Where is Spartacus?

Every single day the are numerous stories about how awful things are and have much worse there going to get for everyone, not included in the higher earnings echelon.

And everyday there are thousands of comments, shares, posts, etc on Twitter and Facebook berating the above situation.

Quite right so, and there’s nothing wrong with using Social Media to sound off and see your opinions agreed with and celebrated by cyber friends;  but is this at the expense of actually doing something?

For anyone who gives a shit, I’m a 50 year old woman who developed several debilitating conditions 20 plus years ago; I’m also a qualified and 30+ year  time served Community Worker; and it is from this perspective that I am writing to ask a question; What the hell has happened to Spartacus?

Most of you will know the background to the Spartacus Campaign, but for anyone who doesn’t a brief overview – 12 month ago, or so, a few people worked together to produce the Responsible Reform Report, giving clear evidence of the devastating affects of the Welfare Reform Bill; those people and in particular 2 individuals, led an online Campaign that spread across cyber space, gained high level media coverage and generated a great amount of support against the cuts from disabled and non-disabled people alike. We all know what happened, the cuts came, but the campaign went on, particularly on Facebook

A year or so later where is it, well as one of the 771 members and a follower of the campaign I am aware that the mantle was taken up by a small group of people who have since, developed a website and forum; and through that, developed a comprehensive response to the Government Consultation on the changes to DLA. (Disabled Living Allowance)

All that from a handful of disabled people, is commendable; but from such a large membership, especially as the members themselves are the one of the receiving end of the long whip being used on people with disabilities, I would generally expected more.

Most days I pop in on Facebook to catch up on progress and respond to regular pleas from the coordinating group for member views; and I find the same few names offering feedback!

I find this frustrating and in truth, slightly embarrassing, I got involved to help prevent the Government passing and unjust, unfair and I believe illegal Act; OK we didn’t stop it but the fight to prevent further damage is just as important.

I cannot accept its enough to merely sigh and accept the current status quo, hoping for an election in 3 years time; that will be too late Further, I do not believe it is right to sit back and watch whilst others take up the fight for me; especially as we have seen and continue to see the price this has cost the original campaigners. To do this, whilst still claiming to be Spartacus is not only Hypocritical its dangerous; unless the Government view the movement as serious, they will continue to ignore our plight.

So my challenge is to anyone out there who says they are Spartacus, Support the coordinators, get actively involved with this and other groups striving to show the Coalition enough is enough.

If you don’t you’ve no right to either use the name or moan!

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12 thoughts on “Where is Spartacus?

  1. Join the forum at spartacusforums.org.uk, because facebook can only ever be superficial, with ideas disappearing down the timeline before they’ve had time to come to anything. Also, the forum is hosted securely, no changes can be made without our say-so, whereas Facebook moves the goalposts all the time. And, and, no advertising on the forum!

    Bring your stories, your jokes, your ideas on how to cope. Bring your anger, your information, your campaign ideas. Above all, get involved.

    All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing!

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  2. Apathy… I can’t be arsed…

    You begin your ‘call-to-arms’ with the very positive reinforcement that “Every single day the are numerous stories about how awful things are” and “have much worse there going to get for everyone”.
    I think you consciously or unconsciously hit upon the process of development a group like Spartacus will enter into on more than one occasions during the development towards what Spartacus may become. Through our shared half-a-century of community development work experience we must recognise our own frustration at the pace a community will develop – Spartacus, like any community is a living growing community with all the various stages of development for members. Many times in my experience the process of identifying aims and objectives, of individual participation whether deep or shallow, is not a process that can be timetabled or else we cross the line to becoming target-orientated, before members have found their role, or their level of participation that suits them and encourages a deeper commitment and, if we are lucky, a sense of belonging. This takes time, I am aware of the need to have a purpose, and a growing sense of how we are going to engage with the issues. I know that patience, and a capacity for infinite disappointment is the hardest ‘skills’ Community Development workers have to discover. It is frustrating, and it is too tempting to manipulate the timescale of development by ‘taking control’ or carrying the heavy burden of expectations with regard to the name of ‘Action’.

    I have watched too many colleagues adopt a role of manager “to get things going” only to leave so many members even more unsure of their role or part in the development – members will assume a role of following rather than engaging, going along with issues without a deeper appreciation of the issue or a closer understanding of their role and responsibility in the development process – after all the process is being led by the more articulate, the more active, the more ‘experienced’ – thus we fall in to the trap of providing developmental targets that do not accurately reflect the community – but ensure that the more active have a sense of ‘movement’, of development’ – this can soon become a smaller core group of activists with a growingly alienated community. This frustrates a sense of wider-community ownership, a sense of being involved, a sense of belonging. The worst-case scenario is that a few committed people find themselves with too many roles to fulfil and, if we are truthful, this leads to a growing sense of resentment.

    Development of any community will always revert to leaders and followers; however, it is possible to ensure that a far wider community of members will engage if it is recognised that we do pass through the various seasons of the ‘doldrums’ – when things are simply not happening! Within many of our communities there is often a mistaken assumption that people are losing interest when it could well be that for a season there has been a constant sense of being in ‘fight-mode’- with no option for flight-mode. People have been under siege from this hireling government for nearly two years. This is a very long, and exhausting period for any group or community to sustain such a level of commitment.

    We must never forget that members of any community have also to deal with the very serious and dangerous threat of being engulfed by a constant barrage of ‘bad-news’. In addition to this is the very real and genuine impact that the issues that Spartacus deals with are issues that will impact members directly. The factor of anxiety, natural levels of concern and deeper urgency and direct impact on their lives will I believe be a major factor in the ability of members to concentrate or focus on so many vital issues with the degree of objectivity varying from others with a more secure foundation. This is not meant to be an accusation or personal attack on any individual it is merely a recognition of the many hidden and yet natural sources of rising frustration for those who feel ready for the next stage of development.

    I am seeking to highlight the many factors that impact on the development of individuals, groups and communities like Spartacus. I believe that the range of issues impacting on Spartacus is unprecedented in their hostility, severity and maximum impact to the membership. Many members, like myself, must be reeling particularly when we add the very real impact of ATOS medical assessments, and benefit changes hanging over the head of so many people, so many exhausted people. I genuinely, and sincerely understand the levels of frustration that give rise to “wondering what the hell” is happening – I feel such frustration at our media, our journalists, and the vast majority of public servants, the Churches and the political classes. If the level of scandal, corruption, unprecedented changes to our Welfare states our NHS – without a mandate and the sleaze surrounding this hireling government does not raise such protestations and levels of genuine frustration… then, we are fucked!

    Maladjustment to injustice is, I believe, why we have a myriad of groups challenging the hireling government that now represents, the arrogant, the ignorant, the indifferent and the disengaged. The Media acts like the medieval church, and is now so rotten that trust has vanished. There are so many people who are alienated, isolated and feeling complete despair! Against such a background the very existence of so many groups, like Spartacus, are candles in the darkness… the importance of daily contact within such groups can easily be overlooked – particular at such a time of impending gloom – they are a lifeline, the crucial opportunity to engage with others ‘in the same boat’ – friendships, and a listening ear is a vital part of what Spartacus, and many other groups, offer a source of encouragement and hope! This is what Spartacus is doing now! In a period of such sustained attack and indifference it offers a medium of contact that did not exist under the last regime akin to this hireling government – namely Thatcherism.

    I have no wish to be offering false hope, however I believe the very existence of such groups are a life line to so many individuals who welcome the opportunity to sound-off, or listen and encourage others through Spartacus. Please forgive me for using a personal experience that I believe gets to the heart of why Spartacus is where it is at the moment… and the greatest role it is now playing by being a source and opportunity to speak out and be heard, to feel that you are listened too and you are still a Person!

    In the early days of my last post I was challenge by the management with regard to the amount of time I was spending with one individual has opposed to being in ‘the office’. To cut a long-story-short… a few of the members were intent on ‘carpeting me’ – putting me in my place and asserting their power. I was not concerned about such politicking… I was however determined to explain my actions whilst reinforcing the need to listen if we actual want to be heard! I explained to the management to speak of community development, or project development, with out listening to the individual was not only a mistake, it was a lie and undermined the philosophy of community development. If we fail to listen to the individual how the hell are we going to listen to the wider community? I patiently explained to members that by investing such time I was establishing that the project was open to the wider community, and not just the core group of managers, and their families. If the project was to be a ‘community project’ then it had to listen to the wider community and invest time in listening to the wider community, and recognising that a reputation for community concern was far more essential than chasing targets and timetables. Of course there is the vital role of discernment with regard to adopting such an ‘open-door’ approach to the community. However, we need to be painfully realistic in the process of development within communities – the community is a living thing, it is not just another department of a local authority for professionals gain additional lines on their CV’s. The Questions I subsequently asked the management committee where as follows:

    1) What is happening here? (Applicable to groups and communities where ever they are and who ever they are);

    2) Who is it happening for? (Is it for the widest community available or is it target centred… a tick chart for the
    Hobbyist, the MP the local authority?)

    Q: What is happening here? If I may apply these questions to Spartacus, in my humble opinion, Q: What is happening here? In a very short period of time a group of 700 has been established, and as I have said we were immediately plunged into the very deep end with campaigns against the Welfare Reform Bill and the NHS Reform Bill to massive and unprecedented threats to the nation – the battle has been long, and not only time-consuming but also energy sapping both physically and mentally. We have not had the time to contemplate ‘who we are’ or ‘where we are going’ we had no option but to hit the ground fighting, campaigning, writing letters, contacting MPs, developing and sustaining various petitions and issues – all at the very same time!
    Q: Who is it happening for? We undertook the support of various issues, not least a network of informal networks of support and a ‘listening ear’ – Spartacus quickly became a flagship of encouragement, it enabled us, and the wider community to ‘Let off steam’, then to identify issues and work together to tackle them. It offered the vital support and encouragement to those hard working folk who produced essential reports and provided a ‘lifeboat’ to hundreds of people who simply did not know where to turn or who to turn to – it was a link for all those who felt alienated, alone, isolated and victim to ATOS and other growing injustices. We, the very people impacted by these dreadful attacks and discrimination provide a ‘calm – well sometimes calm ‘port in the storm’.
    So, Spartacus is still here… no a bad achievement, it is still listening, and hopefully it is still learning. We provide a listening ear, and an opportunity for what will become a fruitful platform to consider the future stages of our development – it does take time, it will make mistakes and it will enter periods where we appear to be drifting in the doldrums – the knack is to use such times to breathe in, to take stock, and to realistically consider where we want to go always remembering:
    1) What is happening here? (Applicable to groups and communities where ever they are and who ever they are);

    2) Who is it happening for? (Is it for the widest community available or is it target centred… a tick chart for the
    Hobbyist, the MP the local authority?)

    None of this is an excuse for inaction, but let us be wary of not duplicating areas of work undertaken by groups such as the Black Diamond and many others. Let us also be wary of the pace we set ourselves to ensure we carry the vast majority with us, rather than overwhelm or unintentionally exclude those at the edges, those who are new to the community and unaware that we encourage everyone to have their say and to engage at whatever level they feel to be sustainably realistic. If we are unaware of our expectations has a community, it is inevitable that people will become frustrated, it is also ever likely that we may assume expectations that at this time may be out of reach for many, thus leading to the inevitable differences of expectations that see some frustrated by expectations over and above the stage of development of many members at the moment. We have been extremely active for a very long period – we also need to build in time to get to know one another to engage in conversations about our expectations, to discuss them and to listen, and then listen again.

    I am not suggesting that Jayne is wrong to express her frustrations, it is somewhat inevitable when we consider the stresses and strain we have all be under – what I am suggesting is the need to listen, and to explore together what our expectations for Spartacus are? Whilst recognising that a period in the doldrums is ever likely when placed with in the context of unremitting attacks from this hireling government. We need to breathe-in, we need to listen to one another and seek to the best of our ability to bring with us the vast majority of people who make up the membership of Spartacus. We need to accept the various stages of individual development will always impact on group/community development. The priority is to listen to each other, and to ensure to the best of our abilities that we do listen – and then we shall be heard. We Are Spartacus… not me, not you alone but all those who join, support and act to make Spartacus a community that listens, encourages and enables development. We need to support one another, to recognise, support and understand the various roles of the coordinators and support them where and when we can to the best of our abilities. Sustainable development is a long-term objective, and constantly reminds us of following important questions:

    1) What is happening here? (Applicable to groups and communities where ever they are and who ever they are);

    2) Who is it happening for? (Is it for the widest community available or is it target centred… a tick chart for the
    Hobbyist, the MP the local authority?)

    Adrian Wait.
    28.05.12

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    • Thanks Adrian for your well considered comment,; be assured I have no argument with your approach to Community Development, nor with your clear support for the Spartacus Movement.

      I agree, the role of enabler is essential in any movement, but it is a role; you also say “Development of any community will always revert to leaders and followers” and this again is true; and it is why I wrote this piece. It is essential for any community or group to develop, all of the different and numerous roles need to be filled.

      I don’t believe that the disabled community or Spartacus is in a position where everyone has to remain in the ‘enabler’ role, I feel it’s time for those who want to take a lead should be supported to do so.

      Having said this please be assured that this was a very conscious piece, and is also a conscious reply.

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  3. i have on many occasions said we are not doing enough and have proposed a few ideas to get us noticed in the general media. Unfortunately tho my ideas were well received and supported they were also rejected by the people at admin level for fear of being seen “unprofessional” or stepping on other peoples toes. I therefore decided that i would take it upon myself to educate Joe BLOGS and co in my own my way by commenting in as many newspapers as i can

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  4. i feel those same frustrations and do my level best to try get things moving in direction working with many groups at forefront beavering away behind the scenes, whilst replying and assisting those in need if i can. we are working a bit more together at social welfare union with dpac and black triangle,but many others well known to campaigning also are doing their bit. what seesm to be difficulty is stepping out of comfort zone and like uk uncut all coming together in mass action due to many logistical issues, as well as those taking part health is at forefront of their minsds. great piece:)

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  5. I think a lot of those who are/have been involved in Spartacus became so because they or someone they care for is directly affected by the changes happening now and those that are still ahead in the next few years. I came late to the fold as I only heard about the Spartacus Report the day it came out, however as soon as I knew what it was all about I decided I needed to help where I could and spent many hours over several days tweeting & emailing to get the message out.

    Many of those who are affected by the Welfare Reform Bill etc are by that very fact those who may find it difficult to participate fully on a regular basis. I am currently on HRC/HRM and my husband ESA (WRAG), LRC & HRM, we have just gone through transferring him from IB & won one ESA tribunal only to find that 8 weeks later he is being asked to complete another ESA50 (working on another letter to MP about it)!

    I try to do what I can, when I can & I managed to take part in the last consultation paper by sending off my comments to the DWP (went right up to the wire to finish but I did it!). At the moment I’m trying to write something on the one due at the end of this month but am really struggling due to health issues. I’m limited in what I can do at the moment and now it’s being made even more difficult with the added stress of having to go through the ESA minefield with DH all over again.

    I must admit I find the media’s apparent lack of willing to write positive reporting on disability issues to be totally demoralising. I get angry when I see all the Red Top papers screaming their various “scrounger” & “cheat” headlines to the public whilst ignoring the real stories that are out there.

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