"I have long argued that the giving of offence, and even hate speech, should be a moral matter but not a matter for the criminal law. That is as true on the football pitch as on the streets. We should always challenge racism. We should also always challenge attacks on liberties in the guise of faux antiracism." Kenan Malik

TUC

Opinion: Solidarity Is A Two Way Street…



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…

And engaging…

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…

Increasingly…not…my…class…

Increasingly…not…my… fight…

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…

Unless…

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’?


Opinion: HAPLESS TUC DESCENDING INTO ORGANISED CHAOS FOR MARCH 26TH


by Ian Bone

‘ We are asking people to form up from 11am at Victoria Embankment, but we don’t expect the last marchers to leave until well after 2pm.’

‘The march will leave at noon and then head to Hyde Park for the rally. This will start around 1:30.’

Two quotes from the TUC website. People will be asked to form up at 11am but many will not move off to ‘well after 2pm’. So that’s a three hour wait at least – well handy for the old, kids. anyone who needs a toilet. Knowing that many won’t even move off  by then nevertheless the rally will begin at 1.30pm – with breaks the TUC tell us for those who might have to get a coach home from Wembley! So many lining up for hours will never see any of the rally.

Fact is that the TUC are just not geared up for a million people. They require hundreds of thousands to leave before the others can get in. Everything is subordinate to getting a prime time slot for Ed Miliband and ed Balls.

THIS IS ENTIRELY THE TUC’S OWN FAULT. THEY NOT ONLY REFUSED TO ORGANISE FEEDER MARCHES WHICH WOULD SOLVE THE PROBLEM OF THREE HOUR WAITS BUT DENOUNCED THOSE THAT ARE BEING DONE AS ‘UNOFFICIAL’

http://ianbone.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/haplkess-tuc-descending-into-organised-chaos-for-march-26th/


Police Exert Control On 26 March Protest.


It was, of course, expected that the TUC would work with the police in the planning of their protest on the 26th March. But the TUC has not stopped at discussing logistics and route planning. For this demonstration the TUC has been co-opted into the entire policing operation, bringing about a whole new level of police control.

Senior TUC stewards are receiving training directly from the Metropolitan police. The police and TUC stewards are sharing communications, and listening in to each other’s radio conversations. The TUC has a ‘pod’, a location in the police operational command centre, so it can play a part in the wider policing operation. In return for such ‘openness’ from the Met, the TUC will be expected to fully cooperate with policing strategy and tactics. In short, TUC stewards are expected to become some sort of temporary police specials for the day.

The role of stewards will be much more than just guiding the march on its agreed route. Senior stewards will share intelligence with the police via their radio communications,
and have agreed strategies on how to bring the police in if ‘trouble-makers’ infiltrate the march. The TUC is also working closely with the police to deliver ‘key messages’ to those
participating in the demonstration.

TUC route stewards are being trained to be a ‘first response’ in a similar way to stewards at football matches. They will alert senior stewards, and thereby the police, to any incidents, including the approach of ‘troublemakers’. They have been instructed to deal with minor incidents – a group of people doing a sit-down protest en route, for example –
on their own in the first instance. If or when the stewards don’t get a positive response, or if things escalate, the police will move in. It appears to be very much a ‘zero tolerance’
approach.

In a move that is completely new, the police have even dictated who will provide legal observers on the demo. Approaches from established legal observer groups were turned down by the TUC, who said having legal observers gave ‘the wrong impression’. But when the police suggested that Liberty should do the job, they were more than happy
to go along with it. Liberty have very little legal observing experience, but they too will be helping to plan the police operation, sharing ‘intelligence’, and sitting in police central
command.

Meanwhile, some of the comments made by Asst Comm Lynne Owens suggest the police will not tolerate any protest not under police control. Occupations of public areas by protesters may not be unlawful, but she has pledged regardless to deal with them ‘robustly’. Plans are being made to implement kettles if they are ‘necessary’, and the
police are monitoring social media networks to gain ‘intelligence’. The Met are also on the look-out for the sort of people, ‘anarchists, football hooligans and criminal gangs’ that were ‘responsible’ for violence back in December.

The stance taken by TUC and Liberty is at best naive, and at worst complicit. Protest should be independent and not state controlled. These actions are being justified under the guise of protester safety, but this level of collusion between protest organisers and the police is unprecedented and unjustified. Freedom of expression and assembly is not just about marching from A-B, and by adopting this stance, Liberty and the TUC seem happy to adopt the police’s view of dissent. This is a dangerous step and has to be resisted

For an insight into the policing operation on the day see Lynne Owens evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

http://www.fitwatch.org.uk/2011/03/16/police-exert-control-on-26-march-protest/

 


RADICAL WORKERS’ BLOC ON THE MARCH FOR THE ALTERNATIVE


On Saturday 26th March the Trades Union Congress has called for a march against the cuts, and there is going to be a South London feeder march starting at Kennington Park which we will be joining. South London is one of the areas to be hardest hit by the cuts and has seen some of the most inspiring resistance to their implementation with the storming and occupying of town halls, the occupying of libraries and university buildings along with large demonstrations and regular small actions. Anarchists have played a key role in these struggles arguing that we fight the cuts based on the principles of solidarity, direct action, and self-organisation. We are calling on anarchists, libertarian communists and militant workers from across the country who agree with these principles to join us on the demonstration to provide a visible presence and a revolutionary alternative to the reformism of the TUC.

With sufficient rank-and-file anger, the trade unions may be pushed into calling a general strike – only the second in British history. However, it’s us, not the union bosses who can stop the cuts. All reformist unions can offer us is sellouts like Aaron Porter from the NUS. We can’t put our faith in anything other than our own solidarity and ability to organise. We must take a lead in organising action ourselves rather than waiting on the TUC or anyone else to do it for us.

We also intend to argue that it is capitalism that has caused the crisis that has led to these cuts and that in response to their class war we need to reciprocate: meeting cuts with direct action – strikes, occupations and civil disobedience – whilst fighting for a different world which puts human needs first.

Bring red and black flags, banners and propaganda. The workers movement needs anarchist ideas and methods more than ever if we’re to beat the cuts.

Meet at 11am Kennington Park, South London.

Called by South London Solidarity Federation and the Anarchist Federation

www.solfed.org.uk
www.afed.org.uk

Posters:

http://www.mediafire.com/?vbls3pvqv8yg1v4

http://www.mediafire.com/?5zu2zej87qz85mt

 

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=207341439277999


Opinion: DON’T CHAIN THE YOUTH MOVEMENT TO A CORPSE


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.

http://ianbone.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/dont-chain-the-youth-movement-to-a-corpse/



Why NCAG Have Pulled Out Of The Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts.


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…


Opinion:Looking forward to the 26th March


By Phil Dickens.
No matter what happens on the day, the 26th March is going to be a watershed in the current struggle against austerity. The day has great potential, and a myriad of pitfalls. But if it is to mark the crystallisation of a movement, a mass rebellion, it will be despite its organisers, not because of them.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) finally called a national demonstration in October. This was not of its own initiative, but after much agitation and lobbying by trade union activists and groups such as the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN). And even then, all it could bring itself to do was declare that in five months they would march from one part of London to another – a considerable time after the cuts had started to bite, and with absolutely no promise of follow-up whatsoever.
However, despite rather than because of the TUC, March 26th is now the focal point of upcoming struggles. With anger over the cuts still bubbling following on from the student riots and the UK Uncut actions, and trade unions mobilising members for the event across the country, the numbers in London look set to far eclipse the 50,000 at Demo 2010.
As I said in a previous post, “this could go a number of ways depending on the militancy of the crowd and the willingness of the TUC stewards to do the police’s job for them.”
That latter point, however, has now been confirmed by a PCS comrade who attended a regional TUC meeting yesterday. She tells me that they are planning to have three types of steward for the event. Full-time officials will be running the show on the day, in itself a sign that they don’t want things scuppered by anybody loyal to the rank-and-file over the bureaucracy, and there will be dedicated transport stewards.
But the ones doing the dirty work will be the “route stewards,” whose job is to ensure people stick to the set route and – in the words of my comrade, who is not an anarcho-syndicalist or a member of any other “hard-left” tendency – to “prevent any sit-down protests or direct action.” In other words, the TUC organisers are absolutely determined that this will be a passive and uncontroversial march from A to B, and at the end we will hear some people spout rhetoric about exactly the kind of civil disobedience they are actively curtailing.
If this goes ahead then, just as here in Liverpool, it will demonstrate just how out of touch the TUC and union leaders are with their own membership. But it could also completely demobilise the thousands of people looking to challenge the government’s agenda. They will go home utterly deflated, and believing that there is nothing they can do in the face of the attacks on our class.
This is nothing to do with individual leaders, but with the very notion of leadership within a top-down bureaucracy. When the only “leading” you do is through example, then you can be as radical as you like. Indeed, that is what makes your reputation and gets people following you. But if you are in a formal position, then there are a myriad of pressures upon you which have the effect of moderating and pacifying even the most radical of people. Aside from the fact that the perks that come with it give you interests oppositional to those of your members, there is the responsibility to maintaining the organisation even to the detriment of the class of people it supposedly represents.
Thus, those who want to see the March 26th event emulate and eclipse the militancy of Demo 2010, which gave birth to the present spirit of rebellion, face a battle on two fronts. If such militancy occurs, the task will be to overcome attempts by the police to contain it within a kettle, and channel it into effective direct action.
But there is also the need to break down the barriers presented by the “route stewards,” ordinary trade union activists who will – believing they are acting for the good of the movement – containing and limiting the protest for the police. Not by battering through them (though in the end this may become neccessary) but by making them realise what is happening and persuading them to do what stewards should be doing – facing the police, and acting as both a barrier against and a forewarning of attack from the forces of the state.
I will be in London on 26th March, and I sincerely hope that it proves to be the catalyst for an untold  and unstoppable wave of working class militancy. But I am under no illusions that there are many barriers to that, including the immovable bureaucracy of the labour movement itself.