giz a fightback: the ‘80s unemployed

Unemployment threatens to hit early-1980s levels: but how can the jobless stand up to the government? Terry Liddle reflects on his experience of the unemployed movement in those years

In the early 1980s there were 3 million unemployed and students were moving straight from graduation to the dole queue. No exception, I went to sign on at Spray Street dole office in Woolwich. Outside a group of people were leafleting. They were Greenwich Action Group On Unemployment (GAGOU).  As the factories which lined the river from Erith to Deptford closed down, it was set up by the newly unemployed and a community worker from Greenwich Council, shades of things to come!

GAGOU spent a lot of time on individual cases of which there were many. In this we enlisted the help of sympathetic staff at the dole office. And in turn when they were in dispute our banner would appear on their picket line. But we did not make links with local union branches, many of which would not let the unemployed join, or with the Trades Council. Continue reading “giz a fightback: the ‘80s unemployed”

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unemployment, work and capitalism: 12th april london forum

The next of The Commune’s London public meetings on the themes of the election will be looking at unemployment. We will be discussing not only redundancies caused by the current crisis but also the role of the unemployed in capitalist society. Do we demand ‘the right to work’, and how can we organise against attacks on benefits claimants?

The discussion will be led off by Sean Bonney (The Commune) and Christine Hulme (PCS union, Department for Work and Pensions). The meeting takes place from 7pm on Monday 12th April at the Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, near Old Street. Continue reading “unemployment, work and capitalism: 12th april london forum”

crisis ploughs on in united states

by Dennis Marcucci
from Philadelphia

Worst than expected economic reports and job cut announcements show that the prospects for working people in the USA and around the world are going to worsen. After all, most of the world is capitalist, and most of the world is poor. So what does that tell you about this canker sore of an economic system?

Wall Street economists had said that unemployment claims would fall below 450,000. They were wrong. There was only a slight decrease to 470,000. Any reports have to be viewed with suspicion. I was speaking to an “expert” economist on a radio talk show two weeks ago who was telling the audience how claims for unemployment fell. I said that what is not being reported is (i) workers who exhausted their benefits and are now off the rolls and are viewed as employed. (ii) workers who were collecting benefits and found part time minimum wage employment and (iii) workers working temp jobs or contract work. Continue reading “crisis ploughs on in united states”

BA strike: on a wing and a prayer?

by Gregor Gall

It seems like the ultimate kamikaze action: mutually assured destruction. The company you work for is already in a huge amount of trouble, posting a £401m loss last year, a lot more this year, running a massive pension deficit and you decide to press the nuclear button by going on strike for 12 days at the busiest time of the year.

If you wanted to engineer the bankruptcy of your employer, put yourself on the dole early in the New Year and without much in the way of a redundancy deal, this seems to be the perfect way to do it. In a monopoly service this would not necessarily matter but we know passengers will choose another airline in order to get to their destination. And they won’t always come back either.

So the decision by 92% of those who voted “yes” for strike action on an 80% turnout is completely crazy, right? Continue reading “BA strike: on a wing and a prayer?”

recession and the rank-and-file

Sheila Cohen explores the relation of capitalist crisis to upturns in working-class struggle

Clearly, it’s difficult in the midst of the current “double dip” recession to predict whether further key struggles will follow the Vestas and Visteon occupations, or indeed the less obviously recession-related struggles of engineering construction workers, Leeds refuse collectors and postal workers – not to mention current disputes affecting airline employees, tube workers and bus drivers. The list could go on, and indeed has spurred recent thoughts of a “mini-upsurge” – but are these struggles symptomatic of recession or simply of the general (and grim) rigours of an unrelenting neo-liberal capitalism?

It has never been straightforward, historically, to work out whether recessions spark resistance or dampen it. The arguments are obvious on both sides of the coin – capitalist crisis, with its persistent tendency to dump the effects on the working class, can spur struggle through anger and desperation (the nothing-to-lose syndrome) or suppress it through the terrible fear of job loss, a disaster for working-class families. To use a wise old footballing adage, “It could go either way” – but which way will it go? Continue reading “recession and the rank-and-file”

we’re not ‘all in it together’: no to austerity britain!

editorial of The Commune

The message hammered home at the Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat conferences was clear: ‘we’ have been living beyond our means and now have to accept slashed public spending to steady the ship of state.

cameronpoints

While a few months ago even the mainstream press railed against the excesses of the City of London and corrupt MPs, today their fire is directed almost solely against working-class living standards. The only questions on the papers’ and pollsters’ agenda are ‘what should be cut?’ and ‘who do you trust most to make the right cuts?’. Continue reading “we’re not ‘all in it together’: no to austerity britain!”