites will do whatever it takes to try and crush the left. They did this with Jeremy Corbyn and many of his supporters. But his legacy lives on in the hundreds of thousands of people who he brought hope to. Now, more than ever, we need to unite, maybe fighting battles on different fronts, but together we can achieve anything.
The end of Labour?
But she also thinks the Labour Party is done for:
The Labour Party, as a political organisation is finished. Some people want to stay and fight. But the Byzantine mechanics of the Party means it’s all but impossible to change. People need a progressive, democratic and member-led party, now. The Labour Party are travelling too far to the right, with careerist politicians who wield too much power. We are a brand new, fresh and exciting movement, with big ideas for the future, not just for electoral politics. So, we plan to work on arts projects, community radio and expanding ResistanceTV. We want to encourage people with creative skills to put them into practice to enhance their communities.
Given Starmer’s sacking of the community coordinating team, other groups working to support communities is essential. The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has shown just how UK society desperately needs grassroots mutual aid. So, Resist putting some of its focus onto this should be welcomed. But, this will be in tandem with other immediate objectives.
Join the resistance
The group has several priorities. Bloor said:
Having set up the infrastructure of the movement, in the coming weeks we will begin to host our Policy Hubs. These will be online conferences. We’ll bring the membership together to discuss and debate our future policies. They’ll also feature grassroots activists, academics and campaign groups. Then at our conference we will take a vote on whether to register as a political party and elect a leader and committee members. As yet, we don’t have a name for the Party, but we’ll leave that decision up to the members.
Along with Harmony Party UK, Resist could well be another feature on, at first, local government political landscapes. But both parties will surely be aiming for Westminster.
A drive for Proportional Representation (PR) is now crucial. The challenge is, of course, that this would not suit the main political establishment parties. As Resist says on its website:
Participatory rather than representative democracy would give citizens real influence over those in authority. The present system only offers the chance to vote once every four or five years. But after that politicians are pretty much a law unto themselves until the next election. Corporate lobbyists circle like vultures around the Palace of Westminster. They have far too much sway over parliament’s proceedings.
Changing the political status quo won’t be easy though. Not least because it suits the super-rich elites and corporate sharks. These vested interests have been gorging themselves on the proceeds of deregulation and privatisation for 40 years. That is why we need to build a movement based on democracy and the community solidarity epitomised by socialism.
So, by forming movements like Resist now – the winds of change across our democratic systems can begin blowing.
Strength in “collective solidarity”
Resist’s aims for 2021 are big, but possibly achievable. Bloor said:
Subject to what our members decide, we will establish a new political party. But our most important goal is to encourage people to recognise this. That the strength of their collective solidarity is powerful enough to bring about radical change. We hope the establishment of the movement will begin embedding in communities. And that it will take a practical hands-on approach to providing transformational solutions for the people.
With Williamson and Resist, you know you have a fearless organisation. The movement is rooted modern socialism. Its core beliefs are that it should be people-led. And its bottom-up, community-driven approach is crucial as we all face a very uncertain future. Now really is the time to resist – and the fightback could be, in part, with this group.
Featured image via Resist and Wikimedia/Chris McAndrew
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