There’s been some shock and outrage expressed in the last few days over Ed Milliband’s decision to U-turn on opposition to the Tory cuts. This really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The Labour party have not been on the side of the working class for a long time before Blair or even the 1970′s and 80′s that are seen by some as a golden age of the party.
Of political parties claiming socialism to be their aim, the Labour Party has always been one of the most dogmatic – not about socialism, but about the parliamentary system.
Empirical and flexible about all else, its leaders have always made devotion to that system their fixed point of reference and the conditioning factor of their political behaviour. This is not simply to say that the Labour Party has never been a party of revolution: such parties have normally been quite willing to use the opportunities the parliamentary system offered as one means of furthering their aims. It is rather that the leaders of the Labour Party have always rejected any kind of political action (such as industrial action for political purposes) which fell, or which appeared to them to fall, outside the framework and conventions of the parliamentary system. The Labour Party has not only been a parliamentary party; it has been a party deeply imbued by parliamentarism. And in this respect, there is no distinction to be made between Labour’s political and its industrial leaders. Both have been equally determined that the Labour Party should not stray from the narrow path of parliamentary politics.
The Labour Party remains, in practice, what it has always been- a party of modest social reform in a capitalist system within whose confines it is ever more firmly and by now irrevocably rooted.
The above quote is from the introduction to Ralph Milliband’s Parliamentary Socialism: A Study of the Politics of Labour published in 1961. The reality is that the Labour party has been beyond the control of it’s rank and file members and unions since it first gained MP’s in the 1920′s. The latest move is no more of a surprise today than Neil Kinnock’s failure to support the miners in 1984 or to even attempt to effectively resist the de-industrualisation of Britian, the smashing of communities and the financialisation of the economy that was Thatcherism.
Ed Milliband and the Labour party are (re)abandoning the working class now at a time of open conflict. They’ve chosen the parliamentary system, the law of the rich and the bosses. It’s who they are, as Ed’s father said in 1961 – everything is flexible except for the goal parliamentary power.
This time though things are different, it’s not the 1980′s. In the 1980′s the Tories reinvented Britain, created the conditions by liberalising capital markets to allow capital to redeploy production to countries with cheap ununionised labour and attacked the working class organisations at home. They also sold a vision. A vision of home ownership for all, a stake in the corporations they sold off. It was pure deceit, there’s nothing empowering about a mortgage and being able to buy shares in a business you already owned as a citizen before it was sold off by the state is willingly participating in your own robbery. It worked though, 18 years of power and the completion of a project that lasted 10 more years under Labour. In 1998 John Major said of Blair’s government “they have good policies, they’re our policies”.
There’s no vision today though, it’s a straight up fight. They can’t sell council houses off cheap because they’ve already sold them. There’s no BT share issue for us to get excited over or British Gas shares to tell Sid about because they’ve already sold them. The vision of the Tories today is “The Big Society” which translates to “We’re not taking tax off the rich to pay for services so do it yourself”.
Unlike the 80′s the Labour party have got out of the way early doors. Less than 2 years in and they’re hand is nakedly declared. There’s no handwringing over whether a miners ballot was quite as it should be to excuse not providing unequivocal support for working class people fighting for their jobs. Ed Milliband isn’t even pretending to be on your side.
The unions are crying about this, as though this is some kind of revelation to them. It’s not. It might be the time they turn, when Unite along with Unison and the GMB etc. follows the RMT and disaffiliates from Labour That’s up to you though. If you’re a member, fight for it and for love of sanity make sure you opt out of your unions political fund and make it clear you’re doing so because of Labour Party affiliation.
The fight now is who pays for the disaster of the 1980′s de-industrialisation and the fiancialisation of the economy. Do we as the working class pay for it though redundancy and pay cuts? Do the disabled and vulnerable pay for it through service and benefit cuts? If you think that’s what should happen, you don’t need to do anything. Vote Labour in 2015.
It’s up to us, it’s never been more clear that all we have is each other. The Labour Party aren’t going to help us, forget them.
By Kenan Malik from his blog Pandaemonium
I gave a talk on Wednesday night to the Studienbibliothek in Hamburg. Entitled ‘Left, Right and Islamism’ the talk explored the ways in which the responses of both left and right to Islamism have betrayed of basic principles of freedom and liberty. One of the key themes in the discussion afterwards was about how the liberal fear of giving offence has helped created the space for Islamists to take offence. The more that we worry that people will be offended by a book or a play or a cartoon or an idea or a thought, the more we give licence for people to be so offended, and the more that people will seize the opportunity to feel offended.
It is not just Islamists who live by outrage. Returning to Britain, I discover in the three days I’ve been away three incidents that perfectly illustrate how everyone now wants to feel offended – or rather how the authorities, from the police to trade union bureaucrats, seem to want everyone to feel offended.
First, there was the case of the woman whose racist rant on a Croydon tram went viral after another passenger videoed it on a mobile and posted it on YouTube. The police tracked her down from that video, charged her with ‘racially and religiously aggravated harassment’ and got her remanded in custody. Then came Jeremy Clarkson who made a typically inane joke about public sector workers needing to be shot. UNISON, the public sector union,demanded his sacking and a police investigation. And then Manchester City footballer Micah Richards received some racist backchat on his Twitter feed. @WillMadine94 tweeted: ‘You big fat nigger u r shit. Martin Kelly over u all day for england. Play for africa!!!’. Lincolnshire police launched an investigation (the tweeter is believed to live in the county) and are trying to track him down.
Each of these incidents is different, ranging from poor taste to hateful abuse, and each requires a different response. What none of them requires is for the law to intervene.
Tram woman was nasty and abusive; she is of a kind I have faced many times in my life (though thankfully rarely in recent years). The way to deal with her was as the passengers on the tram actually did: they confronted her and challenged her abuse.
Clarkson should simply have been ignored. He is like the pub bore whose whole aim is to provoke a effect. The more that people rise to the bait, the more they make his day. At least Clarkson had the excuse that he was trying to make joke. UNISON has no such excuse. There is, as David Allen Green pointed out , something more than a little odious about a trade union ‘calling for someone to be summarily sacked. No disciplinary procedure, no due process, no contract rights: the man should be fired immediately.’
@WillMadine94 is one of those foul-mouthed, bigoted trolls that pop up all too frequently on the web (though he seems now to have deleted his Twitter account). Richards, if he had really felt offended, could have blocked @WillMadine94 on his Twitter feed. Instead, Richards responded : ‘Love the racist abuse keep it coming… ☺.’Hardly the response of someone shattered by the abuse. The police decided to step in anyway.
Outrage these days has become almost a means of defining oneself, of marking out one’s identity. I know who I am because I am outraged by this, you know who you are because you are outraged by that. Muslims, Christians, atheists, liberals, conservatives – for every group outrage has become an expression of self-definition. The mark of identity is the possession of a thin skin. Monica Ali, whose novel Brick Lane caused umbrage among some Bangladeshis , talked in an interview I did for my book From Fatwa to Jihad , of the creation of a ‘marketplace of outrage’:
What we have developed today is a marketplace of outrage. And if you set up a marketplace of outrage you have to expect everyone to enter it. Everyone now wants to say, “My feelings are more hurt than yours”.’
Indeed they do. It is a marketplace that is quickly becoming more crowded than a passport queue at Heathrow airport.
The marketplace of outrage is not, however, simply a means of creating self-identity. It is also a means of social regulation. Speech regulation – whether of hate speech or of offensive speech – is becoming a mechanism through which the authorities can police relations between groups in an era of identity politics. in an increasingly tribal society, the slightest whiff of saying something unacceptable has become a matter for social discipline. It is a kind of society that Islamists revere. What is extraordinary is how many liberals, and those on the left, seem to desire it too. I’m outraged.
NCAG members were out and about today joining pickets and marching with trade unionists across the county.
One particular group of striking public sector workers stand out for their commitment to Norfolk communities and they are the striking paramedics who answered red calls hour after hour for no pay at all.
Are these the actions of selfish taking the piss trade unionists or dedicated, professional and essential public servants?
While the right wing media and Tory propaganda machine work on overdrive it has been more than clear today that there is more than just hesitant support for public sector workers in their struggle. There would be even more if the TUC leaders were to get off their behinds and embrace private sector workers and working class communities also.
There is much to play for, the destruction of the whole welfare state is at stake. But while Tories and their apologists appear on our screens day after day spouting nonsense about trade unionists and blaming the previous equally useless government for the mess we’re in, most people are able to see through the nonsense and remain committed to both the welfare state and those workers who form it’s backbone, and they’re not yet ready to sell them out to the corporations.
Long may that remain.
/ / Student march & demonstration / /
The route will take the march from its starting point on Malet Street, through Trafalgar Square and up the Strand, before passing St Pauls’s and rallying at Moorgate Junction. This follows the decision to march on the City, rather than to Parliament, in the midst of fresh financial crises and Occupy LSX.
/ / Electricians day of action / /
Rank and file construction industry workers called for a day of action against the attack on pay and contracts conditions.
The Pinnacle building site (Bishopsgate Tower)
London EC2N 4BQ
St Thomas Street
London SE1 9SY
Blackfriars station construction site
Queen Victoria St
London EC4V 4DY
/ / Taxi drivers protests / /
London taxi drivers will be holding a day of protest over attacks on the licensed taxi trade, organised by RMT union:
2:00 – 4:00pm
Headquarters of TFL (Transport For London)
42-50 Victoria Street
London SW1 0TL
followed by general cab drivers demonstration at
Background information: http://www.rmt.org.uk/Templates/Internal.asp?NodeID=151765
/ / Occupy London permanent protest camp / /
Steps of St Paul’s Cathedral
London EC4M 8AD
From the Cautiously Pessimistic blog.
A fair amount of the stuff I write is made up of criticisms of various parts of the left. Lefties and anarchists famously spend a vast amount of their time arguing with each other, and a lot of people, understandably, get upset by this and tend to think that if only we could just get on and work together we’d achieve so much more. It’s certainly a view I used to take when I was slightly younger and less cynical. So, here’s my attempt at giving a few reasons why I think it’s perfectly legitimate to spend a lot of time sniping at the left:
1) I think it’s more important to say something that isn’t that obvious, rather than to say something that everyone knows. Pretty much everyone can tell you that the BNP are bad. Ed Miliband, the Guardian, and probably your gran can all tell you that David Cameron’s a wanker, even though they might not all put it in those terms. An explanation of the way that unions and left-wing parties, rather than just standing up for workers, actually often suppress workers’ struggles, is a lot harder to find, so offering that kind of criticism feels a bit more worthwhile than just reminding everyone that the tories are bad, again.
2) Being politically active necessarily gives you a skewed viewpoint on reality, something that all activists would do well to remember. Obviously, the extent to which your perspective gets warped will vary wildly depending on what you do and how active you are – camping out in an eco-village is very, very different from normal life, trying to get the people you work with to go on a go-slow not so much – but still, if you’re politically active in some way, your experiences will differ from the experiences you’d have if you weren’t active. You’re unlikely to bump into a BNP organiser on a picket line, and the chances of meeting a hardline tory at a march to save your local hospital aren’t great, but you are pretty much guaranteed to meet someone selling Socialist Worker wherever you go. So it’s not really that much of a surprise that you build up pretty strong opinions on much of the left quite quickly.
3) This is the important one that needs to be borne in mind: these people are part of the problem. From Germany in 1919 and the Kronstadt rebellion to the Spanish revolution and May 1968 , those claiming to be on the side of the working class have often ended up as the most dangerous enemies of a revolution. But this isn’t just some dry historical point: there’s plenty of examples to prove the same point today. Of course, the most dramatic case is that of Greece, where Communist Party members joined with the police to protect the Parliament from attack last week , a move which has been condemned by the popular assembly of Syntagma Square . Elsewhere, an “Anarchist Watch” twitter account has been set up by McCarthyite elements in Occupy Denver to try to drive radicals out of the Occupy movement; it’s already inspired an “Anarchy Watch UK ”, which may or may not be a pisstake, it’s anyone’s guess.
But, even though the left here doesn’t actually assemble squads to fight in defence of capitalism, and the “Anarchy Watch UK” account may well be fake, there’s still plenty of examples to show how keen the left are to serve our rulers: from the tiny Trotskyist groups mourning the tyrant Gaddaffi to the Labour Party supporters taking the opposite approach and arguing that “now the left should back UK big oil” , the perspective of international working-class struggle against all dictators and exploitative companies doesn’t even get a look-in. I don’t often look at the Weekly Worker, but I happened to do so this week* and found a very revealing article on the recent violence in Rome , which is especially relevant in light of last week’s battle in Greece, where they complain about the fact that anarchists and autonomists had been “allowed” to fight the cops, and blaming this tragedy on the Spanish movement’s hostility to political parties, because “parties have a degree of internal cohesion, group loyalty and discipline” that would have allowed them to take control of the situation. In an article complaining about the black bloc’s fighting with the cops, this can only mean that, as in Greece, the left groups see their role as being to act as an external guard for the police, beating back militants before we can even reach police lines. Of course, groups like the Communist Party of Great Britain or the Workers’ Revolutionary Party are far too weak to actually play the thuggish, reactionary role they’d like, and they’re totally irrelevant to most people’s lives, so confronting them won’t be a strategic priority for the forseeable future; but still, just because they’re weak enemies doesn’t mean we should forget that supporters of Gaddaffi, UK oil companies and the police are still our enemies.
Still, it’s not enough to just be against the various defenders of capitalism; we also need some idea of what we want, and what kinds of action we want to encourage. So, to turn over to the positive section of this post, parents and staff at Bournville School in Birmingham have recently defeated plans to turn their school into an academy , the Indian car workers who occupied their factory have won the reinstatement of 1,200 jobs , disabled folk and their supporters rallied all over the country at the weekend , Frank Fernie, the student jailed for his role in the March 26th protests, is now out , students occupied Chile’s senate building for several hours last week , and the rank-and-file struggle in the construction industry continues with protests in London and Manchester on Wednesday 26th October and plans for a national demo on November 9th . Since that’s the same day as a major student demonstration, things could get very very interesting then, and I’d urge anyone who’s a student or unemployed to try and get down to London for the night before, since things are likely to start pretty early in the morning.
Finally, a few interesting articles that I’ve seen recently: Italy Calling has a piece on the clashes in Rome one week on , Open Democracy has a big analytical article looking at the Occupy movement and UK Uncut as examples of a new kind of movement without organisation , and libcom’s Occupy Wall Street tag just has loads of interesting stuff, updated fairly regularly . Of particular interest is this communique from Baltimore . “Identity politics” and class struggle are often seen as conflicting, but the W.A.T.C.H. communique does an excellent job of showing how feminist, queer, trans, and anti-racist “anti-identity politics” are vital to a truly revolutionary class struggle anarchist/communist analysis.
News from ALARM.
Hot on the heels of their last victory, cleaners in the radical IWW union are calling for a demo to demand better conditions, union recognition and just some basic respect in the workplace. The demo will take place at City Guildhall, Gresham Street EC2V 7HH, this Thursday 25th August, 2pm-5pm. Make sure you get down to support growing rank-and-file militancy.
In other news, construction workers fed up with the bureaucrats of the UNITE union, have taken it upon themselves to organise autonomously against the worsening of their working conditions. Today saw a mass demo of electricians at a Balfour Beatty site at Blackfriars, who are one of 8 major construction companies looking to cut electiricians wages by up to 35% (amongst other things). This action was the product of a mass meeting of 400 electricians , who plan to roll out action accross the city. More news on these struggles soon.
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’?
A General Strike?! On June 30th?! Your day is going to be massively disrupted anyway, so you may as well get your luvvly arses out there and show support!!
So the unions are calling for an all out strike on the 30th June, which could involve up to 800,000 workers. Of course the turnout won’t be that high because so many folks are either still apathetic or still live in hope that if they tow the line then their jobs will remain secure, but add to those who do have some fight in them all of us non-union-but-angry-at-the-cuts/fuck-the-establishment types and the turnout will no doubt be immense. The government certainly seem to think that to be the case, as today Vince Cable warns of tighter legislation on industrial action should the strikes go ahead on the 30th. No real surprises that Cable has morphed into a Tory twat. One has one’s career to consider now one’s own ship has sunked. . .what what?!
Unlike March 26th, this time the actions are national so there’s bound to be something going on near you, and if there isn’t, get one going!! Or you could just sit at home moaning because your day has been disrupted.
I find it hard to believe that anyone reading this hasn’t been affected by the cuts already, never mind what’s to come. I certainly have, both directly and indirectly. If you haven’t, or aren’t close to someone who’s feeling the pinch or lost support and/or some local service or another, then I’d really like to know how you’ve managed it, so please comment!
I’m assuming that most of you who haven’t yet got involved in protesting against these ridiculous cuts now realise that the media is generally full of shit and it’s not obligatory to smash stuff up or get arrested, and you’ve also seen how peaceful protest has already worked in saving some libraries, some forests, etc??
There’s something going on somewhere most days now, though sadly the media tend to ignore the majority of these protests unless they’re really creative, or someone gets arrested or breaks stuff, hence why that sort of direct action has its place, though stopping traffic helps too! Hats orf to these pensioners and disabled folks who did just that in London the other day!!
I was at the Topshop Occupation with UK Uncut in Cardiff on 28th May, and it was just brilliant. . .and peaceful. No-one got hurt, though one of the in-house security did attempt to get a bit rough. He was rather quickly bollocked by the Public Order orificer present, whose lovely mug appears here along with some other interesting info. The aforementioned security guard was worryingly more concerned about us shouting how Philip Green (head of the group that own Topshop) should pay his £300m tax avoidance bill than he was about a band of shop lifters on the first floor. Can’t get the staff, eh?!
The tills had to close for nearly an hour, which was ruddy marvellous, and you can read more about the occupationhere, which also mentions me overhearing the woman copper in charge saying to one of her colleagues ‘we can’t do anything because of those bloody legal observers!’ She also commented on the TV cameras turning up and that’s why she’d come outside. When she clocked me earwigging she snapped ‘Alright??!’ and blushed up. All I could do was smile at her, though on a serious note this does highlight the need for legal observers at such events.
That day’s events in Cardiff started with a brilliant idea called ‘Busk Against the Cuts’. Despite the weather, the turnout was brilliant, as were the acts. I’m guessing there’ll be more of these popping up, and as I know so many musicians/poets/comedians, it’d be really ace to see them appearing all over the country, me darlins! It’s a very simple yet affective idea for gathering crowds and raising awareness, so do it!!!
There’s a page on facebook that is slowly adding links to events, strikes, occupations and other actions for the 30th June as they come in here and no doubt UK Uncut will be working their usual magic.
Even the shouty ode Class War geezer Ian Bone has come out behind the unions on this one, even if it’s through gritted teeth, so it must be alright to make some noise, right??!!!
So I’ll see you all out on the streets on Thursday 30th June. . .but please refrain from calling me facking comrade!!
Strike! Occupy! Resist!
Thus asks Andy Newman on his Socialist Unity site. His excuse for running the piece is the egging of Brendan Barber at Goldsmiths last night. This has given Newman - a supporter of Ed Balls, Galloway, Livingstone, Cruddas, Searchlight, Abbott, Sheridan etc etc – an excuse to re-run his hoary old stalinist anti-anarchist lies.
The egging is compared to Class War’s assault on Neil Kinnock in Hyde Park in 1983.
In the build up to March 26th we can expect much more of the same from the Left as they see their tired old formulaic A-B marches and Vote Labour aims discredited.
A clear attempt to frighten the punters on the march from taking any action promoted by these ‘enemies’. It might have worked in the past Andy – Spain 1936 – but this time the horse has bolted with a red and black flag on it’s head and thousands of punters failing to accede to Brendan’s pleas to GO HOME at 5pm from Hyde Park.
You’ve been rumbled Andy – I’d check the flights to caracas if i were you…
By Ian Bone
There’s a general genuflection amongst the Left and some anarchists to ‘trade unionists’. Even getting a whiff of proletarian sweat by marching behind an RMT banner is enough for some comrades.Anarchists now seem as keen as the SWP in swamping any strike with uncalled for assistance.Surely the most absurd sight last year was the dear departed Martin Smith leading a group of chanting SWP student wannabee cabin crew into the BA offices. If the workers won’t accept their alloted historical role you can always pretend to be them. Trade unionists are always defined only in their relationship to work not to any other aspect of their lives.Thus there are people on the solidarity circuit still billed as ‘Liverpool Dockers’ decades after they were dockers.Caught in frozen time……..pickled by the Left s if they were never anything else or could be anything else.
So the new youth movement is told it can’t win on its own. ….the mighty TU army will be needed to win. Organisers of Saturday Jan.29th demo are already enthusinng over getting support from UNITE and the GMB. This will amount to 40 trade unionists with ther banners being widely applauded – and quite right to. But the price for this will be to ‘behave’ – we don’t want to alienate the trade unionists do we? Already we are told the demo is now on a Saturday so ‘trade unionists and families’ can attend.They’d be evn more frightened by a broken window..or a deviation from the stewarded agreed route.The price of this support aint worth paying – it will chain the movement to a corpse – see TUC plans for March 26th. The mistake is to see trade unionists only as workers – they may also be parents/sisters/friends of students/football fans/Heavy Metallers/Ballroom Dancers – they will not see themselves as defined by work. They may be angry as consumers of public services/ VAT payers/NHS users etc etc….just like the rest of us or the millions of working class unemployed or non-unionised. We engage with them as the same as us. We do not have to neuter our movement to gain trsde union support. the Left will want us to.It won’t be just the cops and stewards on March 26th trying to contain direct action it’ll be our own heads telling us not to alienate mass support. Just what Tommy Sheridan said after the poll tax riot. he was wrong. Anyone who says the same will be wrong again. It’s not so much real trade unionists who’ll be stopping us as our idea of real trade unionists in our heads.Young workers will be as excited by the street protests as the NEETS have been. The trade unionists will be just as recognisable by the brick in their hand as the banner. Solidarity Comrades.
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…
by Ian Bone
Dora Kaplan recently commented on this blog that for the student movement to tie itself to the trade unions would be like chaining thmselves to a corpse. How true. Today VICKY EASTON – London regional organiser of UNISON – warned against outside troublemakers hijacking the march to cause violence. Already singing from the pre-scripted police songsheet. Vicky said she believed peaceful marches were the way to change things – without being asked for one example! Quite how anyone can be an ‘outsider’ on a march open to all Vicky did not elaborate. Already we can see the cop/trade union leadership developing their narrative to enable them to provide thousandsof stewards to pen people in.
Matt Hall: The last weeks of 2010 have been the most exciting politically for a long time. The tuition fees vote was lost, as we know, but this is just the beginning. One of the main achievements was how spontaneously, creatively and energetically a ‘student movement’ was formed. It is the beginning of our fight, but it is also the beginning of our movement, and we have important decisions to get right; one of the most important being how we organise.
If we do not build and grow actively within and beyond the student base in 2011 we will stagnate, and to build and grow we must organise. Our actions so far have been radical and our ideas for the future equally so. We need to channel these ideas and actions into something more powerful. However, if we organise conservatively from this point, we will kill off much of that radicalism. To centralise and bureaucratise what we have created these past couple of months, replacing one defunct and restricted representative system with another, will be anathema to most people’s anger and energy, and again, we will stagnate. Apart from the initial Millbank demonstration our only obstacle to escalation thus far has been the bureaucratic and conservatively organised NUS, with one man at the top dictating direction. To seek a replacement of such a structure, or something similar, would be alienating and de-motivating for many. Not many people seem to be seriously suggesting such a centralisation of the movement, which is encouraging, and I would add my voice to that opinion with a suggestion below about how we view the movement and some initial practical proposals, wishing to add to the important contributions on this blog so far from Guy Aitchison and Jo Casserly.
Occupations are vital to this movement nationally and still exist in networks, email lists, friendships and on campuses, and we must still consider these campus based groups as occupations, albeit adjourned for now. They provide scores of dedicated activists in disparate geographical locations and environments and are by their essence dissipated power structures, preventing centralised hierarchies from developing thus retaining the innovation, energy and autonomy that has so far ensured this movement’s success nationally. We cannot rely alone on this kind of spontaneity in itself to get us where we want to be however, but we must also not dampen it.
To focus our energies on electing sabbatical officers to be our representatives, formalising leadership within the movement or embedding some kind of hierarchy, as Jo seems to be suggesting below, I believe, would be a massive mistake. This will kill both the energy and legitimacy of the movement that has arisen through its autonomy and we have already seen how this approach has failed catastrophically, both in Parliament and with the NUS. Holding people to account every few years with an election is no accountability at all. This revealed fact is an integral part of the movement’s anger. True accountability for this movement is doing it for ourselves and holding ourselves accountable. We should continue and improve upon the alternative democratic vision created in occupations that has been successful so far and take it to a national level. The occupations presented an imperfect yet inspiring version of what true democracy is. Consensus decision-making, autonomous working groups and daily opportunities to influence strategy served us exceptionally well in occupation, albeit with inevitable problems. I sympathise with the problem of ‘unofficial leadership’ developing through force of personality and commitment that Jo astutely highlights below in this blog, however we should not discard this attempt at true participation in favour of a defunct and conservative alternative by electing leaders and creating hierarchies. This approach has already failed us and would be antagonistic to many people’s newly found energy and anger. We should be aware of the limits and issues of our existing approach and continue seeking its improvement, but solving issues of leadership and increasing participation is not achieved by formalising hierarchies.
I want to suggest that we view the movement as a whole as a collective of overlapping concentric circles of influence, ability and responsibilities (autonomously adopted), containing groups, individuals, organisations, activity and ideas. The occupations are circles of influence at the heart of this with the responsibility and ability to pull a wide range of people and groups onto campus and into the movement. They are not centralised and nor are they the grassroots proper, but should be seen as a conduit between the local and the national. Middle ground cells that have the advantage of geographical permanence and the ability to reach both downwards, outwards and upwards to the national level. The occupations should take a leading, but not leadership, role in developing the movement, by viewing themselves in this central position.
Each occupation, I believe, should take a building and organising responsibility and look outwards and towards the grassroots – to other students on campus, school pupils, community groups, Trade Unionists, workers, the general public and other universities not occupying – to bring them into contact with one another and the collective movement through free and open occupation assemblies held on campus regularly (which has already happened at a number of occupations mentioned by Guy Aitchison below). All people fighting for an alternative, not just students, are legitimate members of this movement, no matter their status, position or politics and should be seen as such. These assemblies should then influence regional and national open occupation assemblies held regularly on the same model. These open assemblies will again be a place for all to influence action and direction, from community anti-cuts groups to individual Trade Unionists, autonomous anarchists to occupying students. This will not dampen the autonomy, innovation and energy of activists on the ground, new and experienced alike, but will provide the organisation we need to increase our power on a national level.
In addition, a proper national network of occupying universities should be established to exchange ideas, build relationships and make proposals for strategy. This occupation network should seek to actively engage with students at universities who did not occupy to give help, assistance and advice for organising on campus and advice on occupying. Getting more universities into occupation is vital to keep the growth of the movement spreading, particularly outside London. These new university occupations could then adopt the same model in their area of free open assemblies and continue to build and spread the movement.
The national assemblies should be organised in conjunction with other existing groups that have been essential so far, and that should also be viewed as hubs of activity, influence and responsibility within the movement, such as NCAFC and EAN. These organisations have done exceptional work in organising national demonstrations and walkouts and will be equally integral in 2011. However due to the nature of the occupations as free hubs of collective organisation I believe they should be central to organising the national assemblies proposed.
Organising in this way will give the movement the collectivist order it requires, whilst maintaining autonomy of ideas, strategy and action at local levels. We have the online tools to do this like never before and we can organise, act and communicate throughout the movement with ease. Having this collectivist order; disparate but organised, autonomous but with unity, will maintain our strength. Our collective intelligence, through assemblies and networks, will ensure we are not all organising conflicting demonstrations and actions on the same day and diluting our strength, yet neither do ideas for demonstrations and actions need to come from, or be filtered through, one central authority. We need to link with one another in an organised way for strength, but our strength so far has come from the ground and we must keep it that way.
To realise our power we must become a genuine ‘movement’ rather than disconnected and separate groups across the country with no common voice and direction. However, what we have seen so far is that our strength comes from unity of purpose not centralisation and hierarchy; it comes from autonomous actions not hierarchical decision-making. To win we must organise, but organisation must not be imposed upon us.
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’….
by Laurie Penny
Ed Miliband’s pitiful offer of 1p membership won’t tempt the young back to parliamentary politics.
Democracy is going cheap. Just in time for the January sales, the party responsible for introducing tuition fees has decided that it wants to jump on the youth protest bandwagon. “Join the party for one penny, and we will be your voice,” writes Ed Miliband in a rather desperate Christmas message to under-25s.
Labour is making a fundamental error, however, in assuming that these young protesters want or need anybody to “be our voice”. Parliamentary politics has sold the young out, and whatever bargain-basement price tag mainstream parties slap on their membership, they aren’t buying it any more.
The young people of Britain do not need leaders, and the new wave of activists has no interest in the ideological bureaucracy of the old left. Their energy and creativity is disseminated via networks rather than organisations, and many young people have neither the time nor the inclination to wait for any political party to decide what direction they should take. The Liberal Democrats represented the last hope that parliamentary democracy might have something to offer the young, and that hope has been exquisitely betrayed – no wonder, then, that the new movements have responded by rejecting the old order entirely.
What we are seeing here is no less than a fundamental reimagining of the British left: an organic reworking which rejects the old deferential structures of union-led action and interminable infighting among indistinguishable splinter parties for something far more inclusive and fast-moving. These new groups are principled and theoretically well-versed, but have no truck with the narcissism of small differences that used to corrupt even the most well-meaning of leftwing movements.
At the student meetings I have attended in recent weeks, ideological bickering is routinely sidelined in favour of practical planning. Anarchists and social democrats are obliged to work together alongside school pupils who don’t care what flag you march under as long as you’re on the side that puts people before profit. When the Unite leader, Len McLuskey, wrote in these pages this week encouraging union members to lend their support to the “magnificent student movement”, he hit precisely the right note – one that respects the energy of these new networks of resistance without seeking to hijack it. The unions have begun to realise what the Labour party is still too arrogant to consider – that the nature of the fight against bigotry and greed has evolved beyond the traditional hierarchies of the left.
It is highly significant that one of the first things this hydra-headed youth movement set out to achieve was the decapitation of its own official leadership. When Aaron Porter of the National Union of Students was seen to be “dithering” over whether or not to support the protests, there were immediate calls for his resignation – and in subsequent weeks the NUS has proved itself worse than irrelevant as an organising force for demonstrations.
Of course, the old left is not about to disappear completely. It is highly likely that even after a nuclear attack, the only remaining life-forms will be cockroaches and sour-faced vendors of the Socialist Worker. Stunningly, the paper is still being peddled at every demonstration to young cyber-activists for whom the very concept of a newspaper is almost as outdated as the notion of ideological unity as a basis for action.
For these young protesters, the strategic factionalism of the old left is irrelevant. Creative, courageous and inspired by situationism and guerrilla tactics, they have a principled understanding of solidarity. For example, assembling fancy-dress flash mobs in Topshop to protest against corporate tax avoidance may seem frivolous, but this movement is daring to do what no union or political party has yet contemplated – directly challenging the banks and business owners who caused this crisis.
The young people of Britain are no longer prepared to take orders, and are unlikely to pay even a penny for a vacillating, pro-business party to be “our voice”. We have never spoken in just one voice. We speak in hundreds of thousands of voices – voices that are being raised across Europe, not in unison but in harmony. The writing on the wall of the Treasury earlier this month may yet prove prescient: this is just the beginning.
The Daily Mirror today ‘reports’ that secret meetings between David Cameron and TUC officials could start as early as tomorrow.
DAVID Cameron is secretly planning a historic meeting with union bosses in Downing Street this week.
And the PM’s talks with TUC general secretary Brendan Barber could happen as early as tomorrow. But Number 10 has been desperate to keep the meeting secret amid fears Mr Barber could pull out if details were leaked.
There are also fears the summit could spark in-fighting between moderate and hardline unions because of savage job cuts.
It is expected Mr Barber will be offered mince pies in a desperate charm offensive by Mr Cameron aimed at heading off fresh strikes.
He could even pose for an unprecedented handshake outside Number 10 with Mr Cameron – an image
that would horrify both the Tories and union members.
But a senior union source said: “We welcome the change of tone. But we still have a long list of areas where we disagree.”
Like us, we’re sure you are in no doubt that these ‘officials’ will do all they can to not ‘rock the boat’ and will make sure their ‘places at the table’ are guaranteed. While trade union grass root members are committed to fighting tooth and nail to save our welfare state, sadly as always, it will be the ‘leadership’ that stifles any serious fightback.
So far it has been students showing the real leadership, the only ‘gesture’ from the TUC has been to call a demo in March 2011. Hardly shows a commitment to fight for all the hard earned rights our forbears lost their lives for does it?
More commentary on this story
Even Red Pepper Calls For Unions To Get Their Acts Together. Lets Hope They Get The Message…
At last Thursday’s anti-tuition fees protests, students culminated their two-month campaign against savage tuition fee hikes, shaking the coalition government to its core. Such a protest has not been seen in London for 10 years. We’ve had bigger numbers, but the vibrancy, clear political analysis, and anger-mixed-with-party atmosphere, have all been absent for a long time.
Students could not have given a clearer lead to the rest of society. The protest was a culmination of a wave of occupations, marches, local days’ of action, and more. Although organised, it was not top-down – the National Union of Students resigned their leadership role early on. It came about through organising by local, national and, vitally, online centres – with many decisions being taken on radically democratic lines.
Self-interest was never a primary motivation for current students who are organising in solidarity with the next generation which will actually pay the price of fees. Indeed in occupations around the country students have gone well beyond fee rises, questioning the very structures of education.
But Thursday’s demonstration was far from dominated by white middle-class kids. I was taken aback by the amount of working-class, Black and Asian school and university students – no one taken in for a second by the idea that the Government’s proposals were ‘necessary’ or ‘fair’. The government has declared war on them, their communities and their class – pure and simple.
The immediate result of this mobilisation: a government majority of 84 slashed to 21. But the faces of Ministers – in particular Lib Dems– told of greater fears for their future. Outside, protestors were angry but unsurprised. After all when a party tells you it opposes tuition fees in May and in December agrees to triple them, clearly the political model isn’t working (anymore than it did when the Labour Government first introduced them).
That anger was compounded by a set of brutal police tactics which have not received nearly enough attention. Scores of riot police on horses, with visors, shields and more padding than the Michelin man, charged at unarmed protestors, many of them legally children. I have never seen so many bloodied protestors. One student required three-hour brain surgery so severe were his wounds. Hundreds more were repeatedly beaten and finally, at 9.30, marched onto Westminster bridge with no facilities, no information, where the cold was guaranteed to be worst. David Cameron got it right about “violent, thuggish behaviour”, but it was the police acting on clear instructions.
What does this mean long-term? First the Left must take the issue of violence head-on. The policies being inflicted on this country – without electoral mandate – are truly violent. The – at worst – vandalism carried out by protestors in the face these policies has been surprisingly moderate. No progressive change in society has ever come about without much worse scenes. The Left has to lose its fear about this issue.
Second, and even more worrying, was the lack of trade union presence. The RMT made a good show on the protest, as have UCU at previous protests. Otherwise just a handful of local, mostly university-based, flags peppered the march. This will come to haunt us. The students cannot carry the can for the failure of others forever. The unions want to reinvent themselves, to appeal to new activists, to get young people to understand the importance of solidarity. This was – hopefully still is – the opportunity. Local organising is vital. Student organising is vital. But trade unions remain the only bodies which can truly mobilise on the scale needed. If they fail, we all fail.
We have waited for weeks now to see if the TUC will adjust it’s position and call trade unions to support the students fight against the fees and cuts, the silence as predicted is deafening.
After the hideously inaccurate and biased media reporting of the December 9th student mobilisation in the capital, we feel moved to make a direct appeal to all trade union members in Norfolk and beyond.
We can no longer sit and wait for the TUC mobilisation in March 2011 while young people are being beaten to the floor by the Metropolitan Police. The time to act is now.
We urge all Trade Union members to travel to the next national student protest in London when the date is confirmed. Look deep into your consciences, the time for solidarity is now.
I was ashamed and shocked.
First we sent our children out to fight our battles – and then we stood and watched as police horses were set on them.
On Thursday evening I visited Parliament Square and Top Shop on Oxford Street. The protestors were so young. And so brave.
It’s all very well making statements in support of students – and against the increases to the cost of education.
But where were the trades unionists and trade union leaders when it really mattered.
We should be standing between the horses and the students – not watching it on telly.
Following this mornings press conference by the students of the National Campaign Against Fees And Cuts, it is clear that those leading the defence against this coalition Governments attacks on public services, are not those we’d normally expect to answer the clarion call and ‘lead’ the fight back.
While trade union bosses were given the opportunity to address the protesters on Mallet St yesterday, it was clear very quickly that most assembled were less than keen to listen to ‘leaders’, and more eager to get to Parliament and make their voices heard. Perhaps the message given by said ‘bosses’ wasn’t quite up to scratch.
Student movements over the last decade or two certainly couldn’t be recognised to be ‘militant’, and the lack of leadership from both the NUS and the national trade union movement appears not to have been lost on many of these young people, who seem to have suddenly developed a political fervor and willingness to take on the full force of the state.
Many of us are shocked. Not because there were scenes of ‘violence’ on the streets of London, not because windows were smashed and graffiti was daubed across buildings in the ‘political elites front gardens’, or shocked because some posh couples car was covered with paint and ‘felt the indignity of receiving a broken window’, but shocked because the students we remember over the last twenty years were about as radical as a tin foil hat and a copy of Socialist Worker.
Much of this sudden rise of welcome militancy can only be attributed to one thing and that is the Trade Union movements inability to pull its head out of the sand and lead any kind of effective counter attack against the onslaught and oppression of both the previous two governments, and now the current coalition sham who are clearly trying to destroy the welfare state and return us to a society based on pre-war philanthropy.
While the media spouts it’s drivel about ‘violence to property’ and battles between student ‘thugs’ against the police or ‘infiltration by outside elements’, the student ‘leaders’ stand resolute refusing to condemn the protesters who fought back repeated attacks and intimidation by the Metropolitan Police and firmly declare their intention to carry on regardless of the vote in Parliament.
Meanwhile there is silence from the trade union movement. Not a whisper to declare the media rhetoric as being hideously biased, not a murmur to declare support for those on the front line fighting the government to save us from the Americanisation of British society.
The students want to unite and fight with organised labour, but organised labour it seems is in danger of producing nothing other than the re-hashing of songs of the great struggles of days gone by, or the occasional dragging out of ageing class warriors of the same distant struggles to decorate a podium to try and prove they are still up for the fight.
As of 1300 today, there is still not a trade union leader who has appeared on our screens to publicly support the student movement and condemn the police for trying to stifle the right to protest.
Off your knees TUC, you are in danger of being left behind and being consigned to the history books. There is a movement growing across Europe, and you’re likely going to miss the bus.
The best the TUC has been able to muster against the cuts is a national demonstration in March2011.
And that simply isn’t good enough.
Ruahri ó Cléirigh