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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Ferguson, no justice, no peace

Overnight we heard the news that the police officer who shot Michael Brown 12 times was let off all charges. The cop named Darren Wilson, has gotten away with murder – and the American injustice system sent the message once again that black lives don't matter. It was long after dark on 24 November when St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch marched to the microphone and announced that a grand jury had refused to indict the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer on any charge at all for killing 18-year-old Mike Brown on 9 August. This was the result that millions of people expected, but it was shocking anyway: a white cop who shot more than a dozen bullets at an unarmed African American teenager, killing him, was not only off the hook, but was being portrayed as a victim. After days of rising tensions as the long-awaited grand jury decision didn't come, people in Ferguson and around the country erupted in bitter protest. Even while Barack Obama followed McCulloch onto the airwaves to make his own statement urging peace, police fired their first volleys of tear gas and smoke grenades in Ferguson. The media bemoaned the "violence" in Ferguson when a police car was wrecked and local businesses set on fire – without the slightest recognition of the violence that African Americans living in a city like Ferguson endure on a daily basis, directly at the hands of racist police and indirectly as a result of endemic poverty and unemployment. Many liberals will cry disgrace for the level of violence but i dont think we can fully understand the situation being outside of the situation and us not going through what black people in Ferguson go through on a daily basis as white people. We can offer black voices a platform wherever we can and fight to help them have their voices heard as a small step . The media vultures had their cameras trained on Ferguson, but there were angry demonstrations around the country after the grand jury decision was announced. In Chicago, hundreds of protesters took over Lake Shore Drive. In Oakland, California, in the largest protest in the Bay Area, the hastily organized solidarity demonstration drew more than 1,000 people who marched through downtown and later blockaded Interstate 580, one of the major routes through the city. Nearly a thousand turned out to Times Square. There will be more protests today and in the days to come. We need to make sure everyone who was outraged by Mike Brown's murder and inspired by the rebellion in Ferguson against racism and police violence raises their voices and sends a message: We won't forget Mike Brown – and our struggle for justice will continue. just finally you can Donate to the Legal Support Fund for Justice for Mike Brow at n' Also there is to be a vigil outside the US embasy tommorrow evening for all those who wish to protest and voice their feelings against the non justice of this decision here Ferguson solidarity vigil called by London Black Revs, UFFC, DTRTP outside US embassy in London tomorrow, 7pm. FB: one last thing to finnish on for us if we were to wrongly think this is not a issue which happens in this country Between 2004-2014 over 800 ppl died after contact with the police in the UK. Last successful prosecution was in 1969

Monday, 24 November 2014

Bandaid 30 and questions on charities attitudes to disability

Bandaid 30 and questions on charities attitudes to disability Inspired by a excellent piece I read over at disability now by Ian Macrae The piece makes some excellent points and draws some interesting comparisons between the roles of charity with helping those in Africa and those who are disabled in this country and the attitudes present in each. I can identify with allot of what he writes in terms of how charity can make us who are on the receiving end feel as a result of their work. Allot of charity relies on portraying the objects of a charity as poor things and need to be pitied I get this allot with blind charities like the RNIB and similar ones who will often make out blind people are incapable of living independent lives and do nothing to challenge the popular idea of disabled people needing help for even the smallest of daily tasks and that life is a existence. While for some it may be pretty depressing but many blind people I know live very fulfilling lives. I republish the disability now piece by Ian below "As the charity single hits No 1 on the UK chart, the thoughts of a British/African musician raise some questions on charity of Ian Macrae Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first. I’m writing this blog post sitting in the headquarters of one of Britain’s biggest disability charities. Scope funds the Disability Now website and also pays my wages. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t ask and address difficult questions relating to charity and disability. Indeed the fact that I am sitting where I am empowers me to do so. So I was fired up to read a recent piece by Fuse ODG a British musician who comes from the Ghanaian diaspora. In it he explained why he had felt unable to accept Bob Geldof’s no doubt strongly persuasive invitation to join the Bandaid 30 project. Not only did he object to the re-written lyrics, he also recognised the irony of Africa, which he described as a resource rich continent constantly being portrayed by those outside it as death-ridden and poverty stricken. Acknowledging that the starry line-up, striking though negative images and charitable sentiment associated with the song might deliver short term benefits, he also said that the long term damage would be more difficult to undo. The question central to this point of view is to what extent do initiatives like Bandaid happen and exist to promote themselves and sustain their existence> ? As a service user of one of the big old impairment charities, I have previously come to a similar realisation. As blind people we were always suspicious about the fact that we were often portrayed and presented as worthy, even deserving of public pity. It was clearly in the charities interest to present us in this way because that’s what persuaded the public to put their hands in their pockets and donate. But what was not in question was whether such imagery was of benefit to us or whether it served instead to perpetuate the charities’ existence. Our suspicion was that they were serving their own ends and agenda. While charities may think that this disabled point of view is all well and good, they also argue that without fund raising they would not be able to go on providing the sorts of products and services we needed. But we disabled people go on to ask more questions. What’s the trade off? Is it worth the price? And to what extent should we sell or be sold out? Could Bandaid 30 have done things differently? Almost certainly as a bunch of African musicians, including Amadu et Marianne, the Blind Couple of Mali halve demonstrated. But the other thing the single has brought about is a commonality between a twenty-something British/African musician and a blind journalist who is getting on a bit. Neither of us like being portrayed as objects of charity."

New political formations and managing capitalism

Westminster is designed to keep new parties out so it is no surprise that smaller fringe type parties find it hard to make many inroads into building a base. This is the case with parties who may even have been around a while such as the Greens or UKIP who are not new formations as such but new to the Westminster bubble as such. Even if UKIP's two mp's now are ex Tories these are still new mp's for the party and will boost UKIP voters confidence of a good showing next year in the general election which for me still looks wide open for anyone to win. I personally can’t see any one party forming a majority government next year with both major parties labour and the Tories can barely muster 60% between them. So what about the greens and UKIP. Their support has grown with some polls putting the greens ahead of the Lib Dems in national polls. The greens will be a threat to labour going forward but also UKIP will eat into labours heartlands too as recent by elections have shown us. So quite clearly the Westminster elite is structured to keep out fringe and protest parties The way politics and elections work in England in particular as Scotland is different having STV Single transferable vote. The electoral system of first past the post is an old archaic system which is designed for the major traditional parties to remain in power and make it hard for smaller new parties to gain a foothold in parliament. It is as we might say a club for the elite and exclusive. So while we may see the Greens and UKIP wishing to manage capitalism one day forming their own government It is unlikely given our electoral system of FPTP. Likewise any future new workers party which may or may not come into existence this century will also find it hard to make much progress not just because of a general anti politics feeling out there at the moment but simply due to the way we do electoralism with mainstream politics in this country. So while I do feel it’s a waste of the lefts time building new parties and focusing on elections getting this or that party into power to manage capitalism better than the Tories or labor I can also understand why this is a dead end strategy. The greens who pose as anti capitalist are not at all anti capitalist they are to be honest socially democratic to the style of the old labour left perhaps a sort of mixture of climate change and new layers of anti austerity disaffected ex labour voters/members and allot more in between. Nowhere in the greens thinking is putting the idea of capitalism firmly in their opposition they simply wish to tax the rich more and campaign for a green economy a sort of green capitalism if you like. This for me is just as utopian as Ed Milibands responsible capitalism as while I can see a green version of capitalism it still would not deal with work and how we could begin to find ways of reducing work and the need for wage labour. I do like a lot of what the greens say however and dabbled with joining them. I think they are well meaning and say allot of good things while not going far enough on many issues. But for UKIP they see a return to isolated great British capitalism and return to an era of the white British ruling the waves again they see the EU as evil and corrupt to its core. While they may have some points on Europe on its lack of democracy I may agree with I sense that their idea of wishing to leave the EU to return to a better off distant past is going to be mistaken due to its pitfalls and how as a world now we are global and allot of countries wanting to form closer ties instead of pulling away from each other. This is also the case for the awful left nationalist no to EU which is equally stating that British austerity would be preferable to EU austerity and that the EU is just a boss's club we need to get out of. Tailing UKIP on any issue is never a good plan comrades. So whether your party is in long term decline like the Tories or labour facing challenges from the left and right or the newcomers on the block who are taking advantage of a plague on all your houses with the main 3 political parties. But I always maintain whether you’re on the left or the right you can never manage capitalism as in the end it ends up managing you. So getting into parliament on a radical ticket ends up watering you down and deradicalises you rather than the other way. It’s the structures built into the establishment which is the design model not because people entering parliament are born sell outs although many might be of course. The rise of anti political parties is not just limited to this country either in Scotland the SNP have benefited from a surge in support for Scottish independence while across Europe there are new left and right popularist parties popping up very quickly from Spain to Greece and into Eastern Europe so this is by no means a British thing but the way our elections work dictates that this process is a much slower process. None the less the centre ground of politics if there ever was such a thing is collapsing. What comes in its place will set the agenda for the next phase of capitalism. The only way we can prevent this ever expanding circle of parties wishing to manage capitalism better than the last is to end capitalism for good. Its time to organize ourselves and not rely on political parties for change. By all means pressure them for anything you can get out of them but we must look past parliament for change long term. It will be down to the working class and the working class alone to change society not a new party or new individual with popular sounding rhetoric from the left or the right.

BobFromBrockley: Bob's timely election coverage 3: the left

BobFromBrockley: Bob's timely election coverage 3: the left: This is the third in a series of four posts I wrote in May after the European and local elections then, which I

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Support students right to a free education for all

Tommorrow students from up and down the land will be protesting against teh attacks on their opportunities of a decent life for themselves and others who will follow them. This is also a fight for free education to international students too who have also been put off in coming heer to study we cannot forget them too. Free education should be a right in this day and age why should young people today have to pay when many of their parents and the smug politicians never had to pay a penny. Many students and young people are joining a London demonstration calling on the government to scrap tuition fees and cuts. Paired with the introduction of £9,000 university tuition fees for 2012’s student intake, the slashing of benefits and key services for students and young people is having a devastating impact, the organisers say. Scrapping of the education maintenance allowance (EMA) The EMA was a weekly means-tested payment of up to £30 for students aged 16-19, at schools or in further education colleges, in return for their attending lessons. It provided a lifeline to students . Around 45% of students qualified for the EMA, costing over £560m. But in late 2010, the government scrapped it in England. It still exists in Scotland and Wales. The budget was slashed to just £180m and reallocated to a 16-19 “bursary fund”. Unlike the EMA, which was distributed according to parental income, the new fund can be distributed by schools and colleges as they see fit. Pupils can apply even if they weren’t eligible for the EMA, so it’s unclear how many students qualify. Some of today’s sixth formers don’t know the EMA ever existed, but those with older siblings have found the injustice hard to swallow. “It seems as if the government is trying to make higher education less accessible to those from lower income families. University now feels like something more related to social class rather than to education.” Youth services have been slashed, with councils closing youth clubs up and down the country. Connexions – which provided information, support and advice to 13- to 25-year-olds – has been almost completely cut and replaced by the National Careers Service with disastrous results, particularly for the most vulnerable. Aimhigher – a programme that aimed to widen higher education participation – was also scrapped in 2011, just before the fees increase. “Where you come from remains such a key factor in whether or not you go on to university,” says Megan Dunn, NUS vice-president for higher education. “Young people from the most advantaged neighbourhoods in England are three times more likely to enter higher education than those from the most disadvantaged.” The government planned to “modernise” the DSA, which students in England can receive to meet the extra study costs arising from their disabilities, long-term mental and physical health conditions, and learning difficulties. Some changes have been postponed for at least two years after protests from students. But from 2015, many of the provisions the DSA currently pays for, such as standard computers for disabled students, will no longer be covered. Since 2010, the Department for Education has protected funding for educational provision for five-16s, but has slashed funding for 16-18 education. Some sixth form colleges will have lost a third of their funding by the end of this parliament, according to the Sixth Form College Association (SFCA), because of a combination of cuts to entitlement funding, which provides tutorials and enrichment activities, a new 16-19 funding formula, and a reduction in funding for 18 year olds. This has meant increased class sizes and a reduction in the number of A-level and vocational courses available at many schools and FE colleges. A survey of sixth form colleges by the SFCA found that 68% had dropped courses, with 38% cutting modern foreign language A-levels and 22% Stem subjects. with quotes and extracts from In a National campaign against fees and cuts press release students wrote "This Wednesday, on November 19th, thousands of students will march through London in what is likely to be the biggest education protest in several years. The demo – which is organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts in coalition with a number of other student groups – will march on parliament under the banner of ‘FREE EDUCATION: no fees, no cuts, no debt’. The demonstration aims to be the spark for a new and proactive generation of student protests. There will be a press conference on the day of the demonstration. The press conference will include school students, activists from across the country and representatives of the different organisations behind the march. The press conference will take place at UCL (University College London) at 10am. Callum Cant, from Warwick for Free Education and the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts said: “At Warwick we have been campaigning on the ground for almost a month, and we’ve seen our hard work pay off. On campus, the mood is changing, people are excited, and we have seen a huge number of people getting involved in student activism for the first time.” Hattie Craig, from Defend Education Birmingham and the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts said: “The students attending this demonstration are a new generation: one that was not involved in 2010, one for whom £9,000 fees are the norm. Despite this, they’re daring to call for demands which envisage a radical reshaping of education. This demonstration, expected to be the biggest since 2010, is the start of big things for the student movement.” Kirsty Haigh, from NUS Scotland and the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts said: “NUS scotland firmly believes in free education and we are supporting the demo on November 19th. We believe education is a right that should be accessible to everyone and barriers such as fees are unjust. That is why I, and many other Scottish students, will be marching this Wednesday.” Deborah Hermanns, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said: “We will not win this with one march, but by creating a movement too big to ignore or to betray. So we have called for two further days of action on 3 and 6 December in campuses and communities across the country, and will keep fighting for as long as it takes to win.” Notes: 1. NCAFC is a democratic coalition of students and workers fighting for free education and against fees, cuts and privatisation in education. It has existed since 2010 and has around 500 members. "

Friday, 14 November 2014

Why we don’t need “leaders”, for working class self action

A lot in our movement put our failures and lack of progress down to the wrong leadership and we simply need better leaders and we will be much better off. If only it was that simple ay? I was once a member of a vanguard Trotskyist party the Socialist party of England and Wales formally known as the militant tendency. I found this strain of Marxist politics rather insular and often backward looking in its outlook. “The "vanguard of the proletariat" is a concept common to both the Leninist and Trotskyist strains of communism, and it is nothing more than a convenient precedent to seize and hold power. In post-revolutionary Russia, it saw the self-organised soviets infiltrated and commandeered by the Bolsheviks, the army re-centralised, and the establishment of a counter-revolutionary dictatorship. Vanguardism is a dead-end for real, libertarian socialism. In times when it had a chance of gaining power, it was a vehicle for dictatorship. Now, the point is to boost the numbers, fill the coffers, and sell the papers. Some groups, such as the Socialist Party - being formed from Militant Tendency - do have the upside of actually getting involved in workers' struggles in practical ways. But they hold to the same belief in workers' needing revolutionary leadership, and the same tendency towards building front groups As class consciousness begins to slowly grind into a very slow movement in progression is something to be welcomed naturally as those of us who wish to change the world for the better. But as consciousness increases, we also need to be aware of – and to challenge – illusions in official leadership and hierarchies. This goes for the Labour Party, of course, and for the numerous other sects which style themselves as our vanguards and revolutionary leadership. But, in the particular arena of industrial disputes, we need to be particularly wary of the influence and intent of the trade union leadership. As Anton Pannekoek wrote, the leaders and bureaucrats of the union movement “sit in conferences with the capitalists, bargaining over wages and hours, pitting interests against interests, just as the opposing interests of the capitalist corporations are weighed one against another.” This is how “they learn to understand the capitalist’s position just as well as the worker’s position” and so take it upon themselves “to regulate class conflicts and to secure industrial peace.” Though portrayed as enemies or rivals, trade union leaders and bosses end up collaborating to quell industrial unrest to the detriment of workers Many will say well if you think we don’t need a leadership how will we ever get anywhere. This is a hugely defeatist position which makes out the working class are incapable of thinking and acting for themselves. To create change workers must start to feel their own collective power and possibilities of action from below. The main vehicle for that is the mass assembly. Workers build confidence in their own strength through collective action, and an integral part of that is the ability to make decisions for ourselves. Thus, rather than limiting the input of the workforce to a statutory ballot, after which union leaders and executive committees decide the timing and the form of action, assemblies of all workers involved in a given dispute allows for this open debate and decision-making. It makes it easier to organise pickets, plan solidarity and fund-raising actions, and generally maintain the strength of an action. Where mass assemblies are not practical, for example in disputes and actions spread across a broad geographical area or involving a number of sites, an elected strike committee is the next best option. Such a committee should be composed not of representatives imbued with the power to make decisions for their constituents, but of delegates with strict mandates who are accountable to those who elected them and instantly revocable. In establishing such a committee, those taking action are able to coordinate their activities efficiently and respond to issues rapidly whilst still making sure that it is ordinary workers who are calling the shots, beyond the reach of the demobilising forces of trade union bureaucracy. This also, again, reinforces the idea that workers are able to take action of their own accord, as a class, and helps to build the confidence and consciousness required not only for significantly larger actions such as a general strike but also to reinforce how things will look in the event of a radical re-organisation of society in workers’ interests. Ultimately, workers need to self-organise. Yes, we need to rid ourselves of the dead-weight of union bureaucracy, but that does not mean installing an out-of-touch vanguard in their stead. Serious and effective resistance to the class war can only come from below, at the hands of people who are willing to take direct action but who also realise that looking revolutionary isn't the same as being revolutionary. In the workers’ movement, solidarity isn’t just a word. It is a weapon. It is the basic principle behind working class people combining to defend their collective interests and reciprocally supporting each other’s struggles. In practical terms, it can take many forms; from joining and supporting the picket line of another workforce to donating money to those who have withdrawn their labour. The latter is particularly important if we want to build a culture of industrial action that is independent of union bosses, because the availability or refusal of strike funds is one way in which they are able to demobilise people and turn action on or off as they see fit. Hence the importance of locally controlled strike funds. Such monies do not, obviously, spring up out of nowhere. By bringing the control of funds back to the grassroots, so we also bring them the responsibility for raising them. There are a number of ways to do this. Self-organised groups, such as Liverpool Antifascists, use benefit nights and gigs to raise money. As they put it, “these events not only serve to raise money … but to lay down links in communities and raise awareness of the … cause.” Thus, not only do such actions raise cash, they also forge the community links and sense of comradeship that is equally vital to maintaining struggles. In particular, this is a good way of drawing those outside of the affected workplaces into the action, and they can be encouraged to contribute to the fight not only financially but by turning up at pickets or demonstrations as well. Practical solidarity and mass picketing Not all disputes follow the same pattern. As such, there is no single formula that can be prescribed to guarantee success. However, as a general principle, building practical support and solidarity is integral to any potential victory. Particularly, as in Britain, if you are standing up in defiance of restrictive laws. The broader the base of support for an action, the harder it is for the bosses or politicians to make workers suffer any backlash.” In order to challenge the cuts agenda, we do not need to “win the argument” or to elect the right people into power. We need to shift the balance of power back in favour of the working class. This can only be done by encouraging people to self-organise and take control of their own struggles, in the community and in the workplace. 1. Rank-and-file control The point of direct action is that the working class do not put pressure on those in authority to negotiate, nor work in partnership with them to solve common problems. Instead, we identify what we want and either take it or force those in power to concede it to us. As its essence lies in un-mediated class struggle, by definition it cannot be directed from above by any self-styled revolutionary leadership. Direct action has to be initiated, and led, from below by the rank-and-file. This acts as a safeguard against being demobilised from above by bureaucrats or politicians who will put their own careers ahead of class interests; but it also serves as a demonstration of our own power. By organising in this way, we learn to exercise that power without the need for political leaders or vanguards. This not only allows us to challenge the present rolling back of workers’ rights and defend the status quo, but also to look beyond it and question the way that society is organised as a whole. With quotes and extracts by Phil Dickens over at A And

reblogged via @stavvers: Sheffield Utd need to listen up: rape is not acceptable

with thanks to @stavvers on twitter for this reblog : stavvers Content note: this post discusses rape and rape apologism At the time of writing, Sheffield United are still refusing to make a definitive statement on whether they will re-sign the rapist Ched Evans to the club. This decision is looking more bizarre by the day, as a scramble to disassociate from the enterprise begins. It started with patron Charlie Webster, and then two others followed. Shirt sponsors soon joined, and now Jessica Ennis-Hall, who has a stand named after her at Bramall Lane, wants her name removed if the rapist is re-signed. It seems bizarre, therefore, that United haven't come out and distanced themselves to a different country than Evans. There is likely a certain level of cynicism, at least among some of those pulling away from Sheffield United: a fear of negative publicity for their brand rather than a genuine commitment to ending rape culture. No business wants to be known as "that rape company" upon their logo being proudly displayed on the shirt of a convicted rapist. However, some seem to be putting across good messages, like Charlie Webster, who explained: There can be no doubt that Evans is influencing a young generation of men who are still developing their opinions on how to treat women. They develop these opinions and morals based on the role models they see around them, the role models that we give them. I cannot publicly support a club that presents a convicted rapist as a role model. These young men are standing by their hero, showing him unwavering solidarity and support, without actually understanding or really thinking about what Evans has done. But we are the ones who set Evans up an influencer. We are the ones presenting a convicted rapist a role model to our young people. Is that ok? This is the crux of the matter. Every second United delay sending a clear message that they have no intention of re-signing Evans allows yet more young men think that they can rape someone, and, on the very unlikely chance they get caught, it will present little more than a small blip in an otherwise glamorous career. Given that on the current landscape, signing a convicted rapist makes terrible business sense, one can only assume that this is exactly the game Sheffield United are playing. It's becoming abundantly clear that this is what they want, to nurture the next generation of young rapists into comfortable , well-paid lives. A common myth among rape apologists is that an accusation of rape can ruin a man's life. Nowhere is this shown more obviously to be false than when we look to Ched Evans. This man is a convicted rapist, and his club have bent over backwards to accommodate him, against the forces of general business acumen. Evans still enjoys an army of loyal defenders of rape, willing to trumpet that even though he was convicted of rape it wasn't really rape. I do not think this whole affair has taught Ched Evans nothing. It's taught him and the men that he influences that yes, you really can get away with it. Fortunately, there are enough people out there who don't want this to happen, and can see these ramifications as clear as day. Our voices are growing louder, and it looks as though this time, it might just be winnable. Surely Sheffield United must know by now that if they don't kick that convicted rapist soon, they'll go down with him? If they haven't realised it by now, I'll gladly watch them burn. stavvers | November 13, 2014 at 9:41 pm | Categories: rape | URL: