Couriers action in Yorkshire, wildcat council strike in Glasgow, and more workplace news for mid-September

A few workplace notes:

Deliveroo couriers in York and Sheffield have taken industrial action this week, refusing to handle orders from Five Guys in York and Wagamama’s in Sheffield.

From the IWGB write-up:

10 September: Deliveroo orders in Sheffield and York will be disrupted today as couriers boycott two of the delivery platform’s most popular restaurants in response to unfair treatment and plummeting pay.

Sheffield couriers will not be accepting Wagamama deliveries from 7pm until close at 10pm. They are demanding:

  • The reinstatement of Sheffield courier Khalid Kalil who was dismissed by Deliveroo on bogus grounds.
  • A living wage after costs.
  • Fair treatment and a fair process around terminations.

York couriers will not be accepting Five Guys deliveries from 11am until close at 11pm. They are demanding:

  • An end to excessive waiting times at Five Guys, which some riders have said can be as long as 40 minutes.
  • For Deliveroo to pay for the time couriers spend waiting to receive the delivery after they have accepted the order.

Wagamama and Five Guys are among Deliveroo’s biggest clients. In 2019 Wagamama made over £40 million in sales through Deliveroo, according to IWGB estimates (1). Meanwhile, Deliveroo has said that Five Guys burgers are among the most popular dishes ordered by its customers in 2019 (2).

Dee Uddin, Deliveroo courier and chair of the IWGB Couriers and Logistics branch Sheffield committee said: “We used to be able to make minimum wage but now it has become impossible. I have to work as much as 12 hours to make just £100 and that’s before you take into account my car payments, petrol, insurance and all my other expenses. On top of it all, it seems now they are just booting riders off the app for the fun of it. Khalid was one of the hardest working couriers out there and they just sacked him without giving him any evidence or a chance to appeal. Deliveroo and the big name restaurants are making millions while the riders are being treated like disposable waste.”

Cristian Santabarbara, Deliveroo courier and coordinator of the IWGB Couriers and Logistics branch York committee said“Five Guys is making riders wait on average fifteen and as much as forty minutes for an order. So in some cases riders will only be making one order in an hour and earning less than four pounds. How are you supposed to raise your children or pay your rent on that kind of money? If Five Guys wants to spend hours making each order, polishing each burger and individually slicing each onion with a precision knife, that’s fine, but they should demand that Deliveroo pay for our waiting times. What they can’t do is continue to profit off the back of a hyper-exploited workforce and not expect there to be some kind of reaction.”

Alex Marshall,  IWGB Couriers & Logistics branch chair said: “Deliveroo couriers have been applauded by the public throughout the pandemic for their role as key workers, while their working conditions have gone from bad to worse. They are putting their lives on the line for less than minimum wage and are being terminated for bogus reasons without any evidence nor an opportunity to prove their innocence. We need to emerge from this pandemic with a renewed respect for key workers, yet Deliveroo and its large restaurant clients are treating them as more disposable than ever”

For more information on the situation as it develops, you can see the national IWGB Couriers & Logistics Branch twitter or fb, and for more local updates, the South Yorkshire Couriers Network are on twitter and have their own blog, and the IWGB York Couriers are on both twitter and facebook.

Up in Glasgow, street cleaning and waste collection workers have walked out in a wildcat strike against the council’s attempt to phase out the agreed lockdown working arrangements while the pandemic is still very much going on.

In Manchester, it seems likely that the Queens Road bus dispute, with bus operator Go North West trying to “fire and rehire” the workforce and victimise any union reps involved in organising resistance, is going to continue to escalate. As well as staff having voted for strike action in a consultative ballot, Unite is promising an international campaign against the Go Ahead group, and this week has seen several days of early morning blockades of the depot, with police having to break protests up to get buses through.

Over in Merseyside, Liverpool Solidarity Federation have entered into a dispute with Formby Hall Golf Resort and Spa after a worker was sacked for raising health and safety concerns. If you’re aware of anything similar happening near you, you may wish to report it to the No Safety No Work campaign.

In other news, Freedom is continuing to provide valuable coverage of a range of issues, including housing with a guide for new squatters and how to challenge a Section 21 eviction notice. They’ve also published an analysis of the ruling class response to recent Extinction Rebellion actions and what that says about the situation more broadly, and have a guide to anarchist prisoners connected to the ongoing uprising in Belarus.

On that international prisoner solidarity note, I’d like to encourage anyone who hasn’t done it already to send an email or two in support of Black liberation prisoner Ed Poindexter’s clemency campaign.

Finally, two more upcoming events to add to the listing from my last post, lockdown permitting:

On October 4th, Queer Support for Migrants are demonstrating at the Mitie-run detention centre at Manchester Airport, and on the 10th-12th, there’s a broader callout for a weekend of action against the hostile environment.

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

Early September class struggle events listing: lessons from Wapping, victimised union reps, NHS pay, Debenhams redundancies and more…

A few upcoming events:

The Let’s Get Rooted network, who put out a pretty much constant stream of interesting writing, are hosting an online meeting on Thursday 10th about the 1986 Wapping strike, the unofficial strike bulletin “Picket”, and the use of new technology to undermine workers’ power.

Recent weeks have seen notable levels of unrest at the Queens Road bus depot in North Manchester, after management attempted to impose new terms and conditions on the workers and suspended a key union rep involved in organising resistance. A public solidarity demo has been organised at the depot for Friday 11th, starting at 10:30, to coincide with the suspended rep’s disciplinary hearing. A consultative ballot has now returned a 94% “Yes” vote, so strike action seems likely to follow.

September 12th sees a mass day of protests in support of NHS staff demanding a pay rise. The full list of events is currently as follows:

Aberdeen – Castlegate https://facebook.com/events/s/nhs-workers-say-no-aberdeen-pr/1557690871080079/?ti=icl

Brighton – Hove Beach

https://www.facebook.com/events/792148558258010/

Bristol – College Green

https://www.facebook.com/events/391252255175432/

Cardiff – Cardiff Central Station

https://www.facebook.com/events/1298457870324505/

Chesterfield – Chesterfield Parish Church https://www.facebook.com/events/224434492335884/

Coventry – Swanswell Park and Pool https://www.facebook.com/events/710815502805474/

Derby – Florence Nightingale Statue, London Road, Derby https://www.facebook.com/events/926560147754323/

Dorset – The Square, Bournemouth https://www.facebook.com/events/749009199233823/

Leeds – cancelled

London – BBC New Broadcasting House

https://facebook.com/events/s/london-march-for-nhspay15/1356278494570160/?ti=icl

Liverpool – St George’s Hall https://facebook.com/events/s/liverpool-protest-for-pay-just/318134892772143/?ti=icl

Manchester – Piccadilly Gardens

https://www.facebook.com/events/963967317454046/

Merthyr Tydfil – Merthyr Fountain https://www.facebook.com/events/359899265174665/

Newcastle – Royal Victoria Infirmary https://www.facebook.com/events/298632988101723/

Norwich – Chapelfield Gardens https://www.facebook.com/events/660327864580162/

Nottingham – Nottingham Market Square https://www.facebook.com/events/330271011359271/

Plymouth – Plymouth Hoe  https://www.facebook.com/events/232043288085013/

Sheffield – Barker’s Pool, Sheffield https://www.facebook.com/pg/NHSworkersSayNo/events/

South Essex – Sea Life Adventure, Southend on Sea https://www.facebook.com/events/668469814017560/ 

Suffolk – A&E, West Suffolk Hospital https://www.facebook.com/events/681658349101326/

Swansea – Castle Gardens https://facebook.com/events/s/swansea-nhs-staff-say-no-prote/291716145445481/?ti=icl

Wigan – Royal Albert Edward Infirmary https://facebook.com/events/s/wigan-protest-for-fair-pay/643774363237776/?ti=icl

In addition, there’s a few other events going on that day: as you may have seen, Debenhams workers in Ireland have begun occupying stores in response to mass layoffs without a decent redundancy package. You can follow the progress of that dispute on their facebook page here. Debenhams staff in the UK haven’t got up to anything quite as dramatic yet, but workers in Manchester have started holding regular protests every Saturday outside the city centre store there.

Down in London, there’s also a march by the Tate staff who’ve been striking against cuts and job losses there, and museums workers in Liverpool are also holding their own protest that day in solidarity with the dispute and defence of their industry. You can also support the Tate dispute by donating to their strike fund here, and emailing Tate bosses using this template.

Next week, there’s another call for solidarity with a victimised union rep, this time with Tony Smith, a Unison rep at the FCC recycling site in Hull who’s been unfairly sacked as retaliation for his role in a recent dispute over sick pay there. Hull trades unionists will be demonstrating at the FCC site on Tuesday 15th, the day of Tony’s appeal, and are also asking that people share this poster to raise awareness of the issue.

On the 17th, the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign are hosting a discussion on “Music, Art and Activism: Cultural Creativity and the Miners’ Strike”.

Over in Wales, family and friends of Siyanda Mngaza, a young black woman wrongfully imprisoned for defending herself from a racist attack, are continuing their campaign to free her. On Saturday 19th, they’ll be holding a protest at Brecon police station, where she was held for 20 hours after being arrested by police who didn’t detain anyone else involved in the incident, and on Sunday 20th, they’re taking the campaign to Birmingham, where Siyanda was born and lived as a child.

Considerably further ahead, the Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair will hopefully be happening on Saturday 28th November, and the Anarchist Communist Group should be holding a “Class Not Nation” event on December 5th, hopefully as face-to-face in-person events but we’ll see how lockdown and that goes.

In other news, the No Safety No Work campaign now has a website up and running. Stickers and leaflets can be ordered by emailing safereturn@riseup.net.

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

Left populism will eat itself? A reply on populism, elections and the Party of Order

Daphne Lawless, of the New Zealand/Aotearoa-based group Fightback, has recently published a kind of post-mortem or autopsy on left populism after the near-simultaneous collapse of the Sanders and Corbyn projects. As with some of her previous work, there’s a lot in her critique of the left to agree with, but also some troubling points: she rightly attacks the “anti-imperialists” who see Russia or China as a lesser evil to the US, or those who think Trump could be a lesser evil than the Democrats, but sometimes falls into a kind of “campist” mentality of her own, defending liberals, the EU and Joe Biden at the expense of trying to argue for a genuinely independent working-class alternative. By the way, this critique turned out to be pretty long, but the piece I’m replying to is longer.

One example comes early on, in her presentation of Sanders’ defeat in the Democratic primaries:

“Journalist Zack Beauchamp argues:

…In the end, this approach failed. It was former Vice President Joe Biden, not Bernie Sanders, who assembled a multiracial working-class coalition in key states like Michigan — where Biden won every single county, regardless of income levels or racial demographics.

Sanders had success in shifting the Democratic Party in his direction on policy. But the strategy for winning power embraced by his partisans depended on a mythologized and out-of-date theory of blue-collar political behavior, one that assumes that a portion of the electorate is crying out for socialism on the basis of their class interest. Identity, in all its complexities, appears to be far more powerful in shaping voters’ behaviors than the material interests given pride of place in Marxist theory.”

This analysis is presented without further comment or critique, in what appears to be a straight endorsement of Beauchamp’s argument. Which is somewhat troubling, because Beauchamp doesn’t seem to be saying that, for example, that the Sanders campaign had an over-simplistic and mechanical understanding of class politics, or that electoralism is a vehicle that’s inherently unsuited to class politics, as much as he’s arguing against Marxist class analysis and the very idea of material class interests in general.

Of course, just because someone seems to be arguing against the idea of Marxist class analysis doesn’t automatically prove that they’re wrong, but for those of us who think that it is a useful tool, it is at least worth noting and evaluating.

Biden’s victory showed the continuing strength of the old Democratic Party machine and its ability to freeze out challenges. For those of us who don’t put much faith in electoralism, that’s not the devastating blow that it is to those who put all their hopes in the Sanders campaign, but it’s still certainly nothing to celebrate.

Arguing against burnt-out Sanders supporters who might be tempted to give up on electoralism altogether, Lawless claims that “However, the Black, migrant, queer, working-class and other oppressed communities of the United States are not going to be won to an insurrectionist perspective until they have exhausted the electoral route.”

This is an argument for endless deferral. Does anyone really believe that the electoral route will ever simply be “exhausted”, or that we’ll be any closer to that in 2024 than we were in 2016, or 2004, or 1980 or whenever? I think it is also simply untrue that we need to patiently wait for electoralism to be “exhausted” before considering more radical options – just look at what’s actually been happening in the US over the last few months!

Those who torched the police station in Minneapolis, or fought the cops in Portland, or burned down the Department of Corrections building in Kenosha, may or may not consciously consider themselves to be insurrectionists, but their behaviour certainly seems to fit the bill. Crucially, when people engage in or support such actions, they’re rejecting the logic of electoralism-above-all-else. We can’t say for sure how true it is that “violent protests help Trump and hurt Biden”, but if we think that there’s even a shred of plausibility to this argument, if there is any possibility that, as the Atlantic says, “this is how Biden loses”, then we need to choose which is more important, total loyalty to Biden’s election campaign or solidarity with those in the streets who go beyond the limits of pacifism.

Moving on to Britain and Corbynism, Lawless makes a claim that manages to be simultaneously logically unsound, historically revisionist, and in contradiction to the arguments made elsewhere in the same article:

“When Fightback wrote about Jeremy Corbyn’s movement in 2017, after British Labour’s much better than expected result in the parliamentary election of that year, we credited this success to the Corbyn leadership’s successful “fudge” on Brexit, refusing to take a clear Remain or Leave position.

However, by December 2019, the benefits of ambiguity had dissolved. As the actual deadline for a final decision on Brexit drew nearer, it became clear that the Conservative government would take a “hard Brexit” (cutting all ties to the EU) as an excuse for a bonfire of laws on worker protection, human rights and even the National Health Service. This was surely the time to squarely stand for cancelling or at least delaying Brexit, rather than to continue to pretend that this issue was a distraction.”

First off, I don’t think it necessarily follows that because Johnson had taken the Conservatives to adopt an extreme position on Brexit, therefore Labour had to shift towards the other pole. In fact, using the “lesser evil” logic that Lawless advances at various points, I would have thought it would have given them more room to fudge – I’m not a Labour member, and I’m not exactly likely to end up in charge of their Brexit policy for the 2019 election, but I can’t see why they couldn’t have come out with some line along the lines of “we will respect the will of the people and get Brexit done, but we won’t settle for Johnson’s bad Brexit, once in power we will negotiate a better Brexit deal that preserves the best advantages of EU membership.”

Even if remainers weren’t keen on such a message, it would clearly be a better option from that perspective than what the tories were offering, and maybe it would have been less electorally poisonous to Leave supporters than what Labour actually came out with. Or maybe not, perhaps Labour were just in an unwinnable position, but I don’t think that the worst-case scenario arguing that line would have been much more disastrous than what actually happened.

And it’s important to bear in mind what did actually happen, and what Labour was actually offering. Labour’s position shifted sharply in the direction of Remain over the course of 2019 with the decision to offer a second referendum. This was a major step away from the ambiguous fudge position, offering up one of the major Remain demands and opening a route to cancelling Brexit. I don’t think it’s helpful to rewrite history and say “if only Labour had listened to remainers more” as if that had never happened.

Finally, it’s curious to note how much this argument conflicts with two other themes of Lawless’ essay – one is ““Cuomo’s Law”: that online politics have nothing to do with real life”, and the second is lesser-evilism, the responsibility to support far from ideal politicians when faced with a much worse option in a two-party system.

On the Cuomo’s Law point, Lawless is keen to point out that Sanders’ actual support as measured in turnout for the primaries didn’t measure up to the online buzz, but doesn’t apply the same criteria to the Remain/anti-Brexit vote in the 2019 elections – whatever you can say about Labour’s position, the Lib Dems, Greens and TIG/CUK all offered a clearly anti-Brexit position, and yet they don’t seem to have reaped much of a reward from it. Again, I think the disconnect between online chatter and real life is a useful thing to bear in mind here.

The lesser evil point is touched on above, but just to reiterate, Lawless argues that people have a responsibility to support Biden against Trump even if he doesn’t actually offer anything positive, but doesn’t seem to feel that this responsibility applies to anti-Brexit voters wanting to stop Johnson, even though Corbyn could offer pretty much any policy short of immediate war with France and Germany and still count as a lesser evil from a pro-EU perspective.

The next point I wanted to pick up on was less about an argument I wanted to dispute, more just about accurate memory:

“[Corbynism] may be hard to imagine from Australia or New Zealand, two countries in which there is no longer any significant class-struggle, strongly social-democratic tendency in our Labo(u)r Parties. But the “hard Left” in the British Labour Party, which had been ruthlessly excluded from the leading bodies of the party and of the union movement for 30 years, jumped at the new rules for electing the leader which came into force in 2015, making it a simple “one member, one vote” decision by all party members, which enabled Corbyn to do an “end run” around his institutional opponents and pull off a shock victory.”

A footnote adds:

“If an equivalent of the Corbyn or Sanders movements exist in mainstream politics in Australasia, it’s in the Green parties.”

I think this description may be somewhat misleading for foreign audiences in that it understates just how unlikely Corbynism seemed in 2015. It’s worth remembering that in 2015, there really was no significant class-struggle, strongly social-democratic tendency in the UK Labour Party either, and that for a while people seriously thought that the Green Party would be the most likely vehicle for such a tendency as well. It’s really not so long ago that people were seriously speculating about whether the Greens were about to overtake Labour in size. If anyone seriously thought that there was any level of support for Corbyn’s ideas within the party, Margaret Beckett for one would never have nominated him in the first place. I don’t really have an argument to hang on this point, I just think it’s worth remembering accurately.

Looking at Labour’s collapse in the 2019 elections, there’s another bit I wanted to pick up on:

“Corbyn’s campist foreign policy (and his “whataboutery” about anti-Semitism on his own side) is pretty standard for much of the activist Left in Western countries; but when it “hit the big time” in Britain, it appeared grotesque to mainstream voters and discredited his positive and supportable anti-austerity politics. Former Labour MP Ann Turley claims that her canvassing led her to believe that only 20% of Labour voters switching to Conservative were motivated by Brexit; the remainder, by anti-Corbyn sentiment.”

There’s something here that makes quite a contrast with the rest of Lawless’ article – for instance, she attacks those who claim “that many people who voted for Trump over Clinton in 2016 did so for the same reasons that Leftists opposed Clinton: her responsibility for neoliberalism, austerity and imperialist wars”. But there seems to be a similar kind of wishful thinking here: yes, there was a substantial anti-Corbyn vote, and some of it will have been driven by the stuff that we would identify as failures, his pro-Russia positions and so on. But, equally, some of it will have been driven by his reluctance to endorse nuclear war, or his belief that it’s better for terrorist suspects to be arrested and prosecuted rather than shot down in the street, or by people finding Johnson’s moronic poshboy guffawing to be more charming, or whatever.

Throughout the piece, Lawless constantly reiterates her hostility to any attempt to “whitewash” Trump voters, criticising the idea that “many people who voted for Trump over Clinton in 2016 did so for the same reasons that Leftists opposed Clinton.” At one point, she even seems to extend this analysis to Sanders voters, saying that “All the evidence points to Trump’s voters being much more motivated by racism, misogyny, and 25 years of Right-led conspiracy theory which has sought to convict Hillary Clinton of corruption, murder, and literally sacrificing children to the Devil… Even worse, the same is true of the Bernie Sanders vote from 2016.”

And yet people who voted for Johnson, those who voted for a racist party led by a man with a long track record of publishing antisemitic filth… we’re supposed to expect that they just really disliked Corbyn’s foreign policy failures and ambivalence on antisemitism. This is wishful thinking, and coming from anyone else I imagine Lawless might describe it as “Mr Johnson, who I do not support…”-ism.

Lawless also mentions that

“A few years ago, a New Zealand Twitter user suggested that there is a definite constituency in elections for “soft-left but sensible ideas, if not attached to someone with a rap sheet that makes [voters] hate them”. British socialists who want to rebuild an electoral challenge must examine how Jeremy Corbyn accumulated precisely such a “rap sheet”.”

We’ve been hearing this argument for quite a while, but now it’s possible to test it empirically: surely Oh Sir Keir Starmer is the model of what such an approach should look like. And yet, for much of his time as leader, the tories have continued to enjoy a comfortable lead in the polls, despite fucking up their response to the pandemic worse than pretty much any comparable European country.

Thousands and thousands of preventable deaths attributable to the government, a soft-left but sensible Labour leader with an innocuous track record and Labour still trailing in the polls. Corbyn’s mistakes may have contributed to Labour’s difficulties, but it’s not helpful to discount the role of other factors.

And just to be clear, I’m not making this argument because I think that Corbyn’s record shouldn’t be critically examined, it definitely should. I’m pointing all this out because I think critically examining Corbyn’s record is a good and useful thing to do, but that critique needs to be based on solid foundations, and mixing it up with daft propaganda myths put about by centrists undermines rather than strengthens that critique.

As another example of Lawless’ tendency to unnecessarily weaken her own argument by using nonsensical centrist propaganda, she twice uncritically cites Ian Dunt. The name of the article that the Dunt quotes are taken from isn’t given in the main text, but the citations show that it was titled “Labour returns to its anti-racist roots”. No matter what you think of the Corbyn period, no matter how harshly you judge Corbyn’s failures on antisemitism, you cannot ask me to seriously respect the idea that Labour was an anti-racist party back in the good old days of Blunkett talking about schools being swamped by immigrant children and “extremists want you to vote Lib Dem to punish Phil Woolas for being strong on immigration” and Lord Glasman wanting to ban immigration and Miliband’s controls on immigration mug and his controls on immigration menhir –  that was an anti-racist party, and then it became racist under Corbyn, and now it’s becoming anti-racist again now that the people like Iain McNicol, who deliberately sabotaged attempts to tackle antisemitism, have got their wish, now that it’s led by a man who responded to Black Lives Matter by boasting about his support for the police and his work locking black kids up after the 2011 riots. It’s not just a lie, it’s the kind of lie you can only tell if you’ve already decided your audience is thick as pigshit.

The next section, considering the populist model more generally and its reliance on “great leader” figures, is interesting. In some ways, it reminded me of the Free Association’s article on “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”, which tried to consider if investment in the figure of a leader could break out of these kinds of dynamics and open up more liberatory potentials, but I suppose that argument is still kind of unproven.

The only other observation I’d make is that I think there’s at least a possibility that the “Great Leader” problem may be inherent, not just to populist projects, but to any electoral formation. Is it possible to run a Presidential campaign that doesn’t have “an outsized role for the personality of the Leader”? I’m not convinced, and in particular I’m skeptical as a result of remembering the lessons of Respect in England and the Scottish Socialist Party north of the border, both of which seemed to breed their own mini-personality cults around Galloway and Sheridan.

One relatively minor criticism would be with Lawless’ citation of Hal Draper:

“But, as explored by American revolutionary Hal Draper in The Two Souls of Socialism, [social democracy] is counterposed to socialism as in workers’ power expressed through grassroots democracy, involving the abolition of capitalist social and economic relations altogether. Too many modern-day “revolutionaries” seem to have forgotten there’s a difference between these two meanings of “socialism”. Hence nonsense propaganda like Jeremy Corbyn’s face photoshopped into old Soviet or Maoist propaganda posters, or – my personal favourite – Bernie Sanders depicted as Che Guevara on T-shirts – while Corbyn was calling for more funding for police and border guards”.

I think Draper’s Two Souls of Socialism has some pretty serious flaws in itself, but one of its strengths is that it clearly identifies the systems that existed in Soviet Russia and Maoist China as being other forms of “socialism from above” along with social democracy, and so I’m not sure Draper would have seen anything ironic or ridiculous about the mash-up of social democratic and Stalinist iconography.

After all, it’s hardly contradictory to wave around Soviet propaganda while supporting Corbyn’s calls for more cops and border guards, considering that both those things were very much a feature of the old USSR or East Germany. Certainly, nothing about it would have surprised Draper, who wrote, “The illusion of the Rooseveltian “revolution from above” united creeping-socialism, bureaucratic liberalism, Stalinoid elitism, and illusions about both Russian collectivism and collectivized capitalism, in one package… in domestic policy the official Communist Party and the social-democrats tend to converge on the policy of permeationism, though from the angle of a different Socialism-from-Above.”

A more serious criticism comes when Lawless returns to UK politics and the Brexit vote, writing:

“Similar confusion was apparent among Left-populists who wishfully declared that the 2016 vote for Brexit was “a multi-ethnic working class uprising against the elites”. In fact – as for a Trump vote – the best predictor of a Brexit vote was being white.”

This is a straightforward untruth, and I’m disappointed to see it repeated here, as I pointed out its falsity two years ago. This claim is backed up by two citations, one to an earlier Lawless article and one to an academic journal article, and, in turn, the earlier Lawless article linked to a Buzzfeed piece.

The Buzzfeed piece found that, for instance, only 26% of those with a degree qualification voted Leave, but 78% of those with no formal qualifications did. Similarly, it showed that 66% of those in the lowest income group voted Leave, compared to only 38% of those in the highest income bracket. In contrast to these very strong predictors, the ethnic data showed that voters who identified as white British were very evenly split on Brexit, only favouring it by 51%, and voters who described themselves as white but not British tended to oppose leaving, with only 34% voting for Brexit. So, to conflate support for Leave with whiteness only works if you’re willing to forget that people who are white but not British – that is to say, the majority of the European population, who might be considered to have some relevance to questions like EU migration to the UK – exist. And even going with this incredibly unhelpful conflation of whiteness and Britishness, I still can’t see how white Brits favouring Leave by 51% is somehow “the best predictor” when 78% of those with no formal educational qualifications did.

Similarly, the “Who voted for Brexit?” academic journal article writes “We find that voting Leave is associated with older age, white ethnicity, low educational attainment, infrequent use of smartphones and the internet, receiving benefits, adverse health and low life satisfaction.” Which, as you may notice, is not the same thing as “We find that voting Leave is associated with white ethnicity, that’s all, that’s the important thing.”

Looking through their data, they do say that “In terms of ethnic minorities compared to whites…, people of mixed ethnicity, Asians and black respondents all have a significantly larger probability of supporting Remain (in the range of 12%–23%).” They also say that “highly qualified individuals with university and college degrees are considerably less likely to vote Leave by over 20% compared to people with average qualifications. In contrast, having no qualification is a very strong predictor of voting Leave.” And “recipients of income support are substantially more likely to be in favor of Leave (by 20%)” and “people of poor health as proxied by frequent visits to the GP or hospital are substantially more likely to support Leave”.

And “To sum up our results on demographic variables, we find that individuals are more likely to support Leave if they are male, older, use less technology, are less qualified, retired or unemployed, and divorced, separated or widowed. These findings are consistent with the results by Becker et al. (2017) based on aggregate data who also find that age, low educational attainment and unemployment are key explanatory variables to predict the Leave vote shares across UK voting areas.”

I might have missed something there, it’s a fairly heavy article and not easy to skim-read, but I really don’t think it ever says that the best predictor of a Brexit vote was being white.

Then we get another section, on the desire for a “tough guy socialism”, where I sort of agree with Lawless’ point, but find myself baffled by the example used to support it:

“The British socialist writer Richard Seymour, now an editor of Salvage magazine, used to talk on his blog Lenin’s Tomb about how Corbyn was too “nice” and he needed supporters who would leverage “hate” and even “sadism” against the conservative Right and neoliberal centre.”

Again, checking the citations, the Seymour piece that mentioned “sadism” in a positive light actually turns out to be quite a thoughtful critique of “civility politics”, which I thought was a fairly uncontroversial position on the left, full of stuff like:

“To disavow our aggressive impulses, our desire to punish, our rage, is to engage in a dubious operation of externalisation. There are at least two ways in which we can externalise ‘evil’ in this sense. We can, as Fanon suggested, project our aggression onto a racial Other, finding in them all that is bestial and barbaric in our own behaviour and desires. That is Farage and the faraginous hordes behind him. Or, we can project it onto those who we believe to be the racist hordes (whether they are or not doesn’t necessarily affect the degree of projection).

To put it like this: we can no more live without hate than we can live without an idea of justice. We can no more live outside of resentment than we can live outside of pain, and blame, and unrealistic ideals. There is something deeply suspect about any politics, or any person, that professes to be free of it, that has nothing to despise.”

I don’t think it makes sense to accuse Seymour of “Trump envy” for this stuff, any more than you’d say it about Lawless, who does after all write in the same article that “The Black Lives Matter uprisings show that retaliatory aggression and violence against the oppressor class are a part of any vital mass movement.”

And to be clear, I do kind of agree with the point that Lawless is trying to make, there definitely was an element of Corbynism, especially around the most Stalinist/red-brown-leaning areas, that tended to affect a kind of macho, sub-Danny-Dwyer swagger. I just don’t think that Seymour’s loquaciously long-winded Lacanianism had anything to do with it. In terms of importance to the Corbyn project, Salvage magazine or Seymour’s own blog are hardly the Morning Star or Novara or LabourList, and the whole “centrist melt” culture would have been a more convincing and relevant example to offer.

Anyway, leaving aside the question of Seymour, sadism, and the absolute boy, Lawless suggests that there are left-wing Trump defenders, and gives as an example:

“…they agree with Trump that he is being unfairly attacked by a “Deep State”; law enforcement, military and intelligence personnel and other people within the US state who are opposed, not so much to Trump’s politics, but to his disregard for the norms and conventions of the US bourgeois state, or even its laws and Constitution – something that many Left-populists regard as a positive feature, if only he would use it “for good”.”

Nuance is crucial here, I think. If anyone is genuinely siding with Trump, then that’s obviously fucked, but if you remove the word “unfairly”, then I think it is correct to say “Trump… is being attacked by… law enforcement, military and intelligence personnel and other people within the US state who are opposed, not so much to Trump’s politics, but to his disregard for the norms and conventions of the US bourgeois state, or even its laws and Constitution.”

Again, I want to be clear on this: siding with Trump is wrong, but it is important not to let that slip into “anyone who is ambivalent about this conflict, or sees it as two bourgeois factions who are both our enemies, is a Trump-supporting fascist.” For a bit of perspective here, I’d go back and refer to Crimethinc’s Take Your Pick: Law or Freedom and Life in “Mueller Time”: The Politics of Waiting and the Spectacle of Investigation, both of which set out a position that is clearly, unmistakably anti-Trump, while also not giving any ground to the liberal dream of a return to normality or a triumph of law and order:

“For the purposes of relegitimizing government, it is ideal that Robert Mueller is not just a “good” authority figure, but specifically, a white male Republican—an FBI director who first made a name for himself overseeing the killing of Vietnamese people. He is everything the average Democrat would oppose if Trump had not moved the goal posts by pursuing the same Republican agenda by potentially extra-legal means. Mueller represents the same FBI that attempted to make Martin Luther King, Jr. commit suicide, that set out to destroy the Occupy movement. Under Mueller’s leadership, the FBI determined that the number one domestic terror threat in the United States was environmental activism.

Mueller Time is a way of inhabiting the eternally renewed amnesia that is America. This is the real “deep state”—the part of each Democrat’s heart that will accept any amount of senseless violence and murder and oppression, as long as it adheres to the letter of the law…

What would it mean to stop waiting?

It would mean to stop looking to others to solve our problems, no longer permitting a series of presidents, Speakers of the House, FBI directors, presidential candidates, and other bullies and hucksters to play good cop/bad cop with us.

It would mean figuring out how to deal with the catastrophes that Trump’s presidency is causing directly, rather than through the mediation of other authority figures. It would mean building up social movements powerful enough to block the construction of a border wall, to liberate children from migrant detention facilities and reunite them with their families, to feed the hungry and care for the sick without waiting for legislators to give us permission to make use of the resources that we and others like us maintain on a daily basis.

Remember when we shut down the airports immediately after Trump took office? It would mean doing more of that, and less sitting around waiting on politicians and bureaucrats. That was our proudest moment. Since then, we have only grown weaker, distracted by the array of champions competing to represent us—the various media outlets and Democratic presidential candidates—all surrogates for our own agency.”

As I say, it’s important to draw these lines with nuance: I think Crimethinc’s position here is as far from “Trump envy” as both are from standard, pro-Biden and Democratic Party positions, that it would be ridiculous to describe it as “Mr Trump, whom I do not support”-ism, and yet Lawless seems to be at risk of vanishing it, sweeping things into a thoroughly campist, “either with us or against us” binary.

Continuing on this theme, Lawless adds:

“These Left populists oppose this putative sabotage, not because they like Trump’s politics, far from it… but because they imagine the State apparatus doing the same thing to a putative President Sanders (or on the model of what the Chilean state actually did to Salvador Allende in the 1970s).”

Again, I would compare this to Crimethinc’s position:

“That is what makes your cheerleading for the FBI so chilling. You’re familiar with COINTELPRO, presumably, and many of the other ways that the FBI has set out to crush movements for social change? Imagine that your best-case scenario plays out and the FBI helps to orchestrate Donald Trump’s removal from power. What do you think that the FBI would do with all the legitimacy that would give them in the eyes of liberals and centrists? It would have carte blanche to intensify its attacks on poor people, people of color, and protesters, destroying the next wave of social movements before they can get off the ground. Nothing could be more naïve than to imagine that the FBI will focus on policing the ruling class.”

Does Lawless really think that this kind of argument equates to supporting Trump? If not, it would have been better to allow a bit more room for nuance, and to explicitly acknowledge that such “neither Trump nor the FBI” (or indeed “neither Washington nor Washington”) positions exist.

After this, we get an even more confusing criticism:

“Similarly, many supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders have attempted to discredit the mainstream media as irredeemably biased against their candidate, in very similar terms to Trump and his “fake news” slogan – with the same purpose, to discredit any criticism of Dear Leader, whether valid or not.”

If you’re reaching the point where you’re criticising Corbyn supporters for thinking the mainstream media is biased against them, then you’re dangerously close to defending Rupert Murdoch on campist, “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” grounds.

There are all kinds of valid criticisms to be made of how Corbynists responded to the mainstream media, and especially of how some of them failed to apply the same level of scrutiny and skepticism to alternative press outlets like the Canary and Skawkbox and so on. And yes, some Corbynists certainly went into a kind of kneejerk reaction where valid criticisms were dismissed as smears. But, fundamentally – and I can’t believe I’m even having to write this – any serious assessment of the relationship between Corbynism and the media has to start off by acknowledging that the Daily Mail and the Express and the Sun and the Telegraph and the Spectator and the Times and Nick Cohen and David Aaronovitch and their whole crowd are extremely bad. Corbynists are not wrong for pointing this out, and I don’t know if you can say that they’ve been “attempting to discredit the mainstream media” when the mainstream media is doing such a good job of that on its own.

If anyone wants to claim that Corbyn supporters were wrong to think that the mainstream media was biased against them, then they can dig through that LSE study, Journalistic Representations of Jeremy Corbyn in the British Press, and explain what all the flaws are.

Approaching the conclusion, Lawless writes that:

“In majoritarian (first-past-the-post) systems like the United States or the United Kingdom, Left-wing electoral populism can only act as a “spoiler”, attempting to take away enough votes from the more liberal of the major parties to be able to dictate terms upon it; unless, of course, it succeeds in taking over the liberal/centre-Left major party from within. The former is grossly irresponsible when the Right no longer wants a nastier version of capitalist normality, but the mass repeal of democratic rights and the welfare state in a fascist or Pinochet-style programme. As Fightback has argued repeatedly, this is the same fatal mistake made by the Stalinised Communists of the 1930s who saw no difference between Hitler and capitalist normality.”

The majority of this is quite a weird criticism to make when Corbynism and Sanderism were definitely both boring-from-within movements inside the major parties, so it amounts to “this thing that no-one was doing would be grossly irresponsible if anyone was doing it.” And the repeated references to fascism, Pinochet and Hitler in an electoral context are confusing to me – as much as I hate and despise Johnson, I think his programme is more “a nastier version of capitalist normality” than anything that could be seriously described as fascist or Pinochet-style.

I’m still very confused by how Lawless sees the contemporary right – are they are at once seriously intending a fascist dictatorial takeover, and yet so constrained by norms and legalities that we expect them to respect the outcome of democratic votes? Surely the flaws of a “stop Pinochet by voting for the left party” argument should be pretty much self-evident?

Lawless concludes that:

“My argument, though, is that a primarily electoral Left-populism has proved itself to be a comprehensive dead-end.”

And I have no argument with that, I’ve been arguing along similar grounds for years. The problem, though, is that it’s vital to distinguish between different critiques of left populism. A libertarian, class-struggle, direct action-orientated critique of left populist electoralism, aiming to give a more adequate form to the anti-establishment and anti-capitalist impulses that left populism partially expresses, is a very different thing to a critique of populism coming from the standpoint of the Party of Order, from the centrists and moderates and their friends in the mainstream media who see it as being an unacceptably rowdy breach of normality. I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by muddling up those two critiques.

Against “campism”, now and always.

Posted in Bit more thinky, Debate, Labour, Stuff that I don't think is very useful, The left | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Free elderly Black Liberation prisoner Ed Poindexter, and updates on Rashid’s situation

Two quick US prisoner updates:

In Omaha, Ed Poindexter, a 75-year-old Black Liberation prisoner who’s been held since 1971, has filed an application to have his sentence commuted.

Ed Poindexter finally filed his application for commutation of sentence on August 17.

At the August Pardons Board meeting, Dr. Topolski, a new supporter, asked the governor to expedite Ed’s application because of the risk of covid19.

The governor said he wasn’t inclined to let anybody “jump in line” (there are 49 other applications for sentence commutations) but he also said that didn’t mean that Ed would not be on the agenda in October.

Please write a letter to the Pardons Board (and forward this),

Ed would be very grateful. We would also appreciate if you could send us a copy of your letter to: freedomfored@gmail.com

Thank you so much for your decades of support for Ed, and for Mondo we Langa!

Ed’s Story
In April of 1971, Edward Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, formerly David Rice, were sentenced to life in prison for the death of an Omaha police officer—a crime they did not commit. The two were targeted by law enforcement and wrongfully convicted due to their affiliation with the Black Panther Party, a civil rights and anti-fascist political group.

Nearly 50 years later, Ed is still in prison and maintains his innocence. He has earned several college degrees, taught anti-violence classes to youth, authored screenplays, and more. His last chance for freedom is to receive a commutation of sentence from the Nebraska Board of Pardons. At age 75, he is at high risk for COVID related health complications. He must receive an immediate and expedited commutation hearing from the Board.

Take Action Now
Write, email and call the Nebraska Board of Pardons. Request that they expedite Ed’s application, schedule his hearing for the October 2020 meeting and commute his sentence.

WRITE:
Nebraska Board of Pardons
P.O. Box 95007
Lincoln, NE 68509
*please email a copy of your letter to freedomfored@gmail.com

EMAIL:
ne.pardonsboard@nebraska.gov

CALL:
Governor Pete Ricketts: 402-471-2244
SoS Robert B. Evnen: 402-471-2554
AG Doug Peterson: 402-471-2683

Sample Letter

Dear Pardons Board:
I am writing in regards to Edward Poindexter, #27767, who has served nearly 50 years in prison with exemplary behavior and many accomplishments. He is 75 years old and at high risk for COVID-19 related medical complications, which have been amplified by the increased COVID transmission rate among prisoners. I am therefore requesting that the Board expedite Ed’s application, schedule his hearing for the October 2020 Board meeting, and commute his sentence to length of time served.

You can read more about Ed here:
https://prisonersolidarity.com/prisoner/edward-poindexter

See also this detailed profile of Ed and his now-deceased co-defendant Mondo we Langa from Buzzfeed.

Regarding Rashid’s situation in Indiana, a script for phone calls and emails has now been released, along with some shareable graphics:

Here is the script that lists the demands. We are asking that folks call and email on Rashid’s behalf:

“Hi, my name is ___ and I am calling to voice concern over the unjust treatment of Kevin Rashid Johnson. It has come to my attention that Rashid has been refused his property following a premeditated attack that we believe may involve members of your staff.

“We are demanding that the property be returned to him immediately and that it include his medication, correspondence, writing effects and legal materials specifically. We are especially concerned about your refusal to give him the remainder of his K.O.P. meds, Lozartin and Hydrochlorothiazide. These are life sustaining medications and need to be administered every day. As it stands now, he has been without them since Aug. 25, 2020.

Denying him these things is a violation of his medical, legal and human rights and impedes his ability to look after his health and defend himself from these most recent, bogus charges. I understand this type of behavior and refusal of basic human and legal rights by IDOC authorities represents a racist and abusive pattern of targeting Rashid for his political beliefs and for his publicizing the conditions at Pendleton amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to other racist and oppressive conditions. We understand your officers, A. Long and R. Cochran, have been key figures in this continued racist and abusive practice.

We demand ALL of his property be returned to him immediately. We also demand that this rumor of an impending transfer out of Pendleton Correctional Facility being used as a pretense for withholding his property from him either take place immediately or cease. Finally, we demand he be allowed to communicate with his attorney and any other legal counsel that he deems appropriate and that he be allowed to add his attorney’s phone number to his phone contact list immediately.

I want you to know that Rashid has the full support of many friends both here and abroad. The entire world is watching your actions there at Pendleton Correctional Facility. We hope that you will do the right thing. Thank you for your time. Goodbye.

Call or write the following officials to save Rashid’s life 

Posted in Repression | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Prison organiser Rashid in imminent danger at Pendleton Correctional Facility

From Rashidmod.com:

***URGENT CALL TO ACTION! PLEASE SHARE WIDELY!***

Just got off of the phone with Rashid and he still has not received his property or the remainder of his life-sustaining medication.  He hasn’t had all of his medication since the incident where he was forced to defend himself that occurred on 08.25.2020.  This alone is enough but what has me the most concerned is that he stated there are other recent developments in his current situation that he did not feel comfortable sharing with me over the phone as the calls are heavily monitored and recorded.

He did state emphatically that at this point IDOC and the staff at Pendleton Correctional Facility are actively trying to kill him. These were his exact words. I am fearful for the safety of my comrade and partner and am asking everyone to please call and email! The prison and corrections staff must know that we are watching and there will be a serious consequence to pay should anything happen to Kevin Rashid Johnson while in their custody and care.

Officers A. Long and R. Cochoran have been central figures in the continued racist attacks against Rashid and the racially motivated STG label that was attached to him and his political party.  We are asking that calls and emails be made to everyone but correspondence to Dennis Reagle (warden) and Joseph Walter’s (Interstate Compact Admin VADOC) should increase.  I am including their contact information below. If you have media contacts or resources that can assist us in this fight, then I ask that you please contact me.  Day or night. I don’t care the time.  We must protect and fiercely defend our political prisoners.

Dare to Struggle Dare to Win!
-Shupavu wa Kirima
shupavu.wa.kirima@gmail.com 

 

————————————————————————————–

 

Charlene A. Burkett, Ombudsman
(317)234-3190
ombud@idoa.IN.gov

 

Jon Adam Ferguson, Chief Legal Officer
jferguson1@idoc.IN.gov
(317)460-6307, mobile
(317)233-8861, office

 

Dennis Reagle, Warden
(765)778-2107
dreagle@idoc.in.gov

 

Shannon Schott, Admin. Sec. to the Warden
sschott@idoc.IN.gov

 

Joseph Walter’s, Deputy Director VADOC
joseph.walters@vadoc.virginia.gov
(Proxy for Harold W. Clarke, Director, Department of Corrections as of 11/2018)
804-887-7982

Posted in Repression | Tagged , | 1 Comment

New UVW union film, newish anarchist media projects, Stuart Christie

A few scattered notes:

Films about workplace organising in the UK are like buses, you wait ages for one and then two come along at once: hot on the heels of the Builder’s Crack film, a new short documentary has been made telling the story of the United Voices of the World strike at St Mary’s Hospital:

As it happens, both of them are around half an hour, so if you wanted to watch them both as part of a single discussion event that would be pretty possible.

Next, to plug two new or vaguely newish anarchist media projects:

Autonomy News is an anarchist news website based in England and Wales. This site was created during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic to highlight mutual aid efforts by communities.

We are inspired by people organising to meet their own needs in ways that build autonomy, resilience and collective power beyond the state, capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy.”

DIY Culture seems to have been around for a bit longer, but I’ve only just noticed it now, it seems to be yet another project from the always-energetic South Essex Heckler folk. They have a new prisoner support special and guide to writing to prisoners as a contribution for the upcoming week of solidarity with anarchist prisoners.

Recent months have also seen the passing of two legendary anarchist figures: first Lucio Urtubia Jiménez, the audacious Spanish urban guerrilla, forger and bricklayer, and then Stuart Christie, the founder of Black Flag magazine among many other projects, who did so much to revive revolutionary anarchism in the UK from the 1960s onwards. I don’t know what to say about either of their lives, but just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that someone great is gone, and to hope that we can live up to their examples.

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

Early August round-up: Minnesota, Ferguson, Lebanon, Iran and more

A quick round-up of some UK and international developments:

In Bristol, the local IWW branch have been active in supporting a strike by Romanian agricultural workers. There doesn’t seem to be a full write-up of the situation anywhere yet, but on social media they’ve reported:

“The summer of resistance continues. We have just had confirmation that 21 Romanian land workers being supported by the IWW have gone on strike today! More details to follow this evening.

The Romanian workers are striking because of terrible conditions and abuse by their employer. One of the main complaints is the accommodation provided by the company with 6-7 people in every room and new workers moved in without any covid testing before living together.

The company charges these workers £57 a day for the accomodation taken out of their wages. Along with charging for travel costs also charged by the company this leaves the workers with very little money to live on or send home to their families.

Among those workers on strike today are some who took part in the Bornheim Streik in Germany supported by our fellow union the FAU.

Due to the situation with the Romanian landworkers refusing to work they were threatened with eviction by the bosses from company housing. We were prepared for this and tonight members of IWW and supporters successfully extracted our workers from the site in a convoy of cars.

All the workers are now in safe and good quality housing away from the threats of violence and now have support from local community groups. Celebrating today’s actions with victory pizzas!

Massive thank you to everyone who took part in tonight’s operation to get our Romanian fellow workers into safe and decent housing! This is what “an injury to one is an injury to all” really means.”

Over the border in South Wales, the local IWW are also celebrating a victory over unpaid wages at a nail bar.

In more mainstream union news, Tate staff organised through the PCS have voted for strike action, starting in the week commencing August 17th, to stop redundancies, and you can donate to their strike fund here. Outsourced HMRC cleaners on Merseyside, also organised in the PCS, are in the middle of a huge month-long strike for a living wage and equality of terms and conditions. See the Justice for HMRC Cleaners site for more on that dispute as it develops.

In Tower Hamlets, the Unison strike against attacks on council staff’s contracts continues, with more strikes set for the 13th, 14th and 17th of August. You can keep up with the dispute at the Tower Hamlets Unison site, and the Let’s Get Rooted project has some more critical analysis of the dispute, along with a whole range of other writing from an interesting working-class perspective.

Next, some general international calls: Bangladeshi garment workers, supported by the ICL/CIT international grouping of radical unions, have called for a month of solidarity with the workers of Dragon Sweater, which recently sacked 6,000 workers without even paying them the wages they’re owed. You can find more about the campaign in general here, and the Irish IWW are planning actions in Galway, Derry, Newry, Belfast and Dublin on the 15th.

German anti-militarists are planning a mass action against the arms trade on the 28th, with a program of online events and workshops scheduled from the 17th through to the 27th.

And August 23rd-30th is the international week of solidarity with anarchist prisoners, so you may want to consider doing something for that, or see if anything’s happening in your area.

A few reports from specific countries:

In the US, a new site’s been launched specifically to support defendants in Minnesota, where the George Floyd rebellion first kicked off. Linking things back to a previous wave of unrest, Touch the Sky, a film about “Stories, Subversions, & Complexities of Ferguson”, has now been made available online to mark the 6th anniversary of that uprising. For a longer overview of the current situation in the US, Crowned Plague by Phil Neel is very worthwhile reading.

On an Eastern European note, Freedom News has updates about both the current uprising against the dictatorship in Belarus, and the vicious repression faced by queer activists in Poland. You can read more from Belarussian anarchists at their site, Pramen, or listen to an interview by an anarchist radio project from Dresden here.

Over in Lebanon, the horrific explosion has led to a renewed rebellion against the regime. Joey Ayoub’s twitter is a good source of updates, the Alliance of Middle Eastern and North African Socialists website hosts a number of different statements, including some from local groups, and Freedom also have an interview about mutual aid in the wake of the disaster.

The IWW site has an appeal up asking for donations, specifically directing people to this listing of groups, and another new gofundme has just been set up for the residents of a hospital that was destroyed in the blast.

Finally, slightly further to the East, Iran is also seeing a wave of class struggle. There’s an appeal for solidarity with the workers of the Haft Tapeh agribusiness enterprise, who’ve been on strike for months, and they’ve recently been joined by a huge strike wave in the country’s energy sector.

 

 

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

NHS pay demos, Saturday 8th August, and Builder’s Crack movie now online

Two quick updates:

Saturday 8th August will see protests by NHS workers and their supporters across the country in response to the government leaving them out of an already-measly public sector pay increase:

NHS workers across the country are organising a wave of protests on Saturday 8th August demanding a 15% pay increase paid from 1 December 2020, in order to start recovering a decade of lost wages.

From the organisers: “We are calling on NHS staff and supporters to join us to send a clear message to the government. We do not accept your plans to exclude us from the public sector pay increase, and we will make ourselves heard until you listen.”

An online rally will also be taking place from 11:30am to 1pm for anyone who cannot join outdoor protests.

The following list will be updated over time as more events are organised. If possible, view the Facebook event to ensure that times or details have not changed.

Basildon | Assemble 11am at Basildon University Hospital
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/908612586298526/

Bournemouth | Assemble 11am at The Square
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/280258143255638/

Birmingham | Assemble 11am at Victoria Square
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/745407806290592/

Bridgend | Assemble 10am at Princess of Wales Hospital
Facebook event: TBA

Brighton | Assemble 11am at Royal Sussex County Hospital (Eastern Road)
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/723638475142141/

Bristol | Assemble 11am at College Green
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/627616574541437/

Cambridge | Assemble 11am at Parker’s Piece
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/209331673812340/

Cardiff | Assemble 11am at Senedd
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/284537349441925/

Chesterfield | Assemble 11am at Town Hall
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/310373143669614/

Cornwall | Assemble 11am outside Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro (alongside the A390 roundabout)
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1316347398555772/

Coventry | Assemble 11am at Swanswell Park and Pool
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/984093035442695/

Derby| Assemble 11am at Council House
Contact: derbysonhs@gmail.com

Doncaster | Assemble 11am at Nigel Gresley Square
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/688545988396648/

Dorchester | Assemble 12:30pm at the Town Pump
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/306247593873711/

Eastbourne | Assemble 11am at Hampden Park
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/377008596597743/

Edinburgh | Assemble 11am, Scottish Parliament Building
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/295330008217451/

Glasgow | Assemble 11am at Glasgow Green
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/2637139446550485/

Hastings | Assemble 11am at Conquest Hospital
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/2609748695959270

Hull | Assemble 12pm, Hull and District Trades Council
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1064655007240421/

Ipswich | Assemble 11am at Christchurch Mansion, Christchurch Park
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/648475509105668/

Inverness | Assemble 11am, Inverness City Centre
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/323255162050469/

Leeds | Assemble 11am, City Square
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/209086270503009/

Liverpool | Assemble 11am, St George’s Hall
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/212987350017033/

London  | Assemble 11am at St James Park, march to Parliament Square via Downing Street
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/573203316679624/

Manchester | Static socially distanced demo | Assemble 10:45am at Piccadilly Gardens
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/314333879929387/

Medway | Assemble 11am near the White Lion, Chatham High Street
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/658810674724890/

Merthyr | Assemble 11am at Merthyr Fountain
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/281385352962327/

Newcastle | Assemble 11am, Newcastle City Centre
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1979989188799202/

Norwich | Assemble 11am Chapelfield Gardens
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/212461936777493/

Nottingham | Assemble 11am at Brian Clough Square
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1698242090534929/

Oxford | Assemble 2pm at Bonn Square
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/582738165944844/

Peterborough | Assemble 11am at Cathedral Square
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/283404592991877/

Portsmouth | Assemble 11am at Guildhall Square
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/303760290964149/

Plymouth | Assemble 11am at Plymouth Hoe
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/2690224574553482/

Sheffield | Assemble 11am at Barker’s Pool
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/3168968803198745/

Southampton | Assemble 11:30am at Guildhall Square
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/613783932905050/

Swansea | Assemble 11am at Castle Gardens
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/4196842477054867/

Also, the long-lost “Builder’s Crack” movie, about rank-and-file construction workers organising in the 90s, is now available to view online along with a brief discussion, the full thing is around 30 minutes long:

Posted in Health, Unions, Work | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Builder’s Crack film premiere, Thursday 30th July, and more workplace and repression news and events

A few events listings:

On Tuesday 28th, minicab drivers organised through the drivers’ branch of the IWGB are holding a car demo in London demanding that the congestion charge exemption for cab drivers be restored.

On Thursday 30th, a long-lost film about rank-and-file workplace organising from the 1990s is having an online premiere:

“Builders Crack: The Movie is a long lost film of rank & file union organizing amongst “self-employed” construction workers in the 1990s. The London Joint Sites Committee and their notorious fanzine, ‘Builders Crack’ waged a 13 year guerrilla war against gangster bosses in the building industry. The grassroots activists in this film led some of the most high profile unofficial industrial action, not just during the 1990s, but over the past 3 decades.

In 2020, union films are everywhere. In the 1990s, no-one was doing this stuff. Builders Crack: The Movie was groundbreaking and is part of your collective union heritage. The film screening and the Q&A session afterwards is intended to encourage a labour movement debate about union organising strategies needed to fightback against the attacks on jobs and wages that are bound to occur over the next 12 months.

Watch this space for more info about how to watch and participate in the discussion.”

Also on online events, the Alliance of Middle Eastern and North African Socialists are continuing to run their online discussion series about the Syrian revolution and related topics up until August 5th, and the ones that have already happened should now be available to watch online.

The Hazards Campaign conference is going online this year, with an event happening on August 1st, which you can register for here:

“This unique online conference starts with an international plenary and is then followed by four specific subject workshops with brilliant speakers and experts throughout the day.

10.00 – 11.30 Plenary – with international speakers on Covid-19 and the impact on workers

12.00 – 13.00 Safety reps taking the lead! – during and after Covid-19

13.30– 14.30 Fighting inequality in health and safety

15.00 – 16.00 Mental Health and Covid-19

16.30- 17.30 Toxics Out! Air pollution, just transition after Covid-19”

In workplace news more generally, the Manchester Airport blacklisting/construction dispute continues, with rank-and-file construction workers and the Blacklist Support Group holding an action at Terminal 2 this weekend. You can read more about the background to the dispute at the Siteworker blog, and see the Construction Rank and File or Blacklist Support Group on fb, or JIB Electrician and Dave Smith on twitter, for more updates as it develops.

In other workplace news, there’s a few updates from the United Voices of the World union, which has won victories on sick pay at the Ministry of Justice, sick pay, wages and safe working conditions at Ark Globe Academy, and sick pay for security guards at St. George’s University over the last month. They’re now getting ready for a massive struggle when the furlough scheme comes to an end, and are looking for people willing to get trained up to help them, as well as launching a mass consultation of their membership to decide their priorities in the months to come. The IWGB is also currently organising in a range of sectors, notably among outsourced staff at UCL, where they won some equality with directly employed staff, only to be told that this would be paid for by cutting staff hours. And the Let’s Get Rooted project have another report from the ongoing Tower Hamlets council dispute, where workers have just voted for more action.

In international repression news, July 25th was the annual day of solidarity with antifascist prisoners, and if you didn’t do anything to mark the date I suppose it’s not too late to do something for it now. Further ahead, August 23-30th is the international week of solidarity with anarchist prisoners. As part of the preparations for that, London Anarchist Black Cross recently did an interview with Dissident Island radio, and you can read their round-up of relevant updates here. They’ve also shared the story of Siyanda Mngaza, a woman who’s just been jailed for four and a half years for defending herself from a racist attack in South Wales. Siyanda’s address is:

Siyanda Mngaza
HMP Eastwood Park
Falfield
Wotton-under-Edge
Gloucestershire
GL12 8DB

Closing out on this subject, I’d just like to plug two important fundraisers: Eric King’s legal fund, helping to defend him against trumped-up charges after he was attacked by a guard, and the SF Bay View fundraiser, which helps to sustain an important piece of prison movement infrastructure and also serves as the welcome home fund for Keith “Malik” Washington, an imprisoned writer and organiser who’ll be taking over as editor when he gets out in a few months.

Finally, other miscellaneous updates: if you’ve never read Capital but fancy learning a bit more about it, the Anarchist Communist Group have just published the first English-language print translation of Carlo Cafiero’s Compendium of Capital, intended as an easier and more readable guide to the subject. They also have a few new stickers available to promote their “no safety, no work” campaign. And the Let’s Get Rooted blog also has a new article up on mutual aid, social reproduction and crisis in South London.

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

Stop the retaliatory abuse against Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson now!

An appeal in support of US prison organiser Kevin “Rashid” Johnson:

Dear Comrades, Friends and Supporters,

I am writing this to inform you of recent events that have transpired involving Kevin “Rashid” Johnson. As many of you already know, Rashid was made a target of abusive and retaliatory practices back in May for publicizing the dangerous, inhumane and unsanitary conditions that prisoners were faced with amid a global health crisis at Pendleton Correctional Facility, where he is currently being detained. These conditions included but were not limited to inadequate food and nutrition, lack of any PPE, lack of cleaning supplies to disinfect their cells in attempts to control the spread of the virus, and COVID-19 positive prisoners being housed among those who were not infected etc.

After leading a hunger strike with the participation of close to 200 prisoners during its height and penning several articles in response to the negligent and lackadaisical attitude displayed by prison officials, Rashid was immediately targeted for retaliation. This came in the form of his money being taken but ordered commissary withheld (withholding commissary is illegal unless it is done as a punitive measure after a prisoner has been charged and found guilty of an infraction, which was not the case with Rashid) and his cell being ransacked by Officers Corcoran and Long, not once but twice, two days in a row immediately following the articles being published.

One of the guards there at Pendleton even went so far as to tell Rashid while he was being held in the extraction cell during the second cell search, that if he would just stop writing about the conditions there at Pendleton then the abuse and retaliation would end. During the second extraction and cell search, Rashid’s tablet was purposefully shattered in order to prevent him from communicating with the outside world. His next-door neighbor was able to hear the conversation between the guards and heard one say to the other, “Here it is,” after finding Rashid’s tablet, after which it was immediately stomped on repeatedly and crushed.

After these failed attempts at coercion, Rashid immediately filed a grievance, as was his right, to protest this illegal action. Rashid received word just yesterday that the grievance filed in May was denied. The timing of this decision is worth noting because being that Rashid did not receive a determination for his grievance until just yesterday, he was not able to appeal it within the given timeframe, paving the way for them to carry out this latest round of retaliatory abuse.

Rashid got word to me this morning that on Wednesday, July 15, 2020, when he believed that he was being let out of his cell to go and retrieve his commissary, he and his neighbor were both told that they would not be receiving their commissary and that they were going to be held in their cells indefinitely and would not be allowed out for any reason. They would also not be allowed to use the phones. This neighbor is the same one who stood with Rashid during the incidents in May even going as far as to speak up to the guards as they were breaking Rashid’s tablet.

Word has gotten back from a yard officer by the name of Robert “Bob” Daughtery that this latest action is absolutely retaliation for what happened in May. He went on further to state that Rashid and his neighbor would be kept in this punitive limbo indefinitely and that they can expect more cell searches looking for bogus contraband.

This is a complete affront to any type of due process and tramples upon Rashid’s right to freedom of speech and political expression. We are asking that everyone who is able, reach out to the staff listed below at Pendleton Correctional Facility and Virginia Department of Corrections as Rashid is only at Pendleton as part of an Interstate Compact Agreement and is still technically in the custody of VDOC. Please reach out to me as well if you have further questions or concerns by emailing shupavu.wa.kirima@gmail.com, as there is only so much that I am able to share here for the sake of time and length.

All Power to the People!

Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!

Phone and email zap script for Comrade Rashid

Hi, my name is _______ and I am calling to voice concern over the treatment of Kevin “Rashid” Johnson. It has come to my attention that Rashid and a neighbor have been refused their commissary, confined to their cells, and are being denied the ability to make phone calls without due process including phone calls to Rashid’s attorney*. I understand further that Rashid has not had a working tablet** through which to communicate since early May, when it was broken in retaliation for speaking out on the conditions there at Pendleton amid the COVID-19 pandemic and that these current actions taken against him and his neighbor are retaliatory in nature. I want these punitive and coercive actions taken against Rashid and his neighbor to cease immediately and for Rashid’s tablet to be replaced and returned to him. I want you to know that Rashid has my full support and that the world is watching in hopes that you will do the right thing. Thank you for your time. Goodbye.

Please begin the zap on Friday, July 17, 2020. Contact the following officials:

John Adam Ferguson, Chief Legal Officer, jferguson1@idoc.IN.gov, 317-460-6307 (mobile), 317-233-8861 (office)

Charlene A. Burkett, Ombudsman, ombud@idoa.IN.gov, 317-234-3190

Joseph Walters, Deputy Director VADOC, joseph.walters@vadoc.virginia.gov, proxy for Harold W. Clarke, Director of Department of Corrections, 804-887-7982

James Parks, Interstate Compact Administrator, james.parks@vadoc.virginia.gov, 804-887-7991

*Rashid has been denied contact with his lawyer, Dustin McDaniel of the Abolitionist Law Center, since being at Pendleton. This is illegal and violates his right to legal counsel

**Per the rules and guidelines at Pendleton regarding the tablet devices that are issued to the prisoners for communication purposes, it is the prisoners’ responsibility to replace said tablets if they are lost or broken. These devices cost around $250 each and we do not believe that Rashid should replace something that was purposefully destroyed by the pigs.

Send our brother some love and light: Kevin Rashid Johnson, 264847, Pendleton Correctional Facility, 4490 W. Reformatory Rd, Pendleton, IN 46064.

Posted in Repression | Tagged , | 1 Comment