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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Solidarity with university lecturers and students

31 October will be a day of coordinated strike action by UCU, Unison and Unite members working in universities. This is the first UK-wide joint action between these Higher Education unions, demonstrating the anger that their members feel about the employers' insulting 1% pay increase. The real wages of academics have fallen by 13% since 2008, one of the largest sustained wage cuts any profession has suffered since the Second World War." This is despite the scandalously high fees charged to students, which have subsidised lavish pay at the upper echelons of university management while ordinary teaching, research, and support staff struggle. We want a publicly funded system of Higher Education, free at the point of use and paying a fair wage to its workers. In addition to real-terms pay cuts, casualisation of all jobs is rife in the sector, including use of fixed-term, hourly-paid and even the now-infamous zero-hour contracts. This job insecurity together with management bullying and excessive workloads will also motivate UCU members to undertake a 'work to contract' following the strike day. Many student organisations, including official student unions, have offered support. It will be vital to build on these links and make clear to students that this industrial action strengthens their fight for free education, particularly if exam marking ends up being affected. Already propaganda about the USS pension scheme has tried to pit students against staff - in fact this scheme is healthy by any reasonable measure, and a bizarre accounting practice is being used to claim students will end up 'bailing out' their lecturers' pensions. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this and similar falsehoods will be peddled by the Con-Dem government and their media chums if the dispute continues. A serious fighting strategy could see a victory in the form of a significantly improved pay offer. But ultimately the dispute has arisen from the politics and experience of austerity. We need to make links with other unions - HE workers already look to the dispute involving the teachers' unions NUT and NASUWT Who have unfortunately called off their action for this year which is a huge crime in my opinion A last mention has to go to Sussex University and Sheffield University who have gone into occupation tonight in solidarity with the staff in the universities tomorrow and beyond. This could be a restart of the student movement and crucially without the support of the NUS and the NCAFC who are not present in either of these occupations at all. A statement below is carried by occupy Sussex. Once again students at Sussex University have come out in solidarity with staff struggles on their campus. Over the past year they have been waging a struggle with a united front of teaching staff, support/catering staff and students to object to on-campus privatisation. In this time they have innovated the pop-up union as a way to forge cross-union cross-trade solidarity, and have held some of the largest student demonstrations outside of London in recent years. You can follow them on twitter @occupy Sussex A great short You tube video from novara fm weekly show co host James butler can be watched here about the strike https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37n5zeyd83Q&feature=youtube_gdata_player Remember don’t cross a picket line. If unsure contact your local union or student union.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Victory for save Lewisham A and E but wider battle continues

Well done to all involved in save Lewisham A and E on their victory today in the appeals court. Much solidarity and congratulations to you but this can not be a time to rest on our laurels and we must be aware of the wider battle against our NHS still going on out there from this government. "The Appeal Court today ruled against government attempts to close most of the popular Lewisham Hospital. But even as campaigners celebrate, MPs prepare to vote on whether to legalise such fast-track hospital closures elsewhere. http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/girl save our hospital.png The Appeal Court today dismissed a government appeal in the long running battle over substantial cuts to Lewisham Hospital. The ruling will be deservedly celebrated in the streets of Lewisham, where “Save Lewisham A&E” campaign posters have plastered the streets for months. But it also raises the stakes on new government attempts to legalise these kind of “accelerated” hospital cuts elsewhere. MPs will vote on the new move next month, in an amendment hastily tagged onto the Care Bill. This is something we must make ourselves aware of very quickly. The government are not just going to sit back and accept these decisions lightly they will come back and this amendment to the law will allow them to do just that. During the summer the High Court ruled that health secretary Jeremy Hunt acted unlawfully in trying to close Lewisham’s A&E and large chunks of its services, as part of an Administration process that was dealing with a different, neighbouring Hospital Trust, South London. Today the government lost an appeal against that ruling. Lewisham itself is hopefully now safe. But the government - perhaps anticipating this defeat - has a plan B that will make it far easier for them to close or downgrade other hospitals across the country in future, without the consent or support of local people or GPs. The government has added a last minute amendment to Care Bill to legalise much more widespread use of fast-track hospital closures. The amendment will - if passed in the Commons next month - allow the government to accept recommendations from Administrators appointed to take over clinically or financially struggling Trusts, to cut or downgrade nearby hospitals that are part of other Trusts. Closure decisions - which could be taken even where these nearby hospitals themselves are successful and popular - will be able to be taken with minimal public consultation - a mere 40 days, compared to the normal 2 years or more. Introducing the amendment in the Commons earlier this month, Earl Howe admitted the amendment drastically reduced “the statutory obligations of commissioners to involve and consult patients and the public in planning and making service changes” and extended to even successful trusts an "accelerated process" with "no provision for referral to local authority scrutiny" or need to have regard to the views of local people and clinicians. Dr David Nicholl, Consultant Neurologist in Birmingham, and on the council of the Royal College of Physicians said “speaking personally I can see that this legislation has the potential to threaten any hospital, with minimal consultation" He urged other medical professionals to raise concerns with their Royal Colleges, adding “it is vital any reconfigurations are clinically led. This judgement has shown that the special administrator approach is totally the wrong one." The Royal College of Physicians have already raised concerns over the clause in the Health Service Journal, saying "Any decisions affecting the broader health economy should be clinically-led, should be driven by the best interests of patients and should involve the wider health community from the beginning". Vicky Penner, former patient at Lewisham and a member of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, warned “The Government's attempt to rush through an amendment to the Care Bill through Parliament which would give Trust Special Administrators, and in turn the Government, unlimited geographical power without proper consultation means that no hospital in the country will be safe. “It seems that if the Government cannot win in Court, they will bully their plans through Parliament, showing their utter contempt for normal people and democracy.”" Democracy in action from this group of toffs who claim to rule us today. Its time they go along with the system they represent. Quotes and extracts from the fantastic Caroline Molloy at open democracy site http://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/victory-for-lewisham-hospital-but-governments-plan-b-threatens-100s-more-hosp

Monday, 28 October 2013

What grangemouth can tell us about the current state of the labour movement?

Quite a lot I’d argue. A big defeat that much of the left I’d argue has not really understood how big it was. Only time will tell of course but we do need to analyse the role of unions in this and how things may develop and play out in time. Unite who seems to be full of more hot air than actual punch of late unfortunately. So what will the Grangemouth dispute show in the long run? That unites is this so called fighting member lead left union? I doubt it somehow. For me it will confirm something which I’ve been thinking for a while now that trade unions have their place within capitalism now and firmly know their place in terms of what they can and can’t do. Unite knew going into this dispute that this could be a really key battle on the UK labour movement in this current age of austerity and privatisation. More and more I have sympathy with the anarchist critique of trade unions that its not the fact that unions sell us out constantly yes they do more often than not but that their structures mean that this is necessary and that maintaining relations with the boss’s and the employer is key. Unions for some time now have had to and have in many case’s apart from some like the RMT have willingly agreed to this thing they called union partnership with the employer where the union officials will know how far they can go and as to keep their seat at the negotiating table and to keep in with the boss’s as ultimately well paid union officials have more in common with the boss’s of course they are set the task of maintaining order and limiting struggle to the boundaries the boss’s set which are made perfectly clear before hand, As for the Grangemouth dispute was it always going to be a sell out? Well possibly with unites and its leading body of bureaucrats looking to get Ed Miliband and his labour party elected in 2015 a certain limit has to be held by unite who is as we know is Britain’s biggest trade union and still to this day the Labour Party’s biggest donor funding it to the tune of millions f our members hard earned pounds a year. Unite and its leading officials will want to see a labour government elected in 2015 so any unorganised struggles must be clamped down on to ensure to present a sensible face to capitalism and the labour party that they can be trusted to keep the workers in their place. To take future labour cuts, wage freezes and no repeal of any anti trade union laws. Of course Unite will accept this I hear you say why? No they won’t surely? Well the labour link is important and its not important for workers but it is important for unite and its leading layer to keep that link with the labour party higher ranks the two share a common goal of thinking they can manage capitalism better than the Tories. Of course there can be no “better” managing of capitalism it is a system based on the exploitation of labour for the production of surplus value and profit of course and for as long as it exists this will always be the way. So no amount of Ed Milibands responsible capitalism which really is a load of old guff can deflect from capitalisms aims of developing the productive forces and the ability to create and extract more profit from our unpaid labour. So what can we do as workers to fight back on the ground? Well I’d suggest that the boss’s are likely to take the Grangemouth sell out by Unite as a signal that the labour movement in the UK is weak which they probably already knew having forced through huge cuts and privatisation already with little opposition apart from a few big march’s and a big one day public sector strike in 2011 which in all honesty do little to worry the ruling class if we are brutally honest. What we do need is a proper genuine rank-and-file movement from below. Not the broad lefts which many on the left organise in today like the United Left which in affect is a election machine for the unite bureaucracy as we have seen with the last few elections in Unite if you are a in United Left you have the force of the unite bureaucracy behind you and are more or less a shoe in. The right wing in Unite is all but gone. Not tat we can be complacent there either it may return one day and there is already many talking of the right signing up to United Left to get elected. So do be careful there. But United Left a broad left is not a rank-and-file organisation organised from the bottom up. Ok it may have shop floor workers in it but is not worker lead in many ways. The NSSN could have been a really good rank-and-file organisation but I am not sure it is fully interested in organising workers across sectors and building solidarity. It may give lip service to supporting workers but more often than not in my experience the NSSN has been a mouth piece for left union bureaucrats to get on a platform and sound militant for a few hours while on the ground little in the way of organising is done. The NSSN does a lot of good in publicising disputes with its E Bulletin which I subscribe to but under the full control of the socialist part now I am not convinced it will be anything more than a recruitment front for that party unfortunately. I see very little independent rank-and-file voices on its steering committee for example. Most are Socialist party members who may well be workers themselves but I know for a fact some are not and some are paid employees of the socialist party itself. So I do firmly believe there is still the crying need for a rank-and-file network of works inside and outside of unions to link up struggles and build solidarity. To not push the ego’s of union leaders even if they do claim to be on the left. A bureaucrat is a bureaucrat whether they are left or right. Maybe a left one is more sympathetic to our struggles but they still have a role to play in the structures of the union and the wider capitalist society to maintain the order of things. The labour movement is far from dead but it is hugely weakened and venerable due to the lack of fight from all levels not just the leadership. We can affect change by organising ourselves from below. We do not need to wait for leaders to tell us to act or to fightback we can start today in ourworkplaces’s and beyond. Grangemouth doesn’t have to be remembered as yet another defeat on the long long list we have it could be turning point if we learn the lessons. The real lessons.

Should workers support state intervention ?

Whenever there is a crisis and a huge number of workers are in danger of loosing their jobs such as with Grangemouth last week the thing that comes from the left is to simply nationalise the company in question but very rarely the question of workers control is raised. Simply shouting "public ownership" is the answer to all our woes is wholely inadequate in my opinion. Much like with the big 6 energy companies who are ripping us all off at present the answer from the left is to "nationalise" them everytime. Yet all this is calling for is state capitalism. But would this be benificial to us in any way ? State capitalism was the way of things after the Second World War with many industries being brought into public ownership like the Coal and water industries for example more followed with a national health care system known today as the NHS of course. But the labour government at the time saw it fit to keep the boss's in charge of these state backed companies which meant they were no more democratic or accountable than before. Ok they had huge government funding but remained with teh same boss's as they did d before. This was not socialism and was rightly called state capitalism . "However, that does not answer the question of what we do in the here and now when faced with demands that the welfare state (for the working class, not corporate welfare) and other reforms be rolled back. This attack has been on going since the 1970s, accelerating since 1980. We should be clear that claims to be minimising the state should be taken with a massive pitch of salt as the likes of Reagan were "elected to office promising to downsize government and to 'get the government off the people's back,' even though what he meant was to deregulate big business, and make them free to exploit the workers to increase profits. The state may be influenced by popular struggle but it remains an instrument of capitalist rule. It may intervene in society as a result of people power and by the necessity to keep the system as a whole going, but it is bureaucratic and influenced by the wealthy and big business. Indeed, the onslaught on the welfare state by both Thatcher and Reagan was conducted under a "democratic" mandate although, in fact, these governments took advantage of the lack of real accountability between elections. They took advantage of an aspect of the state if you substitute government ownership for private ownership, "nothing is changed but the stockholders and the management; beyond that, there is not the least difference in the position of the workers." "Privatisation of public services -- whether it is through the direct sale of utilities or through indirect methods such as PFI and PPP -- involves a massive transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the pockets of private business interests. It negates the concept of there being such a thing as 'public service' and subjects everything to the bottom line of profit. In other words it seeks to maximise the profits of a few at the expense of wages and social obligations. Furthermore, privatisation inevitably leads to an attack on wages and working conditions - conditions which have been fought for through years of trade union agitation are done away with at the scratch of a pen." [Gregor Kerr, "Privatisation: the rip-off of public resources", pp. 14-18, Black and Red Revolution, no. 11, p. 16] is important to point out that the 'nationalise it' or 'take it into public ownership' slogan is far too often spun out by people on the left without their taking into account that there is a massive difference between state control/ownership and workers' control/ownership . . . we all know that even if the revenues . . . were still in state ownership, spending it on housing the homeless or reducing hospital waiting lists would not top the agenda of the government. "Put simply, state ownership does not equal workers' ownership . Thus an revolutionary socialist approach to this issue would be to reject both privatisation and nationalisation in favour of socialisation, i.e. placing nationalised firms under workers' self-management. In the terms of public utilities, such as water and power suppliers, they could be self-managed by their workers in association with municipal co-operatives -- based on one member, one vote -- which would be a much better alternative than privatising what is obviously a natural monopoly (which, as experience shows, simply facilitates the fleecing of the public for massive private profit). Christie and Meltzer state the obvious: "It is true that government takes over the control of certain necessary social functions. It does not follow that only the state could assume such control. The postmen are 'civil servants' only because the State makes them such. The railways were not always run by the state, They belonged to the capitalists [and do once more, at least in the UK], and could as easily have been run by the railway workers. " In the long term, of course, the real solution is to abolish capitalism "and both citizens and communities will have no need of the intervention of the State." [Proudhon, Op. Cit., p. 268] In a free society, social self-defence would not be statist but would be similar in nature to trade unionism, co-operatives and pressure groups -- individuals working together in voluntary associations to ensure a free and just society -- within the context of an egalitarian, decentralised and participatory system which eliminates or reduces the problems in the first place SO in conclusion its all about control and workers control at that . Putting it simply you cannot control waht you dont own. Fighting for democratic workers control from below is the only way forward in my opinion when situations like Grangemouth come up again which no doubt they will do as capitalism fails to develop itself out of a huge rutt. with quotes and extracts from http://www.infoshop.org/AnarchistFAQSectionD1#secd15

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The storm of 2013

So tonight we are expecting one of the biggest storms to hit the UK or the southern part of it anyway more so in a long long time. We are being told to not make journeys unless it’s essential. I have no doubt the weather agencies especially the BBc are covering their ass’s this time round as last time in 1987 Michael Fish famously got it completely wrong and told people not to worry no hurricane is coming and the next day there was mass destruction and 19 killed not his finest moment I would say. So this time around the authorities are taking no chances. My solidarity goes out to the emergency services on call all evening tonight and those who are without a shelter for the night. I am hoping the storm comes too little and people are safe and warm but I know this is just not going to happen. Capitalism is about consumer society where owning a home is seen as making it in society and those without simply go without. So with all the threats and scare stories of how bad this storm may be tonight do spare a thought for those who are out in the cold and the wind and rain tonight. With energy prices soar this winter and wages keeping low to non existent we can expect a long tough winter for many in the UK. Let’s have a bit of compassion and look to help out those who are struggling this winter. We can all help out whilst we organise ourselves to remove this rotten system of greed and exploitation for good. Stay safe all.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Trotskyists and the state

Leon Trotsky and his followers did not develop their ideas on the state very much. They set themselves up as oppositionists to the Stalinist regime and that is fair enough not many would hold that against them for opposing Stalinism but yet their critique of the state is very silent and often absent from many Trotskyist critiques. For me the state and an analysis of it are key for understanding capitalism and the way forward. For all my time in the socialist party of England and Wales the state got a little bit of attention it was seen as a body of armed workers essentially and nothing more. The analysis of the state or the modern state by the socialist party is hugely out of date and in my view completely irrelevant in many ways. No longer is the state just a system of ruling class rule and order. It has developed and sunk itself into greater and greater depths. For me the socialist party’s analysis of the police and the army is deeply flawed and out of step with modern thinking. Many Trotskyists refer to Lenin’s state and revolution and in many ways it is an interesting text I swallowed it whole first time round and felt the state would wither away but why would this happen and how would it happen? The more anymore i think about I find it hugely unlikely the state will just simply wither away once it has become unnecessary in terms of Marxism anyway but why would it ? The state has an independent thought and strategy of its own and ultimately looks after its own whether it’s a capitalist or a workers state point is its still a state for an all intents and purposes. The nation state as a feature of capitalism is key it almost predates capitalism and has its origin in the rise of capitalism. As the old quote goes the state makes war and the war makes the state it plays a huge role in modern society and has spread beyond even Marx’s imagination now. We even see today the state within a state with spying and surveillance states appearing under capitalism. For me no Trotskyist group out there has any up to date critique on the modern state or have begin to scratch the surface. For me the state will play a huge part in many people’s politics in the coming years as capitalism fails to progress society and develop the means of production. The state will become more and more in conflict with its base and its system it represents. The state is an important political body which needs a serious discussion on inside and outside of Marxist circles. There is much to do and to think about before we even come to taking on the understanding of the state and what it means to us and Howe we go about removing as no society which base’s itself on equality for all can exist with an existence of a state. There can be no freedom with any state; we need to address the idea of a state and what it ultimately means for the masses. Communism for me is a class less society and as such a state less society. Building a workers state is something which never sat easy with me as is a body of oppression. Ok we may need to defend ourselves against counter revolutionary forces but after that an armed group of workers is no longer needed and must go as soon as possible in my opinion. The debate will go on I am sure.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Unite, Grangemouth and what we can learn from the last week and a bit

So the Grangemouth Oil refinery is to remain open but at what cost to the workers and the labour movement as a whole? Operator Ineos had announced on Wednesday that the plant was to shut, with the loss of 800 jobs, after union members rejected a survival plan. But the decision was reversed after the union agreed to Ineos's conditions. Ineos confirmed it would reopen the plant and the neighbouring oil refinery "with immediate effect", ending a bitter dispute with the Unite union which began over the alleged mistreatment of a Unite official. The company said the move to reopen the plant followed a "dramatic U-turn" by Unite and its "belated recognition" that the company's survival plan was the only way to ensure Grangemouth's long-term future. Jim Ratcliffe, chairman of Ineos, said there had been a "significant change in attitude" from the unions Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: "Relief will ring right round the Grangemouth community and across Scotland today. "Hundreds of jobs that would have been lost can now be saved and £300m will be invested into the plant." The main points of the Ineos announcement included: • Ineos will reopen the petrochemical plant and oil refinery at Grangemouth immediately • An undertaking by Ineos to invest £300m at the Grangemouth site on a gas terminal to handle shale gas brought in from America • Workers agreed to a three-year pay freeze • The union agreed not to stage strikes at the plant for three years until the new gas terminal is built • Changes will be made to current staff pension arrangements • Up to 2,000 contractors who were laid off after the complex was shut will be re-hired First Minister Alex Salmond described the announcement as a "tremendous fillip for the workforce and the whole Grangemouth community, following what could have been a potential disaster". He said it had been "a great team effort from all concerned", including the unions and workforce, the management and governments. This shows to me the absolute weakness of the labour movement at this time with Britain’s biggest trade union caving in days after it said it would stand and fight is an absolute disgrace in my opinion. The 1,800 Grangemouth workers have found that neither the Unite union leaders, who they pay for, nor Labour or SNP representatives they voted for, would stand with them, if they decided to mobilise a real fight against Ineos. In an amazing display of solidarity and determination, the majority of the Unite members had voted to strike and reject the company’s blackmail. But within hours of their vote on Wednesday, the message from all sides was that there was no alternative to accepting destruction of living standards and the pensions of any future workers. A media outcry held the workers responsible for the fate of the 10,000 related jobs in the local area. So yesterday, their union leaders simply caved in. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey left earlier negotiations up to local officials but hurried up from London to capitulate in person. Within hours he had unreservedly accepted the company’s terms, “warts and all”. Shocking but true. McCluskey has breathed fire and brimstone since the ConDems coalition took power, threatening strikes, and civil disobedience, even a general strike against austerity, the public sector wage freeze and pension curbs. When it came to the crunch, he had no fight. Hot air and nothing more. I was a socialist party member up until a month or so ago and the party backed Len McCluskey in the last Unite general secretary elections I didn’t agree with backing him and couldn’t bring myself to voting for him in the end. It now turns out that I made a wise decision to note vote for either Len or Hicks. Its looking a little embarrassing now for the SP who had backroom meetings with Red Len to agree to back him now it looks a shameful stitch up from the unite leadership. No doubt Len and unite have one eye on the 2015 general election where they will be backing Ed Miliband and Labour to the hilt so any embarrassment for Red Ed must be avoided it would seem. As for the potential of an independent Scotland being better for workers it is hard to say but for as long as capitalism exists there will not be a better deal for workers in the UK or in an independent Scotland. SNP claims that a capitalist Scotland would be in some way better for Scottish workers have been exploded. Ineos, like all Scotland's key industries from oil to whisky, is not "Scottish". They are run by freebooting global capitalist transnationals with no care for local conditions, except where they impact on profits. The adjacent oil refinery, whose waste product is processed at the threatened plant, is owned by Petroineos, a refining and trading joint venture between Ineos and the Chinese government-owned PetroChina. Its other refinery is at Lavera, near Marseilles. As the recession continues and fracking throws cheaper US coal and gas on to the world market, who knows what will happen to the offshore oil refining business. There is no such thing as security for workers, whatever the status of their country's governance. The Unite members were ready to fight and their union could have organised an occupation to prevent the dismemberment of the plant, but they did not and will not. Independence will not change that. The state will always behave in the interests of the state. Holding hope that someone else can fix things for us is only going to lead to half-measures and the disappointment. It is only by building up our ability to take action together at the heart of the problem that will give us any real measure control of our lives. The way in which the unions and the politicians have behaved is not the victory for common sense that is being billed; it is a stitch-up against all of us as a class. The people on the shop floor know their business better than any union bureaucrat, better than any politician, and better than any boss. We should learn the lessons from this fight and stand in solidarity with workers at Grangemouth and beyond, lending them support where we can and taking their lead on how to fight this struggle and to hell with anyone that stands in their way.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Solidarity with Grangemouth workers

Solidarity with Grangemouth workers The dispute at the Grangemouth oil refinery started with Labour's fight with Unite in Falkirk, and shows us just how broken Britain is. Without a moment's thought to the human cost, Ineos bosses today have announced the closure of the petrochemical plant at Grangemouth with the loss of 800 jobs. They intend to put that arm of their business into liquidation meaning workers may face losing thousands of pounds in redundancy payments. The oil refinery and the jobs of another 600 workers remain in jeopardy, the result of a lockout by billionaire owner Jim Ratcliffe. The next hours and days are vital in ensuring the building of a mass campaign to fight to save the Grangemouth plant and retain the jobs and terms and conditions of the workforce. The announcement by Ineos that they intend to pull out of the Grangemouth petrochemical site with the threatened loss of up to 800 jobs is an act of corporate vandalism. The oil refinery remains shut and the workers effectively locked out. Ineos management and its majority owner, billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, are 100% responsible for this scandal. They have shut down the entire Grangemouth site to force the workers to accept savage cuts in terms and conditions. We should congratulate Unite members and their shop stewards at Grangemouth for their refusal to be bullied. Around 70% of Unite members rejected the 'sign or be sacked' ultimatum from Ineos management. There is still much to fight for and Unites role in all this is not without its faults. In an excellent Open Democracy article published today which I’d recommend all having a read of at: http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/robin-mcalpine/whats-really-happening-at-grangemouth-and-what-it-tells-us#.Umf_V-lSW5Q "It began when Ed Milliband handed a report on the claimed irregularities on candidate selection in the Falkirk bye-election to the police. Since one of the key organisers maligned – and subsequently cleared – in that action is a shop steward at Ineos, the firm decided that if Ed Milliband can cast aspersions, they can act. Ineos suspended Stevie Deans on the grounds that it was believe he may have used a work email address to carry out some Labour Party business. (God help us all if using a work email for non-work purposes can get you suspended...) I shall refrain from elaborating further for reasons of care on specific allegations; suffice to say, there was more done to provoke the union. Given what can only be described as the political suspension of Deans, what position did Unite have to play? To accept it? To leave open unchallenged the impression that any union activists is fair game with no defence to be mounted? If Ineos did not recognise that these actions – absolutely unrelated either to the subsequent claims about the plant's profitability or the terms and conditions of its employees – was bound to push the union towards some form of response then it is shockingly naïve. And that is an adjective that has never been associated with Ineos. So let us assume that this was an intentional provocation. The union balloted and threatened strike action. The response of Ineos? To close down the plant. Switching off a refinery is a big deal and it may now take more than two weeks to get the plant operating again, if Ineos ever decides to restart. Thing is, the union had called off the action. This plant was not closed down by a union; it was closed down by the owners. Immediately after that they claimed the industrial-action-that-never-was was costing them a fortune. It is at this point that suddenly we are regaled with a PR drive which suggests the company is in severe distress and that employees must take significant cuts to pay and conditions. To cut a long story short, it goes to ACAS, the union claims a deal was close but/so Ineos walked out. It imposed a new contract on workers and told them they had three days (individually, not through the union) to agree the new contract or workers would be sacked and the plant (or half of it) closed down. A majority of workers rejected the deal. So today Ineos decided it was closing the petrochemical half of the plant (the bit it claims is loss-making) and keep the refinery open – but only on condition that workers sign away their right to strike in the future. And accept the imposed contract. That's for the profitable bit of the business, and it is far from clear that the rest of the plant is really as loss-making as is claimed. Ineos is majority owned by Jim Ratcliffe. In 2008 when the company was in some financial distress (possibly the result of finance strategies) it requested a one-year delay in payment of a VAT bill. The UK Government refused, so he paid for the relocation of his entire central staff to move to Switzerland. This is not a man who likes losing. It means that Ineos's financial situation is opaque – even business analysts (no friends of the trade unions) have been raising doubts as to how confident we can be in the claims that individual bits of the business are not profitable. What is certainly the case is that if there is financial distress it's not due to wage bills which make up only 1.6 per cent of costs. Is it worth mentioning that Ineos has avoided tax in Britain since 2010? You may well have assumed that anyway. Of course, this is my interpretation of what has happened and as always it's worth noting that I am not likely to have sympathy with aggressive management techniques. However, I find it virtually impossible to believe that Ineos did not begin with the desire to provoke strike action for which they had prepared extensively (both in terms of business planning and PR strategy) and it is certainly hard to see anything in its behaviour that suggests it wanted a peaceful resolution. And so to the three lessons. First, this is a facility that provides 80 percent of Scotland's fuel – and it is in the power of one man to close it down at will. It is to the great credit of the Scottish Government that (given its limited powers) it has put pressure on the company, has looked to find a buyer if Ineos won't agree to operate the plant and has refused to rule out public ownership. While this last course of action is unlikely, it is another sign of the SNP shifting away from the free-market orthodoxy of British politics. This is not a facility (virtually a monopoly industry) about which we can afford to have no views or opinions about ownership. There is now a serious debate in Scotland about whether our key infrastructure is safe in private, often foreign, hands. The behaviour of Ineos has intensified that debate. Britain is in denial about the importance of the ownership of the economy. It is most obvious in the monopoly utility sector but the Grangemouth dispute shows that it's not just the power and phone lines that keep us moving. Should one man be able to cripple Scotland? The last time he tried to break the unions petrol stations ran dry. The energy companies have put this issue on the agenda UK-wide through their actions. In Scotland at least the questions are spreading further than this. Ownership in Britain is broken. We are one of the few countries in the world where key infrastructure is mainly owned overseas. But not as broken as industrial democracy in Britain. It's not like we're a bit bad; we're truly awful. The European Participation Index (EPI) has calculated the participation of workers in 27 EU and EEA countries by combining the aggregate scores of their plant-level participation, board-level participation, collective bargaining coverage and trade-union density. Britain scores 26th out of 27, second bottom with only Lithuania worse than us. In Denmark (for example) 65 per cent of companies with more than 500 employees have voluntarily committed to having a third of management boards made up of workers and have cooperation committees made up of half-worker, half-management and these manage day-to-day matters in the company. And here's the thing; all the countries in the EU with the best indicators of social and economic development come in the top half of the EPI league table and all the worst performers come from the bottom half. Studies have shown that like-for-like companies are 19 per cent more productive if they are unionised. Britain, of course, lags the average productivity of advanced economies by almost 20 per cent. At some point we will wake up to the fact that Britain is a basket-case when it comes to industrial democracy and our economic performance is poor as a result. Remember, we live in the second-lowest pay economy in the developed world. Finally, if you come from Scotland it is hard once again not to be shocked by the myopia of London. On Sunday when our media was absolutely dominated by a dispute that threatened to cut off 80 per cent of Scotland's fuel (and large proportions of the fuel supply to the North of England too), not a mention was made on the main BBC news bulletins. Apparently the Westminster parlour games of Nick Clegg pretending to be a little bit cross with Free Schools is of greater national significance of the possible collapse of both oil supplies and one of the last major industrial sites left in Scotland. Across the whole piece coverage has been negligible. To my shock, a new news anchor on BBC today asked the correspondent in Grangemouth “there's clearly great anger – is it directed towards the management or the union?” Even the correspondent on the ground looked shocked – it was a question that could only come through the London looking glass. Workers all reported that the manager that broke the information to workers was smirking throughout as he told them they were going to lose their jobs, their houses, their children’s' Christmas. Angry at their union? Does the BBC no longer have any understanding of working people at all? Do they all live in a Spectator-tinged alternative universe? Today at PMQs no mention was made. When there was an emergency question, David Cameron left the chamber. The Scottish Government has been all over this dispute; London appears to have done nothing other than press its 'randomised industrial dispute quote generator'. What is there left to be positive about in the British economy? People genuinely talk as if this might be the future that we may need to accept total dominance of employers with no recourse at all by workers. This is a vision of Britain where we're all like Mexican immigrants waiting at the side of the road for a truck to drive up and its driver to say 'one day of work – you, you and you'. But, as is par for the course in Britain with its far-right media and utter lack of understanding of how the world works beyond our shores, people seem to think we're normal. Yet one more time, the Grangemouth disaster shows one thing above all – Britain is not normal. Not at all. " With thanks to open democracy and their excellent article over at http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/robin-mcalpine/whats-really-happening-at-grangemouth-and-what-it-tells-us#.Umf_V-lSW5Q

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Stop the sanctions solidarity with boycott workfare.

In the last few days Boycott workfare who can be found on twitter @ boycott workfare and their brilliant website at http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=2474 Were set upon by Youth Fight for Jobs a front organisation for the Socialist party with a vicious piece ripping into them calling them all sorts and not really coming up with any real way to fight sanctions for the unemployed all apart from yes you guessed it the good old ever present call for a 24 hour general strike which lets be honest is not going to happen anytime soon in reality. The article in question which was put out yesterday on the Youth Fight for jobs website written by PCS deputy General secretary John McNally it would seem and Socialist party member was this http://m.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/17601/22-10-2013/how-civil-servants-should-fight-government-attacks-on-welfare "So it's not a moral argument, it's a political question" - err, okay, yeah. Who ever disputed that? In the piece the socialist party claim that "Labour used to draw certain lines in the sand which the Tories and big business couldn't cross" –this is Stupid and wrong from history we only look back at labours time in government and in opposition even back to the YTS scheme labour did not oppose this back then either. But these sanctions can and must be challenged and taken on. The socialist party and the PCS leadership use the saem arguments labour councils do to not fight the cuts and this is quite ironic seeing as the socialist party urge labour councils to not pass on the cuts and to instead to stand-up and fight. Well why can’t the PCS and SP members in the PCS do the same and stand in solidarity with claimants and given solidarity to the working class, the same class they claim to want to represent. The boycott workfare piece is below: Current welfare policies and reforms represent an unprecedented attack on claimants and on the welfare state itself. Conditionality, workfare and the huge rise in sanctions are driving claimants further into poverty and destitution. At the same time a vicious campaign of hatred driven by the media and political classes has stigmatised those on benefits and poisoned public debate. Workfare forces claimants to work without wages under the threat of sanctions. Those on workfare are exempted from legislation that protects the rights of people at work and denied access to union membership and representation. Sick and disabled people claiming ESA can now be forced onto workfare. Workfare drives down wages and conditions for all workers and it is in all our interests to end it completely. Between 2009 and 2011 the number of sanctions handed out to claimants tripled to reach over half a million. In January this year 85,000 people were sanctioned, suggesting that the number of sanctions could reach one million this year. People are now having benefits withdrawn for up to three years (including for failure to participate in workfare). As the PCS have said this increase in the number and severity of sanctions is purely a political decision. As conditionality and sanctions have increased and become more severe so the range of claimants subject to them has been extended. Sick and disabled people found “fit for work” by the hated Work Capability Assessment are now subject to this regime as are single parents with young children. Plans for in-work conditionality will see sanctions applied to part time workers and the self employed. The introduction of Universal Job match and a requirement for claimants to spend 35 hour each week on job search or workfare will inevitably lead to more sanctions and is intended to do so. Plans to make hardship payments a recoverable loan will force those who are sanctioned into debt. Housing benefit is increasingly being suspended where people are sanctioned. This systematic removal of welfare support is causing sharp increases in homelessness and the use of food banks. Boycott Workfare welcome the fact that the PCS have spoken out against workfare and the huge rise in sanctions. We also understand that the primary role of the PCS is to represent their members including around 84,000 staff in the DWP. It should be obvious that there is a tension here where the PCS are campaigning against policies that their own members are required to implement. But there is also the possibility that the PCS could take concerted action to defend the welfare state in the interests of both claimants and their members. Government policies cannot be implemented without workers to implement them. At meetings with the PCS we have raised the possibility of action being taken. Sadly the PCS have been dismissive of our suggestions and they have been met with arguments for inaction. PCS leadership has argued that anti-strike laws prevent action being taken in solidarity with claimants. But the interests of claimants and PCS members are intertwined and these policies directly impact on the working conditions of PCS members. Increased aggravation between PCS members and claimants put both at risk. And under Universal Credit many DWP staff will themselves face conditionality and sanctions. The right of workers to withhold their labour is fundamental. Laws which undermine this right do not comply with international obligations and should be challenged. Without those prepared to take risks and challenge injustice we would not have unions or a welfare state. This is not about blaming those PCS members tasked with implementing unjust policies. We know that the blame lies elsewhere. This is about the role that unions could and should take in building solidarity between workers and claimants and in empowering workers to take action. If the PCS are sincere about campaigning for social security justice then they should refuse to cooperate with the implementation of unjust policies. Words are not enough. Boycott Workfare therefore calls on the PCS to take action to protect welfare provision and to frustrate the imposition of policies designed to undermine it. Boycott Workfare would like to thank those PCS branches who have signed our pledge and those members who have taken part in our actions. We are grateful to members of the PCS in the Civil Service Rank and File Network who put forward a motion to this year’s PCS conference. We urge all PCS members to call for proper debate and practical action on challenging sanctions With thanks to Boycott workfare, The Civil Service-rank-and-file Network

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Devastating food waste, capitalism will let you starve

first “All the world's nearly one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe,” says Feeding the 5,000, a campaign group which is pioneering food recycling. Tesco – the UK’s largest supermarket – admits that 28,500 tonnes of food waste were generated in its stores and distribution centres in just six months. And this is only part of the 15 million tonnes of food which is thrown away in the UK each year. Is this a new and startling reality? Not for me i've known for a while now that many supermarkets who do not manage to sell their food in time before they go past their sell by date are thrown away. If capitalists cannot make a profit on a comodity they would rather scrap it than allow teh poor to eat for nothing as there is no profit in that. This is the bare face of modern capitalism for me. sold. At a basic level, we are alienated from the very substances that keep us alive. Instead of seeing the lettuce leaves, apples, meat, fish and bread as precious products developed from nature by our fellow human beings, most see them as little more than useful commodities. We have long lost the connection with the land and soil on which they grow and the people who tend the crops. We prefer not to think about how “free range” eggs are collected by cheap labour or how animals are kept and slaughtered. We don’t think about the end destination of plastic, polystyrene and packaging used to attract children to dangerous sweets and to make us buy more an But what is needed is something different. The for-profit market-growth model must always prioritise its shareholder returns. Yes, some capitalists are much more far seeing than others. Yes, they may even believe the greenwash they churn out through their clever publicists. But as the recent scandal with egg production in the UK shows, the bottom line for most companies is that they want to maximise their profits. One of the greatest scourges of humanity – hunger and malnutrition – could be overcome if humanity could open up an alternative path where eating, like heating, comes before profit. This is why i fight and believe in a communist future with socail production at its heart producing for peoples needs not profits that only a few benifit from. There is more than enough food and resources in the world if we didnt focus on producing for profit and market share.

Immigration Immigration Immigration

Immigration is the buzz word around the news right now if you’re an immigrant you’re being targeted be it through racist immigration vans, UKBA as I discussed earlier or a "health tourist". Whatever a health tourist actually is I do not know and frankly don’t want to know it sounds sinister and an excuse for more r racism. No doubt with the rise of UKIP all the political parties have shifted to the right to look to see them off this has appeared to ramp up the ante immigrant feeling we hear a lot of today. Over the last year and a bit I’ve experienced a lot more racist comments allot of them are casual and off the cuff remarks but certainly a rise in racist comments and anti immigrant comments from the general public. I don’t think this is a coincidence and I don’t think people are anymore racist by before but they are seeing far more racist propaganda all be it often disguised very well by politicians of all sides all the time and a constant barrage of anti migrant and veiled racist attacks in the media. Not a day goes by without a comment in the media about terrorists or Muslim extremists. How convenient when a white man the other day was reported to have been arrested for attempt to blow up a mosque in Wolvrahampton yet was not described as a terrorist or a terrorist suspect by the BBC. This all for me is a concerted agenda here trying to set a narrative of divide and rule. It’s as old as capitalism the plan to divide workers down racial lines get us turning on our neighbors and fellow men and women turns the focus away from the real class enemy . I do try and challenge these views whenever I can but we are facing a difficult task when all political parties in the mainstream are pumping out lie after lie on immigration and the problems we face from this supposably. People are understandably concerned about immigration but often this is a mask for their real concerns of a lack of housing and decent well paying jobs. As we well know it’s far easier to blame someone you don’t know who has just come to the country looking for a better life than to blame your boss and fight back. I don’t think people are naturally racist I think their conditions and the communities they live in can produce prejudices which can spread and develop. People more often than not have a good heart and are kind to each other wherever they come from but there is always a minority who don’t and these people must be challenged in our own communities too. There is never acceptable form of racism or discrimination of any sort. At the present time people’s fears and worries are being exploited and used against them. We must not give in to this abuse of people. We are all working class whether you were born here or not. We need to have solidarity with our fellow human beings who are facing abuse on a daily basis. As was reported following the tragic murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwhich, attacks on Muslims and people of Arabic origin shot up considerably we were told no doubt due to the hate campaign conducted by our media and the government who whip up peoples fear for their own ends more often than not to tighten laws and restrict our civil liberties. Immigration is always going to be a feature of capitalism free labour should be a right. Until we can end this rotten racist exploitative system there will always be oppressed people and if you are at all different you will be discriminated by the ruling class so they can laugh all the way to the banks quite literally in many cases’. Say no to racism, stand up for oppressed minorities and defend the right for people to settle here in the UK and make a life for themselves if they so wish. Immigration can be a good thing just think if we did not have immigrating the NHS would practically collapse over night. Let’s start to see the good things immigration brings us and the additions to our own culture we can all benefit from.

Is the myth of ethical banking finally being exposed?

Of course there can be no such thing as nice capitalism or an ethical capitalism it just doesn’t appear in the capitalist mindset. So it comes as no surprise to me that the Co-Op bank is finally selling out to the market not that there were against the market before hand just the way it works. It was even reported a few years back the Co-op had funded and invested in arms companies and other such dodge outfits. Ethical I think not.... "American hedge funds have forced the Co-operative Group to relinquish control of its banking arm in a deal that raises concerns about its ethical approach to business for 4.7 million customers. After months of intense talks with two US hedge funds, the UK's largest mutual – and owner of pharmacies, grocers and funeral homes – was forced to cede majority control in the bank as it battles to plug a £1.5bn capital shortfall. The latest twist in the attempts by the Co-op to stave off nationalisation of the bank means that the group, formed by the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844, will be left with a 30% stake when the bank is floated on the stock market rather than the 75% it had originally hoped for when the rescue deal was first announced in June. The Unite union's national officer, Dominic Hook, said the inability of the mutual to keep control of the bank was "a tragic day for the UK". He added: "This is dreadful for the staff, customers and the wider banking industry. This may mean customers will have even less choice on the high street and means we will have yet another finance company seeking shareholder returns over better banking." The loss-making bank was forced to admit it had incurred another £105m of losses caused by mis-selling products including payment protection insurance. Euan Sutherland, the former boss of the retailer B&Q who became chief executive of the Co-op in May, said the renegotiated deal was a good one for the group and its bondholders even though it had forced the group to redraw its original plan. "This is the first bank to be rescued and to survive as a standalone entity without taxpayer money," Sutherland said. But the dramatic change in the ownership of the bank, which is likely to take place later this year, led to concerns about cultural change in the bank, its future approach to its ethical stance and the job prospects of its 10,000 staff. It is also a blow to the government, which had been hoping mutuals would create vast new challenger banks on the high street. Co-op Bank had spent a year negotiating to buy 631 branches from Lloyds Banking Group before abandoning the ambitious scheme in April when its problems began to emerge. Sutherland's predecessor, the Co-op veteran Peter Marks, who led the proposed takeover of the Lloyds branches, will face questions from the Treasury select committee of MPs about when he knew about the losses in the bank. Many disgruntled customers of the bank took to Twitter, one saying: "Closing my account tonight after 23 years run by members for members you have let us down." Another said: "I think I'd rather you'd have taken taxpayers money than to sell out to Corporate Vultures!" The hedge funds that have scuppered the Co-op's original plans are known for their activism at troubled companies. Aurelius Capital Management, best known for forcing Argentina to pay out on its debts, and Silver Point Capital, linked to distressed groups such as Lehman, are thought to have amassed their stakes in the bank's bonds after it was downgraded to junk in May. They had been fighting for a bigger a stake in the bank and in convincing the Co-op to reduce the group's stake to 30% they are also taking bigger losses on their bonds. The bondholders are now expected to put £1bn into the bank – compared with £500m previously – while the Co-op will now inject less than the £1bn it had originally been stumping up to prop up the bank. Led by Mark Brodsky, Aurelius has been involved in debt restructurings as diverse as port owner Dubai World and the US publisher Tribune, owner of the Los Angeles Times. Silver Point Capital is run by two former Goldman Sachs employees, Edward Mulé and Robert O'Shea, and has a wide range of investments covering broadcasting – it bought two US TV stations out of bankruptcy – as well as car-makers and financial services and was involved in the bankruptcy of Hostess, the US food company best known for its Twinkies cakes. The Co-op Group is thought to be ready to make a concession to 15,000 private investors – who were "very elderly and vulnerable", it had been warned. It is expected to swap their bonds for new ones that continue to pay them regular income streams rather than handing those shares. Trading in bonds has been temporarily suspended. The precise details, which are still being hammered out, are likely to be revealed in the coming days. Sutherland said customers should not be concerned about the changing structure of ownership. The Co-op Bank has been a plc for some time but it is fully-owned by the mutual group which is now relinquishing total control." Article in today’s guardian http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/oct/21/coop-group-bank-us-hedge-funds

UK border agency and the role of borders for capitalism

The UKBA have been in the news quite a bit of late be that for immigration raids on people who they deem have over stayed their welcome in the UK not that many people feel welcome in the UK these days and also their so called failures and missing various targets. "There have been lots of stories in the British press recently related to immigration, and these have made it clear that a sentiment still exists that is opposed to the familiar xenophobia with which the topic is usually discussed in the UK. For a moment it has seemed that perhaps not everyone around us is okay with the detention, deportation and ultimate killing of people on the grounds that they are not from here, were born somewhere else, or have a different skin colour and are deemed ‘undesirable’ because of it. However a liberal anti-racism that seeks small changes in immigration policy – a fine-tuning of just how it is we execute the barring of entry to and forced removal from this country – does nothing to end the violence of that system, but is rather a position that chooses to participate in it with a sense of moral acquittal. This sort of response to stories like the Home Office’s racist van – driven around parts of London with a message to the black population that read ‘In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest’ – and the attention drawn to the routine harassment of that same population by the UK Border Agency’s immigration officers often comes in a form that appeals to ‘diversity’ as the ideal to be upheld, instead of the enforcement of legislation regarding lawful status to remain in the UK. Yet if we are to properly bring to an end the situation where a person can be deemed to be illegal, we must abandon the notion of diversity that is itself racist. Choose to defend the presence of ‘illegal’s’ not because they’re just nice to have around, but because you appreciate that the suffering borders inflict is intolerable. No one is illegal, full stop. It is a good moment to be reminded of the race and class based analyses of post-war British immigration policy by writers such as Ambalavaner Sivanandan, who describe the state’s changing tolerance towards different groups of foreign labourers as linked importantly with economic interests. The argument that immigration legislation since the Nationality Act of 1948 – which gave British citizenship to the citizens of the colonies – has been aimed at achieving control over the import of labour from the (ex-)colonies is a convincing one. How Black people came to be policed – as those who slip most easily into being judged ‘illegal’ – when they did move to the United Kingdom and, later, during the sixties and seventies crisis, when ideas changed regarding how much Black labour was necessary, has also been analysed in the work of writers such as Sivanandan, Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy. Whilst we have witnessed an intervening history that led to a remoulding of the earlier immigration acts, the discussions and observations from these thinkers remains germane given that the form of oppression has changed little. In order to keep up with what is deemed acceptable regarding racism for the liberal state, as well as the changing role of government’s guardianship over the market, the relevant laws and policing have adapted. Yet in the run up to the 2015 general election we see the UK Labour party is still able to promise another immigration act to ‘put an end to workers having their wages undercut illegally by employers exploiting migrant labour.’ Even in the language of progressive anti-exploitation we can see clearly the effect Labour’s policy will have on those who would like to work here but are not allowed and how this is a continuation in the same spirit as all previous immigration bills. Invariably it is concerned with the maintenance of a profitable economy. One change is clear however: whilst previously the language of race relations was used as a justifier, that ideology is now stripped away and the fact that economic dramatis personae are the main concern — rather than humans, and especially Black humans — is plain to see. The state as ever is a machine designed to protect and uphold capitalist morality and maintain structures of order and control. The UKBA are no different and probably contain some of the worst element of the police and the prison officers with fewer restrictions. As the old saying goes who polices the police? Today immigration removals are undertaken by UK Border Agency (UKBA), an outfit that is hard to distinguish from the police. During their ‘spot checks’ and searches for ‘immigration offenders’ they wear similar uniforms and carry much of the same equipment that police do. Yet, despite repeated findings of ‘institutional racism’ and their clear structural role in policing Black communities, the constabulary has found it easy to reject allegations of entrenched racism. It isn’t as easy for their partners-in-policing at the UKBA to hide behind such claims as they target Black people throughout the country each day. The findings of the inquest into the death of Jimmy Mubenga have made it even harder for the immigration industry to feign respectable non-racism. Last month an inquest jury found that Jimmy, a father of five ordered to leave his family and return to Angola following a prison sentence for his involvement in a nightclub scuffle, was ‘unlawfully killed’ by the guards escorting him on his deportation flight. After prolonged restraint the three guards had suffocated him to death as they tried to muffle his cries for help from passengers and staff on the British Airways flight. Through the inquest it came to light that some of the G4S Deportation Custody Officers contracted to remove Jimmy from his home and family, those that became his killers, had racist text messages saved on their phone. Evidence was heard that the texts were shared widely amongst UKBA staff and their hired police from G4S. Some of the “jokes” were read out in court by G4S guard Terry Hughes: “Did you know that the words race car spelt backwards says race car? That eat is the only word that if you take the first letter and move it to the last it spells its past tense ate? And have you noticed that if you rearrange the letters in illegal immigrant and add just a few more it spells out fuck off and go home you freeloading, benefit-grabbing, kid-producing, violent, non-English speaking, cocksuckers and take those hairy-faced, sandal wearing, bomb-making, goat-fucking, smelly raghead bastards with you. How weird is that?” FPRIVATE "TYPE=PICT; ALT=" The racist texts are thoroughly unsurprising given the conditions of immigration laws that come to judge Black people as less than human and the policing violence that subsequently comes to confirm that they are indeed less than human. Jimmy was to be removed as he had committed a crime for which he had served time in prison, allowing the Secretary of State to classify him as no longer ‘desirable’ in the UK. A similar fate currently awaits Trenton Oldfield who was imprisoned for ‘public nuisance’ after an aquatic protest during the Oxford v. Cambridge boat race in 2012. He committed a crime that in the eyes of Theresa May marks him out as a threat to public order, again allowing her to deem him ‘undesirable’ and to muster the state’s capacity to police public order to send him ‘home’ – away from his partner and new-born baby in London. Trenton is white and will likely face a qualitatively different violence than his Black counterparts, but the ‘go home’ message resonates clearly. The racist van that has upset so many only serves to restate and clarify what we have known for decades – ‘if you want to live in peace, go home’. But this is all in the name of another ‘peace’, that of British order and capital’s continuing ability to exploit. That there has been a small awakening to the racism of immigration control so close to the second anniversary of the August 2011 riots is opportune. It allows thinking of immigration policing in the same continuum as the state violence that brought about that disorder. Our response to UKBA should thus take the same form: No Justice, No Peace." Quite clearly the UKBA is not fit for purpose for anyone who believes in upholding equality and liberty. This is a capitalist institution through and through with many aspects of racism inbeded deep into their mindset. There can be no solidarity with these organisations. Of course we would support workers in action if they were to but we would weigh up each action on its own merits we would not uncritically give support to the likes of the Police, Prison officers and the UKBA unlike some on the left do today misguidedly believing they are simply workers in uniform. With extracts in quotes from http://libcom.org/library/will-uk-ever-give-its-racist-immigration-policy-wail-qasim

Monday, 21 October 2013

Can we change society via the ballot box

I am less and less convinced by the week. As various left projects to stand in elections have come and gonea nd political representation for workers is still absent from todays offerings i thought i'd take a look at where we go from here and the lessons we can possibly learn. I dont claim or even pretend to have all the answers i dont believe anyone does. I am not keen on those boasting to have all the answers and a ready made blueprint to change. Those who think we just need better leaders miss teh point in my view now it is the leaders as their role in mediating struggle which are the issue not who are the leaders as such. Much like with Trade uUnions political parties be them of workers organisations or not are there to over see struggle not to transform society as such. A excellent article i have read over at the Communea fantastic blog i've strumbled across gives a good analysis of electoral politics and its limits. what follows is Dave Spencer's excellent analysis of the failure of socialist electoral coalitions over the past decade and why organisation from below has far more to offer than vanguardism. The most striking feature of British politics over the last decade has to be the disenfranchisement of the working class. The working class has little or no voice at national, regional or local level. Our task is to be part of the reversal of this situation. But this reversal has to come from below, from the linking and networking of the campaigns and struggles of the working class itself. Unfortunately the organised left does not see it this way. As convinced vanguardists and elitists they see themselves as providing the leadership with all the answers that the workers must follow. They have had a decade in which to show leadership, but have failed dismally to build a broad united movement to fill the vacuum to the left of New Labour. It is not as though material conditions have been unfavourable, given the biggest economic crisis for over 100 years; global warming which threatens the very existence of the planet; two unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and MPs and bankers being shown to be on the take.But there have been attempts to build an organisation. In 1996 we had the birth of the Socialist Labour Party (SLP), the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and the Socialist Alliance (SA) “ all before the 1997 General Election which New Labour was expected to win. The SLP started well with a mass meeting of over a thousand in Camden Town Hall. Arthur Scargill addressed meetings of 300 to 400 in the large cities. In the 1997 general election the SLP stood 64 candidates and got just under 2% of the vote. The SSP stood 18 candidates and gained about the same percentage. The Socialist Party threw its weight behind the Socialist Alliance, mainly to form an alternative to the SLP which they saw as a serious rival.Clearly there was potential in these attempts, given that workers were voting New Labour to get the Tories out and nobody knew quite what a rat Blair was to become. Given 14 years to the general election of 2010 surely some solid progress should have been made. What happened? Scargill insisted that joining the SLP meant you left every other organisation. There was no scope for factions in the SLP. Worse still Scargills bureaucratic approach was demonstrated at the post-election SLP Conference when it came to light that a Mr Hardman was sitting in the conference with 3,000 votes – more than the rest of the delegates put together and using those votes to get through Scargills policies and also to get Scargills men on to the National Committee. People seized the microphone, led by comrades from Cardiff who had achieved the best SLP vote in the election. Why bother to have a secret ballot? they demanded. Why not ask Mr Hardman which policies he supports and be done with it? In fact why bother to have a Conference at all? Over half the Conference walked out. The SSP also made a good start and drew in a wide variety of enthusiastic members. In contrast to the SLP they quite rightly allowed minority factions. Both the SP and SWP joined as platforms of the SSP. However when Tommy Sheridan dragged the party into the courts, both the SP and SWP supported him and undoubtedly advised him to split the SSP. In my view this was no matter of principle, but a cynical manoeuvre on their part to wreck the SSP, which they saw as a rival. Left groups cannot stand competition.The same political approach of narrow sectarianism based on an elitist vanguardist view of the party was used by both the SP and SWP in the Socialist Alliance. At the general election of 2001 the SA fielded 98 candidates and the SSP 72 candidates. This was ambitious but shows the potential to build a broad movement. The SP insisted on a federal structure for the SA which meant that decisions were taken by contacting the National Committees of the various left groups involved and individual SA members had no say. The SP left in a huff when the SA decided against federalism; they refused to stay in and fight their corner. That left the SWP in charge. In February 2005 the SWP closed down the SA in order to concentrate on Respect. What a depressing sight to see SWP members, sheep-like, queuing up to join the SA at the conference, only to use their new membership cards to close down the SA which some of us had been members of for 13 years!What can we learn from this pitiful history? The first thing is that back-room deals by leaderships are not the way forward. There has to be democracy and accountability and nothing less. And the working class must be involved. And we have to have a healthy distrust of left groups. Some SSP members now argue that they should never have let the SWP and SP join as platforms. I think they are right. They had no intention of building a broad movement in which they could play an important role. They were there to sell their papers and recruit anybody new to their own organisations. Any dealings with any British left group must now contain the health warning Watch your back!This week in a large local residents meeting where I live, called to protest about cuts in bus routes, one resident stated, The cuts are going to get worse. After the election there’s going to be a slaughterhouse! Nobody disagreed. Every day in our local paper there are photographs of groups of people protesting about something. This is a new phenomenon brought about by the economic crisis. Some means of linking these struggles and grassroots organising must be found as a matter of urgency at local and national level. Some of these links already exist.As Chair of the residents’ group mentioned above I have had to learn very quickly about the transport system and how it works in order to propose our petition of protest to the Council. A few months ago we had a protest petition about a proposed PFI waste incinerator in our area. We had to find out about that. To learn about the workings of local government and their various operations is an eye-opener, believe me. All this information needs to be shared and we need to build up expertise on specific subjects like health, education, climate change etc.In the course of defending public services and jobs we should start debates within the campaigns on how these services should properly be run with the workers concerned and with the public. How would it be under communism?The questions of democratic workers’ control and self-management and accountability should be raised. After all some members of the public will argue that some public services are crap – which they are. Nationalisation is not the complete answer “ we need democratic control and accountability by workers and the public. Informed debates within protest campaigns has to be one method of building from below. It is a question of dialogue with the people involved, not of preaching from the rostrum.The last decade saw the working class sidelined. Those claiming to stand for workers rights failed because they started by insisting that they knew the answers and the workers had to follow. The new decade must be one of focussing on building communism from below.

We don’t just want the crumbs off the table

Is an old phrase that we used to hear a lot? We don’t just want to win the crumbs off the table win small victories only to have them taken off us again and again as we are seeing now. All that we have fought for including the minimal reforms capitalism has been forced to grant the workers is slowly being eroded. But we should not be simply fighting for what we are losing we should be fighting for the whole lot. We don’t just want the crumbs but the whole bakery and the tools to create more to meet people’s needs. Fighting for the best reforms and being the most militant and hard fighting for crumbs is good but for me this does not go far enough. We should not have to accept a constant struggle, a class struggle where we are always going backwards and forwards with the boss's we want to see a world with no boss's, no class's and no state entirely. This is possible, I don’t think it’s inevitable by any means capitalism will not just fall and socialism come to power this is just not how things work. We need to over throw the existing system for good. Fighting for reforms as I say is one thing but ultimately will not meet the needs of all. A system built from below in the shell of the e existing system is a must and something we can start being doing today. There are many who say we can’t build a new society while the old one still exists. Well maybe but we can certainly start to push our values, our principles and our morals challenging sexism, racism and all forms of discrimination today is a must while fighting to remove this rotten capitalist system. I have belief that workers can run society without boss's I firmly believe workers do not need boss's to run society. Even a state will not be needed eventually. A question will still exist up to and after the revolution for the role of the state. A workers state is something many on the left push for but all forms of state are oppressive in my view and a workers state seems like something like changing the boss’s rather than changing society. We don’t want boss's who call themselves socialist as they are still by definition boss's which is not desirable surely. So as a post I did the other week stated only workers can change society not a self appointed elite and a group of unaccountable leaders acting on our behalf. Only workers can change the world and that I am sure they will do one day.

The new Nuclear age in the UK

So Britain is to allow new Nuclear power plants to be built for the first time in a long time. • s The government has given the go-ahead for the UK's first new nuclear station in a generation. France's EDF Energy will lead a consortium, which includes Chinese investors, to build the Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset. Ministers say the deal will help take the UK towards low-carbon power and lower generating costs in future. Critics warn guaranteeing the group a price for electricity at twice the current level will raise bills. "For the first time, a nuclear station in this country will not have been built with money from the British taxpayer," said Secretary of State for Energy Edward Da • ce The two reactors planned for Hinkley, which will provide power for about 60 years, are a key part of the coalition's drive to shift the UK away from fossil fuels towards low-carbon power. Ministers and EDF have been in talks for more than a year about the minimum price the company will be paid for electricity produced at the site, which the government estimates will cost £16bn to build. The two sides have now agreed the "strike price" of £92.50 for every megawatt hour of energy Hinkley C generates. This is almost twice the current wholesale cost of electr Tive' This will fall to £89.50 for every megawatt hour of energy if EDF Group goes ahead with plans to develop a new nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk. Doing both would allow EDF to share costs across both projects. Mr. Davey said the deal was "competitive" with other large-scale clean energy and gas projects. David Cameron:"It kick-starts again the British nuclear industry" "While consumers won't pay anything up front, they'll share directly in any gains made from the project coming in under budget," he added. John Cridland, director-general of business lobby group the CBI, welcomed what he said was a "landmark deal". "It's important to remember this investment will help mitigate the impact of increasing costs. The fact is whatever we do, energy prices are going to have to go up to replace ageing infrastructure and meet climate change targets - unless we build new nuclear as part of a diverse energy mix." However, Dr Paul Dorfman, from the Energy Institute at University College London, said "what it equates to actually be a subsidy and the coalition said they would never subsidise nuclear". He added: "It is essentially a subsidy of between what we calculate to be £800m to £1bn a year that the UK taxpayer and energy consumer will be putting into the deep pockets of Chinese and French corporations, which are essentially their govern Vests Chinese companies China National Nuclear Corporation and China General Nuclear Power Corporation will be minority shareholders in the project. The move follows Chancellor George Osborne's announcement last week that Chinese firms would be allowed to invest in civil nuclear projects in the UK. Prime Minister David Cameron said that the new Hinkley Point plant was "an excellent deal for Britain and British cons Well we shall see about that. Little to no mention has been made on nuclear waste and what is to come of that. All this sounds very good apart from the fact that this will not bring down prices for ordinary people. Nationalisation is one thing the left will call for no doubt but nothing short of workers control will do to ensure affordable prices for all. I am not in favor of state capitalism and effectively this is what we have here all be it ownership from abroad with China and France getting in on the act it would seem. The world has a bumpy future in terms of energy if capitalism is allowed to continue to exist I confidently predict. The demand for more and more energy will force the capitalists into more and more risky acts to gain a competitive edge including the controversial practice of fracking which I’ve blogged about before too. With the first new power station being built in the UK in a generation will this signal a turn back to nuclear in the long term? All remains to be seen.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The role of the police in 2013

Now I’ve always been one to question the role of the police and their role in society. For myself I have not had any negative experiences with the police I must admit but I have heard a lot and read a lot about them and the role they play in a liberal democracy that we apparently live in. There is a commonly held assumption that the police are a necessary presence in a civilised society, one that ensures the preservation of social order. And yet this assumption is deeply ideological, blurring the distinction between the act of policing with the existence of an institutional police force. I am myself increasingly suspicious of the role of the police in 2013. But looking back at history at which a article I will publish below will demonstrate looks aback upon and tries to draw conclusions and ideas from this institution of capitalism . “While anthropologists have found policing to be a common feature of all societies, studies have shown that the founding of a police force only occurs in conjunction with the development of class and monetary systems (Reiner, 3-7). The establishment of an institutional police service is thus a manifestation of an ascending dominant class securing their interests against those inhabiting a society’s lower strata. What Adam Smith says of ‘laws and government’ is thus equally true of the police force: “Laws and government may be considered in this and indeed in every case as a combination of the rich to oppress the poor, and preserve to themselves the inequality of the goods which would otherwise be soon destroyed by the attacks of the poor, who if not hindered by the government would soon reduce the others to an equality with themselves by open violence.” This political role of the police was well recognised by the working classes of the UK, with their formation met with much hostility. Indeed much of what is quintessential to the ‘British bobby’ was in fact carefully constructed in an attempt to depoliticise the service – thus the British police were set up as unarmed, low key and legalistic, authorised only to use minimal force and to stand accountable under the same laws as the general public. Despite this, the deaths of the first two police officers killed on duty were ruled ‘justifiable homicide’ by juries. The police were also to be non-partisan, and, most importantly, they were to fulfil a social function, i.e. crime prevention and detection, and it is this role that allows the obscuring of their mandate for repression. However, the legitimacy achieved by these policies would not have been successful was it not for the circumstances of the time. The gradual incorporation of the working classes into the social, economic and political institutions meant the majority of citizens were able to share in economic growth (though unevenly and not completely); thus the societal structure that ensured opposition to the police was ameliorated just enough to facilitate their acceptance (Reiner, 77). Let us now look in more detail at these legitimising practises of the police, and consider the extent to which they have changed over time, the level of their success, and the effect social unrest has upon the public’s acceptance of the institution. Minimal Force The initial opposition to the police necessitated a softly-softly approach in order to gain acceptance; unarmed was sold as non-repressive. While police were given truncheons, they were at first to carry them concealed, and were very much restricted to use as a last resort – even then their use was closely scrutinised and, if found to be unnecessary, likely to end with the police officer’s dismissal. This model of policing, with its strict regulations on force, does not however demonstrate a lack of state oppression: during this time the army were available as back up, and were regularly deployed against civilians in the late 19th and early 20th century. As the police gained acceptance, the use of the army was scaled back – and police use of force was gradually scaled up, now with apparent legitimacy (Reiner, 72-73). Of course the fact that the police were, right from their beginnings, permitted only to use minimal force does not account for those who broke these rules. While accountability will be discussed next, it is important to note that incidents of complaints against the police have never been accurately recorded. From the 1960s onwards the British Police began to militarise. Special units were formed in order to deal with public order and terrorism (the state’s linking of the two already evident), developing paramilitary tactics and formations, and trained in the use of weapons. In the 1970s Police Support Units were founded; whereas these specially trained officers were used in day-to-day policing they could now be called upon to deal with crowds, specifically strikes and demonstrations, and thus purposely formed to be used against the working classes in their struggles against bosses and the state. Police dressed in riot gear became a common sight during the unrest of the 1970s and 1980s (prior to 1977, police at the Notting Hill Carnival used bin lids as makeshift shields), and police tactics proved to be far more than that of minimal force: cars, driven at speed, were used to disperse crowds, and CS gas was used for the first time on mainland Britain. Prime Minister Thatcher also gave government support for the police to use plastic bullets and water cannon, should Chief Constables deem them necessary (Reiner, 85-86) The potential for such tactics to damage the legitimacy of the police was recognised by the more liberal chief constables, with one stating: ‘There has to be a better way than blind repression’ (Reiner, 86). While day-to-day policing in Britain remains unarmed save for the truncheon and CS spray, police access to and use of firearms (and other weaponry) has risen dramatically. Each force has an armed response unit, tasers are now used with increasingly frequency, and the presence of Police Support Units is a common sight at any public event (Reiner, 87-88). The rise of middle class protesters in the 1990s, predominantly around single-issue causes such as animal rights, anti-roads and the free party/rave scene, increased problems of police legitimacy, as lines were drawn between the police and those from their traditional support base (Reiner, 87). This has continued to be problematic in recent years. In 2011 nationwide protests against student fees, and UK Uncut’s actions against tax avoidance, have been met with hard-line policing, and the police have faced much criticism from the liberal press and demo participants who would otherwise support the police role. The increased militarisation of the police undermines the assertion of a non-oppressive, civil force – the facade of social function falling away to many of those on the receiving end of public order policing, revealing the repressive state body beneath. Accountability The original emphasis on police accountability helped ensure that officers were perceived to be subject to the same legal scrutiny as other citizens. The necessity for the institution to obscure its coercive role meant that initially the police were not only held accountable, but actually done so to the detriment of their ability to perform much of their mandated functions. By the mid-19th century however this had changed significantly, with police evidence heavily relied upon and accusations against them readily dismissed (Reiner, 72). In 2008, over one hundred lawyers, employed by an advisory body to the IPCC to handle complaints, resigned, citing the IPCC’s failure to handle complaints effectively and, most notably, the IPCC’s “pattern of favouritism towards the police with some complaints being rejected in spite of apparently powerful evidence in their support”. In 2009, even The Economist opined that “the IPCC is at best overworked and at worst does not deserve the “I” in its name.” Last year Smiley Culture died of a single stab wound to the heart when police raided his home. The police claimed, and the IPCC accepted, that this wound was self-inflicted. All four of the officers present at the house were treated as witnesses rather than suspects, meaning none were formally interviewed – this includes the officer who witnessed the incident and who refused to give a formal interview. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which any other citizen, witness to a violent death, would be spared the formality of a police interview, indeed who would not be considered a suspect at least until s/he could be eliminated from enquiries. Though the coroner gave evidence stating that such a wound would result in death within a few minutes, Smiley Culture was handcuffed, the police say after sustaining the wound. Why such restraints were necessary has not been answered. The case of Smiley Culture is far from unique. Civilians dying in controversial circumstances at the hands of, or in the presence of police, is a common occurrence. Jean Charles de Menezes; Ian Tomlinson; Mark Duggan – these are only the most prominent of cases, given extra significance within the press due to the extraordinary circumstances that surrounded their deaths. Between 1998 and 2010 there were 333 deaths in police custody; not one police officer has been convicted. Interestingly the IPCC have raised this issue, arguing that juries are reluctant to convict police officers. While this may be the case it is evident that the IPCC have a habit of sweeping complaints, misconduct, and potentially police criminality, beneath the carpet, ensuring they never reach court. At the founding of the police service accountability was not simply considered in legalistic terms, the police were also expected (hypothetically if not in practise), as ‘civilians in uniform’, to be held answerable by their communities. Towards this principle, there was much recruitment among the working classes and promotion granted on merit; indeed since the Second World War, the majority of Chief Constables have been from working class backgrounds and entered the service as PCs (Reiner, 74-75). Such recruitment assists in obscuring the repressive role of the police, aspirant members of the working class may view the police force as a route to a professional and secure career, and the presence of relations and friends within the service is likely to increase trust in the institution as a whole. Legitimacy that has been gained by accountability through association is apparent in the idea of the police as ‘workers in uniform’, as espoused by the Socialist Party. It is also evident in the Occupy Movement of the last year where, despite many arrests, police brutality and no suggestion that the police share their aims or are on their side, individuals within the movement have repeatedly expressed that ‘the police are the 99% too’. Such belief in the police as part of the community is perhaps now a bigger force for legitimacy than accountability before the law. With stories of police brutality and hard line tactics almost ever present during a time of austerity, a person’s link to an individual police officer may grant greater credibility to the police than is warranted by reports of their behaviour. In much the same way that citizens may ‘support the soldiers not the war’, many of the working classes, many of those suffering because of a state protected by the police, are granting credibility to a whole institution based on maybe only a minor personal relationship – the level of accountability to the community is miniscule, but it may just be enough to grant institutional legitimacy at a time when the behaviour of the institution is overtly oppressive. Non-partisan It is important to note that this oppressive behaviour of the police is not related to the incumbent government, but is inherent in the very foundations of the service. At the establishment of the force the police were formed as a non-partisan institution, once again in an attempt to gain acceptance from the working class (Reiner, 74). At the time of the founding of the police this would have had more relevance than it does now, with each party notionally aligned with the interests of a particular class. Yet though the police may not be partisan to any political party, the extent that this helps their legitimacy is highly dubious. It is not the police support of the Tories or of Labour, or any other political party that is of relevance, but of their support for the state that all of these parties seek to uphold. Not being party-politically partisan is irrelevant – the police support the incumbent government, every government supports the interests of the ruling class. The police can never be politically neutral. And this becomes immediately apparent whenever class conflicts flare up. The pro-state establishment credentials of the police hardly need describing, yet it is perhaps worth noting how the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the Met are appointed by the Queen, on the recommendation of the Home Secretary, and knighted, firmly making them part of the ruling class, not simply employed to be on their side. The role of the Commissioner and his Deputy is also worth mentioning – they are the key individuals responsible for counter-terrorism and threats to public order, with the potential for the line between them to blur. In the 1980s the police became more explicitly political, campaigning for more funding for law and order, and against the liberalisation of penal and social policy. Criticism of this political campaign was rejected by the Police Federation, justifying their stance with the question, “What is ‘political’ about crime?”(Reiner, 89). The campaign was met with Conservative party support, establishing themselves as ‘the party of law and order’. Labour, wary of appearing ‘soft on crime’ by comparison, supported Conservative policy that itself was dictated by the Police Federation’s campaign (Reiner 89-90). Such a question is then, at best, disingenuous. The police actively support political policies that strengthen the ruling class against the rest of the population; the Conservatives just happened to be the Government to implement them. In the past two decades, incarceration rates have soared; 60% of those imprisoned are functionally illiterate and/or innumerate, they are also more likely to be homeless, and more likely to be unemployed (and to be so in the long-term). Of petty offenders who have homes, one-third lose them whilst in custody. Two thirds lose their jobs. 95% of those imprisoned are male, and two fifths lose contact with their families. Any suggestion that such figures are not political, that the campaign for more stringent penal and social policy has not had a disproportionate affect on those most socially and economically vulnerable, is a deceitful distortion of reality. Aside from the socio-economic breakdown of crime and punishment, the definitions of what constitutes a crime (or as unlawful) are also political in nature. So a protest is unlawful if the organisers do not give six days written notice, and it must adhere to restrictions on its time and route. The police may ban or restrict a protest if it poses the potential for “serious public disorder, serious criminal damage or serious disruption” (Public Order Act 1986, Sections 11-14). By increasing the associations of protest with criminality the state can act against its detractors with apparently legitimate force. Hence in the past year the Occupy camps have been frequently associated with crime and disorder, student protests have been said to have been infiltrated by “hardcore activists and street gangs”, and the Met have aligned anarchism with terrorism. Trade Unions have also been warned that should they use their right to strike, they may face more stringent laws to prevent them from doing so in future. The use of effective action quickly becomes defined as unlawful action when the state feels threatened. Crime prevention and detection By the mid 19th century the police were perceived by the middle and upper classes as an effective law and order service. While members of the working classes also called upon the police they did so with less regularity, the majority of their contact with them unsought and unwelcome. This did not begin to change until political, social and economic reforms gradually allowed many of the working classes to gain a stake in society. Proportionally however inequality has remained pretty much the same and, since the beginnings of neoliberal policies in the 1980s, has actually increased (Reiner, 77). Still, the legitimacy of the police has been found to depend upon the perceived fair conduct of their work, ‘bad’ policing having a greater effect upon this perception than ‘good’. It is notable that police legitimacy is judged to be greater among those who have had no direct contact with them (not just as a suspect but also as a witness or victim); approval is therefore dependant on the citizens’ inexperience of the institution’s practises –for this reason legitimacy is generally perceived to be greater to those higher up the social ladder (Reiner, 69-70). The effectiveness of the police in tackling crime is difficult to measure. Though statistics are available they are notoriously unreliable; they do not account for unreported crimes and are liable to be distorted in order to reflect a desired picture. However it is safe to assert that crime has risen greatly over the past 50 years, as has fear of crime, while faith in the ability of the police has declined (Reiner, 93). The clear-up rate of crimes is, as of 2010, at 28% (though again it must be noted that the figures are imprecise). For specific crimes the police’s effectiveness in dealing with them varies hugely. For example, while murder cases are solved 92% of the time, for other violent crime the figure is a much lower 47%, and for burglary only 13%. The use of the word ‘solve’ is also problematic: “If adequate information is provided to pinpoint the culprit fairly accurately, the crime will be resolved; if not, it is almost certain not to be” (Reiner, 153) The work of the detective as vaunted in television dramas is detached from reality; two thirds of “solved” crimes are in fact self-solvers, i.e. the culprit is either still at the scene or witnesses are able to name and/or provide a full and accurate description. In cases where the crime does not solve itself there are two main tactics of investigation, both of which rely on stigmatising vulnerable groups; the police may “round up the usual suspects” of regular offenders, or rely upon stereotypical notions of what perpetrators of particular offences may be like. A high number of arrests made by foot patrol units conform to the latter tactic, suspicion based upon stereotype (Reiner, 152). This may go some way to explain why stop and searches are disproportionately carried out against ethnic minorities, with black people seven times more likely to be stopped than white people; institutional racism continues to be endemic. It must be recognised that neither of these tactics of investigation are effective, with the majority of cases remaining unsolved. Cases that do not present with likely leads are regularly dropped (Reiner, 152-3). The main social function of the police then seems almost administrative in form; while particular specialists may be required to gather forensics, the majority of an officer’s work appears to be processing self-evident information. The primary justification for a police force is thus effectively made obsolete; the assumption that a civilised society needs a police force is shown to be motivated by ideology, a facade created to conceal a state’s coercive power. Conclusion The depression of the 1930s saw public order become a key issue, with much criticism levied at the police for their brutal suppression of the National Unemployment Workers’ Movement marches (Reiner, 75). Then, like now, the economic situation resulted in a renewed awareness of the political nature of the police. While the state continues to feed us the line that we need the police, that the police are impartial, people are becoming aware that they are not on our side. When the police call for water cannon to be used against protesters, when they threaten to deploy rubber bullets, they do so to defend a status quo, a status quo that protects the interests of the ruling class against the mass interest of the people. However the exposure of the police as political actors damages them; when coercion supersedes consent state legitimacy begins to fall. In the past year coercive policing has been exacerbated by the courts, with individuals convicted following protests and riots receiving significantly harsher sentences than the same offences would usually warrant. The repression of dissent is thus at the heart of the justice system, the appeal for ‘social order’ used to assist in securing the interests of the state and its ruling class. Historically the police have been successful in allaying the fears of the working classes by following the legitimating policies and practises as described above (Reiner, 70-75). However once such acceptance was achieved the necessity to continue in this vein waned, and in times of social unrest the political nature of the police becomes increasingly apparent. While the social role of crime prevention and detection continues to be the principal justification for a police force, the evidence does not bear this out. As the socio-economic circumstances continue to deteriorate in 2012, more people will gain direct experiences of the coercive role of the police, experiences that may serve to delegitimize both their existence and that of the state they seek to protect. Sources Robert Reiner The Politics of the Police Attachment Size Attachment Size The police the case against.pdf 349.55 KB Posted By Ramona Jan 6 2012 19:54 “ With article and thanks to libcom.org at http://libcom.org/library/police-case-against