As staff at socialist daily newspaper, the Morning Star, prepare to go on strike this Sunday over pay and conditions, Ed Goddard from libcom.org caught up with one worker and found out about low pay and union busting in the name of "peace and socialism."
1. Can you tell us a little bit about the origins of the dispute?
Back in October last year we got an offer of £1,000 for 2010, which was probably the best in the industry in terms of percentage. The problem was that this had been hitched to a three year deal, with increases for following years capped at 4%. That's effectively a pay cut when RPI inflation is already at 5.3%, and there's very few trade unionists who'd be happy to sign away annual bargaining rights under those circumstances.
The headline £1,000 figure is also pretty misleading if you don't know what it represents, which is catchup pay because we remain some of the lowest-paid people around for the kind of work we do - £19,000 as opposed to £24,500 which is the industry average (and it’s higher in London where we’re based, around £26,000). We certainly aren't demanding that!
But the Star is actually a fairly complicated job even by normal standards. Our industrial reporter for example has to know about the situation nationwide covering millions of working people on top of normal daily news writing, while our subs need a huge range of technical knowledge because they don't have things like a picture desk, so they have to find their own pics, photoshop things themselves, deal with a really variable quality of work etc. Some staffers at the paper who also do the occasional shift elsewhere reckon it's usually an easy day compared to working here, even at the Guardian, because you're not trying to do the job of three people!
So there does need to be some sort of encouragement to keep or hire high-quality staff even if they're lefties, and we've been asking for ages now about getting something extra for anti-social hours as a gesture towards alternative forms of compensation.
This should help put in context our initial suggestion, which was £1,500 over one year, plus discussions over compensation for anti-social working hours. We were of course expecting to come down from that bargaining position and have repeatedly dropped it already (I think it's £1,000 plus some time in lieu for Sundays and bank hols atm).
However management only recently agreed to change their offer, just days before we were due to strike. After initially telling us it would be £750 for one year instead, they said they simply wouldn't talk about anti-social hours, even though it wouldn't cost them anything financially. Eight months down the line they’ve finally shifted a bit on lieu time and suggested £900 plus a percentage rise next year as a two-year deal. This incidentally is despite them having already paid our sister branch Unite (covering admin, sales, that sort of thing) the £1,000, so we know they've had the money for that as a one year deal all along.
2. Do you have any idea of the pay that the Morning Star management are on?
It's about a £5,000 difference as far as I know, but I'm not sure of the exact figures. It was originally flat across the board I think but they wanted to "provide a career structure" to encourage people to stay longer. Like treating their workforce with respect might, for example.
3. What has been the level of participation from the workers in this dispute? What are the feelings of workers on the shopfloor about these issues?
Depends on who you speak to, there's a fairly hefty split into two camps with one being pro a three year deal and the other being anti. All but two of the pro-deal group are publicly acknowledged Communist Party of Britain backers or members (and one of those two is the daughter of a member), while the other side is made up mainly of left wingers from all kinds of different groups and theoretical backgrounds. At the moment though there’s a slim but solid majority in favour of fighting our corner.
4. So where can you see these feelings going? Do you think there is a chance that this could result in staff taking strike action?
We've already been on strike, technically! Having finally confirmed with the NUJ we had this really odd 10 minute mandatory chapel meeting in the meeting room, surrounded by memorabilia from the CPB's hey-day, to initiate the strike period. We're due out for our first full day on June 20th. To their credit, most people have already pledged not to cross the picket line regardless of their personal views.
5. How have management responded to the organising activities of its staff? In ‘regular’ capitalist enterprises we often hear of management bullying in response to workers organising; has it been any different at a newspaper dedicated to “peace and socialism”?
Not really to be honest, most of the hallmarks are there, just in a different form. They're careful not to actively victimise people individually but as a group we've come under constant pressure through a variety of different tactics and the atmosphere in the office has been horrendous – even worse than it was last year.
One of the more noticeable things has been the rising number of CPB members and sympathisers in staff roles as people have come and gone over the last while, and some of those have been brought in regardless of their skills base or the views of their immediate line managers. With one, his name was included in an analysis we found of who'd vote which way in a strike ballot - before the job had even been advertised! Such behaviour amounts to packing the branch with people who are prepared to take any offer going as long as the boss tells them its a good idea - union busting, in effect, even if the shell of the branch is left intact.
Related to this, we've had huge problems because various CPB sympathisers and members in the branch have said they're in favour of passing on our internal minutes to the chief management negotiator, editor Bill Benfield, on the grounds he's an NUJ member - an idea so absurd that even Bill excuses himself from meetings because he knows we wouldn't be able to wear it. One of our members is currently under an investigation about this, so I can’t talk in full about it, but effectively their attitude means we can't have meetings in which people feel free to say their piece, because we don't know what might be given over.
Beyond that there's things like the "Rock and a Hard Place" document they've been sending out, basically painting us as a bunch of crazed greedy paper-wreckers who are going to bring down the last left-wing paper in Britain. It's very similar tactics to those used in charities, where the workforce are told "how dare you ask for decent conditions when every penny goes to starving kids/puppies/blind people." It's rubbish there and it's rubbish here, if you expect people to do a job then you have to pay them for it properly.
There's also definitely been a concerted effort to spread around this idea that we're being totally unreasonable to try and undermine us in the trade union movement, despite them being the ones who have repeatedly made no effort to compromise or even talk seriously about how to reach an amicable settlement. At the People’s Press Printing Society AGM1 meanwhile Bill officially branded us “irresponsible adventurists” to a crowd of hundreds of people – which gives you some indication of the attitudes we’ve had to deal with.
This has come on top of a number of informal complaints being made about our chapel officers which are yet to be substantiated. It's very unpleasant for them being the subject of nasty rumours like that.
Most damaging though I think has been the constant threats of going into liquidation if we go on strike - the exact same thing BA has been threatening its staff with during their recent dispute and which we have criticised in the paper itself.
6. Isn’t there a possibility that the Morning Star could go bankrupt as a result of the strike?
Over a weekly Sunday strike? Unlikely and we've been careful not to throw too heavy a body-blow at them. However what we do know is that they've been setting up for going into administration for months on the off-chance they can't beat us into submission. If you have a look on the Companies House website you'll find a company called Lextra Ltd, an "off the shelf" concern registered at Unity House (the RMT headquarters - yes, we found that interesting as well) on April 20th. This company has apparently been incorporated to try and save assets in the event they close it down.
We're not sure of the legalities of all this but it seems weird they'd need a whole new company to do that - more usually you incorporate a limited company to, well, start or restart the selling of something. If they were to restart the Star under a new company like that, it would amount to them using the absolute worst of the anti-trade union laws to break an independent trade union, which would be an astonishing fall from grace even for the CPB.
7. Has there been much contact between the Morning Star and the trade union movement about this dispute?
If you define the Morning Star as its management and CPB backers, then yes, lots. They've been whinging about us for months to anyone who'll listen, sending out missives, collaring people at the various headquarters - we've even heard from some sources that CPB members have been turning up to Trades Council meetings and conferences with a specific agenda of slagging the anti-deal side off.
However if you define the Morning Star as the shop-floor professionals who actually do most of the work in putting it out, then no, not really. It's notable that pretty much nobody from the top of the tree at the TUC has asked us our side of the story. This interview is part of an attempt to rectify the problem, because to be honest we were unprepared for the sheer spite which would be thrown our way and we're only just starting to get our running shoes on to counter it.
- 1The People’s Press Printing Society is the readers’ co-operative which nominally owns and controls the Morning Star and its direction. In practice its activities are signed off by the paper’s Management Committee, which in turn is largely directed by four CPB stalwarts, Tony Briscoe, Bill Benfield, Liz Elkind and Carolyn Jones.
Thanks for this, it's
Thanks for this, it's awesome.
My friend's doing work experience there this week...
2. Do you have any idea of
2. Do you have any idea of the pay that the Morning Star management are on?
It's about a £5,000 difference as far as I know, but I'm not sure of the exact figures.
This is nonsense. The 'management' at the Morning Star, is a management committee elected at annual meetings of the cooperative society that owns the paper. It is unpaid, made of of trade unionists and other working people.
The paper's financing is based on a daily battle to ensure that revenue from sales, donations from supporters and share purchases in the co-operative society do not fall behind the ever rising costs of production. In order to continue readers stomp up £15,000 each month to keep the paper afloat through a fighting fund.
This has been the case since the paper was launched in 1930.
When that rough equation is destabilized the paper risks trading illegally and the members of the management committee become personally liable.
Presumably they mean paid
Presumably they mean paid managers (eg. the editor) rather than the management committee.
Rob Ray If that is what is
If that is what is meant (paid managers rather than the actual management committee) then it is grossly misleading.
The editorial cadre at the Morning Star are not remote managers but hard working journalists with a heavy production workload. If the paper goes under they lose their jobs.
If the the paper trades illegally then the 'management' ie the management committee stand to morse rather more than their jobs.
Nick even if they go under,
Nick even if they go under, the journalists have the right to strike.
Quote: The editorial cadre at
Isn't that the argument that's always given tho: "We all work productive jobs, we're in this together." I'm not disputing whether the "editorial cadre" undertake some level of productive work, but if they have managerial authority, a boss is a boss is a boss....
Of course people have the
Of course people have the right to strike. The issue is whether they are right to strike.
Quote: 'a boss is a boss is a boss.."
This kind of infantile idiocy gets English anarchism a bad name.
‘Managerial’ authority in a cash-strapped understaffed cooperative like the Morning Star means extra responsibility and extra hours.
A boss become a boss in the classic sense only when a position in the hierarchy brings with it substantial material advantages, measurable social prestige, ownership in the form of a slice of profits and share options.
How does this square up with the situation at the Star where pay is barely at the average national level and where people in these much vaunted ‘managerial’ positions are usually the ones who have been on these low levels of pay for the longest?
Morning Star worker
Morning Star worker
Vlad wrote Quote: Damn
Is there any articles on libcom criticising/analysing charities?
Infantile, eh? That's the
Infantile, eh? That's the sort of idiocy that makes English Communism look like it's still stuck in 1917....
No, a boss becomes a boss when they are in a hierarchical position over others in the workplace. Material advantage, measurable social prestige and the like are only secondary to that.
Perhaps where anarchists differ is that we reject all forms of hierarchy. Your "only when a position in the hierarchy..." seems to suggest you could accept hierarchy as long as it doesn't carry "substantial material advantages, measurable social prestige, ownership in the form of a slice of profits and share options." If I'm wrong about your position, please correct me, but as far as I'm concerned hierarchical socialism is a contradiction in term.
And, what you've quite unintentionally brought up is that in any capitalist enterprise (co-ops and "social" enterprises alike) those in managerial (i.e. hierarchical) positions fear any challenge to their authority and control of the workforce. Hence, the hysterical, using every union-busting trick in the book response of the Morning Star "editorial cadre".
Quote: Is there any articles
I haven't read them, but I imagine these would be a good place to start...
#12 "No, a boss becomes a
"No, a boss becomes a boss when they are in a hierarchical position over others in the workplace. Material advantage, measurable social prestige and the like are only secondary to that"
This is a classic example of petty bourgeois ideas masquerading as radicalism. It discounts the question of ownership and of material being and treats the additional responsibilities that devolve on the most experienced journos at the Star as if they are material advantages. 21stcenturymanifesto
This is a boss: Not the same
This is a boss:
Not the same thing as a nice, hard working, informally dressed guy who happens to be in a position of telling you what to do.
Quote: This is a classic
Except that it's managers, who are often proletarianised in many ways, who impose the needs of capital on a daily basis on workers. My boss earns a couple of K more than me and has more responsibilities, but he enforces the needs of the company on me and the rest of the "team" every day.
By the criteria you've given, most managers in the public sector wouldn't be "bosses" either.
Who's discounting the
Who's discounting the question of ownership? Owners own and they implement a workplace hierarchy (in the form of managers) to control what they "own". A manager is an agent of the owner and is responsible to implement the owner's policies. Hence, a manager does not share the same interests as the workers and is, in fact, a boss.
And, as I've said before, it may be true that the "editorial cadre" has extra responsibility. However, If that extra responsibility involves enforcing labor or wage discipline alongside productive tasks, they are still a boss and are going to come into conflict with the workforce. That's not petit bourgeois, that's a material analysis of any workplace that operates within the context of capitalism.
Let's look at this another way. I work in a school. The headteacher certainly completes productive tasks and has a hell of a lot of responsibility. He is a member of the NUT, an ex-member of the WRP, and a self-proclaimed socialist. However, my contract is not being renewed next year due to fiscal restraints. It's his job to enforce policies based on those lack of funds. So, if my co-workers go on strike to protest my contract not getting renewed (not going happen, btw) is that "a classic example of petty bourgeois ideas masquerading as radicalism." Of course not, it's workers acting in their own self-interest. The same is going on at the Star.
The same shit happens in the rest of the "socialized" public sector, any charity, and social enterprises of all kinds.
If you want to debate this further (try to avoid resorting to petty insults even if they are crazily communist), I think this article is pretty good in provided a context to discuss these issues: http://libcom.org/library/co-ops-or-conflicts
Quote: Except that it's
Beautifully summed up!
How did you do that in two sentences when it took me three paragraphs?
And how precisely does the
And how precisely does the low paid, overworked editor of a struggling newspaper owned by a cooperative whose shares deliver no dividend (and are owned by trade unionists and working people) fit the criteria of a’ boss’ in a capitalist enterprise whose role compels him or her to “impose the needs of capital" on his or her subordinates?
How are the “needs of capital” expressed in the model of ownership, in the daily operations and in the social relationships present in the Morning Star?
I think you've answered your
I think you've answered your own question. Precisely because there is an ownership model. After all, we don't live in socialism, we live in a market economy. This means that the needs of capital--I think even you'll admit that the Star needs capital to function--will come into conflict with workers whose interest it is in to exert their needs above those of capital. Quite basic Marx to be honest.
And, once again, the pay of someone with managerial authority is irrelevant. I've worked in commissioned jobs where my store manager was overworked and made less than some of my direct colleagues. It didn't change the fact that the role of my boss was to implement company policy and company policy was shaped by the needs of capital.
And, hell, workers' pension funds (and especially public sector pensions) are one of the biggest investors in hedge funds. That doesn't mean that those funds aren't an expression of capitalist accumulation. It just means that henge fund capital, like all capital (including co-ops like the Star) is full of contradictions.
Quote: And how precisely
Actually, thats not the point I was making. It was your argument that bosses can't be bosses if they don't earn a slice of the profits or stock options which I was responding to, as it's managers who don't meet this criteria who do the day to day work of imposing the requirements of capital on workers as pretty much any experience of work shows you.
But if you're arguing that co-operatives get to step outside of capitalism by virtue of their "model of ownership" I disagree. Co-operatives are capitalist organisations existing in a capitalist market, and they're ultimately subject to the dynamics of capitalist organisations. Sucess or lack of it doesn't matter. The other side are certainly aware of this fact, e.g.the Economist.
But anyway, when underpaid workers are on strike and you have lefties crowing at them to like it or lump it I know where my sympathies lie.
Nice interview, Ed! That's
Nice interview, Ed! That's some mad shit...
Also, remember this?
Why is wob continuing this debate...?
I was thinking, let's make
I was thinking, let's make this really Marxian (JK, where are you when I need you?)
Is the Morning Star a commodity? Do the workers there produce a use-value? How about an exchange-value?
Since we all know the answer to these questions is yes, we've stumbled upon the fundamental contradiction of attempting to be a revolutionary co-op within the structure of capitalism. The needs of capital will assert themselves on those who produce the commodity, in this case the Morning Star. Hence, we have the explanation for this dispute.
QUOTE: “But if you're arguing
QUOTE: “But if you're arguing that co-operatives get to step outside of capitalism by virtue of their "model of ownership" I disagree. Co-operatives are capitalist organisations existing in a capitalist market, and they're ultimately subject to the dynamics of capitalist organisations.”
The Morning Star (as a co-operative) is not trying to step outside of capitalism. It is trying to end it. That is why historically it has been so beset by difficulties.
Cooperatives like the Morning Star are not capitalist organisations, anymore than the Freedom paper, or this website, is a capitalist organization.
That is not to say that they do not live in a capitalist environment. This is precisely the reason why the Morning Star (and any other progressive enterprise of this type) cannot be classified and treated in the same way as enterprises whose reason for existence is the exploitation of labour and the accumulation of profit.
This attempt to negate the central significance of ownership and profit is fatal to the revolutionary impulse that can be found in the anarchist tradition.
IIRC, Rob will correct me if I'm wrong, Freedom Press is run by volunteers. Equally, this website is maintained through donations. So that comparison is a bit fishy.
Mostly volunteer yeah but not
Mostly volunteer yeah but not entirely.
Having said that, Freedom's also a non-hierarchical workers' co-op, the model is very different to that of the Star and the conflict capitalism produces, while remaining inherent, does not include tensions between workers' interests and "management's right to manage."
libcom is entirely volunteer
libcom is entirely volunteer run, and most of its income comes from subs paid by the admins + topped up by donations. While it's by no means perfectly organised, it's neither a co-op nor any kind of registered company nor does it employ anyone (it might be a bit more legally resilient if it more of a legal entitiy but that still wouldn't result in any employees). So yes, not the same.
Also were we by some leap to start paying people (even on an ad-hoc basis), we'd be the first to admit the contradictions of doing so.
Quote: Can you make sure he
Yes, he's now seen this article and your link. Apparently he wants to keep his head down though.. and he finishes today I think
Are there any authentic
Are there any authentic anarchists with a materialist understanding of exploitation reading this stuff or is LibCom made up entirely of warmed over liberals?
I might have to migrate to The Commune if this is the best there is.
Communist Party ">Communist Party
Nick wrote: I might have to
you're welcome, but I'm not sure you'll find it/us any more to you liking on this particular point.
lol classic. if you can't
lol classic. if you can't beat them call them warmed over liberals and post a link to your mental warmed over eurocommie sect.
It is precisely a materialist understanding, which takes into consideration the relationship to the means of prod. not how nice and overworked the petty manageriate of your 'self-sufficient' co-op is, that informs the above criticsms. But don't worry the left has no credibility to lose so you don't have to feel bad about calling striking workers 'irresponsible and adventurist.'
Depends how you define
Depends how you define hierarchy tbh.
I'm not into taking orders from someone simply because they own my ass, but I'd probably be okay with it if it's to do with a specific administrative or technical role given a (recallable) mandate by me and my peers, particularly if training and experience is a serious factor.
I'm not going to try and gainsay a mandated mining foreman of 20 years' experience on my first day down the pit if they suddenly shout "get the fuck out of here it's about to come down" for example.
Quote: Depends how you define
Well, i think we're veering well off the topic here, but of course Rob Ray is correct, there's nothing wrong with respecting the opinions of someone who's more experienced or an expert in the field. Likewise, with a situation where someone is in a directly elected, recallable position. However, this is different from a hierarchy which in which someone is in a position of power and can enforce their will through coercive authority. I don't think any anarchist wants that. However, if we're going to debate this further, can I suggest we start a new thread?
Quote: Guardian reported a
Guardian wrote: Morning Star
Hah! Nice. Looks like the management would rather give in than risk a fiasco that would likely reveal this leftist journo "stronghold" for what it is and alienate even the diehard fringe. If only all bos...err, "partners" were that nice.
Repost from Socialist Unity
Repost from Socialist Unity thread:
So a qualified win for the staff, but not a total fold by the management.
Quote: The Morning Star (as a
For someone throwing around accusations of "petit bourgeois ideas masquerading as radicalism", you're on shaky ground arguing that co-operative businesses are less capitalist than others. The implication of this is that if every enterprise became a co-operative, we wouldn't be in a capitalist economy, despite the continued existence of capital, commodity exchange, private property and wage labour. This is closer to Proudhonism than anything else.
Given the relative rarity of the classical capitalist in today's world, you could do worse than to refer to Marx's comments in Capital on the tendency of finance and the credit system in capitalism to increasingly replace the individual capitalist with the rule of capital. To rob the Marx mining of another poster,
"The two characteristics immanent in the credit system are, on the one hand, to develop the incentive of capitalist production, enrichment through exploitation of the labour of others, to the purest and most colossal form of gambling and swindling, and to reduce more and more the number of the few who exploit the social wealth; on the other hand, to constitute the form of transition to a new mode of production"
"The capital, which in itself rests on a social mode of production and presupposes a social concentration of means of production and labour-power, is here directly endowed with the form of social capital (capital of directly associated individuals) as distinct from private capital, and its undertakings assume the form of social undertakings as distinct from private undertakings. It is the abolition of capital as private property within the framework of capitalist production itself"
"...Transformation of the actually functioning capitalist into a mere manager...."
This is a clear prediction of the developments in capitalism we have seen where the amount of capital owned by individual capitalists is dwarfed by that owned by various financial institutions.
Hence also people pointing
Hence also people pointing out about BP that "it's largely owned by us through our pensions" to actively justify continued support for it - and the company would run in near enough the same way if it was controlled via a car-owners' co-operative.
Django thinks I am on shaky
Django thinks I am on shaky ground in arguing that co-operative businesses are less capitalist than others.
Of course the Morning Star as a cooperative has to operate in a capitalist environment and is bound by the rules and conventions that shape business practice. It has to pay its bills, as does Freedom or even this website. And there is a certain level below which the pay of the people who work there cannot fall either to allow them to live (or to put it another way, to reproduce their labour power). I know this because when I worked at the Star the wages were very considerably lower than they are now.
However, only a petit bourgeois idealist, ignorant of the genuinely revolutionary traditions of anarchism, would assert that to thus characterise the Star is to claim that if every enterprise became a co-operative, we wouldn't be in a capitalist economy.
Marx dealt with the limitations of the cooperative movement in the Inaugaral Address to the First International. He talks of the necessity of a party and of the need to sweep away the bourgeois state.
But first he said this:
“We speak of the co-operative movement, especially the co-operative factories raised by the unassisted efforts of a few bold “hands”. The value of these great social experiments cannot be overrated. By deed instead of by argument, they have shown that production on a large scale, and in accord with the behests of modern science, may be carried on without the existence of a class of masters employing a class of hands; that to bear fruit, the means of labor need not be monopolized as a means of dominion over, and of extortion against, the laboring man himself; and that, like slave labor, like serf labor, hired labor is but a transitory and inferior form, destined to disappear before associated labor plying its toil with a willing hand, a ready mind, and a joyous heart.”
Problem there though Nick is
Problem there though Nick is that this is a case of a class of masters employing a class of hands - the split down party lines within the workforce is clearly no accident.
The workforce gets very little say over the direction of the paper, their role within it etc, and it would be massively disingenuous to pretend that the CPB doesn't have a very specific controlling interest which it jealously guards. You can of course pretend otherwise but very few people outside the party are in the least bit fooled, and none of those people frequent this site.
The fact is that he moment they felt challenged, the most influential figures at the paper immediately resorted to typical management tactics, up to and including using the old "workers have no right to question management decisions" line.
That feeds directly into the most basic of anarchist theories about the inability of those with power to give it up or use it wisely, and indirectly into exactly the critiques of co-operatives vlad/django have been talking about.
What it manifestly doesn't do is support the idea that management see their workforce as equals worthy of respect in a tight-knit journey towards socialism - if anything, it betrays a continued belief that the CPB is the sect with a right to call itself the vanguard of the working class (despite all evidence to the contrary).
It is hardly sect-like
It is hardly sect-like behaviour for a party to hand over its daily paper (the paper weas originally badged ‘Organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party) to a readers’ co-operative in which each shareholder, irrespective of the number of £1 shares it holds has one vote only). This hardly looks like a jealously guarded controlling interest.
The direction of the paper is set by the annual meetings of the Peoples Press Printing Society (the co-op).
The fact is that it is political leadership which determines the direction of the Star (as it does Freedom or this website). In the case of the Star, when the ‘eurocommunist’ and reformist element in the majority of the CP’s leadership tried to take the paper in a direction that would set it against the working class movement they were defeated at…. the annual meetings of the PPPS – with big majorities that greatly exceeded the number of communists present.
Of course, the workforce (not just the journalists but other staff as well) would not claim the complete control over the paper’s direction and contents – that would rather undermine the democratic, participatory and co-operative basis of the paper. However, one feature of work at the Star is the rather high responsibilities that devolve to sometimes quite new and relatively inexperienced journalists in the selection, editing and presentation of news and features.
Far from resorting to “typical management tactics, up to and including using the old "workers have no right to question management decisions" line it seems the negotiators, acting for the elected management committee, have reached agreement with the NUJ chapel, as they did earlier with the Unite chapel, by the startling original method of …negotiation.
NUJ DGS Michelle Stanistreet said: “We have achieved a significant new deal that meets the aspirations of members for better pay and conditions whilst at the same time recognising the difficult financial situation the paper faces.”
This rather destroys the expectation, by some people, that the financial difficulties that accompany the production of daily socialist paper in a capitalist society would result in its closure.
In understand that you are quite wrong in asserting that the division in the Star workforce over this pay issue – which has been resolved as usual by negotiation – divides along party lines. The support for a negotiated deal without strike action in both the Unite shop and in the NUJ shop includes, I am told, both Communist Party and non party members.
The throwaway passage from Rob Ray: “What it manifestly doesn't do is support the idea that management see their workforce as equals worthy of respect in a tight-knit journey towards socialism - if anything, it betrays a continued belief that the CPB is the sect with a right to call itself the vanguard of the working class (despite all evidence to the contrary)” betrays a contempt for – or ignorance of – the collective nature of the Star’s ownership and management model.
The management committee consist of unpaid labour movement activists, both communist and non communist. If in this connection the communists could claim a vanguard role it is in a willingness to make greater sacrifices to defend what is the collective property of the working class movement than others.
It would be good to see more anarchists contributing to the paper and helping its circulation.
The former editor of Freedom, John Rety, who died recently, was the Morning Star’s poetry editor and much loved and respected by all who worked with him.
Quote: The direction of the
The agenda of which is set by... oh yes, that's right, the management committee which sits what, once a month and has all its information fed to it by... the four people mentioned in the article above. This is precisely what I mean by disingenuous Nick, saying "it was handed over to the readers" is meaningless when all the real power has long been hived off into positions held exclusively by the CPB.
Tell you what, I'll place a bet with you, £500 says the next editor will be a CPB member. Will you take it? After all, this is "a reader's co-op" so the editorial role should in theory be wide open no? In fact I'll even let you ride that bet if you like, and put another £500 on the next company secretary also being of CPB origin.
Oh and posting up the fact John Rety did a poetry column as if that implies support for its management structure is just pathetic.
What is pathetic about
What is pathetic about inviting anarchists, like the estimable John Rety, to write for and support the only daily paper owned by its readers? Or taking out shares, or standing for the management committee, or submitting resolutions to the AGM of the PPS?
I don’t know what John’s attitude was to the management structure. In nearly three decades of knowing him (since ban the bomb days) it never came up. But I know that he was delighted to work for the paper and help broaden its appeal.
I once submitted a resolution to the AGM that was opposed by the management committee and they were defeated! The resolution was implemented by the editor, who had been expelled from the Communist Party, right away.
The agenda is made up of the report of the society and resolutions from members, and elections to the management committee. The management committee is made up of people directly elected from the annual general meetings, which are held around the country plus some people nominated directly by trade unions.
To assert, as your news piece does in an addendum, that the management committee is ‘largely directed by four CPB stalwarts’ will come as a surprise the other members and of the four mentioned one is the editor, one the coop secretary, one a leading Scottish trade unionist and one the director of a labour movement research institute.
The Morning Star holds to a particular political position, shared by communists and a much larger number of non-communists. But it is the paper of the whole left and is the better for it.
Tell you what. I’ll place a bet with you. £500 says the next editor of Freedom won’t be a Communist Party member. But there is no shortage of non-party members working at the Star, as you asserted in your news piece, including the odd anarchist
Nothing pathetic about
Nothing pathetic about inviting anarchists to contribute, but anchoring your arguments to the recently deceased I find creepy.
Aye the next editor of Freedom will probably be an anarchist. However Freedom is "an anarchist fortnightly" not "the paper of the left." Given this tagline and the co-op's undoubtedly open and democratic character it seems somewhat... curious, shall we say that despite how many thousands of leftists there are in Britain, many with excellent journalistic credentials, you seem unwilling to pick up my offer and instead put in a different one.
I mean what's the membership of the CPB, 1,000 maybe? It seems unlikely that pool of talent should consistently trump the entirety of the rest of the left for editorial talent, so it should be easy money, if what you say about the democratic nature of the paper is true.
Politically the Morning Star's politics are based on to the Road to Socialism, afaik, which, correct me if I'm wrong, is a position authored by the CPB?
I'd be interested to know
I'd be interested to know what the Star's sales figures look like. I mean who actually reads this stuff? Saying that it is "the paper of the whole left" sounds vague to say the least.
Who actually reads this
Who actually reads this stuff? asks Vlad. More than the membership of the Communist Party it seems. Enough people, when buttressed with limited advertising revenue and a hefty £15,000 monthly fighting fund by readers to pay the wages of several dozen staff, pay for the printing and distribution (a hefty wack to the wholesalers and newsagents).
What surprises me is the hostile tone of postings on this site. Anyone who reads the paper knows that its contributors, aside from the full time journos, include everyone on the left with something interesting or important to say. From Caroline Lucas and Salma Yacoob to Penny Red and Christine Lindey.
And yet for all its apparent
And yet for all its apparent success the paper seems to be struggling and trying to make ends meet (otherwise why would there be any workplace "unrest").
Why not have it as an online free-of-charge blog/site? The increasing obsolescence of printed news media is seriously affecting even big-name papers. Why is the Star obsessed with remaining the "only left-wing newspaper" as if this kind of tokenism was somehow subversive. If it's really the quality of the contributions that justify this paper's existence, then why not spread them out as widely as possible via the internet?
I don't think anyone's been unjustifiably hostile by the way; it is simply your views of the co-op and your decision to attack these workers' decision to go on strike that have been treated in a hostile manner, not the paper itself or its readers.
Do try and keep up Vlad. The
Do try and keep up Vlad. The Star has been online for several years.
Quote: Anyone who reads the
Not entirely, I doubt a piece severely criticising China would get many column inches for example, but as Vlad says, there's no real hostility towards the paper that I'm aware of, even on a site which is comprised mainly of libertarian socialists.
From my end I just dislike it when people pretend things are other than what they are. If the paper's partially open but in the end is run by the CPB that's fine, as you point out they do a huge amount of work to keep it running, but it's better to just be open about it rather than throw up democratic fig leafs - leave that kind of crap to the Commons.
Quote: Do try and keep up
Right then; thanks for the link. Googling did not yield any result so I figured it wasn't. My mistake.
Actually I said "everyone on
Actually I said "everyone on the left with something interesting or important to say".
If yoy read the paper you would know how wide the range of opinion is.
Incidentally the news coverage on China is factual and detailed. Go onto the site and search for China and dozens of stories reorting the whole range of problems in China are available.
This was a news report last week
Honda staff refuse to back down
Friday 11 June 2010
Workers demanding a 15 per cent wage boost have rallied outside a Honda plant in southern China, part of a wave of industrial action at factories in the Pearl River Delta export hub.
Several hundred workers gathered at the front gates of parts supplier Honda Lock (Guangdong) in Zhongshan.
The protesters demanded an annual wage increase of no less than 15 per cent, along with improved benefits, greater freedom to organise and promises from management not to lay off any of the strikers.
Honda has just resumed production at two other car assembly plants after resolving a three-day strike at parts supplier Foshan Fengfu Autoparts.
Honda said factory staff returned to production lines after agreeing to accept a pay raise of 366 yuan (£36) per month for each full-time worker.
That would increase pay for a new employee to 1,910 yuan (£192) per month.
Some workers held out for more and about 30 people reportedly fought with union officials on Monday.
Ah I see, well that's the key
Ah I see, well that's the key bit isn't it, who's "interesting or important" depends very much on your point of view. I wasn't saying the range of opinion wasn't reasonably broad btw, Jim Jepps and Solomon Hughes for example are very good, I said "not entirely." For example I doubt something like this would have gotten far.
Point of view here is the key
Point of view here is the key thing. The Morning Star is a daily working class newspaper that aims for socialism and not surprisingly it carries a range of material different to, say, the Guardian. Or Freedom.
It would be good to see an anarchist paper able to reach out to a wider audience but in the meantime people of an anarchist or libertarian bent could try something that has been produced daily since 1930 (apart from the time it was banned by the government, and the time the staff went on strike to stop the management committee sacking the editor).
The result of that little episode, a few years ago, was that the management committee was changed, by democratic vote.
Aren't facts challenging things when they contradict opinion.
BTW If you want to write something critical about China, or disagree with a feature try writing a letter, but something shorter than the 22 page piece you link to stands a better chance of getting in.
From what I heard that was
From what I heard that was more of a factional infight than anything else as to who would have control of the soul of the CPB and thus the paper, a fight which Haylett and Griffiths won but by no means proof of the paper's independence from the Party. I'm no fan of theirs and doubtless they have their inaccuracies but the CPGB have written some fascinating stuff on what happened around the time which actually explains some of the reasons why the editor got sacked in the first place...
Specifically on the strike:
The example I used was to illustrate tone not length, and the point I was making was that something of that tone probably wouldn't make it into the "official" sections of the paper.
Rob Ray I am afraid that if
I am afraid that if you are reduced to backing up your arguments with links to the virtually invisible world of the Weekly Worker then this discussion has departed from the realms of reality and entered fantasy land.
Erm. What might be the 'official sections of the paper".
The editorial position is expressed in editorials. The news pages are orientated to labour movement and solidarity questions but is as 'objective' as is possible (as my examples of reporting from China illustrate), the feature columns are more open to diverse opinions on the progressive end of the political spectrum than any other 'lerft wing' paper and the letters column even more so.
Mad they may be, but they pay
Mad they may be, but they pay a great deal of attention to the CPB's internal politicking. Nevertheless, let's try another source, like Wikipedia:
Hardly supportive of the idea that the Star is independent of the CPB when their personal vendettas are getting played out across committee meetings, is it.
Official as in not just a letter. So, are you saying you think a highly critical feature article like that one, albeit shorter would have no line drawn from above?
My earlier point was that,
My earlier point was that, like any political organisation, journal or website, it is political leadership that shapes the political direction. This necessarily implies political and ideological struggle when divergent views emerge.
That divergent views should emerge in the communist movement in the wake of its most profound defeat is hardly surprising.
The argument here has moved from the disputed and now abandoned assertion that the Star is somehow the creature of a monolithic Communist Party to the even less credible one that it is the battleground of contending factions.
My argument is that when political differences are reflected in the direction of the Morning Star that they are resolved, in the final instance, by its democratic structures, which as you can hardly dispute, are remarkably responsive to opinion much wider than the membership of the Communist Party and constituted so as to draw in even wider sections.
For the life of me I cannot understand why the libertarian and anarchist movement, which in working class history, and even in the early development of the world communist movement played and important role, stands so aloof from, and often hostile to, the main media asset of the labour movement.
My personal view is that there are many questions to be answered about the direction China is taking. It is clear that profound struggles are taking place in China and that one site of these struggles is the Chinese Communist Party itself.
It hasn't moved a single
It hasn't moved a single inch, clearly the argument is still that the paper is fundamentally a creature of the CPB (who said there were no differences within the Party?). The only difference here is that you brought up an issue you thought showed it wasn't, which I pointed out actually showed the opposite.
I do like how you conflate the CPGB of old and "the communist movement" though, and that you draw a conclusion from the ability of the Party to play its spats out through the paper that it must be "indisputably" a creature of broad left influences - surely if that were the case, there would have been enough broad leftist supporters involved to tell the Party to wind its bloody neck in before things got to that stage. It's nice that you actually admit the Party's providing the political leadership though, at least we're making some progress.
As has already been said outright, the anarchist movement (where it can be arsed to have an opinion on a tiny, mostly irrelevant CPB-run daily) is not hostile to the Star. From most of the people I know, it's regarded mainly as an amusing, if limited relic and occasionally as a useful thing to get a press release out from about nukes or anti-war stuff.
The main view of its content is of dry trade-union cheerleading (which yes, I know is not the whole story bit it's certainly a big part of what the Star does) and occasional crackpot Stalinism, which tends to put people off throwing their weight behind it as their interests are not well represented and they're suspicious of the people in charge.
Bear in mind here that politically, the anarchist movement tends towards the view that the TUC unions are not reformable and nor is the Labour Party, both of which are key points of the Road t Socialism and inform most of the Star's editorial direction (albeit with nuances such as the "Vote labour" headline with a small L just before the election).
None of which is particularly hostile, it just reflects the output and tone of the paper.
Your view on the political
Your view on the political weight and importance of the Communist Party in British life has significance in direct proportion to your own political weight and importance.
More significant is the contempt you display for the trade union and class struggles of working people, (dry trade union cheer leading you call it) which as the most superficial examination will show, is the daily content of the Star, always in solidarity and often in the words of the protagonists themselves.
Try revising your 'main view of its content'. by looking at the feature writers this month. I have excluded all the communist writers except one who was president of his union.
John Trickett MP on the cuts, Solomon Hughes exposure of MoD links, Prof Keith Ewing on union laws, John McInally of PCS on privatization, teachers union leader Bill Greenshields on academies, John Lister on the NHS, Jeremy Corbyn MP on cuts, Colin Fox of the SSP on public transport, Keith Flett on massacres, John Pilger on war mongers, Derek Wall of the Green Party on Caroline Lucas’ election, Ken Livingston on his bid, Prof Gregor Gall, Ramzy Baroud, printers leader Tony Burke.
Of course the cultural and sports pages are equally diverse.
Perhaps you could point us in the direction of some of the 'crackpot Stalinism' you refer to.
Morining Star features
Quote: Your view on the
Is this a very long-winded way of saying you don't care what I think? Fair enough, but if you think the CPB is weighty and important in British society today you're delusional. If you don't believe me walk out of your front door and ask any random ten people in the street what their view is on the Party. At a guess, seven won't have heard of it or will be surprised it's still going, two will have heard of it but won't care one way or other, and one will be openly hostile (because there's always a Colonel Blimp).
I don't display contempt for any such thing and have been in a trade union since before I even joined the workforce (on a student card). What's particularly silly about this though is that you're writing on a libertarian communist board, what views did you expect me to have on the TUC and Labour Party? Support without illusions perhaps?
Fairly basic anarchist analysis applied the last century or so has brought most class-struggle libertarians to the conclusion that the TUC's structure encourages conservative, self-serving attitudes at the top based on the need to protect the union and its legal position (let alone their very well paid jobs). This comes well ahead of protecting its actual membership - which is a very different perspective from that of most anarchists, or even most of the legendary unions of old.
That's the general line, and on the range of thought, people veer from my position, which is to join a trade union but argue for people to organise according to the principles of revolutionary unionism to being entirely outside and against.
And if you think cheerleading trade unionism isn't dry, well fair enough, but that's what I hear from most people who have seen the paper. Frankly, very few people care what Woodley, Simpson et al have to say about the world and most are unaffected by what happens at the various conferences. They'll take an interest in major strikes etc, but that's because the situation is relevant, something they can act on, and it's interesting. That's not me showing contempt, that's my experience of what people do and do not want to read. Take it or leave it.
Seriously like, what is with you and fighting straw men? I've already said I think the features section is reasonably broad, however that is not the same thing as saying it doesn't focus too heavily on certain subjects, the minutae of trade unionism being one of them.
To take a random example from the world section:
DPRK leads world in nuclear fusion
I mean come on, not even a mention that maybe, just maybe, the most heavily blockaded and scientifically starved nation on earth saying its beaten the multi-billion dollar projects of the West to fusion technology might in fact be a load of old shash?
Quote: DPRK leads world in
This is an agency sourced
This is an agency sourced news story that reports the following:
A consortium of scientists from China, the European Union, Japan, Russia, India and the US are currently working to create a nuclear fusion power plant, which would produce little radioactive waste.
Balanced by a comment from South Korea. South Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute researcher Song Ki Chang said: "The technology North Korea claims to have developed seems to be in very early stages."
This is called journalism. You report. You contextualise. You report relevant comment.
Only a hopeless sectarian would turn this into a polemical point.
"Fairly basic anarchist analysis applied the last century or so has brought most class-struggle libertarians to the conclusion that the TUC's structure encourages conservative, self-serving attitudes at the top based on the need to protect the union and its legal position (let alone their very well paid jobs). This comes well ahead of protecting its actual membership - which is a very different perspective from that of most anarchists, or even most of the legendary unions of old." is pretty close to the position of communists.
Perhaps you have missed out on the constant attempts by communists to open up and democratise TUC structures along with a strong campaign to repeal the anti union laws that help to produce passivity in union leaders.
The difference, perhaps, between some anarchists (not all ) and communists is that the Communist Party pays particular attention to the question of leadership, even at the 'official' level.
Nick wrote: Only a hopeless
eh? The headline clearly does not reflect reality. If you had said "DPRK leads the world by the nose in nuclear fusion," fair enough, but it's obvious that titles like that perpetuate the image that the CPB still has a soft spot for the remaining Stalinist regimes of the world. I mean how many on the wider left, which the Star purportedly represents, would agree with "critical" support for DPRK?
Quote: The difference,
Well... yes. That's kind of the point of anarchism, the idea of leadership (as I posted a fair bit earlier in this thread) for us is predicated on the idea of empowering representatives with recallable mandates directly dependent on the will of the workers on the ground floor, not on capturing top posts in state-approved union bodies.
The idea of 'official leaders' in these circumstances with powers to dictate such things as whether strikers get support from the union or not, or to rule motions out of order using bureaucratic technicalities, or to conduct witch-hunts against groups like the Socialist Party, or to use union funds/labour power for their pet projects/whims is fairly much anathema to the idea of anarchism.
So yeah basically good on anyone who slags off or fights the anti-trade union laws, I do so myself, but again, that's not the same thing as having a critique of the mainstream trade union movement. On North Korea, what Vlad said.
Nick wrote: the main media
I need an admin to help me out here, but I believe that according to Google Analytics, LibCom gets 1 million unique visitors a year, is that correct? What's the circulation of the Star, you get 1 million unique readers a year?
Does the Morning Star get linked to in the Guardian for coverage when events kicked off in France not too long ago? How about carrying articles that are required reading for university courses?
Quote: More significant is
I know this is opening up a whole 'nother can of worms, but clearly the interests of the TUC bureaucracy are not in tandem with workers as a whole, nevermind trade unionists themselves. We can debate the reasons for this*, but there's no debate that the trade unions consistently sell out workers (a la the CWU), repress wildcat strikes (Unite), victimize militants (UNISON), and discourages militancy (Visteon, Lindsey) all the time. I mean, hell, just yesterday I was talking to someone in UCU who was telling me about how his union was sending out e-mail messages telling their members that UCU would not defend them if they refused to cross the UNISON picket lines at his university. The list goes on and on....
The posters on this site, many of whom are trade union members (I'm a steward myself), are keenly aware of the structural reasons why trade unions act in opposition to their membership all the time. The fact the the CP and the Morning Star refuse make any attempt to publicize this when it occurs (nevermind trying to understand why this occurs) are the exact reason why we talk of "cheerleading".
*Personally, I think the defining issues is that unions are mediators of struggle and all stems from that fatal flaw. The class collaboration, repression of militancy, and reliance of labor law (none of which any communist can argue are liberatory) then logically follow. But we can start a whole 'nother thread on that if you're interested....
Quote: That's kind of the
ncwob wrote: I need an admin
The past 30 days we had 85,000 unique visitors per month according to google analytics. This doesn't exactly multiply by 12 for the year due to the way that things are calculated, and I don't think there's an accurate way to count unique visitors over a year, or not one that's in general use. But the same question can be asked for monthly visitors too.
I occasionally check our rank on sites like quantcast to compare it against various leftist and anarchist sites (and mainstream commercial ones sometimes), at the moment it has us estimated as a top 70,000 site, the only site that beats us from my sample was wsws.org (at around 10,000), several sites like infoshop, socialistworker.co.uk, labourstart.org etc. are also in the top 60-90k bracket. That's all estimated traffic, take it with a pinch of salt etc. However http://www.quantcast.com/morningstar.co.uk or http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/libcom.org+morningstar.co.uk speaks for itself.
EDIT: Wups, I got Nick Wright
EDIT: Wups, I got Nick Wright confused with Mike Harman. :-/
Not to defend Mr 'I can't be
Not to defend Mr 'I can't be a boss I'm a communist', but random people stumbling accross single articles or forum posts through google then fucking off again is hardly comparable to a readership willing to buy and read a paper. Apples and oranges.
Well, comparing unique visits
Well, comparing unique visits to libcom.org to the circulation of a print newspaper is indeed apples and oranges. However comparing the traffic of two websites isn't at all. The guardian and independent are both top 2,000 US sites despite having print circulations restricted to the UK.
a quick note to Nick - you're
a quick note to Nick - you're very welcome to post here, however spam links at the end of every post are not permitted, so please desist from posting them immediately.
Spam link. You really are
Spam link. You really are succumbing to petty bourgeois notions of the sanctity of property if links to other sites are to be characterised as spam.
The link posted took people to the Morning Star features list which was the subject of the debate.
You posted the same link (to
You posted the same link (to what I assume is your blog?) 8 times. By anyone's standards that is spam. It's got nothing to do with "petty bourgeois notions of property" and everything to do with ensuring the forums are used for discussion - not advertising.
This is nonsense. Spam is the
This is nonsense. Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately
Adding a link to to a discussion contribution serves to anchor a brief point in more developed discourse, or to root a contribution to discussion in a broader context (for example a personal or political website) which also, usefully, serves as something like a signifier or identity mark..
Would a partisan of LibCom be regarded as a spammer if they linked back to this site in a discussion on a another site? Or would a mature debate be strengthened by a multiplicity of such links and references?
Nick, just to be clear here,
Nick, just to be clear here, spam is what the libcom admins decide it is, not what you think it is. If they say you linking to the 21st century manifesto several times largely out of context to the discussion counts, then it counts, end of discussion. You might note that I don't put links to Freedom at the bottom of every post I make? Same reason.
Quote: Adding a link to to a
Nick, if you want people to know where you're coming from I'd suggest putting your website in your profile, as Rob Ray and myself do. And if you want to personalise your online identity, you can do this by uploading an avatar or indeed customising your profile at all. I'm sure that if people are interested in your politics they can be bothered to click on your username and have a look.
The fact that you haven't added anything to your profile beyond your username, though, makes it look like you're not at all interested in telling people about your political ideas or helping them find out more about your views. So you posting the same link, again and again, just looks like advertising your blog, sorry.
Here's an idea Nick, actually
Here's an idea Nick, actually respond to the arguments that have been presented regarding co-ops, trade unions, and materialistic and structural analysis of those institutions.
And as long as we're talking about links, why not try reading some of the links that others have posted and trying to bring them into the conversation or post on those threads as well?
Tbf posting a link to some
Tbf posting a link to some blog at the end of his posts doesn't seem like anything important. It's clearly not spamming as he's actually been engaging in conversation with people. The only thing about Nick that is genuinely annoying is his tendency to call people petit bourgeois when he doesn't know what else to reply. I suspect he didn't come here to have a chat about libertarian communism though, but rather to address the "irresponsible lies" contained in the above article.
:Nick, just to be clear here,
:Nick, just to be clear here, spam is what the libcom admins decide it is, not what you think it is."
These heirarchies just keep asserting themselves, don't they
What, that admins are
What, that admins are responsible for ensuring posters respect the rules of the site?
How about answering my previous post Nick?
As a libcom admin, I have
As a libcom admin, I have posted on other forums, and often include links to articles on libcom to back them up, and I'd consider even linking to related articles all the time as borderline spamming when I do it too, especially if that's the main reason for the post. There's different kinds of spam.
Also Nick seems to be a bit confused about hierarchy, there's no hierarchy within anyone running the site, the relationship between people using a site and those keeping it going isn't and can't be a hierarchical one since it's not an organisation - that's the sort of thing that only really, really idiotic anarchists usually come out with.
Or perhaps when airline staff go on strike do you think they should invite all the passengers (including business class of course, shouldn't exclude any potentially commie bosses) to their strike meetings to vote on whether to continue it or not?
In fairness I don't think he
In fairness I don't think he actually meant it, he was just trying his hardest to come up with a snide wind-up comment and inadvertently showed (again) that he's a bit mixed up on details when it comes to anarchism. Yes it's embarrassing for him but hey we all make a dick of ourselves once in a while ;).