revive flying pickets and spread the actions

by Chris Kane

For many union bureaucrats, hardened cynics on the traditional left and post-modern professors who believe the working class has disappeared, the events of the last five months must be very frustrating. We have seen the revival of unofficial strikes during the Lindsey oil refinery dispute, with the complete and open defiance of the anti-trade union laws. We have also seen a whole string of workplace occupations, the most recent being at the Ford Visteon plants in Belfast and London.

These past months of revived activity and assertiveness by workers have been remarkable: it is clear evidence that there is an alternative to simply accepting the recession. It offers the possibility of gathering together the forces of the labour movement to challenge the employers’ offensive now underway. The choice facing the working class could not have been posed more starkly than when Wales TUC general secretary Martin Mansfield called on the congress to “drive forward partnership working” with employers, a new wave of unofficial strikes were breaking out down the road at Milford Haven in South Wales spreading to Vale of Glamorgan and a string of other sites. Continue reading “revive flying pickets and spread the actions”

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go forth and occupy! – editorial of the commune, part 1

The first week of April saw the leaders of world capitalism converge on London for the G20 summit, which agreed to a version of Gordon Brown’s latest plan to “save the world”. The Prime Minister boasted that a “historic” $1.1 trillion programme of investment and new regulation for international finance would mean a “new world order”.

Such efforts at state support for the financial giants and Brown’s “quantitative easing” (printing money) may indeed serve to relieve some rather constipated markets. And yet the slogan of the London summit “Stability. Growth. Jobs.” and the grandiose speeches of our rulers ring hollow to the many millions who are being put out of a job and whose services are being slashed as a result of the capitalists’ crisis in the here and now. Continue reading “go forth and occupy! – editorial of the commune, part 1”

we can defy the jobs massacre – editorial of the commune, part 2

Workers have nothing to rely on other than our own strength. Petitions and charters, appeals to statesmen and grand plans for what we think a “workers’ government” would do in Gordon Brown’s place are not much use to anyone being put out of a job. They are little better for these workers than the TUC’s pamphlets on how to access the JobCentre, and will do no more to solve the greatest problem in the British labour movement today, which is not as much a lack of numbers-with some seven million trade unionists-as the lack of confidence which has afflicted unions and most social movements since the crushing of the miners’ strike a quarter of a century ago.

What really shows the way forward are the struggles coming from below, some of which are reported on in this issue of The Commune. We should not collapse into euphoria that capitalism is collapsing-most class fights at the moment are about resisting attacks rather than taking a punch at the employers-but there is certainly room for optimism, because the idea of taking collective action and fighting back is being popularised and confidence is being restored. Continue reading “we can defy the jobs massacre – editorial of the commune, part 2”

text of leaflet for 28th march ‘put people first’ demo

The New Labour minister Ed Balls has described the current downturn as the greatest crisis of capitalism “for over a hundred years”, and wage-freezes and mass-lay-offs are biting hard. Unemployment has now surpassed two million, February seeing a further 138,000 people forced onto the dole as a result of the biggest jobs cull since 1971.

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The supposedly all-powerful market, whose authority ‘could not’ be challenged, is laid bare, as a fraud: the emperor has no clothes. The corporate press now openly mocks the free-marketeer ideology which was so central to the ruling class’s discourse only a couple of years ago. Presidents and prime ministers, too, say they are breaking with the ‘old ways’ of neo-liberalism: Gordon Brown even told the European Parliament on Tuesday 24th March:

“The problem of unbridled free markets in an unsupervised market place is that they can reduce all relationships to transactions, all motivations to self-interest, all sense of value to consumer choice and all sense of worth to a price tag.” Continue reading “text of leaflet for 28th march ‘put people first’ demo”

30th march london forum: what unions do we have, and what do we need?

The next of The Commune’s ‘uncaptive minds‘ forums on “capitalism and the working class today” is on the subject of “what unions do we have, and what do we need?

The meeting, taking place at the Lucas Arms near London’s King’s Cross from 7pm on Monday 30th, will be looking at the decomposition of the official labour movement in recent decades; the signs of revival of class struggle and the new forms of activism taking place among the casual workforce;  and the dynamics of rank and file and bureaucracy, and how we can empower self-organisation.

The speakers leading off the discussion will be John Moloney, a PCS activist in the Department for Work and Pensions; Fabien Liberski, Convenor and Health & Safety Officer in Southwark Council, who was victimised by his employer with the collusion of UNISON bureaucrats; and Alberto Einstein Durango, a cleaner activist who played an important role in the victory of cleaners at Schroders in the City of London and is now helping with the Mitie/Willis campaign in the face of resistance by the Unite union.

All are welcome to come and take part in the debate. Email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com to register your interest or to find out more information. A map appears below.

workplace organising conference 22nd march

The London Shop Stewards Network invites all workers, reps and activists to what we believe will be an interesting, relevant and useful event co-run with members of the Campaign Against Immigration Controls (CAIC), N&E London Solidarity Federation (SolFed) and the RMT Metronet workplace strike committee.

The conference will be made up of 3 sessions:

Rank & file organising ~ from workplace organising, setting up strike committees and running a successful dispute – Metronet RMT Reps

Migrant workers in struggle ~ resisting NI checks in the workplace – CAIC

Developing class consciousness & resistance in the workplace – SolFed

Sunday 22nd March – 10am to 3pm

Somerstown Community Centre

150 Ossulston Street London NW1 1EE

(5mins walk from the British Library Euston/Kings X)

report on oil refinery strikes meeting

by David Broder

On the evening of 13th February the Socialist Party and Respect Renewal held a joint meeting in London on the recent wildcat strikes by construction workers across Britain. Apparently the only significant meeting on the strikes taking place in the capital, the meeting was led off by Lindsey Oil Refinery strike committee member Keith Gibson (SP) and the left candidate for general secretary of the Amicus section of Unite, Jerry Hicks (RR). The meeting was a mix of interesting and informed commentary and sectarian jibes.

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Speaking to a sixty-strong audience, Keith Gibson gave an interesting talk on the background to the dispute and how workers had argued that the strike was not a national or race issue, but one of class. The employer had sought to divide the workforce by keeping the Italian migrant workers on barges away from their local counterparts, and the media had played up the significance of nationalist elements, but he had been able to appeal to internationalist sentiment. When some people went to intimidate the Italian workers in the barges, strikers had broken up their demonstrations, while the BNP were chased off picket lines upon their arrival. Continue reading “report on oil refinery strikes meeting”