Why aren't we rising up? Whether the 'we' in question is young people, the British people, or the poor, this is a question asked an awful lot by both mainstream and leftist commentators. Austerity, job cuts, pay freezes, workfare, poverty, food banks, police brutality, political corruption - it's all the rage, so why aren't we all enraged?
There are two standard answers on the left: apathy and the lack of leadership. Either people are too engrossed in their own little world of X Factor, I'm a Celebrity and 'I'm alright Jack,' or they just don't have the right hero to lead them into battle. The left wing rabble rousers of the past are dead and gone and we need people to replace them and rally the workers.
Some cursory thoughts on the contradictions created by trade unions, as the collective voice of organised workers, also being employers.
On the 26 March, when the National Union of Teachers was taking strike action, members of the GMB were also out on strike. The reason that this action received less attention, particularly from trade union sources, is that it represented a rather unusual situation.
Some quick thoughts on the need to respect picket lines and the challenge of the anti-strike laws and multi-union workplaces.
As I detailed all the way back in October, a civil service senior management union has taken a stronger stance over key issues in HM Revenue & Customs than the 'left wing' union PCS.
The Public and Commercial Services Union has in the past year worked to sabotage a dispute between its members at Hewlett Packard and their employer. This has culminated in the betrayal of one of their own reps, John Pearson, after he was unjustly sacked by the company.
PCS is best known as the civil servants’ union, however it has members in various areas of the private sector due to privatisation and outsourcing. This includes workers for Hewlett Packard who before 1995, with several contract transfers in between, were civil servants in the Department for Social Security’s (now the DWP) IT Services Agency.
2014 and 2015 are, in a row, two big years for electoralism. I'm already fed up with it.
This year, there will be a referendum on Scottish Independence. Next year, there will be a UK general election. Both of these events are the source of considerable hope and excitement on the left, because either or both offer the opportunity for change.
Dan Hodges has written an article for the Telegraph, using the horrific murder of Bijan Ebrahimi as an excuse to attack “the dark side of working class Britain.” This is an attempt to address the points he has side-stepped for the benefit of his polemic.
Ebrahimi died when a mob surrounded his house in Brislington one night in July. He was beaten unconscious, dragged from his house and burned alive in his front garden. Two men, Lee James and Stephen Norley, were sentenced very recently for the crime, though it is almost certain that a wider section of the local community was involved.
Following a debate on Twitter, several statements appeared online seeking to defend the PCS union over its position on welfare reform and sanctions. This is a response, particularly aimed at PCS Vice President John McInally’s piece for the Socialist Party.
In writing this I am “helping the Tories,” if the nonsense aimed at Boycott Workfare of late is anything to go by. They raised the question of PCS members in the Department for Work and Pensions refusing to sanction claimants, which is apparently highly divisive and has the government rubbing their hands with glee.
A look at two of many attacks faced by workers in HM Revenue & Customs. The contrasting responses from clerical grade union PCS and senior grade union ARC are worth noting, but not for the reason you might guess.
Listing all of the ongoing issues and disputes within HMRC at present would be an essay in itself. Suffice to say, there are a lot. In this post I want to talk about two in particular; the imposition of detrimental new terms and conditions for staff and the quotas in the new performance management system which are aimed at making it easier to sack the “bottom 10%” of staff from the job.
Why the pledge from the Labour Party to axe the Bedroom Tax doesn't mean we've won and, if we take it at face value, could mean that we lose.
The Labour Party has this week vowed to scrap the Bedroom Tax. The announcement, which has dominated headlines as well as a lot of talk on Twitter, comes as Labour prepares to hold its annual conference in Brighton.
A short post on the reactions to the Commons vote on Syria and the illusions of parliamentary democracy.
The UK government lost a vote in the House of Commons on intervention in Syria. The margin was incredibly narrow and the debate heated but nonetheless it is a definite spanner in the works for the UK's involvement in any military intervention.
Some thoughts on the People’s Assembly. Dissecting its claims to be the birth of a movement and looking at what is really required to take on austerity and, more broadly, capitalism.
On 22 June, thousands are set to attend the People’s Assembly Against Austerity in London’s Westminster Hall. The event has generated considerable excitement and support amongst “the left,” with sponsors ranging from trade unions to Trot groups such as Counterfire to the Green Party.
Tensions between claimants and jobcentre workers over sanctions have been rising for some time. Now, with the Public and Commercial Services union stifling rank-and-file efforts to initiate a non-cooperation campaign, they threaten to boil over into active hostility. How can we avoid this – and resist sanctions?
Universal Credit is set to replace Job Seeker’s Allowance, Employment & Support Allowance, income support, housing benefit and tax credits. The single payment will be less than the five separate benefits, making it a welfare cut as well as a significant reform. It is going live with a trial at Ashton-under-Lyne jobcentre from 29 April.
Former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died. The occasion has been the cause of both mourning and jubilation. What follows is a reflection on what this means in the context of the ongoing class struggle.
Today, along with up to 55,000 other workers in HM Revenue & Customs, I was taking part in a half day's strike. It was just before one when literally hundreds of us were gathered outside work for a mass walk-in, and a member of the public ran past excitedly. “Maggie Thatcher's dead!” He yelled.
The Public and Commercial Services Union has responded to threats of legal action by removing one section of its membership from the strike action due to take place on the 5 and 8 April. This shows the limits of legal trade unionism. It also underlines the urgent need for strong rank-and-file movements in the UK.
We’ve been here before. At the end of 2011, Balfour Beatty threatened to get an injunction against Unite the Union to stop the industrial action it had called for its members in construction. Unite responded by instantly capitulating.
Victimisation, by bosses and the state, of those who try to organise in the workplace is nothing new. But recently a spate of high profile cases have focused wider attention on the issue.
Last year, William Hill bookmakers announced plans to extend their Sunday opening hours. As they already have over long shifts, forced overtime and the generally shitty end of the stick when it comes to working conditions1
- 1. Not the least of which seems to be a callous attitude to the mental health of those whose shops get robbed.
Stories about the government threatening a “crack down” on trade union power emerge almost on a loop. Particularly in times of heightened class antagonism. But far from showing the unions as threats to society, such threats are a demand that the unions tighten up their role in policing class conflict.
The latest such story comes from the Independent, the main headline of which is a policy to “make strikes illegal unless at least 50 per cent of union members voted in a ballot.” This ties in with government rhetoric about ballot turnout whenever they attempt to
A number of pieces have been written recently on “unity” amongst the left and the ways we can achieve that. What follows are the reasons I reject left unity as a notion and the kind of real unity that the workers' movement needs – and, to a large extent, already has.
With attacks on claimants and the unemployed escalating, campaigners and trade unions have made numerous calls for “unity” between workers and the unemployed. But too often, this “unity” is a purely theoretical one. How can we go beyond words to build a practical basis for solidarity across our entire class?
One of the most high profile examples of this unity of words is the joint statement signed by the PCS Union, Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle.