Motions for conference

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Deadline for amendments to these motions will be Friday the 21st at 9pm. Please e-mail to Slaneystreet@gmail.com

You can stand in absentia for elections to Editoral board please e-mail biography and reasons for standing to Slaneystreet@gmail.com

Resolution for the Slaney Street founding conference – Jolyon Jones

As a newspaper Slaney Street’s focus will be on the production of quality news and analysis ‘from below’.

Its value will be as a source of trust worthy alternative information that can inform readers.

As such :

It’s aim as a newspaper should be to ‘inform and educate’ and to ‘move people to action’.

It should promote oppositional reporting of local issues and of national issues of local import and significance.

The voices of those in struggle should be heard in the content as well as through direct access to the pages of the paper.

There will be a commitment to developing well researched and well sourced news content and critical analysis. The voices and perspectives of those affected by policies and decisions will be reported as will their agency and resistance.

It will develop a news agenda of concerns, issues, and campaigns.

It should aim to be well written and well designed and attractive to its readership

Motion 2 – Achieving regularity – Slaney Streets strategy for expansion Edd Bauer

The key task and strategy for sustainability for the paper of the newly elected editorial board should be to achieve a regularity in the paper rhythm of production.

Firstly it will make the paper more useful and accessible. The trial run has had irregular papers and irregular editorial meetings – fixed monthly meetings and deadlines will more easily get in building into peoples and groups routine and make the paper a more accessible and useful tool for activists.

Secondly it will make the paper more financially viable. Other free paper initiatives like the occupy times or the Manchester mule – although successful have relied fundamentally on donations only irregularly printing off an edition whenever the account reaches the necessary amount.

However if we can achieve monthly, or even quarterly publication then we have access to income streams other than donation/member dues.

In the trail run we were offered deals of monthly adverts for 6 months – however we were fundamentally unable to take up the offer properly as we could not guarantee being able to fund the rest the print run over this 6 month period. If we could offer to potential advertisers regular publications with the print run guaranteed and underwritten in large by reliable member dues then we could access a far wide degree of funding.

Despite the paper being free it could still be sold. Many people would pay a subscription of a £1 a month to have the paper delivered to their house. Once we have the base income with which we can guarantee one edition every one, two or three months – then we can advertise £1 every one, two or three months in a standing order to buy a copy of the paper and have it delivered. Potentially a considerably larger number of people would be willing to do this rather than become members and it could become a significant income stream for the paper.

Once the editorial board has assessed just how much is coming in monthly it should decide how regularly we can afford to publish – one this has been set it should be advertise for the year to advertisers and potential subscribers. The extra money produced by the advertisers and subscribers over the year in the course of the run can provide the basis of an more regular paper or expanded print run or paper size in the following year.

Motion 3 Resolution for Slaney Street founding conference – Kelly Rogers

Slaney Street is committed to providing a platform to those most often silenced in mainstream society and in the corporate media, including women.

Depending on the income of Slaney Street, it shall aim to produce quarterly ‘women’s issues’: by which we mean editions written, designed and edited by women. In the case of monthly issues not being feasible, Slaney Street shall produce these special editions at a ratio of 1:4.

The content will give priority to gendered analyses of news stories and events, but the content overall will be determined by those producing it.

Interim editorial boards (EB) comprising self-identifying women only will be established to oversee the production of these issues. The election of this interim EB shall be the first item on the agenda at the EB meeting convened for the final edits to the edition prior to the women’s issue.

Motion 4a Membership – Edd Bauer

If motions 4a 4b & 4c pass they will be put into place immediately and the editorial board elections will be organised on the STV for the number of places that the motions sets out. The only part of the motions that will be put into place will be membership all present at the time of this motion passes will be considered for the duration of the conference full members and able to vote. This should be done in good face if an attendee has not intention of joining it is encouraged that they do not vote.

Slaney Street will require regular standing orders from its core membership in order to sustain it. If we are serious about our politics then we must be willing to commit to supporting the paper financially.

Members should get benefits for their investment and commitment.

Member rights.

In return for membership members have the right to post things on the website pending the approval of one member of the editorial committee.

Additionally members will have the right to vote at conferences and cast votes electing the committee and editorial board. Non members cannot vote.

Members have the right to run for the Editorial committee. A person can not be on the editorial committee unless they are a paid up member.

Members have the right to be attend and speak at editorial board meetings, in a non voting capacity and members have the right to opt into the editorial board e-mail decision making list.

A petition of 5% of the membership can call an emergency conference of Slaney Street which can elect a new editorial board. (see operations section for details).

Membership commitments.

Membership should require a commitment to tackling racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia & abelism and all forms of discrimination.

Motion 4b Membership Cost

The rates of membership should be

£1.50 a week employed over 20k

£1.00 a week employed or student

£0.75 unemployed

These rates should not be considered fixed it should be advertised that people can apply for membership free if they have special circumstances which should be taken into consideration such as being sanction or having lost benefits or being in position of being unable to claim any benefits due to immigration or asylum status.

All members should be given a grace period of three months if payments stop before membership is canceled due to lack of payments. Unless of course the member explicitly resigns.

Motion 4c Democratic operation of the paper & elections process

The Editorial Committee is elected by Slaney Street conference which must take place every six months.

The Conference is organised by the editorial committee and requires one months notice.

A emergency conference to elect a new editorial board or pass new motions can be called by a petition of 5% of the membership to the editorial board. If a petition created the petition including its full reasoning must be put directly on Slaney Streets website, twitter & facebook.

Editorial Committee election will be run by a single transferable vote (STV) election

The Editorial Committee will have on it 12 spaces on it half of which are reserved women’s places.

Powers & decision making

For an article to go up on the website it requires the approval of one member of the editorial committee.

An article can be vetoed by a vote of 2/3rd of the editorial committee.

For editing the physical copy of the newspaper the editorial board must meet up in person and make decisions by votes. If the losing party in any vote wishes they have the right to publish the minority viewpoints and reasons for objection in 200 words in the hard copy of paper and in full online.

The Editorial Committee has the right to remove openly racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and ableist members by a simple 2/3rd majority vote of the board. The motion to remove must be submitted to the board at least two weeks in advance of the meeting and the member in question notified.

 

 

A crisis in organisation: dangerous times ahead.

Why Slaney Street? Why a free paper? Why now?

Why you should join and get involved.

In advance of the conference taking place on the 23rd of this month, this article was also written with an eye to what Slaney Street aims to be now and in the future. This article has been written by Kelly Rogers and Edd Bauer, who have both been editors for Slaney Street’s opening trial months. The content is their own and does not represent the views of Slaney Street which is home to a diverse range of opinions.

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Historic changes are currently taking place across Birmingham. The last serious grassroots ties and channels of communication between activists and the city’s masses are being uprooted. The major trade unions have faced several severe setbacks and defeats and the most unionised workplaces in the city council and other public services are facing obliteration.

In the last three years Birmingham City Council has lost 27% of its employees – and the bulk of the cuts have yet to come to the workforce. The unions homing these workers still provide the backbone of much of the political activity in the city, and this as very serious long-term crisis for a city that faces the immediate threats of austerity and the far right.

There are still areas of dense trade union organisation; transport, fire brigades, education. However we must recognise that the prospects of these unions risk diminishing; privatisation in the fire brigades and many schools through academisation are very much on the cards for the next decade. In the early ‘70s there were over 50 factories employing thousands of unionized workers in Birmingham and the Black Country. Now there are only three.

 In Febru ary 1972 some 30,000 Birmingham engineers walked out on strike  in solidarity with striking miners who were fighting against austerity pay deals. Up to 15,000 then marched to join miners who were picketing Saltley coke depot. The blockade forced the police, who had kept the depot open all week, to surrender and close the gates.
In February 1972 some 30,000 Birmingham engineers walked out on strike in solidarity with striking miners who were fighting against austerity pay deals. Up to 15,000 then marched to join miners who were picketing Saltley coke depot. The blockade forced the police, who had kept the depot open all week, to surrender and close the gates. Could this be possible in Birmingham today?

We are also faced with a serious crisis in the death of any vitality in the Birmingham Labour Party. Birmingham is seeing a complete dearth of organised activity within the party. The Blair years ushered in a rigorous erosion of democracy and a collapse in Labour party membership by two-thirds in the last 20 years, leading to this vital community link being significantly reduced, or even severed. An illustration of the unbridled inefficacy of the Birmingham Labour Party can be seen in the recent Kingstanding by-election result. A deprived working class ward – a safe seat held by the Labour since the 1960s – was lost only a few weeks ago to the Conservative Party. This is, of course, in spite of the Conservative Party pursuing an overt agenda of devastating austerity against the working class.

With UKIP planning on targeting “working class Labour wards” and explosions in far right activity, defeats like this should set alarm bells ringing. We must question how much exposure working class are being given to alternative views and be worried about the lack of a visible alternative to the far right . If this is not dealt with and action is not taken to construct serious alternative organisational machines then we face being swept away.

There are moments when we are faced with premonitions of what type of society we could be subjected to. For example, let’s take the summer of 2013. The mass EDL demonstrations in response to the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich led to attacks on Birmingham mosques and to, in support, the Birmingham Mail running an editorial calling on the police to round up Muslims “in times of terror and hold them until they could prove themselves innocent”. This was alongside several Labour and Tory councillors calling for the re-installation of special CCTV cameras in the predominantly Muslim areas of Birmingham. If we don’t take serious action to build systems that counter the prevailing political tendencies in the capitalist parties, press and system then this is the type of society that we should become used to seeing.

Drastic action?

We are now living in a society that is more atomised than ever. We work in the same place for shorter periods; young people are more likely to move away from their family home to find work; and, for many, religious institutions are becoming less influential. Traditional ties within communities are dissipating; social interactions are less likely to be long term. While exceptions to this rule will, of course, be common – the indisguisable wider trend means that we are no longer going to be able to rely on long-term community relationships acting as a hotbed for political consciousness.

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reaching out a fly post for the march on Saltley Gate.

Young activists activists often cannot find secure enough work to pursue trade union activities, and even in secure workplaces heavy anti-union legislation disincentivises participation. Further to this, the activist base of the Labour movement is ageing: “Trade union members are increasingly older employees. Over the seventeen years to 2012, the proportion of employees who belonged to a trade union has fallen in all age groups except those aged over 65. About 36 per cent of trade union member employees were aged over 50 in 2012, compared with 22 per cent in 1995” – Department of Business report 2012. Consider, then, that the average active trade union representative belongs to the older cadre. Within a decade a significant bulk of the trade union activists may well be retiring.

As such, action on our part cannot simply be a routine repetition of the stalwarts of activism, which remain vital but inaccessible to a generation recently radicalised. Turning up to workplaces and attempting to work miracles in highly precarious, casualised work forces or focusing on a rapidly diminishing swathe of secure workers would not be sufficient. In doing so, we would fail to reach the insecure, casual young force, which numbers many: Birmingham is Europe’s youngest city, and with 40 per cent of our population under 25 the youth must remain central to our activism.

With many traditional avenues for activism denied, people naturally turn to the most accessible forms of political expression. Regularly engaging activity such as community activism, public meetings, blogging and engagement with political internet communities are the most common forms of activism. The online communities often act as the springboard of youth mobilisations. It is these forms that are best placed to rebuild politically-conscious Left communities, and it is these forms that are the grassroots networks most likely to generate the next generation of trade unionists.

Overcoming isolation: organising for the win

For most the process of acquiring and developing political beliefs is heavily influenced by the people and ideas they are exposed to. It takes place on a grassroots level, largely through friends and family, in the context of the mainstream media and hegemonic political discourse. Community groups are unlikely to fully recruit someone into activist activity without a degree of implicit consent from their networks or without support of their friends, family and communities they may be embedded in.

Our highly atomised society has the tendency of isolating us from each other, and from recognising our common interests and goals. We are prevented from taking collective action against problems which have the same root cause.

In the face of an racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic and classist society in which the state and media is becoming ever more totalitarian, projects like Slaney Street are crucial in providing a fall back. These initiatives offer communities a mass system for intellectual self-defence, helping them to link up and calcify around issues and ideas they share.

How can we build a strong politically-conscious city from the base we already have?

Community activists and online communities across Birmingham are crying out for a mass audience, provided it was created on a democratic basis – free from attempts to co-opt them into an agenda outside of their control.

We have seen a number of attempts to artificially bring groups together into hub websites, but none of these have reached the critical mass of participation required to become permanent and useful.

A physical paper copy of the online hub offers the gravity and draw that makes participation worthwhile: it encourages groups and activists to write, contribute and participate in a mass community, when otherwise they may not due to feelings of isolation and irrelevance.

Solidaridad Obrera (Spanish for Workers' Solidarity) is a newspaper, published by the Catalonian/Balearic regional section of the anarchist labor union Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), and mouthpiece of the CNT in Spain
Solidaridad Obrera (Spanish for Workers’ Solidarity) is a newspaper, published by the Catalonian/Balearic regional section of the anarchist labor union Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), and mouthpiece of the CNT in Spain

However, it is very clear that the current method of selling the paper on the street must change. A hundred years ago when Left organisations from the CNT, IWW, Marxist and Leninist parties made selling the paper part of the core of their activity the paper was the primary means of communication in capitalist society. This is no longer the case today. The internet has fundamentally and permanently altered the media landscape, and sale of physical newspapers is down across the board – including mainstream, corporate papers – especially amongst the digitally-native youth demographics. With the ease of dissemination and reproduction of news and information, the premium that young people are prepared to pay for a physical newspaper has collapsed, hence the rise of the free paper.

It was reported in June 2010 that this had been a successful move by the Standard; instead of selling around 140,000 copies a day, the paper now prints around 750,000 copies a day, and returns a profit, unlike many paid-for papers like The Guardian. Even in Birmingham the ‘freemium’ paper is emerging. The declining Birmingham Mail is declaring a turn around  in fortunes following the introduction of its free Friday edition, and The Metro is omnipresent on all modes of public transport.

There is no promised land online

Some advocate a promised land of cheap and easy communication solely online, hoping to see a repetition of the explosion of the organised student movement in 2010. However, only 50% of people in Birmingham use Facebook and far less use Twitter. Further to this, in the next few years it is expected that Facebook will enter a serious crisis, and it is already seeing its ability to recruit new user begin to flag. Facebook has begun a process of monetisation that inhibits its usability by on-the-ground community groups, without serious investment in paid-for advertising.

We should also keep in mind that the authorities have demonstrated their willingness and ability to control, map and watch social media. In the riots in 2011 accounts were blocked and shut down, and the evidence left in the wake of 2010 provided the basis for several prosecutions. It would be hugely irresponsibly, as we approach turbulent times, to be constructing a political edifice based on a means of communication wholly owned by the corporate and political elite.

community-manager
Tts not all that clear a nice! The utopian vision of the internet as a force for change is failing.

Initiatives like the Manchester Mule have shown progress which can be achieved under alternative media strategies; using a collaborative relationship between the trusty physical newspaper and the increasingly vital online community, perhaps moving into more secure online spaces with greater radical potential.

Internet communities provide a haven for many and engagement for many online can provide a forum in which they can talk overcoming anxiety issues they may feel in a public meeting. However repeated studies have shown that Facebook is generally associated with jealousy, social tension, isolation and depression. It is a means through which we are encourage to project perfected copies of ourselves in competition with each others who have posted amplified visions of their achievements 24/7. Rather than enhancing self-esteem and well-being online spaces like Facebook actively undermine it and build a deeper level of isolation and disempowerment into our interactions.

We must challenge the illusion that surfing the web can change the world. The presence of Slaney Street argues for reaching out of their online social networks. It is the embodiment of Michah White’s quote: “clicktivism is to activism as McDonalds is to a slow-cooked meal. It may look like food, but the life-giving nutrients are long gone.”

Our projects must be emancipatory and bring together new networks. While it is often easy for young people to seek out political projects online, and we should be prepared for that – it is very difficult to build beyond already existing networks in an online space.

A free paper can move towards bridging the generational gap, uniting and supporting community campaigns and providing a forum for the politicisation of a new layer of activists in a way that paid-for papers, or a solely online presence cannot achieve due to the failing of both mediums.

Lets avoid cult like thinking - Slaney St Stands for rigorous debate and diversity.
Lets avoid cult like thinking – Slaney St Stands for rigorous debate and diversity.

In conclusion

This is, at its core, a question of how class struggle and social struggle to overcome racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia can be recovered, in the wake of the obliteration of traditional community and workplace organisational spaces.

There is hope in the new swathes of activists wanting to develop an anti-authoritarian Left wing politics. Slaney Street attempts to embody that by attempting to create a broad, democratic paper which utilises social media effectively. To create a platform in which different visions and tendencies can co-exist. A free mass paper is accessible to important social struggles the Left has too often dismissed and has the capability overcoming divisions between the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Left by giving them a shared forum for strategic thinking and a mass audience.

Slaney Street Founding Conference 23rd of March.

 

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The deadline for motions is Monday the 17th6pm and the Deadline for amendments to these motions will be Friday the 21stat 9pm. Putting yourself forward for election to the committee will be done at the conference itself. The deadline for the next print edition is march 19th 9pm https://www.facebook.com/events/530053090446375/?fref=ts

 

Since November 2013 we have run three trial issues aiming to provide news and educational discussion about community and political issues in Birmingham.

These issues have put out broad well-advertised appeals for articles and then the Slaney Street committee has put these submissions into a paper – with the rest that were good enough being put onto the online edition.

This has been an attempt at cooperative community run paper. If you have liked what we have done, if you want more of these issues, if you want to get involved and help us overcome our shortcomings – then read this.

Slaney Street aims to be a democratic paper in which you can get your views represented. This conference aims to move from these three trial issues into having a permanent monthly Birmingham paper that exists to support & promote grassroots initiatives across the city.

Our targets for this conference

 

Participative democracy only works with your participation and engagement. At this conference we aim to pass a detailed and democratic constitution and elect a new editorial committee.

For 10,000 copies to be funded monthly we need around 60 members of Slaney Street to be contributing between £4-8 a month. We believe this is a feasible target considering the size and strength of campaigning forces it the city.

This is a challenge but if we’re going to progress with any campaign, movement or issue this kind of base mass infrastructure must be created.

What we are about

The three issues you have seen have been a trial run funded by generous contributions by Slaney Street supporters. It is our belief that across the city communities, workplaces and people are having their lives torn up or wasted by the government’s austerity program and many others forms of oppression including racism, sexism, homophobia and ableism.

This paper exists because we want change, we want to challenge the politicians and the system that supports them. We think one key component of this system is the mainstream media which largely backs austerity, attacks those receiving benefits and at an alarming regularity promotes racist, sexist, homophobic and ableist views.

We believe that there are also a great deal of individuals and groups who are either striving towards solutions, have solutions and are fighting for them. These groups must be given a mass open forum for communication and exchange of ideas – to allow them to build unity and reach out to everyone living in Birmingham.

Why a newspaper?

 

Some say the print press is dead or dying and that we should move onto social media. However statistically only half the city use media like Facebook and even less twitter. Despite its decline it is still the most accessible medium. In the trial run we have found that the print edition not only increases hits on the website but also encourages groups and individuals to write knowing that that their content will be read by more than just a few social media contacts and friends.

We hope the newspaper will act as draw for activists encouraging them to talk and write more to build up a stronger and wider local political narrative and understanding (which is what we need).

How is this different from other papers?

We not heading out to recreate the undemocratic and racist Birmingham mail. This initiative must become a democratic pluralistic paper which exchanges opposing ideas, in which people can learn through debate. A paper which gives space to a range of marginalised viewpoints advocating democratic change to our society while practising it.

We know it is not possible for real victories to be achieved until on mass people have a common sense of solidarity and understanding of each others positions. Slaney Street aims to facilitate the exchange of ideas rather than impose views.

It is an attempt primarily to overcome isolation, dogmatic sectarianism and atomisation. If that sounds good get involved we may well only get one shot at successfully establishing this.