No Safety, No Work zoom meeting, July 14, and other notes

The Anarchist Communist Group are launching a new “No Safety, No Work” campaign, with a Zoom meeting planned for Tuesday July 14:

“Many workers are being asked to work in unsafe environments. Many more will be asked to do so as they return to work over the coming days and weeks.

The Anarchist Communist Group (ACG) is launching a No Safety, No Work campaign. This is a campaign to be led by workers trying to keep themselves and others safe at work in the time of Covid 19. We know that the working class cannot rely on employers or the government to keep us safe.

Tens of thousands of people have died in this pandemic, and even more are killed in the work place every year. None of these deaths were inevitable but were the results of the greed of the bosses and the rulers of our society. As more and more people are returning to work, the government has not passed a single law guaranteeing workers safety but has issued guidance to employers. This is not enough to keep us safe.

Firings and redundancies

Other workers, meanwhile, will be hit with firings and redundancy notices and won’t be returning to work safely or unsafely. And if not threatened with job losses, other workers will be forced to accept worse conditions, pay or hours cut, there will be little help from the UK government.

Workers’ Self Defence

Individually workers can do very little to protect themselves, but together we can make a difference. The No Safety, No Work campaign is an act of self defence against the abuses of our employers and the government. Campaigns such as these exist to both protect workers lives today, but also to act as template for and a guide to a better society; a society where workers have control, autonomy, and are not beholden the bosses.

The government and the wealthy will use the current crisis to cut taxes on the rich and steal from the poor. They can only do that if we, the working class, allow them to. This campaign will be part of a movement to resist and fight back against economic attacks on working people. It is a campaign which firmly opposes any job losses and a return to the austerity that has been unleashed on our class by the bosses and successive governments over the last decade.

We want to hear from you

If you are being asked to work in an unsafe environment and want your employer named and shamed, let us know by emailing us (details below).

We are also looking for people to write accounts of their return to work and the lack of health and safety in the workplace. The No Safety, No Work campaign will treat all whistleblower information securely and confidentially.

If you are involved in a struggle against your employer and you want help or information, then get in touch.

This campaign is also aimed at union members not to let their unions sell out on their previous terms and conditions in return for jobs. If you think your union is doing this, tell us.

If you are an individual or a group that would like to be involved in the campaign then get in touch at safereturn@anarchistcommunism.org”

They also have a report on the calls for a new campaign against Universal Credit, and an instagram page with some very nice graphic design.

On a similar note, the Let’s Get Rooted project are starting a new interview series on “workers’ power during the lockdown”.

“‘Let’s get rooted’ invites you to take part in a series of interviews about the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the situation at work and how the current m ovements against police violence reverberate where we work.

Interviews are at the centre of getting organised to struggle for better conditions. We think we have a lot to learn from other workers and we think being interviewed and taking part in detailed conversations can also help us to look at our own workplace from new perspectives.

Like in any crisis, the normal power relations between workers and bosses is shaken up. With the interviews we want to understand what conflicts have emerged since the lockdown; to what extent workers have had to take over more control in order to make work safe or possible at all; how the economic crisis has changed things at work; if the bosses can use the crisis to squeeze us more or pay us less; and of course, if new possibilities for collective organising have emerged.

We think that in the coming months there will be a massive build up of tension around wages. The lockdown has revealed to many low paid workers in the ‘essential sectors’ that they have social power. They may come out of the lockdown more confident. At the same time, unemployment is increasing and the bosses will try to use this to put pressure on wages from above. We don’t want campaigns and quick answers, rather we want to understand the actual balance of power at work.

We therefore plan to interview workers from various sectors: from delivery drivers, factory and office workers to teachers, tube drivers, social workers, NHS staff, charity volunteers and school students. We will highlight differences and commonalities within our class.

We hope to gather and edit the interviews and publish them on our blog and perhaps publish them as a pamphlet. The interviews will be anonymous and we’ll take care not to publish information that could put people at risk. Feel free to use the questionaire below to write up a report yourself or to ask us to interview you, which can be easier and more fruitful. Feel free to circulate this proposal to other co-workers and friends.”

The project also now has an East London group, which might be worth checking out if you’re in that area.

On Friday 10th July, when the Durham Miner’s Gala would usually be happening, there’s a “class justice” online meeting happening instead, featuring speakers from the Orgreave Justice campaign, the spycops campaign, the Blacklist Support Group, Grenfell campaigners and more.

Finally, the United Voices of the World union have won an important victory over sick pay for cleaners, security guards and other outsourced staff at the Ministry of Justice, and they’ve also put out a call for people who might be able to help them with a wide range of tasks, which might be worth taking a look at.

Posted in Anarchists, Health, Unions, Work | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Updates on BLM/George Floyd Uprising defendants, and Tower Hamlets council strike

Uprising defendant news:

Urooj Rahman and Colinford Mattis have been granted release on bail. Pre-trial defendants who are still incarcerated include:

Samantha Shader, #83823-053, MDC Brooklyn, Metropolitan Detention Center, P.O. Box 329002, Brooklyn, NY, 11232

Margaret Channon, #49955-086, FDC SeaTac, Federal Detention Center, P.O. Box 13900, Seattle, WA 98198

Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal, #70002-066, FDC Philadelphia, Federal Detention Center, PO Box 562, Philadelphia, PA 19105

A fundraiser is also running for Dylan Robinson in Minnesota, although his prison address hasn’t been made public.

In more prison-related news, the San Francisco Bay View is a long-standing piece of prison movement infrastructure which is due to be taken over by the incarcerated writer and organizer Keith “Malik” Washington on his upcoming release, and they’re currently running a fundraiser to ensure some kind of financial stability for the near future. Any donations to help keep this unique platform going, and keep getting print editions into prisoners’ hands, will be much appreciated.

Back in the UK, Tower Hamlets council staff organised through Unison will be striking against the imposition of new contracts on the 3rd, 6th and 7th. You can read more about why they’re striking here, and the new Let’s Get Rooted initiative has a bit of analysis of the situation. There’s a few ways you can support their action:

Join our socially distanced picket lines (from 8am):
We will be having socially distant picket protests at a number of locations across the borough. Come and support us at:

  • Albert Jacobs House (62 Roman Rd, E2 0PG)
  • John Onslow House (1 Ewart Place, E3 5EQ)
  • Mile End Hospital (Beaumont House, E1 4DG)
  • Mulberry Place (5 Clove Crescent, E14 1SA)
  • Poplar Idea Store (Chrisp St Market, E14 0EA)
  • Tower Hamlets Car Pound (Commercial Rd)
  • Whitechapel Idea Store (E1 1BU)

Support the strike, Defend the NHS • Friday 3 July, 11.30am via Zoom • Online Rally with Keep our NHS Public

Sign up for our rally here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/friday-3rd-monday-6th-tower-rewards-strike-virtual-picket-and-rally-tickets-110797305724

You can also send them messages of solidarity through the form on their site here.

Posted in Repression, Strikes, Unions, Work | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Repression news: three protesters sentenced to death in Iran, Eric King assaulted by guards

Two quick updates on repression/legal/prison news.

From the Anarchist Union of Iran and Afghanistan:

Three young people were sentenced to death by Teheran’s “Revolutionary Court”.

Saeed Tamjidi, Amir Hossein Moradi and Mohammad Rajabi were charged, among others, with “participation in the destruction of public property and encouragement of insurgency against the Islamic Republic”.

The sentence has been confirmed by Iran’s Supreme Court and the three are now awaiting their executions.

Tamjidi, Moradi and Rajabi were charged in relation to the uprising in Iran which begin in November 2019. Initially triggered by an increase in fuel prices, it quickly spread to more than 150 large and small Iranian cities and lead to the calls to overthrow the government of Iran.

The uprising is recognised as the most severe anti-government unrest in Iran since the raise of the Islamic Republic in 1979 and saw the protesters destroying hundreds of government banks, including the central bank, Islamic religious centres and attacking fifty military bases.

The Iranian government used the country’s security forces to brutally crush the rebellion with the help of electric batons, tear gas, water cannons, armoured vehicles, tanks and helicopters. The internet communications were shut offon order to prevent the protesters from organising online.

It is said that 15,000 people were arrested during the protests, and thousands were murdered or “disappeared”.

You can also hear new recordings of anarchist prisoner Soheil Arabi speaking in English with his own voice here.

From Eric King’s support crew:

On June 18th Eric was taken into the showers while shackled and attacked. The guard took the metal detection wand and swung at his Each of his ankles and then then he would life his leg this officer would swing at the other. The guard then picked Eric up and dropped him on his head onto the concrete in the shower. He woke up after loosing consciousness for 10 seconds thinking they were pouring water on his face. But it was his own blood.

Eric was transported to Swedish Medical Center and was give 6 stitches and was diagnosed with a moderate to severe concussion. They hospital would not give him the results of the scan or release it to his family or lawyer because they told him “he is government property”.

The reality is folks have been fighting for over a month to be able to get an expert in to assess Eric. We believe he is suffering from a traumatic brain injury after officers at FCI Florence kicked him in the head for 5 minutes in August of 2018. We were so hopeful that we were going to be able to get help for him and see where he is at with the mixture of trauma and brain injury he has been struggling with. His memory has been affected as well as many other aspects of his life. Officers at FCI Englewood know this. They knew that we were trying to get a medical expert in because of a head injury concern… and then they dropped him on a concrete fucking floor on his head in the bathroom while Shackled up.

This all follows a situation where evidence that his case manager out of FCI Englewood in attempted to make a deal with a person with a WP prisoner (did not cooperate) to get Eric attacked. This information was turned over to the court before they denied his transfer to another facility. What the prosecutor chose to do with this evidence, evidence that a crime was committed at FCI Englewood was to run and tell the prison. Within a week both of them had assault shots. Both for water both in separate areas of the prison.

The guard who attacked him was the same guard who claimed Eric assaulted him with a drop of water. They attempted to refer the case to the FBI for prosecution but less than a month ago the FBI released the case back the prison. The guards attempt to have him charged criminally fell flat.

The reality at this point is Eric is not safe in  bop custody. Over the past two years at 5 different prisons the BOP has a pattern of placed white supremacists in cells, in fenced in areas, close to him on his tier, in an attempt to have Eric attacked.

When he returned from the hospital he discovered his entire tier was attacked and pepper sprayed after Eric was left. He was denied the ability to contact his attorney and family. It was only on his weekly allotted 20 minute legal call that we were given this news. They also denied him last week the ability to consult his counsel when he had an appellate deadline. The pattern of BOP intervention in his ability to fight his case continues.

  • The US Marshalls need to move Eric to non BOP Facility.
  • The North Central Regional Office NEEDS to open an investigation into this officer, as well as the ones that may have been standing by watching. When Eric asked for one to be opened he was denied.
  • The prosecutor needs to drop this fucking case.

We are very hesitant to ask for folks to call in and advocate for Eric because the last time this happened. A year and a half ago, his phone privileges were taken away. But at this point Eric needs folks help.

J Sheehan is the Director of prisoner operations for the US Marshalls. The ONLY entity that can choose to move Eric out of FCI Englewood right now. Their phone number is 703-740-8400

The BOP North Central Regional Office is the officer who gets to decide if the BOP will invsitgate this *criminal* attack. Their phone number is (913) 621-3939

Eric’s prisoner number is 27090045

Eric can not receive letters

Eric can not receive books

Eric can not receive magazines

Eric can not call his family

Eric is completely isolated at the whim of the Trump DOJ right now and need folks to help keep him safe.

As well as contacting the phone numbers suggested, people can also donate to Eric’s legal defense funds, which is seemingly the only way open to show any support now that they’ve cut off all his communication with the outside world.

 

Posted in Anarchists, Repression | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Health and safety dispute at Manchester airport, BLM legal defence, the history of the Syrian revolution and more

Reel News report that a dispute over health and safety and blacklisting has broken out at Manchester Airport. In their words:

“Construction workers are picketing Manchester airport over the disgraceful treatment that 70 sparks and fitters have received from JCK Limited on the T2 Transformation Project.

After the site was closed over safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, JCK laid everyone off with no pay whatsoever – and SACKED a worker who expressed concern over the conditions that led to the site closure.

Other workers have been sacked for refusing overtime, and for asking what safeguards were in place when the site reopened.

The most shocking aspect of this sorry episode is that ten Greater Manchester councils – all Labour councils in a city with a Labour mayor – own 65% of Manchester Airport Group (MAG), but only three have expressed any concern at all, let alone done anything about it. So if you live in the area, please write to your local councils and MPs.

Meanwhile, construction workers will continue taking action until this is sorted out.”

For more on the subject, please watch their video.

 

The Alliance of Middle Eastern and North African Socialists are running a 12-part series of webinars on “The Syrian Revolution: A History from Below”. They describe it as:

“The Online Summer Institute titled “The Syrian Revolution: A History from Below” is a webinar series about grassroots politics, class struggles, and state violence in Syria since the 1970s up until the present. The 12-part series (June 20th – August 5th) includes presentations from activists, organizers, academics, and writers, who will discuss an array of topics ranging from grassroots movements, imperialism and anti-imperialism, political economy, international solidarity, feminist struggles, the prison system, healthcare weaponization, Palestinian solidarity, Kurdish self-determination, refugees, revolutionary art, and the future of the Syrian and regional uprisings (2011 and today).

The Online Summer Institute highlights local struggles, lived experiences, and the expertise of Syrians with diverse backgrounds (political prisoners, doctors, activists, intellectuals, artists, students, refugees, academics, etc…). Participants will discuss the history of violence in Syria, the pitfalls of a besieged revolution, and the future of a country in ruins. We are proud to say that more than half of our panelists are Syrians. (More Syrian voices would have been included but that would have meant a longer webinar series and translation from Arabic, both of which would have postponed and extended the series further.)

This webinar will challenge the mainstream, orientalist, and manichean perspectives that have come to dominate narratives surrounding the events that have transpired in Syria since 2011… The webinars propose an alternative to these hegemonic narratives; a people’s history of the Syrian revolution. This type of history provides an entry point to understanding the Syrian revolution, its popular protests and local struggles. The curriculum webinar will work to center the interests of popular classes, subjugated communities and marginalized groups while providing an alternative analysis of the revolution by emphasizing progressive and internationalist perspectives.”

Topics covered include “Imperialism, Anti-Imperialism and the Syrian Revolution”, “Feminist Politics and the Syrian Revolution”, “From BLM to Palestine and Syria: The Politics of Revolutionary Solidarity”, “Capitalism and Class Struggle in Syria”, “From Syria to Mexico: The Fight for a World without Borders”, and much more, so if any of that sounds interesting to you you might want to check it out.

The impressive courage and militancy of the wave of protests that’s swept across the US and beyond has predictably started to attract some very serious criminal charges, with around 75 people facing federal charges so far. At least three people are facing heavy legal threats in Brooklyn:

You can write to them at:

SAMANTHA SHADER 83823-053

COLINFORD MATTIS #83821-053

Uroo Rahman #83822-053 (her name is Urooj but seems to have been entered into the system as Uroo)

All are at:

MDC BROOKLYN, P.O. BOX 329002, BROOKLYN, NY, 11232

As ever, if you are writing to someone who is pre-trial, don’t ask questions about their case. Discussing what a prisoner is alleged to have done can easily come back to haunt them during their trial or negotiations leading up to it… do not write anything you wouldn’t want Fox News, a cop, or a judge to see.

Sam’s fundraiser seems to be down, but you can donate to Colinford here and to Urooj here.

Those are the only organised defence efforts I’m aware of so far, but I imagine more will be coming soon, both over there and back in the UK.

And on that note, I appreciate times are hard for a lot of people, but if you’ve got any money to spare, a few ongoing fundraising efforts:

US prisoner Greg Curry, wrongfully convicted of murder after the Lucasville Uprising, is selling some quite nice face masks to raise money for his legal funds to get his case re-tried.

Ferguson uprising-related anarchist prisoner Eric King is facing trial soon and is still under incredibly heavy mail restrictions, so donating to his legal funds is one of the main ways that people can help him during this very difficult time. You can read more about his situation in his own words here.

Finally, crust legends Doom are selling an EP as a fundraiser for the international anti-fascist defence fund, or if your tastes are more towards the electronic end of things Optimo Music have just put out a compilation raising money for No Evictions Glasgow.

Posted in Internationalism, Repression, Strikes, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cleaners told to choose between PPE and their union, zoom debate on university struggle, and more

A few quick notes:

On Saturday 20th, the Angry Workers/Let’s Get Rooted project are hosting a discussion with students and university workers from Edinburgh, London, New York and New Delhi. In their words,

“Our focus will be to debate how the university is separated from, but also part of the wider social production process and therefore of class struggle:

* Universities as capitalist enterprises and the struggles against it

* The relation between students, academic staff and campus workers

* The changed relationship between students and workers in general

* The current discontent of educated technical workers, e.g. at Amazon or Google

* How can we go beyond campus politics and relate to workers’ struggles beyond being ‘allies’

Comrades will report from current struggles at Goldsmith (Goldsmith Workers Action), CUNY, NYU GSOC-UAW Local 2110, Edinburgh university and the experience of the ‘University Workers’/‘City Notes’ initiatives in Delhi.

https://citynotesinquiry.wordpress.com/.

The meeting will take place on Saturday, 20th of June, 4pm UK London time

If you are interested in participating in the debate please send us an email: angryworkersworld@gmail.com”

That day is also the date of the Orgreave virtual rally, although that’s happening earlier in the day so you could do both if you have the energy.

Elsewhere, cleaners organised through the UVW union at Ark Globe Academy have recorded their bosses “offering the workers face masks and the possible payment of the London Living Wage on condition they leave their union”, and now both legal and strike action seems set to follow. The UVW also continue to run a great series of weekly online talks on Wednesday afternoons.

On a related note, if you would like a face mask that doesn’t require you to leave your union, US prisoner Greg Curry, wrongfully convicted of murder after the Lucasville Uprising, is selling some quite nice face masks to raise money for his legal funds to get his case re-tried. If you don’t need a mask but still fancy helping out, there’s an option to pay for masks to be sent to protesters in Denver, or just to straight-up donate to his legal fund.

 

Posted in Strikes, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Monday 15th June: Further day of action in support of sacked ESOL teacher

From the IWW:

Promise Training Centre, an English academy with centres in Hayes, Harrow and Tottenham sacked Daniela at the beginning of the lockdown without any compensation, leaving her with no income at all. Promise is a subcontractor for Barnet and Southgate College, which directly supervises the performance of the teachers and the centres in general. As such, they are responsible for the work conditions at Promise.

Our previous call outs towards Promise resulted in them reporting the union to the police, so it’s more important than ever to put pressure on Promise and Barnet College. We have informed the College of how Daniela has been mistreated by Promise, but they haven’t taken any action to address this with Promise. Barnet College must drop the contract with Promise unless the latter pays Daniela a month’s wage of compensation and the corresponding holiday pay.  Pay Daniela her dues!

You can read Daniela’s personal account of how Promise mistreated her here:

https://bit.ly/2LguvzV

 

What to do:

Send a few emails to Diane Sage, PA to the Principal and to Tracey McIntosh, the Executive Director of Partnerships and Commercial:

diane.sage@barnetsouthgate.ac.uk

Tracey.Mcintosh@barnetsouthgate.ac.uk

info@barnetsouthgate.ac.uk

 

Let them know that what Promise has done is unacceptable and that the College should drop their contract with Promise unless they compensate Daniela for the way Promise mistreated her.

For example:

 

Hi Diane,

 

Promise Training Centre employed Daniela on a false self-employed contract.They didn’t pay her any holidays and as soon as the lockdown started, fired her. Daniela has been left without an income and now Promise must compensate her. By allowing the mistreatment of its subcontractors’ workers, Barnet & Southgate College is severely damaging its own  reputation. Make Promise pay or drop your contract with them!

 

Barnet College, stop working with dodgy employers! Drop your contract with Promise now!

 

Promise Training Centre, it’s time to pay up!

 

Or simply:

 

Hi Tracey,

 

Promise Training Centre’s harmful actions against Daniela won’t be tolerated. Compensation must be paid to her, along with her holiday pay. Barnet & Southgate is responsible for the actions taken by its subcontractors, and must take action until Daniela gets what she is owed.

 

Shame on Barnet & Southgate College! Drop your contract with Promise now!

 

We would appreciate it if you could email them several times during the day.

 

SAY NO TO WAGE THEFT!

 

BARNET & SOUTHGATE COLLEGE, DROP YOU CONTRACT WITH PROMISE NOW!

 

PROMISE TRAINING CENTRE – TIME TO PAY UP!

 

When: Monday 15th of June, all day.

Other events coming up this week include the UVW’s meeting with Dave Smith on the blacklist and class struggle in the construction industry on Wednesday, and then the Orgreave virtual rally and Joe Solo gig in the evening.

Posted in Unions, Work | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Saturday June 13: A report from Trafalgar Square

Yesterday was an eventful day. For the sake of posterity, here’s a lightly-edited version of the report posted on twitter by the Malcolm X Movement:*

“History was made today in Ldn: Militant independent black working class youth-led history, in the face of an formidable array of forces railed against them from the govt, to the fascist,from left/BLMUK to wellknown celebrities.
This is an account from the direct experiences of MXM members today, and also our close unified approach with London Black Revs and several other radical black formations.
The background today is nearly 10 years of a general absence of radical grassroots resistance, the last time was August 2011 when we rose up for 3 days after the police murder of Mark Duggan Broadwater Farm crew.
The racist police killing sparked the uprising for 3 days but we didn’t build strategically and instead we suffered further with some 5,000 sent to prison with no political defence campaigns.
Our political voice continued to dampen, to perhaps the worst position is has for generations: all the while we suffered Brexit racist upsurges, Grenfell, Windrush & now tens of thousands needlessly dead from Covid.
The only other time that the militant independent Black-led youth came out in serious numbers and strategy was the Dec 2016 mass protests against nato imposed racist violence & human trafficking in Libya. We were in the centre of those protests.
The Minneapolis Uprising that sparked a Black Revolution for a week following the terrible lynching of George Floyd, our black-led mass militant resistance against the armed forces of the usa state snapped us out of our decades long slumber. The historic turn has happened.
Something has fundamentally changed in our ends/communities. We are walking around council estates and speaking to our peoples, nearly everyone is brimming with pride & the youth want to become revolutionaries. Hardly exaggerating!
NO ONE but the militant black-led working class youth are leading this new era Black Revolution bold and assertive initiatives. This is all independent of the: White left, BLM, the state, the govt, media: pure grassroots!
So for three days in the lead up and until and all thru today there has been an indirect alliance of a massive array of forces against black-led militant youth standing up to the historic threats against the farright triggered by trashing their shitty colonial monuments.
The Tory fascist state threatened to throw us in jail within 24hrs of a protest, BLM, the left, the far right ALL told us to sell out, to give up, to not mobilise and defend ourselves and families against far right anti black provocation. Ha! We fucking showed all those cunts.
So today!! There was disarray as to where we march from and to. It was vaguely understood that we amass at Hyde Park & march along police defined route to Parliament Square, the group that marched from Hyde Park to Parliament Square was around 100. This was at appprox 1pm.
By 1pm fascists had basically taken Trafalgar Square, where our protest was supposed to stand. At approx 2:15pm the 100 on our side marching there is a bit more perhaps 200 and they walk into a Square full of thousands of fascists and riot police. Our side spend nearly 2 hours resisting!
These 100-200 on our side spending nearly 2 hours standing up to and fighting back fascists in Trafalgar Square are now LEGEND. We never use that word lightly. It was hard those trying to get in but blocked by the pigs. But they are today’s core heroes.
For two hours some of our members connected with a lot of crews outside of Trafalgar Square police cordon. They were all finally let in and it was an amazing feeling to be united wiith our resistance comrades. See vid here. Remember: through all this sellouts are demanding people go home! Fuck them. Fuck them.
The police curfew was at 5pm, they opened their cordon and we marched down triumphantly down the strand. Still more comrades are joining us. There’s another chapter of Black Power resistance next!…
We then cross Waterloo Bridge, but there’s more fascists on the other side by Waterloo station. More EDL type fascists get mash up in trying to aggress us. It’s an intense complex messy battles in self defence against fascists & riot police.
It’s at this point riot police move in and make considerable arrests from amongst our comrades. We are busy liaising with other comrades to assist the arrested etc. We must ensure max support to all charged & mobilise in support, love and solidarity.
Crews united, beefs crushed for Black Liberation, fascists were confronted boldly despite screaming calls to sell out all around and fascist terror; new unities made between comrades from across our council estates. Who said dreams can’t come true??!
BIG respect to grassroots who came out today; ya’ll realise how historic today was?
✊🏽 to hard rolling comrades for today, not gonna mention names for obvious reasons. Massive respect to London Black Revs who with us defied all the sell outs & racist terror & helped lead up until today!”

More updates to follow if any relevant legal defence stuff becomes available.

*note: I hadn’t really encountered them before and don’t know much about them, so it’s possible that there might be all sorts of things I’d disagree with them on; still, their courage yesterday was undeniably impressive.

Posted in Racism, The right | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Prisoner support updates: Eric King placed on mail ban, copwatcher Ramsey Orta is free!

Obviously, there’s a lot else going on in the world right now, but just to share two quick prisoner support updates:

Anarchist prisoner Eric King, who’s faced continued and intense harassment from staff ever since being imprisoned on an arson charge connected to the Ferguson uprising, has been hit with a six-month correspondence restriction, meaning that he can no longer receive mail from anyone other than his partner or immediate family.

“For the next 6 months (until this restriction is re-evaluated) Eric will be unable to send or receive any mail from anyone other than his mother and wife.

This is completely devastating for this who care for Eric, and worrying about the difficulties of surviving torture while so isolated. There is a bit of good news in this. Eric will still be able to receive books and magazines.

Right now this is the only way to let Eric know folks out here are rallying for him and here to support him during this terrifying and turbulent time for him.

Softcover books and magazines only. If it is questionable content wise, it is advised not to send it. FCI Englewood is heavily censoring Erics incoming literature.

Books can be sent in mail and from the publisher, or a site similar to Amazon.

Eric King 27090045
FCI Englewood
9595 W Quincy Ave
Littleton, Co. 80123”

Over in New York, Ramsey Orta, who has also been subject to vicious harassment from police on the outside and guards on the inside ever since filming the NYPD killing his friend Eric Garner, is getting out, and people can help him re-enter the world by donating to his welcome home fund here.

We should push for a full amnesty for all charges related to the current uprising, but if that doesn’t happen, we need to keep a close eye on what happens next after things die down, and make sure we’re there to support the next wave of Erics and Ramseys as the system tries to chew them up in retaliation. Also, June 11 is the international day of solidarity with Marius Mason and all long-term anarchist prisoners, if anyone wants to do something for that.

Posted in Anarchists, Repression | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Whose identity is it anyway?: Some inconclusive thoughts on Labour antisemitism, identity, politics, and related matters

Is this what being a gentile ally looks like?

This is a somewhat messy and rambling piece of writing, so by way of an introduction: like a lot of people, I’d given a fair bit of thought over the last few years to questions around left/Labour antisemitism and “identity politics”. Since the end of the Corbyn project, the whole thing seemed a bit less pressing, but I had still been thinking a general reflection on the subject might be worthwhile, and so I decided to make it one of my projects to work on once lockdown started and I found myself with extra time on my hands; then I remembered that thinking about this stuff is infuriating in all sorts of ways and there’s more rewarding things to do even if you can’t leave the house, and put off doing anything about it for the first two months of lockdown.

I was eventually spurred into completing this by two things: 1) the ACG published their own article about identity politics and left antisemitism, which is worthwhile in its way, but didn’t mention a lot of the points that I’d been thinking about, and 2) the George Floyd uprisings started, and it became clear that claims and arguments about identity formed an important part of the counterinsurgency effort.

So if the following has a slightly disjointed character, that’s partly why, as it’s a set of musings about the role of identity mainly prompted by the arguments about UK left antisemitism, but also partially informed by the tactical/strategic debates that have taken place in Black-led anti-police uprisings over the last decade or so. Hopefully it’ll be of some use to someone:

 

It’s possible that when all this is “over”, whatever that means, we’ll be faced with a situation and a set of problems totally unlike anything we knew before. That can’t be ruled out. But if what comes next is anything like the situation before, it’s likely that there will still be some people spending a lot of time arguing about something that they call “identity politics”, which is often not very clearly defined.

I’ve written various things already about my frustration with this kind of vague argument, and, as a small contribution to trying to make the subject a bit clearer, this time I want to examine one area where identity and politics have crossed over quite dramatically in recent years. I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about this subject, and lots of other people have too, but for whatever reason I don’t often see the language of “identity politics” used to describe the row about antisemitism and the Labour Party that often, even though it’s one where claims about identity are central to the political arguments being made by various sides.

What follows isn’t really a clear argument as such, more just a scattered examination of various positions and their assumptions and implications. Hopefully it might be useful to other people, either for thinking about this situation or for other ones where similar claims are being made.

Whose Jews? Our Jews!

“Demographic categories are not coherent, homogeneous “communities” or “cultures” which can be represented by individuals. Identity categories do not indicate political unity or agreement. Identity is not solidarity.”Who is Oakland?

 

One position around identity and politics which I think should be rejected is the idea that an individual or group can speak on behalf of everyone else who shares their identity or social position. I’ve discussed before how the Board of Deputies present a particularly clear-cut example of this tendency, to the extent of demanding that, in the name of “addressing antisemitism”, Labour politicians should swear not to engage with “fringe organisations or individuals” – that is to say, Jews who disagree with the Board of Deputies. There are a lot of things wrong with any statement of this kind, but among the most glaring is the way that it means any critics must be cast out as illegitimate – after all, if I claim to speak on behalf of X group, and someone who claims X identity disagrees with me, then either my claim is nonsense, or I have to show that my critic is not really X.

I’d been thinking a lot about this kind of politics in connection with the claims made by various “representatives of the Jewish community” in the UK over the last few years, but it’s also an important part of the soft end of the counterinsurgency methods used against Black uprisings in the US. From the classic Who is Oakland?:

“People of color who were not only active but central to Occupy Oakland and its various committees are routinely erased from municipal and activist accounts of the encampment. In subsequent months the camp has been denounced by social justice activists, many of whom work directly with the mayor’s office, who have criticized it as a space irreparably compromised by racial and gender privilege… People of color, women and trans* people of color, and white women and trans* people who participated heavily in Occupy Oakland have regularly become both white and (cis) male if they hold to a politics which favors confrontation over consciousness raising.”

Or for a more recent example, also from the Bay Area:

“Self-pronounced leaders in the Bay Area have tried to insinuate that anyone who desires conflict with the police after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis are “White people [who] DON’T get to use Black pain to justify living out riot fantasies.” As if the real white fantasy isn’t people of color policing their own behavior in order to save the white supremacist society from being destroyed. This is an old trick that is worth being exposed, again. Power operates through representation…

In movements it’s the leaders who pretend to represent us when saying it’s not time or it’s not safe for us to revolt, usually hiding behind the vulnerability and power of the uncontrollable youth of color. They mediate our rage in order to gain a seat at the table of power. They are aspiring politicians. This type of power, similar to state power, operates on false binaries. George W. Bush told us “you’re either with us, or with the terrorists” and the movement leaders tell us “you’re either peaceful or you’re a provocateur”, or in this case they weaponize identity politics for obedience to their ideology: “you do what we say or you’re white.””

Innocent of being white

So, that’s one line of argument about politics and identity that I don’t think holds up. Another claim about identity – in the context of the UK left antisemitism argument, one that’s more likely to be made by the BoD’s detractors and Corbyn’s defenders – is the position, stated or implied, that someone with a certain identity can’t hold politics that go against the interests of that group. Again, this position doesn’t hold up to examination. For a hopefully uncontroversial example, Gilad Atzmon is certainly from a Jewish background, but I think his politics clearly, unmistakably cross the line into antisemitism. I was going to list Israel Shamir as a second example, but there seems to be some doubt about the details of his biography so he may not actually be from a Jewish background at all.

Still, other examples aren’t hard to find: think of Candace Owens, or Priti Patel, or Enrique Tarrio, or Andy Ngo, or Miranda Yardley, and so on and so on. It may be odd, but it’s certainly possible for someone to be Jewish and argue for things that would directly harm Jewish people, or a migrant and want increased border controls, and so on and so on, so the presence of people with that identity doesn’t in itself mean that a movement or institution is not racist, or misogynistic, or whatever.

Again, switching between the burning issues of today and those of a few months or a year ago, I had been thinking about this because of the presence of Jews in the anti-zionist movement, but similar discussions could be had about Black cops, or Black mayors or district attorneys or whoever. The career of Andy “GAY ASIAN JOURNALIST ATTACKED BY ANTIFA” Ngo is one more example of how some people can be consistently opposed to identity politics right until the moment when they see a chance to use them to score a point.

No puns please, you’re Jewish

So, if identity categories can’t be treated as homogenous political groupings, if there are people of Jewish background who endorse antisemitic conspiracy theories, and the existence of Black cops doesn’t mean that the police force as an institution is no longer racist, does that mean that “identity politics” is fully discredited so we can just sack off thinking about identity altogether? Again, I’m not sure it’s that simple. As much as we might declare that we’re against something called “identity politics”, I don’t think affecting colourblindness is useful either, which means that we still have to find a way to think about the ways that identity and politics are related to each other.

To return to what we could call the “Jewish Voice for Labour dilemma”: a noticeably high number of the alleged antisemitism controversies of the last few years involved people from Jewish backgrounds. As I’ve said, I don’t think the fact of being Jewish automatically puts them above all criticism, but it’s not totally irrelevant either.

There’s an example which is so extreme it seems like a hypothetical scenario someone might make up if they were being silly, except that it happened: Jo Bird, a Jewish Labour councillor, who was suspended for the Labour Party for making a “Jew Process” pun while discussing how to tackle antisemitism. See here for an example of her writing on the subject, including the offending pun.

Obviously, this would be a stupid non-story even if she were a gentile, and even if we treat the “Jew process” pun as having some kind of substantive content rather than just being someone who likes pun making a pun: I’m not aware of any definition of antisemitism that’s so wide-ranging as to include things like “bloody Jews, they get everywhere, always scheming about how to provide a strong ethical framework to resolve disputes in a fair and balanced manner”, because that’s simply not a thing that antisemites say. But the fact that she’s Jewish pushes it over the edge into being absolutely farcical. And yet the irresponsibly scaremongering, unhelpfully Islamophobic, Campaign Against Antisemitism insist on making post after post after post about Jo Bird, always emphasising the fact that she made a pun, as if Jews who make puns are somehow a serious threat to Jewish life who need to be monitored and opposed at all times.*

So, that’s one particularly extreme, and extremely inane, example, but it points up a broader problem. In general, I don’t agree with everything that Jewish Voice for Labour say, and I think that they often defend people who, in my view, have crossed the line into doing or saying something unacceptable; but I would hesitate to call them antisemitic, and I certainly view them differently to how I would view an all-gentile group who held the same positions. Which is to say that, no matter how much we may insist that identity isn’t the be all and end all, it’s very hard to get away from it as well.

Is taking Jo Bird’s identity into consideration when assessing her puns a form of identity politics? And if not, why not, what exactly distinguishes it from other ways of thinking about identity and politics beyond just “I think it’s good to do so in this instance but bad to do so in these other instances”?

There isn’t really a conclusion to go here. I don’t think identity is a trump card (no pun intended) that makes all other considerations irrelevant; I also don’t think it can be ignored. It would be nice if I had a rule of thumb setting out exactly how much weight to give it in any given situation, but I don’t. These things are messy, and I suspect that many of the worst excesses of both “idpol” and “anti-idpol” are related to people thinking they can come up with neat shortcuts to avoid the messiness.

There are probably people who would see my views on this as dangerously undermining the fight against antisemitism, and other people who would see them as making unjustified concessions to the Zionists trying to smear good people as antisemites; obviously, I think both those positions are wrong, but I think it’s healthy to try to bear in mind that it’s possible for people to hold either of them in good faith, without necessarily being an awful dickhead driven by hatred of either Palestinians or Jews.

Contagion and purity

A few related, similarly inconclusive thoughts: it is also noticeable how much of the left antisemitism row revolves around… it’s hard to find a neutral, non-loaded way of saying “guilt by association”, which is unfortunate because I’m not trying to dismiss all such accusations, just to think critically about them. So, for example, to return to Jo Bird, as well as the fact of making puns, one of the other major accusations against her was that she said Marc Wadsworth shouldn’t be expelled from the Labour Party. Similarly, Diane Abbott recently faced criticism, not for anything that she’d said, but for being on the same mass Zoom call as Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein. And so on.

In the case of red-brownism and left antisemitism, so much depends on making connections that it’s easy to come off like Charlie Kelly arm-waving about Pepe Silvia. We can start off with something obviously beyond the pale and clearly unacceptable: say, Gearóid Ó Colmáin’s’s pro-Franco rantings, or the sickening antisemitism of Red Ice, or Tucker Carlson’s white nationalism – or indeed the neo-nazism of Richard Spencer, who has not-so-distant connections with another part of mainstream British politics. These people are, pretty clearly and unambiguously, Not Our Friends. But then we move on to people like Vanessa Beeley who promote Ó Colmáin’s gibberish as providing a good explanation of what’s going on, or appear on Red Ice like Patrick Henningsen, or who make regular friendly appearances on Carlson’s show like Max Blumenthal. That’s bad as well, right?

And then we get on to people who might not directly say anything that objectionable themselves, and may even say good and righteous things some of the time, but are also happy to endorse people like Beeley and Henningsen, such as Chris Williamson. And then, taking it one step further, we have people who have no direct connection to Beeley or Henningsen themselves, and may be excellent comrades in many ways, but who think for whatever reason that it’s important to defend Chris Williamson (this is, as I understand it, where much of JVL are), or one step further still there’s people who defend people who defend Chris Williamson, and so on.

Again, I don’t have a clear answer to this: the politics of people like Beeley, Henningsen and Carlson/Blumenthal are toxic, and their influence should be challenged; on the other hand, being someone who defends someone who has some association with someone who went on a podcast with a nazi, while it may be wrong, is far from the same thing as being a nazi oneself. Once again, it’d be nice to produce a neat, simple rule about the exact number of degrees of separation one should maintain, but again I think there’s no substitute for the messy process of working things out on a case-by-case basis, and accepting that there are sometimes going to be reasonable grounds for disagreement.

I’ve been thinking about this in the context of left antisemitism (or left tolerance of antisemitism, or left tolerance of people who tolerate antisemitism, etc), but the general questions of where and how we draw lines are relevant to all kinds of other situations, from the boycott of the SWP and its front groups since 2013 through to the TERF wars.

A gaslight that never goes out

Just to make this even more rambling and inconclusive: thinking about this whole affair has made me reflect on a few other concepts, like the idea of “gaslighting”, the term used to describe manipulation designed to distort someone’s perception of reality. To me, the concentrated campaign designed to tell British Jews again and again that the leadership of one major political party presented a clear and urgent threat to their safety, while minimising or totally ignoring things like Boris Johnson’s connection to the Spectator and Taki’s poisonous antisemitism, Suella Braverman coming out with antisemitic conspiracy theories and then being promoted, the Conservative defence of Orban’s antisemitic government in Hungary, and so on and on and on… well, it feels like gaslighting, like a deliberate attempt to distort reality.

At the same time, for anyone who really genuinely believes that the Corbyn project was a direct and uniquely dangerous threat to British Jewry, my views on the subject must seem like an equally sinister and manipulative distortion of reality. Once again, it’s hard to come up with a neat conclusion to go here: I could say “accusing people of gaslighting when there’s just a real, important and sincere difference in perceptions is useless, so people should stop doing it”, but on the other hand, when it feels like someone is telling you that up is down, red is blue, and making a misjudged comment on a facebook post about a mural is deeply significant and revealing, but running a magazine that regularly prints the bile of a frothing antisemite for years is a minor trifle not even worth considering… that experience is frankly enraging, and telling people to not be enraged by it isn’t going to do anything.

A similar symmetry exists with accusations of hypocrisy and “whataboutery”: to me, the disproportionate focus on Labour antisemitism combined with the seeming tolerance for Conservative antisemitism seems like blatant hypocrisy; to a supporter of the Board of Deputies/Campaign Against Antisemitism line, my insistence that Conservative antisemitism has to be part of the conversation must seem like “whataboutery”.  Similarly, I’m sure there must be situations where I’d get angry at other people for whataboutery, and they’d think I was being hypocritical. I don’t have a neat solution for that either, but if anyone else does I’d be glad to hear about it.

 

*and, to be clear, just because the “Jew Process” story was obviously absurdly inane doesn’t mean that Jo Bird is above criticism, I’m sure she’s made many decisions that I would disagree with – I mean, she’s a Labour councillor, apart from anything else. But the fact that the Campaign Against Antisemitism regularly refer to her as ‘“Jew Process” councillor’ and not ‘councillor who said something nice about Chris Williamson’, or whatever, does seem to suggest that they think the fact the she makes puns is somehow the most damning smoking gun about her.

Posted in Bit more thinky, Labour, Racism, The left | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Late May round-up: Shrewsbury 24, Orgreave, couriers, Angry Workers and more…

Another very quick round-up of goings-on – something more substantial coming soon, hopefully, depending on my ability to actually get my thoughts together in some kind of coherent form:

One story you might have been missed has been further legal progress for the Shrewsbury 24 picketers, as the families of four deceased pickets have now managed to get their cases referred to the court of appeal, with two more living ones also having put applications in, meaning that at least 12, and hopefully at least 14, of the convictions will be reviewed.

Medical couriers organised through the grassroots union IWGB have voted to strike in response to victimisation of union members, and they’re asking people to support them by taking a moment to use this online tool to send emails to investors who hold shares in Sonic Healthcare.

A few other things that are happening at the moment include Acorn’s new “Housing is Health” campaign, and Plan C are setting up a “Demand a new normal” platform if you’re into demands and stuff.

Upcoming events: Rank-and-file HE workers are holding a zoom call on the afternoon of Friday 29th to discuss resistance to mass layoffs in the sector:

“While members of the UK’s UCU (University College Union) debate whether to accept our employer’s paltry offer on our industrial dispute over pay, equality, casualisation, and workload, casualised staff are running out of time. Many of us will be unemployed before any future mandate for industrial action.

In this urgent meeting, we will discuss how to put the pressure on our union to take serious campaigning action now, to fight for secure working conditions for all of us, and our options for wildcat action, such as marking boycotts and coordinating with other unions like the IWGB…

Zoom details

“If you don’t do it, we will: Organising the fight back against mass layoffs”

Time: May 29, 2020 06:30 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84294837032

The University Worker and Notes from Below are supporting this call and hosting the information, but it is organised by a group of anti-casualisation campaigns and union activists.”

The UVW union are running a great-sounding series of online talks starting in June:

“Join us in a series of talks and discussions that will take us from the 19th century all the way up to the present day!

We are the workers that keep the country running but do so almost invisibly, in the shadows of society without recognition or respect.

Our movement is built on the struggles, solidarity and cooperation of the brave workers that came before us.

We will learn from other struggles, reflecting as we go along, on the UVW’s approach to trade unionism and organising low paid, precarious, and predominantly migrant and women workers.

Each event is limited to 100 attendees, with the majority of spots reserved for UVW members. Spanish translation is available.”

The first three events are Louise Raw: The Match Women’s Strike 1888 on June 3rd, Professor Ralph Darlington: Early British Syndicalism and the Great Unrest on June 10th, and Dave Smith: Class Struggle in the Construction Industry on the 17th.

Further into June, the virtual Orgreave rally will be happening on Saturday 20th, with the main event happening at 1 and then a Joe Solo gig at 8.

And further ahead still, in the autumn the Angry Workers, Croydon Solidarity and friends are holding a conference for people who’re interested in their proposal for a new organisation, or at least a new kind of practice. In their words:

“Our efforts have to be based on a broadly shared understanding of how capitalism works and how to overcome it. We will discuss these general questions, but our organisation will primarily distinguish and thereby open itself to others by concrete work, mutual commitment and research. The general spirit is not to grow the organisation for the sake of it. Instead we want to help to grow the ability of the working class to self-organise internationally and to demonstrate the potential for communism in the actual movements of the class and the crisis of capital. For the moment our common platform is summarised here:

angryworkersworld.wordpress.com/about/

The focus of our activities will be the setting up of local solidarity networks in strategically important working class areas, activities in and around bigger workplaces, and the circulation of a regular local working class publication. We want to discuss openly and self-critically the experiences of setting up such minimal structures and support each other. We invite existing local initiatives to join in and potentially expand their activities. We are aware that not everyone is able to participate on this level for various reasons, but encourage those comrades to help the effort, e.g. through their research work or by help running the organisational infrastructure. We see the last six years of AngryWorkers activities in west London not as a template, but as something that has to be critically reviewed, also according to specific local conditions:

classpower.net/intro/

We need more than just a federal structure of local collectives. We need a common discussion and decisions that can shape local practice. The second focus is therefore to meet regularly to discuss the local experiences against the background of both the UK and international developments of class struggle. We feel responsible to help international comrades understand the situation in the UK and to establish contacts to local workers if needed.

We are in the process of preparing for a constituting and planning conference for the end of 2020…

These are just the bare bones of organisation. We hope that a mutual focus and commitment towards the wider working class will mean that relations within the organisation will be supportive and constructive, without having to spend too much time on discussing ‘how we discuss’ or organise ‘how we organise ourselves’. The focus is outwards and patience is required. We know that class struggle is not gradual and we want to bear that in mind in our day-to-day organising. We want to prepare ourselves for the leaps of struggle that will inevitably come. These leaps will be contradictory, like the Yellow Vests in France or the recent protests and strikes in Bolivia. We want to prepare ourselves not in order to ‘capture the flag’ of these movements, but in order to detect and support the emancipatory tendencies within them theoretically and practically.

If you are interested in taking part in the preparatory process of the constituting meeting, please drop us an email.

letsgetrooted@protonmail.com

To reiterate, this meeting will not be an exciting happening (although it might be exciting, too), it will perhaps not feel like a hip and historical moment, but a moment of commitment to work together.”

Posted in Housing, Strikes, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments