Archive of issues of Resistance, the regular agitational freesheet of UK organisation the Anarchist Federation.
June issue of the anarchist federation's free paper
*Occupations Get the Goods!
*London Met Occupation
*On the Frontline - Workplace Roundup
*MPs' Expenses - Smoke and Mirrors
*Analysis: "A Few Bad Apples" or Business as Usual - Police Brutality and the Death of Ian Tomlinson
*Antifascist News from Eastern Europe
*No Borders to hit Calais
*What is Anarchism? Part Two
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|Resistance 113.pdf||1.04 MB|
Hot off the presses! The latest issue of the Anarchist Federation's free monthly paper. Full text and reading PDF.
• BA strikes: Beat Bullying Bosses!
• Greek Fire: the struggle against austerity measures in Greece
• Public Sector Strikes Solid
• Royal Mail Deal: Another Sell-out
• Struggles over education in California
• Beaten, Arrested, Suspended and Criminalised: Sussex Uni Students and Workers Fight On!
• Sheiks, Sunnis, Strikes and Struggle
• Anarcha-Feminist Weekend, Manchester
• March for Jobs
• Earthquake in Chile: Attack on the poor follows the natural disaster
• Trade Unionists Attacked in Chavez's Venezuela
BA strikes: Beat Bullying Bosses!
British Airways cabin crews have struck for three days in a dispute which is quickly taking on the status of a set-piece battle between workers and management. With a general election weeks away, the political parties have attempted to outdo each other by laying into the strikers, with much of the media in tow.
Much media coverage has been given to the disputed amount of disruption caused by the strike. BA has claimed that 60% of its passengers have flown as normal, while Unite has said that only a few thousand passengers have been shifted. BA's spin machine has gone into overdrive, with BA chief Willie Walsh plastering himself all over YouTube (Walsh, who has described the union's offer as “morally wrong” took home an annual salary of three-quarters of a million pounds in 2009 despite BA making record losses, an increase of 6% on top of a boost to his pension fund). Management is trumpeting the supposed success of its 'contingency plans', plans’, and claiming it is largely business as normal at the company. This is an attempt to portray the strikers as an unreasonable minority whose actions are having little effect on the company. In fact, a significant proportion of
the flights BA is running are ‘wet-leased’ aircraft, from airlines like Ryanair, Jet2, Titan, Euro Atlantic, Astreus and Iberia. These wet-leases represent a significant loss for BA, meaning the strike is biting for management. Much of the rest of the ‘cabin crew’ ‘reporting for work as normal’ are supervisors, managers, pilots and workers from other parts of the company standing in with only hours’ worth of training in some cases. In fact the strike has a huge mandate from the membership – an 80.7% yes vote for strike action on a 78.7% turnout.
Meanwhile, management’s bullying has reached new heights as BA carries through its threats
to discipline anyone taking sick leave over the strike days. A seriously ill crew member on bed rest who is at risk of losing her baby has been suspended, as has a worker recovering from surgery.
A worker off caring for a seriously ill child was instructed to bring the child to her disciplinary hearing. A number of crew members have been signed off with stress and depression, with one being sent to an urgent treatment centre. In every instance, BA’s health services have overriden the decisions of GPs.
According to Unite, bullying against BA staff has also taken the form of suspensions for activities such as:
• Receiving and forwarding e-mails from their private accounts
• Discussions on union member only forums
• Holding private conversations
• Making a joke
• Expressing dismay regarding a graffiti board set up by BA management where staff were encouraged to scribble words of support for the company, on which was written “cabin crew scum.”
BA management has also undertaken a campaign of bullying against union reps. A union rep responsible for running an online discussion forum for union members has been issued with a 45-page legal document demanding the identities of 32 crew members posting under pseudonyms.
BA bosses are also threatening to take away travel privileges from workers involved in the strike action. This has led to terror on the part of staff who rely on them to get to work – one statistic claims that a quarter of BA staff live abroad, relying on travel perks to do their jobs. The threat to withdraw these privileges is an attempt to scare workers out of taking strike action.
Though the union can’t go without criticism for the paltry ‘offer’ it put on the table - including a
2% pay cut - this is a struggle between a management which has nothing but contempt for its
staff and workers defending their terms and condition and refusing to be made to pay for an economic crisis they didn’t create.
In a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg recently warned that the UK could "follow Greece down the road to economic, political and social disruption", while trying to make the case that his party was best placed to implement cuts. He also warned that if the UK ended up like Greece, the government could be "torn to pieces." So what is it about Greece that strikes such fear into the hearts of politicians?
On Thursday March 11th, the country saw its second general strike in less than a month, with more than 150,000 strikers marching on the streets of Athens against the government's proposed austerity measures. Transport was completely shut down, with no aeroplanes, buses, boats, trams, metros or suburban trains running, with the exception of a special service which ran for 4 hours in order to let people join the mass demonstration. Hospitals were running with emergency staff only, and all other public services were shut down. Even police officers struck. In total, more than 3 million people, out of a total population of 11 million, are estimated to have joined the strikes.
There were mass clashes between striking workers and riot police, provoked by an attempt to cut off a large anarchist bloc from the march. Demonstrators replied to the police's tear gas canisters by throwing back molotov cocktails, and when the motorised Delta team were sent in to try and control the march they were surrounded and had several of their motorbikes destroyed. The number of people arrested remains unclear, but there were about 16 people detained and 13 cops hospitalised.
In Salonica, six different marches took place, organised by different unions. The Worker’s Centre march, which numbered 7,000 people in total, attacked corporate and church-owned shops on Egnatia avenue, while two super-markets were looted and had their goods redistributed. The march continued, despite police firing tear gas on it, and attacked the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace with paint and rocks before reaching the Worker’s Centre. Similar marches took place across Greece, with the strikers showing clear contempt for anyone they saw as trying to control their struggle, as at Volos, where union bosses were heckled and forced to leave the demonstration.
Tensions were raised still further when it became clear that the police had killed Lambros Foundas, a 35-year-old anarchist, on the morning of March 10th. The circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear, but it seems unlikely that this death will make public anger any easier to contain. Ten days after his death, around a thousand people marched to the spot of his killing in remembrance.
While it was unusually large and united, the general strike on the 11th was in no way an isolated incident, but is just one part of an ongoing pattern of mass struggle. For instance, on March 23rd, lawyers, doctors, and train drivers were all on strike, while Athens saw separate demonstrations by judicial officers, firemen, pensioners, and public servants, as well as an anti-racist demonstration called by anarchists. Mass protests against austerity measures also took place in Salonica, Volos, Heraklion and Ioannina. If Nick Clegg's warning comes true, Britain's bosses have a lot to worry about.
Public Sector Strikes Solid
th and 9th March over 200,000 workers belonging to the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) went on strike, and, as we go to press, further strikes are expected on 24th March. The strikes are in opposition to planned government changes to public sector redundancy schemes that would see staff lose up to a third of their redundancy entitlement. This was the biggest strike in the public sector since 1987. That strike was against the Tory government under Thatcher and many expected different from a Labour government. They were wrong. New Labour has continued to attack workers on a daily basis something that has worsened since the beginning of the economic crisis. Councils are expected to cut up to 25,000 jobs in the next three to five years. Right now wages are being cut and workers are being laid off and intimidated if they take action.
The planned changes to the compensation scheme for workers earning £30,000 or less (80% of all staff) would see workers who are laid off or who take voluntary redundancies receiving between two and three year's salary. This could mean a loss of £20,000 on some redundancy packages. All this at a time when we are paying £13 million annually to fund MP's pensions.
The first strikes successfully disrupted the workings of the state for two days. Key workers walked out of courts, tax centres and even Metropolitan Police civilian workers joined the strikes. The business of government suffered as crown and county court sittings in England and Wales were cancelled and the Houses of Parliament saw picket lines for the first time in a generation.
Most encouraging of all was the fact that many un-unionised workers refused to cross picket lines and took action alongside their colleagues. By siding with fellow workers and not the bosses, these people strengthened the strike no end. If the battle against cuts is to be won, we need more of this kind of solidarity. The signs in this dispute are that we may get it.
Royal Mail deal – another sell-out
The Communication Workers Union and Royal Mail management are hailing a deal signed in the wake of winter's postal strikes as a victory for both workers and the business. However, as happened after 2007's postal strikes, the union's 'deal' gives little to workers and is likely to compound postal workers' anger and disillusionment with the CWU.
The union is hailing a 6.9% pay increase over three years as its major victory. There has been much media coverage of the lifting on restrictions for junk mail delivery that the document contains. Though this has been presented as a gift to posties, who are paid extra for delivering the mail, this is in fact a concession to management by a union which previously defended a cap of three junk-mail items per household on the grounds that it prevented posties from being given unreasonably heavy loads on their rounds. On top of this, despite the junk mail cap being lifted, posties will actually be paid less for delivering more of the stuff – staff currently are paid per item, and posties usually take home a minimum of around £30 a week. The new deal means that they'll instead get a fixed payment of £20.60. With the early shift allowance being phased out, this means a pay cut.
Other aspects of the deal include more Saturday working for staff and longer delivery spans, amounting to more intense and difficult working conditions.
The deal is about the union securing its future at the expense of its members, and side-lining their anger at deteriorating working conditions and attacks on jobs in order to become a junior partner in Royal Mail management.
Struggles over education in California
On March 4, Californian students and education workers gave an impressive example of solidarity when, for the first time in history, teachers, support staff and student unions came together to show a united front against crippling state budget cuts in education. Across the States, as in Britain, governments are targeting public education as one of the holdouts against the privatisation of services, and California has made 60% of their budget cuts over the past two years in the education sector, amounting to over $17 billion. The state, in combination with the federal government, is targeting ‘underperforming’ schools for cuts, which means that they are cutting money and services predominantly to schools in poor and ethnic minority areas. Last year, 16,000 teachers lost their jobs, according to the California Teacher’s Association, which endorsed industrial action for March 4th. A UC Davis student writes, “This year student fees at UC Davis increased 9% per quarter, making it an annual increase of 36%. Many people simply cannot afford to continue their education.”
Building on actions from last autumn, students blocked campus entrances and set off fire alarms at UC Berkeley, UC Davis and at UC Santa Cruz, where campus was shut down for the day with all unions striking. The mainstream press reported widely that violent Santa Cruz students had smashed a car window, without mentioning that the window was broken when the car accelerated into a crowd of students blocking the road and one of them was thrown over the top of the car. In a separate incident, another car accelerating into protesters injured a student’s leg. The President of UC Santa Cruz showed his sympathies plainly by condemning the students in the press and spreading unfounded rumors about protesters carrying clubs and knives. In Los Angeles, 500 students and professors walked out of classes at UCLA, and 2,500 gathered for a protest at Cal State Long Beach. Significantly, occupations of campus buildings were held at UC Irvine, UC Riverside and UC San Diego, none of which are traditionally “activist” campuses.
In Oakland, a mix of 300-400 students, public school teachers and other education workers blocked interstate highway 80 for an hour before 150 of them were arrested. Pupils staged walk-outs at six high schools in Los Angeles, while others in Berkeley were locked into their high school so that they couldn’t protest, and 30 middle-school pupils (11-13 year-olds) face disciplinary action in Natomas, California for walking out in protest against cuts. Actions and occupations were also held in 31 other states in solidarity with California and in protest against similar cuts.
We must make the connection between what is happening in California, in Greece, and what is happening here in the UK. Students occupying the administrative building at Sussex University and 10,000 teachers marching in Glasgow are engaging in the same struggle as pupils and teachers in California and workers in Athens. We are not alone, and we have an opportunity to learn from the solidarity of workers and students in California. While the Associated Teachers and Lecturers Union is writing articles about how wildcat strikes can get you in trouble, our brothers and sisters in the US and in Greece are demonstrating the power of direct action. We have to keep pushing.
Beaten, Arrested, Suspended and Criminalised: Sussex Uni Students and Workers Fight On!
In the face of riot police and suspensions, the students and workers of the 'Stop the Cuts' campaign at the Sussex University in Brighton have further escalated their struggle. The last month has seen Sussex's highest ever turnout on a staff strike ballot and some of the biggest protests ever to hit campus. An increasingly desperate management now seem to be losing their grip on the university, as their attempts to crack down on protest just spark further defiance.
The management of Sussex University's 'Proposals for Change' are just another instance of the drive towards the marketisation of education which the state is pushing as a means of shifting the cost of the economic crisis they created onto ordinary people. Sussex University finds itself in a position mirrored in education across the country. Course closures, compulsory redundancies and non-renewal of contracts alongside attacks on student welfare (the closure of the sexual health centre, privatisation of the creche and cuts to the student union budget).
The Stop the Cuts campaign at Sussex has steadily increased in militancy over the last six months. Autumn term first saw frustrations boil over at management's refusal to allow University Senate, a body composed of lecturers and some managers, to register their concerns over the planned cuts which prompted several hundred students to storm the building on two separate occasions. Late February then saw the first challenge to management's control of the university, in the form of a 24-hour occupation of the Conference Centre. Over 100 students seized the space to disrupt the running of the university as a business, declaring their solidarity with occupation movements around the world, and with staff, who they urged to take strike action.
This act of solidarity paid off. On the 3rd of March, despite heavy intimidation from management, UCU (the lecturer's union) voted 80% in favour of strike action. The same day saw a second occupation attempt by students, this time of Sussex House, the main administrative building. After a lively 'Carnival against Cuts', 100 students wearing animal masks rushed in through an open fire-door, barricading internal doors and seizing the office of the Vice Chancellor's (the official head of university management).
Management seized this opportunity to crack down on opposition. Despite students handing out leaflets asking staff to leave, two members of management locked themselves in their own office, claiming that they were held hostage. This false claim that there was a hostage situation was used to justify the violent break-up of the occupation and an injunction against student protest. Sixteen police vehicles were called to campus and the police used dogs and batons to break up the demonstration, beating back students attempting to control the door. Two students were arrested before the occupiers took the decision to leave the building, in fear of further brutality.
Claiming that they were taking a 'precautionary measure' against further occupations, management followed up with two further measures. Firstly they took out a high court injunction against occupations, criminalising any future actions. Secondly, they arbitrarily suspended six students, believing that they had singled out and punished the 'ringleaders' of the campaign. However, they completely misunderstood how the campaign worked. Stop the Cuts organises without leaders: all the decisions of the campaign are made openly at meetings that welcome everyone. The campaign therefore has no head to cut off, and is all the stronger for it. This was proven days later when students staged the biggest occupation so far, showing that they, like staff before them, wouldn't succumb to management intimidation.
On the 11th March, 700 students demonstrated in support of the suspended six. 300 of them then went on to occupy a lecture theatre, openly defying the injunction and demanding full reinstatement of the 'Sussex Six'. Management, powerless to enforce their injunction, were humiliated into picking up a petition of 1700 names supporting the suspended students and crumbled and conceded a conditional reinstatement of the six. Sensing their power, the suspended students and occupiers unanimously rejected the half-measure of conditional reinstatement, and were rewarded – management gave in after just 8 days of occupation, proving that direct action gets the goods.
Unlike the previous occupations, this one managed to open itself up to all students and staff and was able to provide the campaign with a space of its own on campus. This was used to host teach-ins, debates, open-mics, film showings and a general assembly of students and workers on the eve of lecturer's strike action on the 18th March. The occupation stood as an example of how people can organise together not only in opposition to attacks on their well-being, but also to create alternative structures. Management's single-minded self-interest has spurred a desire for self-management among students and workers on campus. Students, in seizing an organising space, provided an open forum on what education might look like were it freed from the constraints of hierarchy and profit, and staff in the departments facing cuts have produced counter-proposals, detailing how they would like to see their departments run.
What started as a campaign to minimise the damage that management (as representatives of the state and bosses) threatened to do to the university has now become pro-active, seeking to disrupt and displace management (as seen in an overwhelming vote of no-confidence passed at an Emergency General Meeting of the students union), and demanding that students and workers should get a say in the running of their university. The fight is still far from over, but the solidarity and unity recognised between students and workers, and between the campus community and other communities in struggle, has gained them their first victory, and shown the way that the campaign might be won.
Sheiks, Sunnis, Strikes and Struggle
A bitter dispute at one of the most popular Islamic websites in the world was brought to a dramatic new level on Tuesday the 16th of March, as staff employed by IslamOnline.net occupied their offices in Cairo. The website was recently taken over by a new board of directors based in Qatar, who have made moves to restrict the independence of staff and the range of topics covered by the site, as well as making attacks on pay and conditions.
Employees of the site have traditionally enjoyed a relatively high degree of journalistic freedom, but this came under threat in February when they were criticised by the site's directors for running articles on subjects such as Valentine's Day. When management, who are headed by Sheikh Yousef El-Qaradawi, announced plans to lay off much of the workforce, over 250 workers replied by going on strike and spontaneously occupying their offices. Fathi Abu Hatab, a journalist employed by the site, declared that "we will all resign. They may own the offices and the URL, but they don't own us." His words were proved true when, two days into the occupation, over 300 workers - the vast majority of the staff's workforce - announced their resignations.
In order to draw more attention to their action, the company's tech-savvy employees set up webcams broadcasting live footage from the occupation, as well as posting frequent updates on social media sites such as Twitter. In much the same way as British bosses and politicians try to convince us that "we're all in this together", the website's managers would like to promote the idea that all Muslims, no matter what their social condition, somehow have common interests. These events show just how false that idea is.
Anarcha-Feminist Weekend, Manchester
Anarcha-feminists in Manchester, including the Anarchist Federation Women's Caucus, present two days of discussions, workshops, skill-sharing and fun for people of all ages and genders!
Whether you're a committed activist, dipping a toe in the waters or just interested in finding out what anarcha-feminism is, there will be something here for you.
We are hoping to run self-defence and assertiveness workshops over the weekend, as well as discussions from an anarcha-feminist perspective on education, health, archaeology, history, childcare, trafficking, "choice", prostitution legislation, gender and sexuality, family and capitalism, anti-religion, domestic violence, racism, women and asylum, feminism in the anarchist movement and the role of men in anarcha-feminism.
Please let us know if you'd particularly like to get involved in facilitating or speaking at any of these discussions, or if you would like to help out in any other way - volunteers are very welcome!
Please join the event, get involved and contribute your ideas!
Start Time: Saturday, 10 April 2010 at 10:00
End Time: Sunday, 11 April 2010 at 16:00
Location: Manchester Student Union
More info: http://af-north.org/?q=anarcha-feminist
March for Jobs
On Saturday 6th March in Brighton, the local Trades Council staged a ‘March for Jobs’ demonstration, aimed at highlighting the mass redundancies taking across the workforce. The trade union representatives and socialist parties were joined by a radical workers bloc organised by Brighton Solidarity Federation and supported by the AF and many others. The march, blessed with sunny spring weather, started at the The Level and snaked its way through Brighton ending outside the Town Hall with speeches from representatives of various groups.
Various groups and individuals delivered speeches, some good, some not so good. The highlight was a speech from Tom Willis, head of the student union of Sussex University, in support of the suspended students (see elsewhere this issue for a full account of the struggle at Sussex). The outrage in the audience was clear and bodes well for the future.
The ‘March For Jobs’ was a welcome expression of workers' solidarity unseen on such a scale in Brighton for quite some time, let's hope this sentiment continues to spread within Brighton and across the country, uniting workers' groups in the face of the disastrous budget cuts which loom on the horizon, regardless of which party wins the next election.
Earthquake in Chile: Attack on the poor follows the natural disaster
The earthquake and tsunami in Chile was a tragic disaster – it is likely that the final death toll will exceed 1,000, and millions are likely to have been displaced as a result of the destruction of homes and the demolition of unsafe buildings. Powerful aftershocks in the days after the earthquake added to the unfolding tragedy.
However, the earthquake itself wasn’t the only disaster to hit the people of Chile. The skewed priorities of the Chilean government in the aftermath of the earthquake have caused outrage in Chile and beyond. The government has placed private property and the rule of law before the urgent needs of the survivors, while in Cities like Concepcion local government openly denied the poor aid.
The sluggish humanitarian response which followed the earthquake contrasts markedly with the military operation to ‘prevent looting and defend law and order’ which followed. Under its Socialist president, the Chilean government has used the earthquake to launch what is effectively a military occupation of working class and poor districts. A strict curfew was imposed, and in some areas, such as Maule, shoot to kill orders were issued by the generals in charge of ‘aid’ efforts.
Much of the media coverage has portrayed the looters as vultures taking advantage of the disaster to steal televisions, dvd players and computers from wrecked stores. While such events did take place, the vast majority of looting was people doing what was necessary, logical, and entirely defensible – with the economy effectively ceasing to exist, food and other essentials were distributed from shops and warehouses. In many cases spontaneous and collective food distribution efforts were undertaken, with earthquake survivors liberating food and cooking it in open kitchens. Nonetheless, these attempts were condemned by Chile’s ‘Socialist’ President Michele Bachelet as 'pillage and criminality'.
When the state’s aid distribution efforts did begin, four days after the earthquake, it showed its priorities in a striking manner. In Concepcion, City Hall declared that it would prioritise districts where looting hadn’t taken place for deliveries of food and water. In practice, this meant rich areas of the city got aid first, along with army families. Chile is one of the most unequal countries in Latin America, and unsurprisingly this move provoked outrage. The Municipal Council was unrepentant: according to Carlos González Sánchez, the Cabinet chief of the municipal council, 'The first food deliveries were for the middle class, because the lower class had been stealing from the supermarkets ... On the first day 13,000 plastic shopping bags of supplies — rice, vegetables, oil, cereal, nappies, milk and coffee — were delivered to middle-class areas.' Meanwhile, those in areas deemed too 'lawless' for aid risked being shot if they attempted to find food themselves.
The people of Chile didn’t just risk being shot by the army – they also face armed gangs in SUVs who are using the earthquake to rob goods which they can then sell on. These mafia-like lumpen capitalists have been reported to have broken into people’s apartments to steal their belongings.
The earthquake and the following repression has also seen the Chilean anarchist movement badly hit. The earthquake and tsunami destroyed a number of anarchist social centres; la Fabrica social centre in Concepcion has been ruined, while the social centre Claudia Lopez in Penco was damaged by the tsunami. The state followed with some wrecking of its own – La Idea squat in Santiago was occupied by special police who arrived under the pretext of “recovering stolen goods”,but who brought along a bulldozer which they used to flatten the building. The Odio Punk Squat in Concepcion was evicted by police. The whereabouts and wellbeing of a number of anarchist prisoners incarcerated in prisons destroyed by the earthquake are unknown.
Trade Unionists Attacked in Chavéz's Venezuela
On 12th March 2010, at 4:45pm local time, the Police attacked a trade union and workers' rights protest in Venezuela arresting a number of workers and trade unionists, anarchists among them.
About 200-300 people gathered in Maracay, Aragua state, from over 30 separate unions and social protest groups, to take a stand for human rights and the return to collective contracts. Before the march moved off, large numbers of police gathered and started blocking off the roads, preventing the march from leaving. Eyewitnesses describe the police presence as “confrontational” and “provocative”. Before the crowd had time to react, several tear gas grenades were detonated and the police started arresting people indiscriminately. It was initially reported that 43 people had been arrested, although that figure was revised down to 27 soon after. Amongst the detained are three members of the human rights organisation, Provea, and an editor of the anarchist newspaper El Libertario.
The mainstream pro-Chavéz media failed to report on the demonstration, attack or arrests, but news quickly spread via independent and online resources such as Twitter. People the world over began sending messages of solidarity to those arrested and ringing the police station where they were being held. Soon the reality of holding three human rights activists in jail began to weigh down on the authorities and the “Public Defender” rang the local police authority to demand their liberation. All were released and all charges dropped.
If there's one thing this event shows it's that however much Chavéz offers lip service to the left wing, he's still as authoritarian as any other ruler, and cannot be trusted. Another thing to take away is that the power of messages of solidarity sent to prisoners, even those overseas, cannot be doubted.
|Resistance April.pdf||1.57 MB|
Full pdf and text of the Anarchist Federation's free paper.
Everything We've Won... They Want It Back
After months of speculation, leaks and scaremongering our new government has finally announced the massive cuts that it intends to make. Nothing is left untouched. Schools, universities, local services, health care and, above all, benefits will all be hacked to pieces one way or another. Talk of 'ringfencing' this or that is so much hot air when you examine the details. Every service that we rely on to make our lives possible is to be hacked back, sold off or 'reformed'. In the last hundred years, the working class won concession after concession from government. The NHS, free education, pensions and benefits – all victories for the working class in the class struggle. Our new government of millionaires, aristocrats and spivs has decided that this cannot stand. Everything we have won, they want back. With interest.
It is obvious by now that the cuts are an attack on the whole working class. Changes to university funding will leave poorer students with crippling debts and make sure that the better universities are only for the wealthy. Housing benefit changes are likely to drive poorer people out of wealthier areas, a consequence already prepared for by many councils who've booked up B&Bs across the south of England. The £7 billion cut to all benefits is likely to drive many onto the streets and blight the lives of those who mange to cling onto substandard housing. Local services like libraries, rubbish collection, youth clubs and so on are likely to disappear as budgets plummet. And all this is before we get to the 490,000 jobs to go in the public sector, with knock-on job losses in the private sector likely to push that to a million.
Plundering the Public Sector
These cuts are not necessary in any way that should matter to the majority of us. This is not about 'saving the economy' but about restoring profitability to the banks and businesses that made the mess in the first place. These cuts are about strip mining the public sector to support a financial sector hungry for 'opportunities'. This is a massive transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor modelled on the structural adjustment programmes imposed on Latin America, Asia and Africa through the last 30 years. This is not 'prudent economics' pulling Britain ‘back from the brink', it's plunder plain and simple.
From Iain Duncan Smith's 'get on the bus' rhetoric to suggestions for factories to be run in prisons, from attacks on health and safety at work to caps on housing benefit everything suggests that this is a government set on turning back the clock. The poor should be punished, the safety net pulled away and fear of unemployment, homelessness and worse should keep people working in fear as their wages plummet and their work gets harder.
Labour, Tory, Same Old Story
Just as the government is turning back the clock, so the loyal opposition in the Labour party and the trade union movement tries to do the same. Already, leftists are calling for the Labour party to do something. The same party that proposed all but £6 billion of the Lib-Dem/Tory cuts, that began the creeping privatisation that the new government will speed up, is expected to lead the fight against both of them. This loyal opposition would have us forget everything they did to make the mess we're in now possible. They would have us believe that this time it will be different, that this time they really are serious about fighting for the working class rather than their own careers.
Just as we should expose and ignore the lies from the government, so we should expose and ignore the lies of the loyal opposition. Labour won't save us. The trade union bureaucracies will posture and posture, but ultimately do nothing. The best they've managed so far is to call for a rally sometime in March – too little, too late. We can't look to any of the generals without armies shouting for our support. If we're going to fight back against these attacks we're going to have to do it ourselves.
The various marches and rallies up and down the country when the spending review was announced were a mixed bag. Some managed to bring new people onto the street, angry but unsure of what to do. Others were a parade of tired cliches from tired party hacks and displays of everything that is wrong with the left. In London, the solidarity with striking firefighters that saw smaller marches but mass pickets was an encouraging sign. In other towns and cities the domination of Labour MPs and the usual lefty suspects was as depressing as it always is.
In France, Spain and Greece, the mass mobilisation of workers in strikes and demonstrations has shown that a real fight back is possible, and it that it can move beyond the boundaries set by the loyal opposition. In this country, it is still unclear how ordinary people will fight back. There are strikes, but they're small and scattered. There are demonstrations, but they're isolated and lacking in confidence. The question that will be answered in the next few months is whether we can build a movement against these cuts that will fight, or whether we end up with a purely symbolic and ultimately pointless resistance like the antiwar movement of 2002/2003. This question will be decided at the local level – in individual workplaces, in community campaigns and in the various coalitions springing up but still unformed across the country. It's a question that we have to answer for ourselves through the work we do over the coming weeks and months.
Time to get busy.
Protesters Occupy Bank in Glasgow
On 21 October, 11 protesters from a group called Citizens United occupied Lloyds TSB Bank in Glasgow to speak out against government spending cuts, with two supporters handing out leaflets outside to passers by. The bank closed itself to customers during the protest, which was broken up by police after half an hour without any arrests, although police stuck around afterward to get details of as many protesters as they could. The protest targeted the bank because of banking’s part in causing the economic crisis, and it included pensioners, students, teachers and nurses, who drew attention to the impact cuts will have on benefits, education and health services.
Even small actions like this one set a good example by demonstrating how easy it is to just show up and make a fuss – you don’t need a big crowd to make a big point if you use direct action and get in the way of established business-as-usual. Protesting isn’t just for students who can be arrested, and it doesn’t have to be organised by trade unions or political parties. In fact, it can have a lot more impact if it isn’t.
While anarchists are unlikely to agree with one of the Citizens United organisers that our economic problems can be solved by raising taxes or that a reduction in police numbers can even be counted as one of the disastrous effects of the cuts, the message of the protest remains simple: stop the cuts! And that message, coupled with direct action, is one that this writer, at least, can support.
On the Frontline: Workplace Roundup
London firefighter strikes are on
Firefighters in London have overwhelmingly voted to take strike action in a dispute over new contracts.
The first strike is scheduled for 23 October, with the second following on 1 November. The strike was backed by 79% of Fire Brigades Union members in a secret ballot, with the outcome announced earlier in the month. As part of a series of provocative measures in the run-up to the announcement of the result, management withdrew fire engines from stations around the capital and handed them over to the private contractors AssetCo.
The changes would equalise the length of day and night shifts. However, the real significance as far as firefighters are concerned is that the new shift pattern would make it much easier to close certain fire stations in the evening. With spending cuts on the way, the London Fire Authority has already been discussing making cuts of 20%-40%, with significant jobs losses. The contract dispute is widely seen as the first stage of the cuts.
Meanwhile, the union-busting chief of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority has threatened to “do a Ronald Reagan” and sack the firefighters who don't sign the new contracts – in his own estimation cutting London's 5,600 firefighters down to 2,000.
Taxi drivers in Rossendale vote to strike
Taxi drivers in Rossendale, Lancashire, have voted for strike action in protest against the council's plans to implement penalties on drivers.
Under the scheme, drivers will be hit with point-based penalties if they break one of 34 rules. Drivers who accrue more than 20 points in a year will have to re-sit their test or have their licence revoked. For example, sounding a horn to announce arrival at an address will result in four points.
The decision was taken at a mass meeting of 150 cabbies. At the time of writing, the taxi drivers have voted to strike within the next fortnight.
Sellafield workers in strike over pay
Workers employed by Babcock, a contractor at Sellafield nuclear plant, struck on 12 and 13 October and held up traffic at the entrance to the site.
The workers, who are members of the Unite union, are owed back pay relating to a promised annual pay rise which never materialised. They have been taking regular strike action and have imposed an overtime ban. They held up traffic at all four entrances to the site leafleting other workers.
Strikes at Swindon Leisure Centres
September saw two strikes at Swindon's leisure centres, parks and car parks after the Tory-run council moved to withdraw shift allowances for compulsory overtime at antisocial hours.
The ballot was organised by Unison, which backed the strikes. The cut represents a significant drop in pay for many workers, resulting in the loss of as much as £300 a month. The strike has led to the closure of car parks and the winding down of leisure centre activities. The hardship fund set up for the strike is reported to have received £1500 in donations so far.
AstraZeneca workers fight on
The strike by workers at AstraZeneca in Macclesfield has continued into October. The dispute began last month after the company, which reported pre-tax profits of £1.8 in the three months to June this year, implemented cuts to staff pensions (whilst Chief Executive David Brennan boosted his pension entitlement to £17,500 a week).
The strike vote saw a 70% backing for action being given by GMB members, with the Macclesfield drug factory seeing the first strike in its history.
A GMB-organised demonstration marched from the AstraZeneca site to Macclesfield town centre on 6 October before returning back to the site, on what was the sixth day of strike action.
London tube workers in 24-hour walkout
The 4th of October saw 11,000 London tube workers stage a 24-hour walkout over Transport for London’s plans to cut over 800 jobs, mainly ticket office staff. Since then, an additional 800 job cuts were announced, which include the sacking of 400 existing workers. The striking workers have also expressed concerns about the safety implications of staff shortages for those using London’s tube network. In response, Mayor Boris Johnson has called on government ministers to bring in new anti-strike laws. Further action has been planned throughout November.
No Police Base on Wanstead Flats!
The Metropolitan Police want to put their 2012 Olympics security base on a site at Wanstead Flats, part of Epping Forest in London’s East End. Local people found out only through a leak to the Evening Standard newspaper. The plans would create a fenced high-security compound with buildings, parking areas, stables & police holding cells, all for a minimum of 3 months, within 100 metres of the residential neighbourhoods of Newham and Redbridge.
Unsurprisingly, these plans have met with dismay and anger from many local people who value the green space and relative peace of the Flats in an area which is crowded, noisy and polluted, with much poverty and deprivation. The ‘Save Wanstead Flats’ campaign was set up in mid-July. The reaction of the authorities has been to go through the motions of a ‘consultation’ process (a touring exhibition with accompanying PR), and attempting a meeting with ‘representatives’ of the opposition (which was sensibly rejected). There has been regular leafleting, the collection of several thousand signatures on petitions, and a well-attended mass picnic on the site where the Corporation of London representative, Paul Thompson, was forced onto the defensive admitting that other sites were looked at, but that the Flats were chosen ‘as the cheapest option’ (at £170,000). He couldn’t reveal what the other sites were because the information was ‘commercially sensitive’.
Epping Forest is protected by the Epping Forest Act of 1878, itself the result of a successful community campaign by commoners to safeguard the area. The authorities are trying to amend the Act through the Legislative Reform Order; campaigners are worried that the Base would be the thin end of the wedge, providing a precedent for future enclosures (‘development’). There have been two packed public meetings where people demonstrated their opposition and gave the police and Corporation of London – the ‘conservators’ (supposed protectors) of the Forest – a hard time. Action East End are supporting the campaign with their participation and through their free paper East End Howler - all donations welcome. For more information, see http://www.savewansteadflats.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
UCL Cleaners Win Wage Struggle
For years London universities have been paying low wages to their cleaners. To date, thanks to pressure from various groups and campaigns, all London universities except University College London have been forced to pay their cleaners above the minimum wage and raise pay to at least the London Living Wage.
UCL authorities resisted this. The president and provost Malcolm Grant is the second-highest-paid university head in Britain, his £404,000 a year exceeding that paid to the heads of both Oxford and Cambridge universities. He insisted paying the cleaners a living wage – that meant a raise from £5.80 an hour to £7.85 an hour – was a “luxury”. UCL is one of the richest universities in Britain. It declared a surplus of £12 million on a budget of £713 million last year and has considerably raised the salaries of academic staff since Grant’s arrival in 2003. Grant’s annual travel expenses alone exceed a cleaner’s annual wage.
The UCL Living Wage Campaign was formed two years ago and is an alliance of cleaners, students, academics, and staff. Under pressure from the campaign, reflected in adverse publicity for UCL and Grant in the London press, the university caved in late this September. A picket put on by the campaign heard that President Grant had capitulated at 1:00am, which was met with jubilation by the 40 or so supporters present. The living wage is meant to be introduced over the next two years.
The Campaign is not disbanding and it will not disband until the London Living Wage is fully implemented at UCL, staff and services are brought back in-house, away from outsourcing, and all low-paid staff are well organised.
The Price of “Security”
On 26 October a number of Glaswegians gathered at Hampden Park, the national football ground, to protest at a conference being held there by G4S security. People from the Unity Centre, an amazing asylum seekers support project in the city, the Anti-Injustice Movement and the Anarchist Federation were there to highlight the recent death of an asylum seeker at the hands of G4S.
Two weeks earlier, 12 October 2010, Jimmy Mubenga was killed as officers from G4S security, a worldwide security firm that incorporates Group 4 and Securicor, attempted to restrain him as he was being forcibly removed from the country following the refusal of his application for refuge in the UK. Passengers heard Jimmy saying he couldn’t breathe as the three thugs held him down. One witness said "The first thing I saw was the stewardesses running forward. One of them was almost in spasms she was shaking that bad … I saw three men trying to pull [Mubenga] down below the seats. All I could see was his head sticking up above the seats and he was hollering out: 'Help me'. He just kept saying 'Help me, help me'. Then he disappeared below the seats. You could see the three security guards sitting on top of him from there. And then it went kind of quiet."
Witnesses began coming forward after seeing Home Office and G4S reports that Jimmy had been taken ill and later died in hospital. They described this report as ‘totally false’.
The barbaric treatment that killed Jimmy Mubenga is all too common in the asylum business. Dehumanised and vilified by the press and used as political football by politicians, asylum seekers are treated like animals simply for the ‘crime’ of being in the UK. Asylum seekers are forced to live on less money than benefits, if they get anything at all, and constantly live in fear of being dragged from their beds and forced onto planes out of the place where they are seeking to build a new life.
The Unity Centre in Glasgow has been on the front line of defending asylum seekers since 2006 and is more than familiar with the disgusting practices of the Home Office and those companies employed by them to carry out their policies. Chris, a volunteer at the centre, said “I think it's important that the G4S themselves get confronted with the reality of consequences of their actions. When talking about enforced removal we always focus on the UK Border Agency, however in this case it was different - the extreme force used by G4S resulted in a man’s death.”
Whether fleeing persecution or simply seeking a better life it makes no difference, workers are workers. We have to stand together whether we are resisting lay-offs at work, defending the services we need in our communities and across the country or fleeing the wars fought over capital that rage around the world. We are workers and that is what unites us. As we face the latest wave of attacks on us by the ruling class we need now more than ever to stand together with our fellow workers no matter where they are from or what their situation is.
On 13 October 2010 hundreds of antimilitarists converged in Brighton for a mass siege of EDO, the arms factory, aimed at closing EDO down for the day. The demonstration did what it said on the tin; the factory was closed down for the day.
The day was marked by police repression in what turned out to be the largest anti-protest operation seen in Brighton (save for party conferences). Police had been drafted in from Hampshire, Surrey, Wales and London. The order of the day was pre-emptive continental-style arrests and kettles, aimed at disempowering and controlling demonstrators; in all, 53 arrests were made and all were released without charge.
As the protest began, over a hundred police officers surrounded the convergence centre and escorted everyone to their 'designated protest area', a pen next to the bottom of Home Farm Road, then made everyone remove face coverings before marching them in a mobile kettle to Wild Park.
On reaching Wild Park, protesters refused to move further and demanded to be allowed to reach the announced meeting point, Wild Park Cafe. After a stand off, police released everyone and allowed them to assemble at the cafe, where rather than be cordoned again, some EDO smashers took to the hills, running into the woods. Others formed a picket at the bottom of Home Farm Road with a sound system and a 12 foot replica F-16.
Later in the day, activists made it to the centre of town to target investors in ITT. A protest was held outside Barclays, and an attempt was made to block the doors. The Royal Bank of Scotland, an investor in ITT, was disrupted by activists who glued themselves to the doors.
If you were arrested at ITT's Hammertime and want support email smashedo @riseup.net. For emotional and trauma support call 07980387900.
Demonstrations Against Army Showroom
The Army have opened a "showroom" in a shopping centre on Kingsland Road, Dalston, in East London. The showroom is home to a virtual battlefield simulator which gives visitors a chance to use their friends as target practice with a replica handgun. Mothers Against Guns spokeswoman Lucy Cope stated that it was grossly insensitive to house the showroom in a borough that has been plagued by gun violence.
The showroom is the first of its kind in the country and the simulator is open to 14-year-olds and over. The British and Russian militaries are the only European militaries that recruit as young as 16. The military plans to open such showrooms across the country. The next one is planned for Croydon.
Antimilitarists have mounted pickets against the showroom. The local Kurdish and Turkish community strongly supported a demonstration organised by the European Confederation of Oppressed Migrants in mid-October and other pickets continue every Wednesday.
Victory for Queen’s Market
St. Modwen Properties have thrown in the towel with their proposed redevelopment of Queen's Market, East London.
St. Modwens was Newham Council’s preferred developer for a regeneration scheme on the site of the 110-year-old traditional London street market. Following a high profile campaign which included the collection of 12,000 signatures to stop the demolition, the anchor supermarket for the development, Asda-Walmart, pulled out in June 2006. This was the Friends of Queen's Market’s first victory.
In May 2009 a multi-million pound planning application was submitted by St. Modwen which included a 31 storey high-rise tower block on the market site with a token amount of social housing. The market was scheduled for demolition and local opinion was deeply suspicious of Newham Council’s claim that St. Modwens would rebuild the market and run it as before. This resulted in sustained grass-roots opposition to the plans from the local community and 2,600 individual letters of objection. Despite this unprecedented response, Newham Council approved the scheme at planning stage. Friends of Queen's Market then turned to the final authority, the Greater London Assembly, where London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, deemed the development ‘inappropriate’ and threw it out - Friends of Queen's Market’s second success.
A year later, St. Modwen and Newham Council have parted company, claiming that they could not agree about a way forward. Pauline Rowe, Secretary of Friends of Queen's Market commented, “We will be asking a ‘Freedom of Information’ question to find out how much taxpayers’ money was wasted on this unwanted scheme.”
Radical free school in Sheffield
The weekend of the 8th-10th October saw the running of a radical free school in Shalesmoor, Sheffield. The weekend opened with a welcome social on the Friday evening complete with a live samba band, and carried on through until Sunday evening.
Workshops throughout the weekend included discussions on radical workplace and community organising, permaculture, anarcha-feminism and online security for activists, as well as big discussions on how to set up a viable anti-capitalist social centre in the city. There were also film showings, information stalls on radical topics and a library. Food and drinks were provided by a local animal rights group throughout the weekend.
The school was well attended with some meetings reaching around 50 people, and the space was busy on all three days with lively discussions. People of all ages came along and workshops included art spaces for kids.
The space played host to a variety of anti-capitalist groups and organisations and was organised by the Sheffield Social Centre Collective. This group is made up of radicals from across the city who aim to establish a permanent space for non-hierarchical, non-discriminatory and anti-capitalist activity in Sheffield. To find out more, see www.sheffieldsocialcentre.org.uk.
Belarussian anarchists face wave of state repression
Since the beginning of September 2010, social activists in Belarus have been facing unprecedented levels of state repression. Following an arson attempt at the Russian Embassy on the night of August 31, activists from different cities (Grodno, Brest, Gomiel, Minsk and Soligorsk) have been subject to ‘talks’, interrogations, house-raids and arrests. Some of them are still detained. Diverse groups of people (from counter-culture and football fans to anti-nuclear and “Food Not Bombs” activists) have been questioned about their communications, cell calls, friendship groups and activities and asked to identify people from photos of underground concerts.
It is no small coincidence that this added pressure has coincided with the announcement of presidential elections in Belarus and the start of the presidential campaign. In fact, the investigation into the incident near the Russian embassy has been quietly dropped over the past month, with the latest arrests and interrogations focused mainly on individuals’ involvement in any form of political activism, lawful or otherwise.
Belarus has previously come under attack for its human rights abuses, harassment of ethnic minorities and the state’s strict control of religious, political and journalistic activity. The state’s use of the far right to intimidate political opponents is well-documented, as is its appalling treatment of political prisoners (an Amnesty International report heavily condemned police treatment of around 100 young, pro-democracy protesters in 2000).
Many of those detained have been done so without charge and refused communication with their friends and families. The police have taken advantage of a legal loop-hole which allows for the arrest of individuals for three days without filing accusation, with the authorities re-arresting activists every three days as suspects on different cases to prolong imprisonment. Already 13 people have spent a total of 153 days under unlawful arrest.
Those arrested have also reported that during the interrogations activists are beaten, threatened with expulsion from school or university and been subjected to intense psychological pressure. All those oppressed are activists and participants of the social, ecological, anti-authoritarian, antifascist and humanitarian initiatives in Belarus. Direct support (money for defence lawyers and letters to arrestees), solidarity actions at Belarusian embassies and consulates and greater publication of this situation is desperately needed.
Please help us to spread this call for solidarity as widely as possible. If you want information on how to help, please email minsksolidarity @riseup.net. For continuing updates visit http://belarus.indymedia.org/blog/minsksolidarity /
France brought to a standstill over pensions dispute
This month has seen France gripped by a series of protests and general strikes, with millions of people across up to 100 cities taking to the streets to protest the raising of the retirement age from 60 to 62. The strike has involved many sectors including transport, education and infrastructure. Opposition has come from both older workers who face having to work for longer and young people who see this as another nail in the coffin for their future prospects.
Following strike action by lorry drivers and refinery workers, transport has been greatly affected. Some airports have seen up to 50% both incoming and outgoing flights grounded, rail services have been affected and up to a third of the country’s petrol stations have been affected by fuel shortages. Schools and lycées have also played a big part in the unrest. In the south-western town of Ales, pupils from one school erected barricades around the building and then marched to other nearby schools, which culminated in a march of 4,000 in the town centre. One primary school class near Montpellier was occupied by parents who gave the lessons themselves. Truck drivers, dockers and refinery workers have also joined the strike, causing widespread fuel shortages and travel disruption.
The current situation in France could go the same way as the country’s general strike in 1995, which only ended once the government relented and dropped its plans for reform. In the context of the increasing austerity measures being put in place across Europe, the series of strikes in France is not merely about pensions but the conditions of life itself. The extent of these cuts will perhaps only be matched by the resistance to them.
Full text and PDF of the Anarchist Federation's free paper. Contents include the growing student movement in the UK, resisting the cuts, struggles of asylum seekers in Glasgow, and the bastard of the year awards!
The spark: comments on the emerging student movement
“This is only the beginning”. This has been the almost universal message from students who have been engaging in and pushing for more direct action in the first signs, in what we hope, will be a growing movement against austerity cuts. The signs so far have been encouraging. Actions like that taken at Millbank Tower indicate a certain escalation of resistance when it comes to general opinion of the plans of the Con-Dem government. On the ground there has also been much to praise. Students are very much taking the struggle against fees and cuts into their own hands. The movement has not been fazed by the repeated condemnations of union leaders like Aaron Porter. There is also a real sense that this is a movement in it for the long-term, real constructive work is happening at the grassroots level at many places to attempt to broaden out the movement to those outside education. The efforts towards solidarity and support for those already victimised are admirable. The widespread re-hosting of the FITwatch advice to Millbank rioters after the Met asked the hosting company to shut it down is just one example of what we can achieve when we stick together. New technologies also seem to be playing a part in developing the autonomous and self-directed qualities of the movement. While Sky News, and later the Daily Telegraph, was to place great emphasis on the Anarchist Federation and London Solidarity Federation call for a “direct action bloc” on the 10th November, and later attempting to identify “key organisers” the truth is that actions have been far more spontaneous and decentralised than this. Social Networking sites like Facebook have seen a proliferation of calls for action and organising groups coming from across the movement. Of course, these technologies also present problems as well, for example, protecting anonymity.
The great claim of the Con-Dem government has been that we are “All in this together” when it comes to the financial crisis. Of course, such an argument disguises the real interests (and wealth) politicians are serving when it comes to the cuts. However, there is a sentiment in this phrase that we should take on board. The recent media coverage has been keen not to highlight this fact, but the current struggle we are engaging is not only one that effects various sections of the British working class but it is an international struggle also. Too often cuts campaigns have slipped into nationalistic language over the need to protect the British welfare system or how valuable graduates are to the British economy. These arguments need to be challenged. Students in Britain found themselves as inspired by the actions of the Irish students as much as the Italian students were undoubtedly inspired by us in their recent protests. The cuts cannot be seen as measures taken by this or that government, they are linked to an international system (and with that an international class) who benefit globally from its implementation. At a time when governments are increasingly attempting to shore up their own economic security, often at the expense or in competition with other economies, it becomes imperative that we re-state our position within an international movement.
The recent wave of direct action bares resemblance to Greece in December 2008 (and France before that) not only in terms of the tactics used, but in terms of the actors involved. Once more it is young students and precarious workers at the head of the struggle. There are obvious reasons for this. As Mike Davis recently commented,
“My “baby-boom” cohort bequeaths to its children a broken world economy, stupefying extremes of social inequality, brutal wars on the imperial frontiers, and an out of control planetary climate.”
This is a generational conflict as much as it is a social and economic one. This also points to, as was also the case in Greece, to further limitations that need to be tackled. Direct action has largely been confined to the street and not, except in the case of the student walk-outs, to the workplace. Action needs to be pushed in this direction if the movement is to deepen and broaden. This not only means bringing in other workers, but seriously putting forward the prospect of workplace action in our campaigns. Of course this is not going to be easy. Many of the emerging cut campaigns are dominated by trade union bureaucrats who clearly have an interest in keeping a strangle-hold on prospects for industrial action. Where workers are involved already they are often precarious and there is little in terms of existing workplace organisation to rely upon. This means we perhaps need to be a bit more creative about how we spread our message. Recent calls for anti-cuts actions, developing from the students, that aim to involve all workers and claimants are a positive step forward. We all have an interest in sticking together when it comes to fighting the austerity programme. Only then can we can start to put forward serious alternatives to the kind of society we have now where public goods are tailored to the interests of the wealthy few.
The Resistance Begins
30th October: Across the UK protesters blockade and occupy Vodafone stores in response to news that the company has been let off an unpaid tax bill of £6bn. Four shops in Central London are forced to close along with shops in Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hastings, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford and York.
3rd November: 40,000 Irish students take to the streets of Dublin fighting the government over fees and cuts. Protesters occupy the Department of Finance building while the gardai are heavily criticised for their violent reaction to the protests (beating one student unconscious).
10th November: over 50,000 students and education workers protest in London over cuts in further education and the rise in tuition fees. A significant section of the march occupies the Conservative campaign headquarters at Millbank Tower. There is widespread destruction of property as well as scuffles with the police.
11th November: Students at the University of Manchester occupy the university’s Finance Office.
17th November: Greece sees its largest Polytechnic uprising commemorative demonstration in more than a decade (30,000 according to the police, around double in real numbers) with protesters clashing with the police.
20th November: SOAS students stage a sit-in occupation of the SOAS building refusing to leave until their demands regarding the reduction of tuition fees are met.
24th November: Second day of action against cuts to further education in the UK. Across the country many school students walk out and join protests and occupations. There are large, militant protests in Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool (amongst other places). In London the Metropolitan police “kettle” a demonstration in Whitehall for five hours allowing people no access to food or water and using mounted police to charge the crowds. School students as young as 12 are trapped behind police lines. Across the country students stage occupations in lecture theatres, libraries and administrative buildings. Actions are reported in Sussex, Birmingham, Warwick, Glasgow, Strathclyde, Newcastle, Cardiff, Brighton, Leeds and Sheffield (as well as others).
25th November: Italian students storm Pisa Tower and the Roman Colosseum, block roads and railways and occupy the Senate building in Rome in protest against university reform planned by Silvio Berlusconi’s government.
27th November: One of the largest demonstrations in the Irish Republic’s history brings more than 100,000 people on to the streets of Dublin to protest over the austerity conditions set for an international bailout. During the protest fireworks are thrown at gardai outside the gates of the Dail as protesters shout: "Burn it down, burn it down."
30th November: Demonstrations are held across the UK, with college and university students being joined by school pupils. Occupations take place in at least 20 universities across the country.
Students and Education Workers rally in Clegg’s hometown
University students, school students and education workers rallied across Sheffield on Wednesday 24th November in opposition to cuts in higher education. Sheffield Council had briefed all local schools to instruct pupils to not attend the protest, so attendance was initially expected to be limited to FE students and workers (Sheffield University had been one of the largest northern contingents on the London demonstrations with many participating in the Millbank riots). However, around midday it became clear that the school students had defied their teachers en masse and opted to walk out and join the demonstration. More than 2,000 people marched to the city centre, in a vibrant demonstration and followed by an unsuccessful attempt to occupy the Town Hall. University students also rallied around sixty to a hundred people from this demonstration and occupied lecture halls on the Sheffield University campus. This was in spite of a heavy police and security presence both in the city centre and on campus.
The occupation formulated demands against not only the cuts in education, but all areas of the social welfare currently under attack, expressed solidarity with the local UCU branch (who look set to ballot for industrial action), those victimised since Millbank and for the university management to address a number of local issues including the casualisation of its young teaching staff. Messages of support and solidarity were received from across the world, in many cases from former Sheffield students, and an impromptu demonstration of trade unionists in support of the occupation occurred following a local anti-cuts meeting. The occupation was abruptly ended within 24-hours when security staff, after trying and failing to prevent an additional twenty people entering the occupied space, pulled the fire alarm. A short sit-in outside the Vice Chancellor’s office followed the evacuation of the building. However despite this local activists remain optimistic about the prospects for further action.
As this issue goes to print the occupation group has already called a march on Clegg’s constituency office, as well as committing to further occupations in the future. The level of co-ordination occurring locally is also very encouraging. Many FE workers and students are branching out to school students and other anti-cuts campaigns (something made all the more pressing by recent news that a school girl from a local Catholic school had been excluded for participating in the demonstrations). This is while still organising in a non-hierarchical fashion and avoiding the dominance of the Labour Party and trade union bureaucrats, who clearly aim to use anti-cuts campaigns to their own ends, that has occurred in many other campaigns.
Oxford Fighting Back Against Education Cuts
On 28th October, over 1000 students and workers from Oxford marched through the city centre, breaking police lines, to protest Vince Cable’s planned visit to Oxford and the massive spending cuts to education which his party are helping impose.
These cuts, proposed by the recent Browne review, will make universities increasingly elitist, with only the rich able to attend; tuition fees are set to triple. Students – who already find it difficult to find work after university (over 10% are unemployed after 6 months after university) – will be even more crippled with debt. The cuts are likely to result in education workers (from academics to cleaners) being sacked, and students being given less time with tutors and lecturers.
But the movement to resist these cuts is developing.
An independent group of students and education workers from Oxford University and Oxford Brookes – the “Oxford Education Campaign” – organised meetings with hundreds of people, to plan action against the cuts.
At very short notice, a demo against Vince Cable’s visit was called, and after just a couple of days over 1000 people were expected to attend. Vince Cable, apparently under the advice of the police, decided to cancel his visit, presumably fearing for his reputation and safety. But the protest went ahead as planned.
After a routine march, the prospect of several hours of static chanting and listening to speeches failed to appeal, so a group of more militant students broke through a police line onto the High Street. About 20 minutes later, fed up with speakers telling everybody to sit down and listen, sections of the crowd again decided to break out. This time everybody joined in.
A tense stand-off followed, with the police blocking protesters’ path onto Cornmarket. Eventually the crowd pushed past the police, and the feelings of empowerment were plain to see. People not on the march expressed their support; some even joined in! However, the police formed another line at the end of Cornmarket, and used considerable violence, pushing many people to the floor. This wasn’t enough to put off the protestrs, though, and they managed to push through this line too, onto the High Street. There was some talk of occupying the Exam Schools, but all entrances had been locked. This more confrontational approach to demonstrating inspired many and shows that students and education workers are not going to take these cuts lying down.
The campaign has also put on a successful ‘Free University’ event, which had close to 100 people attending a range of workshops put on by students, including for example one on ‘Cable, Millbank and the resistance to come’.
Nick Clegg was due to come and speak in Oxford on the 17th of November. However, shortly after this protest, he pulled out as well – citing a ‘scheduling clash’!
Protesters occupy Oxford library
In Oxford, 500 people gathered on Cornmarket to protest against cuts to education, and ended up occupying the famous Bodleian Library for over 24 hours. School students from various local schools and colleges were joined by students from Oxford University, Oxford Brookes and Ruskin College.
A lively demonstration quickly made it to the Radcliffe Camera - home to the iconic Bodleian Library, which has a copy of every published book. Over 300 people clambered over bikes to climb over the iron fence guarding the Bodleian. Police and security guards realised it was futile to try and stop the surge into the library. People studying in the library were asked to leave or go upstairs, which occupiers ensured remained a quiet space and encouraged anybody, not just students, to use it. After the first few minutes of celebration and dancing to a sound-system, a mass meeting was held to decide on what to do. Hundreds of students - many of whom were school students (some as young as 14) who had never been on a protest before - took part, and decisions were made by consensus throughout the occupation.
A statement was written and decided on by all, opposing all cuts, calling for free education and urging "solidarity with those who are affected by the cuts, and those who are resisting them."
The occupiers held teach-ins, on subjects ranging from anarchism to making better chants. The atmosphere throughout was positive and defiant. Conversations on the significance of occupying the Radcliffe Camera emerged, and occupiers claimed that it represented a monopolisation of knowledge by the privileged (only Oxford University students and a very small number of others have access to it), symbolising the privatization of education workers and students are resisting. People discussed whether to make radical or more realistic demands - or if there was any need for demands - with some even calling for joint student-worker control of universities.
Despite occupiers' best wishes and efforts, the university management and police did not let people into the library to study - and then claimed that it was the occupiers preventing students' study! There was constant security and police presence guarding the main entrance, but overnight a dozen people managed to break through and join the occupation. Food and other supplies were thrown through windows by supporters. People ranging from local school students and university lecturers to workers at the local BMW factory issued inspiring messages of support. One poem from a lecturer called for students to "rebel, revolt, resist".
On the second afternoon of occupation, cops came through an underground tunnel and used a battering ram to smash through a door into the library. This smashing of the door is in contrast to the peaceful occupation which caused no criminal damage. At first the occupiers refused to go, linking arms, but after police - without provocation - assaulted one person, forcing him to the ground, the cops grabbed and escorted occupiers out one-by-one, searching them all. However no arrests were made, and a trade-union called demo coincided with the eviction, and so spirits were high as the occupiers left. A statement from occupiers after the eviction insisted that "This IS only the beginning."
Solidarity with asylum seekers in Glasgow
On Guy Fawkes night something explosive dropped through the letter boxes of around 600 families in Glasgow. It was a letter from the UK Border Agency explaining that the families would have to move to alternative accommodation in ‘the Scotland region’. Having failed to agree on costs, a 10-year contract with Glasgow City Council to provide housing to asylum seekers was terminated. If the family doesn’t want to move? Well tough luck, ‘continued support’ is dependent on the move. So what happens next? A date and time for the move will be provided to the family ‘where possible’ with 3-5 days notice so that there is ‘time to get ready’. Oh, and luggage should be restricted to two pieces per person.
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the City Chambers in George Square to demonstrate against the forced displacement of the asylum seekers. The mass removal will mean uprooting people from communities where they have lived for years, pulling children out of schools, as well as breaking links with support networks that have been developed. Not to mention the effect this will have on application to remain in the country that can be dependent on providing evidence of being ‘integrated’ in a community.
Over 400 people also staged a symbolic bonfire where of Border Agency letters were put in a metal bin and burned outside the Immigration Reporting Centre. MSPs, including First Minister, Alex Salmond, has condemned the move “in the strongest possible terms”. But when, Salmond pressed for no child detentions in Dungavel, Scotland, children were instead detained in England. When Nick Clegg branded the detention of children as ‘state sponsored cruelty’ and announced this closure of Yarl’s Wood, the Border Agency continued the detentions.
Solidarity between asylum seekers, from others staying in Glasgow, and support from groups like the Unity Centre, has shown before with dawn raids, and with forced deportations, that the Border Agency can be beaten. The Unity Centre offers friendly, practical solidarity and mutual aid to all asylum seekers and refugees. £100 will help us keep the centre open for a week and help stop two families being detained and forcibly removed from the UK. Please consider helping this work to continue by sending a cheque made out to ‘The Unity Centre’ to 30 Ibrox Street, Glasgow, G51 1AQ.
Angry crowd halts Lewisham council meeting
An angry crowd brought proceedings to a standstill at Lewisham Town Hall on November 22nd as Mayor Steve Bullock presented the first round of cuts to public services to be made in the borough. Around 100 people of all ages and backgrounds gathered outside the Town Hall. Impassioned speeches were heard as Lewisham residents demanded No Ifs, No Buts, No Lewisham Cuts. The protesters then moved inside where some people were admitted to the meetings but around 40 people were refused access by security. Chants rang out again from both inside and outside the meeting until eventually the door was opened and the last remaining protesters entered the room to join the noisy crowd inside. Bullock had several tantrums before halting the meeting all together. Police were called, a large security presence entered the room and the meeting was reconvened about fifteen minutes later. This allowed petitions containing the names of around 20,000 people to be presented to the Councillors demanding that Lewisham Libraries stay open. A Lib Dem and Labour councillor were effectively drowned out in the noise as people banged on the walls chanting Shame On You and No Tory Cuts. When Bullock spoke, chants of Cut Your Wages appeared to leave him visibly shaken. Another demonstration was planned when councillors were to meet on September 29th to vote on cuts.
On the Frontline: Workplace roundup
General strike in Portugal
Last Wednesday saw Portugal largely paralysed by a 24-hour general strike protesting the government’s austerity policies. Unions hailed the action as a massive success. The national strike is Portugal’s first since 2007, and the first called jointly by the two big trade union confederations, CGTP and UGT, in 22 years.
Incoming and outgoing flights were cancelled in Lisbon, Porto, Faro and the Azores islands and in neighbouring Spain, 41 of the 53 flights between Spain and Portugal were cancelled. Most counters were closed at Lisbon airport.
According to rail operator CP, more than 70% of scheduled train connections were cancelled in the morning. Most Lisbon buses did not circulate, and ferries did not operate on the River Tagus in the morning. The Lisbon underground remained closed, and 90% of Porto underground engine drivers had reportedly joined the strike.
Ports remained closed, rubbish collection and postal services came to an almost complete halt in many places, while many hospitals and health centres were only offering minimum services, according to union sources. Several large factories in the car and shipbuilding sectors reportedly came to a standstill.
Meanwhile, the police denied union accusations that they had violently dispersed post office pickets in the capital.
Postal walkout in Winnipeg
A number of Canada Post employees in Winnipeg walked off the job Monday to protest a change in the mail sorting procedure. Canada Post's website says the corporation is undergoing a "postal transformation," with Winnipeg being the first location where new sorting equipment and delivery methods are being rolled out before the changes are implemented across the country.
The new automated way results in postal carriers having to carry three bags along their routes. Under the old sorting method, done by hand, carriers ended up with two bundles because the sorters were able to combine flyers with mail destined for each house.
A man who was sorting the mail the old way on Monday at the Wilkes Avenue facility was suspended, according to Bob Tyre, head of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers' Winnipeg local.
That prompted 40 other employees at the facility to walk out in solidarity.
"They [Canada Post] suspended him on the spot. And the other carriers decided that that was the line in the sand and they left, too," Tyre said.
Carrying the three bags "makes walking treacherous [and is] hard on their necks and their backs," he said, adding "there's been a skyrocketing increase in injuries."
"And [the carriers] have tried to, and the union has as well, talk to Canada Post about the delivery method, how it's causing injuries and it's not safe and it slows the delivery down on the streets, so they're all working overtime. They've been working that way now for about six weeks.
"And they've gotten nowhere with Canada Post so they just decided that they can't work that way and they went home."
Spanish air traffic controllers on strike
Spanish air traffic controllers went on strike last month in protest over the ridiculous working conditions they face. The strike made the news worldwide as flights in and out of Spain were grounded. A typical media backlash ensued which makes one wonder if journalists are happy to fly in a situation where the people responsible for their safety work 22+ hours a week?
"Before I was working 140 hours a month and I've never done overtime. Do you think it makes me happy to work like an animal? I don't give a toss about the money, I need some time to sleep, to go out, to see my family. Working 200 hours a month you can only work and sleep, and sleep's out of the question with the shifts. That's the life of a worm and it doesn't interest me. In fact if this doesn't change I'm inclined to leave the job."
The Spanish government eventually brought in the military to break the strike threatening strikers with arrest if they did not return to work, a tactic not employed in Spain since the fascist dictatorship of General Franco.
Recession: Winners and Losers
Tory toff Lord Young of Graffham last month declared over lunch with the Daily Telegraph at Roux’s (three courses for £55 plus wine) that most people had ‘never had it so good’. Resistance’s expenses don’t quite stretch to Roux’s unfortunately (main courses include ‘John Dory fillet, caramelised chicory, spiced polenta and orange’ and ‘violet artichoke barigoule, broad bean tortellini, piquillo pepper and kalamata olive’) so over a cup of tea in our local caf’ (total cost 60 pence) we thought we’d put Lord Young’s claim to the test and see who the winners and losers in this recession actually are.
Losers weren’t hard to find. How about the 500,000 public sector workers who will lose their jobs? Or the 500,000 private sector workers whose jobs will also go as the government’s £81 billion of cuts start hitting? Then there are the students who will have to pay up to £9000 a year to go to university (plus living costs). They may be the lucky ones. One in five 16-24 year olds are currently unemployed and the numbers are rising. The old do not do any better. A pensioner with £10,000 savings will have seen the interest they receive fall by as much as 80 per cent since 2007. People in work are also losing out. Most are facing pay freezes. Prices though are rising and taxes are going up. Workloads are also increasing to cover for those jobs which are being cut. This means workers are actually experiencing pay cuts.
People who are lucky enough to own a house have seen its price fall by 14 per cent in recent years. Anyone using a public service is going to be a loser. Three-quarters of public libraries in London are threatened with closure – the figure is similar across the country. The NHS has to find over £20 billion of savings – a fifth of its budget. Some areas have already stopped providing services like IVF. Legal aid has been slashed. Spending on social housing is plummeting. The list goes on and on and on.
What about winners then? We searched high and low and we found some. Well, two to be precise. First there are the wonderful people who got us into this mess – the bankers. Unlike the health, education, construction, council and care workers facing the axe this lot did actually screw up, big time. But in their case the state stepped in and bailed them out to the tune of £850,000,000,000. And then there are Lansdowne Partners – a hedge fund who made £100 million from the collapse of Northern Rock. Oh and I guess you could include Lord Young. He got a nice meal and one can safely assume will not be worrying too much about his heating bills this winter, unlike most pensioners.
Time to Care, Not Cut - Save the NHS!
The Con-Dem government claims in the current round of savage public sector spending cuts the NHS is a ‘winner’. They claim that they are sticking to their election pledges and increasing spending on the NHS. This is a lie. The NHS is under real threat. In a recent article that well known leftie newspaper The Financial Times set out the huge cuts that are being made to health care:
The NHS will get a paltry 0.1% rise in funding. This won’t be enough to pay for the rising cost of medicines let alone other pressures on services.
£1 billion a year is being taken out of the health budget and moved into social care.
The NHS has to make a massive £20 billion of efficiency savings. That’s a quarter of the health services whole budget. ‘Efficiency savings’ of course in reality means cuts – longer waiting lists, poorer quality care and fewer doctors and nurses. The nurses union, the RCN, has already identified 27,000 jobs that are currently at risk. More redundancies will come. In fact The Financial Times reckons these will cost at least £900 million.
The NHS faces an increase in its tax bill to the tune of £300 million.
Both workers and patients will be the losers. NHS staff have been told that their pay will be frozen and worse is to come. The government wants to try to get local hospitals to set their own pay – something even Margaret Thatcher abandoned! The government has dropped waiting list targets. Before the election patients with a serious illness had the right to be treated within 18-weeks from seeing their doctor. That has now gone. Worse still the responsibility for commissioning services is going to be given to GPs who will be able to buy in private sector treatment and decide locally what services are provided. This will lead to a post code lottery with patients in one area being able to access services like IVF but not those in another area. The government believes that competition will improve health care. It won’t.
Sabotage at Work: Behind Enemy Lines
The term sabotage derives from French factory workers throwing their wooden shoes ("sabots") into machinery to stop production. Individuals and groups of workers such as the Luddites and Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have used sabotage as direct action against working conditions. This piece is the first in a series on the history and practice of sabotage in the workplace.
“Sabotage in a Food Factory: an Account of Open Sabotage” by Patrick
I worked in a food production factory. I stood at the end of a conveyor belt where boxes with a dozen bottles came whizzing down to me, about one per second. I would stack them on pallets and the forklift driver would take them away. Occasionally, when we got a major shipment of boxes with plastic bottles for the front end of the assembly line, the foreman would take me and a few others off the line and send us upstairs to the old storeroom.
One day we were called to unload a major shipment. The boxes were coming at us at an alarming rate. Two co-workers and I were running like fools, arms stretched wide, grasping these boxes. It was sweltering hot up in the attic storeroom in this old factory. We were sweating and running with these boxes. The conveyor belt was crammed with boxes. The foreman, a despicable Marine sergeant type, sat on a stack of boxes and picked his teeth, chiding us to go faster.
There was no let-up in boxes, and with sweat dripping into our eyes and cardboard dust irritating our skin, the three of us exploded into open revolt. Tim punched a box off the conveyor belt, and in a matter of seconds, we were punching them all off the belt, one after the other in a wild, deliriously happy frenzy. We ran to the stacks of boxes and started pulling them down with a crash onto the floor. The foreman was grabbing at our arms, trying to stop us, hollering as loud as he could over the din of the boxes and conveyor motor.
Finally we stopped. The foreman told us to go home, to take the day off. The next day we came to work as if nothing had happened. I took my place on the line. The boxes came whizzing down to me, about one per second...
Thanks to libcom.org for the extracts from “Sabotage in the American
Workplace” by Martin Sprouse.
Please send your own experiences of sabotage at work to Resistance at:
Bastard of the Year awards
Politician Bastard of the Year:
Iain Duncan Smith. For effectively introducing slave labour for jobseekers, forcing them to do 30 hours per week of unpaid work or face having their benefits stopped for up to three years. Bastard of the highest order.
Police Bastard of the Year:
PC Simon Harwood. For contributing towards Ian Tomlinson’s death and getting away with it.
Sycophant of the Year:
Aaron Porter. For condemning the occupation of Millbank Tower during student protests in London, claiming that the demonstration had been hijacked by ‘a very small minority of violent protesters’ and for generally being a crap, ineffectual lackey of the establishment.
The entirety of the Labour party, for pretending they weren’t planning to do exactly the same things as the Coalition government.
Hero of the Year:
Nick Clegg. For shattering an entire generation’s illusions of parliamentary politics as a means for positive change.
|resistance Dec-Jan reading.pdf||2.72 MB|
Full pdf and text of the Anarchist Federation's free paper.
Tunisians Tumble Tyrant
THE UNREST in Tunisia which toppled the government of Ben Ali has acted as a spark throughout the Arabic-speaking world, and is echoed in Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. It was ironic to see both the British government and Col. Gadaffi uniting to condemn “violent protestors” in Tunisia.
The unrest was sparked by the suicide of a 26 year old university graduate on December 18, who doused himself with petrol and set himself alight in the city of Sidi Bouzid, later dying in hospital. His act highlighted the situation facing many young people in Tunisia. Unable to find work, he had sold vegetables on the street illegally. When these were confiscated by the police, this was the last straw.
Unemployment is as high as 25% in Tunisia, with high inflation in the cost of essential goods, and massive corruption in the government. There has been little visible sign of discontent up to now, with few demonstrations or strikes. A previous wave of strikes and demonstrations in Gafsa in the south west in 2008 was met with severe and brutal repression, with many murdered and imprisoned. The suicide ignited protests throughout Tunisia with riots in Sidi Bouzid itself and battles with the hated police. This was followed on 21 December by riots in Menzel Bouzaiene, in central Tunisia. At least one demonstrator was shot dead by the police and molotovs were thrown at cops using guns and teargas. Three days later demonstrators succeeded in burning down the offices of the ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally party and a national guard post in the town, as well as destroying three police cars and a railway locomotive. Two demonstrators died in the fighting. Protests then spread to the capital of Tunis on the following day. Demonstrations there increased in size and then faced a police attack, supervised by the Minister of the Interior in person. Demonstrations continued in Tunis despite this. On 28 December a demonstration organised by the trade unions in Gafsa was attacked by the cops, followed by police attacks in following days on demonstrations in Monastir, Sbikha and Chebba. On 31 December police fired on a demonstration, injuring many and killing one young man.
By 3 January demonstrations had spread to Tela, Sfax, and Om Laarais.
On the cyber front, hackers took down several government websites, apparently in response to repression of attempts to report on the strikes and demonstrations. Demonstrations now spread to Thala 250km west of Tunis with the police besieging four main colleges in the town on 4 January. The momentum increased in the student movement with an education strike in the port city of Sfax. Police repression increased with the use of rubber bullets and teargas. On 8 January the cops murdered six demonstrators in Tala, close by the Algerian border. More riots erupted in the Regueb, Thala and Kasserine areas, with police killing 35 people, followed by the murder of two more demonstrators in Miknassi on 9 January.
A general strike broke out in Sfax on 12 January with large demonstrations there. The government declared a state of emergency on 14 January and banned meetings of more than three. Tens of thousands now came out onto the streets in Tunis, and the regime began to panic. Ben Ali promised elections within three months, then lost his nerve completely and fled to Saudi Arabia whereupon his prime minister took over.
Rotherham Resistance Against Cuts to Youth Services and Education
WITH THE YOUNG facing some of the most damaging effects of the austerity measures, Connexions youth service opened new offices in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, last October to help people aged 13 to 19 find work or training. However, as part of the council’s service review, cuts to youth services are expected, with one in three personal advisers in Connexions facing the possibility of losing their jobs. Hundreds of signatures have already been collected on a petition against cutting funding for youth services.
On 6 January, after a protest organised by users of seven local youth clubs, two youth centres in Rotherham were occupied. Inspired by the student occupations, some 40 people aged between 11 and 15 occupied Dalton Youth Centre, whilst another group occupied the Bramley Youth Centre. During the three hours of sit-ins, students - who recently occupied Sheffield University against the rise in tuition fees and against all cuts to public services and welfare - visited to show their solidarity.
Local trade unionists are building a campaign, and the centres’ users are organising a Save Our Service group through Facebook and Twitter. Their demands are to keep the centres open and stop job cuts among youth service workers. Andrew, aged 19, said, “It's the bankers that messed up and our generation that gets the cuts. It's not fair. We need the service because a lot of young people would not have been able to go as far as they have in education without it.”
Meanwhile, teachers at a Rotherham secondary school saved three jobs after striking for three days in January. They pledged to continue their fight as a total of 30 jobs remain threatened with more strikes planned. Support for action grew as 12 members of the NASUWT union joined the NUT so they could take part in the strike.
Heinz Meanz No Beanz as Workers Strike Again
THE HEINZ factory in Kitt Green of Wigan is Europe’s biggest food manufacturing plant. Here, over 1,000 workers rejected an improved pay offer and struck for their fourth 24-hour period. The company has already increased its offer after the first three strikes over the Christmas holidays. Despite this, the workers are not willing to accept a cap on pay increases when the RPI (Retail Price Index) for next year is unknown. Heinz workers on the pickets welcomed others showing solidarity, including students from Manchester University.
Management have been using the ‘tough economic climate’ as an excuse to hold down the workers’ wages despite good performance; people “eat more beans on toast when faced with less money in their pockets”. In reality, Heinz has been trying to get more productivity out of the workers in recent years. But due to the militancy of the workers, conditions have been defended from attacks since the 1980s. This was the case in 2007 – a year in which the company made £135 million – when over 1,000 workers staged a 24-hour wildcat strike in protest over another unsatisfactory offer. On that occasion the workers walked out against the advice of the union official. It is this sort of militancy that is key in scaring the bosses into concessions.
Borrowed from a report by Alfred Stevens of Communist Students which can be read at Libcom.org.
Parents and Argyll Locals Beat Back School Closures
Parents and concerned locals in Argyll and Bute Council in western Scotland have forced the council to withdraw its proposals to close 26 of the council’s 74 primary schools. The council’s now infamous “dodgy dossier” of supporting evidence contained large amounts of misinformation, and parents and rural communities threatened with the loss of their children’s local school and meeting place responded angrily. Protests were organised at council offices in Lochgilphead and on the street in Oban. The Argyll Rural Schools Network was formed to oppose the cuts, and parents from different schools started protesting and debating together. When every resident on the small island of Luing signed a petition against the closure of its only school, they were taken off the list of closures. Importantly, though, communities didn’t close ranks and try to convince the council to close other schools. They presented a united front against the closures altogether and have forced the council to back down, at least for a while. The council is now planning on presenting a new proposal in March, so Argyll is not out of hot water yet, but we hope residents will be able to build on their success.
From an anarchist point of view, strong community support and unity in rural areas is encouraging. People are consistently exposing the fallacies in the council’s “we have no choice” rhetoric and refusing to surrender their public buildings. Where trade unions like the Educational Institute of Scotland are silent in the face of the teacher job losses that would inevitably result from such a massive plan of school closures, small communities are taking over the important work of fighting back. Cities don’t have a monopoly on resistance!
Jobcentre Staff Sign Off Work
THOUSANDS of workers at Jobcentre Plus in Newport, Bristol, Norwich, Sheffield, Chorlton, Makerfield and Glasgow took strike action in January. According to the PCS union, 85% of its members at the seven sites took action on the first day of the 48-hour stoppage. The Jobcentre workers have been forcibly transferred from benefit processing into contact centres and are angry that the high level of calls enforced by management means that the quality of service received by claimants is inadequate. PCS Department for Work and Pensions Group vice president, Katrine Williams, explains that “Customer service is constantly being quoted at us as the reason for the reorganisation but as experienced benefit processors we can clearly see ways that our jobs could be improved by being able to resolve more on the phone and straightaway with the public.“ Instead, more is done remotely rather than face-to-face, with calls being pushed on to workers in benefit processing. In turn, this means they are then prevented from dealing with the issues of the claimants, who now have to wait for hours for a call-back from the busy processing teams. If Jobcentre Plus workers spend too long on the phone and don’t conform to the rigidly tight call time targets, they can potentially be disciplined for inefficiency. Whilst 70% voted for strike action in November, negotiations were started up again over Christmas and New Year, but broke down when it became clear that management have respect for neither workers nor claimants.
As Jobcentre Plus workers are standing up against being constantly monitored every minute of the day, claimants are planning a national day of protest against benefits cuts. The focus of the protests will be Atos Origin, the company responsible for the punitive medical testing of disability and sickness benefits. Atos Origin have just been awarded a £300 million contract by the Con-Dem Government to continue carrying out 'work capability assessments'. It is claimed assessments are to test what people can do rather than what they can’t. However, this testing system has already led to people with terminal illnesses and severe medical conditions being declared fit for work and having benefits cut. Protests across the country are already confirmed and it is clear that both workers and claimants are not willing to accept the proposed ‘restructuring’ (i.e. cuts) of our public services.
Crackdown on West Oxfordshire Youth Crime
WEST Oxfordshire’s most senior police officer has warned youth centre cuts will see more youngsters getting into “mischief”. This follows the questioning of supposed protest ringleader and self-described “maths geek”, Nicky Wishart. Oxfordshire County Council are proposing cuts that include the closures of 21 youth centres, including Bampton, Burford, Carterton, Chipping Norton, Eynsham and Standlake. Not everybody seems to agree with the possible closures; Adrian Coomber, deputy mayor of Carterton, warned youths will be “at risk of getting into trouble” once these centres are gone. But according to the council, children must come to realise the apparent ‘sacrifices’ we all must make to clear the deficit.
Fearful of a planned protest against the closure of Eynsham Youth Centre, Thames Valley Police swiftly moved to question 12 year old Nicky Wishart. Wishart was picked up for questioning at Bartholomew School over his plans for an organised protest outside David Cameron’s constituency office. Wishart and his 14 year old friend were caught by the assiduous work of anti-terrorist police who saw details of the protest on Facebook. Police now claim they are sorry for interrogating the schoolboy. Chief inspector Jack Malhi, Thames Valley police's local area commander for West Oxfordshire, said: "With the benefit of hindsight, it would have been far more appropriate to have made the inquiries from Nicky in the presence of his mother."
Branding him the ‘organiser’ of the event, police threatened Wishart with arrest should anything happen. But the protest went ahead regardless, with 130 angry youths taking part. Our friends in the Solidarity Federation joined a subsequent march in Witney, Oxfordshire, constituency of Prime Minister David Cameron. The march, against postal privatisation and austerity cuts, was organised by the CWU (Communication Worker's Union). Reports indicate that somewhere between 500 and 1000 people took part in the demonstration. After the “decidedly cool reception” given to a leading Labour Party member, 12 year old Nicky Wishart spoke “with more passion than the rest of the speakers combined” about his experience in the struggle against the cuts.
Trade Unions Fight to Lose
AS THE GOVERNMENT really begins to force through its cuts to public services, workers are facing an onslaught on their pay and terms and conditions. In education the proposed plan is to increase teachers’ pension contributions by 50% over the next few years, taking average monthly contributions to over £100 a month. This comes on top of the pay freeze and a recalculation of how workers’ pensions are calculated which means less pension for many.
In the NHS workers are also facing a freeze in their pay over two years. While annual pay increases have been stopped, prices rise apace. NHS workers also face the prospect of losing the annual pay increments they are entitled to each year until they reach the top of their pay scales. Unions had been told that if they agreed to member’s losing their increments there would be no compulsory redundancies – despite the fact that we have been told that the NHS and front line services will be protected! In reality thousands of health workers including clerical staff, nurses and physiotherapists are already facing losing their jobs with an inevitable impact on patient care. Over 600 jobs are going, for example, at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.
While all the major trade unions including Unison rejected the deal, this was only in the face of member opposition and there are worrying signs that they may backslide. Unison senior national officer Mike Jackson said: “Members don’t wish to give up pay progression particularly when what’s on the table wouldn’t guarantee [there would be] no compulsory redundancies and doesn’t include all staff.” However he added: “If there are any other proposals that might achieve a situation where they were able to provide guarantees we’d be interested to look at that.” Unison members are concerned that the union is willing to accept job losses. Back in education union members are wondering why the NUT and other education unions aren’t planning for industrial action to defend terms and conditions despite a commitment before Christmas that they would.
Faced with the largest attack on public services ever, the trade unions’ response has been pathetic. Rather than take the fight to the government the union movement is putting all its efforts into the 26 March rally in London. While we are not against marches they will not be enough to stop this government.
Auntie’s Arabic Service Closed Down
Journalists at the BBC Arabic Service went out on a 48-hour strike on 18 January. More than 160 joined a picket line, and even a correspondent sent to Tunisia backed the strike. All live news was closed down with the BBC having to rely on repeats and prerecorded programmes. There was a five day work-to-rule leading up to the strike, triggered by rota changes as the BBC moves forward with an attempt to cut costs.
MORE NEWS FROM OVERSEAS
In late December a group of several hundred unemployed people, mostly teachers, from the ANDCM (National Association of Unemployed Graduates in Morocco) held a protest in front of the Moroccan parliament in Rabat and were joined by a group of current students. The demo was dispersed by rioting police several times, but protestors came back with street blockades. Police attacked the peaceful protestors, beating them brutally before the action was cut short by thunderstorms. The unemployed have been protesting for the creation of more jobs in the public sector, in this case for teachers in particular.
In scenes never before seen in Jordan, thousands of people took to the streets of the capital, Amman, and several other cities in January to protest against rising food prices and unemployment. In addition they sharply attacked the government of Samir Rifai, chanting "Down with Rifai's government – unify yourselves because the government wants to eat your flesh. They raise fuel prices to fill their pockets with millions”. Other demonstrations took place in Maan, Karak, Slat and Irbid with around 8,000 people attending the marches . The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood were noticeable in their absence but workers in Jordan should be on the alert that this group does not attempt to horn in on this new movement. King Abdullah II and Rifai are terrified that they are facing another Tunisia.
Libya, tightly governed by Colonel Gaddafi, also experienced unrest as protests broke out on on 14 January over housing issues in various cities and continued for several days. On 15 January hundreds staged a mass squat of 800 vacant lots in Bani Walid in protest against the chronic lack of housing. Six hundred are reported to have occupied a residential development in Benghazi. Videos posted on Youtube showed demonstrations in Bidaa, Darna and Sabhaa. The police appeared to be attempting to prevent the situation escalating along lines similar to Tunisia by avoiding violent repression.
Algeria faces the same problems as Tunisia with hikes of 20-30% in essential products and 20% unemployment, as well as lack of housing. Demonstrations began in Algiers on 29 December, with police attacking the marchers and arresting 29. Burning barricades were set up and molotovs were thrown at the cops. More protests followed in Tipaza on 3 January, continuing on 5 January by the setting up of barricades in the Bab el Oued district of Algiers and road blocks and burning barricades in Oran. Two nights of rioting followed on 6 and 7 January. On the 7th there was rioting in Annaba and battles with the police. Attempts by local imams to restore order were ignored. On the following day, police killed two but unrest seems to be ongoing.
Anti-cuts protest in Haringey
A thousand people attended a march against cuts in Haringey on 18 January, including teachers and council workers. The council plans on implementing £87 million of cuts that will lead to over 1,000 job losses. At least one primary school was shut down as staff there went on to attend the march. There was also a large group of maintenance workers employed by the “arms length” company Homes for Haringey.
Unfortunately, the Labour Party got its grip on the march with Clare Kober, Labour leader of the council, addressing the crowd and defending Labour’s part in implementing cuts. She was heckled by a large number of attendees, but workers who wanted to speak out about the cuts they face were stopped from addressing the demonstration. Labour councillors will now attempt to implement the cuts. As one activist in the Alliance for Public services noted, they will be providing a “human shield” for the government.
Elsewhere in the same week 500 marched in Portsmouth against proposed cuts whilst 250 lobbied the council in Stockport.
Victory for community group in Leeds
A community group in Leeds has won the right to turn a closed school into a new community centre, the consequence of years of organising which culminated in a two-week occupation organised by the group in November 2009.
The Royal Park Community Consortium (RPCC) has been pressuring the council to allow the community to take over and run the former site of the Royal Park School ever since it was closed in 2004, and had been promised that the building would be retained for community use. During this period however the council left the building to fall into decay, and entertained an offer to sell off the land to a private company planning to turn the former school into flats for the elderly, despite being located opposite a busy student pub. This offer eventually fell through.
Unhappy with the way the council was consistently ignoring the needs of the people who lived in the area and allowing the building to become so badly damaged it required demolition, the RPCC and other members of the community organised an occupation of the building using squatters law, reclaiming it for people to organise community events in the grounds and the main building, as well as allowing much-needed work to be carried out to make the building safe and prevent further structural damage. During the occupation broken windows were made safe, debris was cleared, repairs were made to the roof, the school yard was tidied and the electricity supply was restored, and jumble sales, film showings and open-mic nights were organised.
Despite years of procrastination by the council in the years leading up to the occupation, the council bosses’ reaction to the occupation was to swiftly take the occupiers to court in an effort to clear the building, so that it might stand empty once again. In spite of the large group who turned up in support of the occupiers, the courts found in the council’s favour and on 23 November 2009 ordered the squatting community members out, fining them £3,000 to cover the costs of the council.
However, as a result of the occupation of the school and the support it had both in the local area and around Leeds, the RPCC grew from a handful of members to a group of 300. While previous offers from the group to take over and run the site had been ignored by the council, in the aftermath of the occupation the council finally gave in, and granted the community group the leasehold on 5 January 2011, agreeing that as a result of the occupation the group had come on “light years”, but bitterly refusing to drop the earlier fine for legal costs.
The RPCC now faces the task of raising the money required to make the building safe, and to get the rooms in a state where they will be able to be rented out for community use. Donations can be made at http://www.royalparkschool.org/
(Snow)balls to the Police
Three people are facing police assault charges in Edinburgh for throwing snowballs during a student protest against tuition fees. The demo had held a "teach-in" outside LibDem offices at Haymarket and was notably less rowdy than events in London. But Lothian & Borders police spent cold Christmas nights studying video footage to pick out some students to teach them a lesson. Several were approached and reported to St Leonards Police Station at the start of the year, to avoid being picked up at a less convenient time. After ‘snow comment’ interviews two people were charged with using, in the words of the indictment, "snow compacted into ice" (that's a snowball to you and me) to assault police. Since then another person has been charged with the same offense and many eyebrows have been raised. Why are the police bothering with a lengthy investigation into such a trivial matter? How will they produce the evidence in court? In a freezer bag?
This case is amusing but the intention is clearly to chill any student campaigns and freeze them into inaction. Leaving people to fight police charges alone, no matter how trivial, could cause cracks in the intended solidarity. Is it time for better co-ordination of legal defence between the various student and anti-cuts campaigns?
Sabotage at Work
Apparantly the term sabotage derives from when French factory workers would throw their wooden shoes ("sabots") into machinery to stop production.
Both individuals and organised groups of workers such as the Luddites and Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have used the tactic of sabotage as direct action against working conditions. Anarchists see sabotage as one of the forms of working class resistance that are not controlled by trade unions.
This month in Resistance we print a brief account of sabotage in an American saw mill by Crawdad:
“The Fort Bragg Redwood sawmill is owned by Georgia-Pacific, a large company with interests in building materials and chemicals. Workers used to call bomb threats into the company. They waited until 1:00 pm on Fridays, in spring, when it was balmy and glorious. They would call the dispatcher, the same person they called in sick to, and say "I put four charges of plastique in the powerhouse. It goes off at 4:00. Nobody works today!" and hang up. Then they'd get a cold-pack and a gram of hash and drive out to the river.
Another tactic is to drop metal and glass into the Hog, a machine which chops wood trimmings and waste into Hog fuel, or chips and dust to be burned for power generation. A metal detector and a full-time worker guard the Hog against such foreign objects, although the odd aluminum soda can will get by, and everyone then enjoys a half-day or so of relaxation while millwrights attend to the damaged blades. The mill loses between $100 and $200 per minute while the Hog is broken. Equipment breakdowns are fairly common events, and I always enjoyed them to the fullest while bosses got all red-faced.”
Thanks to libcom.org and Prole.info for the extracts from “Sabotage in the American Workplace” by Martin Sprouse.
Please send your own experiences of sabotage at work into Resistance: surreyhants[at]afed.org.uk
International Conference on Women’s Rights, Sharia Law and Secularism, 12 March 2011, 10.00-19.00 hours, University of London Union, The Venue, Malet Street, London WC1E (Russell Square)
The one day conference to mark International Women’s Day will discuss the adverse impact of religious laws on the status of women.
Speakers include: Mina Ahadi (International Committee against Stoning), Karima Bennoune (Law Professor), Helle Merete Brix (Journalist), Nadia Geerts (Writer), Hammeda Hossain (South Asians for Human Rights), Monica Lanfranco (Journalist), Anne-marie Lizin (Honorary Speaker of Belgian Senate), Maryam Namazie (One Law for All and Iran Solidarity), Taslima Nasreen (Writer), Yasmin Rehman (Women’s Rights Activist), Nina Sankari (European Feminist Initiative Poland), Sohaila Sharifi (Equal Rights Now), Bahram Soroush (Civil Rights Activist), Daniel Salvatore Schiffer (Philosopher), Annie Sugier (la ligue du Droit International des Femmes), Anne Marie Waters (One Law for All), Linda Weil-Curiel (Lawyer), and Stasa Zajovic (Belgrade Women in Black).
Entry fee: £10 individuals; £3 unwaged and students. For booking form and speaker bios visit http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/12-march-2010-international-conference-on-women%e2%80%99s-rights-sharia-law-and-secularism-london/. The event is sponsored by the International Committee against Stoning, Iran Solidarity, Equal Rights Now and One Law for All.
Event against Stoning, 9 July 2011, 14.00-17.30 hours, University of London Union, The Venue, Malet Street, London WC1E (Russell Square)
The Event against Stoning marks International Day against Stoning and will include a film screening of The Stoning of Soraya M followed by a panel discussion including with film director Cyrus Nowrasteh and campaigners Mina Ahadi and Maryam Namazie. The event will be dedicated to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.
Entry fee: £10 individuals; £3 unwaged and students. For more information visit:
http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/9-july-2011-event-against-stoning-london/. The event is sponsored by the International Committee against Stoning, Iran Solidarity, Equal Rights Now and One Law for All.
Save your place now!
To register for the above events, send a completed booking form along with a cheque made payable to One Law for All to BM Box 2387, London WC1N 3XX, UK or pay via Paypal at:
http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/donate/. Donations are also welcome.
Gaza Youth Revolt
A group of young people in Gaza, sickened by both Israeli oppression and the grip of Hamas have issued the following manifesto:
Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community! We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16’s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in; we are like lice between two nails living a nightmare inside a nightmare, no room for hope, no space for freedom. We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, homemade fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.
There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalizing this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope. The final drop that made our hearts tremble with frustration and hopelessness happened 30rd November, when Hamas’ officers came to Sharek Youth Forum, a leading youth organization (www.sharek.ps) with their guns, lies and aggressiveness, throwing everybody outside, incarcerating some and prohibiting Sharek from working. A few days later, demonstrators in front of Sharek were beaten and some incarcerated. We are really living a nightmare inside a nightmare. It is difficult to find words for the pressure we are under. We barely survived the Operation Cast Lead, where Israel very effectively bombed the shit out of us, destroying thousands of homes and even more lives and dreams. They did not get rid of Hamas, as they intended, but they sure scared us forever and distributed post traumatic stress syndrome to everybody, as there was nowhere to run.
We are youth with heavy hearts. We carry in ourselves a heaviness so immense that it makes it difficult to us to enjoy the sunset. How to enjoy it when dark clouds paint the horizon and bleak memories run past our eyes every time we close them? We smile in order to hide the pain. We laugh in order to forget the war. We hope in order not to commit suicide here and now. During the war we got the unmistakable feeling that Israel wanted to erase us from the face of the earth. During the last years Hamas has been doing all they can to control our thoughts, behaviour and aspirations. We are a generation of young people used to face missiles, carrying what seems to be a impossible mission of living a normal and healthy life, and only barely tolerated by a massive organization that has spread in our society as a malicious cancer disease, causing mayhem and effectively killing all living cells, thoughts and dreams on its way as well as paralyzing people with its terror regime. Not to mention the prison we live in, a prison sustained by a so-called democratic country.
History is repeating itself in its most cruel way and nobody seems to care. We are scared. Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed. We are afraid of living, because every single step we take has to be considered and well-thought, there are limitations everywhere, we cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want, sometimes we even cant think what we want because the occupation has occupied our brains and hearts so terrible that it hurts and it makes us want to shed endless tears of frustration and rage!
We do not want to hate, we do not want to feel all of this feelings, we do not want to be victims anymore. ENOUGH! Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future, heart aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians, religious bullshit, enough incarceration! WE SAY STOP! This is not the future we want!
We want three things. We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask? We are a peace movement consistent of young people in Gaza and supporters elsewhere that will not rest until the truth about Gaza is known by everybody in this whole world and in such a degree that no more silent consent or loud indifference will be accepted.
This is the Gazan youth’s manifesto for change!
We will start by destroying the occupation that surrounds ourselves, we will break free from this mental incarceration and regain our dignity and self respect. We will carry our heads high even though we will face resistance. We will work day and night in order to change these miserable conditions we are living under. We will build dreams where we meet walls.
We only hope that you – yes, you reading this statement right now! – can support us. In order to find out how, please write on our wall or contact us directly: freegazayouth[at]hotmail.com
We want to be free, we want to live, we want peace.
FREE GAZA YOUTH!
|resistance feb.pdf||2.59 MB|
Full pdf and text of the Anarchist Federation's free paper.
Public Resistance Forces Government U-Turns
In the face of massive public opposition the Con-Dem government have been forced into a series of U-turns, the biggest of which concerned the sale of Britain’s publicly managed woodlands for £350 million. Their decision not to flog off Britain’s ancient forests came after over 650,000 people signed an on-line petition and a series of demonstrations were held across the country. In a hilarious understatement, embarrassed Environment Minister Caroline Spelman said, “we got that one wrong.” While people have rightly celebrated the fact that our forests won’t be sold off en masse, there is still an acute need for better protection of ancient woodland, our equivalent of the rainforests, and the restoration of ancient woods currently planted with conifers. While Labour applauded the government’s U-turn, when they were in power thousands of acres were lost – 850 ancient woodlands have been threatened by developers in the last decade. The message seems to be that we can’t trust government nor business with our woods.
The forest sell-off isn’t the only policy the government has dumped in recent months. Health secretary Andrew Lansley had planned to allow hospitals to compete against each other on the basis of the price they charged for services. For some reason this government thinks that going to hospital is no different than popping down the shops and trying to find the cheapest offer on baked beans or coco pops. Critics - even on the right - pointed out that evidence from America and elsewhere showed that the only outcome of this would be a drop in quality. While the government’s backtracking on price competition is welcome, they are still pressing ahead with the appalling NHS reforms and massive cuts in health services.
The government also back-peddled last month on plans to slash mobility pay for disabled people in care homes and from the introduction of tough new conditions for housing benefit. They haven’t decided to stop the cuts, though, just delay the review of benefits. They took a similar approach with attempts to slash public sector worker’s pensions, deciding to delay the review.
Any U-turn from this government is welcome. It shows that they can be shifted in the face of opposition – we don’t have to wait another four years until elections come along. However, in the scale of social and economic cuts that are being proposed these are small victories. We don’t need to reform the government – we need to get rid of them. Replacing them with Labour won’t be any better. For every £5 the Con-Dems are cutting from public spending, Labour would have cut £4.
Protests in London, Manchester - NUS President chased by angry students
January saw the continuation of last year's explosive student protests, in which Tory HQ was occupied and ransacked as tens of thousands took to the streets of London to vent their anger at cuts and tuition fee hikes that now loom over universities and colleges around the UK. On Saturday 29 January, two protests, one in London and one in Manchester, took place simultaneously.
In London, students marched past Millbank Tower, which last year was the flashpoint for what the papers described as a "mini-riot", the spontaneous occupation of the building that houses the Conservative Party headquarters. As the protesters split off into smaller groups, some headed to the Egyptian embassy to show solidarity for the ongoing Egyptian uprising (see page 4) while others dispersed into the crowds of shoppers on Oxford Street, one of London's busiest high streets, to target stores owned by tax-dodging multinationals.
Meanwhile in Manchester, National Union of Students (NUS) president Aaron Porter ended up on the run from a group of several hundred students after one of them tried to ask him questions about his support for police violence against students and despicable conduct with regard to students' struggles. After he found refuge behind police lines, student protesters began a game of cat-and-mouse with the police in central Manchester, repeatedly escaping police attempts to kettle them (kettling is a common police tactic in which demonstrators are forcibly contained within a police cordon, sometimes for hours). Elsewhere at the NUS rally, students booed Labour and NUS speakers off the stage and Aaron Porter's deputy, speaking in the stead of his indisposed boss, was pelted with eggs and couldn't finish.
Glasgow Students Occupy Closed Student Building
On 1 February 2011 the former Hetherington Research Club at Glasgow University was occupied and re-opened as ‘The Free Hetherington’. Previously a learning and social space for postgraduate and mature students as well as staff, the Hetherington closed its doors in February 2010 after the university deemed it not financially viable. The building lay empty for nearly a year before being occupied. Complete freedom of access has meant that the space is currently being used for a variety of purposes – hosting free lectures from university staff as well as a range of workshops and talks by students and outside speakers. It is serving as a meeting space for a number of groups and offering a growing library and free shop. Events have been as broad as: a talk by a local grassroots anti-poverty organization, a knitting workshop, a kids’ film-showing, first aid training, philosophy lectures, discussions on anarchist theory, a regular pub quiz and open mic night. Free tea and coffee are offered all day and the kitchen crew provides a vegan dinner for 20-30 people every evening.
Since 1 February, the Free Hetherington has operated not only as an alternative social and learning space but also as a base for anti-cuts struggle on campus. The University of Glasgow is currently facing unprecedented cuts and job losses, which have been proposed by the Senior Management Group with no consultation of students or staff. Entire courses and departments face being cut, including nursing, modern languages and anthropology. The Department of Adult and Continuing Education, which enables thousands of adults and non-school-leavers to access higher education every year, also faces being axed entirely. 16 February saw a demonstration of over 1000 students and staff, angered by the proposed ‘restructuring’ of the university, which many claim is part of a politically-motivated business strategy rather than simply being a response to financial constraints. There is certainly no academic basis for the proposed changes, and many fear that the consultation process for these proposals will not be as sincere and transparent as Management have claimed. Recognizing this, it is hoped that students and staff will come together and reject all the cuts on campus, not just those that affect them directly. Many students have expressed that they will support staff members going on strike if the UCU (University and College Union) decides on that course of action. Both the occupation of the Free Hetherington and wider anti-cuts organizing on campus has demonstrated that staff and students are not prepared to passively accept these threats to the quality of education at the University.
Wisconsin Workers Wage War on Anti-union Bill
Workers in the Northern US state of Wisconsin are battling against anti-union legislation being pushed by the state governor, Scott Walker. Under the pretext of cutting the state deficit, Walker's new laws will end collective bargaining for all public sector workers except firefighters and police. Strikes are already illegal for public sector workers in the state; the current system of collective bargaining is the only defence they have against attacks on pay and conditions. The new law will come alongside other measures including a three year pay freeze (this really means three years of pay cuts when inflation is accounted for) and a ban on unionising for university workers.
The response has been one of anger, with students, public sector workers, and retired people joining a 10,000-plus-strong demonstration at the state Capitol building on Tuesday 15 February. Earlier in the week high school students in Stoughton walked out to show support for their teachers, while protests took place at Universities in Milwaukee and Madison. This was followed by a city wide "sick-out" on Wednesday, which forced schools across Madison to close as 40% of teachers called in sick. At the time of writing the Wisconsin State Journal has reported that it is "unclear" whether teachers will return to work on Thursday or Friday. Protests at the state Capitol continue.
Wisconsin was the first state in the US to pass laws safeguarding collective bargaining, in 1936, and if Walker's succeeds then it will probably give other state governments the confidence to pass similar anti-union legislation. State governments in Indiana and New York are already targeting public sector workers, in what could soon become a nation-wide assault of union-busting and austerity attacks. In this context, the struggle in Wisconsin is hugely important, and its results could effect the future of organised labour in the USA as a whole.
Migrant fight in Greece
Three hundred migrants are staging a hunger strike in occupied municipal buildings in Athens and Thessaloniki to fight for legalization and equal rights for Greek workers. The Greek state has long employed a particularly hostile approach to foreign workers. Work permits are near impossible to get for those entering the country, with the legal system stacked against the interests of migrants and enforced by racist and corrupt officials (border police have even been implicated in the trafficking of women for the domestic sex trade).
The result is that many migrants are forced to live with no social security net, largely dependent on (illegal) precarious and temporary work. Work accidents and deplorable conditions are common within the manufacturing, cleaning and building trades which utilise this cheap stream of migrant workers (and enforce workplace discipline through the threat of deportation). This is also within a social climate that is becoming increasingly hostile to foreigners.
The government and the media are keen to whip up hostility towards foreigners and migrant workers as a means to divert focus from their full-scale attack on living standards in the country (and the highly unpopular conditions set by the IMF). As the hunger strikers state in their demands, in many cases the propaganda and demands of the fascist and far-right group have been adopted outright by the government. The Neo-Nazi group “Golden Dawn”, for its part, received as high as a 20% share of the vote in certain districts of Athens in local elections held at the end of last year. In response to the strike, far-right activists detonated an explosive device outside a social centre that supports migrants in Thessaloniki. The parliamentary Left (the Stalinist KKE and “Eurocommunist” SYRIZA), fearing for their electoral prospects, have been generally unsupportive of the cause of migrants.
The result is that it is largely the autonomous, anti-authoritarian and anarchist groups who have been most supportive of the strikers. Numerous protests, rallies and general assemblies have been held throughout Greece over the past month in solidarity with the strikers and to raise awareness of the conditions of migrants. Anarchists in Athens also attacked branches of the supermarket chain DIA which had banned migrants from entering its stores in the North-Western city of Igoumenitsa.
As of the writing of this article the strike is still ongoing (entering its 23rd day). The migrants are determined to continue in spite of the continued hostility towards them. Many of them see no alternative to the struggle, as they conclude in their demands, “we risk our lives because, either way, there is no dignity in our living conditions. We would rather die than allow our children to suffer what we have been through”.
Following 18 days of continuous protest which saw a million people gather in Tahrir ("Liberation") Square in Egypt’s capital Cairo, the country’s President of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, was forced to step down, leaving Egypt under military rule. The three week protest saw police violence and hired thugs employed in a desperate attempt to shift the protesters, but the protesters refused to move, demanding an end to the President's dictatorial rule and the "emergency" laws he has used to keep Egypt under his heel for the last three decades.
After the military took power on 11 February, amid further brutal repression in which thousands of demonstrators were tortured and "disappeared", a wave of strikes, occupations and other industrial action has spread across the country like wildfire. Emboldened by their success in toppling the dictator, working class Egyptians are determined not to give up the struggle. Ignoring appeals from their new rulers to return to work, strikers in cities up and down the country are demanding better conditions, better contracts, higher wages, health coverage, and the sacking of corrupt and unpopular state and union officials.
Strikes, sit-ins and protests are reported across dozens of industries - from the stock exchange and media organisations to steel mills and textile firms. On 14 February hundreds of workers attacked the offices of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) and were beaten back by security, police, and union officials hurling missiles from the upper windows. ETUF are notoriously corrupt and were firm supporters of the Mubarak regime. The protesters demanded the right to independent unions, that ETUF be dissolved and its assets frozen, and that ETUF leaders be put on trial. Meanwhile workers across Egypt continue to strike, occupy and demonstrate, while the military regime looks weaker by the day.
Following events in Tunisia this January (see Resistance #129), a wave of unrest has rocked the Arab world. We report just a handful of the struggles that have broken out over the past month.
Despite an official police ban on demonstrations in Algiers, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Algeria's capital on Saturday 12 February. The cops attacked them with tear gas, while nearby, families squatting newly-built houses (Algeria suffers from a massive shortage of housing, with many living in slums) were violently evicted, their possessions thrown from upper-storey windows.
Over the past month, the Yemeni capital Sanaa has been the scene of repeated protests by thousands of young people and other opponents of the President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for the past 32 years. While police and soldiers dressed as civilian supporters of Ali have attacked several demonstrations, the unrest continues, in Sanaa, in Taiz, and in the port city of Aden in the south.
Thousands of protesters in Manama, capital of the island state of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, have occupied the Pearl Roundabout in the centre of the city and are refusing to leave. Police have used tear gas and rubber bullets to attack demonstrations in villages surrounding the capital, which are the site of regular skirmishes between coppers and local youths. Demands from the protesters include jobs, housing, and the release of political prisoners.
Last Valentine's Day (a prohibited festival in Iran!) people took to the streets in Tehran in their thousands in solidarity with the protest movements of Egypt and Tunisia. There were clashes with Iranian security forces (ordinary coppers and the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran's feared elite military police) as people tried to make their way to Azadi (Freedom) Square, many with blankets and food, only to be beaten back by police using batons and tear gas. Simultaneous protests took place in the cities of Isfahan, Mashhad and Shiraz.
Street battles also broke out between police and anti-government protesters in the city of Benghazi in Libya, the night of the day before a planned "Day of Anger" against the rule of infamous dictator "Colonel" Muammar al-Gaddafi. Protesters are said to have thrown stones and petrol bombs. Elsewhere, in the city of Zentan, hundreds of marchers are reported to have set up camp in the city centre, and set a cop shop on fire.
It's OK to call your boss a "dick"
Ambulance worker Dawnmarie Souza was fired for comments she made to a friend on Facebook in 2009, calling her supervisor a "dick" and a "scumbag". She sued them for illegally firing her, with the help of the US National Labor Relations Board, because workers have the right to discuss their conditions of employment with coworkers.
The company, AMR, has settled out of court and changed its policies. A win for Souza but a loss for anyone looking forward to the bampot boss being forced to answer the question, "are you a dick to your employees?" in court.
US Chamber of Commerce & the $2 million spy
Recent revelations in the UK press about corporate spies in campaign groups like Plane Stupid and Campaign Against the Arms Trade have caused comment. A story from the US tech website Arstechnica.com makes them look like small fry, though.
Three security companies proposed to the US Chamber of Commerce that it create a "fusion cell" of electronic spying operations at a cost of $2 million per month.
They gathered messages from union activists on facebook, Twitter and other websites to try and find links between the activists using software developed for intelligence services ("Palantir"). They planned to create fake, "honeypot" websites to attract union activists and gather information about them.
The scheme by HBGary Federal was unmasked when its CEO, Aaron Barr, fell foul of the Anoymous hackers collective. After trying to identify some of their members, he found his email archive posted across the internet, his website and backups deleted. Even a shiny new iPad was wiped clean.
While its good to see him get his desserts, it shows that innocuous activities like running the "US ChamberWatch" website are seen as a threat by those in power and that they have very deep pockets to fight us with.
More Tax Cuts for the Banks
A dry, technical change to Treasury rules amounts to a tax cut worth billions to the biggest companies. George Monbiot explains:
"At the moment tax law ensures that companies based here, with branches in other countries ... have to pay only the difference between our rate and that of the other country. If, for example, Dirty Oil PLC pays 10% corporation tax on its profits in Oblivia, then shifts the money over here, it should pay a further 18% in the UK, to match the corporate tax rate of 28%. But under the new proposals, companies will pay nothing at all in this country on money made by their foreign branches."
Switzerland is the only other place with such a rule, which is only going to be available to "medium to large" companies. The government themselves say that "large financial services companies" will make the most use of this rule.
High Street names like Vodafone and Top Shop, faced with UKUncut protests, have defended themselves by saying "we're doing nothing illegal" and "we pay a lot of tax." This rule change shows up the second of these to be a lie, and as no-one voted for it, shows that "legal" and "illegal" are just a matter of which politicians you buy.
Sabotage At Work
The term sabotage derives from when French factory workers would throw their wooden shoes (called sabots) into machinery to stop production.
Both individuals and organised groups of workers such as the Luddites and Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have used the tactic of sabotage as direct action against working conditions. Anarchists see sabotage as one of the forms of working class resistance that is not controlled or compromised by trade unions.
This month in Resistance we have a brief report on recent acts of sabotage at the Fiat factory in Tychy, Poland.
Antagonism between workers and bosses at the Fiat plants in Turin, Italy and at Tychy, Poland have escalated recently. When Italian workers went on strike last year their colleagues in Poland carried out solidarity actions such as go slows.
The company also threatens to shift production of the Panda car from Poland to Italy.
In June 2010, an unofficial organisation of workers issued a letter encouraging resistance at the Tychy car plant. The letter said:
"It is clear that this is a no-win situation for any worker. We cannot go on like this any longer, competing against each other for jobs. We need to unite and fight for our interests internationally."
“For us, there is nothing left to do in Tychy but go down fighting instead of on our knees. We will encourage our colleagues to acts of resistance and sabotage against the company which sucked us dry for years and now spits us out.”
Bosses were enraged by the statement, which encouraged the use of a vintage but powerful working class weapon — sabotage.
Workers were livid at pressure from bosses to work longer hours. They have also been frustrated because unions had signed an "agreement" with the factory managers which stitched up the workers.
Class rage boiled over at the factory and the Polish car workers fought back.
On the 11th of February this year, 300 cars were sabotaged by workers at the Fiat plant. Workers made deep scratches into the bodywork, engines were ruined by hidden screws and cables were cut.
Thanks to libcom.org for information on the situation at the Tychy factory.
There are not many indignities that the villagers of Bil’in, in the occupied West Bank, haven’t suffered in recent years: Constant harassment and incursions from the Israeli ‘Defence’ Force (IDF); night raids during which children are kidnapped at gunpoint and ‘confessions’ extracted from them under duress, implicating adult relatives; numerous kidnappings and several deaths of demonstrators against the illegal apartheid wall, which runs through the village.
As the Israeli state continues its policy of walling-in an entire people, the route chosen for the apartheid wall saw the villagers separated from approximately 60% of their farmland. The International Court of Justice ruled the wall illegal in July 2004 and in September 2004 the Israeli Supreme Court declared that the route through Bil’in imposed undue hardship on the Palestinian population, for no appreciable increase in security for Israel, and that the wall must be re-routed. The Defence Ministry agreed to abide by the ruling (of the Israeli Supreme Court) and immediately leapt into action. Just six short years later and, finally, there are signs that the sections of the wall through Bil’in are to be brought down and re-routed, a victory—of sorts—for the villagers and their supporters.
For the people of Bil’in haven’t been alone in their struggle. The Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall has been organising weekly demonstrations every Friday since 2005, attended by many groups, including the International Solidarity Movement and Anarchists Against The Wall. These weekly demonstrations have seen the villagers, Israelis and internationals march to the wall, armed only with placards and slogans, to be met with the full might of the Israeli ‘Defence’ Force. Tear gas, smoke grenades, sound bombs, plastic bullets and live rounds, confronted by defiance, indomitable spirit and the odd stone or two. These confrontations have resulted in several deaths, including Bassem Abu Rahmah, killed when he was struck by a tear gas canister fired directly at him in April 2009, and his sister, Jawaher, who died from tear gas inhalation on New Years’ Day this year. In a statement, Michael Sfard—attorney for the villagers in their legal battle against the Israeli state—said:
"The son was killed by a directly aimed projectile, the daughter choked in gas. Two brave protestors against a regime that kills the innocent and doesn't investigate its criminals. We will not be quiet, we will not give up, we will not spare any effort until those responsible will be punished. And they will."
Whether those responsible for the deaths will ever face justice seems unlikely. Perhaps a slightly more fitting memorial is this temporary victory, in one small battle, as the Wall is dismantled in Bil’in. This battle may be over, but the war—and the Wall—continues.
Anarchists Against The Wall are in desperate need of funds to help fight their legal battles against the Israeli state and continue the struggle alongside the Palestinian people in places like Bil’in. Contact them at: http://www.awalls.org/
Full text and PDF of the Anarchist Federation's monthly bulletin.
The Free Hetherington Evicted... Then Re-Occupied!
There have been interesting developments with the Free Hetherington occupation at Glasgow University since we last reported on it (see Resistance #130).
On the morning of Tuesday 22nd March, police began the forced eviction of the Free Hetherington. They arrived with no warning and no eviction order was given. After word spread about what was happening, supporters gathered for a sit-down protest on the front steps of the building and police amassed their forces. In the end, approximately 80 police officers, a canine unit and a police helicopter were deployed to forcibly evict fewer than fifteen people from both the Hetherington and the adjoining building. When they refused to leave, the occupiers were violently dragged from the buildings. This extremely heavy-handed police response resulted in several people being injured, including one student who sustained a concussion after being thrown head-first into a wall by university security.
By this point, hundreds of people had gathered outside to see what was going on. After the last occupier had been dragged out, the mass of people sprung into action. With most of the police gone, the crowd, numbering around 100 people, marched from the Hetherington towards the main administrative building of the university, hoping to occupy the Principal’s office. Unable to find it, it was decided that the University Senate rooms would be adequate. These rooms are the incredibly plush suite where the senior university management is based and where they host their meetings and events. In the words of some of the occupiers - it wasn’t an eviction, it was an upgrade!
After refusing to have a mass meeting with students for several weeks, the Senior Management Group finally relented and held an open public meeting with students in the newly-occupied Senate rooms. Later that evening, folk singer David Rovics held a concert on the balcony of the Senate, overlooking the city of Glasgow. At approximately 10pm, the university management caved in and told the new occupiers that they could have the old Hetherington building back on the condition that they left the Senate rooms. So within 12 hours of being evicted from the Hetherington building, the students were rather cordially invited back in.
Since re-entering the Hetherington building, the occupation has gone from strength to strength. Normal activities have resumed, from anti-cuts meetings to kids’ film showings. Those involved have a renewed vigour, inspired by the re-affirmation of the old adage: direct action gets the goods!
Bristol AF on the 26th of March
The TUC predictably have turned their backs on the Anarchist groups, students and anyone else in attendance who chose to use more direct tactics than marching from A to B. Brendan Barber TUC general secretary said he “bitterly regretted” the violence, the deputy defence secretary described those involved as “tiny minority of violent, parasitic unrepresentative hooligans”, while London’s Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse said they were “fascist agitators”. Worryingly, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper urged home secretary Theresa May to “consider co-ordinated action against so-called anarchist groups.”
In response we would like to state we support all those who took part in any of the marches on the day no matter which tactics they used to make their point or their specific reason for being on the march. We recognise those within the TUC who genuinely worked hard to make the protest inclusive and successful. We even support the woman who said “Anarchists should be banned from demonstrations”, and the man from the fire brigade union who accosted one of our comrades and chastised him for having a face mask.
We do however condemn the actions of those scum we saw attempting to smash the window of a coffee shop while an elderly couple sat on the other side of it, and those idiots who threw paint bombs, sticks and even metal fencing from the back hitting and injuring fellow protesters. Let’s get this straight: only wankers throw from the back and endanger the safety of comrades and innocent passers- by! We really hope they were the Fascist agitators the deputy mayor described as they have no right to call themselves Anarchists.
The TUC dubbed the march “The March for the Alternative”; many people and also the media are left asking what this alternative is. Well, we have the alternative: class struggle ending in the complete destruction of capitalism and the hierarchical state system, to allow us to finally live as equals, with genuine freedom, working together to benefit our communities rather than our ‘leaders’.
Crisis in Care
An interview with a support worker in Sheffield about the problems in social care as a result of the recession and the proposed austerity measures:
“I work as a support worker for a private company that provides social care for people in Sheffield with learning disabilities and mental health issues. The company operates across the city. According to government officials, cuts to public spending will not harm frontline services, workers, or service users. The reality of the situation is that working conditions are getting worse, day services are closing down, and those paying for the support services are being excluded from any of the decisions relating to care that they supposedly direct and influence.
The Sheffield City Council budget has been slashed by 8.35% for next year, and this has amounted to a huge cut to frontline care. What this has amounted to on the ground is a huge reduction in staffing levels, pushing local unemployment even higher. Those left in the job are left with the unenviable task of filling in the gaps, which means being overworked and stressed. Many care workers, some with over 20 years experience, are finding it too stressful to carry on, and are walking away from the job, meaning that the most qualified staff in the company are leaving. New employees often aren’t given a decent (and legally required) level of training before they are left to work with clients. This is dangerous to both clients, who often have serious health issues, and to workers, who are not given help to do the job safely (some clients have histories of challenging behaviour, violence etc).
Many of the people I work with have been sent into intense panic, fearing that their disability benefits will be cut and that they will be forced onto a work fare scheme in order to claim. This has led to increased difficulties at work, which again impacts upon the wellbeing of clients and staff. For staff, we have been given an indefinite pay freeze (rates of pay are already extremely low – and the price of food, bills, rent etc has risen fairly sharply in recent months) and a loss of a chance of promotion and advancement within the company. The tactics of management have in recent weeks been an attempt to shift responsibility downwards. In essence, this means an unpaid promotion – increased work hours and responsibilities without extra pay. People are worried, and the constant upheavals in company policy leave staff and clients confused. Many people within the company care deeply about the people they support, and the fact that they are leaving is causing massive emotional stress on all sides.
The company I work for claims to be not-for-profit; this tends to give people the impression that the company operates with some kind of ethical policy. The reality is that instead of money being invested in desperately-needed equipment for staff (such as computers that are less than a decade old), instead money has been spent on redecorating the offices of the executive managers and the reception area of the company (in order to make it ‘look more professional’ – the appearance of good care being more easily achieved than the practice of good care).
The company has also engaged in the bizarre tactic of employing agency staff to work as short-term “bank workers” in order to plug the gaps created by the redundancies they have introduced. This means that for every worker the company gets from an agency they are paying for two (because they are paying the agency’s ‘service rates’, which are roughly the same as the employee’s wages, plus the wages themselves). Essentially this means that the company is firing experienced and dedicated workers to employ untrained and short-term agency workers, while paying double the cost for the privilege. The reasons behind this plan seem fairly obvious. Agency workers are in a precarious position, and if they complain about being overworked and underpaid then they can be fired with no notice, whereas an employee cannot. The changes that management want to bring in over the next few months require a work force that does not feel secure or able to resist the exploitation that is happening.”
With thanks to the Fargate Speaker and libcom.org
Tax rise for workers, but not their bosses
You'll probably notice that your pay packet in April is different. That's when a National Insurance rise of 1% comes into effect. But of course, since "we're all in this together," your employer isn't going to pay it. They were let off the tax rise by the new government, which claimed it was a "tax on jobs."
No outcry about a "tax on workers," though, since it was a Labour Party policy. The very lowest paid won't be as badly off as they might be, since the level where you start to pay the tax was raised slightly. Most workers will be worse off though, while our bosses benefit (again) from their bankrolling of political parties.
IgNobel Prize in Management
Think that any one of your colleagues could do a better job than your boss? Recent research, awarded the IgNobel Prize in Management, says you're right.
The famous 'Peter Principle' says that individuals in a hierarchical organisation get promoted to a level where they are no longer any good at their job. They stay at that level, making your work life even more hassle.
The winning scientists tested this by simulating different promotion strategies, aiming to see whether the Principle really works. To their surprise, they found that an organisation functioned better when people were promoted at random. Even promoting the worst person, then the best person produced a better organisation than the way that companies actually work.
If you're facing job losses and cuts at your workplace, and the Human Resources Department tell you that there's no alternative, maybe they'd be interested in implementing this piece of "out of the box" thinking?
Sabotage At Work
The word sabotage derives from French slang meaning ‘to work clumsily’. Literally: to clatter in sabots (wooden shoes). The term sabotage has also come to mean the destruction of machinery. Both individuals and groups of workers such as the Luddites and Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have used sabotage as a form of direct action against bad pay and working conditions. Anarchists see sabotage as an effective weapon against the bosses and their profits that is not controlled or compromised by trade unions.
This month in Resistance we publish a brief account of modern sabotage at a car manufacturers in Detroit by Eugene, a carburettor assembler:
“It's common to hear people complain about American cars breaking down and having problems; there's always some goddamn thing wrong with them. It's almost always internal, and they have to take the car back to the shop and figure out what's wrong with it. It's not an accident or a fluke. These machines are designed by engineers who know what they're doing. They're precise. It's the people putting them together who aren't quite as precise as the engineers would like them to be.
I worked manufacturing carburettors in Detroit. There was one particular carburettor that you could place a BB in and it was there for life. The only way you could see it was if you x-rayed it. The only way to fix it was to replace the carburettor. It would be an intermittent problem with your carburettor; you'd never know when it was going to strike. Usually it would hit you when you were going downhill.
Anytime we got a chance to do internal parts, like a carburettor, we would screw them up purposely. We would put in bolts that were the wrong size. We would do anything we could to make the carburettors dysfunctional. We did this to as many carburettors as possible.
I inspired and taught many others. They were bored out of their minds. It was such a relief for them to take that screwdriver and damage that part internally, knowing that no one would know they did it.
The goal was to wreak the most blatant destruction without getting caught. The most insidious thing, of course, was dealing with internal parts of engines and inside door panels. Workers might take a pair of pliers and pop off just one cog on the end of the plastic crank. There's a gear inside that's plastic and when you roll the window up and the cog is popped off; eventually that window won't work. With wiring and electronic parts, you could do countless things so that initially it works, but later on you'll have problems. You can't find out the source of the problem, who did it, or how it happened. That's the beauty of it.
Sabotage is different than revenge because it's a means by which you can express yourself and free yourself from oppression and dehumanisation. You aren't attacking a person, you're dealing with an issue. It's satisfying to know that you're causing long- term problems for the industry. For the first time in my life, I saw other people like me who were drudging through life, making pretty good money and benefits, but whose lives were shit. Being human is so wonderful. If we're pushed apart from that, we tend to struggle because you can't be human in America and work in industry.
When you work for the auto industry, profit is number one. Although they say they're not doing it anymore, they've cut back on quality. They're trying to compete with Japan, but the only way to do that is to treat the most important person in the industry - the worker - as a human being.
They don't treat you like a human being, they treat you like a robot, and your function is to produce the profit. You're dehumanised. The carburettors were our way of equalising the situation.
I caused a lot of damage. Not only did I teach and encourage others to do it, I caused many Americans strife and heartache and taught them the lesson not to buy from that particular company. The auto industry got a bad rap because of it. The fear and dissatisfaction from driving a car that breaks down all the time are going to stick.”
This is an edited extract from Sabotage in the American Workplace by Martin Sprouse. Thanks to libcom.org and prole.info
Swindon Anti-cuts action
Around 100 people gathered in Swindon town centre on Saturday March 5th for a local demo against the cuts. After listening to a range of speakers from various unions, community groups (and even one from the Anarchist Federation), people planned to move around the corner for a mass leafletting session. A 20 to 30-strong contingent of radicals, predominantly anarchists, moved off as a group, defying police stipulation that the demo would remain static. It was hoped that more people would join the spontaneous march, but an early, heavy handed police reaction deterred many. As soon as the group began chanting and marching, the police began pushing at the front banner, trying to confiscate banners and labelling the march 'illegal'. After a short, slightly comical scuffle (the highpoint being an angry cop getting wrapped up in an 'anarchists aginst the cuts' banner), and lots of chanting, the breakaway group split into 2, congregating 10 minutes later to hand out leaflets and do tax-dodger actions at Vodafone and Topshop, leading to the partial shutdown of Topshop, and Vodafone locking its doors.
Overall, the day was a success for the local movement against the cuts, with a large, well-attended rally, thousands of leaflets given out, and a large, noisy and determined breakaway group showing that when they say 'cut back', we really do mean 'fight back'!
The day ended with the movement gaining much vocal support from a diverse cross section of the community, a few tax-dodgers losing a bit of revenue, anarchism and direct action being put back on the agenda in Swindon and the cops (who have tried their hardest to intimidate and stifle the campaign from the outset) bleating about a 'breakdown in trust'! All in all a good day, and a launch pad for more actions in the future.
A Swindon and Wiltshire Afed group is planned for the near future.
“They Have Silenced Me Long Enough”
It was 2am on International Human Rights Day, 10th December 2009, when Israeli soldiers kicked in Abdullah Abu Rahmah's door seized him from his bed. He was dragged away in front of his wife and three children, blindfolded, to custody. Abu Rahmah's 'crime' was that he was the co-ordinator of the non-violent Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. He didn't so much as throw a tantrum, never mind stones, and yet he found himself in front of an Israeli Military Court and was sentenced to one year in prison, for organising demonstrations against the Wall in Bil'in.
Not content with this, the military prosecutors appealed against the undue leniency shown to Abu Rahmah and, duly, his sentence was increased by 4 months, to 16 months.
Finally released after 16 months and one day in Ofer Military Prison (you weren't really expecting the Israeli state to let him out on his release date were you?!) Abdullah Abu Rahmah was given a rapturous welcome by family, friends and supporters in their hundreds at the prison gate. He said, “On my release, I have no intention to go back home and sit there idly. In fact, by imprisoning me they have silenced me long enough. Our cause is just, it is one striving for freedom and equality, and I intend to continue fighting for it just as I have before.”
The Bristol Anarchist Bookfair 2011
At Hamilton House, 80 Stokes Croft, Bristol BS1 3QY
7 May 2011
10.30am to 6.30pm
In The Tradition Of May Day…
Resistance and Alternatives To Cuts
The 2011 Bristol bookfair is coming at you four months earlier this year. It will happen at the end of a week that includes an outrageously expensive royal wedding, local elections and a referendum on the latest parliamentary elections voting scam. It will happen shortly after the budget cuts of the national LibDemCon government, and local councils, will be known; whilst the job losses and cuts inherent in the austerity drive to bail out capitalism will be kicking in. The anarchist bookfair will be the perfect antidote to all this misery and displays of wealth inequality.
The Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair 2011
Saturday May 21st
It's that time again! Just two months until Sheffield's second annual anarchist book fair. This year the event will be held Saturday 21st May from 10:00 - 18:00 at 32-40 Bank Street (A much brighter venue than last year!). There will be meetings and presentations throughout the day as well as some film screenings (a new feature for this year). We will also be holding a social/fund raiser in the evening if people are able to stick around (details will follow shortly). Rates for stalls are £15 for groups/campaigns and £20 for book stalls/distros (half price on your second table). Please contact us in good time to reserve your stall. We also welcome proposals for meetings, workshops or presentations from groups and individuals. If you have a proposal please email email@example.com. We aim to facilitate as many as possible but, as was also the case last year, space will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.
Wisconsin Anti-Union Bill Passes
This March saw demonstrations numbering up to 200,000 in Madison, capital of the state of Wisconsin in the USA. The governor of the state, Scott Walker, has pushed through a bill attacking public sector workers, taking away their collective bargaining rights. As news spread that the bill had been passed , thousands gathered at the Capitol building and occupied it and the streets around for the second time this year (see our report in Resistance #130). Weeks of agitation followed including a mass walkout by students, resulting in the demonstration mentioned above.
The anger provoked by the passing of the bill is bringing all the resentment against Wall Street, the bankers, and the whole rotten system to the surface. The amazing movement that has developed in Wisconsin needs to take further direct action, including blockades, occupations and strikes and needs to push the union bureaucrats (who have waged a campaign against strike action) out of the way.
Saif Gaddafi’s house occupied in Hampstead, London
Saif Gaddafi, son of Libyan dictator Muammar Gadaffi and one of his chief henchmen, owns an £ 11 million house in the posh quarter of Hampstead in north London. This money to buy this came from the millions extorted from the Libyan masses. Apparently he has never visited the house since buying it. On March 9th an alliance of Libyan activists and squatters under the working name of Topple The Tyrants occupied the building. They placed banners reading Revolution and Out of Libya, Out of London on the roof. They stated that they had carried out the action in solidarity with the people of Libya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and vowed to stay until the property could be handed over to the Libyan people.
Job Centre occupied in Deptford, South East London
Local people occupied the disused Job Centre Plus in Deptford in March as a response to government cuts to public services. They aimed to create a space from which the anti-cuts movement can organise resistance to the cuts imposed by the government and carried out by Lewisham Council under the control of the Mayor of Lewisham, Steve Bullock, and other Labour councillors. They also aimed to create a public social space for other members of the local community in Deptford and the rest of Lewisham. Steve Bullock had announced the closure of five libraries, children’s centres and other public centres.
The local people who have opened this social centre in Deptford do not believe that vital services like healthcare and education are unaffordable, after billions of pounds have been used to bail out the financial system. The social centre is a self-organised space, run by people from a variety of backgrounds. They want Social Centre Plus, as it has been named, to be a catalyst for social and political change based on the principles of direct action, solidarity and self-organisation.
On The Frontline
Lecturers strike over pensions
After talks broke down between the college lecturers’ union UCU and the Employers Pension Forum (EPF), a wave of anger swept through colleges around the country. Changes proposed for the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension fund provoked this outrage. Even though the USS is in very good shape there were proposals by the EPF to reduce benefits and increase costs. Lecturers at 63 colleges involved in the USS voted for strike action and action short of a strike.
As a result lecturers in Scotland went out on strike on March 17th at Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, Strathclyde, St Andrews and the Open Universities. In addition lecturers struck at Warwick University on the day. As we go to press, further strike actions were planned in Wales on the 18th March, Northern Ireland on the 21st and England on the 22nd, to be followed by a second day of strike action for colleges and universities throughout Britain on 24th March, which could involve as many as 120,000 workers.
Teachers walk out
Teachers at Rawmarsh Community School in Rotherham went out on strike for a day on 16th March. This strike was due to be followed by two more in the following week. They were taking action against vicious job cuts, involving 34 staff, 20 of them teachers. The local Education Authority had already made some concessions over redundancies but direct action has to be the response to stop all redundancies. There was widespread support from parents in this ex-mining area.
Council workers and teachers in East London
Council workers and teachers in Tower Hamlets, east London, planned to strike against cuts in the borough on 30th March, while in Camden teachers planned to go out on strike on the same day. Earlier the HQ of Barclays Bank in Canary Wharf was occupied by 20 teachers as the company announced huge bonuses for the bankers employed there. Tower Hamlets has the highest child poverty rate in Britain. Council cuts will affect nurseries, disability services for children and youth workers.
Southwark speech and language therapists went on strike on February 3rd after they were informed that eleven of their jobs were to be axed in March. This would mean that a third of staff would be made redundant. Twenty therapists were on the picket line, in a service where there is no history of militancy. Some jobs were saved as the local Health Authority rapidly made some concessions. The strike immensely increased the confidence of therapists and dispelled the sense of hopelessness and apathy that is afflicting NHS workers. If strike action from a small number of workers who have never taken action ever before can win some limited concessions, think what could happen if more workers and in other sectors , both inside and outside the NHS, were to go into action.
BP workers in Hull fight back
An unofficial strike for one day took place at BP Hull on 2nd March over redundancies planned by Redhalls, the main construction contractor. A mass meeting of workers discussed and rejected the proposals from the management to ignore the NAECI (national industry agreement) which states that length of service will be on the specific contract, and to use length of service with the company. A strike was called with 400 construction workers blocking BP’s main gate.
Electricians and scaffolders refused to cross the picket line. As a result rush hour traffic came to a complete standstill in the surrounding East Hull and Holderness areas before being forced to turn back.. The following day another mass meeting voted to go back after management backed down. A rigger who had been made redundant the week before was reinstated at the same time. This week, the blockades have continued with police warning motorists away from the area all week. BP has now made 400 redundancies due to a breakdown with the sub-contractor Redhill. A pay settlement offered has been rejected and further widespread action has been suggested.
Southampton Medirest workers strike for 3 days
Medirest NHS cleaners went on strike for 3 days from 7th March over unpaid wages and sick pay. Management failed to implement the NHS job evaluation agreement Agenda for Change in 2006 which has has left the workers without their right to NHS terms and conditions. The dispute is ongoing.
NHS Job Losses
They promised to keep so-called ‘front-line' jobs in the NHS safe. Regardless of what other cuts they are introducing to the health service, nurses, midwives and doctors would not suffer. Now, though, they admit this won’t be the case. Pushed by the BBC in an interview, Andrew Lansley, the Secretary of State for Health, said last month, “I cannot, as a consequence of the financial pressures we face, promise that we will keep exactly the same number of clinical jobs.” In other words, as we already know, clinical jobs are going. In fact, an independent review of job losses revealed that 50,000 are at risk. Despite the doctor’s union, the BMA, and the Lib-Dem spring conference all coming out against the government's health reforms, Clegg and Cameron are hell-bent on destroying the NHS through cuts and privatisation. Services will decline, waiting times for hospitals will rise, people will die. In fact, the impact of cuts are already being felt. Speech and Language therapy services are being reined back and staff losing their jobs.
NHS workers pay the price of government cuts
Despite an increase in inflation to 4.4%, more than a million NHS workers are to have their pay frozen this year, which is in effect a pay cut. While workers earning £21,000 or less will get a paltry £250 extra, all other staff including nurses, phyiostherapists and midwives will get zero. Health workers are already seeing their workload increase as the full effects of the government's NHS cuts come into play. While the pay freeze has been condemned by all the health service unions, with the Royal College of Midwives' saying for instance:“Midwives are in effect being asked to take a pay cut in an attempt to remedy an economic situation in which they are victims, not the cause,” none of the unions are planning to do anything about the government's move. As a health worker rightly said: "We can't pay hard-working nurses a decent wage but we can afford yet another war all of a sudden and the bankers get millions in bonuses, great eh?" Another said: "So where do we go from here? What are the unions going to propose we do?" Health unions like Unite and Unison need to stop moaning and start organising action.
Protest at Lib-Dem Conference in Sheffield
The Lib Dems were in town! And Clegg and his bandits wanted protection from the angry people whose jobs and services they have been systematically cutting since they gained power. South Yorkshire police obliged with a thousand-strong police force in the city centre, mobile barricades, surveillance and a steel ring around City Hall. The media had been bandying about figures of a ten-thousand strong demonstration over the weekend,a figure not a single activist on the ground agreed with and was clearly a pretext to justify the reported £2m cost of the entire operation. This expense clearly flies in the face of local people who have been told in the past months of the need to tighten their belts and accept harsh and “unavoidable” cuts to public services. There is a general suspicion that this was a bit of a trial run for March 26th and the type of tactics deployed on the day seem to confirm this.
In the end around 5,000 people turned out for the main demonstration on the Saturday. A good turn-out in spite of the predicted figures and generally a good atmosphere with groups from all areas of life that are currently being affected by the Con-Dem agenda. The speeches were, predictably, a staid affair, dominated by trade union bureaucrats and self-appointed leaders of the movement. Thankfully the vibrancy of those marching injected a bit of life into the event in spite of this. The anarchists formed their own bloc with individuals from Sheffield Student Occupation and members of People and Planet (who had also brought a bicycle-powered sound system to provide a soundtrack to our march). The “friendly face” of S. Yorkshire police was on show as well with liaison officers deployed throughout the crowd, not evidence gathering teams at all honest!, there to assure us that we “weren’t gunna be caged” in front of City Hall and honestly inquire where we were from, who we were associated with and what our plans were. Direct action had been promised by some Trotskyist groups for in front of City Hall, unsurprisingly they failed to deliver (a single student from Nottingham let off a flare and was arrested scaling the fence). Clearly selling papers was a far better use of their time than disrupting the conference. Aware that this would be the case, the libertarian bloc opted to take matters into their own hands, decided not to enter the “freedom cage” in front of City Hall and split from the main demonstration for a direct-action-tour of Fargate.
Tax dodgers and bail-out banks were targeted in a series of “bail-ins” made all the more entertaining by the sound system in tow. A number of locals even joined the festivities and people were generally very supportive. One activist reported a passer-by saying, upon seeing fifty masked troublemakers charge down Fargate, “This is what they ALL should be doing!” Despite the size of the operation, S. Yorkshire police were totally unprepared and Topshop, Vodafone, Natwest and Boots were all shut down. When the response finally did come it was predictably violent. The successful use of de-arrest and anti-kettling tactics meant no one was arrested. Unfortunately a small group did get kettled on Fargate for a short period of time. Police were indiscriminate in detaining people trapping a few local people who weren’t part of the protest but just happened to look alternative. A fifteen year-old girl was punched in the face at this point and a mother pushed to the floor while with her kid. Locals were on the case though and thanks to a load of hassle the cops quickly realised they would have to release the kettle, marching them back to the cage in front of City Hall only for everyone to quickly disperse. Overall it was a successful day made all the more successful by no arrests.
These direct action tactics need to be applied on a mass scale if we are to be successful in beating the wave of cuts and austerity measures. Direct action really does get the goods! We showed what we could do with just fifty people. Imagine what could be done if we had just three or four times that willing to take things into their own hands. This means the end of A-B marches, no more leaders and bureaucrats bleating on about writing to your MPs. It means real action led by those affected pushing the ONLY real alternative – anti-capitalism.
Full text and PDF of the Anarchist Federation's monthly bulletin.
Everything we’ve won: they want it back
How anarchists understand the cuts: Anarchists understand the cuts not as a failure of Capitalism, or as Capitalism having gone too far, but as one logical outcome of a profit-driven economy, because of the nature of the class system it creates. It has created a class of people who ripped us off to get where they are, and they are now rubbing our faces in it, supported by a state which exists essentially to protect their interests.
The cuts are therefore a calculated ideological attack on the working class at the point where the ruling class otherwise faces financial crisis. They are not a necessity for society as a whole. Because of this, it is pointless to appeal to the state to cease the attack and stop bailing out the bankers instead of punishing us.
Why anarchists organise against the cuts: Our immediate aim is exactly the same as everyone’s: to stop this attack on our economic well-being. As we see it, what little we have as a class, we have won through struggle in previous generations. Now the state is strong enough to take it back again. So anarchists are part of the working class as it defends what it has.
But anarchists don’t argue for a benevolent state, for state-ownership of industry and services. This is where we differ from the trades union leadership and most of the Left. We think we need to go further as a class, to achieve political freedom as well as economic equality. So whilst we are defending what we have, we are also attacking the state, threatening its legitimacy and suggesting to people that we would be better off without it.
Under Thatcherism, as under repressive and uncaring regimes elsewhere and before it, the working class had to look after itself. It established voluntarily what it needed when things got really tough, out of mutual solidarity. So, in the 1980s, strike support groups were set up which made major industrial disputes sustainable. In areas of high unemployment, claimants unions emerged. Where racial minorities were marginalised in inner city ghettos, people gave their time freely to save their youth from self-destruction. In places where women experienced violence, rape crisis centres and refuges were set up. We did these things because no one did it for us.
The re-election of Labour initially brought state funding for some of these projects and their workers got qualifications and wages – not a bad thing in itself. But New Labour started eroding the autonomy of radical projects. Grants were cut but Lottery funding – the great sop – was denied to ‘political’ projects. And what remains of the professionalised voluntary sector is now being demolished by the ConDems.
So this is about us, starting again from scratch, yet again, and with nothing. That’s why anarchists don’t trust state provision: what it gives with one hand, it can take back with the other. That is why we don’t see a contradiction between defending state provision and opposing the state. We all have short-term needs and have to fight to get them met however we can. The process of fighting gives us strength and confidence but also reminds us that all we have is one another. Let’s make the most we can of that fact.
Why we don’t think the TUC can help us in this fight: The unions are not prepared to stand up to the state but only to tip-toe round the law. They won’t risk huge fines by calling for effective action, such as mass or secondary picketing or a general strike.
It is no wonder that the majority of new workers – with the worst pay and conditions - are too afraid to unionise, and that traditional unions are unable to bridge the divide between ‘worker’ and ‘unemployed’. These unions mostly exist to support one section of the working class at the expense of another. Even in this, they are at present so weak that they can’t do much more than negotiate ‘fairer’ redundancy packages for their members, and settle for below-the-cost-of-living pay increases.
In desperation, several major unions are trying to ‘win the argument’ with the state about why it doesn’t need to make the cuts. In this, too much emphasis is being placed on the demand that the super-rich pay their taxes. This all assumes that the ruling class feels accountable to us. How much more evidence do we need that this is not true?
How we should fight the cuts: In short, we need to fight the cuts with immediacy! This is not a practice run or a time to make threats that we can’t back up with action. The state will only make concessions if we threaten its power, to the extent that when capitalists and their tame politicians looks at events in the Arab world, they start to think about what can happen when a people sees its state as illegitimate. We have to make them sweat!
We are already seeing an increase in civil unrest and a shift from reformism to radicalisation in Britain. This will only increase as people’s material circumstances decline. We have to turn despair and isolation into power and collective action, to create a mass movement of resistance together.
We should be:
· Forming General Assemblies on the basis of neighbourhoods, communities, universities, industries and so on. The point is that they cut across divisions like worker/non-worker, student/administrative staff/lecturer. They need to elect instantly recallable delegates to co-ordinate with other assemblies, so that vested interests can’t take hold and power can’t corrupt, and no one can get lazy or sell out. This is the best way to co-ordinate between university and factory occupations, town hall invasions, community-run support groups and so on.
· Using such assemblies to organise for a General Social Strike. The TUC isn’t even able to organise a symbolic one-day general workers’ strike, and with weak ineffectual unions and poor job security, workers can’t risk going it alone. So let’s have massive civil disorder on the part of people who can take action: walk-outs of schools and colleges and massive occupations of our city centres; creative use of facilities like libraries, parks, leisure centres to show workers there that we are behind them; economic blockades e.g. of fuel depos where the workers can’t get away with picketing, and so on.
· Building alternatives to reliance on the state for everything. Again, general assemblies can provide a structure for this. But we can’t replace the state as though it will simply collapse through under-use. We can’t by-pass it by creating islands of autonomy: it will fight back. We can’t pretend that we can manage just fine without it economically either. This is not Cameron’s ‘Big Society’: it is the working class fighting for its life. These alternatives must have revolutionary ideas at their heart and must organise against the state as well as outside it.
Bristol AF on the Battle of Stokes Croft
Around 10pm on Thursday 21st April, people from Stokes Croft and St Pauls in Bristol, reacting to blatant provocation, started attacking riot police gathered from three different forces with glass bottles. What ensued was seven hours of constant clashes; police charges, volleys of glass, brick and concrete, burning barricades and the trashing of a much-loathed Tesco recently forced on a community who for so long battled to stop it opening.
Just before 9pm, police had forcibly removed a small protest from outside the Tesco, which had been there since the store opened a week earlier and set up a cordon closing that stretch of the road. Their stated aim was to enter the squatted ‘Telepathic Heights’, an iconic, graffiti-covered building opposite Tesco. They claimed to be acting on intelligence that suggested some occupants where planning to make petrol bombs with which to attack Tesco. Even if this intelligence was accurate, the number of police was far disproportionate to the half a dozen occupants of the squat.
The blocking of road by the police, the news that Telepathic Heights was threatened and that the Tesco protest had been forcibly broken up meant it wasn’t long before a substantial crowd had gathered. The crowd became more and more angry as police refused to give justification for their presence, pushing or hitting anyone who got close to their lines. The increased tension of recent months, which has built up as austerity measures begin to kick in and the community of Stokes Croft and St Pauls feel ever more ignored and marginalised, had found a focal point and personification in the belligerence of the police. All it took was for someone to tip over a glass recycling bin.
After the initial barrage of bottles, people retreated into St Pauls. As people came out of their doors to see police marching through their streets, many joined in defending against the police. A routine of the police charging then retreating under a hail of bottles and bricks started to develop. Bins were set on fire and charged into police lines, others were used to form makeshift barricades. Around 1pm police retreated to Stokes Croft and soon found themselves and their vans surrounded. The vans were prevented from moving off as others pelted them from a side street. Eventually the police broke out and sped away in the vans out of sight further up the road.
Celebrations broke out as the crowd realised they had taken the streets. Calls of “Smash Tesco!” rang out. Tesco windows and an abandoned police vehicle were smashed and a police trailer full of riot equipment was looted. Police then returned to the area. There were more clashes as police forced people back into St Pauls and down Stokes Croft before finding themselves again outmanoeuvred and at which point they again retreated. This time Tesco’s windows went all the way through as well as the shutters behind. When the police came back, their vans sped straight into the crowd. At least one person was caught behind police lines, unable to get out of Tesco in time and took a frenzied beating whilst on the floor. One man was run over, sustaining an injury to his foot, and others were hit by vans. Protesters made sure that vans would not be able to move in again by dragging a skip into the road. Tesco was entered a second time and objects launched from rooftops made it increasingly difficult for the police.
A number of injuries were sustained and nine arrests made including four of the occupants of Telepathic Heights. Police report that eight of their number were hospitalised.
One local resident noted the police had “thrown a quarter century of semi-decent community policing down the drain” another saying “If they [the police] don’t calm down, things are getting tense enough on a range of other issues for a new pattern to develop of poor community relations and repeat rioting against a police force which has chosen political sides”.
The police provoked this. Turning up in this area of Bristol with such numbers, attacking Telepathic Heights and blatantly using public money to defend the interests of a corporate giant such as Tesco was always going to get a reaction.
Have you been mistreated by Office Angels?We reprint a call from the Solidarity Federation for current or former employees of the temp agency Office Angels to come forward with any grievances they have against this employer.
Solidarity Federation are organising a campaign against Office Angels after an ex-employee asked for our assistance. Dan worked for the London agency for three days in December of last year. He was assured by the company that the lack of a time-sheet would 'not be a problem'. However, Office Angels are refusing to pay him the wages he is owed - falsely claiming he only worked for one day, despite them having called him at work on his third day. After completely ripping him off, they had the nerve to harass him for seeking advice on an internet discussion forum.
Temporary workers face similar unacceptable conditions every day. They work without sick pay or maternity leave, are vulnerable to unfair and instant dismissals and have no union support. Rising unemployment and a bleak economic climate will force even more of us to accept these precarious conditions - yet another example of working class people being exploited by an economic system that only benefits the rich.The best way to improve our conditions at work and in our communities is by standing together and resisting. We want to hear from any current or previous Office Angels employees that have come into conflict with this company and its culture of disrespect. We know that this is not an isolated incident and the more people get involved, the more pressure we can put on the company to start treating its workers properly.
Eviction Resisted at Social Centre Plus
"Social Centre Plus" is an abandoned Job Centre on Deptford High Street, South London, that local residents have taken over and transformed into an organising space and social centre for the anti-cuts movement. On Tuesday 12th April they faced an eviction ordered by the High Court. Below, we reprint their report of what happened:
SOCIAL CENTRE PLUS, the occupied Job Centre on Deptford High Street, successfully resisted an eviction attempt on the morning of Tuesday 12th. Around 60 people gathered outside the space, linking arms and blocking the front door so as to prevent High Court bailiffs and builders – backed up by a vanload of police – from entering.The victory was achieved following an hour-long stand-off, during which the bailiffs – from Locks Bury Services – were spotted along with Paul Jackson, the site’s landlord, outside the Deptford Project, the café opposite Social Centre Plus, whose owner also wanted the space for a high society art exhibition. There they made a series of frantic phone calls in which they spelt out their reluctance to confront the occupiers inside the anti-cuts space, some of whom were positioned on the building’s roof.Eventually the police informed the bailiffs that they had no intention of intervening, and recommended that they come back another day. Members of the local community remained outside SCP for most of the morning, savouring the success for South East London’s anti-cuts movement.However, the SCP Collective is well aware of the continued threat to the space. A second eviction attempt must be expected, and this time Locks Bury will come unannounced, and with the necessary tools and thugs to remove the occupiers. Despite this, SCP remains committed to hosting and facilitating the local anti-cuts movement, even if they do have to move on from 122 Deptford High Street.With this in mind, SCP hosted a public meeting the night before the eviction resistance in order to coordinate further activities against the government’s brutal cuts, both at local and national level. The NHS, local education and attacks to quality of housing were amongst the issues discussed. Local residents who want to join the borough’s fight back against the cuts are encouraged to get in touch or come along to one of our upcoming Open Days.
Benefits Cuts: National Week of Action
Beginning on 9th April people around the country took part in a National Week of Action against benefits cuts. Atos Origin were the focus of many protests around the country, from Truro to Dundee. The last Labour government replaced Incapacity Benefit with Employment Support Allowance, and introduced a harsh new ‘medical’ test to cut back the number of qualifying claimants. Atos Origin, a French IT company, secured a half a billion pounds contract to carry out these ‘medical’ assessments. The ConDem government is enthusiastically pushing forward Labour’s attack on the sick and disabled. As Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty have put it: “These assessments have nothing to do with the sympathetic care and support of the sick and needy that should be the mark of a civilised society, and everything to do with making the vulnerable pay for a crisis that is none of their making.”
While pickets in Brighton and Liverpool got a positive response from the public and handed out leaflets urging people to oppose these cuts, in Glasgow activists followed up a picket with a raid on the Glasgow offices of the Daily Mail. After walking past the security guard on the ground floor and being let into the offices by sympathetic staff, they demanded that journalists stop lying about disabled people and portraying them as scroungers, handing out leaflets against what they described as anti-claimant propaganda published in the Mail.
The Suggestion Box
“I’m a perception manager” - A public relations guru
The government plans to develop a new section of the census which will measure the general happiness of the nation, instead of simply measuring things like the average number of people living in one household and the employment rate. Is this a good thing? Has the government suddenly decided to start caring about us and how we feel? And why now during a huge economic crisis would the government announce this plan?
Scott Noble’s 2010 documentary Human Resources explores how during the early development of the production-line form of manufacturing and the era of Robert Ford, a study was carried out by leading industrialists; the aim of the study was to further understand how workers reacted to this new form of production and how they could be more effectively managed. This was known as the Hawthorne study. Part of the study was concerned with how the lighting in a workshop affected workers. Rather than immediately going ahead and changing the lighting, factory owners allowed workers to voice their opinions about how they thought their workshops should be lit.
What this part of the study found was that even if the factory owners completely ignored the suggestions of the workers and changed the lighting as they saw fit or didn’t change the lighting at all, the production level in the factory and the general satisfaction of workers increased after the workers were consulted. Even though the exercise of asking the workers how they felt about it had no real effect on what the owners did, the workers felt that they mattered to the owners of the factory. It was also found that in factories where workers were consulted in this deceitful fashion they were far less likely to agitate and encourage dissent. Out of this study and its findings was born an entire school of PR which was funded by industrialists like Rockefeller; PR was quickly identified as a highly effective weapon in the class war from which it arose.
In a more democratic society physical force cannot always be relied on to pacify a population and often makes the population more aware of their situation and their exploiters. Instead the ruling class must find means of manipulating the perceptions which form the beliefs of the population. PR, marketing and advertisements have now become the main way in which the ruling class communicate with the rest of society and all three have developed the science of manipulation more than any other human endeavor.
This new plan for judging the happiness of citizens follows the same logic; the government doesn’t really care how we feel, but they know that when it comes to pacifying a very angry population during an economic crisis, it’s helpful to be able to pretend they care and that we have input. As always with liberal representative democracy, the suggestion box is there but they don’t really give a shit about what you put in it.
After 129 days... a victory for the people of Keratea
After over four months of militant resistance, residents of Keratea, a town in Southern main-land Greece, have won an important victory against the government. Locals had objected to the government’s plans to build a 15.4 hectare landfill site in the area on the grounds that it would irreversibly damage the local environment, adversely affect the health of residents and fell on an area declared to be of archaeological interest.
Resistance started in December when locals engaged in fierce battles with riot police sent to protect construction equipment en-route to the proposed site. Rioting went into consecutive days as riot vans and police were attacked with Molotov cocktails and barricades were erected around the town, forcing a local court to order a temporary halt to the works. All action had been organised and co-ordinated at the grassroots via the use of open, general assemblies.
The court order was, however, merely an attempt to calm the situation and allow the bulk of police resources to be diverted to the General Strike in central Athens through mid-December. Despite halting construction, police occupation of the area continued with many residents arrested and subject to police brutality for their part in the riots. Late December saw an economic blockade of Athens International Airport (around ten miles north of the town).
By January, the Greek High Court had ruled in the government’s favour arguing that the economic benefits of the landfill outweighed the concerns of the residents. Construction continued, but so did local resistance. Near-daily clashes with riot police occurred at the construction site while the government responded by orchestrating raids and using arbitrary arrests against locals.
In late February, rumours circulated throughout the press that the General Strike would once again cause construction to halt. It would be another two months, however, until the government would reconsider its position. So routine were the clashes between riot police and residents over this period that locals would use the city hall’s air raid sirens as well as church bells to call people to the barricades. Construction equipment was also routinely set ablaze.
Early April saw a group of activists dig a two-meter ditch across the Lavriou Highway, leading to Keratea, permanently blocking traffic leading to the town. By this point the locals had cost the Greek government a reported 2.5 million Euros in policing costs, a figure, a high-ranking police officer was forced to admit, that would exceed the cost of building the landfill.
Finally, on Monday April 18th, after 129 days of struggle, riot police withdrew from the town, and the state committed to negotiate with the municipality. There is still a great deal of suspicion that this may be yet another strategic move on the part of the government, but for the time being at least, it is cause for celebration. Even so, the residents are certainly prepared for any double-dealing on the part of the government.
As an Indymedia correspondent noted, the real victory has been in the community that has erupted out of this struggle, “the ‘scouts’”, as they put it, “who up until yesterday were simple employees, workers, pensioners or housewives… the ‘commandos’ who were until yesterday bricklayers, farmers, students, migrants and petit-businessmen”.
If the people of Keratea are successful in halting construction it will represent another high-profile victory for protesters against the government. The victory of the 300 migrant hunger strikers earlier this year as well as the continued popularity of the “we won’t pay” movement and continuing strikes in the public sector paints the picture of an increasingly ungovernable populace. IMF-imposed austerity measures are very unpopular and examples like Keratea only reinforce the need for direct action in combating them. With a continuing recession, escalating unemployment and a severe reduction in wages Greece appears to be a tinder box in which it is only a matter of time before we see scenes like those witnessed in December 2008 again.
Egypt: The Struggle Continues
Egyptian workers have carried on their fight since the downfall of Hosni Sayyid Mubarak, former President of Egypt, earlier this year. Even though the new government has made strikes and demonstrations illegal, working class Egyptians have continued in open defiance of the regime.On the 7th of April, textile workers in Monufia (North of Cairo) went back on strike because their bosses were manipulating workers into resigning following an agreement that sacked workers would be reinstated. The last strike lasted 35 days, halting attempts by the Indorama Group, the Indonesian multinational that owns the factory, to dismantle the plant and lay off the workforce.Further strikes broke out at 14 power stations on the 11th of April, with workers demanding the sacking of Energy Ministry officials accused of corruption, while simultaneously workers continued to protest at the headquarters of a number of companies affiliated to the Suez Canal Authority. Others taking action across the country in recent weeks include gas cylinder distributors, tax authority employees, teachers, nursing students, and 350 workers at a crisp factory.While the rebranding of the Egyptian government under the new Prime Minister, Essam Abdel-Aziz Sharaf, may be enough to divert the attention of the world media from the situation in Egypt, the continuing wave of workers' direct action across the country shows that ordinary Egyptians are far from satisfied. They are fighting for more than a change in government – they are fighting for a change in their daily lives, and some new figurehead ordering them all back to work is not going to suffice.
A wildcat strike is a strike taken without official union support. Because they don't have to deal with union bureaucracy, and aren't subject to trade union legislation, wildcat strikes are often very effective - as in this case.
Construction Workers Locked Out in Saltend
After a wildcat strike last month where workers won a major victory by taking direct action - blockading the gates of the site where they were working - construction workers at Saltend in the East Riding of Yorkshire have faced a five week lockout. Following a mass meeting at which workers learned talks with management had broken down, a sit-in protest took place at the site on Monday 11th April. The locked-out workers have also blockaded roads in protest at their mistreatment.Two trade unions, Unite and GMB, have officially supported the workers protests. However, the response from management - both Redhall, the contractor that directly employs the workers and Vivergo, the BP-led consortium that owns the site - has been poor, with workers offered only £3,300, less than the wages they are owed.
Solidarity for the locked out workers has remained strong, with repair and maintenance workers as well as electricians and scaffolders refusing to cross picket lines to go into the plant while the dispute is ongoing.An emergency meeting of NECC (National Engineering Construction Committee) stewards was called in Leeds for the 18th of April to discuss the situation at the Saltend plant.
Canadian Posties Wildcat
Postal workers in Edmonton, Canada, took wildcat action from Tuesday April 12th to Thursday 14th against extreme pay cuts of up to $28,000 per year imposed by the state-owned Canada Post Corporation. Contractors, hired to scab on the strike, were prevented from entering the Herbert Road distribution centre in St Albert when picketing workers locked arms, blocking the doorway. Many other contractors called in sick or refused to cross the picket. The action followed a previous, successful campaign against forced overtime at the same union branch.
The workers were ordered back to work on Friday 15th by the Canadian Industrial Relations Board, but their action was immediately followed by a national vote in favour of a postal strike by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, if Canada Post doesn’t improve their offer. Canada’s posties aren’t taking Canada Post’s attempts to cut pay and working conditions sitting down – and nor should they. Canada Post has posted profits for 16 consecutive years! There couldn’t be a clearer case of a successful corporation taking advantage of the recession to lighten their load.
Yemeni Women in the Protest Movement
It was heartening to watch a video the Guardian had posted online of a Yemeni woman explaining how women have been participating more and more in the anti-government protests, even speaking in public, and how the deaths of protesters have only made her more determined to continue resisting. Yemen showed their support for women protesters on Sunday 17th April, when hundreds of thousands took to the streets in cities across the country in outrage against President Saleh’s statement that women shouldn’t attend rallies.
Women in Britain and all over the world have to contend with sexist religions telling them what they can or cannot do; even when these proscriptions are not enforced by law, they are very frequently enforced by custom. Anarchists believe that no revolution is complete if people are still divided by prejudice, and sexism and patriarchy need to be toppled just like capitalism does.
National Minimum Wage gets a token increase
Low paid workers who receive the National Minimum Wage (NMW) will see their income rise by a paltry 15p an hour from October. This small amount will do nothing to protect the poorest paid from inflation. Inflation is expected to exceed 5% this year. The NMW is rising by just 2.5%, which will do nothing to help workers keep up with the rising cost of food and fuel. Young workers will see their income rise by even less. The rate for 18-20 year olds will grow by just 6p an hour – a 1.2% rise – and for 16-17 year olds by 4p. This means an incredible extra 32p a day! Despite the pathetically small increase which affects over 890,000 workers, the bosses are complaining. David Frost, director-general of the British Chamber of Commerce who we reckon is earning a bit more than £6.08 an hour, said the increase was “the wrong increase at the wrong time”. Shame no one bothered to tell the bankers that when they got their bonuses!
Easter School Occupations
March saw an outbreak of school occupations in France. Reports indicate there were over 250 during the month. Occupations have been in protest to class and school closures, loss of teaching posts, and increases in class sizes. The initiative has come mainly from parents at infant and primary schools, as well as colleges. The first was a 3 hour occupation in Kernéval, but as direct action spread, many of the occupations were overnight or lasted several days. Occupations have often had parties, barbecues and the parents sleeping in tents in the playgrounds. They have continued into the Easter break, and without the pressures caused by summer terms exams, seem unlikely to stop any time soon.
Nurses Occupy Polish Parliament
The Polish Parliament was occupied all night by a group of nurses in protest against the casualisation of their profession. The nurses are angry about legislation aimed at increasing the level of privatisation in health care. Proposed changes in the law would also lead to increased working hours for certain groups of health care professionals, and increased numbers of nurses on temporary contracts. A report on Libcom states that 'Around Poland, nurses already are grossly underpaid. Many hospitals do not live up to collective agreements or give pay rises that were promised. Currently nurses are striking in Stargard and there is a hunger strike of nurses in Przemysl. There are dozens of other labour conflicts going on in hospitals around the country.'
There has been a more general increase in protests during March, involving both postal workers and miners. Strikes on the railways, in educational institutions and at a Fiat plant also look possible. This comes at the same time as tenant activists are refusing to recognise the legitimacy of Warsaw's local government, and instead are calling for popular control of public housing and use of empty housing for those in need of housing. Tragically, a housing activist from the Warsaw Tenants Association was killed in a recent protest.
Chiapas Update: Stop the Repression of Indigenous Communities
IN CHIAPAS, MEXICO, the last two years have seen a new phase of attacks against self-organised indigenous communities, such as the Zapatistas and those who adhere to the Zapatista-initiated Other Campaign. These attacks, primarily made by state-sponsored paramilitaries, have been linked to the Tourist Plan for Chiapas, a corporate tourism project.
This tourist plan will not benefit local communities. The Mexican government will have to evict the indigenous communities from the land that is located in the project areas, because they will never sell. The government's strategy is to use paramilitary groups to take over this land and then buy it from these groups.
The Zapatistas have successfully stopped paramilitary land grabs near the Bolon Ajaw waterfalls and the El Salvador Spa Resort near Agua Clara. Paramilitary attacks have hampered the development of autonomous education and health services by Zapatista communities, but these attacks have also been successfully resisted.
Agua Azul Waterfalls
Adherents of The Other Campaign from San Sebastián Bachajón control the toll booth at the entrance to the Agua Azul Waterfalls. Attempts to remove them from the booth have been constant, and local police and paramilitaries threaten local civilians on a daily basis.
Two years ago the payment booth was dismantled through an operation involving state and federal police. Despite false criminal charges and forced confessions not in their own indigenous language, the local community was able to peacefuly regain control of the toll booth through a consultation process in community assemblies. A roadblock and a national and international solidarity campaign also helped.
In San Sebastian Bachajón, on the 2nd and 3rd February, 117 people were again arrested on false charges during another eviction of the toll booth. 107 were released on February 5th. Five others were released after national and international demonstrations, but five remain in prison.
On 8th April the Other Campaign supporters from San Sebastian Bachajón regained control of the toll booth. The following day over 800 state and federal police and troops violently evicted them. Following this act of repression by the bad government, three of the Other Campaign supporters disappeared.
The corporate tourist plan includes a £149 million road between the popular tourist centres San Cristobal De Las Casas and Palenque. The planned superhighway will take over the communal land of the Mitzitón community, also adherents to the Other Campaign. The local government has used the alleged paramilitary group "Army of God" to harass the community and impose the road resulting in the death of Aurelio Díaz Hernández two years ago.
Roadblocks and another national and international solidarity campaign have also stopped this part of the corporate tourist plan. However, on 13th February the aggressors returned to attack the adherents, resulting in two of the adherents being kidnapped and severely beaten. Army of God members opened fire on the community and Carmen Jiménez Heredia was hit by a bullet and hospitalized in a critical condition.
Given the escalating level of violence by the Mexican state and paramilitary groups, it is clear that there is an offensive against the communities who struggle for a Mexico with justice for all and who oppose the implementation of privatisation projects. So we call to everyone whose heart is below and to the left to demonstrate their solidarity. International pressure combined with community direct action in Chiapas has stopped the repression in the past. Help us do this again. Email the Mexican Ambassador to the UK, firstname.lastname@example.org. More information and a model protest letter can be found at: http://glasgowchiapassolidaritygroup.wordpress.com/2011
Stop the aggression! Stop the harassment of communities!
Freedom for political prisoners! If you go for one of us you go for all of us!
Full text and PDF of the Anarchist Federation's monthly bulletin.
Week of Action Against ATOS Origin: A report from the streets of Liverpool
On 9th May the offices of ATOS Origin in Liverpool's business district were picketed by a group of activists including benefit claimants, health and education workers and members of UK Uncut Liverpool, Liverpool Anarchist Federation and Liverpool Solidarity Federation. Liverpool Solidarity Federation called the picket in solidarity with the Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign and Disabled People Against Cuts.
One of Merseyside Police's omnipresent Matrix vans showed up almost as soon as the picket started and left one of its occupants to ensure the picketers kept their distance from the building as instructed; however, as the rain bucketed down, the lone copper wisely decided not to try preventing the group from taking shelter close to the entrance.
With slogans hastily hand-written and taped onto scavenged placards, the picketers shared cake and umbrellas as they distributed leaflets to workers on their way in and out of The Plaza building, where ATOS Origin has its Liverpool offices. The intervention was welcomed by workers in the building which, amongst some generic legal, property and credit companies, houses a home care agency and RNID Communications Services â€“ companies whose clients and employees are likely to be affected by ATOS's dreaded Work Capability Assessments.
If any of the workers who took the leaflet were from ATOS Origin, they didn't say so, but nobody expressed objections to Solfed's flier, which depicts ATOS CEO Keith Wilman declaring: "Too sick to work? I don't give ATOS!" and contrasts his £626,000 salary to the plight of the 30,000 people wrongly declared fit for work and denied benefits by ATOS assessments in the last two years.
The picket remained for its planned duration, and further actions are a distinct possibility.
Edinburgh's refuse workers step up resistance
The resistance of Edinburgh's refuse workers continues amid fresh offensives from the city council. The dispute between the workers and the city council over proposed changes to working patterns along with a significant wage cuts started in 2009 as the city council looked to cut wages to its entire manual workforce including road workers, street cleaners and gardeners.
Faced with the pay cut, along with a substantial change to working patterns, the refuse collectors of Edinburgh organised a work-to-rule and operated an overtime ban. Now, after almost two years of struggle, the workers feel it's time to step up the action, with threats coming from the council that 100 workers could be made redundant.
Workers from across Edinburgh's refuse collection depots held a mass meeting in April, resulting in a collective decision to ballot for strike action. The Unite union that supposedly represents the workers has remained wholly inactive to the call for a strike ballot; three weeks after the event, workers are yet to hear from the union on the issue.
Unite's last three meetings with workers have been cancelled without warning or reason being offered. At one of their branch meetings workers expressed their opinion of the union's lack of action by voting overwhelmingly for the removal of the Unite convener Stephen McGregor, but he refused to step down.
Throughout the struggle, Edinburgh City Council has been hiring scab workers from elsewhere in the UK and putting them up in hotels, whilst using the national slash-and-burn cuts agenda to justify the wholesale privatisation of a large proportion of its workforce. Reports are circulating amongst workers of a meeting between Unite leaders Stephen McGregor and Sandy Smart and representatives of some of the private businesses set to get contracts if refuse collection is sold off. This collaboration would come as no surprise to the refuse collectors.
The latest move from the council has been to integrate trade and domestic waste, massively increasing the workload on the workforce without any increase in pay, whilst laying off over 20 temporary staff only to replace them with private contractors. Having been let down by Unite at every turn and facing more threats to their workload and working conditions, Edinburgh's refuse collectors are turning increasingly to self-organisation.
The April workers' meeting produced a result even more encouraging than the overwhelming vote to ballot for strike action; it saw the workers organise the resumption of Saturday pickets attended by the workers themselves to prevent scabs leaving the depots. The duplicitous privatisation agenda of Edinburgh City Council has left many of its workers facing the prospect of increased workloads, pay cuts, and redundancy. Organised resistance is the only response.
USA - Workers Picket Provenance Hotels in Portland & Seattle to Support San Francisco Hotel Workers
A non-traditional alliance of workers in Portland and Seattle organized a Day of Solidarity with Hotel Frank Workers last Friday, April 29. The Portland Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the Seattle Solidarity Network, and workers at Hotel Frank in San Francisco were all on the streets picketing Provenance hotels. Provenance is the hotel management company that threw the UNITE HERE Local 2 contract at Hotel Frank in the trash almost a year ago.
In Portland, the IWW picketed Hotel Lucia. Provenance has its headquarters in Portland, as well as two upper-crust boutique hotels, Hotel Lucia and Hotel deLuxe. The IWW has a long history as a militant and radical labor union, often credited with popularizing the slogan and philosophy that "An Injury to One is An Injury to All."
In Seattle, the Seattle Solidarity Network picketed Hotel Max, another high-end Provenance boutique hotel. SeaSol, founded in 2008, is a much younger organization than the IWW, but has already established a reputation for organizing successful campaigns for workers and tenants' rights.
And in San Francisco, Hotel Frank workers held our regular Friday afternoon picket. Hotel Frank workers declared a boycott of the hotel last September. Since then we have staged an escalating series of actions aimed at restoring our Union contract, including active picket lines and unannounced delegations to management.
Last Saturday, the day after the tri-city action, we set up a loud picket line at Hotel Frank at 7 AM on Saturday morning, rousing the guests out of their beds a bit earlier than they were expecting, prompting a flood of complaints by guests to the beleaguered managers. Union-busting companies and guests who cross picket lines reap what they sow.
We are the room cleaners, front desk hosts, bellmen, housemen, laundry and maintenance workers who have worked at Hotel Frank for 10, 20 even 30 years. Hotel Frank is a small hotel just off Union Square. We have had a Union contract for nearly 40 years.
But in May, 2010, Wells Fargo bank bought the hotel in a foreclosure sale. The bank brought in a new management company, Provenance, and declared our contract null and void. Since then, it has been one travesty after another.
The room cleaners are cleaning many more rooms, often skipping their breaks out of necessity, and suffering debilitating injuries to boot. Everybody works an extra half-hour per day for free. Staffing has been cut to the bone. There has been no agreement about medical coverage or pensions. And the hotel has fired Union activists, including myself, and disciplined workers on frivolous and discriminatory charges. We are waiting for a decision by a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge on a trial instigated by the NLRB on numerous violations of federal labor law by the hotel.
Hotel Frank workers have dug in, have stayed strong, and remain very solid and united. "This is a small group of workers facing a big bully," said Maria Guillen of Jobs with Justice. Lately the hotel calls the police every time we set up our picket line, but so far the only action the police have taken is to arrest an out-of-control guest who took a swing at me. The solidarity of workers in Portland and Seattle is, of course, music to our ears. And the support we have received from other workers and community folks on our picket lines keeps us going day-by-day. It's a true story - An Injury to One is An Injury to All.
by Marc Norton
Call for Solidarity with Greek Anarchists and other Revolutionaries
The Anarchist Federation (UK) echoes the call for acts of solidarity with the Greek working class and Anarchist milieu made by our comrades at the Eutopia journal and the Athens Group of Libertarian Communists.
At a demonstration in support of the General Strike on Wednesday 11th of May, police made an entirely unprovoked attack on what they perceived to be the most political radical sections of the crowd. Hundreds of tear-gas cannisters were fired, many people were beaten and hundreds injured. One demonstrator, by the name of Yannis, is currently in a critical state in hospital and is at serious risk of losing his life.
This comes after months of increasing repression on the part of the State, Fascists and other far-right groups who our Greek Comrades believe to have close links with the government. There have been regular violent assaults by far-right gangs on migrants, leading to at least one death. This is the standard tactic of fascists in a time of capitalist crisis, to scapegoat ethnic minorities and violently attack them.
Far-right groups and police have also been making violent attacks on anarchist and anti-authoritarian squats in Athens, with the aim of disrupting the activity of the movement, which has been heavily involved in the resistance against the austerity measures being forced onto the Greek working class.
In Britain in recent times we have also seen the same pattern of austerity measures, increasing far-right activity in the form of the EDL, police violence against participants on anti-austerity demonstrations, and state attacks on the Anarchist milieu, such as the recent raids on Anarchist squats in the run up to the Royal Wedding.
The current crisis of Capitalism is a global crisis, and States around the world are reacting to it in similar ways, through austerity measures driven by neoliberal ideology and enforced by international institutions such as the IMF. Therefore, our resistance to it must also be international, and we must stand in solidarity with our comrades in other parts of the world, both in our words and in our actions.
We call on British Anarchists and others struggling against the current attacks by the government to write to Greek comrades, organise demonstrations and take direct action in solidarity with them at this critical moment in the history of their movement.
Clashes in Italian Ports over Job Cuts
Italian portworkers have clashed with police in a number of protests following the announcement of sweeping job cuts. The job cuts constitute part of the Berlusconi government's latest round of austerity measures. The state owned shipbuilder, Fincantieri, is imposing job cuts and changes to terms and conditions that will affect around a third of its employees - two and a half thousand workers.
These include forced early retirement, reduced hours and job moves. The portworkers union have reported that this will result in the closure of the historic shipyards at Sestri and Castellammare. In response, portworkers have staged angry protests at a number of locations, which have resulted in clashes with management and police:
- Workers clashed with riot police outside government offices in Sestri, a northwestern suburb of Genoa. The protesters demanded to see the prime minister.
- At Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples, workers blockaded officials including the mayor and police chief in their offices overnight. According to the local press, the building was damaged by demonstrators, who also decapitated a nearby statue of Garibaldi, the Italian nationalist icon.
- Fincantieri portworkers also blockaded a highway near Sorrento in Campania.
The company has so far stated that the offered changes are "take it or leave it". Negotiations are scheduled with unions for the 3rd of June.
Hyundai Strike Hit with Police Repression in South Korea
Riot police have broken up a strike and occupation of Yoosung Enterprise factory in Asan, south of Seoul. Around 3000 riot police have attacked 500 strikers staging a sit-in at the factory, which manufactures piston rings for Hyundai, Kia, Renault and General Motors in South Korea. The majority of occupiers have been arrested, with the remaining strikers and their supporters being dispersed by the police.
The raid marks a significant attack on a building strike wave in the South Korean automobile industry which has seen several victories, but also follows several years of mounting repression against the workers' movement. Hyundai had already suspended production of diesel engines at its Ulsan plant as a result of the strike action creating a supply bottleneck, and had been threatening to suspend production of petrol engines as well.
However, Ulsan plant itself has been hit by strike action in recent months, initiating the strike wave leading to the Asan occupation. The end of 2010 saw a wave of strikes in which irregular workers - precarious employees with minimal rights, usually on short-term contracts and who earn on average less than half the salary of permanent employees - took a leading role. A sit in by irregular workers turned into a full-scale occupation after the protest was attacked by security guards and company thugs. The dispute spread to Chunju and Asan, and in Asan was met with significant violence during a prior attempt to organise a sit-in.
The tight supply chains utilised by Asian car companies, in particular Hyundai, with its lean production model, have been successfully disrupted by workers taking strike action in recent years, most effectively in China.
Spain - It's our moment: May the Occupations and Disobedience Continue!
Statement by the anarchosyndicalist CNT of Spain on the May protests and occupations which have swept the country:
The countless demonstrations and occupations that are taking root in the main squares of cities and villages since the 15th are a clear example of the organizational capacity of the people when they decide to be the protagonists of their own lives; overcoming apathy, resignation, and the absence of a self-awareness with which to articulate solutions to take on and construct alternatives to the many problems that today face all of us: workers, the unemployed, students, immigrants, retirees, the precarious...
The organizational formulas developed in these mobilizations prove the viability of direct participation through assemblies for taking decisions that channel our aspirations and demands and make us overcome individualism. We become protagonists, rather than spectators of a system based in representation and delegating authority, which erases our individuality. Assemblies, a rotating microphone, working groups, responsibility, capacity, organization, self-responsibility, coordination, involvement and visibility are the collective teeth that move our gears, capable of challenging the institutions and provoking an expectation and public debate that have eclipsed the electoral campaign and the recurring contents of the national and international press.
The illusions generated by the massive mobilizations shouldn't allow us to forget that this situation will be an object for instrumentalization, distortion, and management by political, social, and union groups; these groups are even more afraid than the government of losing the small amount of legitimacy that they have left in the minds of some citizens. Likewise, the proposals and messages emanating from these mobilizations must be analized in-depth. Overcoming the two-party system and gaining a modification to the Electoral Law will not make us freer, nor will it favor individual sovereignty. The demands are centered in the necessary sociopolitical changes, but there is a lack of denunciations or proposals discussing the world of work - clear and explicit denunciations of the collaborationist role of the institutional union federations, of the Labor Reform currently in force, and of the wide legal margin for implementing layoffs and destroying jobs.
Disobedience is the fundamental element that, since the 15th, has characterized all of the mobilization and expressions of protest. It is challenging and defying once again the repression and the attempts to hold back the occupations that are coming from various offices of the government and the Electoral Commissions; it is further strengthening the participation, involvement, and self-awareness of our need to organize ourselves. Disobedience is a collective pulse that demonstrates our overwhelming force when we work together and decide not to give up on our demands. It is a throb in our hearts that fuels an awakening of consciences that will allow us to react, and to extend our mobilization, our solidarity, and the overcoming of the fear that neutralizes struggle.
"Cualquier noche puede salir el Sol" ["Any night the sun could rise" - a line from a popular rock song about revolution, also a reference to Madrid's 'Puerta del Sol'], and in Madrid's central square we've already spent a week avoiding the sunset. We have materialized our practice, that it is not only possible but necessary to work together, unite, and fight to change our immediate present and to outline from our self-organization the pillars of a society without power, inequality, repression, and delegation of authority. On May 22 [Election Day], more consciously and visibly than ever, we will respond with abstention, because we ourselves have demonstrated that the politicians do not represent us, nor do we need them.
From the CNT, we will continue participating and calling for a permanent mobilization and struggle, as a means to resolve the problems in all spheres of our lives.
We continue to build at the same time as we disobey. The protest continues!
Night or day, the struggle is ours! Secretaría de Acción Social del SP del Comité Confederal- CNT
Thanks to OliverTwister for translation. [url= http://www.cnt.es/noticias/es-nuestro-momento-que-continue-la-ocupacion-de-plazas-y-la-desobediencia]Original[/url].
Anarchist Federation Statement on June 30th Strikes
Nearly a million workers will be striking and demonstrating on June 30th- workers in education, the civil service and the London underground. This is a further sign of widespread anger within the working class at the package of austerity measures unleashed by the government. We have already had the student demonstration which ended with the Millbank occupation, the huge turnout on March 26th as well as many local actions including strikes, blockades, marches.
These austerity measures are hitting us, the working class, through cuts in the NHS, fast rising unemployment rates, rounds of redundancies, whether so-called "voluntary" or compulsory, wage freezes, cuts in disability benefits, and cuts in local services as well as an attack on pensions, which is a major reason for the June 30th actions. People will have to pay more for their pensions, will have to work longer, and at the end, get a smaller pension.
It seems exciting that so many workers are coming out at the same time. However, union leaders will not go far enough, and will seek to channel our anger and dissent into weak and tokenistic forms of protest. Those of us in the striking unions have been balloted for discontinuous action - giving us the option to stage multiple strikes. We need to make sure this happens, and that these strikes are as far reaching and militant as possible including further strike action in October. But not all public sector workers are striking, and the private sector is out of the equation.
This should not be an occasion to let this go by passively. The day of action can be made more effective by:
* Strengthening the strike pickets as much as possible. Everyone should support these by going to their nearest picket. This means not just workers in that sector but everyone who is affected by the cuts- other workers, school students, FE and HE students, pensioners, the unemployed
* Refusing to cross picket lines
* Joining the strike even if you are not a paid up member of a union
* Organising meetings in the workplaces in the run up to June 30th to get maximum support for the strike
* School students and further education students ( where they are still at school because many terms will be ending) should turn out to support teachers and lecturers and organise their own actions
* Most university students will have finished their academic year. However, where possible they should support the strike pickets and demonstrations where they can
* The widest possible solidarity has to be reached between teaching staff and support staff. In all sectors, whether education, the civil service or transport the greatest involvement of those not "officially" on strike
* Encourage those who feel they cannot take part in supporting the strike including workers in other sectors to phone in sick on the day
* On June 30th delegations from picket lines to visit other workplaces to encourage solidarity action. The organisation of local marches and assemblies where possible
June 30th has the potential to be a huge display of anger at the cuts that are being imposed. The more successful, the more who turn out to strike and to support, the greater the encouragement to carry on ongoing actions that don't just involve one token day.
We have no faith in the trade union leaders to successfully "lead" the fight against these austerity measures. Neither should we place trust in the Labour Party. They were the ones who started many of the measures that this government has carried on. Where Labour runs local councils it implements the cuts packages. Labour tells us that cuts are necessary, it's just that they will do it in a "kinder" way. How many Labour MPs have you heard justifying austerity measures?
No, we have to rely on ourselves, on our own organisation. We can carry on the fight through mass assemblies where everyone can put over their view, where any delegates are mandated and subject to recall. We can win this fight against these austerity measures. All over the world we have the example of ordinary working people suddenly discovering their own self confidence and their own ability to organise and to resist, no matter what the odds.
WE CAN WIN
Full text and PDF of the Anarchist Federation's monthly bulletin.
SOUTHERN CROSS GOES UNDER
When the UKs biggest private care home provider Southern Cross announced on Monday that it could no longer afford to pay rent for its care homes and would cease operations it blamed falling local authority funding and rising rent prices. However, a closer look at the causes demonstrates the danger of allowing private companies to run essential public services.
Southern Cross, whose 750 care homes receive substantial funding from the tax payer, was purchased by US private-equity firm Blackstone in 2004. Blackstone floated the company on the stock market, making £630million in the process, and proceeded to strip its most profitable assets, making £1billion by selling off property belonging to the company. Southern Cross then continued to provide services by renting the care homes it previously owned. Blackstone sold its shares in Southern Cross in 2008 making a further £1 billion in profit and leaving behind a company crippled by the rising cost of rents.
Now Southern Cross has announced it cannot afford to pay its rent bill and the company will fold. As private investors make billions, the 31,000 elderly residents of Southern Cross’ care homes face an uncertain future.
SWAN spoke to a care worker employed by Southern Cross who gave a worrying description of care standards at the private company;
“Very little of the profit the home made went towards funding the home as Southern Cross were clearly only interested in making money and didn’t seem to know or care about giving appropriate care”.
The care worker also informed us that very little had been communicated to residents or staff at the care home about their precarious future;
“I was told by the administrator that he had heard something but had been forbidden to tell us anything. As far as I know residents haven’t been told anything about what will happen to the home”.
The Council and the landlord at this home are now searching for a new provider to deliver the service.
This is a particularly disturbing example of what happens when vital public services are put in the hands of private companies; taxpayers’ money generates huge profits for investors while leaving service-users exposed and vulnerable and the taxpayer yet again to foot the inevitable bill of cleaning up the mess that is left behind.
(by the Support Workers Action Network, Edinburgh)
CALLING IN SICK
One in three workers are happy to admit to phoning in sick to win back some free time from their bosses, according to a survey by PwC. Workers revealed that the reasons they are most likely to decide to take some free time without permission are that their work was depressing and dull and they wanted to escape it; to try and enjoy life by swapping the tedium of work for enjoying the weather or some ‘romance’; to live up to their family commitments; or to recover from a hangover.
As usual, there were a flurry of newspaper articles condemning workers for their attempts to win some respite from the demands of work, as well as management firms offering advice to bosses on how to cut down on workers winning back free time in this way. However for many workers, sick days are but one of the ways they try and make their lives more pleasant. Calling in sick, socializing on work time, taking short cuts and long breaks, as well as countless other tactics, are all ways that workers find to fight back against having their time stolen from them and improve their quality of life. Just as the decline in strikes was accompanied by a rise in sick days, any success bosses have in cutting down on sick days will push workers resistance into other avenues.
STARBUCKS STRIKE SOLIDARITY
Since July 7th, over 200 baristas at Starbucks 32 Chilean stores have been on strike over a pay and benefit dispute, the first strike ever by Starbucks baristas. Despite the coffee being sold at US prices, the workers are currently paid a mere $2.50 an hour, and have not had a wage increase in 8 years – in effect a significant wage decrease due to inflation. According to the workers, the wages are so low they are unable to afford to eat lunch, and so they are also demanding a lunch stipend, something Starbucks already provides to its Chilean managers. While the company policy is that workers get a free breakfast, no workers have actually received this. The company has refused to talk to the union and instead engaged in a policy of misinformation against the striking workers, as well as threatened the non-unionized workers against joining the union and hired 300 scab workers to try and break the strike. In response, on the July 23rd, 3 members of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Starbucks Coffee Chile (Union of Starbucks Coffee Workers of Chile) have escalated the struggle by going on hunger strike.
Internationally, solidarity has been forthcoming from the Starbucks Workers Union (SWU), a section of the international union the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which has declared a Global Week of Action in solidarity with their Chilean co-workers. Actions will be occurring in the US, UK and Australia, with the IWW organizing an undisclosed event in Seattle, the home of Starbucks, during the week. The actions will also highlight the attempt by the Starbucks Workers Union to win the reinstatement of New York City Starbucks barista and mother of two Tiffany White-Thomas, the latest in a long line of Starbucks workers the company has attempted to victimize but who, with the solidarity of their fellow baristas and the SWU, have fought back.
Starbucks claims that, for its workers, a union is unnecessary. Starbucks workers disagree.
BRITISH SUGAR BALLOTS STRIKE
Workers at British Sugar factories in Wissingham, Cantley, Bury St Edmunds and Newark in the east of England are considering strike action over pay. Around 250 workers organized in the Unite union have rejected a sub-inflation 3.5% pay increase (in reality, a pay cut), and are being balloted over striking in favour of a 5% wage increase in line with the retail price index measure of inflation, plus 0.5% for the year after April 2011. British Sugar, who are a subsidiary of Associated British Foods which made £569,000,000 profit in 2010 and has been targeted by UKUncut for tax dodging, claims that the pay cut is fair and that the GMB, which also represents some workers in the factories, has accepted the offer. However, one GMB organizer has politely described this claim as “mischievous”, and pointed out that GMB members were balloted and backed action, but fell short of the 2/3rds majority the GMB requires of its ballots to initiate strike action. The organizer stated that the GMB would encourage its members not to cross Unite pickets.
Kennedy Twelve Freed
We republish below, in edited form, a press statement by Abahlali baseMjondolo, a South African shack-dwellers movement from the city of Durban, concerning the release of 12 local Abahlali baseMjondolo militants after the case brought against them by the South African government collapsed:
Today the Durban Regional court has acquitted all of the Kennedy 12 accused of murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, public violence and damage to property. The prosecution failed to make any case against any of the accused on any charge. We have always been saying that these charges were fabricated and politically motivated. This emerged clearly in the court. The Magistrate said that the evidence brought before the court was contradictory, unreliable, not credible, had serious discrepancies and was concocted. No court in the world could find the accused guilty without any evidence at all against them. The court has agreed that there was fighting and killing, but that it was not carried out by the accused. The Magistrate was saying all these things because our legal team had applied for acquittal under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act. The Magistrate had no option but to grant that application to have the accused acquitted because it was clear that there was no evidence against any of the accused and that there had been an attempt to frame them.
Today it has again been shown that there will be high price paid in the struggle for justice and a better society. We salute our comrades, the Kennedy 12, who have paid a very high price not just for Abahlali baseMjondolo but for all the poor in South Africa who are suppressed every day when they try to resist their repression. This is a lesson to all those who have chosen to be our enemies - Abahlali baseMjondolo will defeat you in the streets and in courts. We are many and we have proven to the world that we have the courage to stand together and to face repression and lies. We will celebrate this hard won Victory. Our meeting will discuss our celebration plans.
Those in High authority within the eThekwini Municipality and those in the KwaZulu Natal legislature who abused their power to engineer this attack on our movement have been exposed to the world. This was not just an attack on us but an attack on our hard won democracy. From today, as always, our movement will go forward without any fear of any thuggery from any politician. We will continue to stand together and to find courage in our unity.
The likes of Henrick Bohmke and his associates have been exposed to the world as the liars that they are. The regressive left that would rather support state repression against a movement than to allow the poor to organise ourselves and to speak for ourselves has been exposed for what it is.
Strike at Liverpool School
Staff at Shorefields College in Dingle, Liverpool, have taken further strike action against plans to impose academy status, under sponsorship of Chester University. This was the third strike and the first to involve teachers from both teachers unions at the college (the NUT and the NASUWT), as well as support staff in the GMB union. The picket line was well supported by the local community, including parents and students. Liverpool Solidarity Federation, who are supporting the ongoing campaign against Shorefield’s being made an academy, noted the opportunist and hypocritical presence of the Labour councillor who insisted that "we're fighting hard on our end", before leaving the picket line to head for 'Sure Start Centres to talk to them about the closures that she was helping to implement.'
Teachers Win Reinstatement of East London Militant
Last month teachers at Cardinal Pole school won the reinstatement of union representative Peter Domokos, after threatening strike action. Peter was involved in an ongoing investigation into serious charges against the Hackney school’s management, when that same management ordered his suspension. According to Hackney NUT (National Union of Teachers), previous reps at the school had complained of being ‘bullied and harassed by management’: clearly the bosses at Cardinal Pole were up to their old tricks.
Workers at the school responded with an overwhelming strike ballot, with nearly 90% of members voting for ‘sustained and discontinuous action’ to protest against this victimization. This followed a vote of no-confidence in the school’s head from over 50 members of staff. The vote was swept under the carpet and barred from discussion at a governors meeting. But while management ignored the vote, they couldn’t ignore the threat of strike action. Three days before the planned strike they caved in, agreeing to reinstate Peter with an ‘oral warning’ and that no further disciplinary action would be taken. The school also agreed to a series of meetings with the NUT in an attempt to appease the teachers’ other grievances.
Southampton Strikes Back
Last month workers in Southampton carried out a week of targeted strike action against brutal cuts imposed by the local council. The strikes follow months of anti-cuts action by locals, but the immediate cause of the dispute was the council’s demand for workers to take a pay cut and accept hundreds of job losses. When these demands were rejected by the workers’ unions, the council announced that the entire workforce was sacked - saying that any worker who reused to sign the new contracts the council had drawn up would lose their job. At the same time, a leaked document showed that 1200 workers, a quarter of the workforce, would be laid off over the next few years anyway. The response from said workforce was, unsurprisingly, furious.
Workers from across the public sector in Southampton took part in the strikes, which were planned to cause maximum disruption to the running of local government. Those stopping work included binmen, health inspectors, parking wardens, street sweepers, childcare workers, library workers and social care workers among others. A protest march through the town attracted hundreds of workers, ending by protesting outside the local guildhall during a meeting of the council. Despite significant disruption to the life of the town, including festering piles of rubbish in the streets, most workers reported that support from locals remained strong.
While most of Southampton’s workers have had to sign the new contracts, under protest, there are still groups of workers who have not who now face the prospect of lockouts, and the struggle isn’t over yet. Unite and Unison, two unions associated with the week of action, say they are pursuing legal action on the grounds of unfair dismissal of council staff. As we go to press, a one day strike by social workers has been extended to a full seven days, continuing into the beginning of August, to coincide with strikes by workers in other sectors including adoption, fostering and childcare over the next few days.
SOUTH AFRICA STRIKE SEASON
Hundreds of thousands of South African workers have been taking action over pay as South Africa enters what could be a record breaking 'strike season'. In early July, 170,000 metalworkers walked out and staged large demonstrations in the countries main cities demanding 13% wage increases and a ban on the practice of hiring workers through agency-style labour brokers. The bosses had initially only offered a 7% wage increase, which union members argued was not enough to cover food, electricity, water and petrol prices, but after two weeks of strike action they caved in and signed an agreement granting workers staggered wage increases from 8% to 10% over three years, amongst other concessions.
Whilst the metalworkers were out, they were joined on July 11th by over 70,000 petroleum, chemical and packing workers demanding wage increases of between 11% and 13% with a minimum wage of R6000 (£546) a month. The strikes, combined with panic buying, caused over 1/5th of petrol stations to run dry and many others to run low, with petrol stations in the countries economic hub particularly affected. Taxi and bus companies were also affected, and with the increased travel promised by the start of school terms the economic pressure on the employers was beginning to mount. After three weeks attempting to weather the strike they too caved in, and wage increases of between 8.5% and 10% were won - a sizeable increase on what had been offered by the bosses before the strike.
The third major sector of the South African working class to strike has been the mineworkers, who have downed tools in diamond, coal and gold mines. The average miner earns R3,800 (£346) a month, with diamond, coal and gold companies offering wage increases of 5%, 7-8.5% and 7-9% respectively, despite mine workers arguing they needed increases of at least 11% to keep up with price hikes in food, water, electricity and petrol. In response, diamond mine workers walked out on July 22nd demanding a 15% wage rise, followed by coal and gold miners demanding 14% when they went on strike on the 24th and 28th respectively. The strikes involve tens of thousands of workers from each of the three sectors, and have already shut down all of the countries diamond, coal and goal mines. At the time of writing the strikes are ongoing, although the diamond companies have already upped their wage offer to 7% in response to the workers actions. South African platinum miners have also been in negotiations with their bosses, demanding 20% wage increases.
Full text and PDF of the Anarchist Federation's monthly bulletin.
Anarchist Federation 25th Anniversary
The Anarchist Federation celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, since its foundation as the Anarchist Communist Federation in 1986. A new issue of Organise! magazine will be out at the London Anarchist Bookfair in which we will look back on the last 5-6 years starting with the anti-G8 summit in Scotland in 2005. Other anniversary articles in the Winter edition of Organise! (no.77) will look at the Paris Commune (140 years ago), the centenary of the Mexican Revolution and British industrial struggles and school strikes in 1911, plus our latest contribution to analysis of the anti-cuts struggle and the usual book reviews and other interesting stuff.
If you don’t come and get one at the bookfair, you can easily order Organise! online by going to our website: http://www.afed.org.uk/publications/organise-magazine, where you will also find all recent back issues for free download. So if you are interested in more anniversary retrospectives, check out Organise! issues 42 (10 years) and 67 (20 years).
The 2011 Anarchist Bookfair is not to be missed and will take place Saturday 22nd October from 10am to 7pm at Queen Mary’s, University of London on Mile End Road, London E1 4NS. Full details: http://anarchistbookfair.org.uk/
If you organise and fight, you can win!
Major Gains at Heron Tower Dispute
Following negotiations with the cleaning contractor LCC, who covers contracts at the prestigious Heron Tower in London, the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) Cleaners and Allied Grades Branch has secured significant gains to the benefit of cleaning workers.
The IWW had launched a campaign to secure full payment of the living wage £8.30 an hour, for a resolution of staff shortages, and issues of unfair dismissal. The IWW has reached an agreement which has secured full-payment of the London Living Wage with back pay until May 2011, the staff shortage to be filled and confirmation of the rights of workers to organise.
Further discussions are underway on a recognition agreement with the IWW.
Libraries strike suspended - victory for jobs and services
Strike action planned to close all Lambeth Council’s libraries on Friday 22 July did not go ahead as the council management conceded that there would be no compulsory redundancies for library workers. Further industrial action to protect the service has not been ruled out by workers over the newly revised management offer but the determination of the library workers to take action led to a significant victory as it protected jobs and many frontline services.
Management plans included staff cuts, mobile library service withdrawn, libraries closing due to staff shortages, less money for books, fewer events, story sessions and silver surfers groups.
Police raid Bristol paper
On the afternoon of August 17th, police raided a house in central Bristol where an editor of local newspaper The Autonomist lives. Riot police kicked down the door of the property without warning, detained the inhabitants for two hours, and seized articles relating to the production of The Autonomist. Delighted journalists from the Evening Post swarmed around outside, trying to photograph the detainees and remaining in contact with an officer inside by telephone at all times.
The grudgingly-produced warrant for the raid attempts to link the occupants to recent disorder (as did a frankly libellous sign erected outside by the police). It authorises the seizure of "rocks" and "white paint", and refers repeatedly to "domestic extremisim [sic]". The list was rounded out with such incriminating articles as "pedal cycles", "clothing", and "literature". Several other items not listed, such as passports, were also illegally seized.
The Autonomist is a popular but controversial local paper produced by a small group of mainly homeless local people and distributed for free. They're dedicated to reporting unheard voices in the community, but this principled stance has caused problems in the past. Refusal to censor reports of the rising tide of sabotage attacks around Bristol or to stick to police statements when reporting the riots in April has earned the enmity of the police.
Collective member Lucy Parsons says, "The seizure of phones, computers, and paperwork relating to the production of The Autonomist just as we start to compile the September edition is a clear, worrying, and damaging attack on journalistic independence. The demonisation of those who report the news as ‘domestic extremists’, and the willingness to use violence to silence them, does not fill us with confidence in the police or the future of liberty in this country. Regardless, we will continue to produce The Autonomist, using computers at the library if we have to, and you can expect the September issue at the turn of the month."
Student Anger in Greece
An estimated 300 student assemblies are currently taking place in occupied university departments across Greece in response to education reform. The bill, which is part of a new set of austerity measures, increases private sector involvement in the Greek higher education system, as well as introducing tuition fees, putting commercial managers in control of university finances, and ending the right to academic asylum on Greek campuses.
Academic asylum was introduced by the PASOK government in 1982 as a commemorative gesture to the students killed in the Polytechnic Uprising against the military dictatorship in 1972, although as a custom it can be dated almost back to antiquity. It bans police from entering university grounds (although university authorities are permitted to lift the law on a case-by-case basis and police have been known to violate it) and has long meant academic institutions have acted as safe spaces for militants, including housing many long-standing anarchist and anti-authoritarian initiatives. The bill went through parliament at first reading, passed by an overwhelming majority.
Struggles around education reform in Greece are long-standing, and there was mass student involvement during the uprising in December 2008 following the murder of Alexis Grigoropoulus. The reforms are not only an attack on state-funded education but an attack on an organised and militant section of Greek society. In many cases this has been quite explicit, with politicians attributing low standards to students’ preoccupation with political activity and political commentators accusing universities of being recruiting grounds for the far-left.
While secondary schools also open for the year, university students have been publicising their demands amongst returning students in the hope of further generalising the struggle. Thanks to cuts, books are currently unavailable until November and many schools are under-staffed. Earlier this year the Greek Ministry of Education announced that more than 100 schools will have to close or merge.
The Ministry is clearly afraid of a spread in high school occupations and the government has issued a document to school directors informing them that “political speeches” should be banned in schools. Meanwhile, anger is mounting across Greece as the new austerity measures are rolled out. In a tragic incident earlier this month, a 55-year-old man set himself alight in front of a branch of Piraeus Bank in the northern city of Thessaloniki in protest and desperation of his mounting debt to the bank. He was rescued by passers-by and police and transferred to hospital.
The main building of the Athens School of Economics: The graffiti reads ‘Solidarity to Migrants’ and ‘What the hand of the state cannot reach, can be reached by the knife of the para-state’ (referring to the wave of attacks by fascists against migrants). The banner reads ‘Occupation’.
Scottish Defence League demo squashed once again
September 10th saw another attempt by the far right group known as the Scottish Defence League to march in Edinburgh. For the second time, it was rebuffed by anti-fascists and community groups.
The last time they came to the city, in February 2010, they were turned back at train stations and penned into a pub. This time the SDL were joined by the North East Infidels, a splinter group who favour a more equal-opportunities approach to racial hatred and are rumored to include National Front activists. Numbers were lower than the previous attempt, but the threat of violence was, if anything, higher.
SDL were prevented from marching but permitted to hold a static demonstration, despite threats of violence from SDL supporters. Around 400 people attended a Unite Against Fascism rally and marched into a protest pen, while a breakaway group from Edinburgh Antifascist Alliance travelled to the other side of Regent Road, aiming to block the busloads of boozed-up baby Breíviks from getting in.
The police, drafted in from across Scotland, heavily outnumbered both sides and stopped the two sides from coming within spitting distance of each other. The day therefore leaves open questions of how best to fight fascism. While most anti-fascists agree on the need to attack it politically, UAF's approach of aligning with political parties and the police does nothing to answer the concerns of those alienated from politics. Fortunately, the SDL remain much weaker than the EDL, their English counterpart, and with no clear prospect of growth.
Anarchist Black Cross
This very short history and introduction to the aims of the Anarchist Black Cross is quoted from ABC Brighton’s website: “The Anarchist Black Cross was originated in Tsarist Russia to organize aid for political prisoners. In the late 1960s the organization resurfaced in Britain, where it first worked to aid prisoners of the Spanish resistance fighting the dictator Franco's police. Now it has expanded and groups are found in many countries around the world. We support anarchist and other class struggle prisoners, fund-raise on behalf of prisoners in need of funds for legal cases or otherwise, and organize demonstrations of solidarity with imprisoned anarchists and other prisoners.”
For more information about supporting revolutionary prisoners in the UK and internationally visit the websites of Anarchist Black Cross groups:
145–149 Cardigan Road.
PO Box 74
c/o Kebele Community Coop
14 Robertson Road
Green & Black Cross
See also the G&BC website, http://greenandblackcross.org:
“The Green & Black Cross is a project set up in the spirit of mutual aid and solidarity to support autonomous social struggles within the UK. It's a project set up to provide legal support for protests against the governments wave of massive spending cuts. The project takes inspiration from the Anarchist Black Cross”.
Anti-Fascist Prisoner Support
Send messages of solidarity to six recently jailed anti-fascist prisoners. For further info about the prisoners and The Cable Street Society, which is the support fund set-up for them, see the Leeds ABC website. You can send a few stamps with your letter or card so those jailed can write to their friends, family and comrades.
Andy Baker (21 months).
Thomas Blak (18 months)
HMP Wormwood Scrubs
PO Box 757
Du Cane Road
Sean Cregan (21 months)
Phil De Souza (21 months)
Ravinder Gill (21 months)
Austen Jackson (15 months)
HMP Wormwood Scrubs
PO Box 757
Du Cane Road
Francis Fernie was convicted of Violent Disorder after the March 26 anti-cuts demo in 2011. In July 2011 Francis was sent to prison for 12 months. http://freefrankfernie.info
Ed Woollard took part in the November 2010 student occupation Millbank Tower and was jailed for 32 months for Violent Disorder http://support4edwoollard.wordpress.com
Write to Edward C/o.
For further excellent info on prisons go to: Campaign Against Prison Slavery
P.O. BOX 74
Freedom of Movement: No Borders Bulgaria
Some months ago Bulgarian anarchists and anti-racists began an ambitious plan to hold a No Borders Bulgaria event close to an immigration detention centre on the border of Bulgaria, Greece & Turkey - on the very edge of the European Union. The camp that took place 25-29 August 2011 was supported by people from Greece and elsewhere in the Balkans and from Western Europe, coming together to oppose a system that sees thousands of people imprisoned in detention centres.
A participant in the No Border camp wrote to Resistance, “The camp was GREAT!!!!!! I have rarely experienced such a solidarity, organizational cooperation and purposeful political work at the same place in the same time [including] discussions around the newly militarized Bulgarian-Turkish-Greek border region starting 4 days before the camp itself, the workshops in the camp, the communication with the village community where the camp took place, the plenaries....to the big demonstrations in front of the headquarters of the border police in Svilengrad, at the two borders and along and in front of the detention center in Lyubimetz! Keeping in mind the small dimension of activism in Bulgaria […] everything exceeded my expectation and even hopes!”
Whilst the media focuses on Europe’s economic woes, the militarisation of the EU’s borders has continued. During the battle for control of Libya over the summer, it is perhaps conveniently forgotten that the Italian state, through an agreement struck with the regime back in 2004, transported over 1,500 migrants and refugees to Libya who had previously been detained in Italy. Libyan immigration detention centres in Al Kufrah and Gharyan (close to Tripoli) and Sebha (in South West Libya) are paid for by the Italian state.
Meanwhile, many people trying to escape repression in Sub-Saharan and East Africa are now in extreme danger, and some have been deported back to these countries from Libya. Others have continued to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea in small boats. Thousands have died. This is not to mention the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who have fled during the conflict, now either trying to get back to their country of origin or seeking safety elsewhere. In Italy and Tunisia, refugees and asylum seekers have been confined in camps and transit centres for indefinite periods of time, their freedom of movement severely limited.
This makes the work of groups like No Borders Bulgaria all the more important. The EU’s member states are completely tied in with a system that treats people as a problem to be contained, even if this means paying a dictator to lock them up. Bulgarian and Greek anarchists have taken an important step in countering detention on the borders of Europe.
Glasgow Uni Occupation Ends
Noon on 31st August 2011 saw the doors close for the final time on the Free Hetherington as the occupation at Glasgow University came to an end. Occupied since 1st February, and lasting 212 days, this was the longest-running student occupation in recent British history (covered in Resistance #130).
The decision to end the occupation followed a series of negotiations with the university’s Senior Management Group. The occupiers have won some concessions from the university, including a new postgraduate club, no further cuts to courses and no compulsory redundancies at the University “in the near future” - it will have to remain to be seen what this means in reality. It seems likely that these 'concessions' are nothing more than hollow promises from the university seeking to placate its increasingly radicalised students.
It’s this process of radicalisation that could be said to be the true value of the long-running occupation. The Free Hetherington had a large part to play in encouraging an atmosphere of activity and militancy on campus when it came to opposing the cuts being pushed through by the university management. It seems clear that the occupation has had a far-reaching impact outside of official channels. The Free Hetherington was a place to share ideas, debate long into the night, build campaigns, support staff on strike - a radicalising space within what has long been one of the most conservative universities in Scotland.
Despite backtracking on some of its plans in the face of huge opposition, the management at Glasgow University is still planning to go ahead with cuts to Slavonic Studies and close down Crichton campus in Dumfries, which was saved from closure once before thanks to a campaign led by the Industrial Workers of the World in 2007. In spite of the gains of the occupation, the anti-cuts struggle continues at Glasgow University, and on campuses across Scotland and the UK.
The protest movement against the Chilean government austerity measures is going strong. In July, miners united their grievances with those of students protesting against education cuts . They marched together on 14th July in Santiago. This was followed by several days of action in August with as many as one million people taking part. This developing movement is large and impressive in the way it is connecting student and lworker struggles. This is in spite of the over 750 arrests made in the course of a two-day general strike on 24th and 25th August, police attacks on demonstrations, and the police murder of an unarmed sixteen-year-old demonstrator on 26th August.
Senate House Cleaners
Cleaners working at Senate House but employed by Balfour Beatty went out on strike in early September morning in protest at the employer’s failure to pay their wages. The UNISON members complained of widespread, systematic missing overtime payments, and a failure to honour the University’s commitment to pay the Living Wage.
Their grievances had been going on for months and they were tired of waiting for false promises. Some of them had not been paid properly for up to eight months, and were having severe problems because of this, including some workers facing eviction - and so yesterday they decided to take action.
Management tried to intimidate them with threats of dismissal if they walked out but the workers stood up to them. Local activists from the Bloomsbury Fightback! group and staff and students from the surrounding colleges had organised solidarity from the wider community to stand shoulder to shoulder alongside them.
The cleaners were insisting not only on their back-pay but also the London Living Wage (now £8.30) to be paid immediately. They were on £6.15 per hour, when workers in Birkbeck and SOAS doing similar jobs have just got a pay rise to £8.30 per hour, thanks to the successful Living Wage campaigns that the workers and the UNISON branches led with support from students, staff, and the other unions. They also demanded a commitment to no victimisations, The employer had asked them to commit not to walking off the job again if they received their pay, which was rejected. Balfour Beatty hurriedly agreed to pay the back pay. The dispute continues.
Israel- the fight against austerity
Israeli workers mobilised against the rising cost of living which include a 27% hike in rents by taking to the street and creating protest camps in 25 towns including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beersheba and Haifa. In Tel Aviv hundreds of tents were set up. The police demolished two of these camps in Tel Aviv, but they were quickly put up again. Roads were blocked Some Arab workers have taken part in the movement with a joint Israeli-Palestinian camp in the city of Akko. This needs to be developed as workers realise their real interests are opposed to both the Israeli state and the administrations run by Hamas and the PLO.
As many as 150,000 initially took part in the actions, a significant event largely ignored by the Western media. A similar number of municipal workers came out on a one day general strike, and in early September 300,000 demonstrated in Tel Aviv with 100,000 out on the streets in other parts of Israel. This ongoing movement is proving to be a increasing threat to the Netanyahu government
Venezuelan Anarchist Arrested in Sweden
Rafael Uzcategui, one of the founders of the influential Venezuelan Anarchist newspaper El Libertario, was recently arrested in Leula, Sweden along with 12 other activists. They had been involved in a non-violent direct action against a NATO military base in Santa Elena. Many of those arrested were members of International War Resisters and the Movement for Conscientious Objection in Valencia, Spain. Uzacategui is the author of a recent book, “Venezuela: Revolution as Spectacle” which criticises the so-called “socialist” government of Hugo Chavez for its continuing oppression of indigenous people and its links to Multinational Oil corporations.
Filipino Anarchists disrupt State of the Nation Address
On Monday the 25th of July thousands of people took to the capital city of the Philippines to protest against the lies that corrupt president Benigno Aquino was spewing out to the corporate media at his first State of the Nation Address. The march was mainly dominated by authoritarian leftists who were there, as usual, to promote themselves and their reformist and pacifist tactics. However, a black bloc called by local Anarchists managed to change the dynamic, openly confronting riot police, occupying major roads and visibly promoting anarchist ideas with graffiti and banner slogans such as “There is no change in continuous reform. Anarchist revolution is the solution. Destroy hierarchy. Defend ecology. End poverty”. No arrests were made, despite the presence of thousands of armed riot police, who it is believed were taken by surprise by the anarchists’ tactics.
Defend Welfare Meeting, London
The Defend Welfare/No to Welfare Abolition network is hosting a meeting in London on 23rd October to share ideas and develop strategies to stop the government-led attacks on welfare. The network say the meeting “is open to everyone who wants to take action to defend welfare. We are a claimant-led network – our response to welfare reforms is led by people who feel their effects the most – but the attacks on welfare will affect us all whether we are in work or may need welfare as parents, if we become unemployed, due to sickness or disability, or as pensioners.”
This comes at a critical time, when welfare is being systematically attacked on many fronts. Unemployed people are being forced to work for no pay, whilst pri- vate companies stand to make millions through bullying claimants on the Work Programme. Disabled people are being deprived of their entitlement to benefits through the devastating Work Capability Assessment process. People can now be left destitute for up to two years through benefit sanctions while legal aid cuts make it harder to challenge bad treatment. Housing benefit cuts are set to make thousands homeless, with yet more evic- tions called for in response to the summer riots. Single mothers are being forced to be job-seekers when their children are at an even younger age, and the only benefit that was available to people under 18, Education Main- tenance Allowance, has been abolished. Asylum seekers are even worse off, as they are not allowed to work and have to survive on incomes far below normal benefit levels.
But people across the UK are organising. The Boy- cott Workfare campaign recently forced the “Making Work Pay” conference to relocate at short notice. ATOS- Origin, the company responsible for cutting hundreds of thousands of peoples’ disability benefits, has had many of its offices occupied, costing it thousands of pounds. As we go to press, a further national day of action is planned for the 30th September. Claimants are sharing information on how to challenge the bullying and dis- crimination that is rife in the new set-up.
Details: Sunday 23rd October, 11am-5pm. Somers Town Community Centre, 150 Ossulston Street, Lon- don, NW1 1EE (5 minutes walk from Euston, St Pancras and Kings Cross stations). Wheelchair accessible. Please email email@example.com with workshop ideas, offers of funds or help with food, childcare or facilitation on the day.
National demonstration and walkout against cuts to education
After a period of political lull, students are mobilizing again for their first big action this year – a national dem- onstration and walkout in London on November 9th. The march is focused against cuts to the education sector, and is meant to involve not just students but education sector workers as well.
The NUS is not supporting this demonstration officially, which means the responsibility of organizing this dem- onstration is pretty much open to all concerned. Student activists themselves have expressed willingness to work with a broad cross-section of students, student representa- tives, activist groups and radicals to make this march a success and hopefully rejuvenate the student/anti-cuts movement.
As anarchists and radicals the struggle for non-priva- tized, not-for-profit education available to all is something we should be an active part of. We can do so by contribut- ing our collective presence, in whatever way we see fit, to this event. This call-out, therefore, is for anarchists/ anti-authoritarians in London to meet to decide how we can organize politically – collectively – not only for Nov 9th, but also for the build up in the interim.
London anarchist students
Full text and PDF of the Anarchist Federation's monthly bulletin.
Blowing the fuses
Electricians have fought back with unofficial actions against the decision by Balfour Beatty and seven other construction firms to pull out of the Joint Industry Board (JIB) national building industry agreement for electricians. This would mean a massive pay cut for electricians. Balfour Beatty issued 90 day notices of termination of employment for 890 electricians on 14th September. The dispute has been continuing for many weeks now and there have been actions all over the country:
In London, actions have been continuing for many weeks.
The road blockings and occupations of sites have made MJN Colston, one of the eight employers, lose their nerve and go running back to the JIB.
The employers’ plan :
Pay cuts of up to 35%
Travel time and fares to be scrapped
End of right to claim unfair dismissal from beginning of job
End of JIB pension
End of right of hearing under JIN disputes process
Downgrading of apprenticeships
Downgrading by the bosses of electricians when they see fit
The walkouts at Grangemouth and Immingham were the start. These were followed up by the actions at the Olympic site, Farringdon and Oxford Street in London, the Tyne tunnel, MediaCity UK in Manchester, Edinburgh city chambers, Glasgow Velodrome and SPIE Matthew Hall in Liverpool. The actions have included direct action, blocking roads at the Olympic site, King’s Cross and Oxford Street and moving on to sites to occupy.
Several minibuses full of construction workers refused to cross the picket lines at the unfinished Carrington Paper Mill on October 12th. Many workers also used their holiday entitlement, refusing to work. The day before management had threatened that any workers not reporting for work on the day would be sacked. Electricians targeted the site which is run by Balfour Beatty.
The paper mill contract is worth £250 million and is already two months behind schedule. The electricians have hit at the Spanish paper company SAICA for hiring Balfour Beatty to carry out the contract. The action was followed in the evening by a solidarity meeting with the electricians at Manchester University.
And yet what have the Unite leadership done to support the cause of the electricians? Len McLuskey, General Secretary of Unite, has sent out a letter stating “If you fail to work normally you will be taking part in unofficial action.” For his part Bernard McAulay, Unite’s National Officer for Construction in a leaked email was to state that: “My colleagues will not throw away this wonderful opportunity the employers have given us to re-engage with the workers in the industry as opposed to this poisonous campaign by these mindless individuals”.
By "mindless individuals," McAulay means the rank and file committee. The “wonderful opportunity” he talks about is the decision by the eight employers to pull out of the JIB! Gail Cartmail, Unite Assistant General Secretary, promised a ballot for strike action at the rally in Farringdon. This is a long time coming! In the meantime, the seven employers who have opted to pull out of the JIB are becoming more aggressive. Five of these employers - Balfour Beatty, Crown House Technologies, Spie Matthew Hall, Shepherd Engineering Services, and NG Bailey - have announced their intention to start sacking and to re-employ under worse conditions and pay on December 7th.
There is no time for delay waiting for a ballot that might not materialise at any time in the near future. Unofficial strikes need to spread across sites with the setting up of unofficial committees and mass meetings. Where unofficial strikes are not yet possible we need to strengthen the numbers on the days of action. That means calling on other workers, students, pensioners, the unemployed to join the morning actions.
Defend the JIB
Don’t let the bosses attack pay, conditions and pensions
Make the actions as large as possible - call on other workers to support the actions
Spread the unofficial actions through the building industry
Don’t let McCluskey and McAulay sabotage the unofficial actions
Student Protest Forces Greek Interior Minister to abandon a Night at the Movies
On the night of Saturday 8th October, a group of students stormed a cinema in the centre of Thessalonika to protest the brutal conditions being imposed by the Greek government, the EU and the IMF. Around 100 students departed from a nearby concert organised by the General Assembly of Occupied Universities and headed towards the neighbouring ‘Olympion’ cinema where they had heard that Haris Kastanidis, the Interior Minister in charge of making sure that Greece dances to the IMF’s tune, was enjoying a night at the movies. This is while ordinary Greeks are being taxed to the hilt and finding it ever increasingly difficult to pay for such ‘luxuries’ as food and electricity.
The students entered the cinema, unfurled a banner and shouted various slogans, forcing the suspension of the film. In the video made by the protestors the students can be heard chanting such slogans as “We’re here, we’ll be everywhere, we’ll be the fear of every minister”, “People keep going, don’t lower your head, the only way is to resist and fight” and “Terrorism is wage-slavery. No peace with the bosses.”
Whilst the group continued its protest, some of the students headed towards the minister telling him that the government was destroying their lives and that he was driving them into unemployment. It was at this point that someone threw yoghurt at the minister. Some of the other film-goers joined the students’ flash protest by shouting for the minister to leave and shortly afterwards, with his expensive suit stained with yoghurt, Kastanidis decided it was indeed time to make his departure – but not before confronting the students and throwing insults at them. With the minister evicted by popular consent, the lights went out and the film started up again.
Having achieved their objective, the students left the cinema and marched back to the concert that had been organised to celebrate the huge number of occupations of schools and universities that are taking place throughout the country. As they marched the students were flanked closely by police in full riot gear, prompting the group to chant slogans about the police’s role of defending the ruling class’s interests and how their constant presence on the streets of Greece is reminiscent of the country’s past military dictatorship. Political awareness, solidarity and organisation are aspects of the Greek student movement that students in Britain need to adopt if their battle against privitisation is to be successful.
Students Occupy Scottish Universities
On Thursday 29th September, around 40 students occupied the Collins building at Strathclyde University in Glasgow in protest of the recently announced £27,000 fees for RUK (Rest of UK, apart from Scotland) students. This followed a similar occupation the week before at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and one at Edinburgh University on 16th September after the announcement of the introduction of £36,000 fees for RUK students at these two universities.
This year Strathclyde has had an intake of fewer than 170 Humanities and Social Science students with many staff and students blaming cutbacks in these departments for the drop in student numbers.
Whilst the action of masses of people in Egypt forced President Mubarak to resign and flee the country, the Army generals are still very much in the saddle.
Strikes broke out on 8th to 10th February involving hundreds of thousands of workers. There have been strikes by tens of thousands of textile workers, 100,000 doctors, 200,000 health technicians, and 4,000 dockworkers, as well as almost a million teachers. Bus drivers, ticket collectors and mechanics to the tune of 45,000 came out on strike in Cairo, some linking up with teachers’ actions at the same time.
Encouraged by the original protests, workers are swinging into action in larger and larger numbers, incensed by the political and economic situation. Food prices have soared 80% since January. Workers have mobilised around the promised (and unfulfilled) concessions announced back in February and March.
29-S - More than 30 Protests and Rallies throughout Spain call for a General Strike
(The following is a translation from CNT Number 382 October 2011)
After their meeting on the 2nd September, CNT, CGT and Solidaridad Obrera made the call for the 29th September to be a day of mobilisation under the banner ‘La lucha está en la calle – Hacia la Huelga General” (The fight is in the street – towards a general strike) urging workers’ collectives and social movements to take back the strike by breaking away from the CCOO’s and the UGT’s (Spain’s two mainstream unions) policy of demobilisation and governmental collusion. Answering the call, tens of thousands of people came out into the streets to voice their discontent and call for a true general strike.
The CNT launched itself into a multitude of events putting the call for a general strike into practice with more than thirty towns and cities seeing members of the organizing unions out in the streets alongside those of 15-M assemblies, social groups, and other workers’ organisations. Each protest had its own individual characteristics but all were united in their demand for a general strike in the face of a wave of aggression against working people.
In Andalucía, the largest protests took place in Córdoba, Málaga and Sevilla but there were meetings in other places such as Jaén, Jerez, Sanlúcar, Lebrija all of which were mostly in collaboration with SAT, USTEA (Andalucian workers’ unions), CGT and various 15-M assemblies. Equally, other assemblies from the movement took part in rallies together with unions in such places as Santander and various towns in Aragón which saw a variety of workers’ organizations take to the street in solidarity. One of the most eye catching events was in Zaragoza where a human chain linked the doorway of the Bank of Spain with Pilar Square, afterwards transforming into a spontaneous protest outside the town hall. In Euskadi (Basque Country) the CNT organised rallies in Bilbao, Donostia (San Sebastian), Iruña (Pamplona), both independently and in collaboration with CGT, ESK and Solidari (Basque trades unions).
Some regions took the decision to concentrate protests in one city so as to better join forces with other groups, such as Murcia where the CGT organised a protest in the region’s capital in collaboration with many different 15-M assemblies. One of these assemblies had earlier occupied the headquarters of the Regional Confederation of Entrepreneurial Organisations (CROEM). In Mérida a central event took place for the entire region of Extremadura together with the CGT and CSU (union based in Extremadura) and numerous other collectives including ‘Ecologists in Action’.
In Catalunya the central event took place in Barcelona where the morning saw a bus followed by a long line of cars packed with militants traveling to various pickets to show both their solidarity and that business class unity needs to be confronted with that of the working class. Throughout the afternoon the protest had a large and spirited presence. The morning events in Madrid were decentralised with pickets set up in solidarity with various worker disputes and protests happening in areas such as Sol, Hortaleza, Vallecas, Móstoles and Leganés. The protest in the afternoon counted on the participation of a variety of organizations (including the CNT, CGT and Solidaridad Obrera) and exceeded even the most optimistic predictions with close to 8,000 people taking part.
Especially intense was the activity in Valladolid where the CNT, CGT and TU made the city theirs and launched their call for a unified struggle towards a general strike. Events in the run up to 29-S included on the 24th a screening in a central plaza of a union debate and on the 28th a mass bike ride to demand strike action. On the morning of the 29th meetings took place in different institutions responsible for the crisis (employers, the union CCOO, Santander) with the afternoon protest having around 500 people taking part. A group of CNT militants also occupied the PSOE (Spain’s ‘socialist’ party currently in government) regional headquarters on the morning of the 28th.
Other places such as Miranda de Ebro, Gijón, Ferrol, Guadalajara, Ávila, Palma, Logroño and a long list of others joined in the day of protest with a vast array of action.
UK Uncut Block the Bridge
On the 9th of October around 2,000 people turned up in central London to block Westminster Bridge in protest against the government’s reforms to the NHS which threaten to invite private companies into the health care system.
This is the second mass action organised by UK Uncut, who before the 26th of March 2010 and the short-lived occupation of Fortnum and Masons which resulted in over 140 people being arrested, was organised around lots of smaller but just as noticeable local actions against companies which dodge taxes. One of the differences between this action and previous ones organised by UK Uncut was the fact that the occupation of the space was essentially facilitated by the police who had already closed the bridge at 11:00am; many protestors present recognised this and pointed out that this couldn’t really be considered a formidable challenge to the government and its plans.
Although there was a large police presence, including riot vans lying in wait down many of the streets nearby, the police seemed hesitant to interfere with the protest in any way. This might be due to the possible PR nightmare that could occur if the police were filmed attacking protestors as they have in the past in front of thousands of tourists who had come to photograph Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. It is also possible that the police were happy for the protest to go ahead as long as it stayed static on the bridge and didn’t actually disrupt any other parts of the capitol as previous student demos involving UK Uncut have.
Many people at the protest were agitating for bolder action; some advocated simply going on a more disruptive march around the city and others were suggesting occupation of another area in the capital. One of the positives of the demo was that it did not seem to be made up of career activists but instead a wide range of people were present, from students to NHS workers and whole families. Around halfway through the demo on the bridge it was announced that a general assembly would be held to discuss the occupations in Europe and the US. At first the assembly seemed to be heading in a bad direction with people standing and giving speeches to an almost silent audience and somebody even taking advantage of the occasion to plug a book that they wrote. However things looked up when the large assembly split into lots of smaller groups that could discuss various issues much more effectively. People discussed various things including the possibilities of the national student demo on the 9th and the huge strikes on the 30th of November. Any kind of decision making was absent from the process but that didn’t seem like the point of these particular assemblies.
The demo ended promptly at 4:00pm, and rather than stay to take part in anything more, the organisers began packing up and quietly and calmly heading for home. At one end of the bridge a group of young Anarchists gathered together and with a loud hailer began gathering support for a march to the next bridge along (Lambeth Bridge) which wasn’t closed already and block that one as well. A small crowd of about a hundred gathered and marched to the bridge but sadly they were not a large-enough group and they also didn’t move quickly enough. The police kettled them at the end of Lambeth bridge and arrested a number of them.
All in all, it was a brave attempt but a case of too little too late. The more disturbing part of this episode is the fact that UK Uncut acted in a similar way to the NUS leadership in 2010 (although on a far smaller scale) by disassociating itself from the small group on Lambeth bridge and re-tweeting police statements over the internet because the Lambeth bridge group broke from the pre-planned action and annoyed the Met police. However, at the time of writing this article (10th October) UK Uncut has seen the light and said through twitter that it apologises for these comments and re-tweeting the police statements which it now points out were attempts to divide the movement.
Against Prison Slavery! The Campaign Against Prison Slavery (CAPS) was formed in 2002 by ex-prisoners, prisoner support groups and activists to campaign against compulsory labour in UK prisons and for the abolition of the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme (IEP).
Compulsory labour is a feature of most prison systems around the world, whether it be forced hard labour as punishment, direct 'reparation' for the costs of imprisonment, prison jobs such as kitchen or cleaning work that keep administration costs down or workshop jobs where prisoners manufacture the cell doors and prison bars for the jails that house them.
However, the modern prison has also developed into a system for generating capital from a section of society that up until now has largely been held to have no intrinsic labour value, the marginalised elements that tend to be trapped on a roundabout of regular incarceration, never to hold down a 'proper' job or become a 'productive member of society'. Thus we now also have in the modern prison system the prisoners who are used to create capital for private sector companies, either through labour in prison workshops manufacturing and packing goods for these companies or those prisoners handed over wholesale to the global outsourcing and security companies that run the private prisons, to do with as they wish, often 'sub-contracting' them out to third party companies.
The above text is quoted from the introduction to the CAPS from their excellent website. The site has loads of in-depth articles about compulsory work in prisons plus a Prison News page and a Prison Facts column.
Letter from a North East Anarchist marching in Manchester on October 2nd
We started at the education feeder march in Oxford Road. It was an SWP-organised event, but we met up with Liverpool SolFed and other comrades from Manchester and planned to block up with assorted banners on the march. [NEA banner picture here?] It didn't quite happen like that because the swappies pulled a fast one and started to assemble the march while the last speaker was still on the mike, so that they could get their Education Activists Network banner right at the front. This caused everyone to surge off to try to get position with some of us older comrades being rather slow of the mark. Anarchy is not chaos (sigh).
The feeder march was lively and noisy and got a great reception from the trade unionists being held in a side road while we passed. Our video gives a good impression of the atmosphere:
There's also a good account of the march, with some pertinent observations on the occupation movement in the UK, on Phil Dickens' blog:
I think that many of us had expected that the day might become confrontational and that the focus of any conflict might be the occupation of Albert Square alongside the Town Hall. In fact, when we got there, the occupation was already in progress; there had been no attempt by the bizzies to prevent it. [Phil Dickens' circle A pic here?] We found a lot more anarchos in the square and as nothing much was happening, we set off to rejoin the main march with the circle A banner, drawing with us about thirty comrades, mostly young and mostly masked up. It wasn't a black bloc tactic of course, but it certainly looked like it to the police, public and press; it attracted quite a lot of attention and produced the best chant of the day:
"Tory scum, we know you!
We smashed up your HQ!"
Then we got to the TUC rally field and there was nothing much to do except frustrate the FIT. (What it is about Manchester FIT by the way? They spent most of the afternoon getting as much footage as they could of a bunch of teenage boys and were also observed filming people going for a slash; rather pervy if you ask me). A bit of a let down to be honest, but on the way home we talked about some interesting piss-taking actions that we might try out in similar circumstances in the future. Nothing illegal of course.
We left the youth and went off to look for a pub. Walking back past the Conference Centre, we found that the rumoured Hunt Sabs action was actually taking place; a lively static action right there in front of the Conference, as 'in yer face' as anything else that happened; the trouble was that it must have started after most of the march had passed the spot, so hardly anyone knew about it. Not being critical - it looked great, (and great fun), but if it had started an hour earlier, (or if the sabs had come on the feeder march), then our squad could have been there too; would have made it even livelier and would have allowed some good networking.
The younger comrades could teach us a few things about networking and communication to be honest. They seem to have their act sorted and to be developing some good systems. It's important. If we can't communicate effectively, then we can't plan and act together as effectively as we might, (and must). It doesn't matter whether we're AF, SF, Alarm or non-aligned, we have to talk to each other when we are all taking part in the same event. Not necessarily with the object of agreeing a common course of action, but so that we at least know what we're all planning and can back each other up as much as possible.
We have to address this problem in the north-east as well. Nine of us went in the minibus, but there was a shitload of people who self-identify as anarchists there from our region, (not to mention the ones who aren't quite there yet - what was that Socialist Worker seller doing in the middle of our 'black bloc'?). For me, it's not a question of taking a 'join the party/group' approach; it's a question of being able to plan, decide and act together as efficently as possible, as often as possible. I don't want to own of a small group of people who plans and organises and expects others to follow; I'm a bloody anarchist.
A comrade from Newcastle
Kensal Rise Library Blockaded
Brent Council in London has spent £100 million on a new civic centre. It has the money for this - even though anticipated profit from it will not be realised for 20 years - yet it is prepared to save £1 million by closing down six well-used and much-loved libraries. These library closures received a lot of recent publicity when celebrities like the playwright Alan Bennett mounted unsuccessful moves to halt the library shutdown in court. Hours later Brent Council padlocked the buildings.
This was followed by hundreds of people forming human shields to prevent the council boarding up the buildings at Kensal Rise Library. They have vowed to keep up their presence. The protestors - mainly women and children - are being supported by neighbours who have supplied them with hot water bottles, blankets and tea. They have stopped three attempts so far to board up the library. Some people have camped out overnight. A make-shift library has been set up outside. Another library at Cricklewood was blockaded but the council sneakily boarded it up at night.
Phone Margaret Bailey, chair of Brent SOS Libraries, on 07813572468 to check the latest situation.
Day of Action against Atos
Friday 30th September saw a nationwide day of action against Atos Healthcare, the private company paid £100 million a year by the government to carry out the 'Work Capability Assessment' of those claiming sickness and disability benefits. So far, Atos have tried to stop the benefits of over 150,000 people and this has been met with condemnation by disabled people and their supporters as well as anti-cuts groups, claimants groups and medical professionals. Campaigners have argued that since Atos make a profit by throwing people off benefits, there is a clear conflict of interest in them administering the medical assessments these decisions are based on!
Actions took place outside Atos offices and assessment centres in seventeen towns and cities across Britain including London, Glasgow, Nottingham, Birmingham, Edinburgh, and Oxford. As well as handing out leaflets and generally raising awareness of Atos's dodgy dealings, some actions were more lively, with cardboard coffins and body-bags laid outside to represent those who have suffered and even been driven to suicide after being kicked off benefits. Those gathering outside the medical assessment centres talked with people going in and out about the whole process including encouraging them to appeal any negative decisions as appeals result in a loss of profits for Atos. Many were already well aware of Atos's underhand tactics and had been sent for assessment multiple times.
Attacks on benefits claimants affect us all as most of us will be somehow disabled at some point in our lives, even if only through old age. The government's benefits shake-up targets some of the most vulnerable people in society, using the rhetoric of 'Big Society' and 'benefits culture' to deprive and demonize a whole section of the population. The national day of action is a step forward in the fightback against Atos and against benefits cuts in general.
For more info please visit: http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/
Full text and PDF of the Anarchist Federation's monthly bulletin.
Anarchists Join with Sparks and Students in London on 9 November
At 7am on the morning of 9 November, sparks (striking electricians), students and their supporters including anarchists took the streets outside the Pinnacle Building site before marching to the Cannon Street construction site. The protesters refused to be stopped by police and pushed through police lines. Eventually they reached Cannon Street at around 9am. The protesters were not going to be intimidated by the police and were angry, active and clearly visible.
The students were out in force against tuition fees and cuts and privatisation of education for universities, colleges and schools, as well as the government’s draconian and savage assault on the welfare system in this country. The government’s attack on young people is not just by age but by class and it amounts to one of the biggest generational betrayals in peacetime history.
The scrapping of the EMA will lead students away from further education and their prospects of getting a job and paying into a pension scheme grow more and more remote.
The sparks have already taken their own actions across the country against the top six construction companies who want to pay the workers 35% lower wages and to worsen conditions at work. Many of these workers are in the UNITE trade union but the workers have done these actions independently and even against the wishes of UNITE.
After a tour of the building sites, the sparks visited St Paul’s where the Occupy London protest camp was based.
Earlier speakers at the sparks demo urged people to join the student march. The sparks travelled to the Shard construction site and Blackfriars, but were then kettled by the police to prevent them joining the student march. Anarchists made an impressive and supportive presence at the both the sparks and the student marches.
The main change from last year’s student demos was the tactics of the police, following the embarrassment of recent demonstrations when in many cases fit and youthful protestors simply out ran the police and vented their anger on government property. This time the police were eager to intimidate and repress the movement as much as possible. At the front of the march there was a line of police whose job it was to keep the march at a slow pace; police on horseback followed the march along its route and every road to the side of route was blocked by steel barriers, sandbags and cops in full riot gear. Although the attempt to join the two national demos failed, it goes to show that many people do see the connection between all the attacks on the working class and they do intend to link struggles to better combat the ruling class.
Erosion of Workers’ Rights
On the 8th and 9th of October the Rebellious Media Conference was held in London bringing together activists, independent news organisations and world renowned academics for discussions on how radical and independent media can make its voice heard in an industry dominated by mainstream, corporate media outlets. The conference - organised by Peace News, Ceasefire, NUJ, Red Pepper, Undercurrents and visionOntv - attracted such speakers as Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Michael Albert and Greg Philo.
Alongside the numerous talks and forums that took place over the two days, attendees had the opportunity to pick up various anarchist publications with stalls from the likes of Freedom Press, SchNews and New Internationalist and learn more about the work of organisations such as Corporate Watch and Ceasefire amongst many, many others.
The first day of the conference took place at the Institute of Education (UCL) kicking off with Chomsky’s talk to a full Logan Hall. Chomsky spoke at length of the Occupy Wall Street movement that was at that time sweeping across the US, criticising its reformist nature and calling on the demonstrators to radicalise their demands through a deeper analyse of the power structures that the elite use to maintain their dominance. Talks were scheduled for the entire day across the institute on a variety of topics with grassroots, radical short films being screened at lunchtime.
The second day saw the conference move to Friends House with focus turning to the more practical aspects of producing radical media with seminars on photography, writing press releases, translation and how to make the most of social media networks. These provided attendees with the opportunity to meet other producers of radical media and to exchange ideas and experiences in open forums. The conference was then wrapped up with closing speeches from a panel that included Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert with the latter calling for greater mutual aid between radical media organisations.
The conference was well summed up, however, by Becky Hogge, who after being asked how the conference could have been “more radical” stated that what mattered was not what had been said over the course of the weekend but what each one of those present did once the conference had finished.
Direct Action Gets the Goods
Laura, who was working at the Hartley pub in South London, had her contract terminated after she refused to work because she hadn’t been paid for 6 weeks, that is over £700 she had to live without since mid-September. The employers had numerous opportunities to pay and had broken many promises, ignored calls, not replied to emails and sent her round in circles passing responsibility amongst themselves. It was only after Laura contacted South London Solidarity Federation and mobilised friends and family to support her that they paid around half the money she was owed. After phone calls, emails and the threat of a picket the pub boss caved in and paid the full amount.
This is a situation many of us find ourselves in at some point at work. Not being paid for shifts or long periods of time is such a common occurrence that it is often seen as a trivial matter. With the prospect of going round in circles with managers or time consuming legal proceedings, it is easy to let them win. But by taking direct action together with our workmates, friends and family we can improve our working
Atos Festive Month of Actions
With thousands to face homelessness in the New Year due to housing benefit cuts, the harassment and further impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of disabled people due to punitive ‘assessments’, the continued persecution of people on sickness benefits, soaring unemployment and forced labour in the name of Workfare, a truly Victorian Christmas is on the cards for millions of us.
Whilst Atos CEO and disability denier Keith Wilman tucks into his organic Christmas turkey or multi-millionaire poverty pimp Emma Harrison of A4e hangs tinsel in her tax-payer funded stately home, millions of disabled, low paid, unemployed or sick people are facing a future of poverty, worsening health and homelessness.
Parents will be spending Christmas terrified that the new demands of conditionality for benefits, such as forcing single mothers into workfare schemes, will leave them unable to properly care for their children. People with life-threatening conditions or mental health problems will be terrified that their upcoming Atos assessment, notoriously flawed as it is, will further strip them of vital benefits.
Tens of thousands of low-waged families are about to be socially cleansed from city centres due to housing benefit cuts whilst unemployed people face the prospect of being forced to work full time and still survive on just a few pounds a day. The Welfare Reform Bill will see millions of disabled people forced into a similar, if not identical, testing regime for the new Personal Independence Payment that has tragically led to suicides amongst people already forced to undertake Atos’ Work Capability Assessments.
For the last year disabled people, claimant activists and supporters have been protesting against the inhumane treatment being inflicted on already vulnerable people. Scores of protests have been held outside (and sometimes inside) the offices of Atos ‘Healthcare’, the largest ever march of disabled people and supporters has taken place, protests have been held outside the Daily Mail, A4e offices and other workfare providers and online activity about benefit issues has exploded. Still the Tory Government pushes ahead, with their Lib Dem lap dogs never far ahead.
We need more than ever to increase the pressure and fight these attacks on our most basic needs and very survival. Organise and help spread the word now, please list all local actions, protests below and we will do our best to help promote and support all events as well as list them here.
Alternatively why not gather up your friends and turn up to spread seasonal cheer at your local Atos unannounced and then tell us about it afterwards. Everyone loves a surprise guest at Christmas!
16th December – 2pm
Triton Square, London NW1
A Real Victorian Christmas Party and Picnic at Triton Square
Power to the People: Electricity Workers Say no to Austerity
Greek electricity company workers have taken a militant stand against the government’s latest wave of austerity measures. Members of GENOP-DEI, the union of the Public Power Corporation, occupied the building issuing electricity disconnection orders for households that have failed to pay their bills.
As of a few weeks ago, the latest bills now include the latest property tax imposed by the government, typically including hundreds of Euros per property, making payment for thousands a non-option. This is in addition to the spiralling energy costs, job losses and declining wages since the crisis, leading many to rely on wood burners for their heat over the winter months. Members of the union had already cut power to the Health Ministry during the preceding week.
The response of the newly formed national unity government was swift, with riot police raiding the offices and arresting fifteen workers. The struggle, however, continues and in response GENOP-DEI has called a 48-hour strike. Workers also occupied a power station in Northern Greece.
These actions are a part of escalating resistance to the newest austerity deal. Transport workers have beenholding stoppages against staff cuts while pharmacies were also closed in Athens this past month to protest the failure of health insurers to settle debts. Struggles are ongoing amongst students and education workers (see last month’s Resistance).
The November 17th commemoration march, an event that has traditionally been a display of anarchist influence, involved over fifty thousand people this year with many marching behind both a new slogan, “then with tanks, now with banks” (in reference to the tanks that were used to crush the student uprising during the military Junta) as well as the resurrection of an old one (from the Civil War), “when the people are confronted with the threat of tyranny, they either chose the chains or guns”. Unions are expected to hold another general strike at the beginning of this month.
Sparks take their message to the boss’s front door
On 23 November 200 sparks and supporters gathered outside Kings Cross station in London for a short demonstration outside one of the gates of the Crossrail site. Police arrived issued with tazers and after some speeches the crowd moved round to the back of the station where the street was blocked. After ten minutes or so the crowd then blocked the road outside The Guardian’s offices. An ambulance was allowed through and the crowd got back on the move. Sixty electricians then occupied the head office of the Gratte Brothers, the smallest of the seven companies pulling out of the JIB, for an hour. The doors were chained and the police had to resort to bolt cutters to remove the electricians. One of the sparks had this to say: “Cops got in through a fire exit but could not throw us out. No arrests all peaceful. Sparks showed that they can take the message to the employers front door literally.”
Getting Ready to Strike
So this is my first strike ever and it’s been an interesting experience observing the dynamics between management, workforce and unison in the build up. We’ve had a couple of pensions’ briefings, which were commendably open to everyone irrespective of union membership, however only at one location out of 100s. The union also sent an email out claiming the membership were requesting that we don’t have picket lines because they’re, “old fashioned” and instead have a rally in town. I sent them an arsey email and there seems now be a move to have a large picket at a central location i.e. the local hospital followed by a rally. I’ve said I’d rather build for a picket in my own workplace as it’s a chance to engage and they’ve given me their blessing to do that. Whether this is genuine lack of militancy from the workforce or an attempt to funnel dissent into a harmless rally or both I couldn’t say at this stage.
As stated above there’s been a concerted push from above to put pressure on strikers to reveal they’re striking and to stop taking sick leave. But equally going by conversations I’ve had there doesn’t seem to be much of push from middle management and other staff to implement or comply with this. So be interesting to see whether this gets pushed in the run up to the strike. Unison seems either unwilling or unable to resist these moves.
Speaking to people in my workplace there’s obvious support for the strike, if scepticism that it will achieve its aims (which I share). But also it’s obvious we’re working with a workforce that except for a minority of older members have little or no experience of industrial action, (me included!). I’ve been asked if we get paid for being on strike, people saying they can’t strike because they didn’t receive a ballot and people saying they can’t strike because they haven’t got a pension. Fairly basic stuff but something that we must deal with if we’re to organise.
It’s obvious to me there is explicit and wide ranging dissatisfaction and will to resist these measures (I’m losing 25% of my pension, retiring 3 years later and paying an extra £250 a year and I’m one of the better one’s off in this) but it’s atomised and. Sadly I can’t see anyway round this other than slow and patient building of confidence and explicit explanations of why solidarity is important etc.
Within my department my boss is striking, as our two members of staff. The other two have said they’re not going to cross picket lines. I’ve taken this as a green light to try and persuade the 110 members of bank staff we have to not come in. This is fun.
Quantitative Easing - Creating Money for Rich People
Here’s a funny thing – the Royal College of Nurses predict that 26,000 nurses are currently losing their jobs as a result of public service cuts. At Whipps Cross Hospital east London, staff has been asked to work a day for free because the hospital is in so much debt. At the Tory conference, Old Etonians George Osborne and David Cameron repeated ad nauseum that there’s no money, no money for schools, for elderly care, for the NHS, for councils, even for the armed forces. At the same time as they tell us that we have to make the cuts, the government (more accurately the Bank of England) is spending a whopping £270 billion. This is new money the government has created. In the old days they would have printed it. Today it is done electronically. What is the purpose of this quantitative easing? Will it be used to keep the libraries open? Will it be used to stop NHS waiting lists growing? Will our public sector transport system get a well-needed cash injection? No. This money won’t be heading into the real economy. Instead, the government will be shoving it towards the City of London to buy up bonds. The theory is that this will keep interest rates low, make credit more easily available and stimulate the economy. Does it work? No. Interest rates are already at a historic low. A recent independent review of the last round of quantitative easing (QE) launched by Gordon Brown found that the only people who benefited were City firms. Although QE is described as ‘new’ it isn’t. This is just a new version of monetarism. Monetarism didn’t work in the 1980s and isn’t working now.
Greece: Down with the Stalinists and Bureaucrats!
This article is about the 48-hour general strike demonstrations of 19-20 October in Greece. It comments on the change of the police doctrine towards a “softer management of demonstrations” and the role of the Stalinists in “self-policing” the protests. This is a translation of an article written by TPTG (Ta Paidia Tis Galarias – ” The children of the gallery”). TPTG are an anti-authoritarian communist group from Athens who see communism not as a political ideology or dogma, but as a practical necessity stemming from the concrete, daily struggles of the proletariat within and against it.
We all experienced the nightmare that the Greek stalinists in co-operation with other leftist trade unionists and the cops created during the 48-hour strike in Greece on October 19 and 20 and some comrades in the anti-authoritarian milieu are badly wounded. We refer to the policing role of the KKE members: they were stationed in military formation in the area around the parliament, armed with helmets and sticks, facing the demonstrators with the riot squads behind them, preventing anyone from approaching, even asking for reporters’ identities and attacking fiercely later those in the crowd who defied their cordons.
As the clashes started, the riot squads came for their protection attacking people with chemicals and flash-bang grenades evacuating the area. It was revealed later that the stalinists had made an agreement with the police so as to be allowed to police the demo themselves. According to our information, similar agreements were made between the KKE and other left parties’ or groupuscules’ unionists so that each was alloted a special place near the parliament accepting KKE’s hegemony. They later supported fully KKE in its denunciation of the ‘anarcho-fascists’, ‘parastatals’ etc, namely all those who were not part of the deal, not willing to accept it and tried to break their cordons.
As the capitalist attack deepens, this Greek style of ‘self-policing’ of ‘problematic’ crowd events has signalled the comeback with a vengeance of the left political parties and the left unionist bureaucracy against a proletarian crowd that had managed to escape their mortal embrace last June in the squares movement (albeit in a very contradictory way). We can’t say whether this concerted public-order policing by the KKE and the professional police with the approval of most of the left and leftist organisations and unions is the visible part (in the streets) of a deal for a national unity government, but it certainly revealed very dramatically that the capitalist state has a lot of left-wing reserves as well as alternative police methods against us, as we argued in our two letters* on the progress of our enemies. Have a look at this extract we translated from an article in yesterday’s Eleftherotypia, a liberal newspaper of wide circulation:
“It is obvious that attempts are being made at readapting the doctrine of the security forces’ involvement in the social reactions, which will escalate continuously. A society that suffers badly from the economic measures cannot bebeaten up by the forces of repression which have not found or do not want to find a way to isolate those who regard violence as an end in itself.
The events of recent days, if not marked by the death of the 53-year-old PAME trade unionist, could be seen as a sign of an effective change of the police doctrine towards a softer management of demonstrations.
Indeed, in those two days that police were fully in a transitory phase in terms of its leadership team, the risk was double. Initially, the apparatus was led for two days by those available since changes in leadership were announced simultaneously with the big demonstrations. And even with the participation of Christofareizis C., who was recalled from retirement, the designer of the MAT [TN: the riot squad] in the ’90s, whose name was associated with the attack against pensioners out of Maximou [TN: the Presidential Mansion] in 1995. The other change observed was the return of the doctrine of self-control and inconspicuous granting of power to organized unions to self-guard the demonstrations.
What happened on Thursday with PAME guarding its demo not only in a defensive but also in an offensive way at the Unknown Soldier monument was the beginning of a new tactic which gives room for self-regulation to the demonstrators that will have the first say in the prevention of the intrusion of troublemakers in the body of the mobilizations. And this is risky, because the incredible violence between protesters, while the police was discreetly absent, could have had more serious consequences. Although any police involvement might have had even worse consequences. In any case this tactic is likely to be applied again after consultations have been made.
In this critical period it was clear that Chr. Papoutsis [TN: Minister of Public Order, or in the neo-orwellian language of PASOK government, Minister of Citizen Protection] wished for a softer administration at all levels of the Staff and not only at the leadership. That is why he transfered hardline officers that he thought they were damaging the image of the police due to the behaviour of policemen who had seriously injured protesters and professional journalists in recent months, during demonstrations. Obviously, for reasons of balance, the minister also hired an experienced veteran and put him in the position of the operation consultant.
For over a year, the minister has been talking about a lack of democracy in the security forces and has threatened that he will not hesitate to attack some structures, units and commanders. Certainly these commanders were appointed by the same government two years ago, when the offensive doctrine was applied for the regaining of the streets, according to the official announcement that had been made then.
The murder of student Al. Grigoropoulos had repercussions on the police as they were delegitimised in huge parts of the society, i.e. they were marginalized socially and professionally. There is an attempt now by the Ministry of Citizen Protection to reverse this disturbance of professional self-image and behaviour, in the worst period in decades, as the economic crisis is ruining people and cracks in social cohesion are increasing.” [TN: It is not surprising then that some riot squads were telling the demonstrators that they were there for their protection!] (Greek Police: softly-softly is the new doctrine, Eleftherotypia, 23/11/2011)
However, the struggle against the cops of all colours and their diverse methods as well as against the capitalist attack on the working class goes on!
New Riot Statistics Revealed
New and more comprehensive statistics about the riots in August have been recently released by the government. These new statistics reveal some of the lies about the riots that politicians and right wing commentators have been spreading. The first and maybe most disgusting lie that the statistics have swept aside is the assertion that the violent aspects of the riots were directly connected to peoples ethnic backgrounds and that members of ethnic minorities (particularly black people) are somehow more prone to crime than others. In fact the statistics showed that there was almost a fifty-fifty split when it came to the number of white people charged and people of ethnic minority groups charged. Overall 45% of those charged were white, 46% were black, 7% were Asian and 5% were labelled as “other”.
Now, a committed personal racist still might argue that the percentage of people from ethnic minority groups who were charged is still larger in proportion than the percentage of the population that is not white, but when you consider that these riots were partly motivated by poverty and the percentage of non-white people in poverty in Britain is far higher than the percentage of white people in poverty it’s clear that the colour of somebody’s skin has nothing to do with whether they riot or not. Capitalism, on the other hand, has everything to do with it.
The other lie that was quickly destroyed by the recent statistics is the one propagated by politicians in particular who claimed that organised criminal gangs played a pivotal or even a leading role in the riots. Part of the implication of this was that what was needed to solve the problem was tougher policing of poorer communities.
The statistics, however, reveal that this is complete rubbish; only 13% of those charged were gang members. Although three quarters of those brought to court had previous cautions or convictions, this is a result of the fact that the riots occurred mainly in some of the most poverty stricken areas of the country.
The statistics show that many of the people in the riots were trapped in poverty, that 35% of those charged were receiving unemployment benefits and 42% of young people charged were claiming free school meals.
The people who really caused the riots of August cannot be found in the working class communities of Tottenham, Hackney and Brixton. Instead, you will find the most violent and mindless members of our society in Parliament, in the CEO offices of banks and the police station at the end of the street.
A Council Worker’s Perspective on Disability Cuts
I arrive at my Bristol City Council office with a knot in my stomach. What service will I have to take away from someone today?
My work is to meet people who because of where they are on the dis/ability spectrum find parts of daily living more tricky and to put in place support they might need, such as support with personal care, eating and drinking, accessing the community. Or rather, I used to. With £7.3million cut from Bristol’s Health and Social Care budget, there is a large and growing gap between the support people need and want and what Bristol City Council says they can have.
An example: an elderly woman I am assessing tells me how happy she is with her carer who visits each morning for 45 minutes. “I wouldn’t have anyone to chat with if it wasn’t for her. We chat about the headlines and stuff like that. It’s lovely. I’d like her to come more often”.
Trapped into selling my time and humanity in return for a wage, I tell her between gritted angry teeth that while she and I both know she needs more than 45 minutes worth of social contact a day, her *eligible need *could be met with a 30 minute visit.
Sadness passes between us. I can barely imagine how important this time must be for someone who has no other social contact all day. As 15 minutes gets knocked off her support plan gone is time to chat and time to relax her frail body in the bath. Her home instead becomes part of the morning rush hour, as underpaid carers from over-profiting care agencies rush in, around and out.
This is a glimpse of her suffering caused by £1500 being cut from my department’s budget. That leaves another £7,298 500 worth of suffering to be accounted for across the city. I encourage those who see how cuts and privatisation are affecting people to speak out, or to find a mate and speak out even louder.
Rebels with a Cause
On the 8th and 9th of October the Rebellious Media Conference was held in London bringing together activists, independent news organisations and world renowned academics for discussions on how radical and independent media can make its voice heard in an industry dominated by mainstream, corporate media outlets. The conference - organised by Peace News, Ceasefire, NUJ, Red Pepper, Undercurrents and visionOntv - attracted such speakers as Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Michael Albert and Greg Philo.
Alongside the numerous talks and forums that took place over the two days, attendees had the opportunity to pick up various anarchist publications with stalls from the likes of Freedom Press, SchNews and New Internationalist and learn more about the work of organisations such as Corporate Watch and Ceasefire amongst many, many others.
The first day of the conference took place at the Institute of Education (UCL) kicking off with Chomsky’s talk to a full Logan Hall. Chomsky spoke at length of the Occupy Wall Street movement that was at that time sweeping across the US, criticising its reformist nature and calling on the demonstrators to radicalise their demands through a deeper analyse of the power structures that the elite use to maintain their dominance. Talks were scheduled for the entire day across the institute on a variety of topics with grassroots, radical short films being screened at lunchtime.
The second day saw the conference move to Friends House with focus turning to the more practical aspects of producing radical media with seminars on photography, writing press releases, translation and how to make the most of social media networks. These provided attendees with the opportunity to meet other producers of radical media and to exchange ideas and experiences in open forums. The conference was then wrapped up with closing speeches from a panel that included Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert with the latter calling for greater mutual aid between radical media organisations.
The conference was well summed up, however, by Becky Hogge, who after being asked how the conference could have been “more radical” stated that what mattered was not what had been said over the course of the weekend but what each one of those present did once the conference had finished.
Bank of Ideas Opens
Occupy London took over a huge abandoned office block in the borough of Hackney belonging to the investment bank UBS in a move it describes as a `public repossession.’ A dozen activists from Occupy London gained access to the building and secured it.
The multimillion-pound complex, which has been empty for several years, is the group’s third space and its first building, adding to its two camps at St Paul’s Courtyard – near the London Stock Exchange in the heart of the City – and at Finsbury Square.
Occupy London supporters Jack Holburn said: “Whilst over 9,000 families were kicked out of their homes in the last three months for failing to keep up mortgage payments – mostly due to the recession caused by the banks – UBS and other financial giants are sitting on massive abandoned properties.”
“As banks repossess families’ homes, empty bank property needs to be repossessed by the public. Yesterday we learned that the Government has failed to create public value out of banking failure.”
The occupied building was then re-opened as the `Bank of Ideas.’ Sarah Layler of Occupy London added: “The Bank of Ideas will host a full events programme where people will be able to trade in creativity rather than cash. We will also make space available for those that have lost their nurseries, community centres and youth clubs to savage Government spending cuts.”
The complex is owned by Sun Street Properties Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UBS. The property includes 5-29 Sun Street, 5-17 Crown Place, 8-16 Earl Street and 54 Wilson Street.
UBS Bank, which describes itself as a `premier global financial services firm offering wealth management, investment banking, asset management and business banking services’ was the subject of a $60bn bailout from the Swiss government in 2008 after piling up the biggest losses of any European lender from the global credit crisis. Since that time, the bank has cut thousands of jobs.
Please write to these class struggle and anti-fascist prisoners incarcerated for their resistance. Stamps can be sent to prisoners so mention the amount you have included.
In June 2011 six anti-fascists were fitted-up on charges of Conspiracy to Cause Violent Disorder and sent to jail for between 15 and 21 months. Thomas Blak has now been released but was deported to his home country of Denmark.
Suffolk CR8 9YG
Surrey GU24 9EX
Phil De Souza
Kent ME12 4AY
Norfolk IP25 6RL
Stocken Hall Road
Nr Oakham LE15 7RD
Anti cuts demos
Omar Ibrahim has been sentenced for 18 months for violent disorder during the London anti-cuts demonstration on March 26th 2011.
You can read his ‘Anti-Cuts Prisoner Blog’
London SW18 3HS
Joseph Binney is on remand for alleged violent disorder during the London anti-cuts demonstration on March 26th 2011.
London SW18 3HS
Serving a 12 month sentence for violent disorder during the March 26th 2011 anti-cuts demonstration despite having been violently attacked by the police.
James Heslip was sentenced on October 5th 2011 to 12 months for violent disorder during the November 2010 student Millbank protest and occupation. Write him care of
London Anarchist Black Cross
c/o Freedom Bookshop
London E1 7QX
Serving a 12 month sentence for violent disorder during the November 2010 student protests.
HMP YOI Portland
104 The Grove
Dorset DTS IDL
Inside for violent disorder during the November 2010 demonstration and occupation at Millbank.
HMP YOI Portland
104 The Grove
Dorset DTS IDL
Sentenced to 12 months for violent disorder during the November 2010 student demonstration and occupation at Millbank. Matt Robinson
London SW18 3HS
For more info on writing to prisoners: check these Anarchist Black Cross websites:
False Wage Claim
The Daily Mirror ran an article on 10 October by Jeremy Armstrong stating that “Prisoners have been paid more than £70million over the past two years – some of them for doing nothing. Murderers, rapists and robbers pick up an average £9.60 a week to graft behind bars, with a guaranteed £2.50 just for making themselves “available to work”.”
Of course, for media hacks like Armstrong, it’s always murderers, rapists and robbers but not fine-defaulters, expense-fiddling MPs, those with serious drug addiction and mental health problems or those found guilty of victimless crimes such as public order offences, soliticiting and prostitution.
Now, the £70m might be fresh information but the £9.60 figure comes from a 2007 Prison Service survey of wages which in fact does not take full account of all prisoners, including those that have made themselves “available to work” but are banged up 23 hours a day in a local prison where the only work is a very limited number of cleaning, cooking and laundry jobs.
A quick back of a fag packet calculation shows that this £70m could clearly not amount to an average wage of £9.60. Taking an average prison population of 84,800, for the last two financial years (April 2009-April 2011) £70,000,000 divided by 2 years and then by 52 weeks = £673,000 per week in wages paid out. Which amounts to £673,000 divided by the prison population of 84,800 = £7.94 a week average wage. Armstrong cannot even get the prison population record high right; it was 87,673 at the start of October.
This is an edited version of an article written by the Campaign Against Prison Slavery (CAPS).
Look at the CAPS website for more news and analysis on work and exploitation in British prisons.
Special edition of the Resistance bulletin giving an anarchist view on the UK 2015 general election.
As the 2015 general election approaches, the Anarchist Federation explains the anarchist alternative to voting for social change.
The general election is here, and once again the parties are all over us like a rash, promising that they will fix things. But you don’t have to be an anarchist to know that nothing changes, whoever gets in. This is why politicians are keen on new methods such as postal voting. Labour, Tory, Liberal Democrat, nationalist (Plaid Cymru, SNP, Sinn Fein), ‘principled’ or ‘radical’ (Green Party, or leftists in some alliance), or nationalist-racist (UKIP etc), the fundamentals of the system are the same.
Whether we have the present electoral system or proportional representation, or however many people vote or don’t vote in an election or referendum, as we have just seen in Scotland, capitalism is at the driving wheel globally. As working class people, we are exploited whether we can take part in ‘free’ elections or live under an authoritarian regime. Capitalists and property owners continue to control the wealth that we create, and they protect it through the police, legal system, and military.
Non-voters are told that, “If you don't vote you can't complain”. But voting under these circumstances is just pretending that the system we have is basically alright. It lets the winning party off the hook. The fact is, we have next to no say in the decisions that get taken by the people we elect. This is called ‘representative democracy’. Anarchists organise by ‘direct democracy’, where we can have a say in every decision, if we want to. We don’t put our power in someone else’s hands, so no one can betray us and abuse it. This really could work globally! Ask us how...
A “don't vote” campaign on its own is just as much a waste of time. The same goes for a protest vote for a leftist or novelty candidate. The time and money spent campaigning could be better used fixing some of the problems we face in our lives. Protesting, whether it is spoiling a ballot paper or marching in the street, fails to offer any real challenge. So, anarchists say, vote, or don’t vote. It won’t make any difference. What is more important, is to realise that elections prop up a corrupt system and divert us from winning real change.
We should organise with our neighbours, workmates, other people we have shared interests with, and others who don’t have the privileges that some people have. We are the experts on what we need, and on the best way to run things for the common good. We need to use direct action to achieve this. Direct action is where we solve a problem without someone else representing us. By this we mean, not just protesting and asking for change, but things like occupying, sabotaging, working to rule, refusing to pay their prices or their rent, and striking (but not waiting for union leaders to tell us when we can and can’t!).
For example, when workers aren’t paid the wages owed them, rather than asking the government to give us better legal protection, we take action to force employers to pay. The Department for Work & Pensions has even named the Anarchist Federation and the Solidarity Federation among groups that are a serious threat to workfare, because we have shut down programmes. This was achieved with only a few hundred people. Imagine what could be done with thousands!
In reality, people are understandably afraid of taking the state on. But direct action doesn’t have to mean an all-out fight to defeat capitalism in one go. Anarchists do think that ultimately, there has to be a full revolution. But by confronting the system directly at any point we can start to take control. In fact, all the good things we think of as having been created by the state – free health care, free education, health & safety laws to protect us at work, housing regulations, sick pay, unemployment benefits, pensions – came about historically to put an end to organised campaigns of collective direct action that threatened their power. And where we would fail as individuals, together we can win.
A student member of the Anarchist Federation's account of the Lib Dems' promise on university tuition fees and the lessons learned.
Living in Sheffield at the time of the last election, I saw that there was massive voter turn-out and support for the Lib Dems amongst students. A tangible optimism and excitement existed in Nick Clegg’s constituency. Personally, I spoiled my ballot paper with, ‘If voting changed anything they’d make it illegal’. However, I did wonder whether a Lib-Dem rise could contest the New Labour/Conservative stalemate of neoliberal similarity.
Clegg now sports a satisfaction rating of minus-40 (Mori survey). This is well deserved. Instead of capping tuition fees he has overseen them triple to £9,000. Young people among many others who voted Lib-Dem have been left disillusioned by this, becoming disengaged from politics. What has been proven is not that young people are not interested in politics, but that politicians are not interested in young people.
I was lucky and only had to pay £3,000/year in fees. But I now owe the Students Loan Company £23,000. This increases by at least £30 a month due to interest, which started whilst I was still at university! I am persistently being hassled by them checking if I’m earning enough yet to start paying it back.
When I finished university I wanted to continue studying. However, funding for a social science Master’s degree is rare and most students are self-funded. I couldn’t stand the thought of incurring more debt by taking out a loan, so I gave up on the idea. I moved home and worked in a café trying to get out of my overdraft. I found out that there are no tuition fees in Sweden for EU citizens. I applied to Stockholm University and got in, paying living costs with money I’d earned in the café. I then found out I could return to the UK on an Erasmus exchange, avoiding tuition fees and even getting an EU grant!
This illustrates the lengths that you have to go to if you come from a background where higher education is unaffordable. Furthermore, it has taught me that a free education is feasible, but cannot be accomplished by relying on political parties and the establishment. The neo-liberalisation of higher education has proliferated under the Coalition. Education is becoming the preserve of the upper-middle-class. Research too must now be ‘competitive’, not expressing critical, independent thought.
To contest this, to strive for free education, the only way is to self-organise! The demise of the Lib-Dems has shown we cannot rely on any political party to deliver this. This is why we argue ‘Don’t Vote – Organise!’
The infatuation of the trade unions with the Labour party should be nothing other than mystifying for ordinary workers. Whether it is ‘Unions Together’ or TUC voter registration drives, trade union members amongst us should feel deeply insulted at being asked to prop-up the Labour party as the best available solution, argues the Anarchist Federation.
The Labour Party was set up in the early twentieth century as a political wing of the trade union movement. Despite the rose-tinted view of history, it has continually regulated workers under capitalism. It is not a case of Labour having ‘lost its way’ and needing recapturing. To echo the anarchist Rudolf Rocker, political parties and elections haven’t brought workers “a hair’s breadth closer to socialism.”
The TUC and parts of the left continually present us with a picture of Labour which has nothing in common with its actual actions. They tell us that we still have a ‘special relationship’, and that despite its failings, the Labour Party stands-up best for ordinary working people. So we should support it ‘without illusions’, because it is better than the Tories. Not that you would notice! All the major parties support austerity against the working class. This is irrefutable, and Labour even says as much.
What remains of the dwindling trade union movement is essentially shackled by harsh restrictive anti-union laws and a totally compliant TUC leadership. These laws tell us how to manage our affairs, seriously restrict our ability to withdraw labour, and tell us who we can and can’t expel, which means that we have to accept scabbing in our own unions. They restrict free association in a way that no other organisation can under British law and are regularly condemned by the International Labour Organisation, which is hardly a hotbed of radicalism. The only time Labour repealed anti-union laws was when its hand was forced by a mass grassroots workers movement in the 1970s.
Overturning these present laws and rebuilding a militant culture around the workplace is going to require not the politics of the ballot box, but sheer will and the determination to oppose so-called ‘representatives’ in both the Labour Party and the TUC. Their class interests under capitalism are intimately linked; our interests begin and end with us.
The AF give their view on Russell Brand, the comedian-turned-activist who opposes voting and calls himself anarchist in his new book, Revolution.
Celebrity sexist Russell Brand has recently added ‘revolutionary’ to his CV, and he’s written a book about it. He has also turned out in person to support things like the successful housing struggle of the New Era Estate residents in London. If you can stomach the man himself, he seems to offer something to people sick of inequality, war-mongering and political hypocrisy. Brand agrees with anarchists on many things and refers to himself as an anarchist in his new book ‘Revolution’. He won’t be voting in the election for pretty much the same reasons that anarchists won’t be. The Spanish revolution inspires him as the best social experiment in history, as it does us. So, we should say what we think about him.
Brand genuinely does see political parties as all the same, and electoral politics as a sham which serves the rich and powerful. But he seems unaware of what lies behind inequality. This is how he has come to the conclusion that society should be run by small, decentralised ‘groups’, which don’t act against anyone else’s interests, and which help each other out when needed. Great! But they would apparently still use money.
You can’t have both equality and money! The whole point of money is to have more of it than someone else. And no, we wouldn’t all be trading turnips for sheep in an anarchist society. We’d give and receive freely. So, although Brand has face-palmed Marx’s ‘From each according to (their) ability, to each according to (their) need’, he doesn’t understand what Marx meant. Money doesn’t enter into it.
So how does he think this ‘revolution’ will happen? Unfortunately, Gandhi is explicitly his model. It isn’t so much that Brand is a pacifist, but that he glosses over violence by thinking that if enough of us rise up, the state won’t be able to do anything about it. Aside from talking to the prominent anarchist David Graeber, he doesn’t seem to have thought about this stuff seriously. So where he agrees with Graeber that we should take-over the functions of the state and make it redundant, he disagrees that we will need to defend the revolution. In fact, he says he has no ill will towards the police or army. Well that’s OK for this white, male revolutionary, who these days is rich and healthy too. In fact, when it comes to political freedoms in general, he is a little vague and places his faith in human nature and ‘Love’, as opposed to properly thought-out social structures.
Also, although Brand talks of ‘social recalibration’, his is a purely economic revolution, not one which would change other aspects of our damaged society. For example – and Brand, who claims to be challenging his own sexism, should take note - it would mean a believing stance towards rape survivors, instead of towards Julian Assange, such as he takes in ‘Revolution.’
So, genuinely angry at capitalism as he is, Brand is not qualified to be a spokesperson of the revolution. He will be using the royalties from ‘Revolution’ to set up a self-managed business for recovering addicts. But revolution has to be made by people oppressed by class, race, gender, sexuality, ability and lack of opportunity, all acting together. We should use as little violence as possible, but we have to defend the gains we make, which the people on the New Era Estate can do with or without Russell Brand.
Many leftists have been overjoyed that an anti-austerity party won the general election in Greece. For the left, including those in the UK, Syriza’s victory is seen as a turning point in Europe against economic policies based on harsh cuts. But is it?
SYRIZA (‘Coalition of the Radical Left’) started off as an alliance of various reformist left-wing currents. Its programme was very similar to Pasok, a socialist coalition of the 1980s. In fact, a large part of the old Pasok leadership is now in Syriza. Alexis Tsipras took over as Syriza leader in 2008, as the party was moving away from reformist ‘Eurocommunism’ to build a relationship with the grassroots social movements that had grown in Greece against austerity. As it was developing a presence on the streets and joining the large ‘square protests’, the party also increased its influence in trade unions, especially the public sector, and organised among university students. It quickly positioned itself as a last hope for change for the social movement.
Syriza will now be the political wing of a repressive State apparatus - the police, the army, the judiciary - that is historically riddled with right-wingers and fascists. It has already formed a coalition with a right-wing anti-immigration party and will continue to make compromises to stay in power. As the party is quite small with 35,000 members, around 10,000 will be moved into government positions in an attempt to counter the right-wing, well away from the grassroots initiatives that carried them into office.
Greek radicals with longer memories will remember that after Pasok was elected it rapidly dropped the radical programme that helped it to power. In any case, it was all but wiped out in later elections. Now here we are again with more leftist promises from Syriza. As one Greek anarchist Spyros Dapergolas remarked about the importance of people sticking to grassroots organising, “Everything else is a recipe for failure, disappointment, loss of time, and, of course, political and individual corruption ... what power and state always create.”
An anarchist responds to the guilt-tripping of women which occurs every election time about how suffragettes fought for women's' right to vote.
It’s election time again, and anarchist women are once more being lectured on doing our duty to those who died for our vote.
For the record, the suffragettes’ demand was that women should be balloted wherever men were. They weren’t fighting for every woman in perpetuity to be guilt-tripped into supporting any political system that used the ballot box to legitimise itself. They trusted future women to make their own decisions. Sylvia Pankhurst, for one, lived to reject parliamentary democracy as an “out of date machine” and refused to cast a vote or stand for election herself. This election, she’d be angry with every party’s participation in cuts to essential women’s services, not the women who spoil their ballots or stay away.
There was a lot more to the suffragettes than just the vote. They were about women’s solidarity, our ability to work and fight together, to write and speak from our own experience, not just on the vote but on sexual, social and vocational freedoms, like fair pay and reproductive rights. Being denied the vote was an insult to women as intelligent, rational human beings, regardless of how much use the vote itself was. Using the vote was almost beside the point compared to what it would mean for women to have the vote, to not be seen as mere extensions of their husbands.
Getting the vote was a victory largely because of what women achieved through the process of fighting for it. The speeches, publications, smashed windows, battles with police, martial arts training, imprisonments, hunger strikes, resistance to force-feeding and refusal to give in: these did more to raise the status and confidence of women, as public and political people, than the vote itself ever has. Much more than having women MPs or careerists who have cynically used women’s struggles to promote themselves.
Telling us that we have to vote because votes for women were hard won, is condescending, paternalistic shit. Working class men also fought for the right to vote, but are much less criticised if they suggest that there are more effective means of change than the ballot box. For women, voting is turned into an issue of conformity rather than conscience, in direct opposition to who suffragettes were and what they fought for. The suffragettes never intended their campaigning to stop with getting the vote. Many continued fighting when their leaders were co-opted. They weren’t satisfied, and they didn’t intend us to be.
The suffragettes achieved their aims because they were a radical, inspirational and effective direct action movement. They achieved incredible things for themselves and for future generations of women. Yes, they deserve our respect and our gratitude. But more than that, they deserve our study and our effort to comprehend the full enormity and complexity of their struggle. They deserve better than to be reduced to a single-issue sound-bite.
So this polling day, whether you vote or organise or both, consider honouring the suffragettes’ memory by not using them as a stick to beat women with when they treat their vote exactly as the suffragettes did: as their own, to use or not, on their own terms.
The AF take a look at the Green Party's record where they have had power to evaluate whether they really represent an "alternative" to business as usual in the election.
“F***ing Tories on bikes” – that’s how one Brighton bin worker describes the Green Party. As the largest party on the local council, with 23 seats at the 2011 election, Brighton is the only place in the UK where the Greens have had so much as a sniff of power. And look what they’ve done with it.
Despite trumpeting a commitment to the living wage (£7.85 an hour outside London, compared to a National Minimum Wage of £6.50), they tried to impose a “pay modernisation” scheme on low-paid council workers with the support of the Conservative group on the council. It meant that refuse and recycling staff at Hollingdean depot faced a paycut of up to £4,000 a year.
Acting like the worst kind of union-busting boss, the council threatened the workers that if they refused to accept the new terms, they would sack them and re-employ them ‘on a worse contract, without compensation’. Binworkers responded with a wildcat occupation of their depot, and there have been numerous strikes and wildcat stoppages since. And the attacks on the binworkers’ terms and conditions of employment continue.
Green MP, Caroline Lucas claims to have made her opposition to the proposals clear, and even said that she would “join the picket line if the Council forces a pay cut on low paid staff.” Well, we haven’t seen her on any picket lines. We did see her picking up litter during the strike of June 2013, despite a statement from the bin-workers asking people not to, because as they say, “any attempts to lessen the impact of a strike [by picking up litter] completely undermines our action.”
No doubt the Greens in Brighton have made “tough choices,” with their “hands tied” by central government. So is that all there is to politics – “tough choices” and a world of perpetual disappointment when your elected representatives betray you? As anarchists, we say that the problem is not with who is in power, and how they exercise that power. The problem is political power itself. As anarchist Noam Chomsky points out, “the smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” The Greens might be on the fringes of that spectrum, but they’re still part of the party political system, established to keep us quiet.