bulletin to build colleges walkout on 26 jan – print off and distribute

On 26th January, college students around the country will walk out.  The student movement which made such an impact in November and December will begin again.  A number of students and supporters around the country have worked together to produce a bulletin, which can be printed out and distributed in order to build the walk-outs.  Click here to download and print!

Introductory text follows Continue reading “bulletin to build colleges walkout on 26 jan – print off and distribute”

keep up the fight!

A leaflet given out by The Commune on Thursday’s fees demo in London

Today is the fourth major day of action against the government’s attack on education.

Much about this movement has been new and original, and that can only be a good thing. The aspiring politicians who lead NUS have been swept aside.

We have stood up for ourselves in spite of media condemnation. The protests and occupations have benefited from being lively and spontaneous. While suited NUS leaders wanted to debate politicians on friendly terms in TV studios, the movement has shown real militancy and anger at this government of millionaires trying to screw us over. Continue reading “keep up the fight!”

saturday nov 27th, edl demo report

John Tranter attended the latest demonstration against the English Defence League.

EDL 'Sport Are Troops'

Photo credit – trevorjono

Last Saturday, the EDL marched and demonstrated through the Lancashire city of Preston, congregating on the Flagmarket and marching back down Church Street (one of Preston’s main high streets). The demonstration was rowdy and buoyant, extremely loud smoke bombs were thrown at police horses and EDL chants could be heard all over the city centre. During the march back to their coaches, a breakaway group of around 100 attempted to make a break down an alley towards the largely Asian area of Avenham, before being contained by police. Continue reading “saturday nov 27th, edl demo report”

precarious work and solidarity

Tawanda Nyabango reports on discussions among cleaner solidarity activists

At this year’s Anarchist bookfair the Industrial Workers of the World organised a discussion around the issue of solidarity with cleaners. Speakers included a Cleaners Defence Committee regular, a leading organiser in the University College London Living Wage Campaign and a member of The Commune.

The meeting began with the speaker from the Cleaners Defence Committee giving a brief outline of the struggles and solidarity actions that took place earlier on this year. These included the Willis insurance and School of Oriental and African Studies cleaners’ disputes in 2009, and more recently the struggle UBS cleaners and the campaign to reinstate victimised shop steward Alberto Durango. The Cleaners Defence Committee has sought to assist and build links between these disputes. Continue reading “precarious work and solidarity”

what resistance to education cuts?

Mark Harrison presents his personal recollections of Sunday’s Education Activist Network Conference and his thoughts on the student left.

So I went to this Education Activist Network (EAN) conference on Sunday. I am glad that I went, as it was better than I expected and actually invigorated me to return to my campus filled with new ideas for action, although the Socialist Workers Party continues to disappoint me. Continue reading “what resistance to education cuts?”

progress for UCL cleaners campaign

Greg Brown reports on a recent success for the Living Wage campaign at University College London

Most cleaners are currently paid at or just above the National Minimum Wage. It is probably fair to say the average pay is just £6/hour. We are not aware that any cleaner receives sick pay, nor any kind of pension rights. Holiday leave is at the statutory minimum.

Some cleaners have reported that they have friends who have been intimidated in the workplace with their immigration status. I don’t want to go into any more detail given the sensitivity of the issue, but anyone who knows anything about the industry wouldn’t be surprised by the sort of things reported to us. It’s all disgusting but very textbook stuff.

UCL has now promised to pay staff the London Living Wage (LLW) as contracts “crystallise” – i.e. when they end and come up for renewal. Although we are told this is something that will be honoured irrespective of the forthcoming funding cuts, this is the most they have so far committed to. Continue reading “progress for UCL cleaners campaign”

the university is a factory, lets treat it as one

By Sebastian Wright

Lecturers and students alike nowadays cynically describe university education as a ‘factory’. This is, of course, a term of abuse – just think of the disturbing image from Pink Floyd’s The Wall of a conveyor belt of comprehensive students dropping into the mincing machine and emerging as a string of sausages out the other side.

Pink Floyd's The Wall presents education as a factory process as a dystopian nightmare, but does looking at it this way really need to be a problem?

The notion of the University as a mechanised profit machine is where the term derives its critical force. When the philosophy department at Middlesex University was shut down, the ‘Save Middlesex Philosophy’ campaign’s occupation strung an enormous banner out of a first floor window reading: ‘The University is a Factory[.] Strike! Occupy!’ The slogan became the emblematic image of the campaign, and hanging above a neoclassical statue with fist pumped into the air, it endowed the campaign with an uncompromising, industrial proletariat aesthetic that served to reinforce its militant credentials.

Continue reading “the university is a factory, lets treat it as one”

two years supporting undocumented workers in france – an assessment

Ahead of our assembly this weekend assessing the impact of the crisis and proletarian self-activity, Yves Coleman, who will be joining us from France, presents an assessment of two years of activity in a Network (Réseau Education sans Frontières, i.e. RESF) supporting undocumented workers and their families

This report has a very personal tone, but as I don’t belong to any political group, I thought it would be easier to write it this way.

1) Initial motives

Professionally I work at home as a translator and proofreader. So my professional milieu is rather restricted and the area I live in is not really politically interesting. As I had only a mainly editorial activity (publishing a magazine and books 3 times a year under the name of Ni patrie ni frontières, see the website and its texts in English), I thought it would be useful to belong to a group engaged in a “mass activity” at grass root level. I chose the 18th district of Paris because it is a working class district with an important proportion of foreign workers of all nationalities, legal or illegal, who have been living there for a long time and have many traditions of resistance. I also chose this district because I had 2 friends already working there in a local RESF group (RESF means Education without frontiers network: it was created 5 years ago by radical teachers and left wing trade unionists : it’s now a nationwide network including around 200 organisations and trade unions, and, what is more important, thousands of non politically organised people). Continue reading “two years supporting undocumented workers in france – an assessment”

demo this friday in solidarity with berns salonger cleaners

A protest in solidarity with cleaners in Stockholm forced to work 22-hour shifts and receive illegally low wages by a subsidiary of British firm London & Regional. From 4pm this Friday 13th August from 4pm at L&R’s 55 Baker Street, London offices.

This demo was called by Cleaners’ Defence Committee, established earlier this year to organise solidarity with migrant cleaners at UBS bank in the City of London. For more details, email cleanersdefencecommittee@gmail.com.

The protest is also supported by the Latin American Workers’ Association; Colombia Solidarity Campaign; Hands Off My Workmate; Industrial Workers of the World; Solidarity Federation; The Commune, National Shop Stewards Network and 0543 RMT Finsbury Park Branch. Continue reading “demo this friday in solidarity with berns salonger cleaners”

solidarity with migrant cleaners in stockholm: actions 2nd and 13th august

The Cleaners’ Defence Committee, established earlier this year to organise solidarity with migrant workers in the City of London, has called two actions in solidarity with low-paid cleaners at the plush Berns Salonger nightclub in Stockholm.

the swanky Berns Salonger hotel

These workers have been in dispute for 21 weeks, with a series of mass pickets in protest at illegally low wages, victimisation and shifts as long as 22 hours. Our protest is against the British concern London & Regional Properties, which owns the nightclub. Continue reading “solidarity with migrant cleaners in stockholm: actions 2nd and 13th august”

the day the EDL didn’t show up

Richard Price reports on last month’s English Defence League and Islamist provocations in Tower Hamlets and the left’s response. See here for an interview with a Bengali secular activist on the same theme.

In mid-May an event was announced for June 20th at the Troxy Ballroom in Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, organised by the UK-IC (UK –Islamic Conference) (1) . The list of speakers was impressive and global including the likes of the Malaysian Sheikh Hussein Lee. And bigots to a man: and, of course, they are all men.  All of them having been quoted as spouting filth supporting violence and rape against women in marriage, killing gays and violent anti-Jewish racism (2).

Sadly, instead of an immediate reaction of east London progressives to oppose this meeting, the EDL (English Defence League) (3) jumped up and said they would march against the meeting. The EDL are an odd crew, a few right wing libertarians ideologically against Islamic conservatism, a few neo-Nazis trying to ferment race riots, but what appears to be a majority who are ‘British loyalists’ i.e. working class conservatives, who support the notion of a ‘Great Britain’ and will fight for that, who, while ignoring the massive loss of power neo-liberalism has wrought on us, are panicked by the almost irrelevant threat of Islamism in the UK.  On the one hand it says it is simply against Islamism and the threat to British liberalism brought by that but its attacks on Islamism end up looking pretty much like scapegoating all Muslims, deeply dangerous in a period when we need to be united against the state as it attacks. Continue reading “the day the EDL didn’t show up”

hackney community college needs a community fightback

A report on the recent cuts by an hourly-paid ESOL teacher

Cuts and Compulsory Redundancies

Earlier this year 68 members of staff at Hackney Community College were issued with notification of possible redundancy. After two successful, solid strike days, negotiation and many voluntary redundancies there are now only a handful of people facing compulsory redundancy. Continue reading “hackney community college needs a community fightback”

the EDL and the islamist far-right

Last month the English Defence League announced plans to march in Tower Hamlets, East London, in protest at an Islamist conference planned for June 20th at the Troxy centre. The conference was planned by groups tied to Islamic Forum Europe, among the major Islamist groups in the area.

Anti-racists planned to demonstrate against the EDL: but the SWP-run Unite Against Fascism and its front group United East End insisted this should be on the basis of uncritical support for — and collaboration with — the conference organisers. This meant whitewashing the worst religious fundamentalists and supporting their right to represent the Bengali community in the borough.

While the conference was ultimately cancelled by the Troxy centre, and the EDL abandoned their march, UAF held their demo regardless. Here local Bengali secular activist Ansar Ahmed Ullah reflects on the episode. Continue reading “the EDL and the islamist far-right”

save middlesex philosophy post mortem


There is a simple question that needs to be addressed in regard to the Save Middlesex Philosophy campaign: How was it that a campaign that had such momentum, energy and colossal international support collapsed so rapidly and in such acrimony?

Only in May the Trent Park mansion house that housed the department was under occupation, a ‘transversal space’ had been established, and every day newspaper reports and new letters of support were arriving. Like many others, I was disappointed to see the occupation come to a premature end. But it seemed with the rally at Hendon and camp site erected on the grass outside that the campaign was not going away. One academic had already withdrawn their visiting lectureship, and the University and College Union (UCU) had finally agreed to come on side and take action at the start of the new academic year. If ever there was a chance to win this was it.

So what happened? On the 8th of June the campaign website announced a significant ‘victory’ that the philosophy department’s research centre would be moving to Kingston university. Already this sounds a little odd since the campaign was from the start concerned with saving Middlesex Philosophy. However, things get worse on close inspection. Only four of the senior academics—Peter Hallward, Eric Alliez, Stella Sandford and Peter Osborne—would receive jobs at Kingston, whilst two of the more junior members—Christian Kerslake and Mark Kelly—would not.

The comments thread in reaction to the announcement revealed that Kerslake and Kelly had not even been consulted regarding the deal cut with Kingston. Possibly worse, Kingston university would only absorb the PhD candidates and Masters students, not the undergraduate body. It would be galling under any circumstances for an undergraduate cohort to be abandoned by all their senior academics; the fact that the undergraduates took a key role in establishing, maintaining and fighting the campaign (thus, at least to some extent enabling the Kingston deal) makes their desertion appear all the more outrageous.

Perhaps the most disturbing possibility is that students were being egged on to take borderline criminal actions at the same time as some academics were cutting backroom deals on jobs. The letter drafted by the senior academics to explain their choice—and it was their choice, since no one, not even their  fellow academics were consulted—declares that they decided to opt for Kingston’s offer when they realised the campaign was unwinnable: defeatism coinciding conveniently with self interest. At what point was it unwinnable? What is winnable before contracts were signed and unwinnable afterwards? All in all, a perfect example it seems of hierarchical power relations overriding democratic decision making.

The biggest blow this turn of events delivers may be to wider morale in the anti-cuts movement in education. By decamping to Kingston the campaign’s supporters are meant to be reassured that philosophy has been saved. Quite frankly, if this is what radical philosophy looks like in action, some will wonder whether it is worth saving in the first place.