Some of the short UK news items from Black Flag #216 1999.
The last two of the Gandalf Defendants, Paul Rogers, now called Paul Free Speech, and Robin Webb won their case when the Can't Prosecute Service finally gave up on Hampshire cops attempts to stitch up anarchists and eco-activists for reporting direct action.
On January 11th, 8 coppers went to Roger Sylvester's house after being told that a naked man was "acting very strangely". He was detained under the Mental Health Act and taken to St.Ann's hospital. He was seen by a doctor who left the room. At some point during the doctor's absence "Mr.Sylvester went all limp and it was obvious that he had collapsed." He was then taken to Middlesex Hospital where he died 7 days later.
Sylvester, aged 30, was the 42nd black person to die at the hands of the police in the last decade. The Metropolitan Police are responsible for 27 of those deaths. This will be an opportunity to see if the Met have learned anything from the Stephen Lawrence case. We won't be holding our breath.
Red South West
Red South West (RSW) is a new magazne for the region. It follows in the tradition of the Somerset Clarion in being open to all socialist persuasions, including, alas, the Labour Party. A friend of mine, now in his seventies, recalls his father cycling round the villages of Somerset trying to sell the original Clarion and frequently being stoned for his efforts to bring enlightenment to the agricultural masses. Hopefully no-one will receive similar treatment on behalf of RSW.
Issue 1 was a dozen A4 pages and contained articles on EMU, Liverpool Dockers, Workfare etc. A review of a biography of Victor Serge contained the tiresome assertion that the Kronstadters were “...sound but desperate and confused" and “vulnerable to being hijacked by counter revolutionaries." Serge's support for the Leninist counter-revolution in his book Year One is embarrassing for anyone reading it objectively. In his Memoirs of a Revolutionary he goes some way to redress the balance by recognising that the reason for the situation in 1912 was that "emergent totalitarianism had already gone half-way to crushing us."
Perhaps a little more relevant to our times was an article on the successful RMT action for a 37-hour week, agreed in 1996 but subsequently linked to "restructuring", in which 80% voted for strike action. The management sought a High Court injunction but this was thrown out with costs of £40,000. So the company, Wales and West, decided to victimise Alex Gordon, Bristol RMT branch secretary, for speaking to the press while on the picket line. The bosses then faced an ultimatum from the workers and conceded defeat.
Issue 2 has 16 pages with a wider range of articles. For footie fans there's the "Alternative World Cup", organised by Bristol Sunday football club "The Easton Cowboys''. This brought together 11-a-side teams from Germany, Poland. Norway, Ireland, France, Belgium and South Africa. It was held at the village of Thorncombe in Dorset. The event arose from, "a fusion of the thrash/punk music scene, anti-fascism, the love of the great game and a healthy attitude to drinking (i.e. as much as possible)," The tournament was won by the team from South Africa, the Deipkloof Eleven Experience.
Centrepiece of issue 2 (Autumn) is an interview, by Dave Chapple, with Graham Short of Plymouth whose name will be familiar to many readers of Black Flag as Graham has been around the anarchist movement since the early seventies. From school rebel to union rebel and on to anarchism and the setting up of the Plymouth Community Workshops as a centre for "an explosion" of alternative movements: womens' lib, drugs, school-kids, anti-racism, gays, anti-psychiatry, anarchists, strike support, claimants, greens, squats and Trots. And you thought nothing ever happened in the West country.
There is much more in this interview than this brief review of RSW can give; on Graham's involvement with the Fine Tubes Strike, the subtle changes to Graham's ideas, the Left in Plymouth, the 1972 Building Workers' Strike and anti-fascist work taking us up to the 1980's. The interview ends with the intriguing, “but Graham Short and Plymouth after 1980 is another tale". We look forward to part two.
There are pieces on the Liverpool Dockers' establishment of their own labour supply agency, GM crops, the BNP and paedophiles in Somerset, successful local wildcat actions by postal workers. CLR James. Gandalf, the economic situation and the Communist Manifesto. Red South West is a good read and may well succeed in bringing together yet more readers and activists from across the region in "opposing all that Hague, Ashdown and Blair stand for.” The successful conference on 14th-15th November '98 at Bridgwater was a start. You can obtain copies of Red South West front 1 Blake Place Bridgwater TA6 5AU or Exeter Left Group c/o The Flying Picket PO Box 185 Exeter EX4 4EW, subs £5 per four issues.
fighting work experience
The Angry Youth Group in Edinburgh are fighting against what they call "boredom. skivvying and harassment" in the form of work experience that kids today are expected to do. They state "the only training you will receive is how to be an obedient worker, how to do as your told... and if you're unfortunate you can work for them for the next 45 years of your life!" Angry Youth are keen to link up with others doing similar things. they can be contacted at: Angry Youth, 17 West Montgomery Place, Edinburgh EH7 5LA e-mail: [email protected]
There is a new e-mail discussion list for those around the world resisting the spread of what is loosely known as "workfare”. Workfare, for the purposes of this forum, refers to the practice of attaching coercive and punitive conditions to welfare, income support, charitable, etc. benefits, and is not simply work-for welfare. It includes all practices which make the receipt of income support conditional on undertaking some service, activity, training, medical or psychiatric treatment or the like.
Send your request to: WORKFARE-owneridonelist.com and you will be subscribed manually.
Wrafton Union Update
In BF 215 we reported on an IWW organising effort in Devon. Unfortunately, things have't turned out as well as hoped. The victimisation of the organiser and boss intimidation has stalled the drive. An attempt by the boss to bring in the reformist T&G; under a deal was, however, rejected by the workers. What the IWW's success does show, however, is that winning workers to a revolutionary union isn't as impossible as the left would have us believe, even though the task itself is huge.
In October 98 claimants groups launched a campaign against Reed Employment UK Ltd, which is administering the New Deal in the Hackney and City area of London. The campaign aims to draw attention to this systematic exploitation of the unemployed for corporate profit and to deter other greedy private agencies from sticking their noses in.
Between 30 and 50 of Reed's High Street offices were flyposted. The posters were aimed at:
- Reed managers and staff, who seem to need reminding that their actions in processing claimants for crap low paid jobs are not without consequences.
- Other agencies, who can look forward to similar treatment.
- Ordinary members of the public, unaware of what Reed are up to.
In April last year, the Daily Telegraph reported that Reed had made "14m profits the previous year. The Reed Family has a fortune of "50m, but they don't feel they're rich enough yet. They tried to pay the poor sods who administer the New Deal "3000 less a year than the Employment Service. They are also scamming two fees for each claimant placed - one from the government and one from the employer.
Haringey Solidarity Group and Hackney Claimants are calling this nation-wide campaign against Reed. Claimants and workers in Brighton are also about to launch a campaign there and dole workers in the CPSA are trying to fight against the privatisation represented by Reed. The campaign needs the support of groups throughout the country in distributing leaflets outside Reed's offices, to try and hit Reed where it hurts - in the pocket - and get them to pull out of the New Deal.
Contact: HSG, PO Box 2474, London N8
Reed's Head Office, 6th Floor, Tolworth Tower, Tolworth, Surbiton; Tel 0181-399 5221, fax 0181-390 8860
Fascists hound asylum seekers
Since our last report on the situation of asylum seekers in Dover, the attacks on them in that town have become more physical. Fortunately, the hate-mongers have not had things all their own way.
Firstly, the fascist National Front planned a third march in the town on 5th December. They had been getting steadily smaller, and this one didn't happen at all. The coach company which brings them from the West Midlands came under pressure from anti-fascists and cancelled the booking. A well-attended anti-fascist march was left alone by the police and leafleted the town centre. Instead, 29 NF turned up in Dartford, to try to capitalise on hostility to Romanian asylum seekers who had arrived in the town earlier. The men had all been detained, but the women and children were held in a disused ward at Joyce Green hospital. After hounding from the local press and racists, they were moved, first to a supposed "luxury" hotel in Gravesend (first time I've ever heard Gravesend and luxury in the same sentence), then to Sittingbourne and then on to a secret location, all the while being chased by the NF and the press. Unsurprisingly, some of them decided this was exactly the sort of treatment they were trying to escape and opted to return to Romania. National papers like The Sun and the Mail have stirred the pot of bigotry, but most prominent among the local hate-rags has been the Dover Express. Its incitement to racial hatred has got so bad the editor, Nick Hudson, has been interviewed by the police. He has also complained that he was set up by the BBC after he was the only racist on a Radio 4 programme and that there "were a lot of black people in the audience."
Undeterred, the NF tried again to march in Dover in January. About 30 Nazis came down from London, and despite there being only three days notice, local anti-fascists mobilised a bigger contingent and hampered the NF march all the way. Unfortunately, three of them were nicked (one on an outstanding charge) as Kent police stopped doing anything else in the rest of the county for the day. Send messages of support to Dover Residents Against Racism, c/o Refugee Link, PO Box 417 Folkestone, Kent CT19 4GT
Strike support group
Activists from the Steve Hedley campaign (see BF 215) have set up a permanent strike support group, to provide solidarity and assistance whenever workers are drawn into struggle. The Group intend to be activity based and activist led. Its goals are:
1. To give financial aid to workers in struggle.
2. To give striking workers resources to print and publish their own leaflets,
3. To physically support pickets & other demonstrations of workers in struggle.
4. To support all strikers - except when they are reationary (e.g. dockers in support of Enoch Powell).
Everyone who is serious about intervening in the class struggle in a way that will make a difference is urged to get involved. The group meet weekly on Mondays at the Cock Tavern. London NW1 at 7.30pm