building from below in our communities

Steve Ryan reports on the ‘Community organising and tenants’ struggles’ session at our recent summer school.

This workshop was introduced with descriptions from Isabel Parrott (London Coalition against Poverty) and Camille Barbagallo (Friends of Hackney Nurseries ) and a member of the unemployed workers union.

Each illustrated their experiences of community and tenant organising, outlining both the positive and negative sides. It was interesting to hear their views on how they saw the campaigns as political and the experience of interacting with interested parties , especially where sometimes their demands were counterpoised to those parties (Unemployed Workers’ Unions and PCS members working in the Department for Work and Pensions, for example). Continue reading “building from below in our communities”

despite ’empowerment’… people still have power

by Leo Singer

” The College principal says cuts will hit adult education”
“Services have been streamlined and centralised to curb duplication”
” increasing its council tax precept by 4.8 per cent”
“… plans to end funding for elite swimming, switch off street lights at night, cut two recycling centres and close crèches at leisure centres”
“… cutting around 70 jobs, with more to come in future years”

This is just a limited selection of headlines from the local papers all over Merseyside and Wallasey, collected this spring. Local governments are preparing us for a new era, a tightening of belts, expected after the national elections. Similar headlines are easy to find in papers all over the country. No wonder… as shit runs down. Continue reading “despite ’empowerment’… people still have power”

community unionism: from the workplace to the streets

by Brian Garvey

“We have been the victims of so many acts of corruption… But the workers have supported us in forming a new trade union, because they want change – a radical change – so that we are the new administration of the collective contract, because the union we have is useless” Luis Flugo, Aseven soft drinks company, Venezuela

“I looked at the Mater hospital – this new, ‘state of the art facility’, and there wasn’t even changing rooms for the domestics. Not even a changing room. And I wondered, how did the unions allow that?” Domestic health worker, Belfast

It is recognised that unions need to change. Union membership in the 26 counties has fallen by 14% (currently 32% of workforce) between 1994-2008. Writing on the situation in UK where membership levels have fallen continuously since 1979 (currently only 28% of workforce) and employers have been ‘emboldened by neoliberal policies’ Jane Willis of University of London writes that ‘trade unions cannot simply wait until economic and political conditions become more favourable’ for their recovery. Continue reading “community unionism: from the workplace to the streets”

building from below: the case for working in residents’ groups

by Dave Spencer

The public sector will be in for a kicking no matter who wins the 2010 General Election – New Labour or the Tories. The new government will plan for jobs to be lost and services to be cut – to a greater extent than we have ever known in Britain. It will not be “decimation” of the sector, because the talk is of 15% to 20% cuts – that is one in five, not one in ten! This is to pay for the £1.3 trillion bail-out of the banks (according to Robert Peston and he seems to know!).

In the 1980s the Thatcher government attacked the working class by destroying much of Britain’s manufacturing base and of course by breaking the power of the miners. Now is the turn of the public sector. The key lessons from the bad experience of the Thatcher years are the lack of preparation by the working class for the battle and a complete lack of political nous by the trade unions and the left. Militancy is not enough – you have to have some basic political strategy other than saving your own skin or building your own sect. Continue reading “building from below: the case for working in residents’ groups”