1- When assessing grassroots movements check where the roots are. If the roots are in Trump Towers, or on the front bench of the House of Commons ITS NOT GRASSROOTS.
2- Check how it is funded. If it is funded by an exiting member of the financial or political elite, or an existing political party, ie Jon Lansman, Donald Trump, the Labour Party, ITS NOT GRASSROOTS.
3- If their aim is only one person, one personality, and that personality is part of existing political machinery. IE Leader of an existing political party, a billionaire…ITS NOT GRASSROOTS.
4- If the ‘grassroots’ movement requires all members to wrap their political identity around this person and they are required to abuse anyone who questions that person. ITS NOT GRASSROOTS.
5- If the people in the decision making centre of your ‘grassroots’ movement are white men who all went to Russell Group and Ivy League colleges, and started at Winchester, ITS NOT GRASSROOTS.
6- If the people orchestrating this movement have no ability to reflect on power dynamics they are embedded in and tell you there is a shadowy elite only they can challenge…ITS NOT GRASSROOTS.
If you meet people telling you a ‘movement’ which fulfils these conditions is a grassroots movement, these are very bad people. When these people tell you their movement should take precedence over democracy they are VERY VERY dangerous people. They are very unlikely to be anything but elite white men.
The confusing part
Britain has a long history of successful direct democracy and grassroots movements(don’t tell the left). Our social care, child protection systems, mental health services, domestic violence services and even our benefits system are shaped and moulded by grassroots activists. It can be easy to forget that. Those services have no voice or connection to policy makers outside trade unions because of their nature, because that is how they evolved. In spite of policy maker intentions and not because of.
In 2010 when policy makers demonstrated they didn’t know what those services did, and austerity hit them and their service users hard, those trade unions were supposed to represent them. Those trade unions were supposed to be able to offer a critique of the erosion of those services, explain exactly why cuts to those services could never be completed, and would fail, and they should have been able to advocate for the service users and staff who were impacted.
Instead UNISON said some cuts are ok because Labour, and PCS followed the Labour line because it turned out they thought their primary purpose was to preserve Militant and line Mark and Ruth Serwotka’s pockets.
People trying to identify what a grassroots movement is could get confused by those trade unions, because their job is to represent the consequences of decades of grassroots activism. So when those trade unions explain that Jeremy Corbyn is a grassroots movement they are paying for, it can be difficult to recognise this is trade union power stolen from vulnerable people and women, being used to prevent challenge to attacks on vulnerable people and women, supporting rich white men’s astroturf that is entirely reliant on abuse of women and vulnerable people.
So Rule 7- If the ‘movement’ is funded by trade unions who say that their job is now to ensure that a political party leader is removed from democratic accountability and reach, ITS STILL NOT GRASSROOTS.