Friday, 29 November 2013

Learning from the school of struggle

As I’ve travelled through political ideas and seen struggles come about develop and fade and paying particular interest to how workers learn as they struggle is fascinating in my opinion. For me there are no set modes of struggles we must take. Experience and lessons from all different forms of struggles. We must be flexible and open to new and different ideas on the ground not be fed from the top down what is neceesary to win. What may win for one strike and struggle may not for another. During times of austerity there is lots of ways to fight back whether it is through our unions or outside community campaigns or simply organising ourselves. To find ways to encourage and support workplace militants find space for them to flourish and develop is key. Learning as we go is not just simply making it up as we go along that is missing the point but what I am trying to say is we do simply learn as we go and that there is no blueprint that is predefined that will see us win every time. During a time of labour history where we are seeing defeat after defeat on the whole finding new ways to struggle and involving new methods and new ideas should not be feared. Everything starts small and organising very small campaigns can lead to small victories and can build confidence. Confidence is very important in labour struggles and must be encouraged at all times I feel. Building links with workers in the same workplace is vital to knocking down barriers of sectors. Building links with users of a service and the workers and focusing on a strong media campaign including a social media presence can really mobilise many people if they are fully engaged and drawn into a democratic campaign. There is no blueprint as I said to win and to struggle but we should be open to all ideas working in and outside of the traditional union structures. If a union bureaucracy will not budge or actively support a struggle then we should not waste our time in trying to use vital energy and resources to reform them but why not go around them and organise outside the grips of the union bureaucracy. We can win and have we have won. It’s important we promote and celebrate our past victories but also learn from them and how we can improve our ways and means of struggle over vital things that are all under threat today. Things are constantly changing and this is no different for unions and labour organising. Of course we cannot put the horse before the cart we must not try and skip stages and avoid the solid hard work that is built up over time its important to engage with all on the ground. Things will change on the ground very quickly so we must be open and fluid to change and to change our own tactics to adapt to the new situations. Trying new things and them not working is not something to shout down but it is important to learn from our mistakes find out what works and what doesn’t so well. By learning as we struggle we can learn to struggle to win. This is not an easy thing to do and will take time to develop links with unions and union militants. A crucial lesson is that we do not have to rely on our leaders who are often self appointed we can start to organise today from where we are. We cannot be held hostage by the past we must look forward and learn from the past. The future is there for the taking if we are open minded and confidence in our own power as workers taking action to win and to improve our lot. With trade unions today they may seem useless and in many ways they are today but are still huge organisations I would suggest that we don’t trust our unions but use them for our own ends. Unions have huge resources and should be working for us. But we must remember their role within capitalism of managing struggles and managing defeats to their memberships. Strike action is not the be all and end all but is the workers most powerful weapon available and can’t be ignored for its importance. Building militancy is possible and workplace wide meetings is one way I would suggest this with a democratic non hierarchical structure in place where no leads are able to co opt the movement. By keeping all involved at all times and not allowing any particular individual or party to take control of a struggle is very important for me where there is huge dis trust of hierocracy then a need for democracy and rank and file control at all times is vital. We must be aware of the conflict between rank-and-file workers and the union leadership who have separate interests in fact the leadership and the officials have a interest to maintain the right to negotiate with the boss’s this is not the same interest the rank-and-file workers do. Remembering this is important t recognise that unions are not one big body of people al seeing things the same way as it’s a traditional hierocracy mans that there are different interests at different levels within the union itself different layers of workers and officials all fighting for their own ends. Lastly I’d just like to say well done to the 3 cosas campaign at ULU in London who have organised fantastically this week in 48 hour strike action and with over 120 workers out on strike more on the 2nd day than the first and over £5000 raised for their hardship fund all away from the traditional unions such as Unison the union many who are now with the independent union IWGB have already started to win and will win again as their material states they are hugely determined to win and I think they will personally. Solidarity to them and all involved in the campaign this week and going forward.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Solidarity with striking outsourced workers at ULU

On Wednesday 27 and Thursday 28 November, outsourced workers at the University of London will strike as part of their “3 Cosas” (“3 Things”) campaign for sick pay, holiday, and pension equality with their directly employed colleagues. The strike coincides with the University’s “Foundation Day”, due to be attended by Princess Anne. A protest is planned for 6pm on Wednesday 27 November at Senate House. A University of London worker spoke to Solidarity about the strike. ________________________________________ What are the demands of the strike? There are three demands which form the basis of the industrial dispute between our union, the Industrial Workers union of Great Britain (IWGB) and our employer, Balfour Beatty Workplace. The first issue is union recognition. We want a formal recognition agreement in order to set up a proper and formal negotiating infrastructure. Lots of the workplace issues that later turn in to formal grievances or industrial disputes could potentially be avoided if there was more dialogue between the company and the union. The second issue is terms and conditions. The current terms and conditions for Balfour Beatty workers, specifically for sick pay, holidays, and pensions, are far inferior to those of direct employees of the University of London. We want parity in these terms and conditions between directly-employed and outsourced workers. The third issue is job losses. The University of London is planning on shutting down the Garden Halls, a halls of residence where many of our members are employed as cleaners, next summer. We want the company to re-allocate these workers within the company as vacancies arise in order to prevent job losses. What can people do to support the strike? There are two important ways people can support the strike. The first is by coming to Senate House, where workers will gather, on the strikes days. We will be there from 6am to 1pm on the 27 November, and from 6am to 3pm on 28 November. The second way to help is by donating to the strike fund, so that those low paid workers going on strike won’t lose as much money. You can donate online here. What do you think about the University’s use of surveillance and police intimidation, including arrest, against activists on campus? The University of London has turned to increasingly aggressive tactics in order to silence the campaign. This includes attempting to ban protests on campus, collaborating with the police in order to arrest students, closing off spaces on campus with barricades and chains, and filming staff and students who protest peacefully. The University of London is resorting to these tactics because they simply do not have a moral argument. Furthermore, after the campaign ignored the University’s ban on peaceful protests, I believe that management felt the need to become even more aggressive in order to not lose face. Given that they are now arresting people for organising demonstrations, and the demonstrations continue to occur, I am not sure what their next move will be. Perhaps banning students from campus altogether? Gandhi once said, “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” It is comforting to know we are nearing the end. What’s the relationship between outsourced staff and directly-employed workers? Despite the fact that the bulk of IWGB members at the University of London branch are outsourced workers, we have an increasing number of members who are employed directly by the University. Some have joined out of solidarity with the outsourced workers. However, more and more workers have joined in order to be part of a union that stands for something, is willing to defend workers in disciplinaries and grievances, and puts the worker first. Together with Unite, UCU, and Unison, we balloted our direct employee members to strike in the recent pay dispute. They struck on 31 October, and mounted joint pickets with UCU and Unison members. On 27 and 28 November, the directly-employed IWGB members will also strike. Our branch meetings are open to all members, no matter who the employer. Mutual support and coordinated action will benefit both the outsourced workers and the direct employees. What else does campaign have planned? 27 and 28 November are just the first strike days. If we do not make progress we will continue with a series of rolling strikes until Balfour Beatty starts to take us seriously. The status quo, where outsourced workers are forced to work when sick or injured, do not have enough time to visit family, and don’t have a decent pension, simply cannot continue. We have offered to sit down at the negotiating table with Balfour Beatty on various occasions. We agreed to talks through ACAS, but after four and a half hours of dithering they offered nothing. We had a 97% yes vote in our ballot. We expect the picket line to be quite large. With thanks to

South London Slavery case, Maoists implicated

Is a title I didn’t think I’d be writing for a blog when I started out but a recent case has exposed a really dark side of left wing sects? Today's revelations about the so-called 'Lambeth Slavery' case have linked those arrested to the remnants of a small Maoist group that operated in Brixton in the 1970s. The central allegation seems to be that supporters of the group formed a collective that degenerated over time into an abusive scenario where several women felt themselves to be controlled and unable to leave the house of their own free will for many, many years. Two people were arrested in a Lambeth Council flat at Peckford Place, Angell Town in Brixton - with press reports identifying them as Aravindan Balakrishnan and Chanda Balakrishnan, formerly leading members of a group called the Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. Unless and until this case comes to court and all the evidence is out there, it's probably best not to speculate too much about the details. It is pretty clear though that this would be a unique situation arising from very particular circumstances - and certainly no basis on which to generalise about slavery in modern Britain. Clearly there are disparate cases of extreme exploitation, abuse and servitude but maybe the isolated nature of such a tiny sect becoming detached from reality in more ways than one is a case for concern. A really interesting piece over at Bob from Brockley "In some ways the Maoism of the group is irrelevant: their key features are those of a cult rather than those of a Leninist party. (As Lurdan writes in the Libcom discussion thread: "Looking at their writings now they seem to exhibit all the indicators of a classic millenarian sect based on an apparently literal belief in the immanence of global revolution.") However, there are features of Leninist parties that encourage cult-like activity. Comrade Bala's group is among a very small number of Leninist parties to degenerate into pure cults (NATLFED on the US West Coast is the classic example and the LaRouche network is the most successful) but many more Leninist groups are on a cult continuum. Being at war with the "bourgeois" (or "fascist") state is an exemplary control technique for forcing members into absolute loyalty and trust of insiders and absolute break with mainstream society. But more specifically there are two features of Leninist doctrine that lead to cult-like behaviour. The first of these is the notion of the vanguard party; the second is that of democratic centralism. Both are sketched out in Lenin's what is To Be Done?, written at the turn of the last century in the context of an ultra-authoritarian police state where open, democratic political organisation was impossible. The principle of the vanguard party came from Lenin's conviction (based on the thought of his two intellectual mentors, George Plekhanov and Karl Kautsky) that the "the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness," and not able to develop true class consciousness by itself. Thus - whereas Marx argued that the working class could only be emancipated by its own hand and that "communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties because] they have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat" - Lenin saw a need for a vanguard to bring class consciousness to the workers. This means, inevitably, that an enormous investment is made in the truth of the party's positions: only the party is able to pierce the veil of illusion under which the rest of us labour. And the principle of democratic centralism (fully formulated by the Bolsheviks in 1905, with an increasing emphasis on the "centralism" bit rather than the "democratic" bit only later) is that a party can come to a decision democratically but once it does it must carry it out without dissent. These principles were passed into the hands of the megalomaniac psychopaths who have flourished in the movement since Lenin's death. Both principles are used to enforce absolute obedience to the party leadership, and to stifle all criticism. Criticism, however trivial, undermines the party's claim on truth, exposing that it lacks the true consciousness the workers expect of it. It is this stifling of dissent and total identification of the party leadership with the truth that enabled Gerry Healy, the leader of the WRP (for many years the largest Trotskyism group in Britain) to abuse countless female party members, as detailed in Comrade Coatesy's "Vanessa Redgrave and the Red Sex Slaves: A Marxist Analysis": What was the character of this sexual abuse? It was later stated that the women Healy pressurised into having sexual relations with him ‘mistakenly believed that the revolution – in the form of the “greatest” leader demanded this, the most personal sacrifice of all. They were not coerced … physically, but every pressure was brought to bear on them as revolutionaries’. The situation was ‘not so much rape but … sexual abuse by someone in a position of power and trust’. It was Dave Bruce comments, ‘wholesale sexual corruption in a manner analogous to these religious sects. There’s a very close parallel’. It is what has enabled the Socialist Party (the WRP's successor as the biggest Trot group) to attempt to sweep under the carpet up all discussion of very serious sexual abuse allegations. And it is what enabled the Socialist Workers Party (until recently the SP's successor as biggest UK Trot group) to totally cover up a series of allegations about leading member (and Unite against Fascism organiser) "Comrade Delta". In the lowest moment in the SWP Delta saga, the SWP refused to subject him to "bourgeois courts" (although it hasn't stopped their activist Professor Michael Lavelette from threatening bourgeois legal action against those making accusations about his role in getting Comrade Delta an academic sinecure in, of all the most inappropriate places for someone facing a rape allegation, a social work department). The SWP's refusal of "bourgeois courts" is different in degree and not in kind from the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought's view of "the fascist state"; Comrade Delta's actions are different in degree and not in kind from Comrade Bala's enslavement of Rosie and other women." Alot of murky things go on on the far left and i've been witness to some. We can’t simply brush these things under the carpet or pretend these people do not exist. We must confront them and confront our own traditions and practices on the left which allow these groups and people to get into these awful positions. My thoughts are with the women now who have an incredible uphill battle to regain their lives and start again. After 30 years of forced slavery I cannot imagine how hard it will be for them to readjust back to everyday life.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Infantile Disorder: Starbucks Union ends Chilean strike with Official ...

Infantile Disorder: Starbucks Union ends Chilean strike with Official ...: Staff at Starbucks Hotel Best Western Marina Las Condes The following is a translation of a statement made by the Industrial Workers of ...

Payday loan companies capped now lets scrap them entirely !

The government is to introduce a new law to cap the cost of payday loans. The level of the cap, which has not yet been announced, will be decided by the new regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The Treasury says there is "growing evidence" in support of the move, including the effects of a cap already in place in Australia. The cap will be included in the Banking Reform Bill, which is already going through Parliament. Speaking to the BBC, the chancellor, George Osborne, said there would be controls on charges, including arrangement and penalty fees, as well as on interest rates. "It will not just be an interest rate cap," he told the Today programme. "You've got to cap the overall cost of credit." He denied the government had a made a u-turn on the issue, and said he was not pre-judging the outcome of a Competition Commission inquiry into payday lending. "These things can go along in parallel," he said. Some payday lenders have been criticised for charging more than 5,000% annual interest - though the lenders say these loans are meant to be short-term so the annual rate can make charges appear worse than they are. 'Duty on regulator' Australia has an interest rate limit of 4% per month, after a maximum up-front fee of 20%. The FCA has already been given the power to cap the costs of payday loans. It has also proposed a series of measures to clamp down on the industry, including limiting loan roll-overs to just two. Labour leader Ed Miliband has already said his party would cap the cost of payday loans. This is something to be welcomed of course but in my opinion does not go nearly far enough. Payday loan companies are the scurge of the high street in times of austerity pray on the most vunrable. Its time to outlaw them entirely and to scrap them for good.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

How powerful is global capitalism at present?

Well a very interesting question indeed as it would appear contradictory. On one hand you have a system which seems incredibly powerful and somewhat untouchable in terms of any real threat from an outside force from an opposing system. We used to have Stalinism of course in the east with the USSR and the Chinese totalitarian regimes which for all their brutal dictatorial and clamping down on freedoms and democracy at least offered the idea that there was at least a different system possible if you wished. Yet there is no movement that looks likely that it will take power any time soon in terms of an alternative economic system. Not to do the working class down as they are extremely powerful yet I am not convinced are ready to take power anywhere on the planet. On the other hand we have a system of capitalism which is in probably the biggest crisis its faced since the 30's and possibly ever some say. So we do have a real contradiction in many ways. It is hard to understand on the surface anyway how powerful and how strong of a system capitalism is at the moment. On the one hand it seems quite fragile and yet on the other side it looks indestructible and that there is no way of changing things. Of course as we know and as we learn from the past no social and political system is indestructible and nothing stays the same forever. Dialectics tells us as much so to think that capitalism is here to stay and it can’t be changed or removed is just not true. It may seem like we are a long long way from change and in many ways we are yet change is always on the agenda and is constantly happening even when we cannot see it at the very moment. Revolutions are not just things that appear they are constantly being developed and worked on. I do believe that we can start to begin to build the new society in the shell of the old by putting into practice our ideals and values right now not after the revolution we can begin to shape things even if all be it on a small scale to start with. We must be in a way the change we want to see to oppose things we don’t agree with and we don’t want to take with us to the new society we must start today by opposing the likes of racism, fascism , sexism and all forms of discrimination. We must lead from example as revolutionaries we cant expect others to follow us and buy into our ideas if we ourselves do not live up to our own ideals. So in terms of power capitalism is still very much in the driving seat but for how long and in what form we cannot say. We must remember any victory we win off the ruling class must be forced home and if there is the opportunity to remove this rotten exploitative system then we must cease any chance we get!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

3 cosas workers to strike Nov 27 & 28 at University of London

Solidarity with the workers at the university of London fighting back. Outsourced IWGB members working for Balfour Beatty Workplace (BBW) at the University of London have voted overwhelmingly for strike action as they pursue their goals of recognition, protection for Garden Halls workers and the 3 Cosas. The ballot results, published last week , show a massive 97% vote in favour of strike action, on a huge 70% turnout. The first days of action have been called for Wednesday 27 November and Thursday 28 November, the first of these being Foundation Day at the University of London, the traditional event when the Chancellor Princess Anne bestows honorary degrees on the great and good. IWGB Vice-Chair Sonia Chura was resolute, declaring that ‘The ballot results are positive and excellent. 97% in favour of the strike. We workers are firmly demonstrating that we are united in our cause’. She once again stressed that the IWGB was still willing to negotiate, but warned that time was now growing short if BBW were to avoid inflicting massive disruption on the University, its staff and its students. If you can get down to their picket line on the days mentioned above the support would be hugely appreciated. Please donate to the strike fund – as low-paid workers already on the breadline, they will inevitably be affected more than most by the loss of earnings which a strike entails. By you can donate online at

The Socialist Way: Renters Occupy Luxury Flat Development in Newham

The Socialist Way: Renters Occupy Luxury Flat Development in Newham: Housing or the lack of it is going to become a huge issue, not only in London but around the country, of that I am very sure. It bec...

Monday, 18 November 2013

Feeding the delusion

This post is not an attack on TUSC and the socialist party I’ll stress now but a latest article from Stoke Socialist party needs to be addressed. There are major delusions going on within the SP in regards to TUSC and its potential and where it is heading. Yes it is only a working progress but personally I see little evidence of progress and any evidence of willing to adapt and listen to others who have different ideas and strategies. The article in question which I think paints a very rosy picture and creates a false sense of optimism that we are on the verge of a new workers party is quoted below. "Stoke-on-Trent’s City Independents won their second consecutive seat from Labour in by elections as their share of the vote slumped by a massive 13%. This represents another clear message from voters that they want no more of the Labour council’s orgy of job losses, cuts, closures and privatisation. Other cuts parties also suffered as the Lib Dem’s share of the vote was down by 4% and the Tory vote down by 11%. However, in a further humiliation for Labour, the Tory candidate pushed them into third place! As expected UKIP’s vote increased by 8%. The result was also a condemnation of Labour’s decision to continue plans, despite massive opposition, to borrow a minimum of £59 million to build a new City Council HQ. Their recent decision to keep the current Civic Centre in Stoke for ‘some’ council workers but still build the new HQ in Hanley as well has only increased that anger. The by election was triggered because the ex Labour incumbent, Andy Lilley, has been jailed for 16 months for fraud despite Labour trying to sweep it under the carpet – at least while he was still a member of the Labour Party. Of course this didn’t help Labour much either! If local elections took place now across the city Labour would face a wipe out. This after three years of the Con-Dem’s savage austerity measures. If they had at least tried to fight against the government’s cuts instead of carrying them out then they would have won this and previous by elections. But anyone still waiting for Ed Miliband or any other Labour leader to come charging over the hill on a white horse to push Labour back into a party that represents ordinary working class people might as well ‘urinate’ in the wind. This applies as much in Stoke-on-Trent as it does nationwide. The City Independents are now the second biggest party with 10 seats on the city council and pose a serious threat to Labour’s domination at the next full local elections in 2015. Although, if those elections coincide with a general election on the same day it will provide Labour with a better chance of hanging on to power. The City Independents have achieved this position by providing an ‘opposition’ in words to some cuts. But as yet that opposition has not included a clear commitment to oppose all cuts or a serious alternative which could protect jobs and services. Importance of this by election As local elections across Stoke-on-Trent won’t take place again until 2015 this by-election was a rare opportunity for various parties and others to stand as candidates. This led to a large field of 10 in the largest ward in the city which made it more difficult for the Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and other smaller parties to make a significant impact at this stage in terms of the votes received. There was only a 19% turnout but that takes nothing away from its importance. Under Labour’s control the city council has already carried out £77 million worth of cuts over recent years. This has resulted in thousands of council workers jobs going and the closure of swimming pools, care homes, children’s centre’s libraries etc. Now they are planning a further eye watering £100 million worth of cuts over the next fours years which would all but decimate what services remain. All the other candidates in this by election seem oblivious that this is the key question facing the 250,000 people who live in the city. Most of their leaflets did not even mention cuts whilst a few did so only in passing with no mention of actually fighting against them or any idea how they could be stopped. This inevitably means that the newly elected City Independent councillor will join the others carrying out these hated austerity measures. TUSC strengthened by this by election Only TUSC candidate Liat Norris stood on the basis of a fight against cuts. We had a great response from people we spoke to. Two fellas in their forties who had never voted before voted for TUSC. A firefighter who we first met three days ago voted for TUSC. Three women who are active in community based groups voted for TUSC. At a public meeting we organised in the ward two local activists said they would stand as TUSC candidates in 2015. This by election represents an important step forward for TUSC in Stoke-on-Trent. It represents an important step forward in the building of a new party that we so desperately need to fight for ordinary working class people and it represents one more step towards our aim to stand working class fighters in every ward in the city in 2015. Liat Norris says, “I would like to thank all those who voted for TUSC’s fight against cuts. One of the most important parts of this election is that TUSC have now stood in 8 wards in the city on a clear platform of fighting against all cuts; we are and we will continue to build our profile as the only alternative to the pro-cuts parties. For a new developing party fighting against the mainstream consensus that there is no alternative but to carry out these brutal cuts, this important groundwork of building a base of support across the city is key, as is giving people the option to vote against these cuts that would have been otherwise lacking. This is not the last people in Milton, Norton or Baddeley Green will see of us, or indeed the last anyone else in the city will see of us. We will continue to fight against the council’s plan to carry out another £100 million of cuts, and will be looking to stand in every single ward in the city in 2015.” Full Result : City Independent – Mundy -861 – 32% Tory – Richardson -504 – 18% Labour – Chetwynd – 444 – 16.5% UKIP – Harold -333 – 12.4% Independent – Gary Elsby -313 – 11.7% BNP – White -79 – 2.9% Green Party Colclough -50 – 1.8% Lib – Dem Grocock -32 – 1.1% Independent – Davis -27 – 1% TUSC Norris -25 – 0.9% • Total votes: 2674 = 19.18% turnout " How the socialist party can dress this up as a step forward is beyond me. If this is a step forward coming 10th out of 10th and with 25 votes all be it with only a 19% turnout i'd dread to think what they'd consider a step back. I do not think the current tactic of standing everywhere and anywhere as the SP seem to favour helps them at all. Campaigns rock up quickly during the election period and disappear afterwards more often than not. There is no base built and more often than not in my experience with TUSC it was a chance for the Socialist party to recruit to its party sell some papers and build their own party TUSC was and still is a means to a end for them in my opinion. Article quoted from

The poor poor rich folk, so oppressed

Yes my heart weeps for them it really does. My sarcasm meter is boiling over. In today’s papers today Boris Johnson champion of the rich and the ruling class's has come out with an astonishing piece today. "The super-rich are a "put-upon minority" like homeless people and Irish travellers and should be protected from any further "bullying" from the public, Boris Johnson claimed today. Johnson called for an end to "bashing" the richest people in Britain and suggested they should instead receive "automatic knighthoods" for their contribution to the UK exchequer. "It is my duty to stick up for every put-upon minority in the city – from the homeless to Irish travellers to ex-gang members to disgraced former MPs," wrote the Conservative mayor of London in the Daily Telegraph. "But there is one minority that I still behold with a benign bewilderment, and that is the very, very rich." He said the public should instead extend their "humble and hearty thanks" to the super-rich who "now pay 29.8 per cent of all the income tax and national insurance received by the Treasury." "We should stop any bashing or moaning or preaching or bitching and simply give thanks for the prodigious sums of money that they are contributing to the tax revenues of this country, and that enable us to look after our sick and our elderly and to build roads, railways and schools," he claimed. Johnson believes the super-rich have been "brow-beaten and bullied and threatened with new taxes, by everyone from the Archbishop of Canterbury to Nick Clegg". He suggested that taxes on the super rich could instead be cut and that the richest people in the country should be automatically awarded honours by the Queen. "Indeed, it is possible, as the American economist Art Laffer pointed out, that they might contribute even more if we cut their rates of tax; but it is time we recognised the heroic contribution they already make. "In fact, we should stop publishing rich lists in favour of an annual list of the top 100 tax heroes, with automatic knighthoods for the top 10." Johnson's comparison between the super-rich and homeless people will enrage campaigners against homelessness. The London Mayor had promised to end rough sleeping in London by the end of 2012. However, research released this year found that the number of rough sleepers had doubled in the capital over the past five years. Johnson has been a long-term advocate of reducing taxes for Britain's wealthiest people. Earlier this year he called for a new "flat tax" which would have reduced the top rate of tax to just 30%. He has sometimes been accused of being too close to the City of London. His first mayoral election campaign was heavily financed by City donors. Donations to his second mayoral election campaign were routed through Conservative central office, meaning that names of individual donors did not have to be revealed. " The poor mites bless them... With extracts and quotes from

Why the IWW

I am fed up with Unite and how it is besotted with the labour party and gives millions of our own subs to this party who kicks us all the time. I have been doing a bit of looking about and have stumbled across a union called the IWW who has caught my interest. In their about section on their website they state: "We are a grassroots and democratic union helping to organise all workers in all workplaces. The IWW differs from traditional trade unions. We believe that workers have greater voice if we are organised within our own industries. For example, teachers, cleaners and secretaries who work in a school should be classed as education workers and all is in the same union. Furthermore, unions in one industry are far stronger if they are in the same organisation as all other industrial unions. Our aim is to see society re-organised to meet the interests of all people, and not just shareholders and corporations. We are NOT: • Full of stifling bureaucracy or linked to any political party or group. • Led by fat cat salary earners who carry out deals with bosses behind your back. • Going to sell you services, life insurance or credit cards. We are: • Led by membership. We make all decisions and we all have the final say. • For uniting all workers across trades, industries and countries. • Able to offer practical support for members in their workplace. • Flexible so you are still a member even when you change job or contract. Who is the IWW for? We are for ALL workers who do not have the power to hire or fire. This also includes workers who are retired, students, unemployed, part-time, temporary or those working at home. Workers who are members of other unions are also welcome. Britain and Ireland Regional Administration of the IWW " This to me sounds all very appealing. A union with no bureaucracy it does sound good. I will do some more reading of course but this sounds worlds apart from unite and its labour love in obsession. "Founded in 1905, the IWW is open to all workers. Don’t let the “industrial” part fool you. Our members include teachers, cleaners, social workers, retail workers, construction workers, bartenders, and computer programmers. Only bosses are not allowed to join. If you are currently unemployed, you can still join. You have a legal right to join a union and your membership is confidential. We are a volunteer-driven union, and this means we, not union bosses or bureaucrats, run the union. The IWW is not controlled by or affiliated with any political party or political movement. No money goes to politicians. Membership dues are used to maintain the union and assist organising campaigns. As a result, monthly dues are low. Why join the IWW? It does not take long to figure out those workers and their employers do not have the same interests. Workers want shorter hours, higher pay, and better benefits. We want our work to be less boring, less dangerous, and less destructive to the environment. We want control over how we produce goods and provide services. We want meaningful work that contributes to our communities and world. Our employers, in contrast, want us to work longer, harder, faster, and cheaper. They want fewer safety and environmental regulations and they demand absolute control over all decisions, work schedules, speech, and actions in the workplace. Practical benefits of a union The easiest way to stand up for each other in our workplaces and communities and the easiest way to improve our working conditions is to join a union. That is why employers fight so hard, and spend so much money, to keep unions out of their workplaces. Workers with unions generally have higher pay and job security, better benefits, and fewer scheduling problems. More pay equals fewer hours at work and more hours for enjoying the good things in life. Union workplaces are safer and have less harassment, discrimination, and favoritism. This is because a union gives workers the power to make workplace decisions. The less we let our employers make all of the decisions, the better our lives, our family’s lives, and our communities will be. Unions also provide mutual aid. This means assistance with problems at work, but it could also mean help with things outside of work too. Why every worker should be in the One Big Union Whether your job sucks or is “pretty good” (at least today), we in the IWW believe you should join us. We need to start sticking up for ourselves and our coworkers in our workplaces and industries. Ask around on your next shift. How many coworkers have two or three jobs? How many are one payday away from eviction? We have a duty to our co-workers and those who will follow in our footsteps to make things better, not only in terms of immediate gains but also as part of a bigger plan to build a radically new worker-run economy for the benefit of all. The only way to do this is to organise together. When we band together around our common experiences and interests, we can improve our jobs and industries. Our labour, not our bosses', is what makes our workplaces tick; our knowledge and experience is what keeps their business afloat; and we can use that power to improve our working lives. Britain and Ireland Regional Administration of the IWW " What is not to like about that? You can visit their website and find out more at

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Power and hierarchy

In my view power creates hierarchy and hierarchy creates power the two are very inter changeable and are negative ideas in my opinion on the workers movement. I don’t think creating power or hierarchy even if with the best intentions should be our aim. We don’t want to create a movement in the image of the e existing one we should be looking to replace it with non hierarchical structures if possible. Take the NUS the National Union of Students in the UK for example. The National Union of Students (NUS) is designed to filter, control, pacify and compromise the student movement. It is a way of disempowering students trying to fight together for radical social change and for defending and extending the right to knowledge and education for all. Within the union, energy has been directed at struggling against right-wing bureaucrats for control of the union, instead of organising as students to fight the battles we need to win. The union’s hierarchical structures divide and alienate us, thereby stopping us from being an effective force for change. What happens when you run for an election? Either you win, and are set apart from your comrades, have your time wasted in pointless meetings, and through your position of authority inevitably become an obstacle for students to overcome, or you lose and continue to have no voice. The union’s democratic centralist structure means that we spend more time trying to make something ‘policy’ than actually organising around our real experiences and needs. The recent governance review proposals, and their unwavering support from the NUS elite, are an unsurprising attack on the ‘democracy’ of NUS [see for details]. These illustrate the extent to which the union is controlled by those who do not see its role as being to facilitate a militant collective student movement. However, the problem is deeper than just the control of the union by careerist right-wingers. These latest changes are not particularly significant in themselves, but they simply offer us an opportunity to draw attention to the inherent problems with the structures of the union. Indeed, if the union was controlled by the radical left it would still be a structure to organise the student struggle from outside of the actual experiences and struggles of us as students and, as in increasingly the case, simultaneously as workers. The very existence of the union is fundamentally in opposition to a real collective mass movement based on our real needs. Within NUS, left-wingers have attempted to push the union to fight for some of our needs as students/workers. For example, Education Not for Sale, a left-wing faction, has argued for NUS to resume its commitment to free education and grants for all funded by taxation of the rich. They have not been very successful due to the current stronghold of the right in NUS. However, even if they had been/will be successful on this issue, as long as the power and organisation continues to takes place in the hierarchies, conference halls and offices of the union it will not actually be based on our real needs and we will not have power in deciding our own course of action. Hierarchy is a systematic, organised division of people in a ranked way, so that they are divided into superiors and subordinates. These are INSTITUTIONAL ROLES, where it is the job of some to give orders, and of others to take they (whilst perhaps giving them to others further down the chain). There is a hierarchy between bosses and workers, because bosses give the orders, and workers take them. It’s just the same as the state, there is a hierarchy between the state and its subjects, because the government makes the laws, and the subjects obey them. If you want to stay within the area of the workplace, you have to take orders from above. If you want to stay within the area of the state, you have to do the same. Now, compare this to a democratic workplace assembly. Sure, sometimes a minority get outvoted on an issue, and have to decide between quitting, striking or going along with the majority. Other times it will be a different minority. But they all have an equal say. There is no institutional division between order givers and takers, managers and executants etc. Now, you are right in one sense of the word to say that there is always hierarchy, in that there is always some people who don't get there way, and may have to do something they don't like, or else face some sanction, even if just non-cooperation (which can be just as coercive in its effects). But when classical anarchists talk about hierarchy, they talk about an institutional structures which I think is spot on in my experience you see it in all political parties and trade unions today and reflected in society as a result. Now, it doesn't take a genius to tell the difference between hierarchical and horizontal social structures. HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURE: Organised in a pyramid. It is the institutional role and exclusive right of those at the top to give orders to those lower down Boss | V Upper Management | V Lower management | V Manual Workers (The | and V is supposed to look like an arrow) Those further down the chain take orders from those higher up, and have no institutional influence on the decisions of those further up. Now compare this to a workplace ran by a democratic assembly of all who work there (lets not get into side issues of feasibility or efficiency right now). Everyone has a say, everyone has a vote, no one has any more power, and there is no systematic division into those whose job it is to command and those whose job it is to obey. For me hierarchy and power are tied up within the capitalist system and its order of things to remove capitalism we must look to bring about the end of power and all forms f hierarchy in my opinion. They are both corrupting influences and not beneficial to anti capitalists who wish to change society. We do not lead to be lead all the time we can and should act and think for ourselves in conclusion.

The Socialist Way: More Housing only for billionaires

The Socialist Way: More Housing only for billionaires:   Tower Hertsmere, the tallest residential building in Europe, will be built in the financial district of Canary Wharf, once the worki...

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Doctors and nurses may face jail for neglect

Worrying new laws to be looked at and introduced very soon by the government will see doctors and nurse’s possibly facing jail in future for poor car and neglect. I think this hugely miss's the point of bad care and stories like mid Staffs. Do not help matters. I do think the lack of proper funding and staffing levels do need closer examination and that's where the focus for me should be instead. Doctors and nurses found guilty of "wilful neglect" of patients could face jail, the government is proposing. Wilful neglect will be made a criminal offence in England and Wales under NHS changes next week following the Mid Staffordshire and other care scandals. The offence will be modelled on one punishable by up to five years in prison under the Mental Capacity Act. Doctors' leaders said the threat of criminal sanctions could create a climate of fear in the NHS. The government's proposals are due to be unveiled next week. Prime Minister David Cameron said health workers who mistreated and abused patients would face "the full force of the law" in a package of measures. A consultation on what scale of sentence should be applied to the extended law will be carried out over the next few months. The move was one of the central recommendations of a review of patient safety commissioned by ministers after findings that hundreds suffered unacceptable treatment at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. Human beings make mistakes - you can't change the human condition, but you can help support the humans in having systems” End Quote Dr Maureen Baker Chairman of the Royal College of GPs It was led by Professor Don Berwick, a former adviser to US president Barack Obama, who said the measure was needed to target the worst cases of a "couldn't care less" attitude that led to "wilful or reckless neglect or mistreatment". Mr Cameron said the NHS was full of "brilliant" staff but the Mid Staffordshire case showed care was "sometimes not good enough". "That is why we have taken a number of different steps that will improve patient care and improve how we spot bad practice," he said. "Never again will we allow substandard care, cruelty or neglect to go unnoticed". Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the proposal should be introduced alongside the package of measures detailed in Sir Robert Francis's public inquiry report into failings at Stafford Hospital, including minimum staffing levels. He warned against the government adopting a "pick and mix" approach. He also urged them to "tread carefully" to avoid denigrating staff. The BMA's Dr Andrew Collier called the move "a headline-grabbing exercise" A spokesman for the Welsh government said it would not comment until it had seen the proposals on Tuesday. The British Medical Association (BMA) said doctors and nurses might be less likely to speak out against colleagues if they thought they would go to jail as a result. Dr Andrew Collier, co-chairman of the BMA's junior doctors' committee, said doctors who failed to meet certain standards needed support and help. "They don't need this new climate of fear. They don't need to be concerned that they may be sent to jail. What they need to do is learn from their mistakes and develop their practice," he told BBC Breakfast. He called the move a "headline-grabbing exercise" and said it did not address the other recommendations made by Prof Berwick, such as minimum staffing levels and culture changes. Dr Maureen Baker, the new chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "Doctors, nurses - we are human. Human beings make mistakes. "You can't change the human condition, but you can help support the humans in having systems around them that help keep them safe, caring and compassionate." Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said a law change on its own was "not a panacea". He added that legally enforced staffing levels would have a far greater impact on patient care, as they had in Australia and California. Peter Walsh said the government must not avoid "more difficult" NHS reforms But Julie Bailey, who founded pressure group Cure the NHS to expose failings at Stafford Hospital following her mother's death there, welcomed the government's proposal, saying: "Now it's time for patients' safety to be a priority." A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said: "We will analyse these proposals once published by the UK government and will consider if further legislation is required in Scotland to supplement the existing arrangements of professional regulation." Peter Walsh, chief executive of patient safety charity Action against Medical Accidents, welcomed the possibility of prison sentences for neglect, but said a "much more joined-up approach" was needed. He said the "full set of recommendations" from Sir Robert Francis's inquiry must be implemented. Mr Walsh said he hoped the latest announcement was not intended to distract attention from some of the "more difficult" recommendations the government "may be reluctant to implement", such as minimum staffing levels. He rejected the BMA's suggestion the new law might make people more reluctant to report colleagues, saying he had "more faith in the medical profession" than that. Any new rules much apply to everyone in health organisations - from the "board to the ward" - he added. Last month, the World Medical Association, which represents 102 national medical associations, condemned government attempts to control how doctors practise medicine, including criminalising medical decision-making.

Diatribe against indifference: Open letter to Paul Millar on why 'Occupy Sussex' ...

Diatribe against indifference: Open letter to Paul Millar on why 'Occupy Sussex' ...: Here's an article I'm hoping to get published in The Badger at sometime in the next week. It's in response to an article that T...

Friday, 15 November 2013

Kshama Sawant wins in Seattle

Seattle City Council candidate Kshama Sawant, a “Socialist Alternative” insurgent, has unseated four-term incumbent Richard Conlin, with the latest batch of mail-in ballots nearly tripling Sawant’s lead to 1,148 votes. A year ago, Sawant was running against the Legislature’s most powerful Democrat, House Speaker Frank Chopp, charging that the “Democratic Party-majority government” had slashed billions from education programs while bestowing tax exemptions on “rich corporations.” Congratulations must go to Kshama Sawant and her campaign. While this doesn’t signal the rise of socialism in the USA it is something we should pay attention to for sure. The Sawant victory comes exactly 97 years after Seattle voters put their first outspoken radical into office, Seattle School Board member Anna Louise Strong. Strong would write about the Wobblies, oppose U.S. entry into World War I and eventually end her days in China, where she was on friendly terms with Mao Zedong. While the Occupy Seattle organizer is about to occupy an office in the council chambers, ballots are still being counted in several close races. One big ballot measure is still hanging, while other contests appear narrowly decided. The $15-an-hour minimum wage proposal in SeaTac, already under legal challenge, leads by exactly 53 votes. The margin was cushioned by 12 votes in Thursday’s count. The proposal for taxpayer-financed elections in Seattle, Proposition 1, has climbed in the late vote count. Unlike Sawant — who overcame a 6,193-vote election night deficit — Prop. 1 hasn’t quite climbed enough. The “No” side still has a lead of 2,656 votes. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has come up in the late count. The air went out of the room at McGinn’s election night party when returns showed him with only 43.6 percent of the vote. Sen. Ed Murray is already into transition, but McGinn has since made it respectable. He now has 47.07 percent of the vote. The campaign has captured the attention of the US left nationally, which has been looking for something to stir it from it’s post-Occupy hangover. The unexpected result has led to clamouring for more Sawant-style campaigns—could this be the beginning of a left electoral turn? Yet socialists have frequently run for office and rarely come close to victory. Was the Sawant campaign simply an isolated incident of, as ABC put it, “left-leaning Seattle, where police recently handed out snacks at a large marijuana festival and politicians often try to out-liberal each other?” The fact that fellow Socialist Alternative candidate Ty Moore ran a similarly close campaign in Minneapolis would suggest otherwise. Despite their party affiliation, it would be a mistake to view the Sawant and Moore campaigns as indicative of a groundswell in support for socialism, however defined. Sawant’s success owes itself to concrete policy proposals, such as a highly popular call for a $15/hour minimum wage—a ballot measure that was too-close-to-call in nearby Seatac. Moore, an organizer for Occupy Homes, focused heavily on the issue of foreclosures. Instead, what the results indicate is that increasing numbers are open to left electoral alternatives to entrenched Democratic Party politicians. Sawant gained ground throughout the campaign by relentless attacks on the four-term incumbent Richard Conlin, who Sawant claimed represented “big business interests.” In the post-Citizens United, post-2008 era, the Democratic Party’s corporate fealty is difficult to hide from the working class, who are increasingly financially squeezed. A recent poll indicates that 60% of voters, including half of Democrats, believe that the two major parties “do such a poor job that a third major party is needed.” With support for Congress at an historic low, much of the disgust at the political establishment can also be seen at state and local levels, making incumbents like Conlin unusually vulnerable. Prior to election, only 28% of Seattle’s voters approved of city council. While the Sawant campaign does not necessarily presage a revival of socialism, is does indicate that socialism is not a dirty word—at least in certain parts of the country. 53% of Democratic-leaning voters have a positive view of socialism, compared to 55% for capitalism and 44% for big business. In a heavily Democratic city like Seattle, to embrace the socialist label thus does a progressive candidate little harm. Not only did the label not harm Sawant, but it may have helped, by foregrounding the issue of class and attracting media attention and national fundraising. The two campaigns also demonstrate the importance of organization. Socialist Alternative brought a national organization and full-time staffers to concentrate almost exclusively on three local races (including Seamus Whelan’s unsuccessful candidacy in Boston). The Sawant campaign made use of hundreds of volunteers. Yet despite Socialist Alternative’s organizational strength, their results would not have been achievable in isolation. Critically, Ty Moore landed the endorsement of the SEIU, while Sawant received the endorsement of several unions. Sawant’s insurgent campaign posed tough questions for local progressive Democrats, with several prominent Democrats ultimately endorsing her. Sawant raised over $100,000, significantly out-fundraising Conlin in the campaign’s final weeks. This number should give prospective socialist candidates some pause; at roughly a dollar a vote, Sawant’s campaign was on the efficient side. While it is worth noting the large-scale city-wide nature of the race, this is the type of fundraising that serious third-party challengers will require. Finally, both campaigns benefited from exceptionally strong candidates, with a history of local activism, Sawant with Occupy Seattle and Moore with Occupy Homes-Minnesota. Will owe her slim victory to an impressive ability to communicate with voters on everyday issues. It was also to her advantage that she was familiar to Seattle voters, having run unsuccessfully against Washington House Speaker Frank Chopp in 2012.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Workers and non workers

I've always felt that as a labour movement and as socialists we tend to talk allot of workers and the working class but we should not forget the non working workers the unemployed movement is just as important in my view to build solidarity and links in the community. For non workers they can often feel isolated and cut off from the workers movement for example when there are strikes or a demonstration or something they are not always integrated as well as they should be in my opinion. We've all been unemployed at some point in our life all be it at a young age or not but the desperate feeling it creates and the feeling of uselessness must be dealt with by the trade unions. I do feel trade unions could do more to open themselves up to the unemployed to join with workers in unity within a union. Why can’t non workers who are as much as part of the working class as workers themselves all is them not being fully exploited by wage labour. Reaching out to the unemployed in times of mass unemployment is key by the labour movement can build real solidarity where it is needed building unity w where the ruling class wish to divide and rule us. Our problems are not so disimilar between the unemployed and the employed as we all face a very difficult situation which if we stand together we can win and resist. I think we are wrong in the labour movement if we don’t reach out to our comrades who are unemployed and vice versa. It is important to build as strong links as possible The stronger links we have with all members of our class the better and that goes for all parts of the class who may have different ideas of how to go about things but our solidarity must be there.

The Socialist Way: Big Issue moves to undermine vendor's

The Socialist Way: Big Issue moves to undermine vendor's: Concerns have been raised after a deal has been announced allowing people who are neither homeless – or at risk of finding themselve...

Socialists and elections

Over the few years I’ve been involved in politics on the left I have come to notice those who choose to stand in elections on the left more often than not the Marxists that are Trotskyists and so on tend to disguise their true ideas in elections. For example many align themselves with reformist programmes and cozy up to left wing bureaucrats in order to curry favor and support. Many will not reveal their true intentions beyond a few catchy slogans in fact. It is almost like the word socialism cannot be used it would scare off those sympathetic to our cause if we mention the S word the line goes. Personally I find this very disingenuous and downright insulting in many ways to think that workers are too stupid to vote for socialism is a bit patronizing if we're honest. Its not ultra left to talk about socialism or what you really stand for. If you explain how you intend to get there people will trust you far more I’d suggest. People are not stupid and will see through you in the end. It is this vanguardist idea again though that socialism needs to be brought into the workers minds without a revolutionary party they will never gain any higher level of thinking than "trade union" consciousness. For me this is one of the reasons I felt awkward at times during elections in a trotskyist party I felt I was having to speak down to workers all the time when really they wanted to know what we were really for and what is our end goal. When I stood in a election for TUSC this year I stood on a "no cuts platform" as they call it and looked to oppose the cuts but there was no room for socialism in the programme I stood under apparently I was told TUSC have a basic programme which is basic for a reason this reason I could not work out why are we hiding the fact we are socialists and want to change society from people? Yes Socialist is in the name TUSC, Trade Union and Socialist Coalition but it was not prominent much in our literature I felt. For workers they are straight forward people they simply to know what you stand for and how you will help them if they back you. If you feel that electoral politics is your thing and I am no longer sure it is for me but if it is for you then good luck but hiding your true ideas is dishonest in my opinion. Calling yourself a socialist is one thing but it’s not a dirty word to use like it maybe once was. I am not sure real change can come through the ballot box anymore many of the gains we as a class have made have come through mass struggle from below but not through a vote. Even the 1945 Labour government who are as popular on the left still sadly as really they didn’t go that far at all and had other downsides of course were forced to do much of what they did through struggle and pressure from below. The old phrase if we don’t give them reform they will give us revolution has been very key over the years with those at the top in positions of political power having to bend to the demands from below to r remain in power if they did not they would have been removed. One interesting election campaign I’d like to draw people’s attention to is Kshama Sawant Of the CWI in the USA in Seatle which has been seen over the years as a more progressive city but her fantastic campaign has gained a fair bit of momentum and congratulations from this blog must go to her. If she does go on and get elected we will be watching with close scrutiny as we have seen how workers in positions of power change and get sucked in by the system in time if they are not careful. Kshama Sawant's $15 a hour as a minimum wage really caught a mood out there it would seem but yet this in itself is a reformist demand and while these sorts of demands are fine in the short term and will gain popular support in times of austerity and cuts to pay and jobs this should only be seen as a start of a programme which looks to one day abolish wages all together in place of a system which meets people’s needs and produces for everyone’s needs. In Seattle, Sawant’s campaign helped put the “Fight for 15” - strikes and protests of low-wage workers for a $15/hour minimum wage - at the centre of political debate. Socialist Alternative energetically built this movement, aiding victimized striking workers and countering arguments against raising the minimum wage. When labour organisations placed an initiative on the ballot to raise the minimum wage to $15 in the suburb of SeaTac, the Kshama Sawant campaign energetically supported this movement, contributing to the ballot initiative’s historic success. While a new workers party is not even close in the US this campaign highlighted above does show how an idea can catch on. Even though this timid and reformist idea got a echo it cannot be ignored but we must also warn of the dangers of putting faith solely in elections and our elected leaders as a historic president. We must continue to build resistance and direct action on the ground. Organising ourselves independent of a leadership is important. As it is also important to keep all our struggles rooted in the rank-and-file democratic committees while trying to prevent them to be co opted for someone’s gain.

Monday, 11 November 2013

A look at the phenomena of popularism

There seems to be a rise of popularism on the right and the left today in politics be it in the form of the UKIP vote on the right or the occupy movement on the left of a few years ago popular movements and politics are coming to the fore it would seem during this crisis of capitalism. Quite clearly people are feeling alienated from politics and tradition Westminster politics at that and are seaking new ways of channelling that feeling away from the Westminster bubble and on to other plains. Last week on newsnight Russell brand sent off shockwaves on social media declaring "Why vote we know its not going to make any difference" This feeling could be summed up right across the country where people’s attitudes towards voting is incredibly low in parts and actively switched off in others. Many people consider the state to be a protagonist in many ways is it the police and the surveillance state that is fully under way in modern Britain or the way the state has intercepted our lives so deeply many wish to curtail the state. In a brilliant essay Paolo Gerbaudo writes: “… This is a starkly different political response to a major economic crisis than the one that took hold after the 1929 crash. While in the 30s people asked for more State either in the form of totalitarianism or in the social-democracy of the new deal Nowadays many protest movements see the state as part of the problem which for me is positive as the state is very much part of the problem for me too. Popularism is in a way a movement to make shortcuts in the class struggle to get to positions while ignoring other major factors often barriers to where we really want to be but do catch a certain mood out there at the time. Popular movements often are very of their time and cant be used again and again and often have short life spans but right now where people are feeling like there is little alternative on the traditional political front popular ideas in the form of popularism be it on the right or left can fill a gap I’d say. How they will come about and how they will form is not certain but people like Russell Brand on newsnight touched a lot of people I think whilst a bit messy and confused tone I think he was channelling a lot of peoples feelings out there who simply cant get the platform that he can which in itself isn’t something to be over looked either.

Solidarity with the 3 Cosas Campaign

’ One of the most fantastic militant and brave even campaigns I’m following and giving support to right now is the 3 Cosas Campaign which is made up of mainly low paid immigrant workers who speak little English but have organised themselves from the bottom up and deserve our support. Cleaners, porters, security guards, catering staff, and other support staff at the University of London administrative offices (in Senate House and central academic buildings) and student resident halls are employed by private contractors. In September 2011 many of these workers earned just above the national minimum wage, hardly enough to live on in London. After months of campaigning led by activist workers they managed to secure the London Living Wage (£8.55) as a basic minimum hourly rate. Inspired by this success the same group of activist workers went on to launch the “3Cosas Campaign” (Spanish for “three things”) in November 2012; the demands: the same sick pay, holiday pay, and pensions that other University employees enjoy. According to a number of the stewards the leadership said that they tacitly support the demands but that the campaign would need to be led by the outsourced workers themselves as the branch leadership was “too busy”. The workers duly did this, set up weekly meetings, and begun planning, recruiting and publicising the campaign. The campaign plan and budget was brought to a union branch meeting for endorsement on 4 November 2012. It was at this point that smouldering tensions between the union branch leadership and activist workers erupted. According to a number of members present the meeting became heated with Ms Grahl declaring her opposition with a petulant “I’m the secretary and I don’t support this” and vice-chair Simon Meredith refusing to bring the issue to a vote. When the allotted meeting time was up, with the debate in full swing and a majority of committee members seemingly in favor of endorsing the campaign, Mr. Meredith declared that time was up, called the meeting closed and, together with Ms Grahl and local area organiser Tony Mabbott, walked out. In an online UNISON article six weeks later, Ms Grahl seemed to endorse the campaign. (Reference cited: Sonia Chura, a cleaner at Hughes Parry Resident Hall and a union steward, guesses that the schism emerged because the branch leadership felt out of control of what was clearly becoming the most dynamic branch activity. Quite possibly there were other contributing factors (the union leadership named have not responded to requests for an interview or comments) but Ms Chura’s conjecture seems to be borne out by the fact that the branch leadership then called a meeting on 22 November to discuss launching an official branch campaign with the same objectives (with the addition of maternity leave). One of the only five workers to attend explained that none of the existing campaign leaders were asked to participate in planning and running the meeting and that it was scheduled for a time when many workers were already on their way to their second jobs. As a result many of the workers have left Unison and their stifling bureaucratic ways and have joined the IWGB union who are keen on organising for them being run from the bottom up and crucially are not linked to supporting the labour party which does hamper Unison more often than not. The 3 Cosas Campaign’s aims are simple – to ensure equality of terms and conditions between the University of London’s direct employees, and its outsourced workers. There are three areas (‘tres cosas’) where the disparity between University and contract workers is greatest – SICK PAY, HOLIDAYS and PENSIONS. The campaign aims to persuade the University to ensure that all workers have the same rights in these three areas. It is eminently affordable, and it is the only right thing to do. Sick pay For a number of reasons, many of the outsourced workers have different terms and conditions. However, the vast majority of the outsourced workers are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), as anyone who earns over £107 per week is entitled to this by law. SSP entails that during the first three days of absence due to illness the worker receives nothing in compensation. Starting on the fourth consecutive day of absence the worker is entitled to £86.70 per week (paid by the government). Given that most people do not know how long they will be sick for when they fall ill, and given that it is extremely difficult to survive on £86.70 per week in London, the reality is that many of the workers come in to work when sick or injured as they cannot afford not to. For more information on SSP click here. The lack of proper sick pay is especially reprehensible in that people who clean toilets and are exposed to strong chemicals, security guards who walk around in the cold for hours on end and catering staff who clean dirty dishes, among others, are particularly exposed to illness. What the 3 Cosas Campaign is calling for is the same sick pay policy for outsourced workers as that received by direct employees of the University of London’s central administration. The table below details the University of London occupational sick pay scheme and has been taken directly from the University of London’s website. As one can see, the amount of sick pay entitlement increases in proportion to the employee’s length of service. Length of Service Level and Length Allowance* Level and Length Allowance* During the first 3 months’ service 2 weeks full pay 2 weeks half pay Three months to one year’s service 2 months full pay 2 months half pay Second and third year of service 3 months full pay 3 months half pay Fourth and fifth year of service 5 months full pay 5 months half pay After five years of service 6 months full pay 6 months half pay Holiday Entitlement There is some variety in holiday entitlement among outsourced workers. For example, there are caterers at the University of London on zero hour’s contracts who receive no paid holidays, despite the fact that their contracts allow for this. However, many of the outsourced workers are entitled to 28 paid holidays (as required by law) per year. Out of these 28, 8 are bank holidays. A significant number of the outsourced workers are then required to take the days that the University of London is closed (roughly 6 per year), out of their remaining 20 days. The workers can then (in theory) decide when to take the remaining days each year. However, in reality, many of the workers are restricted on when they can take these days. For example, during the Olympics many of the intercollegiate halls of residence were rented out to commercial guests (rather than students) and the cleaners at these halls were not allowed to take any vacation days during the summer months. The lack of flexibility on holidays is particularly burdensome in that many of the outsourced workers, particularly cleaners; have to work 3-4 jobs per day to make ends meet. This means that if they want to go back to their countries on vacation that they have to coordinate their vacation days with 3-4 employers. The lack of a fair amount of total paid holidays per year is also especially burdensome in that most of the outsourced workers are immigrants, many of whom have a desire to return home to visit their friends and families. When one is earning £8.55 per hour, and a plane ticket to South America or Africa costs over a £1000, it is difficult to justify going for only two weeks. University of London direct employees, on the other hand, are entitled to between 25 and 30 paid holidays, plus the 8 bank holidays, plus school closure days, totaling as many as 44 paid holidays per year. The 3 Cosas Campaign is calling for all outsourced workers to be entitled to 30 paid holidays, plus bank holidays, plus school closure days, and for more freedom on when these days are taken. For more information on University of London employee annual leave, please see the University of London’s website. Pensions The outsourced workers are eligible for a BBW pension scheme but the terms are so unfavourable that the reality is that almost none of the outsourced workers have bought into the schemes on offer. The mandatory government scheme recently introduced is so small as to be almost negligible. The 3 Cosas Campaign is calling for the ability of all outsourced workers at the University of London to buy into a pension scheme as good as or better than SAUL. The benefits associated with this pension scheme (below) have been taken from the University of London website: • Cost to member is 6% of gross salary and 13% to employer; • A pension for life when you retire; • A tax-free lump sum; • A pension for your spouse when you die; • Allowances for your children when you die; • Full tax relief on all your contributions; • Your benefits protected and preserved should you change employer; • Increases made to your pension after you retire; • The opportunity to pay Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs) to improve your benefits. You can find out more about the campaign and find out how to donate to the strike fund as I have done now at

Remembering those we lost

Today is the 11th of the 11th. The day where we will stop and remember those who lost their lives in war and conflict. I have been grappling with this for a few weeks whilst I have the upmost respect and admiration for anyone who goes to fight in a war I can’t help thinking the way the ruling elites look to glorify the idea of war. Take today on this mornings bbc 5 live morning phone in the debate was "let us know your war hero" and while this may be a chance for loved ones to phone in and tell about their relatives the ideas that these are our hero's is a bit sickening. yes they are brave and courageous in face of diversity but they were ultimately being sent to war by a elite bunch of ministers who wouldn’t be seen on the front lines themselves of course watching from a distance like the cowards they are. A really excellent and thought provoking piece I read earlier tells of a war veteran who speaks very candidly and his dignity shines through it touched me quite a bit I’ll share it below I think it captures many people’s thoughts today. "Written by Harry Leslie Smith on 09 November 2013. Posted in Articles Harry Leslie Smith will no longer allow his obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror. FPRIVATE "TYPE=PICT; ALT=poppy crosses" 'Come 2014 when the government marks the beginning of the First World War I will declare myself a conscientious objector,' says Harry Leslie Smith Over the last 10 years the sepia tone of November has become blood-soaked with paper poppies festooning the lapels of our politicians, newsreaders and business leaders. The most fortunate in our society have turned the solemnity of remembrance for fallen soldiers in ancient wars into a justification for our most recent armed conflicts. The American civil war's General Sherman once said that "war is hell", but unfortunately today's politicians in Britain use past wars to bolster our flagging belief in national austerity or to compel us to surrender our rights as citizens, in the name of the public good. Still, this year I shall wear the poppy as I have done for many years. I wear it because I am from that last generation who remember a war that encompassed the entire world. I wear the poppy because I can recall when Britain was actually threatened with a real invasion and how its citizens stood at the ready to defend her shores. But most importantly, I wear the poppy to commemorate those of my childhood friends and comrades who did not survive the Second World War and those who came home physically and emotionally wounded from horrific battles that no poet or journalist could describe. However, I am afraid it will be the last time that I will bear witness to those soldiers, airmen and sailors who are no more, at my local cenotaph. From now on, I will lament their passing in private because my despair is for those who live in this present world. I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one's right to privacy. Come 2014 when the government marks the beginning of the First World War with quotes from Rupert Brooke, Rudyard Kipling and other great jingoists from our past empire, I will declare myself a conscientious objector. We must remember that the historical past of this country is not like an episode of Downton Abbey where the rich are portrayed as thoughtful, benevolent masters to poor folk who need the guiding hand of the ruling classes to live a proper life. I can tell you it didn't happen that way because I was born nine years after the First World War began. I can attest that life for most people was spent in abject poverty where one laboured under brutal working conditions for little pay and lived in houses not fit to kennel a dog today. We must remember that the war was fought by the working classes who comprised 80% of Britain's population in 1913. This is why I find that the government's intention to spend £50m to dress the slaughter of close to a million British soldiers in the 1914-18 conflict as a fight for freedom and democracy profane. Too many of the dead, from that horrendous war, didn't know real freedom because they were poor and were never truly represented by their members of parliament. My uncle and many of my relatives died in that war and they weren't officers or NCOs; they were simple Tommies. They were like the hundreds of thousands of other boys who were sent to their slaughter by a government that didn't care to represent their citizens if they were working poor and under-educated. My family members took the king's shilling because they had little choice, whereas many others from similar economic backgrounds were strong-armed into enlisting by war propaganda or press-ganged into military service by their employers. For many of you 1914 probably seems like a long time ago but I'll be 91 next year, so it feels recent. Today, we have allowed monolithic corporate institutions to set our national agenda. We have allowed vitriol to replace earnest debate and we have somehow deluded ourselves into thinking that wealth is wisdom. But by far the worst error we have made as a people is to think ourselves as taxpayers first and citizens second. Next year, I won't wear the poppy but I will until my last breath remember the past and the struggles my generation made to build this country into a civilised state for the working and middle classes. If we are to survive as a progressive nation we have to start tending to our living because the wounded: our poor, our underemployed youth, our hard-pressed middle class and our struggling seniors shouldn't be left to die on the battleground of modern life." With thanks to

Kronstadt, the rebellion forgotten by many

If you speak to many Trotskyists and mention the K word they will go white in the face and shift uneasy as Kronstadt for them is a difficult one to explain. The workers rebellion of March 1921 stands out as one of the most brutal acts the BOLSHEVIKS Committed in their time in power. For me the Russian Revolution itself is a major inspiration to my political ideas but the Kronstadt rebellion which I brought up once when I was a member of the socialist party was rarely discussed and if it was I was brought to one side and told this act by the BOLSHEVIKS Was necessary to defend the revolution from "outside forces". This seems to be the common line from Trotskyists who try to justify this brutal act on the good sailors and workers who helped in the early days of the revolution who were not happy with the authoritarian nature of the BOLSHEVIKS And their methods of suppression of freedoms. “An understanding of the Russian revolution is vital for any understanding of why the left failed in the 20th century. Yet most discussion amongst revolutionaries never goes beyond the usual argument about the Kronstadt rebellion. The left's present crisis has forced rethinking in some circles but many of us continue to cope with isolation by clinging onto our respective traditions. Anarchists and libertarian communists emphasize the Bolsheviks' authoritarian policies, blaming them for the revolution's failure, while underestimating the difficulties of constructing a new society in an isolated country devastated by civil war. In contrast Trotskyists blame these material conditions exclusively for the revolution's degeneration, dismissing most left-wing criticisms of the Bolsheviks as giving comfort to the right. Bolshevik policies were problematic from the start. In 1917 Lenin argued that, as private capitalism could not develop Russia, a revolutionary state would have to use 'state capitalism' to build the prerequisites for the transition to communism. This approach was always likely to come into conflict with the working class. Then, as the revolution failed to spread outside Russia, the Bolsheviks imposed even more external discipline on workers, effectively abandoning Marx's insistence on "the self-emancipation of the working class". This concept of "self-emancipation" implies that the working class can only create communism by freely making and defending the revolution themselves. So the action of workers taking day-to-day control of every aspect of society is itself the essence of the revolutionary process. Considerable compromises with the ideals of self-emancipation were inevitable in the crippling conditions of the Russian revolution. By October 1917 there were 900 workers' councils or soviets, controlling everything from housing to hospitals. There were also more than 2,000 elected factory committees which were even more powerful because they had been compelled to supervise the factory owners and production. The Bolshevik party was dwarfed by these bodies and was often overtaken by the rapid radicalization of workers. However, unlike the reformist Mensheviks or the peasant oriented Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs), it had not joined the repressive Provisional Government; a regime that had totally discredited itself by its failure to maintain living standards, authorise land seizures or provide peace. The openness and flexibility of the Bolshevik party allowed it to express workers' desire for a government of all the soviet parties. On 25 October it organised the overthrow of the Provisional Government and set up a Soviet government headed by Lenin Once in power the overriding concern of the Bolshevik leadership was the revival of industry to overcome a largely feudal crisis-ridden society. To this end they proposed to nationalise the largest monopolies, initially leaving the rest of industry under capitalist ownership combined with both government and workers' control. This was consistent with Lenin's arguments before October that "socialism is merely state-capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the interests of the whole people and has to that extent ceased to be capitalist monopoly." He later said, "we recognise only one road - changes from below; we wanted the workers themselves, from below, to draw up the new, basic economic principles." But, like the Second International he came from, Lenin never developed a consistent theory of workers' self-management, tending to only advocate "inspection", "accounting and control" by workers of the decisions of others.” This is very similar to many Trotskyist parties today and their programme is very close if not identical to the original programme Lenin looked to set about putting into place. The term those who fail to learn the lessons from history are doomed to repeat them. So for me whilst being inspired by the early days of the Russian revolution what followed the suppression and the terror does not inspire me and has lead me to re assess my thoughts and political feelings as to how a revolution can be carried out. Kronstadt for me is a chilling tale of a rebellion by workers who were involved in the original revolution in 1917 yet had grown tired of the lack of freedom and democracy that was allowed. They feared the growing tide of suppression by the government. “Trotskyists usually justify the Bolshevik's actions on the grounds that the heroic sailors of 1917 had been replaced by newly recruited peasants, easily influenced by counter-revolutionary ideas. But Evan Mawdsley and Israel Getzler cite Soviet research which shows that three-quarters of all the sailors in Kronstadt in 1921 had probably been there since World War One. It also clearly demonstrates that 90% of the sailors on the two main battleships were drafted before 1918 White exiles had tried to help the mutineers and the main leader of the rebellion, Petrichenko, did join the Whites for a period after the mutiny was suppressed. Still, there is no convincing evidence that the mutineers had any ties to the Whites during the rebellion itself and it appears that no foreign power even attempted to take military advantage of the situation. Moreover Lenin himself said, "There they do not want either the White Guards or our government". So the Bolshevik regime's need to suppress any rebellion calling for democracy was at least as much a factor in its attitude to the sailors as the threat of intervention from abroad. Trotskyists are right to say that a major cause of the degeneration of the revolution was its inability to spread which meant that it was crippled by objective factors such as economic backwardness, isolation and civil war. Nevertheless they are wrong to advocate a rigid determinism, minimising ideological factors. This is especially the case when at every stage of the bureaucratisation of the regime there were vocal critics within the Bolshevik party itself who proposed alternative policies that might have slowed this process. Even if the appalling conditions of the civil war justified their policies then, they cannot excuse the repression both before and after the war. Of course Trotskyists could argue that the civil war and economic collapse started in 1917 so Lenin's attitudes were justified from the beginning. But soviet democracy withstood the crises of 1917 and then expanded sufficiently to make a revolution in October. So it must have had the potential to survive the threats of 1918 better than it did, especially as it was supposedly holding state power. The civil war also cannot be used to excuse the Bolshevik leaders' lack of regret about their use of repression. For instance, although Lenin described the NEP as a 'defeat', at no stage did he describe the suppression of soviet democracy and workers' control in such language. Indeed the Bolsheviks even called their civil war policies "communist" although they were obviously the antithesis of genuine communism. It is easy to criticise with the benefit of hindsight. However there is something very disturbing about the fact that Trotskyists still claim that the Bolsheviks were acting as communists after 1918 when they were clearly acting more as agents of the degeneration of the revolution. Material conditions did limit everything at this time but this includes Lenin and Trotsky's ideas so their applicability eighty years later is surely also severely limited. Effectively many Trotskyists are arguing that, if it is necessary, Marx's insistence on "self-emancipation" and a democratic workers' republic can be postponed provided people like Lenin and Trotsky run the 'workers' state' and raise the red flag for international revolution. Yet for the Bolsheviks to suppress the Russian working class - on behalf of a world working class that has no say in this policy - contradicts any concept of proletarian self-emancipation. Workers will never be inspired by a Marxism that offers the possibility of state subjugation in a 'holding operation' until the whole world has had a revolution. This argument also assumes that Lenin's internationalism could have remained intact while the revolution degenerated all around him. But future writing will show that his internationalism was compromised not long after October. Some Trotskyists do have criticisms of a number of Bolshevik policies, such as the post-war restrictions on soviet democracy. However none of them are willing to stray too far from Trotsky's own reservations which he only really voiced when he had lost power. Their lack of appreciation of what might be valuable in the Bolshevik tradition is shown by the fact that no Trotskyist organisation today allows the range of views that coexisted in the Bolshevik party even during the civil war. Besides, considering the extent of the repression resorted to by Lenin's regime, the priority is not to criticise individual policies but to try and work out how revolutionaries could have avoided getting into this appalling situation in the first place. If the Bolsheviks had respected workers' democracy they may well have lost power. Nevertheless this would have been a gamble, like the October revolution, that they would have been right to take, one that in itself would have restored some of the party's popularity. It would also have had more chance of success than Trotsky's bureaucratic attempts to prevent Stalin's dictatorship. Even if the gamble had failed, the outcome could not have been worse than 'Stalinism', which not only slaughtered millions, but did so in the name of communism and so stifled the prospects for revolution world-wide for the rest of the century. In the end perhaps the most interesting aspect of this whole issue is why so many Marxists who claim to believe in workers' self-emancipation defend a politics that effectively denies it. “ With thanks for quotes and extracts at libcom

Labour to attack Wonga, are they missing the real issue?

Ed Miliband is pledging for the next labour government to ban pay day loan adverts and Wonga in particular from advertising during children’s television programmes. I think Ed again misses the point he does not address the reasons as to why people desperate families have to reach for such cowboys as the likes of Wonga. The pay day loan company who claim to be no nonsense and easy to access who charge crazy interest rates on their loans force people into worse situations than they were in before all in the name of desperation. Whilst its welcome labour have recognised the problem which is pay day loans and the likes of Wonga I fear that what it is suggesting a ban on this will simply force people into more criminal methods to get money to pay off a outstanding bill or something so simple as feeding their family. I am not arguing in favor of Wonga here but simply banning the adverts does not tackle the problem of low pay, high cost of living and much more besides. Labours answer to allot of things these days is banning things and regulating markets it all feels a bit top down and state heavy. This may be their new direction who knows but for many meddling in their business will be too much to stomach from a party who attacked our civil liberties beyond imagination during their last time in office. For me its capitalism which is the huge elephant in the room which the labour party and Ed Miliband will not confront. They will not as they are in service to the market and the system. They may give lip service as they have done to the so called "cost of living" yet their public sector pay freeze intention to be harder on those on benefits than the Tories and so much more do little to convince many I would suggest. Many people will not vote labour ever again and with good reason. People realise that they are no alternative to Tories only a watered down slightly nicer version which let’s be honest hardly enthuses you to go out and put a cross next to your labour candidates name. People need far more than bans on pay day loan companies the rot of capitalism has gone far deeper into people’s lives. Labour is barely scratching the surface. Real radical action is needed and labour will not bring it about I can assure you.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The 96th anniversary of the October Revolution

One of the most famous events in history the October revolution is something many socialists look towards for inspiration but while we celebrate its anniversary we should also be wary and look to learn the lessons of why it ultimately did not lead to full communism. The Soviet Union still matters. Though it passed into history in August 1991, the Soviet Union casts a distinct shadow. Indeed it is impossible to understand contemporary capitalism - that is, capitalism in the 20th and 21st centuries - unless you understand the USSR. The welfare state, Keynesianism, the mixed economy, state regulation, the promotion of bourgeois democracy as a universal elixir - all were, in their various ways, a response to the Soviet Union. Not merely the Soviet Union as a superpower with its 15 constituent republics, 10 time zones and Moscow capital. But crucially the manner of its birth. The October 25 1917 Bolshevik uprising shook the word (November 7, according to our Gregorian calendar). Since then capitalism has been managing its historic decline. The policy of forced collectivisation and rapid industrialisation post 1917 and the affect it had on those who had survived the First World War lead to some very tough conditions on the ground. I do think the end of the soviets and the workers councils was a huge factor in the counter revolution which took place post 1917. I am reminded that democracy is key to any revolution and for socialism we need democracy the removal of the soviets as bodies of workers who were subject to recall and no special privileges was a big blow to the revolution. When power was transferred from the soviets to the centralised party structure of the communist party which lead to a move to the right and a lack of democracy ensued. What about Trotsky? Was the Soviet Union a degenerate workers’ state in the 1930s? Surely not. The last shreds of democracy had long been discarded, trade unions operated as a transmission belt for the regime, living standards were being mercilessly forced down, police spying was ubiquitous and the purges were in full swing. Millions were to perish. Add to that the ignominious collapse in 1991 and Trotsky’s theory is surely impossible to sustain. Of course, Trotsky lacked the mass of reliable information we can now access. Moreover, he was assassinated in 1940. There is no reason to believe, however, that he would have stuck to what he called a “provisional” designation had he lived. Indeed Trotsky declared he open to the idea that the Soviet Union could evolve towards an altogether new kind of exploitative social formation. Nevertheless, there are all manner of epigones who, speaking in his name, dogmatically insist that the USSR was a workers’ state right up till 1991 (some even bizarrely argue that it was a workers’ state under Yeltsin). Displaying complete theoretical bankruptcy, they equate a workers’ state or/and socialism with nationalisation. A position which owes everything to clause-four Fabianism Centralisation of the means of production in a few hands of a party is not socialism and is nothing near workers control. For full workers control we need workers participation in democracy if a party instructs what is to be done from the top down this is not democratic or desirable in any shape or form. The soviets and the workers councils were the most democratic form of o organisation and I do think we have to look back at their role in the early days of the Russian revolution for their usefulness today and going forward. When Stalin smashed the soviets and centralised power in his own hands and with the party this was the beginning of the end for the revolution in my opinion. We must not allow for power to be held in such few hands. I do think workers should remain in control and a party has its own interests in keeping power so I’m not convinced a party is necessary to maintain power. An organisation is key but a centralised party with hierarchical structures and a party who is looking to create a society in its own image I am not sure is the way to go in future.