november issue of the commune

The November issue of our free newspaper is now available. It features extensive coverage of the Occupy movement, four pages on the travellers’ struggle at Dale Farm, and much more. See the list of articles below as they are posted online… or click the picture to download the PDF.

As always we ask that if you enjoy or disagree with any of our features then please write to us and we can feature your views in the next edition. If you would like copies to distribute then send us a message at uncaptiveminds@gmail.com, and we will send some copies in the post.

Organising

N30: there is an alternative – The Commune’s editorial looks forward to the 30th November strike against austerity

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

make or break for the ‘sparks’ – Adam Ford reports on developments in the electricians’ movement

Occupy

bishops, tents and the city – Sharon Borthwick reports on the occupations at London’s St Paul’s and Finsbury Square

all eyes on oakland [online only] – Donagh Davis reports from Occupy Oakland

the same old slogans? – Bristol Communards headed down to their local ‘Occupy’ space

the 99%, the 1% and ‘anti-finance’ – Oisín Mac Giallomóir argues the Occupy movement needs to oppose capitalist production not just capitalist finance and governments

occupy tel-aviv: the israeli summer – Lee Meidan writes from Israel on a rare wave of social unrest

Dale Farm

dale farm: a community under siege – Dominic Fitzgerald reports on the eviction of the Dale Farm traveller site

travellers, the state and the meaning of solidarity –  Richard B. argues that traveller support must now become a part of our movement

Ideas

the power to make change for ourselves – David Broder was unconvinced by ‘Anarchism: a Marxist Critique’ by John Molyneux

‘when the crisis comes’ – an essay by Henrik Johansson, exploring the perverse ideology perpetuated during capitalist crisis

a platform for struggle – Sheila Cohen, co-editor of Trade Union Solidarity, writes on the new venture

all eyes on oakland as the struggle continues

Donagh Davis reports from Occupy Oakland on how things have developed, from the shooting of Scott Olsen, the strike, the shutting down of the port, up to the violence surrounding the occupation of a building this morning.

Since the tents were pitched just over three weeks ago, Occupy Oakland has come out of Occupy Wall Street’s shadow to assert itself as a major social movement phenomenon in its own right – as well as a major world news story. Like many other ‘Occupies’ around the country, the Oakland occupation started as an attempt to emulate the Wall Street phenomenon. Three weeks later, it is way beyond that.

Occupy Oakland shut down the USA's fifth busiest port

A crucial watershed came a week ago, when the Oakland mayor, Jean Quan, made good on her threat to evict the Occupy Oakland encampment – no doubt a major eyesore for her, sitting directly outside City Hall, on Frank Ogawa Plaza – dubbed ‘Oscar Grant Plaza’ by the Occupiers, in memory of a young man shot dead by police on the local BART subway system in 2009. Continue reading “all eyes on oakland as the struggle continues”

the same old slogans? occupying bristol

Bristol Commune report on the goings-on at the city’s Occupy camp

The occupation of the open space area in front of the Bristol Council building began on the 15th October. The number of tents has grown since then, from 20 to over 40 at the beginning of November. People who have made the camp and ‘visitors’ come from all sorts of life. One day you may get a slightly middle class hippy feel to it, on another day you hear more of Bristolian accent or mix up with local homeless people. The camp has got relatively well-built basic infrastructure (for example a marquee with chairs to have meetings while it’s raining) and holds regular assemblies and ad hoc workshops. Every weekend there is a community fun day with arts, skills workshops and various discussions.

Bristol Commune went to two of them. In the discussion on financial crisis people were respectful and tried to listen to each other. One strand of participants argued that we need to get the banks under state control. People from ‘zeitgeist’ group argued for abolition of money and a resource-based economy. We said that it is impossible to reform capitalism by ‘cleaning’ it of the ‘bad’ financial capital. By doing that we would cut the essential blood veins of the system, which would bring it to even deeper crisis. We spoke against raising demands by the ‘occupy’ movement, instead of searching for links and coordination with sections of the working class. Most people were surprised and interested to hear about the encounter between the sparks and Occupy London, which we mentioned as an example. Continue reading “the same old slogans? occupying bristol”

make or break moment for ‘sparks’

Adam Ford writes on the latest turn in the electricians’ struggle

The grassroots ‘Sparks’ movement of electricians continues to organise direct actions and protests across the country, but it is running out of time before construction companies impose huge pay cuts. Meanwhile, the same Unite bureaucracy whose negotiator Bernard McAulay labelled the Sparks “cancerous” is seeking to gain control of the struggle, the better to strangle it. The rank-and-file workers need to develop a resistance strategy, and fast.


The dispute began back in August, when electricians angry about the proposed new Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA) set up their own rank-and-file campaign committee, with the intention of pressurising Unite tops into adopting a more combative stance than usual. Non-unionised workers were urged to join Unite, with the idea being that they would be able to vote for official strike action. Since then, the national and local committees have organised various wildcat actions, such as brief site ‘occupations’ and road blockages. This momentum has built week on week. Continue reading “make or break moment for ‘sparks’”

cleaning up the industry

Siobhan Breathnach writes on a fresh turn in cleaners’ fight for a living wage

Cleaners in two workplaces in London have been striking for better pay and conditions. Both strikes, in the Guildhall in the City of London, and Senate House, University of London, started over unpaid wages.

In the Guildhall, cleaners walked out twice over unpaid wages. After they received what was owed to them, they started a series of demonstrations demanding the London Living Wage (LLW) and an end to abusive treatment. In the middle of the campaign, the cleaning contractor changed from Ocean to Sodexho, who started bullying the cleaners straight away. After two days they suspended the union rep, which the cleaners responded to with a noisy emergency protest.

Continue reading “cleaning up the industry”

opposition and the cuts

The Commune’s editorial

BBC presenters sat mouths-gaping on 26th September as City trader Alessio Rastani proudly boasted on live TV of the financial sector’s power and its disdain for the victims of the recession. He proclaimed that a crisis was a great opportunity to make a fast buck and that he dreamt of the next such meltdown. Reeking of arrogant class prejudice, here was the true face behind our rulers’ democratic and liberal mask.

That same week, Ed Miliband spoke to Labour conference, calling for a ‘new morality’ rewarding the ‘hard-working’. Yet asked by a member of the public whether he would endeavour to protect workers’ pensions, ‘Red Ed’ said he could promise nothing, since workers getting older is no longer ‘affordable’. Not only did he drive a wedge between the employed and the ‘undeserving poor’, championing harsh penalties for rioters and ‘scroungers’: he disavowed strike action as a means of standing up for workers’ living standards. Continue reading “opposition and the cuts”

pickets and porkie pies at fujitsu

Mark Harrison visited the Fujitsu picket in Manchester for the latest in a series of strikes

On the morning of 19th September  I attended a picket and rally of Fujitsu workers at their site in Manchester. Ostensibly in opposition to Fujitsu failing to honour certain aspects of an agreement brokered with the ACAS arbitration service, the strikers were walking the line in defence of Alan Jenney (Deputy Chair of the Unite union’s Fujitsu UK Combine Committee and Unite rep at Fujitsu’s site in Crewe) who has clearly been singled out for compulsory redundancy due to his trade union activities.

Fujitsu promises: porkie pies

Unite had been co-ordinating with the Public and Commercial Services (PCS)union whose members working for Fujitsu were due to strike simultaneously due to a pay dispute. Industrial action by around 720 PCS members was called off at the last minute once Fujitsu agreed a pay offer at twice the rate of inflation. Continue reading “pickets and porkie pies at fujitsu”

life as a ‘chugger’ – owing money to your boss

An ex-fundraiser recounts life working in the charity sector, where employers’ ‘ethical credentials’ are far from the reality

As a bête noire of the mainstream media, right-wing and liberal alike, street and door-to-door charity fundraising is something that has had a lot of column inches and broadcast time devoted to it over the last few years. Unsurprisingly this coverage has almost exclusively sought to lump together workers with their employers and paint a picture of one homogenous group of ‘chuggers’ (charity muggers) collectively scamming charities and donors out of money.

With the vast majority of fundraisers aged between 18 and 30 and either without qualifications, or working the job to pay for studying, the image the media have sought to create neatly fits into both the on-going campaign of media hate directed at working-class youth, and populist rhetoric that portrays bankers, public sector workers and benefit claimants as somehow collectively conspiring to rob the rest of the country.

Continue reading “life as a ‘chugger’ – owing money to your boss”

italy: a very political crisis

David Broder looks at the crisis in Italy and its meaning for Europe

“I couldn’t give a fuck. In a few months I’m going to go away and mind my own fucking business. I’m leaving this shitty country, it makes me feel sick”
– Silvio Berlusconi, 1st September

On 29th September Italy’s Corriere della Sera published a letter previously sent to Silvio Berlusconi, demanding that he make sweeping cuts in government spending and ‘reforms’ in labour laws to push down employers’ costs.

A changing of the guard? Berlusconi is mired in economic malaise and personal scandal

The letter, originally sent to the Italian PM on 5th August by the heads of the European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of Italy, reflected the ruling class pressure to slash workers’ rights and public service provision in Italy, in the name of ‘reducing the deficit’. ECB power over Italy is very real, as it buys vast quantities of Italian bonds just to keep it afloat. Continue reading “italy: a very political crisis”

the whac-a-mole approach to fixing the euro

Oisín Mac Giollamóir explains European politicians’ ongoing failure to avert crisis

The great experiment of the European Union has continued its bizarre march into oblivion. I wrote the ‘unhappy economies’ article in the last issue of The Commune in early August, shortly after the Greek ‘bailout’ of 21st July. Since then much has happened… but equally, nothing much has happened.

The German Chancellor and the President of the European Central Bank calm market fears

First, how has the 21st July bailout worked out? Different for different countries. Oddly, for Ireland, things are looking rosy. The interest rate on two-year government bonds is now just over a third of what it was in late July. This has resulted in some bold confident statements from the Irish government about their achievements that are almost certainly a bit premature. Continue reading “the whac-a-mole approach to fixing the euro”

the land of the free

Sharon Borthwick writes on the race and class prejudice behind the US death penalty, in the aftermath of the state killing of Troy Davis

At the South Carolina State Penitentiary on 16th June, 1944, 14 year old, George Junius Stinney, was strapped to the electric chair. Securing him to the frame holding the electrodes proved difficult as the child was so slightly built and merely 5’1”, a reason to suspect it wasn’t he who had wielded the huge railroad spike, the weapon used in the killing of two white girls. In a locked room with only white officers bearing witness, Stinney confessed within an hour of his arrest. The court-appointed defence lawyer, did not call any witnesses and as the Stinney family were moneyless, an appeal could not be raised.

Another harrowing and messy murder took place towards the end of World War II, when 24 year-old Eddie Slovik was strapped to a post and shot by firing squad, eleven bullets entering his body, but not immediately killing him. The appointed executioners were reloading their weapons when Slovik finally died: “They’re not shooting me for deserting the United States Army, thousands of guys have done that. They just need to make an example out of somebody and I’m it because I’m an ex-con. I used to steal things when I was a kid, and that’s what they are shooting me for, they’re shooting me for the bread and chewing gum I stole when I was 12 years old”, Slovik had told them. Stinney was black and Slovik white. They had in common their poverty and thus their utter powerlessness, as simultaneously, the allies allegedly fought for freedom. Continue reading “the land of the free”

new issue of the commune

The third issue of our new-look free paper is now available. It features extensive coverage on the Eurozone crisis, articles on the bid for Palestinian statehood, life as a ‘chugger’ and much, much else besides. Click image to see the PDF, or see below for a list of articles.

While much of this issue is devoted to in-depth analysis of the economic crisis, we also have a number of pieces on workplace disputes and an essay on life as a ‘chugger’ (charity fundraiser. As always we ask that if you enjoy or disagree with any of our features then please write to us and we can feature your views in the next edition. If you would like copies to distribute then send us a message at uncaptiveminds@gmail.com, and we will send some copies in the post.

news

opposition and the cuts – The Commune‘s editorial looks at Labour conference and the 30th November strike day

a state of uncertainty – Pete Jones writes on the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations

balls to miliband! – Clifford Biddulph argues that Labour will never be on our side

the land of the free – Sharon Borthwick writes on the race and class prejudice behind the US death penalty, in the aftermath of the state killing of Troy Davis

workplace + organising

life as a ‘chugger’ – owing money to your boss – An ex-fundraiser recounts life working in the charity sector, where employers’ ‘ethical credentials’ are far from the reality

pickets and porkie pies at fujitsu – Mark Harrison visited the Fujitsu picket in Manchester for the latest in a series of strikes

sparks fly in electricians’ dispute – Siobhan Breathnach reports on the battle over wages in construction

rank-and-file initiative launched – Adam Ford writes on the ‘Sparks’ group

cleaning up the industry – Siobhan Breathnach writes on a fresh turn in cleaners’ fight for a living wage

a weekend at dale farm – Daniel Harvey writes on the travellers’ fight against eviction

crisis

a very political crisis – David Broder looks at the crisis in Italy and its meaning for Europe

the whac-a-mole approach to fixing the euro – Oisín Mac Giollamóir explains European politicians’ ongoing failure to avert crisis

three myths about the crisis – Conrad Russell challenges common left myths about the meaning of the crisis, highlighting the significance of class struggle in shaping events

a beginner’s guide to marx’s capital – John Keeley attempts to explain cyclical crises and longer term trends

This is the third issue of The Commune distributed for free. After the last one we received excellent feedback, and as such are looking to expand our distribution network. Would you like to share these ideas with friends or colleagues? Leave a few in your local library or café? Contact us at uncaptiveminds@gmail.com

But to get our communist message out there, we also need money. If you enjoy the paper, the price of a couple of pints a month would be of great use to us. Email us, or set up a standing order to The Commune, Co-op sc. 089299 ac. 65317440

a state of uncertainty

Pete Jones writes on the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations

A ‘Palestinian Spring’ was declared by Mahmoud Abbas in his request to the UN to recognise full Palestinian statehood, but it looks quite different to the revolutions across the Arab world that he was alluding to. Rather than the victory of a people over the machinery of a totalitarian state, the ‘Palestinian spring’ may prove to be just the latest example of Palestinian hope for liberation being used as a political football. Whether statehood would be a ‘good thing’ for Palestine is tough to predict.

What statehood would mean for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is unclear, what advantages it would bring even less so. The theory is that it would grant Palestine more leverage in future peace negotiations; the talks would be between two recognised states, and the Palestinians would be able to both show that Israel is occupying a sovereign state and have recourse to the international criminal court. This doubtless fuels Israeli (and therefore American) opposition to the bid, but there are further complexities. Continue reading “a state of uncertainty”

the london riots, 1640-42

Ian Brooke writes that London’s riots were nothing new: a popular uprising was a key part of the early stages of the English revolution

In the aftermath of the London riots many people quite rightly remind us that riots and the mob is not a new phenomena but is almost as old as the city itself. The poll tax and the Gordon riots are often named as examples of this but part of the forgotten history of the working class is the English Revolution and the mob riots of 1641-42. England at the time was rife with riot and disorder in the countryside against the enclosing of common land for the profit of the few and for years areas such as the forest of Dean and the Fens were in a state of open and perpetual rebellion.

'a world turned upside down'

London too was a seething mass of economic and religious discontent with a large puritan following favouring a more democratic religion against the wealthy hierarchies of both Catholicism and the state Anglican Church. Indeed the country was been bled dry by Charles I wars to establish his version of Anglicanism on Scotland an Anglicanism that worried many about Charles possible intention to reintroduce Catholicism and the dictatorship of The Pope. Continue reading “the london riots, 1640-42”