Hope and solidarity in dark times

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, when looking at “the big picture” – Politics with a capital P, the stuff of states, parties, major news headlines – there’s not much to be cheerful about at the moment, even less so than usual. That’s why it’s all the more important at times like these to keep one eye on the local, because at the grassroots level there are always stories of people challenging power and winning.

In Bristol, Bristol Solidarity Network and the local IWW have teamed up to target wage theft from two workers at a local cafe – they’ve definitely already won payment for one of the workers, and going by FB posts it looks like the second worker has now been paid as well.

Bristol SolNet and Bristol IWW in action

Meanwhile, over in Greenford, West London, a series of film showings and workers’ discussions are being organised in order to help build a similar solidarity network capable of winning the same kind of victories there.

Of course, none of this is an adequate response to the horrors we’ve seen recently, the mass murders carried out by states both Islamic and otherwise. But if we ever want to see the values of solidarity and co-operation win out against the spreaders of hate and fear, we need to start by making them into a real material force. In the words of a recent anarchist statement against murder cults, “We can’t cede to them the battleground of ideas. No hiding. In the streets, in our neighbourhoods, in the prisons, jobcentres, colleges and schools, we need to be active and unafraid, spreading ideas and methods of freedom, self-organisation, comradeship, solidarity and rebellion.” The work going on in Bristol and Greenford is a contribution to that task, and worth supporting if you can.

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Resisting ISIS is not a crime: stand with Shilan!

In the wake of the horrific massacres in Paris and Beirut, hopefully we can all agree that wanting to resist ISIS should not be criminalised. Sadly, the Crown Prosecution Service doesn’t seem to see it that way, and so, as people across the world continue to mourn the attacks, Shilan Ozcelik is due in court on Tuesday morning to face charges that she allegedly tried to join the Kurdish resistance fighting against ISIS. If you can make it down to the Old Bailey to support her, or if you know anyone who might be able to, please pass the information on. If you don’t, you can still support her by sending a message via her solicitors at:

Av. Ali Has, Morgan Has Solicitors
Bank Chambers, 1st & 2nd Floor,
133 Stoke Newington High Street,
Stoke Newington
London N16 0PH

Bear in mind that support for the PKK is considered criminal, so please don’t say anything that could get you or her into more trouble.

Fuck ISIS. Fuck the jailers who’ve kept Shilan kept locked up for months awaiting trial, and the judges who denied her request for bail, all because she was alleged to have tried to join the fight against ISIS.

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Early November round-up: wildcats, wage theft, water meters and more

It’s been a busy week or so.

Down in London, the suspension of union rep Sandy Nicoll led to the School of Oriental and African Studies being closed by a wildcat strike of both staff and students, a struggle that has now ended in victory with Sandy’s reinstatement.

The mass strike at SOAS

This week in education has also seen the dropping of the ridiculous charges against Bahar Mustafa, as well as a big student march for free education meeting very heavy-handed police treatment, with at least 18 arrests reported, and rumours of people being arrested solely for wearing black bloc gear. The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts are also calling for a national day of action in support of international students on November 17th, and a national student strike in early February.

The Grants Not Debt march

Central London’s actually seen two big rowdy protests in two days now, as last night’s Anonymous “Million Mask march” also seems to have kicked off a bit. In less dramatic, but equally important, news, the United Voices of the World union and Boycott Workfare have been keeping up the fight for a living wage and against workfare and union victimisation at the Barbican. UVW and the Unite Hotel Workers Branch are co-hosting a service sector social on November 14th if you fancy dropping by and saying hi, and Union Solidarity International has a good article on the rise of new syndicalist-type unions like the UVW, as well as similar unions overseas.

Speaking of syndicalist unions, the newly-reformed Leeds Industrial Workers of the World branch recently won over £200 for a worker who’d been cheated out of their back pay, and Liverpool Council have just dropped plans for a “Public Space Protection Order” that would have criminalised homelessness and political activity, shortly after Liverpool IWW announced their plans to demonstrate against it. And on the subject of criminialising homelessness, although the five activists jailed for opening up an empty bank building as a homeless shelter are now free, five more are now being tried just for passing food and water to those inside the building. Staying up North, tomorrow the 1 in 12 Club in Bradford is hosting a full day of anti-fascist activities as part of the run-up to the EDL’s visit to the city on the 14th.

Saturday the 7th will also see a national demo at the Yarl’s Wood detention center, with transport being arranged from London, Birmingham, Nottingham, Oxford, Leeds, Doncaster, Lancaster, and Bedford. Wrapping up the round-up of UK news, it’s interesting to see that this week has seen the government offering some kind of concession on two fronts, as the anti-trade union bill has been watered down and Jeremy Hunt’s tried to buy off doctors with promises of an 11% pay rise, although doctors have been quick to point out that in real terms it’s still actually a pay cut, and doesn’t get to the heart of what the dispute’s about anyway.

Finally, two quick pieces of international news: there’s been another crackdown on anarchists in Spain, with another series of raids leading to nine comrades being arrested, including one who’s still being held in prison. You can write to Quique at:

Enrique Costoya Allegue
CP Madrid V Soto del Real
Ctra M-609, km3,5 Módulo 15
28791 Soto del Real (Madrid)
Repression is also continuing in Ireland, as one of the largest political trials in decades sees 35 water charge protesters being dragged before the courts, following the prosecution of 7 teenagers whose cases started last week. If they’re hoping to break the movement against water charges, it’s not had much of an effect, judging from the continuing direct action that’s still preventing water meters from being installed across the country.

Posted in Anarchists, Protests, Racism, Repression, Strikes, Students, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, The right, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Late October round-up: speaking tours, court dates, eviction resistance and more

Another round-up of upcoming events and the like:

Following on from the bookfair, there are at least two speaking tours happening with anarchist speakers visiting the country: scott crow will be speaking at various locations on creating power from below up until the 28th, and the Cuban Anarchism Speaking tour will be visiting Brighton, Bristol, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The post-bookfair No Borders demo at St Pancras also sounded pretty impressive.

The people want to bring down the border

This week also saw the charges against Lisa McKenzie being thrown out of court. We can only hope for similar results in the ongoing political prosecutions of Bahar Mustafa, who’s due in court on Nov 5th, Tony Cox (who’s due back in court on 18th November to face two charges, having had the charge of threatening behaviour dropped), and Shilan Ozcelik, whose next hearing is on the 16th.

Elsewhere, Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax campaigners successfully prevented an eviction in the Holbrook area, and the blacklisting battle continues through the courts – just days after offering a “full and unreserved apology” for their role in blacklisting, construction firm Carillion have submitted a claim for three and a half grand in legal costs against a blacklisted worker, and it sounds like there’ll be more street action against the blacklisting firms on November 20th in Liverpool. In other news, Bradford anti-fascists are getting organised ahead of the EDL’s impending visit there.

Finally, some quick pieces of news from South Africa: anarchist comrades there are reporting that they’re facing intimidation and threats of violence, and the anti-fees movement there is celebrating a major victory having just defeated a fee hike, and planning their next steps. One student protester is quoted as saying “We want more now, not just a 0% increase. We want free education.” For more background on the situation in SA, South Africa: A Reader has a tremendous amount of further information, and is updated regularly.

Zuma must fall!

Posted in Anarchists, Housing, Protests, Repression, Students, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, Unemployment/claimants and welfare | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mid-October round-up: updates on state repression against Lisa McKenzie, Bahar Mustafa and Teesside construction workers, and other news

A few recent and upcoming events of interest:

Two fairly short-notice demos will be happening tonight: in Teesside, construction workers will be protesting against police intimidation at the Eston police station at 5.45, in response to police harassment of workers involved in the ongoing Wilson SITA dispute.

Eston police station protest

Meanwhile, down in the Midlands, Nottingham folk will be opposing a racist anti-immigration demo from 6 – this comes at the end of a busy weekend that’s already seen an open borders demo in Dover, opposition to Britain First in Burton and the EDL in Scarborough, and clashes between anti-fascists and fascists in Bristol.

Bristol antifa going for a jog

Slightly further ahead, on Wednesday Lisa McKenzie will be appearing at Stratford Magistrates’ Court. The CPS are trying to push for a joint enterprise case, which means that they don’t have to prove that Lisa herself actually did anything, as joint enterprise means she can be held responsible for acts committed by other people, and they want to apply for a Criminal Behaviour Order, which will limit her freedom of speech and movement for five years, so it’s really important for people to show solidarity against this repression. Another upcoming court date of interest will be Bahar Mustafa’s appearance at Bromley Magistrates’ on the 5th of November.

Lisa with the Met

Also upcoming, Datacide will be hosting a talk on soundsystem culture and resistance at Housman’s bookshop on Friday, ahead of the annual London anarchist bookfair on Saturday. Saturday will also see a Calais Migrant Solidarity protest at St Pancras.

Meanwhile, last week also saw some brilliant eviction resistance in Southwark – the Southwark & Lambeth folk have a really strong record of this kind of practical direct action, so it’s great to see them keeping it up. And finally, the Angry Workers of the World are keeping busy, and have now published their autumn plans – in particular, they’re inviting members of the IWW to collaborate on practical activities, especially around trying to organise at Amazon, and they’re asking anyone who’s looking for work at the moment to get in touch with them and think about taking a job where they work in West London. If any of this is of any interest, you might want to drop them an email about coming to their meeting on Sunday 25th, where they’ll be discussing a Wildcat text about the international working class today, or just generally say hi – as ever, feel free to get in touch at angryworkersworld (at) gmail.com if you think what they’re doing sounds interesting.

A ring of people preventing an eviction in Camberwell.

Posted in Anarchists, Housing, Protests, Racism, Repression, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Early October class struggle round-up: couriers, construction workers, and call centre staff fighting back

A few recent wins in the class struggle:

The IWGB couriers celebrating their victory.

Up North, Newcastle SolFed are reporting that they’ve won a substantial wage theft campaign against a call centre in Newcastle, and promise a fuller report coming soon. Down in London, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain’s organising campaign against couriers is paying off, as Gophr has just become the first courier company to sign their charter promising to pay the London Living Wage (the real one, not George Osborne’s made-up one), plus reasonable costs like bike maintenance. The IWGB are also going to start running free weekly legal advice clinics on Thursday afternoons. London Industrial Workers of the World and the Angry Language Brigade are also reporting a limited victory over dodgy wage-stealing boss Craig Tallents – in the end, they had to go down the legal route and so only got the legal minimum and not everything they were hoping for, but it’s still a win of some kind.

Meanwhile, the long-running battle for justice against blacklisting firms has also made an important win in the courts this week, as the companies involved admitting to defaming the blacklisted workers. The Blacklist Support Group aren’t just leaving things to the courts though, as they’ve also been keeping up the pressure on the building sites with another protest against Carillion at Royal Liverpool Hospital. Blacklisted workers have also been granted core participant status in the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover coppers, which looks like a fascinating case to keep an eye on – who knows what murky state secrets might end up getting dragged into the light?

Blacklisting protest at Royal Liverpool Hospital

Finally, another reminder that Tony Cox is in court this week, so if you can make it to Forfar Sheriff’s court on the 13th, that’d be welcome, or if not there’s things happening at jobcentres in Edinburgh, Doncaster, Liverpool, London and Nottingham on the 12th.

Posted in Protests, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Momentum, mo problems?

It’s hard to know what to make of the announcement that the Corbyn campaign machine is to become Momentum, largely because there’s so little precedent for something like this, especially in the UK context.

From an anarchist perspective, it’s noticeable how it feels like Labour’s calling our bluff: we’ve always criticised party politics for focusing attention on elections and drawing energy away from ongoing organising, so it’s interesting to see something promising to do exactly that. In fact, while there’s also a lot of left-liberal-populist rhetoric that’s very different from a class struggle anarchist perspective, there’s parts of the Momentum rhetoric that chime eerily with anarchist criticisms.

For instance, I’ve previously written:

“any perspective that stays too focused on the Politics-with-a-capital-P sphere of parties and their official policies will tend to find itself drawn into the electoral logic of looking to 2020 as our next chance to have a real say. Against this, it’s necessary to restate that there’s things we can be doing to make a difference right now – not to alter the hypothetical policies of a hypothetical Labour government five or ten years down the line, but to actually prevent the implementation of the real policies of the real government we have right now.”

And, similarly, fellow anarchist blogger Phil has come out with things like:

“many people can’t afford to wait for a general election either.

Now, the left in Labour won’t simply be waiting for the election – they’ll be building for it by knocking doors, persuading more people to vote, turning up to constituency meetings, perhaps trying to de-select right-wing candidates, and so on. But none of this has a concrete effect until a vote comes and maybe Labour win, and maybe they’re not as bad as the Tories, but they still run the state and keep capitalism healthy.

On the other hand, the work that anarchists advocate can have concrete effects now. Whether it’s on as small a scale as winning one worker back stolen wages, or as significant as a whole workforce winning the living wage, it’s a concrete gain in the present. That’s where improvements in people’s lives come from: forcing businesses to stop using workfare, taking on unscrupulous landlords, helping claimants fight benefit sanctions.

Nor are these victories limited to those directly involved. They give workers confidence to take on new battles, they put the bosses on the back foot, and they create the upward pressure that can force social change.”

Now, compare that to the official Momentum rhetoric:

“What is Momentum? It means not waiting until we’re in Government to get things done… Opposition is about opposing. It is about fighting the Tories. But, it’s also about much more too. We can and must achieve an enormous amount before we win in 2020…. Momentum will help people develop their own organisations in their areas on the issues that most matter to them. It will assist these groups in campaigning and working with allies, but importantly in making real changes in people’s lives now.”

Similarly, Phil’s criticised the Labour Party for seeking to monopolise resistance:

“It’s all about capitalising on the Corbyn victory, for the benefit not of our class but of the party… We can, as Owen Jones says, build a movement in order to divert people’s hope, optimism and energy to the benefit of the Labour Party. Or we can build a real movement to win improvements for our class and take on the present conditions. These two movements aren’t the same.”

Again, this is echoed to a surprising extent by some of the Momentum boosters:

“The top-down, command and control, monolithic political structures of yesteryear are fast fading. The political eco-system of today is both vast and diverse. Whilst out Party can play a key leadership role in future political change it must also understand it does not have a monopoly on opposing vested interest.”

Now, I don’t think the Labour leadership are setting their strategy according to what obscure anarcho bloggers write, and I’m wary of taking their claims at face value. Only time will tell whether Momentum actually lives up to the hype – certainly, anyone who’s ever had much contact with the Trot left will be familiar with the phenomenon of officially “independent” groups that in reality are anything but. But in the meantime, it’s strange to see anyone in mainstream politics using the magic catchphrase “workplace and community organising”, which has long been a defining feature of a certain stripe of libertarian class politics*.

Of course, declaring an intention to do something isn’t the same as actually doing something: if wishes were horses then beggars would ride, and if fancy project launches were the same thing as sustained long-term organising efforts we’d probably be living in utopia by now. So far, specific proposals about what exactly Momentum is going to do have been a bit thin on the ground, but the Labour List and Buzzfeed articles have both talked about forming a private sector tenants’ union, which could be genuinely interesting. Just as I’d always advise someone to join a syndicalist union over a TUC one, or an independent claimants’ group over Unite Community where the choice exists, I’d always encourage anyone who has the option to get involved with independent rank-and-file initiatives like Hackney Renters or Tower Hamlets Renters if you can. But not everyone lives in Hackney or Tower Hamlets, so in the areas where no private sector tenants’ organisation exists, I think a Momentum-linked tenants’ union would be better than nothing.

I don’t think such an organisation would be without its problems: the Labour Party link would always be a pull in the direction of legality and bureaucracy, and against the militant direct action tactics that have worked so well for groups like the Brooklyn and Seattle Solidarity Networks. But these contradictions are always there in the mainstream workplace unions as well, and I wouldn’t argue against getting involved in them either.

Similarly, the problem of Labour councils still exists: while the Tories are in power on a national level, it’s still Labour councils that are actually implementing austerity in many places on a local level, so any organisation that tries to improve people’s day-to-day lives will quickly run up against Momentum’s Labour comrades in the town halls. How they’ll deal with that remains to be seen.

In conclusion: I wouldn’t recommend that anyone should join the Labour Party (in fact, as if anyone cares about my opinion, I’d still say it’s actively better to leave). I wouldn’t particularly recommend that anyone should join Momentum, not least because it’s so totally unclear what it’s actually going to look like yet. But if Momentum initiates specific projects that look like they could actually serve a practical purpose, like tenants’ unions? I suppose we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it.


*Without checking, how confident would you be about which one of these quotes is from Momentum and which ones are from revolutionary anti-capitalist groups (Anarchist Federation, Plan C, Solidarity Federation)?

“We must… Intervene and co-ordinate our actions in the workplace and the community”

“organising or getting involved in local campaigns across a wide range of issues – both in the community and in workplaces.”

“Bring together individuals and groups in our communities and workplaces to campaign and organise on the issues that matter to us.”

“an organisation of people who are politically active in their workplaces and communities.”

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