It’s been an interesting week, watching the media talk up a riot, public servants ‘STRIKING…RALLYING…MARCHING!’
Yet it seems it doesn’t have enough ‘oomph’ anymore for the press. It’s only newsworthy if there’s a ruckus involving ‘latchers on’ from the ‘anarchist movement’…heaven forbid an anarchist might themselves be part of a Labour Party recognised trade union…
HEADLINE! READ ALL ABOUT IT! THE SCARY UNIONS HAVE LOST THEIR MOJO! HOODED MENACE TO TAKE OVER PLANET! More dangerous than Al Qaida…till next week…
Likewise it’s been an interesting and pleasing week watching friends and comrades rising to the challenge in defending the unions and taking the struggle to the streets against the Tory/Liberal ‘coalition’ government…who seem hell bent on destroying our welfare state…much to the derision of the press and unions in equal measure of course…
It’s also been a sad sad week. A week where comrades have been taken from us…
You know solidarity is a great great thing. There’s not enough of it about these days. So it fills me with joy to see it on display.
It is however a two-way street. And it is rarely reciprocated.
Over the last year I’ve spent a lot of my time involved with my organisation in our local ‘Coalition Against The Cuts’. Those on the inside ‘leading the fight’ are a hodge podge bunch, of local and regional union officials, some permanently involved in the usual paper-sale and petitioning for this months big issues, others less politicised but falling into place behind their more ‘senior’ union members. Hidden caucuses, caucuses hidden or within caucuses that are hidden from caucuses…
They use great and meaningful words like ‘worker’ and ‘working-class’. Even…’comrade’…although it’s often followed my a snigger and a red face…
These words however just seem to roll off the tongue.
There’s little passion there. It’s as if they’re acting out a part and the main lines of the script have become their catch phrases.
They talk of ‘fighting’ and ‘uniting the class’…
And this friends is where they start to lose me…when they eagerly discuss booking whole trains to take down to demos held in London which would ‘easily be filled to the carriage’ by a happy throng of ‘the class’…who would be eager to ‘rally to the cause’…
Only it’s all just fantasy…
As is all the talk of ‘the class’…
Class… They don’t belong to my class. Increasingly…they don’t belong to my class…Increasingly they don’t share the same life experiences, of dole, and housing office queue…of the prison…
They work for the state, they increasingly have the degree (that’s not a dig), often work in comfy offices, they have ‘expenses’, and something called’by the mile’… they work a rigidly set working week, hours never to be tampered with or there’ll be hell to pay…most of us don’t…and they have things called pensions…and their idea of conflict with the state…
Many of us too are currently in conflict with the state…and all it’s little branches…it’s offshoots…it’s wheels and centres of enforcement…
They work in the police station, the social services, the job centre, the housing office…’the public services’…the very services that many of these individuals will never ever have to utilise themselves… the very services that many of us have to deal with on a regular basis when we’re unemployed or in need of housing or desperate for work and money…or banged up…
‘NOW JUST HOLD ON!’ I hear you cry…’There’s nothing wrong with having a degree or working for the state and going on strike over pensions!’
You’re absolutely right, there’s not and my hat goes off to them…Likewise I remain steadfast and committed to the principle ‘a grievance to one is a grievance to all, I SHALL NEVER CROSS A PICKET LINE…’
But It would be nice if the solidarity that you and I believe in would be…and here’s that word again’…’reciprocated’.
It would be nice to know that those on the marches and rallies waving their flags shouting ‘support us’ and ‘join us’…that those same people this Monday weren’t going to be throwing us out of our houses, taking or children away, cutting our dole money, putting us in prison, and being the holders of the keys to our cell doors…
Because they will be.
Yes it would be nice if there was…solidarity…
The recent attempts made by the Norfolk Community Action Group within the local coalition to try and bridge this situation fell on deaf ears. So we chose to part company.
Our arguments that if they want ‘popular support’, and yes folks that does mean engaging with the Sun reader and the Daily Mail reader, then they will have to stop solely ‘agitating’ within their unions…an ‘agitation’ that often is nothing more than an email and a flyer on the union notice board or a phone call to the very same people who attended the meeting the week before, the pathological ‘preach to the converted’ who can only be bothered if it affects ‘them and theirs’…and get off their arses and physically start engaging with their local population explaining and arguing why they BELIEVE they are RIGHT to take the actions they are taking, in plain words with the use of plain English, without the use of a pre-script or the handing over of a leaflet that will never ever ever in a million years dear God get read because it’s cold, it’s heartless, it will not engage…
It can not engage.
Because there’s no soul in a leaflet…or a petition…especially when it’s a petition for OUR benefit…and our benefit only…
Yes that means job centre staff walking onto council estates, Yes that means teachers walking onto council estates, Yes that means housing officers walking onto council estates…Yes that means social workers walking onto council estates, Yes that means trade unionist from each and every sector of public services in this ‘country’ of ours walking onto council estates…
Not destroying peoples lives and being the first port of call of the oppressive state…
Only they won’t will they?
They won’t because there is a barrier…
They won’t because there is a barrier of ‘us’ and ‘them’…
They won’t because there is a barrier of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and ‘service provider’ and ‘service user’…
That is…dare I say it…a barrier…of one class against another, even if that ‘class’ can not be easily differentiated. They would if they could though comrades…’differentiate that is…
Long gone are the days of Dave Douglass and the great Hatfield Main branch of the NUM, all the miners, the steel workers, the toilers, the manufacturers, the print workers…
They have been taken over…by the bureaucrat…the degree in trade union studies…and the Tolpuddle Martyrs, more an historical quaintness than a model, example, direction and template of struggle…
Unless miraculously new Dave Douglass’ appear and return the trade unions to their rightful place…holding meetings at the bottom of our streets, discussing and showing ‘solidarity’ and helping the unemployed with education and training, and building a real resistance to the aggressive Tory doctrine that has recently returned to plague us…
You know comrades, only 26% of the workforce in Britain today are unionised…and it’s falling daily…
They had better appear soon…before trade unions go the way of the Tolpuddle Martyrs..and become ‘a quaintness’..
Did you notice the use of the word ‘they’?
‘After attending a meeting organised by the Norfolk Coalition Against the Cuts held in Sheringham last Friday, at which MP Norman Lamb was present in order to hear his constituents’ concerns about cuts to public services and allowed to defend his position. I came away from this fractious ill-tempered, and not very well run event with my view confirmed that the current system is not working. For not only is it destroying the planet on which we depend for our existence, but it also turns people against one another.
We are never going to find solutions to the problems of today (Let alone tomorrow) whilst everyone is at each others throats, Surely therefore it would be better for all of us to get together and come up with some new ideas, more advanced ways of thinking, more mature ways of doing things.’
With immediate effect Norfolk Community Action Group withdraw our affiliation with Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts.
From the outset NCAG has had to deal with some fairly ridiculous manoeuvres by elements within the local coalition.
To start with our email sent to actually affiliate with the group that claims ownership of the struggle against the current governments cuts in Norfolk was taken before the steering group in order for us to be allowed to join. We were then summoned before said steering group to answer questions on our position on multiculturalism, in itself a laughable course of events.
While trying to educate some lefty elements within the steering group about the logic of multiculturalism and it being anything BUT progressive and inclusive, it was clear that some people just can’t get past reading socialist texts of the 1900′s. Our stated support of an open borders policy in conjunction with our opposition to multiculturalism appeared to do little more than confuse, so from the beginning we were well aware what we were up against.
However as fighting these ideological cuts we see as imperative we were willing to try and show solidarity and go ahead with affiliation once approved.
This has been a mistake on our part.
Absolutely nothing has changed on the left. The coalition is made up of the same tired old faces from struggles past who see fighting back as a march down the road and dragging out the same worn out octogenarians to speak, however well respected they are, as adequate action in fighting back against the cuts. Leaflets, marches, speeches, petitions, hidden left caucuses within the coalition…all symptomatic of a politics with very little direction not even attempting to move forward.
But let’s deal with the reality here. Most members leading the coalition are from a Labour trade union left and assorted Trot organisations who are oblivious to the fact that they are part and parcel of why the Labour Party were not returned to power at the last election. They, and the Labour Party, simply no longer have anything in common with the working class of our society. What’s more many still think they live in the 1970′s, but in reality trade union membership makes up for only around 26% of workers in Britain today.
There are those too who simply are not concerned with the likes of people living on council estates or the majority non unionised workers in society, precisely the reason they have nothing to offer a progressive fight back against these cuts.
It was not the unions who were instrumental in bringing down the Poll Tax and Thatcher, but the hard work and dedication of those willing to get their hands dirty by agitating within the general populace and building a mass movement within the working class. And let’s face it, the Labour Party and TUC are not opposed to the cuts, they just want nicer ones.
Bottom line, most are simply interested in getting the Labour Party re-elected to power.
While there are those individuals within the coalition we have much respect for, and while we still see the trade unions as being important to any successful fightback, it is the rank and file members and unheard voices in society that are the real key to winning this struggle, and not the bureaucrats, careerists and leaders who’ll win it.
We return to working within the communities of our region and leave the Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts to do whatever it thinks it’s doing by agreeing to two minute marches with the police and spending all it’s time preaching to the already converted.
After all, it is the cuts we’re fighting isn’t it, not seeking the re-election of the Labour Party…
Today at lunchtime NCAG, UK Uncut and disability rights activists staged a vocal and vociferous protest outside Topshop to highlight the companies tax dodging.
Sadly a well attended and good spirited protest was only marred by the appearance of one or two particular Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts members who did nothing but moan and throw accusations of alienation around.
Report from Tony on events…
At 11.45, Vic and I arrived at Topshop, the police presence already apparent, with a couple of officers standing by the entrance to the shop, we were joined by members of the Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts among them the SWP, the Greens, Disability Rights Groups, Anti War, Trade Union members and a strong contingent from NCAG.
A few of the above groups were represented by one or two individuals, the SWP had a better turn out, however the largest groups in numbers were representative of UK Uncut and NCAG.
The Press arrived and asked if they could take photographs of the demonstrators behind their banners. This resulted in a confrontation between a member of the ‘hidden caucus’ within the coalition and a member of NCAG as the ‘caucus’ attempted to jostle their way to the most prominent position for their banner. This member of the caucus behaved in a petulant and childish manner, however as time passed he calmed down and engaged with members of NCAG.
NCAG having recently acquired a megaphone put it to good use.
Outnumbering all other groups NCAG were a lot more vocal, and engaging even managing to get some school children involved.
It appeared that this type of engagement infuriated a certain member of the ‘coalition’ steering group, from now on referred to as ‘Jobsworth, who approached NCAG asking,
“Where did you get a megaphone from?”
(Was he insinuating that NCAG had stolen it, well to set the record straight there is a receipt!)
NCAG were exceptionally loud and vocal with the megaphone, telling the public what the demonstration was about.
A few minutes later ‘Jobsworth’ reappeared saying that members of the public had complained to him that people were swearing, using the word ‘Bastard’ and that they did not want their children to hear such language. This is fair enough, however members of NCAG utilising the megaphone to such effect did not swear or use language that could be deemed offensive.
Attention was then turned to the employees of Topshop informing them what Peter Green was about and advising them they should take action themselves to make him pay back some of the money he had stolen from the British Tax Payer, suggesting that maybe they should go on strike.
Once again ’Jobsworth’ approached NCAG asking them why they were picking on the employees, and alienating people. He was given short thrift diplomatically.
He was asked how, by informing the workforce what their boss gets up to, whose activities of Tax Avoidance could cost them a lot more than their jobs, and by informing the public vocally about Tax Evasion and what it means, NCAG were alienating people. Jobsworth did not like this and made straight for one of the police officers. What was said only he and that officer know?
A couple of NCAG members donning Peter Green masks, attempted to breach the stores defences. However the officers must have had a tip off that these weren’t the real Peter Green and the breach was suppressed.
All in all a good natured event with smiles and laughter all round, except from a few Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts members.
While NCAG appeared for the UK Uncut day of action as well as answering the call out made by the TUC, we have one major question? Where were the trade union membership?
Clearly someone had forgotten to invite them….
When the TUC recently declared their intent on supporting the student struggle against fees and ‘upping the ante’ across the board to fight against the cuts, there was certainly a sigh of relief from many on the left.
The rest of us were not so complacent however, realising fighting means more than uttering words and declarations of ‘struggle’.
Indeed the TUC, following criticism that the earliest they could call a march in opposition to the cuts would be on 26/3/2011, declared their intent on pushing for a day of local actions across the country to keep the fight back and the links with the unions visible. A case of We must be seen to be doing something…
Sadly in our own part of the region surrounding Norwich it seems the local Trades Council and Labour Party supporting bureaucrats have not yet managed to even put pen to paper and publicly acknowledge a day of action in any way shape or form, and the Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts appear to still be finishing off the remnants of their Christmas turkey dinner. Either that or their hidden caucus within the steering group has put an end to even the pretence of organising any kind of decent fight back.
While Norwich Trades Council and Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts have found it too complicated to publicly answer the call to action there will indeed be a day of action starting with a protest outside Vodaphone on St.Stephens in Norwich at 12 midday to protest against tax avoidance by corporations. The event has been called by local UKUncut activists, many with no union connections at all, in support of the TUC’s call for a fightback.
It’s a funny ol’game’….
Lobby of Norwich City Council ‘Cabinet’ Meeting December 8th 4.30, front of City Hall.
Bring drums, pots n pans and grannies old bloomers as well as anything else loud!
DON’T IMPLEMENT THE TORY DESTRUCTION OF THE WELFARE STATE!
By George Deacon
Mr Murphy, Tory leader of Norfolk County Council, stood in front of BBC’s Look East Camera’s and said he welcomed the lobby by students from Norwich City College against cuts to their travel subsidy.
Suggesting that perhaps a deal had been struck or that in fact the Tory’s never intended to go through with the cuts (now listening) Mr Murphy beamed into the camera and was seen shaking the hand of deputy leader of City College Student Union (Tom Hollick). What neither the benevolent figure of Mr Murphy nor the presenter of BBC Look East mentioned was that the ‘riot police’ were laying in wait in the City Hall Car Park.
It appears then that the political classes who regularly draw a stipend from the County coffers were happy to spend vital moneys from the public purse in barracking the local constabulary, kitted out in the latest riot gear and equipment, rather than pay the travel costs of working class students currently studying at Norwich City College. Further, happy to stand as he was in front of the cameras of the BBC, Mr Murphy had in fact prepared a rude awakening for the skulls of the young men and women, forced as they were, to line up in a field in front of County Hall. Such then is the scant regard Mr Murphy and his class hold for the sons and daughters of working class men and women of Norfolk. Not to be out done in this cynical act, neither Norfolk Constabulary nor the BBC itself have, it appears, any conscience over the role they are being asked to play by colluding with the political class at County Hall, by first being present and then failing to make known what had been prepared.
Rather than congratulate ourselves and the students who were on that march yesterday, for a job well done, we should cast a wary eye over what was narrowly avoided. The real story yesterday was that the Tory’s had prepared for all eventualities and were prepared to use the ‘riot police’ against innocent young people legitimately lobbying their local County Council.
If the ‘riot police’ had been used against these defenceless students what would Mr Murphy, the Norfolk Constabulary and the BBC be saying today? Instead of what they should be doing today, condemning the Tory leader of Norfolk County Council for cynically attempting to use a lobby of 16-18 year olds in a cheap publicity stunt for political advantage they would no doubt be crying crocodile tears for the death of a working class son or daughter who happened to have placed their head in front of a fully equipped mature adult wielding a truncheon.
We should reflect on this for one reason and one reason alone. Whatever sops the political classes come up with, as they nakedly jostle to buy popular support, one thing is clear: In the changed world of 2010 the Tory party are determined to carry through the most vicious attack on the living standards of the working class by any means necessary and that includes breaking the skulls of young innocent sons and daughters of Norfolk.
Yesterdays events at County Hall was a wake up call – if one was needed. The time for argument has passed and now is the time to act. The unions must call for united industrial action that is linked to a call for a general strike. The TUC has called a national demonstration for March 2011 (23rd) but for many workers faced with cuts in jobs and services that will be to late. We need action now. The students have shown the way and are in the front line but they must not be left to stand there alone. Wherever the students march the unions must march too. When the students take action and occupy workplaces and public spaces then we must join them and support them too.
Cambridge students recently ended an 11 day occupation of Cambridge University and the Guildhall facing down not only the cowardly condemnation by the local Libdem MP (Huppert) but also an attempted siege by the police. They did this by linking their fight against tuition fees with that of the fight of the lecturers and academics. They also linked their struggle with the wider fight in society against the cuts. Without this support and approach the occupation could not have last 11 hours let alone 11days. In taking direct action the students acted like a lighting rod, drawing to it, the anger that exists in society while laying the basis for future action that will be better organised and more effective than before.
We have lessons to learn and we must learn them quick. Above all we must not fight alone nor must we underestimate our enemy and their determination to carry through theses attacks.
Unite and fight and drive this government from office now!
Earlier today members of the NUJ undertook the first of a string of planned short term strikes over the planned changes to the BBC’s pensions policy.
This first strike is set to last for 48 hours and we went along to join the picket line in Norwich. When we arrived at the Forum about fifteen striking workers had assembled with placards, leaflets, folding chairs and tubs of cake, they looked like they were in it for the long haul. The workers were soon joined by members of other unions, members from the Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts including Ian Gibson and of course the contingent from NCAG.
We were told by workers that they felt betrayed by BBC director general Mark Thompson who negotiated a deal before he was legally obliged too and they felt by rushing into this decision he hadn’t taken the time to work out the best terms for employees. In a speech a union representative further reprimanded Thompson, accusing him of flip-flopping over terms, figures and language in order to confuse the workers allowing him to force through an unfair contract.
There was also a degree of frustration with those who had refused to join the picket, and protesters grumbled that their colleagues couldn’t see ‘the bigger picture’. This bigger picture seems to be that if the BBC is allowed to take millions from it’s employees’ pensions fund as it is planning to do, that cuts in jobs, pay and working conditions will soon follow. More over the BBC is being used as a sounding board and pilot scheme for cuts all over the public sector, they want to see what they can get away with the BBC and use it as a model for the wider cuts which are now looming.
Despite the strike not being met with universal approval and solidarity from within the BBC there was good news as the the local news broadcasts had been disrupted and the afternoon show cancelled. We were also told that BBC Norfolk will be at a virtual standstill tomorrow, with breakfast show, online content and many other features and functions cancelled all together.
Stan Cullen Grant
Norfolk and Norwich were urged to spearhead a national fightback against plans to impose masive cuts in public services.
Hundreds of people packed a public meeting in the council chamber of Norwich City Hall on Monday night called by the Norfolk Coalition Against the Cuts in protest at national plans by the coalition government to cut public spending, and proposals by Norfolk County Council to bridge a £155m funding blackhole by slashing services and shedding 3,000 jobs.
Critics fear that the cuts will hit the most vulnerable in need of support and the consultation was branded a “Big Con” at the meeting.
But County Hall has promised that people will not be left in the lurch and the aim is to find other ways of providing essential services including voluntary groups, parish and town councils, and the private sector.
The meeting, which was chaired by former Norwich North MP Ian Gibson heard calls from union officials for a general strike as part of a co-ordinated campaign of opposition to the coalition government’s cuts plan.
Dr Gibson said everybody affected by the cuts needed to stand together and drawing on the spirit of the Ketts Rebellion he said the city had a proud tradition of fighting back.
“We have won battles in this city over the years and we can do it again,” Dr Gibson said. “I call upon you all to stand up and fight. This is not a time to compromise, it’s a time to fight and say ‘no’ you are not going to get away with this. I am asking you to make history by being the first in the country to stand up and fight.”
American trade union activist John Reimann, told the meeting campaigners needed to follow the lead of protesters in both France and Greece.
“One set of cuts leads to another,” he said. “We can’t leave it to somebody else, or our leaders upon high to organise this fightback. That’s what we’re here for, there’s no reason why the workers in this room can’t be the spark for a wider movement throughout Great Britain.”
But Norwich city councillor Alan Waters warned that the fight against the cuts would be a long battle, and he reminded the audience that similar protests in the city at St Andrews Hall during the 1980s had failed to stop the cutbacks of the then Thatcher government.
“We have to pull together,” Mr Waters said. “This is not about some temporary cuts, it’s about ending a social democratic country, with social democratic values, that’s designed to care for all of its people.”
The meeting heard that the coalition was planning a further protest march in the city on December 4.
Richard Edwards, regional secretary for the PCSU civil servants union, urged the TUC to back a general strike, and bring forward a national protest march earmarked for next year.
“We believe we need national industrial action,” he said. “Next time we will go for a bigger venue. Do not sit at home waiting for something to happen. Do something tonight. Take away the material, find our website, take it back to your own organisation and get them to become part of this movement.”
Jonathan Dunning, from Norfolk County Unison, said accused the Conservative administration of riding roughshod over the views of opposition councillors and the public.
But his suggestion that the protesters should try to win over Norfolk’s two Lib Dem MPs Norman Lamb and Simon Wright was met with laughter from many in the audience.
“This is just the start of what they want to cut,” Mr Dunning said. “It’s changing the way Norfolk County Council is operating. I have never seen anything that fundamentally changes the way that services are delivered. This is that significant.”
On Monday night members of Norfolk Community Action Group attended a steering committee meeting of the Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts where we were quite literally ‘vetted’ on our suitability to join.
While some of our members and supporters are annoyed that we even attended the meeting and had to justify our class struggle politics against much of the lefts obsessive ‘identity politics’, and local trade unions almost universal lack of support for the Tomlinson Family Campaign, having met and spoken to the members who were there, we found them amiable and courteous enough to admit that no other group had to go through the same process to sign up, and believe them to be people we can work with.
Whether this coalition goes the same way as many others in the last 25 years due to ‘stacking’ by one particular group we must wait and see but feel there are potentially enough decent minded trade unionists there to recognise when this is happening.
It is imperative that the upcoming struggles against public service cuts and the potential decimation of the welfare state are fought on as much of a united front as we can possibly achieve.
For this reason we have affiliated with the Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts and ask all to respect the organisations aims and principles which are as follows…
We seek to build broad based alliances in the major communities of Norfolk involving all trade unions representing members in the public sector, Trades Councils, campaigning, community and welfare groups, school councils and other organisations representing young people
We seek to form a Steering Group with representatives from all of the above to take forward the campaign
Priority task to build support for a credible alternative to the Coalition Government’s policy of public spending cuts
We agree a core Statement of Aims that we ask other Trade Unions and organisations to add to and support
We seek to promote a positive image of Public Services and Public Service workers to counter the negative propaganda of the Government and its supporters in the media
We seek to hold a series of meetings in identified communities in Norfolk to build the Alliance
We seek to develop practical and meaningful solidarity to support campaigns and actions in opposition to the cuts in our communities
We welcome the support of any political organisations and politicians that are prepared to oppose (in words and deeds) cuts in public spending
That we develop a Communications and Media strategy to promote our ideas
Commitment to universal public services for all regardless of ability to pay without discrimination
Recognition of the crucial social and economic value of Public Services and public sector jobs to the communities of Norfolk
Opposition to all public spending cuts
Effective action to close the Tax Gap and ensure the wealthiest in society pay their fair share of taxes
Commitment to maintenance of ‘Face-to-face’ and local services
Opposition to job cuts, service delivery cuts and closures
Opposition to privatisation or outsourcing of public services
Opposition to cuts in Welfare benefits
Opposition to the scapegoating of minorities for unemployment and strains on services.