Below is an article from the first newsletter of the London Coalition Against Poverty.
You can download the whole newsletter by clicking on here [pdf]
Fighting to win: An introduction to LCAP and direct action casework
WELCOME to the first of what we hope will become an ongoing roundup of activities and campaign updates from the London Coalition Against Poverty.
So who are we and what do we do? London Coalition Against Poverty (LCAP) brings together activists, advice workers, and campaigning groups in order to tackle the causes and effects of poverty in London through merging advice work with direct action and libertarian organising. We have been going for less than a year but have already had some modest successes as this newsletter shows.
As our name suggests we were intially inspired by Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) who developed the model of direct action casework.
Since 1989 OCAP have been using a range of effective tactics to mobilise many of those at the sharp end of the attacks on their welfare, housing and employment rights. While these rights are not enough by themselves, asserting them is a necessary first step to extending those rights and, we hope, widening our struggles in the process.
What is Direct Action Casework (DAC)? There are three core principles around the DAC model of activity. Firstly to combine legal work with disruptive action to achieve an immediate, or more quickly arrived at, outcome. This means understanding what people are entitled to under the law, and at the same time knowing that people have power in disruptive action.
Secondly, not to duplicate the work of legal clinics or other agencies. There are numerous legal clinics and agencies that are given money (usually from government) to fight on people’s behalf or provide
them with services.
Thirdly, to forward political goals but never compromise the interests of those you are working with in the process. Landlords, bosses and government bureaucrats break the rules all the time and we’re the ones who pay. They often do this unchallenged. The official channels of appeal that are available are often lengthy, costly and ineffective. Direct action casework is designed to cut through this to get people what they want.
Organised workers have the power of going on strike. They have a power that comes from withdrawing their labour and suspending their activity in the economy. But if people on benefits simply stop participating in the benefits system it gains them no power at all; the opposite in fact. Instead we need to force our way into the process in order to be heard and to secure our demands. Keeping business operating as usual is very important to the functioning of many institutions; it is often easier for them to make a concession than to try to continue while disruptions are taking place. Our success will come from demanding people receive what the law says they can have and backing it up with effective action.
To be clear, we are a political group with political goals. As Jeff Shantz of OCAP explains, “recognising that direct interference with the practices of various levels of government and their business backers is the only way […] people can effect a real measure of control in their own lives. OCAP avoids token protest in favor of actions which upset our enemies’ plans. Rather than pleading with them to stop hurting us we act to develop the means to prevent them from implementing their plans.”