GMB calls off Pension strike after one day.

Barry Biddulph comments on the GMB union’s announcement on the Government’s pensions deal

The GMB’s national secretary for public services, Brian Strutton, has signed up to the TUC-approved Government pensions offer, which surrenders to the government on all the core issues of the pensions fight: working far longer, paying far more and getting far less. There has been no change in the offer in the key areas. Final-salary schemes will be replaced by a career average which will result in huge losses, particularly for women with irregular employment history. Unison leader, Dave Prentis, long seen by Cameron as someone he could do business with, recommended the  deal which breaks with the momentum of strike action and solidarity against the Coalition.

the November 30th public-sector strike over pensions was an advance in the battle against the Coalition: but now union tops have called off the pensions fight

Brian Strutton failed to inform GMB members that he had capitulated to the Government’s threat to impose a worse settlement than the one on offer. In an email to members he presented the deal, which undermines future action against the Government, as some kind of victory. What has been agreed is a ‘process’, he explained. What will be negotiated in this process? Well, he was unable to say. The details would be determined in the process. In other words, in return for suspending  strike action, the Government has agreed to talks on their terms. Continue reading “GMB calls off Pension strike after one day.”

workers’ control in the health-care system

Mike Levine discusses how we can go beyond the hierarchical form of the National Health Service. The author has spent most of his working life as an NHS researcher.

While the National Health Service is remarkably successful in treating ill people, it is under threat of being opened up to international free markets. Both Labour and Tory/Lib Dem parties seem hell bent on this. The problem with private health providers is that they cannot make a profit out of treating any but the richer part of society unless they are subsidised.

on life support: the NHS is under attack. what is our alternative for how healthcare should be run?

The belief that a health service based upon market systems is more likely than a publicly planned one to lead to a decent healthy life for everyone, is completely unfounded. There is no evidence for it and comparison of the NHS with, say, the USA or European countries shows that Britain spends less in terms of a proportion of GDP for a service which is both good and equally available to everyone. Continue reading “workers’ control in the health-care system”

free reza shahabi, iranian trade unionist imprisoned without trial

A communique from the Reza Shahabi Defence Committee, upon the twenty-first day of the jailed Iranian trade unionist’s hunger strike. For updates, see http://www.workers-iran.org.

On Monday 21st Azar (14th December) the members of Reza’s family went to Evin prison to visit him.  They were informed that, owing to his physical condition, it was impossible for him to be moved to the visiting room and that they were to move to Evin’s prosecutor’s quarters because he could be moved there by car.

On the twenty first day of his hunger strike, Reza Shahabi is in such a state that he can not even shake his head.  Before Reza was moved from block 209 to block 350, he was told that if he gave up his activities in the workers’ movement the authorities would free him, and that he must answer immediately, but Reza refused.  Another security operative came to block 350 to tell him yesterday that if he ceased his hunger strike he would be freed, and he replied that he had been told the same thing before and although they knew he is innocent, they went back on their promise.  ‘This time I will not cease my hunger strike to the point of death, and ask for immediate and unconditional release. ‘  Continue reading “free reza shahabi, iranian trade unionist imprisoned without trial”

the woolf that didn’t bark: the LSE-libya inquiry

Jack Staunton, a student at the London School of Economics (LSE) looks at Lord Woolf’s inquiry into the School’s ties to the Libyan state, and the nature of ‘corporate social responsibility’. 

In May this year the LSE’s Dr Satoshi Kanazawa posted a blog entry on the Psychology Today website, entitled “Why are black women less physically attractive than other women?”. Kanazawa offered an answer to this age-old question with a series of ‘scientific’ graphs and statistics. Such was the uproar that he was forced into an apology, taking a mere four months to put together a public statement.

Saif-al-Islam Gaddafi PhD, the first student ever to deliver LSE's Ralph Miliband lecture

But what did our hapless researcher retract: his racism? Objectification of women? No: he apologised for ‘causing controversy’ and ‘damage to the reputation of the School’ because he did not use ‘due consideration’ in his ‘use of language’. He was ‘not at all motivated by a desire to seek or cause controversy’, instead entirely motivated by ‘scientific curiosity’. For English readers, he meant: sorry you got upset, but I am so focused on my quest for scientific knowledge, I didn’t consider how my choice of words might hurt your sensitive feelings and the School’s ‘brand’.

Kanazawa’s promise to choose his words more carefully in future was enough for him to keep his job. What mattered to LSE was not the racist content of his outlook, but that his failure to use politically-correct language was bad for its reputation. And LSE takes its reputation very seriously. This, of course, is the same institution which, after championing the Libyan regime for eight years, abandoned it to the memory-hole in 2011 once Gaddafi’s own ‘brand’ became toxic. Media revelations as to the extent of LSE’s relations with the regime were such an embarrassment that the School felt moved to launch an investigation, the Woolf Inquiry. Continue reading “the woolf that didn’t bark: the LSE-libya inquiry”

sparks defy anti-union laws with massive wildcat strike

Adam Ford writes on an exciting development in electricians’ dispute as the ‘Sparks’ launched a wildcat strike against 35% pay cuts.

Hundreds of electricians took wildcat strike action on Wednesday, defying the bosses who want to slash their wages, the anti-union laws which the bosses use to pick holes in strike mandates, and the union bureacracy which had to be dragged kicking and screaming to holding a ballot at all. The country’s biggest ‘unofficial’ walkout in decades represents a new stage in the UK class war – a stage in which workers recognise the limitations of their own leaderships, and consciously move beyond them. By cutting out the utterly compromised middle men and women in this way, working people come face to face with their ultimate enemy – huge corporations and the capitalist state.


I’ve been reporting on the rank-and-file Sparks movement since early autumn, when electricians angry at proposed pay cuts of 35% started their own rank-and-file organisation, with the aim of pressurising union tops into leading a struggle for their members’ livelihoods. Instead, as the Sparks’ resistance increased, so did the machinations of the bureaucracy. As early as September, negotiator Bernard McAulay was slandering the workers as “cancerous”, but he gradually wormed himself back into a position of influence. Continue reading “sparks defy anti-union laws with massive wildcat strike”

on the desperate struggles in france

A fascinating article from the communisation.net website looks at the practice of kidnapping bosses during strikes in France, and how new means and objectives of struggle fit into the crisis of Fordism.

Introduction

After a short wave at the beginning of the century, instances of proletarians taking their bosses hostage or threatening to blow up their factories reappeared in 2009, and have since become something of a trend. We can now count as many as twenty cases since the beginning of 2010. Continue reading “on the desperate struggles in france”

is capitalism’s crisis putting revolution back on the agenda?

A guest post by Mark Kosman. Every attempt to go beyond capitalism has ended in failure. But are capitalism’s present problems putting anti-capitalist revolution back on the agenda? To answer this question, this article looks at past revolutions, with particular emphasis on class struggle, while rethinking aspects of the Marxist, anarchist and feminist traditions.

In the 20th century, every attempt to go beyond capitalism ended in failure. Either people looked to socialist politicians, whose reforms made capitalism even more secure, or they supported revolutions that degenerated into repression and mass killing. Consequently, today, few people have much hope that humanity could ever successfully transcend capitalism.

But are capitalism’s present problems putting anti-capitalist revolution back on the agenda? And could a future revolution liberate humanity in ways that past revolutions failed to achieve? To try to answer these questions, I am going to look at past revolutions with particular emphasis on aspects that are rarely considered in conventional left discourse. These include humanity’s origins, gender and military history and the revolutionary transcendence of work and democracy. Continue reading “is capitalism’s crisis putting revolution back on the agenda?”

‘one hundred unions. thirty countries. one class’

Omid Rezai of the International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran reports on the Labourstart conference in Istanbul 

‘One hundred unions. Thirty countries. One class.’ – Derrick Blackadder, of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, advanced this as the slogan for trade unionists to take home.  It was an accurate summation of the discussions and workshops of the last two days.  It was an exciting conference to be part of.  The Internationale was sung in more languages than I had ever heard spoken before, by avowedly class-conscious trade unionists, who were calling for international solidarity against capitalist exploitation.

workers in Iran need class solidarity, not US interference

The conference began with participants taking part in a picket line with 62 locked-out members of Birlesik Metal-Is, outside GEA Klima Sanayi ve Ticaret A.Ş. (ATR) in Gebze.  Members of the International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran took part and reported a lot of good feeling on the picket line as links were made between Metal-Is workers and German comrades who work at related factories.  Full details of the dispute can be found hereContinue reading “‘one hundred unions. thirty countries. one class’”

commune leaflet for 30th november

The Commune’s leaflet for Wednesday’s strike looks at how we can escalate the fight against cuts, and how this fits into the goal of revolutionising society. Click the image to see the PDF.

If you would like to meet up with us on the day in your city, email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com. That afternoon we are also having a public meeting in Sheffield on the communist alternative view of public services and the ‘welfare state’ – see here. Continue reading “commune leaflet for 30th november”

the cuts: not just defending the ‘welfare state’

The Sheffield Commune is holding a public meeting on the afternoon of the 30th November public sector strike.

We will be discussing the capitalist state, the cuts and the communist alternative vision for how workers and service users can run public services.

The welfare state: 'ours'?

From 3:30pm on Wednesday 30th November (after the rally/demo) at the Rutland Arms, Brown Street, near the Showroom Cinema. All welcome, plenty of time for debate. Continue reading “the cuts: not just defending the ‘welfare state’”

there’s more to politics than westminster

Greg Brown asks what is the way forward for students’ struggles after last year’s defeat on fees and EMA

With the 9th November national demonstration rapidly approaching, apprehensions over the state of the ‘student movement’ naturally arise. To be sure, the planned march against fees, cuts, abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance, and the marketisation and privatisation of Higher Education will surely be the best measure of last year’s student mobilisations.

Millbank: winter 2010 saw militant student protests

The merits of a movement can only be judged in secondary terms by parliamentary manoeuvres, i.e. whether a particular bill passes or falls, a minister resigns or is promoted, etc. As libertarians we should understand that the true strength of a social movement is in its breadth (composition) and its sustainability (spanning multiple episodes of struggle): these qualities both feed and are fed by its potential to affect consciousness at large. Continue reading “there’s more to politics than westminster”

bishops, tents and the city

Sharon Borthwick visited the occupations at London’s St Paul’s and Finsbury Square

Outside St Paul’s the Royal British Legion had set up a poppy selling stall, “Shoulder to shoulder with all who Serve”. From this side of the cathedral one couldn’t yet see the occupation site, and the reminder that ex-servicemen are obviously not given decent enough pensions to live by seemed especially pertinent, in a time when concessions made to the working class in the aftermath of World War II are all under attack.

The ruling class were wise then to introduce the welfare state, they knew that social unrest was brewing. The years prior to the war too were full of suffering; it truly was a Great Depression.  During the Blitz public space also came to the forefront. It took an organised committee of citizens to eventually gain permission to access the London Underground stations for protection. With 40% of Britain’s housing stock flattened, the authorities eventually had to overlook squatting. Paternoster Square was the intended site of this occupation: formerly a public square it is now owned by the Subishi Estate Company which prior to the protest, oh so gracefully permitted 24 hour access. It is fine to come to London to work and shop. The profiteers are at least spooked, The Canary Wharf Group plc has just obtained a high court injunction preventing “any persons unknown remaining on the Canary Wharf estate in connection to protest action.” Continue reading “bishops, tents and the city”

N30: there is an alternative

On 30th November (‘N30’) the UK will see the biggest day yet of strike action by public sector workers as part of a fight against the government’s austerity plans. Over twenty unions representing 3 million public sector workers will strike over government attempts to significantly increase employee contributions while reducing employer contributions to pension schemes, raise the retirement age, and drastically reduce pension pay-outs to workers. Workers in both the public and private sectors are facing similar job cuts.

This strike, as well as the square occupations and the recent electricians’ strike over pay cuts are part of a broader struggle against austerity sweeping across the world. Continue reading “N30: there is an alternative”