A working-class response to the EU referendum

I don’t think there’s much point in picking a side in the EU debate. It’s a referendum called by the Tories, and one that takes place entirely on their terms: there is no lesser evil to choose between Cameron and the international institutions that have imposed austerity across the continent on one hand, and Johnson, Gove, UKIP and the Taxpayers’ Alliance on the other.

When there are so many questions with clear right and wrong answers – should these people be evicted from their homes, should the government be able to impose this new contract on junior doctors, do you need and deserve a pay rise and so on – it seems a bit pointless to focus much attention on a choice between two different flavours of toxic waste. Any kind of positive response, anything that points to an actual improvement rather than just trying to slow down the rate at which everything continues to get worse, can only come from rejecting the choices we’re offered and deciding our own priorities on our own terms. Arguments between politicians about how to draw lines on a map don’t take place for our benefit, so we shouldn’t fight in their wars and we shouldn’t vote in their campaigns.

But that’s a bit of an abstract slogan, it’s not necessarily easy to say what that can look like in practice. Unexpectedly, an article in the Sun has given a glimpse of what a genuine working-class response to the EU debate could look like: posties are threatening not to deliver Cameron’s pro-EU propaganda, or at least want extra money if they’re going to have to do it.

That, right there, is the essence of a real working-class approach to the problem. Not “I want to stay in because I trust the European Parliament to protect our rights.” Not “I want to leave because I think it’s easier to hold British politicians to account.” Just “why should I have to go out of my way to deliver this crap?”

And, just like that, everything is reversed, and we’re reminded of a simple truth that’s so often forgotten and obscured: everything in this society, all the things that make the wealthy and powerful so wealthy and powerful, all of it only happens because we do the work to make it happen. When we talk about Cameron spending taxpayers’ money on sending leaflets to everyone in Britain, we’re not really talking about Cameron doing anything at all, we’re talking about designers laying leaflets out, print workers actually doing the job of getting them printed, and posties actually taking the things and putting them through people’s letterboxes. Or, just as importantly, not taking the things and not putting them through people’s letterboxes.

It’s our work that makes all these things happen, and when we withdraw that work these things, all those things that make up their society, can’t function as normal. When we remember that truth, we start to open up possibilities a lot more interesting and exciting than just “leave” or “remain”.

Brigwater posties

Posted in Bit more thinky, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, The media, Tories | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Early April round-up: work, prison, and other struggles

While the headlines have all been about the Panama papers and Cameron’s latest difficulties, there’s also been a whole load of other stuff going on. Here’s a quick round-up of news from a few different fronts:

In workplace news, SolFed are currently in dispute with the Jimmy’s Restaurants chain over unpaid wages and P45s not being provided to former workers. If you’d like to check if there’s a Jimmy’s near you, there’s a handy list of their locations here – it’d probably be worth checking with SolFed before trying to organise anything, but I’m sure they, and the workers involved, would welcome any display of solidarity. Elsewhere, there’s still the upcoming SOAS cleaners demo, and the Topshop cleaners’ organising has led to two workers being victimised – if you’re in London on the 16th, you can join the UVW union in demanding the reinstatement of the Topshop Two and a real living wage for their staff. And construction workers have also been holding protests in Scotland, Wales and Yorkshire to highlight the issue of employers undercutting agreed rates – if you’re anywhere near Fawley, the next action is planned for there on Tuesday 12th from 6.15am. And, of course, the massive doctors’ dispute is still continuing – the next strike days are on the 26th and 27th, but before then there should be a few regional protests in solidarity, like this one in Leeds, and there’s also the call from Plan C for pickets of private healthcare companies to try and spread the dispute – if you live in Manchester, you can meet up with them for a pint on the 19th and discuss how to get involved.

From the #paytherate protest in Rotherham

Looking at wider social struggles, tenants on the Butterfields estate are currently fighting against evictions, Johnny Void’s drawn attention to the welfare-to-work industry’s “employability day” on April 15th and suggested using it as a chance to highlight the truth about workfare and sanctions, Feminist Fightback are asking people to join them in taking direct action for reproductive rights on the 16th, Midlands antifascists will be holding a benefit meal in Nottingham that night, the night after that will see the first in a series of No Borders socials in South London, and the Angry Workers of the World have a great new article looking at working-class experiences of the crisis as felt through family and friend relationships. There’s also a couple of bookfairs coming up soon – Sheffield’s is on the 23rd, and Bristol’s is the weekend after. The Radical History Zone down the road from the Bristol bookfair looks especially interesting, particularly the discussion with the Wise Brothers from King Mob.

The Radical History Zone at the Bristol bookfair

There’s been a few bits of news from the courts and prison system worth paying attention to – Aiden Aslin’s recent court appearance turned out to be one of those non-events the CPS are so good at, so his bail date’s been postponed to May 17th and there’s no news as to whether or not they’ll actually try and prosecute him on charges of allegedly fighting ISIS. The Blacklist Support Group were back in court on the 7th, and their next appearance will be at a pre-trial review on the 21st, with the full trial being scheduled to start on May 9th and run till the end of July. In the meantime, they’ll be taking a very very close look at the long-lost computer used to help run the blacklist which has just resurfaced. Also, a slightly older story but one I’ve only just seen, the Heathrow 13 case inspired a group of organisers with direct experience of repression from the animal liberation movement to write an interesting set of reflections on repression, prison and struggle – definitely worth a look.

From Aiden Aslin's court appearance.

Staying with the prison theme, but turning an eye across the Atlantic, the IWW have been helping prisoners organise strikes in 7 prisons across Texas, and held a national day of action yesterday to raise the profile of the prison strike. They also have very ambitious plans for a nationally co-ordinated prison strike starting on September 9th – keep an eye on that date.

Finally, one other piece of international news that’s worth mentioning, but I don’t really have the time to give the justice it deserves, is the explosive revolt against the new labour law in France – as ever, Dialectical Delinquents is a great source for keeping up with what’s going on there, while Roar Magazine has some very positive coverage looking at the “Nuit Debout” movement as a convergence of struggles, and Rabble has a list of the smashy-smashy highlights, along with a critique of direct democracy based on the experience of the Spanish indignados movement.

Occupied railway in Rennes

So, just to sum up what’s happening next Saturday: in London, apart from the big anti-austerity demo (which will be featuring this No Jobs bloc), feminists will be getting together to confront anti-abortion activists and the religious right and cleaners and their supporters will be taking on TopShop, while people will be marching for the NHS in Leeds and antifascists will be holding a fundraiser in Nottingham. Busy day.

Posted in Gender, Housing, Occupations, Protests, Repression, Strikes, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

London couriers win pay rise through the threat of direct action

Couriers organising through the IWGB Couriers and Logistics Branch, who’ve recently won an increase at CitySprint, were planning a protest for Wednesday morning highlighting the low wages paid by E-Courier. That’s now been called off, as they report that a branch meeting has voted to accept an increased pay offer:

By the Unions calculations this package will bring e-couriers into Living Wage territory, as well as addressing the costs currently incurred by riders to keep pedalling each day. The package includes an additional 20p per docket on top of 20p increase from last month, plus an increase in weekly bonus cap, free uniforms, and 10p per mile compensation for costs. This amounts to a nearly 30% pay rise and is a major VICTORY for Couriers who have took a stand against exploitation! We are celebrating E-Courier’s choice to better the lives of their fleet (although it took more than a little nudging to provoke it!). We will be keeping close tabs on the implementation of these changes to make sure every penny promised will be payed to the couriers- please note however that Wednesday’s protest is CANCELLED- and for E-Couriers: CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR PAYRISE!!!

When we organise, and take bold, imaginative action, we can win. Congratulations to the E-Couriers riders.

IWGB Couriers celebrating their pay rise

Posted in Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, Unions, Work | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Monday morning mischief: give Lambeth council some well-deserved HASsLe

Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth seem like a really sound local group, consistently doing the kind of unglamourous grassroots organising that can make a real difference to people’s lives. They’re currently in the middle of a dispute with Lambeth council over the council’s refusal to provide adequate secure housing for one of their members, Mary Luz, and you can read a full description of the case here.

They’ve put out a call for online support this Monday morning:

So, we’re asking for your help. Every attempt to make Lambeth Council accountable for their actions so far has been met with misdirection and an unwillingness to justify or explain their actions.  We’re hoping that if we can demonstrate just how many of us find this kind of treatment intolerable, we can convince Lambeth Council to take notice of this serious case, and hopefully the huge number of similar cases we know others are facing.

Join us this Monday 4th April in creating a Twitter and email storm between 10am-12pm (but feel free to start before and continue after!). We’re asking people to Tweet Lib Peck (@cllrpeck) and Lambeth Council (@lambeth_council). We’re using the hashtag #AnswersAndAction to help keep a track of them. We’ve included some sample tweets below which will easily allow you to register your frustration and anger:

#AnswersAndAction – Sample Tweet 1

#AnswersAndAction – Sample Tweet 2

#AnswersAndAction – Sample Tweet 3

We’d also like people to email Lib Peck and Chris Knaggs demanding answers. You can reach them at lpeck@lambeth.gov.uk and cknaggs@lambeth.gov.uk – we’d also invite people to cc us in to your emails using hasemail@gmail.com. We’ve drafted a template email at the end of this blogpost that you can send . Again, please feel free to amend or adjust as suits you, but if you wish to write your own email, please do make sure you check the link to the full account of Mary-Luz’s case first.

We hope that Lib Peck and Lambeth Council will respond. We will be showing our support for Mary Luz and her family with an action outside Olive Morris House this Thursday 7th April meeting there at 2pm. Bring things to make noise with! Children very welcome too – we’ll be planning some kids activities!

Sample Email

To: lpeck@lambeth.gov.uk, cknaggs@lambeth.gov.uk, haslemail@gmail.com

Subject: Why is Mary Luz and her family suffering from Lambeth’s neglect?

I’m writing to you today out of concern for Mary Luz and her family, who faced gatekeeping by Lambeth Council which had extremely serious consequences and then were housed out-of-borough in unsuitable temporary accommodation far away from school, local doctors and support networks.

It has been almost a year since Mary Luz first approached Lambeth Council for housing assistance and was unlawfully turned away. Her family were living in severely overcrowded and unsuitable housing. Mary Luz deserves answers for this treatment, and I believe she has a right to hear them. I would like answers to the following questions.

Why did Lib Peck / Lambeth Council not take seriously the neglect by her staff that Mary Luz experienced at the housing office, Why did she not feel the need to make enquiries into the complaints and issues we have raised, and why is she not acting to make sure the family have the suitable local housing they need?

Is Lib Peck / Lambeth Council satisfied with the actions of housing staff who unlawfully gatekept Mary Luz, and which resulted in Mary Luz facing actual physical harm in the unsuitable housing that Lambeth staff sent her to return to?

Is Lib Peck / Lambeth Council satisfied with the decision to house the family out of their home borough in unsuitable temporary accommodation (Mary Luz is registered as blind and has been sent to an area she does not know, and the welfare and schooling of her children has not been taken into consideration either) when they should have been given local social housing back in May last year?

Is Lib Peck / Lambeth Council satisfied with the housing office’s failure to properly open up a homeless application and to do a proper assessment regarding the suitability of temporary accommodation?

I look forward to hearing your response.

Please spread the word, and don’t forget to drop Lambeth council a line to let them know your views.

Posted in Housing, Protests | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Dover and Dover again: the results of the rematch

So, following on from demonstrations in September and January that saw increasingly intense levels of violence, yesterday’s far-right and anti-fascist mobilisations in Dover seemed to pass without much incident. I think that in many ways what this illustrates is that these kinds of events are never just a two-way clash, but they’re always a three-way fight between fascists, antifascists and the police, and the smart money is usually on the well-armed professionals rather than the amateurs. Back in January, the total failure of all their attempts at crowd control meant the cops came in a very poor third place, but they seem to have belatedly learnt their lessons well enough. Yesterday the cops could say that they achieved all their objectives for the day, and it seems likely that similar levels of policing will be in place on the 23rd.

Looking at the other two groups, it seems that numbers had fallen on the fascist side more than on the antis: certainly, nickings and bail conditions from last time round will have played some part in this, but that can’t account for the whole of the drop in attendance. Some of it will may just be demo fatigue, and the fact that nazis are indeed human too, and all the reasons why’re you’re not able to do as much as you’d like will also be in play in their own lives. Whatever, the violence last time round doesn’t seem to have scared off too many antifascists.

The AFN are right to conclude that the day went well, in that the refugee solidarity convoy to Calais was able to march unopposed and set off without any grief, while the nazi march was heckled and obstructed. But the cops were still able to make space for the nazis to march at all: taking and holding space from the police is a very tall order, but it’s what we need to do if we’re going to actually prevent the fascists from marching. It’s a difficult task, but not an impossible one.

Closing thoughts: as much as we’d like to claim all the credit for the defeat of far-right movements, the state does often play just as much as a role. Antifascists did contribute to the decline of the EDL, but so did things like, for instance, the jailing of over 50 EDLers after Birmingham. It’s possible that the eventual fallout from the prosecutions after Dover will do for the new style of neo-nazi marches what the post-Birmingham court cases did for the EDL, but that would be nothing to celebrate: if we ever come to pose a serious threat to the status quo, we’ll be facing the same, so we need to be working out how our movements could survive that level of state attention.

And one last suggestion: it’s easy to take the piss out of the British Movement with their little shields, but, if you’re heading into a situation where you’re going to have people throwing shit at you, it is quite sensible to have something to try and make sure you don’t have to catch it on your head (or to rely on using your ipad like that one nazi in Liverpool). It might not be such a bad idea to revive the book blocs that were seen on the student demos a few years ago – next time you set off to oppose the far-right, it may be worth taking along a few outsize copies of Beating the Fascists, A Day Mournful and Overcast, or The 43 Group? This tactic could be particularly useful in situations, like yesterday, where the cops are removing people’s facial coverings – large, bulky shields don’t just block incoming missiles, they can also be used to block visibility and lines of sight for cameras.

Posted in Protests, Racism, Repression, The right | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Know your rights in the immigration and asylum system with the Right to Remain toolkit

Like so many other aspects of the state, the immigration and asylum system makes a huge difference to people lives, and it’s also confusing and difficult to navigate, especially for people who often won’t have English as their first language. As ever, navigating difficult bureaucracies is no problem for those who are rich enough to pay someone else to do it for them, but, especially with the cuts to legal aid, those of us who aren’t rich just have to muddle through these life-changing bureaucratic mazes as best we can.

For this reason, the Right to Remain toolkit – which was first launched in 2013, but hugely expanded and updated in March 2016 – is an incredibly valuable resource, aiming to strip away the confusion that makes these systems so intimidating and put some power back in the hands of the people going making immigration and asylum applications. In their own words,

“Understanding the asylum and immigration system, and your own legal case, is more important than ever. Cuts to legal aid (free, government-funded legal representation) mean that more and more people have no lawyer at all and are forced to navigate this very complicated system without legal representation.

Take an active role in your legal case. The Right to Remain Toolkit will help you do this. Even if you have a lawyer, it’s important to understand your own legal case – this is your case and your life and you need to keep track of what is happening and whether the lawyer is doing the things they should be. You will also know what you and your supporters can do to help strengthen the legal case.”

If you know anyone who’s having to go through the immigration or asylum system, please point them in the direction of the toolkit. If you would like to support their work, you can make a donation, or, although they don’t mention it, I’m sure it’d be really useful to have the toolkit translated into different languages, especially widespread ones like Arabic or French, so if you have language skills and time to spare I’d recommend getting in touch with them about that. If you know any recently-arrived migrants in London, the SolFed guide for migrants is another useful resource to point them towards, and it’s available in English, Spanish and Polish.

Posted in Internationalism, Know your rights | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Carnegie library in Lambeth occupied against closures

As of last night, Lambeth’s Carnegie library has been occupied to prevent its intended closure. You can read their demands here, follow what’s going on at the Save Our Libraries  – Lambeth page, or contact them at lambethlibrariescampaign@gmail.com.

Posted in Occupations, Protests | Tagged , , | Leave a comment