I met George at a pub near where I work to hand over the activist materials: petition sheets, leaflets, and a few other bits, on Thursday 20th August after finishing my shift.
Are you familiar with the term "Evangelism?"
I gave him the stuff and he asked me what he was supposed to actually do on the day. So I asked him, "Are you familiar with the term 'Evangelism?' You're going to be stopping members of the public, handing out leaflets and asking them to sign a petition against TTIP. You will also be answering any questions they have about it."
Well I went off on my jollies to Cornwall and George Walkden went to Eccles Cross as agreed and met up with the other activists. Six came along in total, two of whom were completely new to activism. When I texted George later on to ask him how he was doing, he said he'd collected "a decent number of signatures." He left at about 1.30. Newbie Sue H. remarked,
Was good to meet you Marion, plus Jane, George, Tony and Meurig. Jane and myself were the complete newbies but I certainly enjoyed the time and I think Jane did too. You'll probably see us some time soon, when the next petition hits the streets. I enjoyed talking to lots of people and most were very friendly, especially Eccles taxi drivers who were nearly all keen to sign the petition.
Her friend Jane C. added,
Yes Sue I enjoyed my first experience representing 38 Degrees! You managed to fill a page and more of signatures. I felt proud of the fewer signatures I got and inspired to join in the next campaign.
The public I spoke to were very interested and shocked about the potential risk to our democracy that TTIP poses.
Well done to our group.
Not only did they do some good, they feel inspired to do more.
There is more to be done
This is good because there's more to be done. 38 Degrees is not the only group campaigning against TTIP.
A week of protests begins on Sunday 4 October targeting the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. As part of this, we’ll be joining allies including the People’s Assembly, Unison Northwest and Stop TTIP Manchester to target TTIP on Monday 5 October. Please do join us for some protesting during the day, and then come to rally we’ll be holding in Manchester Central Hall from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. We’ll be sending more details nearer the date.
This is apparently a War on Want initiative, though a host of other groups will be protesting other issues on the day, also targeting the Tory conference. I'll be at work on Monday 5th October but I should be able to get out to the protests after I've finished for the day.
The trouble with FTAs
so-called free trade agreements is they've got little to do with trade and are more about corporate giveaways than creating the jobs they promise. If they actually were about expanding the free market and getting rid of trade barriers they wouldn't be so hot on eliminating competition from generic drug producers; evergreening would be one of those "trade barriers" that would be removed. Copyright terms would be reduced, the public domain protected and fair use ring fenced. As it is, they're working on tightening copyright restrictions and increasing enforcement of failed business models that rely on artificial scarcity. As for labour relations, if they really were about equal market access wouldn't they be insisting on fairer pay and better working conditions for workers? As it is they're engaged in a race to the bottom, offshoring our jobs, then moving on like migratory beasts when the economy has picked up enough in those countries they've been operating in that workers start to shop around for jobs. So don't kid yourselves, they're not about the free market — or trade — at all.
Activism has successfully ground TPP and TTIP to a screeching halt so far. As I learned from my attendance at meetings organised by UNISON, when a trade agreement fails it doesn't officially close down, it just peters out. We're at the defibrillation stage with TPP at the moment because the interested parties are unwilling to back down over what amounts to protectionism for their own products in their home markets. TTIP is currently weighed down beneath the IPR, Heath and Safety, Country of Origin, and ISDS concerns; in a nutshell, US protectionism married to its cavalier attitude to our health and safety is the root cause of its problems, and may ultimately cause its downfall. The bad news is that TISA is waiting in the wings.
What you can do
Keep an eye out for posts by Glyn Moody, who blogs extensively about this. Join 38 Degrees and be ready to take part in their days of action. This is not a campaign that can be won by signing one petition or writing one letter or email to your MP or MEP. You have to keep at it no matter what because, believe me, the corporate bad guys behind these dirty deals will not give up till they get what they want. To paraphrase The Terminator's Kyle Reece,
Those lobbyists are out there. They can't be bargained with; they can't be reasoned with. They don't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, EVER, until the democratic process that gives you a say in how your country is governed is DEAD.
So we've got to keep on fighting. The good news is, we can and do win. Eventually, they'll be forced to give up because they'll find us waiting for them every time they start up again. Will you join us?