jon venables, the lynch mob and our ‘broken society’

by Adam Ford

In 1993, two year old James Bulger from Kirkby near Liverpool was abducted, tortured and murdered by two ten year olds, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. The horrific case provoked understandable revulsion from the general public. Politicians gleefully seized on it to further their own agendas. Then Shadow Home Secretary Tony Blair promised that a Labour government would be “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”, marking the beginning of New Labour’s attempts to outflank the Conservatives to the right on ‘law and order’, which had long been considered the Tory Party’s own territory. John Major responded by declaring that Britain should “condemn a little more, and understand a little less”. As we know, once in power, Blair focused on the second clause of his soundbite.

Perhaps for Merseysiders in particular, our horror was not at the killing itself, but that we now lived in a society that could produce such ‘monsters’ (as they were routinely labelled by the media). I was only ten – the same as Thompson and Venables – but I remember that my mum still warned me to be “extra careful” on the streets. Fear stalked the land. Continue reading “jon venables, the lynch mob and our ‘broken society’”

radical education reading group

A small group of us have been meeting once a month to make some time to think about the links between education and social change. Last year we had some really interesting discussions on adult literacy, privatisation, Marxism and education, Freirian pedagogy, and deschooling, but we want to get bigger. If you are someone interested or involved in education and like the sound of manageable amounts of reading, informal conversation, and hopefully some stimulating ideas, come and join us. We meet on the first Thursday of the month between 7-9pm in Bethnal Green.

The next meeting is on Thursday 4th February (use email below for the venue details), and will be a discussion on the ideas of A.S. Neill as embodied in his Free-School, Summerhill.

Email radicaleducationforum@gmail.com for readings and more information. Hope to see you there.

why such scope for union-busting in schools?

by Florence Mensah

There are a number of reasons why I have found it difficult to write about union-busting politics in my workplace. (i) I have been working too hard to consider that I might take time to reflect on it all. (ii) I, like many other workers, am intimidated by the threat of losing my job. (iii) It is sometimes hard to know what good will come from having a great big moan, and it can make you feel even worse!

However, I was encouraged to write about what has been going on in my school by a fellow comrade. Why? Because we are a community of workers, whatever our jobs, whatever our unions. Unless we can problematize the very insidious tactics that managements put in place daily to undermine our agency and threaten our security and mental well-being, we will not be confident in recognising how best to tackle them. Continue reading “why such scope for union-busting in schools?”

an alternative view of the classroom

by a primary school teacher in Tower Hamlets

When I was at school I worked hard, did what I was told and got good results. When I was at university I hoped an under graduate degree in education would shed some light on the true potential education has to make a better world. I studied philosophy and sociology of education at a university for whom the faculty of education, its roots in vocational training, was a slightly embarrassing poor relation, best kept at arms length and occasionally derided. The message was sometimes enlightening, the medium certainly was not. I embarked on a PGCE at the Institute of Education where I lost all hope that our education system held any radical elements that might actually cut through the elitist bureaucracy of government policy; clearly it was up to the individual to find the tiny cracks around the edges of the system wherever they could and fill them with something that felt more like being alive than a standards-driven agenda of mind-reducing mundanity.  The real tragedy being that the vast majority of people didn’t seem to realise that there was any need to look for the cracks, let alone feel able to start to think what mind-expanding possibilities you might be able to fill them with.

And then I found a place that was one big crack, through which sun-light streamed. A place that had been built on the solid principles of child-centred, class conscious principles, and by in large stuck to them in both its theory and practice. The place isn’t perfect, but is a place with more integrity than any other educational institution I’ve been involved with. So here are a few things that our ordinary state funded community primary school is and does that shows us that you can. Continue reading “an alternative view of the classroom”

rage at number one: the cultural revolution starts here?

by Adam Ford
originally posted at Mute

Something which seemed unthinkable only a few weeks ago has just happened. ‘Killing In The Name’, a 1992 song about police brutality and racism has beaten the X Factor and Simon Cowell to the Christmas number one. The final festive chart topper of the decade is by fiercely radical rap metal group Rage Against The Machine. It’s a story that has captured the public imagination, and captivated the corporate mass media. But what is the significance – if any – of this event, and what does it say about the future of campaigning in the age when internet social networking has met deep economic recession?

When the ‘campaign’ began in November, many treated it as a light-hearted joke. Jon Morter (a DJ), and his wife Tracey (an astrophysics graduate turned gig photographer) apparently launched the ‘Rage Against The Machine For Christmas No. 1’ Facebook group to make a point about the commercialisation of pop music, and the monotony of Cowell’s charges getting to number one for each of the previous four years. Continue reading “rage at number one: the cultural revolution starts here?”

the occupations at uc berkeley – mini documentary

We present here a short documentary about one of the student-worker occupations in California, at the University of California campus at Berkeley.

Some of us who participated in university occupations earlier in 2009, particularly over the summer at SOAS, will easily see the contrast between the attitude of student militants in this film, and members of the SWP who were an organised force in occupations in Britain.  In this film, occupiers stick unrelentingly to their demands, including those in solidarity with sacked workers.  They are not afraid to make police break down the doors as the price for the university’s unwillingness to meet those demands.  They understand that the power of the movement is not in a careful retreat at every stage (and there are always avenues and opportunities for careful retreats for those who want to find them).  Rather, the power of the movement is in its dedication to solidarity, its militancy, in the “ever expanding union” to which it gives birth.  The solidarity with workers shown by the UC Berkeley occupiers puts the SOAS occupation in the shade.

In the future we must raise the slogan, better to be dragged out for something you believe in, than walk out willingly for something you do not!

(brief commentary by Joe Thorne)

austrian student occupations: our social context and our demands

A statement by students at the university occupation in Vienna. See here for an interview with one of the activists involved. This document was published early in the struggle but is only newly available in English.


The strike signifies the refusal of work, but in this case it means an enormous intensity of labour. For more than a week people have been organizing, coordinating, communicating, writing, filming, photographing, cooking, doing media work and much more. Continue reading “austrian student occupations: our social context and our demands”

issue 9 of the commune

The November issue of our monthly paper The Commune is now available. Click the image below to see the PDF, or see articles as they are posted online in the list below.

issue9cover

To purchase a printed copy for £1 + 50p postage, use the ‘donate’ feature here. You can also subscribe (£12 a year UK/£16 EU/£20 international) or order 5 copies a month to sell (£4) online here. If you want to pay by cheque, contact uncaptiveminds@gmail.com.

are we ready for a winter of discontent? – by Sheila Cohen

post strike: this is no deal – by Joe Thorne

underground pay deadlock – by Vaughan Thomas

what is the union bureaucracy? – by Alberto Durango

occupation and state building in the new afghanistan – by Jessica Anderson

mixed reactions to cwu-royal mail deal – interview with a communist postman

manchester students build solidarity with post workers – by Mark Harrison

honduras: democracy has not been restored – by Socialismo o Barbarie

month long strike in france: ‘papers for all!’ – interview with Seni cleaners and piece from Où va la CGT?

communism twenty years after the berlin wall fell – interviews with eastern european activists

scottish ruling class: division over union – by Allan Armstrong

obituary of chris harman – by Andy Wilson

university occupations in austria – interview with vienna student activist

question time row: did the straw man really slay the griffin? – by Adam Ford

communist recomposition and workers’ representation – by Chris Ford

‘full and open debate’ on post-no2eu project: ok, when? – by David Broder

building from below: the work of paulo freire – by Dave Spencer

the global commune, january 16th

activities of the commune around britain

 

interview with austrian student occupation activist

Nathan Coombs interviews a participant in the university occupation movement in Vienna, Austria. See here for his previous article ‘The battle for free education begins’, featuring a video on one of the occupations.

artsfacoccupation

Why did you decide to occupy? How and when did you occupy the building, and why did you choose the particular space that you did?

After years of exhausting fights between students, teachers and the rectorate there was evidently great discontent. One of the main reasons for this was a successive undemocratisation of the academy of fine arts going along with a structural empowerment of the rector. Even the election of the rector caused significant resentment and was followed by a state ruling that Clementine Deliss, who applied for the rector’s job, was sexually discriminated against, as she was not chosen although she had been the only candidate with a broad popularity amongst students, teachers and the senate. Continue reading “interview with austrian student occupation activist”

the battle for free education begins

by Nathan Coombs

After occupations and sit-ins at the University of California Santa Cruz, Fresno State and an ongoing tussle between students and administrators at the New School, New York, there is now an equally large student occupation movement underway in the University of Fine Arts and the University of Vienna, in Austria.

As can be seen on this YouTube video from inside the occupation, there are hundreds involved. Against the Europe wide, neo-liberal Bologna Process, the unifying demand is for free education; the battle for education as a common good. Continue reading “the battle for free education begins”

workers revolt against vygotsky – an account of unofficial action at tower hamlets college

The following piece was written by one of the Tower Hamlets College (THC) ESOL teachers who were on strike for four weeks until recently.  For context, it would be best to read our previous coverage – Lessons of the Tower Hamlets ESOL Strike – first.  The article is not current, though it has not previously been published.  It was begun at the end of the summer term 2009, has had a few updates since, and describes unofficial action taken at a training day, which included materials by educational theorist Lev Vygotsky*(whose work it is in no way necessary to be aware of in order to read the following).  The article shows the power of workers to make themselves unmanageable, and some real dynamics of taking assertive action at work in 2009.

THC - workers revolt against vygotsky

By ‘Rachel’

Some local supporters witnessed an open air meeting of our union branch on Friday 3rd July where we had to take the decision of what to do on the Monday of the last week of work. Monday was not a strike day because it was planned as something more important. Teaching finished on Friday and the following week has always been a week of paid Continuing Professional Development – ‘CPD’ where there is a variety of sessions on offer and staff can choose what they’d like to do from a varied list of options including more practical things like learning new software programs or exploring new teaching theories.

Continue reading “workers revolt against vygotsky – an account of unofficial action at tower hamlets college”

how we fought to defend education in tamworth

by Rob Marsden

Starting out

It is 16 months since Staffordshire County Council announced its plans to restructure education in Tamworth and 14 months since we launched an active and vibrant campaign in opposition to this.

tamworthsos

Hands Off Tamworth Schools was born after a wave of outrage swept the town at plans to turn one of our five High Schools into an Academy, close one school completely and remove all Sixth Form provision from the remaining four schools and concentrate it on a single site, entirely in the hands of the Academy. Continue reading “how we fought to defend education in tamworth”

occupation at university of california, santa cruz

Students at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) have begun an occupation in protest at the slashing of services and jobs in the state. The current economic crisis has given the state government reason to carry out an ideological war on public services, and the occupation intends to resist such attacks: however, students are also engaged in a more thoroughgoing critique of how education is organised. One example of this is the recently published ‘Communiqué from an Absent Future‘, calling for such occupations, which we reproduce below.

ucscoccupation

Like the society to which it has played the faithful servant, the university is bankrupt. This bankruptcy is not only financial. It is the index of a more fundamental insolvency, one both political and economic, which has been a long time in the making. No one knows what the university is for anymore. We feel this intuitively. Gone is the old project of creating a cultured and educated citizenry; gone, too, the special advantage the degree-holder once held on the job market. These are now fantasies, spectral residues that cling to the poorly maintained halls. Continue reading “occupation at university of california, santa cruz”

victory at lewisham bridge

A message from the occupiers.  For our previous coverage see here and here.

On Thursday 30th July Ben Bradshaw´s (secretary of State at the Department of Culture Media and Sport) secretary called Hands Off Lewisham Bridge with “a very important message”; that the English Heritage Grade II listing awarded to Lewisham Bridge Primary School remains in place. This is a great victory for the campaign as it means that Lewisham Council must return the children and staff to the school in September as Chris Threlfall promised. We expect the return to school should not subject to any delay that will cause staff and parents further disruption. For example we understand that the school kitchen needs to be refurbished as parts of it were dismantled for the move to the Mornington Centre. So we expect any necessary works to start as soon as possible (cleaning, refurbishment of the kitchen and health and safety checks). Continue reading “victory at lewisham bridge”