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Monday, 30 June 2014

Why i joined the IWW

The IWW - the international workers of the world or wobblies as they are often known as is a movement i came across earlier this year i find their politics fascinating and a new take on trade unions which i had not come across before. After todays confirmation that Len Mckluskey of unite who i am still a member of also for the time being to fully bankroll the labour party at next years general election i may consider leaving that union. I do not wish my money to go towards backing a labour party determined to carry on the destruction of the gains we as workers have made over the last decades. So much hot air from red Len is too much for me he threatens to break the labour link each time it comes out with another neo liberal policy yet nothing changes and yet again Len and his unite union will be cheerleading for labour in the coming year this is a huge let down for me and may well be the final straw in a union which gives me very little say in things. This is on top of the undemocratic attempt to ram through a merger with the PCS union who have been one of the more left unions of late and do have a reasonable record of fighting back. Why PCS and unite are merging will become clear in time but aswell as financial it is also as i understand it being forced through as a way of moving unite further left and in the hope it'll break with labour. This is all being aggitated for by the socialist party who control a majority on the PCS NEC at present who feel a merger with unite getting themselves onto the unite NEC could be the best way to break the labour link. But do we really need to close down an independent civil service union? Even if we did, surely joining up with Unison, the largest public sector union would make more logical sense from a trade union viewpoint. As usual political agendas are put before members interests in the myopic world of Serwotka & the Socialist Party. PCS needs to put it’s own house in order before going cap in hand to other unions. The whole issue of a merger has led to the creation of at least two Face Book groups The first I came across is simply called No to the PCS-Unite merger and states categorically: Page for PCS members opposed to being consumed by the monolithic bureaucracy of Unite in the proposed merger of the two unions Description The leadership of the PCS is driving the union towards a merger with Unite. This merger is not in the best interests of members: • It will be a takeover rather than a merger, with PCS consumed whole • It is an arrangement of financial convenience to preserve the perks of the paid union bureaucracy • Unite is a vastly less democratic union than PCS on every possible level • Unite is an FTO-dominated bureaucracy, whereas in PCS lay reps run their own branches and have a far greater degree of autonomy • Unite is affiliated to the Labour Party, who are in turn wedded to capitalism, austerity and the boss class Overwhelmingly, PCS members disagree with the concept of a merger or are at best indifferent to it. The possibility of a merger passed through conference in 2013 only thanks to a strong whip from the leadership and the Left Unity faction and we want to make sure that doesn't happen again with the merger proper. A second group is: Members against the merger. They have gone with a much simpler statement: Quite straightforward really: PCS are open to an approach from Unite with a view to merging. This groups is for PCS members who want to stop it. There you go. The Left Unity/Democracy Alliance has run PCS for eleven years. Over that time it has totally failed to overcome successive governments’ divide-and-rule policy of carving the civil service up into a huge number of “delegated bargaining units” and to regain civil service national bargaining. Yet that same leadership now asserts that merely by joining Unite it will overcome the bargaining divisions between public and private sector workers. The PCS leadership effectively assumes that union “merger” is a shortcut to the development of wider working-class political awareness and industrial militancy. The PCS leaders state that “merger” (transfer!) would create “a new, powerful force in the public sector adapted to today’s changing industrial circumstances that can deliver more for members” but has not explained precisely what it sees as the changing industrial circumstances and precisely how this new force within Unite would be better able to deliver for Unite and PCS public sector members. They do not say how the awful defeats PCS has suffered under their leadership would have been avoided if we had been Unite members. The underlying and only very partially stated argument would seem to be that: • PCS cannot “win” against the state on its own (winning is rarely defined by the PCS leadership), • Public sector workers must therefore strike together on pensions, pay, jobs and services (and presumably keep striking until the demands of all the different occupational areas of the striking public sector workers have been satisfied – not a model the PCS leadership followed in the pensions dispute with the last Labour Government) • Unison and other unions cannot be trusted to do so, as shown by the pensions debacle in November 2011 • If PCS “merges” with Unite and a large public sector group is created, then Unite will be able to call out its civil service, NHS and local authority workers at the same time, and thereby put pressure on Unison and other unions to join with it. There is plenty of talk about a “new powerful force”, “making a difference”, needing “a more effective trade union fightback in the public sector” and PCS and Unite sharing the same basic approach of being genuine fighters for members. However, nothing has prevented Unite and PCS from calling such joint action before now if they wanted to. In reality, Unite remains a relatively minor player in the NHS and local government. A fully united public sector fightback would require Unison to play an effective and committed role. That is extremely unlikely under the current Unison leadership. PCS should certainly agitate for joint action, but has to develop its own independent strategy for winning on issues facing PCS members. There is no short-cut through merger with Unite. The PCS leaders hint that they see themselves (in Unite) as competing with Unison for authority in the TUC and members in the NHS and local government. They say, “A merged union would become the second largest public sector union. It would be the first public sector union to hold substantial membership in…the NHS, local government and central government.” PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka spoke at last year’s PCS conference of creating a “left wing pole of attraction” in the union movement. But competition with Unison is unlikely to attract its membership in mass numbers. If a few left-wingers are won over, that will be at the price of them abandoning the fight to replace the leadership in Unison of Dave Prentis or a successor in the same mould chosen in Unison’s next General Secretary poll in 2015. Mark Serwotka or the Socialist Party, the dominant group in the PCS leadership quite clearly see themselves running Unite’s public sector group. They are certainly not going to give up the leadership of an independent trade union just to play second fiddle in one sector within Unite. And Socialist Party must have high hopes of dominating Unite’s “United Left” through the much bigger PCS Left Unity membership. Merger is likely to mean losing PCS’s democratic structures and its actual and potential industrial coherence. PCS has annual elections at all levels; annual national and group conferences; delegates directly elected by branch members; and a widespread membership understanding of the key industrial issues. Delegates to Unite’s national conferences are indirectly elected by regional committees and regional industrial sector committees; national policy conference takes place every two years; national rules conference every four years; industrial sector conferences every two years. Elections for the Unite NEC, Regional and Branch Committees are held every three years. PCS’s very different circumstances enable direct relationships between members and the different levels of the union and within the single “industry” that is the civil service and the private sector support companies that provide services to the civil service. The end result is a membership with common workplace experiences and issues that gives national PCS an explicit and (potentially) unifying coherence of trade union purpose. That makes accountability (potentially) easier to judge and deliver. There is simply no real industrial logic to merger with Unite. There is some opposition on the left and right to merger with Unite because of its relationship to the Labour Party. It’s an opposition which either sees PCS in apolitical terms (a union for state employees!) or sees politics purely in terms of standing would be left-wing independent candidates in opposition to the Labour Party. Both are wrong and fail to outline any way in which PCS can help remove the Tories from government, ease the considerable pressures on members, and replace them with a trade-union based party whose leaders need to be opposed and tested with positive working class policies. For certain an alternative to Labour will not be found through TUSC or similar candidates. Serious socialists opposed to the merger should not get caught up with opposition on sectarian grounds. Well it is a cynical move which ignores members interests once again. It is a lash up for small political means i suspect. Members of both Unite and PCS should oppose any merger as this would not advance any strategy that would benifit them i believe a independent voice in your own union is far better for now. So... Why Join the IWW? It does not take long to figure out that workers and their employers do not have the same interests. Workers want shorter hours, higher pay, and better benefits. We want our work to be less boring, less dangerous, and less destructive to the environment. We want more control over how we produce goods and provide services. We want meaningful work that contributes to our communities and world. Our employers, in contrast, want us to work longer, harder, faster, and cheaper. They want fewer safety and environmental regulations and they demand absolute control over all decisions, work schedules, speech, and actions in the workplace. PRACTICAL BENEFITS OF A UNION The easiest way to stand up for each other in our workplaces and communities and the easiest way to improve our working conditions is to join a union. That is why employers fight so hard, and spend so much money, to keep unions out of their workplaces. Workers with unions generally have higher pay and job security, better benefits, and fewer scheduling problems. More pay equals fewer hours at work and more hours for enjoying the good things in life. Union workplaces are safer and have less harassment, discrimination, and favoritism. This is because a union gives workers the power to make workplace decisions. The less we let our employers make all of the decisions, the better our lives and communities will be. Unions also provide mutual aid and community. This means assistance with problems at work, but it could also mean help with a community project or fighting a landlord. WHY EVERY WORKER SHOULD BE IN THE ONE BIG UNION Whether your job sucks or is "pretty good" (at least today), we in the IWW believe you should join us for the following reasons. We need to start sticking up for our coworkers in our workplaces and in our industries. Ask around on your next shift. How many coworkers have two or three jobs? How many are one paycheck away from an eviction? We have a duty to our co-workers, and those who will follow in our footsteps, to make things better. The only way to do this is to organize together. When we band together around our common experiences and interests, we can improve our jobs and industries. Our labor, not our bosses, is what makes our workplaces tick and we can use our labor power to improve our jobs and our communities in the short term. In a lot of ways, that is what unions are all about. With the IWW, you also belong to a union that has a long term vision and plan for workers' control of their own work, without bosses, making our industries and economy democratic. As an IWW member, you get: 1) volunteer organizers if you choose to organize your workplace and industry. 2) union organizing expertise in areas of strategy, media, community support, infrastructure building, and bargaining. 3) commitment to democratic unionism, which means members control their own organizing campaigns and the direction of the union. 4) an international organization dedicated to working together to build worker power on our jobs and in our communities. 5) mutual aid and support. 6) some practical things: a subscription to the Industrial Worker (union newspaper), the IWW internal newsletter, access to the IWW website, the union's constitution, your local branch newsletter (if applicable), and a member button. ABOUT THE IWW Founded in Chicago in 1905, the IWW is open to all workers. Don't let the "industrial" part fool you. Our members include teachers, social workers, retail workers, construction workers, bartenders, and computer programmers. Only bosses are not allowed to join. You have a legal right to join a union and your membership is confidential. It is up to you whether you discuss the union with your co-workers. If you are currently unemployed, you can still join. We are a volunteer-driven union, and this means we, not union bosses, run the union. The IWW is not controlled by or affiliated with any political party or political movement. No money goes to politicians. Membership dues are used to maintain the union and assist organizing campaigns. As a result, monthly dues are low. So lets not put up with endless bureaucracy lets start by organising ourselves for ourselves and taking control of our own struggles.

Why blind people should join a trade union

I myself am blind and have been for some time now. With working life getting harder for many and the amount of jobs about diminishing all the time with austerity and companies going more down the technology route where does work for blind people fit in ? Well we are no longer in the past thankfully where the best blind workers could hope to achieve was basket weaving or piano tuning there is far much more we can do today. With unemployment levels of blind and partially sighted people in the UK around the 60% mark a trade union is something which those in and out of work could do with i feel. The support and benifits a union could bring those with sight impairments could be huge. The collective voice for a start could give us a platform to speak out far more effectively on a bigger scale. There is a trade union for the blind i understand which isnt that well known not least by me who only came across this this morning. "The National League of the Blind and Disabled (NLBD) is section of Community, the trade union for life. The NLBD represents members with vision impairment or other disabilities and supports them into the workforce. The NLBD is a national organisation of members formed into around 45 branches across the UK, including Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Our members organise within their branches and on a regional basis in their Regional Councils, and are governed by a National Committee elected by the members. The NLBD is the oldest organisation of disabled people in the world, and was originally founded as a trade union in 1899. We joined forces with the old ISTC trade union in 2000 to help form Community as a whole new vision of what trade unionism should be about. In addition to our expertise in representing people at the workplace, we are primarily a campaigning organisation and have had some tremendous successes throughout our long history. The NLBD led a successful and crucial campaign in 1920, which provided disabled people with the first legislation specifically for blind people with the introduction of the 1920 Blind Persons Act. This Act made it a duty for councils to provide for the welfare of the blind and extended the old age pension to blind people at 50 years of age rather than 70. For the first time, blind children are allowed to take the same examinations as sighted people, such as City and Guilds. More recently the NLBD campaigned for full civil rights which led to the formation of the Disability Rights Commission, and we also played a major part in the campaign for the 2005 Disability Discrimination Act. We believe there is much more to do, specifically in terms of the cultural changes necessary to convince employers of the benefits of employing disabled people. The more people that join Community, the stronger our voice will be in future campaigns of this type." "The first trade union for disabled people founded in 1894. From the creation of the Poor Laws in the 17th century until the late 19th century it was assumed that blind people would need to be supported by local authorities as they were incapable of working. However developments in education for blind people such as the development of Braille meant that more and more religious or charitable foundations were being set up to train blind people for work. This approach was endorsed by the Royal Commission of the Blind in 1899 which recommended compulsory education for blind children with a view to fitting them for work. Blind schools were usually residential institutions and often trained workers for charity administered workshops. Trades such as basket weaving and rug making were common. Pay from the workshops was on piece rate and as blind workers could not compete with the output of sighted workers in factories their income was often not enough for them to live on or support their families. The workers also contrasted their income with that enjoyed by charity administrators many of whom they said were corrupt. Like other workers of the time they recognised that the answer lay in uniting to take collective action. The National League of the Blind of Great Britain and Ireland was founded in 1894. The first general secretary was Ben Purse a piano-tuner who had trained at Henshaws Blind Asylum in Manchester. The league joined the TUC in 1902. The first strike by league members took place in Bristol in 1912 and lasted six-months. Many more followed. There was often a backlash from the workshop managers victimising union members who had taken action. As well as collective bargaining the league campaigned for the state to take over responsibility for employing blind people and for a decent pension for those who could not work. After several years of lobbying a friendly MP Ben Tillet introduced a private members bill in February 1920 which met all their aims. The bill went well in parliament but the government announced it would being making changes to the bill or bring its own. In order to put pressure on the government the league took the novel approach of a march from three locations to converge on London for a mass demonstration in Trafalgar Square. There had been many protest marches but this was the first to choreograph different contingents to raise awareness with rallies in towns along their route as well as on their arrival in London. The Jarrow march sixteen years later was based on their model. 74 blind workers from Scotland and the north east of England travelled to Leeds to set off on April 5 1920. On the same day 60 workers from Ireland and the north west left Manchester and 37 from around the south west departed from Newport. They marched behind a banner reading 'Justice not charity'. The marchers reached Trafalgar Square on April 25 supported by London trade union branches. They then waited five days to see Prime Minister Lloyd George. The Manchester Guardian published a statement from Ben Purse to George. “Firstly may I be permitted to postulate that we have no faith in what is called 'permissive legislation'? Our unfortunate association with the Poor Law and its administration has dissipated any optimism which we might have entertained on that score. And moreover the provisions of the new Education Act are in like degree equally disappointing. Any reactionary local authority is now able to evade its responsibility for giving training and ultimate employment to blind people, and therefore, while we may have a few enlightened local administrations fully alive to the duties which devolve upon them the majority will prove adamant”. The Blind Persons Act became law in September 1920. Despite the huge propaganda success of the march, it was still less prescriptive than the league had wanted. As well as lobbying for changes to the law they concentrated on applying pressure on individual local authorities in what today we would call a typical postcode lottery. In October 1936 the league held another march. As before it was supported by the trade union movement but the public mood was less supportive. The militant activities on the National Unemployed Workers Movement hunger marches had discredited this kind of protest and the blind workers were competing for public sympathy with the jobless Jarrow marchers. Nevertheless the league did win some concessions from the government with a second Blind Persons Act in 1938. The public were not the only ones whose feelings had changed. The charities were still an important source of funding for the workshops and some of the union leaders were keen to build a more co-operative relationship. Amongst them was Ben Purse who formed a break away union the National Union of Industrial and Professional Blind in 1921. By 1936 Purse was working for the charity, the National Institute of the Blind and apparently advised the government on tactics to prevent the march. Other members still had strong anti-charity views. They had no objection to accepting money either from trade union donations or the regular street collections which were their main source of funding. But they did not want to be identified as a charitable foundation with all that meant to them of oppression and corruption. The Blind Act and the War Charities Act of 1916 meant that they needed to register as a charity to collect money from the public but they voted not to. In 1922 two union members were prosecuted for illegal street collecting. The authorities used this illegal activity as a reason to exclude the union from the Central Committee on the Welfare of the Blind. The continued refusal to register is a testament to the strength of feeling against outside oppression and an identification with the values and principles of the Trade Union movement. The National League of the Blind became the National League for the Blind and Disabled and in 2000 merged with ISTC to become the union Community. " For me being in a union of any sort today public or private is useful. The protection we can gain from collective organising even if not in work is key to building a fairer future for all not just the blind. http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/equality/news/news-items/the-national-league-of-the-blind.cfm

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Socialist Way: "Judge any society by how it treats its weakest me...

The Socialist Way: "Judge any society by how it treats its weakest me...: .       The Disabled People Against Cuts held a blockade of Westminster Abbey yesterday as severely disabled people continued their fi...

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Can the NSSN be a rank-and-file movement??

I was told last night by a socialist party member after I pointed out the upcoming public sector strikes over pay on the 10th of July were more than likely to be sold out once again by the union tops. I was told we need to do something so I suggested a rank-and-file movement to hold the union leaders to account and prevent them selling out any dispute. So in return the National Shops Stewards Network the NSSN was suggested my way. I do not believe this to be the best vehicle for this and I will explain. The NSSN is simply a anti cuts group as a front for the Socialist party to cozy up to left union bureaucrats and curry favour in terms of influence and positions in the unions not really interested in building a mass fightback to win. The problem with unions isn’t poor leadership, but a set of circumstances where the only way they can maintain their ability to negotiate with management is by enforcing law and order on its membership, and either sabotaging or co-opting independent action (or even just undesirable militancy). These circumstances will remain in place no matter how “left” the leadership is groups like the NSSN fail to understand this crucial fact and carry on lobbying the TUC and the lefts in the unions regardless. One of the more entertaining elements of hanging around on the political left is the insistence of the various leftie parties that they are “open and democratic,” usually moments after they’ve been caught out playing silly buggers within a broad church movement. "Open and democratic" is a phrase which obviously has a lot of baggage when it comes to any democratic centralist (Trotskyist, Stalinist, Socialist etc) outfit, tarred as they are by years of capitalist propagandising on the failings of the Soviet Union. Similar and connected is "entryism," the practice of joining a burgeoning movement en masse and attempting to capture it by packing votes and capturing/creating powerful leadership roles. But that baggage becomes heavier rather than lighter when incidents like the Socialist Party stitch-up of the National Shop Stewards Network happen, continuing a long line of similar Lenin-inspired efforts stretching back into anti-war, anti-racist and class struggle history all the way back to 1917 and beyond. Lenin’s crew pioneered and continue to offer the pinnacle of such tactics in the 1910s and 20s when they used the bodies they had captured to destroy grassroots organisations they considered to be rivals, effectively ending any hope of a genuine communism emerging in Russia. Since then, Trotskyists, Stalinists and the like in Britain have attempted the same tactics within an ever-dwindling circle of sympathisers and lefties, seemingly unaware that every time they do so they help put another generation off left-wing politics entirely. Now I have to confess I was once a socialist party member myself and once sat in on a NSSN steering committee meeting the body which controls what the group does and campaigns on. In the meeting there was only one non socialist party member present and before the meeting we caucused or whatever the trotskyist term is and were given the line we were to go with in the proper meeting with this one individual who was in no party at all oddly who stuck around after the split in the NSSN back in 2010 which set about making the NSSN another anti cuts group on the left. I was once a keen member of the SP but became so disillusioned and eventually my disagreements grew too large so I left not before facing all sorts of intimidation and trouble off various people involved locally. Incidents like those linked to above, picked off the top of my head out of a list of hundreds in Britain alone, would be best summed up by the famous Albert Einstein quote “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” And so today, on a much, much tinier scale, we have the Unite the resistance formally Right to Work (SWP), the Peoples assembly formally the Coalition of Resistance (Counterfire), the National Coalition Against Fees and Cuts (AWL, sort of) and the People’s Charter (CPB) while the Socialist Party’s gone a bit anti-cuts crazy with two separate front groups, Youth Fight for Jobs and now the NSSN. All squabbling among themselves and prioritizing not the fight against cuts but their own level of influence within the left ghetto. In fact the only group of any note not fronting itself is the CPGB, which is making a bid for non-sectarian status by calling for a uniting of all the different fronts into a kind of super-front capable of looking, at least initially, like something big enough for local groups (and fronts) to sign up to. The mind boggles. Because the thing is we already know what all the possible outcomes of both normal fronting and super-fronting are, none of which have the least bit to do with improving things for working people or threatening business as usual. Because we’ve already seen it over and over again. The peoples assembly has been the only one to mobilize ny sort of numbers seeing around 50 thousand on their against austerity march the weekend just gone. What really needs to happen to these groups is for the sound and solid people to leave. If you are in one of these outfits, just go and do what you should have been doing in the first place, acting as an independent militant whose work focuses on the REAL big picture and attempts to form a resistance without this inane, counterproductive bullshit. We need to help local and workplace comrades to organise themselves and stop trying to trick them with false promises of democracy when you could be helping create a genuine one accountable to its members rather than your far-removed central committee. We’re not idiots, when your high command tells you to pack a meeting and pretend it’s democratic because “every view got some time” we notice these things and it kills wider participation. Your leaders on the other hand, because they refuse to learn the lessons of their own history, are. Doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Let’s build genuine resistance on the ground with no leaders and no hidden party political agenda's.

Monday, 23 June 2014

The world cup in Brazil and the protest movement

So we are now into the 3rd week of the world cup 2014 in Brazil and so far its been a very entertaining exciting tournament going rather well from the football point of view unless you are a England fan of course but we wont go there . Lots was made of Brazil hosting this world cup and would it be ready or not in time. The stadium were all completed just in time and no big troubles in terms of the organisation appears to have arisen . But the protest movement which caught everyone by surprise last year in the confederations cup has not gone away. Maybe the big numbers are not there but certainly the anger and feeling about this not being a world cup for Brazil more for FIFA the world governing body of international football. Writing for the BBC Tim Vickery who is the BBC's fantastic South American football expert detailed how much tension there was over the hosting of this world cup in Brazil and notably the cost involved which the public would take the majority of the burden. Tim wrote "In 2008 a poll by the Datafolha Agency in the widely respected Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper showed 79% support for the World Cup in Brazil. By April of this year another poll by the same agency showed this had fallen to 48%. Many people are more reluctant to associate themselves with a competition that has become a public relations disaster. The anti-World Cup protests will not go away because there is plenty to protest about. There is the poor organisation - starting with the absurd delay in naming the host cities and the insistence on 12 when Fifa would have been happy with eight, while for years there was no government representation on the local organising committee - a bizarre flaw in a tournament that has implications for public spending. And many people believe that officials have taken the support of the people for granted and made empty promises. Hosting the competition has cost the country more than it should, and in return is giving back less than it should. The cost of the stadiums is now in the region of £2.4bn, three times more than the figure quoted in 2007. Four of the stadiums - in Manaus, Cuiaiba, Brasilia and Natal - would seem to have little prospect of long-term viability, meaning that there was no chance of private funding being attracted to build them. There were widespread protests in Brazil during the Confederations Cup Support of the population was cynically taken for granted, with empty promises that all of the money spent on stadiums would be from private sources. Luis Fernandes, the Ministry of Sports representative who was very belatedly brought on to the local organising committee, has been big enough to recognise that "this speech never corresponded to reality". The lack of debate in Brazilian society about the competition and its objectives has returned to bite the authorities where it hurts. Certainly, the authorities got a massive shock last year during the Confederations Cup when Brazilians took to the streets in huge numbers to show their displeasure at the amount of public spending on a football tournament. No-one saw it coming, but the protest movement is a reality that now has to be dealt with - especially as this is election year in Brazil, and some will be looking to turn dissatisfaction with the World Cup into votes. The great hope of the authorities is that the power of the event will work its magic. This is not just a forlorn desire. The atmosphere in the country through June and July is sure to be very special; over half a million visitors from all over the planet will be traipsing across the country, giving Brazil an unusual cosmopolitan air, and with over 60% of the tickets being snapped up by Brazilians, there is clearly considerable local enthusiasm for the event also, however well hidden. " So far we have seen some protests and i can see them picking up if Brazil happen to go out of the world cup early on or if there is heavy policing of the protests which have largely been peaceful up till now. Whatever happens in the rest of the tournament the feeling of injustice of a world cup and its cost being forced on the Brazilian people is not going away anytime soon. with thanks to Tim Vickery south american football expert of the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/27476602

Monday, 9 June 2014

Spikes to keep the homeless out, where is society going ?

A worrying report over the weekend in the papers confirmed that many expensive propeties in and around the capital are installing spikes to keep out the homeless. "A new development in London has installed metal spikes in an alcove – such 'defensive architecture' helps us to pretend real poverty doesn't exist For more than a decade "defensive architecture" has increasingly been creeping into urban life. From narrow, slanted bus shelter seats – not even suitable for sitting on, let alone sleeping on – to park benches with peculiar armrests designed to make it impossible to recline; from angular metal studs on central London ledges to surreal forests of pyramid bollards under bridges and flyovers. Hard property jutting out against soft homeless bodies, saying: how dare you be poor in plain sight? Step by selfish step we have arrived at the latest item causing outrage: a bed of metal spikes inside an alcove of a fancy new development on Southwark Bridge Road in London. "I think it's a good idea," one resident said. Speaking of "beggars and homeless people sleeping there", she added: "It completely affects the way the building seems, the appearance, and it's just not very nice." An Englishman's home is his castle, and that castle now includes a moat to keep the peasants out. These "anti-homeless" measures are designed to move the destitute on to somewhere else. This for me stems directly from Margret Thatchers idea of there is no such thing as society and to turn us all into selfish poor hating individuals with only a care for ourselves. At the root of this cruelty, which treats the dispossessed like a pigeon infestation – fed crumbs by the kindly misguided, shooed away by the thoughtlessly indifferent and spiked by the inhumanly practical – are wilful misconceptions about homelessness: that it is a lifestyle choice, which oddly becomes more popular during periods of nationwide economic ruin; that poverty is down to personal failure; that kindness perpetuates it; and, more than any misconception, that good shelter is readily available. And this damaging dissociation of the destitute from the rest of the world, this dehumanising effect, is precisely the aspect that such offensive "defensive architecture" feeds. It makes the city hostile to those who exist in this parallel reality. It breaks their psyche down further, making recovery less likely. It consigns them further out of sight so that the rest may continue to pretend that real poverty doesn't exist. It doesn't just deny someone who has absolutely nothing, a place to rest; it is a sign which reads, "Not even this bit of earth. Not even for the night." This turns my stomach that we are going down this route. The medias demonisatin of the poor one of the few remaining acceptable catagories of people to bash repeatably for simply being poor has lead to this selfish mentality. The lack of affordable housing and decent levels of support is hugely lacking with benifit cuts and tightening of the welfare budget year on year it is no wonder homelessness is shooting up in and outside of London for that matter. To pretend povety doesnt exist in our own country which is stll one of the wealthiest on the planet is woeful and hugely embarrassing toa country who likes to make out it is a civil society to the rest of the world whilst turning a blind eye to its own povety at home. with quotes and extracts from comment is free http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/09/spikes-homeless-london-metal-alcove-defensive-architecture-poverty

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

All That Is Solid ...: TUSC's Exercises in Self-Deception

All That Is Solid ...: TUSC's Exercises in Self-Deception: Under-appreciated they may be, but local elections are a vital component of any party-building project. UKIP certainly accept this wisdom...