2006 in focus

2006 was a year for the state to forget there was ever a public sector. Rob Ray looks into the archives of the Freedom anarchist newspaper.

January
A second strike in two weeks sees the RMT shut down tube stations across London as workers demand private companies running the system provide enough cover to meet fire and safety regulations, after they try to impose cuts just a few months after the attacks on 7/7.

Freedom reveal major flaws in the rollout of ‘WiMax’, a poorly-tested and inefficient attempt to replace current wireless broadband technology with something more easily controlled by telecommunication companies. Experts in community-based wireless networking contacted by Freedom condemn the move, mainstream media lauds ‘the dawn of a new age’.

February
It’s all about pensions, as the major unions finally roll out a ballot for strike action long months too late, following a splitting of negotiations between local and national level civil servants. Anarchist civil servants predict in Freedom that the strike will be a great recruiter, but a washout as union officials sell out rather than back lengthy resistance or try to enforce reform.

The government get rebuked by Europe for having the worst pension protection scheme in the EU and flouting a directive to provide for workers whose pensions are destroyed through company bankruptcy. Unions and government become locked in a lengthy legal battle as the government fights to ensure it doesn’t have to pay the cost of its own mistake.

March
The Broadway Market occupation in London ends when police and sheriffs evict local people who had banded round to protect the local café from destruction. The protest got widespread coverage across Europe as a struggle against gentrification’s displacement of working class communities.

The largest one-day strike undertaken since 1926 begins in defence of pensions, with over one million people walking out and picketing across the country from local government. Anarchist public sector workers call for more widespread and longer strike action, fearing a one-day strike will be regarded as nothing more than a token gesture.

April
Nearly two million people across the US march to protest the hr4437 bill, a Republican-backed attempt to criminalise ‘illegal’ immigration into the country. Protesters say they seek real immigration reform that is comprehensive, respects civil rights, reunites families, protects workers, and offers a path to citizenship for the current undocumented and future immigrants to the US.

A Freedom report uncovers a massive and increasing strain on mental health services which is far outstripping even the wave of cuts to the rest of the NHS, even as a governmental report states that existing care is inadequate. Health sector workers predict disastrous consequences if cuts, as planned, are heavily biased towards the sector despite its existing problems.

April/May
The government declares a hunger strike which had held at Colnbrooke immigration detention centre over after a sustained campaign by inmates. Press coverage of the hunger strike was curtailed, but the radical press remained almost the only group to provide reasonable coverage.

A little-heralded report headlines in Freedom as it shows PFI hospitals are actively draining money from frontline services in he NHS. The report adds to a litany of major problems with PFI companies and building works.

June
The government are attacked by the GMB union for trying to shut down the largest back to work scheme for the disabled in Britain, even as they attempt to shift disabled people off benefits. Analysis by Freedom of the governmental report shows huge discrepancies in their methodology for deciding on the shutdown.

Freedom cocks up royally by running a front page saying ‘Stick that up your ASDA price’ about a GMB strike at supermarket distribution depots that is called off between the final layout and actual distribution. In fairness, the speed with which the GMB took a half-arsed deal for far less than they should have done surprised even us…

July
The government introduces its Welfare Reform Bill, which looks to take one million people off incapacity benefit by making them more difficult to come by and closer in outlook to the hated Jobseeker’s allowance programme.

The government is caught out trying to sell off the control of budgetary decision making to private companies in an advert to a European journal. They later reword the advert after a public outcry.

August
A spoof front page is run for the silly season detailing some of the places where mass casualties could be inflicted and the government don’t bother defending, but which unaccountably remain unmolested by terrorists regardless...

September
Freedom is the only publication in the UK to report on warnings from West Papuan rebels that massive forces are building up along the border between Indonesis and Papua New Guinea and that there could be a conflict. Two months after publication, reports of possible troop movement are condemned by international bodies and is reported. This month, reports have started filtering through of conflict on the border between Indonesian troops and West Papuan nationalists.

In a damning report, Freedom exclusively reveals a catalogue of double standards being applied to residents and businesses being evicted due to the Olympic games, with businesses being built their own custom-made premises costing millions, and residents not even getting legal costs.

October
The Fire Brigades Union declares victory after its longest strike in 30 years in Manchester sees 1,000 people come out for 27 days in protest at major cuts being imposed on the fire service. The strike is aided by the Iraq war, as there are no armed forced to drive replacement Green Goddesses.

A peer-reviewed report in the Lancet medical journal finds that between 470,000 and 790,000 deaths may have occurred in Iraq due to the war. Approximately 2.5% of Iraq’s population have died over and above what would have happened without the invasion. The report is dismissed by all governments despite strong scientific credentials.

November
In a Freedom exclusive, a leading health watchdog tears apart the New Labour Independent Sector Treatment Centre initative, showing massive biases in favour of the private sector project have failed to make it perform better than the NHS model it is intended to replace.

APPO continue to survive despite the full force of Mexican state authority being brought down on them. However running battles have taken a terrible toll on civilians and against all sense, the hated governor remains in place.

December
Questions are raised over the IT database set up to handle vulnerable children cases for the NSPCC, with staff criticising the system as largely unworkable and even actively dangerous for the NSPCC’s clients.

Protests break out in immigration detention centers across the UK, as asylum seekers react to hugely substandard conditions and treatment reported by the government’s own watchdog. Disturbing anecdotal evidence emerges suggesting depression and mental health breakdown rates are so high that in one 400-capacity centre, there are an average of two suicide attempts every week.