We’re all equal in the eyes of the law… as long as we have a spare grand lying about

Another quick round-up of news across a few different areas:

In the workplace, Brighton SolFed are reporting another victory against a wage-stealing pub, and they’ve also finally resolved the long-running Caffe Bar Italia dispute, and construction workers in Teesside have been out protesting against bosses in Redcar trying to get away with undercutting wages. Coming up, workers at the Royal College of Art, having secured a commitment to the London Living Wage, will be protesting on the 22nd to demand that the increase should happen now and not be put off till September. There’s still the demo in support of victimised union rep Petrit Mihaj planned for May Day, and International Workers’ Memorial Day events will be taking place across the country on Wednesday 28th. Hazards magazine have made a range of posters you can use to advertise events in your area.

On the legal front, the government have introduced a range of new court charges that penalise people further for getting convicted and particularly for exercising their right to a trial. To anyone on a low-to-average income, these charges are going to act as a huge deterrent – for instance, getting convicted at the magistrates’ court after a trial might cost you £1000, put pleading guilty to the same offence will only cost £180, so unless you’re absolutely sure of winning, fighting to clear your name in court could become very expensive. Oh, and if you want to appeal against a sentence and your appeal’s rejected that’ll be another £150-£200 on top. As with the introduction of fees for workplace tribunals, justice is going to become harder and harder to get for anyone who’s not rich.

In welfare news, the Black Triangle Campaign are celebrating the fact that they’ve been able to pressure the British Medical Association into informing all GPs about some important regulations that could save people from failing the dreaded Work Capacity Assessment. And the next Boycott Workfare week of action is getting closer – there’s already events planned for Edinburgh, Bristol, and two separate events in London, but hopefully more will be announced closer to the time.

Looking at London’s developing movement around housing, Johnny Void reports that last Wednesday’s March for the Homeless went well. Coming up, the London Property Awards will see a bunch of landlords and similar parasites gathering to slap each other’s backs, so it’d be good to have a presence there letting them know what people think of them, and then there’s the Reclaim Brixton stuff happening next weekend.

In antifascist news, people have been out on the streets today confronting the EDL in Solihull and nazis in London. Coming up, the major mobilisation is against the March for England in Blackpool next Friday, although there’s also a few more events coming up in the Midlands in May. And, indeed, the antifascist 0161 Festival in Manchester.

Finally, as if anyone’d forgotten, it’s May Day soon, and it should be marked by events across the country including Newcastle SolFed’s party in solidarity with imprisoned Spanish anarchists, the Radical Workers’ Bloc marching through Cardiff, and Class War’s street party in London, as well as the Petrit Mihaj demo, Bristol workfare picket, and Manchester antifascist festival mentioned above.

Posted in Disability, Housing, Protests, The right, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Mid-April round-up

Just another quick plug for a few upcoming events:

Housing:

The most urgent news is that Annington Homes have served High Court bailiff notices to all the families still living on the Sweets Way estate, so they’re asking anyone who can make it to Barnet to come out and help fight this dirty piece of social cleansing.

There’s also a march for the homeless coming up in London on Wednesday 15th, and a day of action against the gentrification of Brixton planned for the 25th. Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth also have a few events coming up including a training session on the 18th and a birthday party on Sunday 26th, and a few of them are hoping to make the trip over to Oxford for the re-launch of Oxford Tenants’ Union on the 22nd.

Workplace:

Cleaner and RMT activist Clara Osagiede has been sacked from her job, and has an appeal coming up on April 15th, so she’s asking for people to come along and support her demand for reinstatement. There’s also a May Day demonstration planned in support of victimised RMT member Petrit Mihaj. Up north, construction workers on Teesside have been protesting against unscrupulous employers paying lower wages to foreign workers, and will be paying a trip to Redcar next Saturday to make their case at the Wilson International site there. They’re keen to stress that “This protest is not against european labour working in this country but unscrupulous employers who insist on undercutting existing terms and conditions.”

On April 28th, it’s International Workers’ Memorial Day, and events will be held across the country (and the world) to commemorate all those who’ve lost their lives as a result of their jobs.

Welfare:

Following on from a string of successes so far this year, Boycott Workfare are having another week of action at the end of the month. Keep an eye out for more events being announced nearer the time, but there’s definitely ones planned for Edinburgh and Bristol so far, as well as someone asking if anyone’s up for leafleting Rochdale jobcentre.

Antifascism:

Midlands antifascists are having a busy time of it, with the EDL in Solihull on April 18th, West Midlands Infidels in Coventry on May 2nd, and then Britain First in Dudley the weekend after that. If you can make it along to any of those events, they’d definitely appreciate the support; if you can’t make it, but you have a few spare quid burning a hole in your pocket, they’re also running a fundraising appeal to help cover the costs of all these mobilisations. Further north, the main upcoming attraction is against the March for England in Blackpool, with transport being planned from Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle. It’d be a real embarrassment if, having been chased out of Brighton, they were able to march through Blackpool unopposed. And there’s also the anti-fascist 0161 Festival happening in Manchester the following weekend.

International solidarity:

A few more events have now been organised against the ongoing repression of anarchists in Spain, with a demonstration in Brighton outside the clocktower at 6 on Sunday 12th, a solidarity protest in Edinburgh on Friday 17th, a benefit gig and film showing also in Edinburgh on the 19th, and a May Day party on Saturday 2nd in Newcastle hoping to raise funds and awareness for the case.
And finally, in case anyone’s forgotten, at the start of next month there’s also May Day, the international workers’ day born out of the struggle for the 8 hour day. May Day is a thread that ties a lot of these themes together, whether you’re having a dance with antifascists in Manchester, partying in Newcastle in solidarity with Spanish anarchists, demanding the reinstatement of a victimised catering worker in London or hassling workfare exploiters in Bristol. But there’s also going to be lots of events just marking the day itself, like the Radical Workers’ Bloc marching through Cardiff, and Class War’s street party in London, so keep an eye out for events near you.

Posted in Housing, Protests, The right, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Hey student! You’re still not saying anything.

The round of articles, replies, and further replies about Kurdistan continues to roll on and on. We now have Stefan Bertram-Lee’s “Dear Mr. Anarchist, you aren’t listening”, which (for those who haven’t been paying attention) is a reply to Peter Storm’s reply to Petar Stanchev’s reply to GD [Gilles Dauve] and TL’s article on Kurdistan. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…

Bertram-Lee’s case is essentially a restatement of the central theme of Stanchev’s article, which is that paying attention to the social experiment happening in Rojava is of vital importance for Western anarchists, not because of any solidarity we can offer, but because of the lessons we can learn from it… lessons that Bertram-Lee, like Stanchev, politely refuses to actually elaborate on.

What’s immediately noticeable about Bertram-Lee’s article is that, for all it’s meant to help refute the perspective that GD&TL have outlined on Rojava, large chunks of it actually confirm it. Most glaringly, on the issue of cultural relativism, the GD&TL article on Kurdistan stated

“If some people in Europe and the US see in such goals the announcement of social revolution, fault lies without doubt in “cultural relativism”. In Paris, this program would only provoke mockery among the radical milieu, but “over there, it is already not bad…”.”

This observation is entirely backed up by the Bertram-Lee argument that

“The social reality of the Kurds, (And the history it is constructed from) is decidedly different to that of those who have grown up in the west, and so their perception of what a revolution is (and so what their revolution was) is very different. To a western Anarchist who first crossed blades with his oppressor during the Anti-Globalisation movement the idea of a free territory asking for foreign investment stinks of nothing less than counter-revolution, but our experience is not the experience of all.”

That’s not a counter-argument to GD&TL’s point, that’s a paraphrase.

But all this is secondary to the main point: the malaise Bertram-Lee and Stanchev have diagnosed in the UK anarchist movement, and their proposals, however vague, to cure it. On the symptoms, at least, we can all agree: the UK anarchist movement, whatever else you can say about it, is not terribly impressive. It’s not so terrible that I’m about to give up on anarchism and embrace one of the various get-communism-quick schemes that get peddled around, but I can’t say that I expect it to go anywhere tremendously fast either. In fact, I’d say it’s more or less entirely as impotent and marginal as you’d expect a group of people brought together by a dedication to the experiences and lessons learnt from the high points of past collective struggles to be, in a situation where the very memory of those struggles, as well as the cultures and traditions that made them possible, have been under a ferocious, concentrated, and very successful, attack from the state and the ruling class for decades now. If we’re ever to escape from this rut, it can only be as part of a broader shift within the working class away from the current norms of more or less individualised powerlessness towards a culture of solidarity and direct action.

But according to Bertram-Lee, there’s a shortcut that will help with this: learning (unspecified) lessons from the PYD. The problem is, without any explanation of what these lessons are and how they can be put into practice, it’s hard to say how worthwhile they are. Here, once again, it’s worth returning to the GD&TL text:

“Today it is much easier to get excited about Kurdistan (as 20 years ago it was for Chiapas) while militants despair over Billancourt.. “Over there”, at least, there are no resigned and drunken proles who vote for the FN [Front Nationale] and dream only of winning the Loto or finding a job. “Over there” there are peasants (even though the majority of Kurds live in cities), the mountain people in struggle, full of dreams and hope….”

For the sake of our friends in Essex, let’s replace Billancourt with Billericay and FN with UKIP, and the point stands. If Bertram-Lee and friends want to convince UK anarchists, and, more importantly, non-anarchists, of the wisdom to be learned from the PYD, they need to explain what the actual content of that wisdom is. It’s not enough to just say that things in Kobane are more exciting than in Billericay, they need to explain exactly what it is that people “over here” need to do to become more like the exciting folk “over there”.

For the next PYD supporter who wants to write an article about how learning from the experience of Rojava will help us to start winning, a few questions: how will your new approach help me to organise together with other public transport users to demand better services? How would the insights of democratic confederalism help benefit the social movement over housing that’s currently emerging in London? How would the teachings of Uncle Öcalan have helped the Doncaster care workers to win their epic dispute? In their ongoing fight against Caffé Bar Italia, what are the “Western anarchists” of Brighton SolFed doing wrong, and how could learning from Rojava help them do better? What teachings of the PYD could help us to come up with a more adequate response to the mass child abuse scandals? What would this perspective contribute to the ongoing fight against the gutting of the benefits system and the spread of forced unpaid work? When one of my friends is threatened with illegal eviction, when I ask a friend how they’re doing and they say something like “not great, I’m sort of dreading going to work tomorrow, my manager’s been really disrespectful to me lately and it stresses me out”, when someone I work with gets that tap on the shoulder from a manager and a request to speak to them quietly outside and I only have a few seconds to process what’s going on and react before they’re both out the room – what does your fresh new perspective have to say that would help me in those situations, that will set me right where “tired old anarcho-syndicalism” will fail? Not that I think “tired old anarcho-syndicalism” automatically has all the answers to these situations, but at best it manages to at least ask the right questions.

If Bertram-Lee and co. can manage to come up with convincing answers to these questions, and better yet to demonstrate the superiority of their approach in practice, I would be very interested to see the results. When they’ve started putting the wisdom of Uncle Öcalan into practice to solve real problems of everyday life, and other anarchists still stand aloof from their experiments, then will be the time to rebuke us for refusing to learn from new approaches, not before they’ve provided the basic outline of what those approaches even look like.

As it happens, the Bertram-Lee article ends with a point I’d pretty much totally agree with:

“Subcomdanate Marcos says that when he first went to Chiapas all he could do was talk, and not listen, and so he failed. The peasants did not listen to those who could only talk. It is only when he learnt to listen that he was able to move forward, and this lesson is one that must be learnt by all Western Anarchists. We are not winning, and we need to listen to those who are.”

There’s a lot of truth in that, and in some ways it reminds me of the perspective of the IWCA – a group whose priorities are, to put it mildly, quite different from the Essex Zapatista Solidarity Group. It’s important to listen. But I’m not convinced that listening to voices from Rojava needs to take precedence over listening to voices from Montreal or Dublin, and particularly those of pensioners in Barnsley or construction workers on Crossrail. Perhaps our friends in Essex should stop despairing over Billericay and Basildon, and start paying more attention to the concerns and needs of the people who live there.

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Dear people writing articles on the internet, how would you feel about maybe having a chat about practice?

As the social experiment in Rojava continues, so the mountain of statements, counter-statements, and counter-counter-statements from Western radicals analysing the situation continues to grow higher. One of the latest offerings is Petar Stanchev’s “Mr. Anarchist, we need to have a chat about colonialism”, as published in Roar Magazine recently, which is itself a reply to GD [Gilles Dauve] and TL’s text on Kurdistan (see also alternative version here). As it happens, many of Stanchev’s key points have already been addressed by Peter Storm here, but I thought it was worth adding yet another reply in order to try to refocus attention on the elephant in the room, something that literally provides the final word of Stanchev’s text but is glaringly absent from the main content: practice.

To explain, backing things up a bit: when reviewing the debate between the “cheerleaders” and the “purists”, an obvious disparity emerges: in general, the worst the “purists” accuse the “cheerleaders” of is having a mistaken analysis, or a “spineless radicalism”. Not much is said about the practical consequences of these errors, perhaps because it’s quietly recognised that there aren’t really likely to be any. From the other side, the view is quite different: those with a more critical perspective are not just mistaken, they are gravely, dangerously wrong, and headed for ruin unless they mend their ways. For instance, according to Stanchev, the fact that anyone would try to explore both pros and cons of the situation in Rojava is “symptomatic of a deeper crisis in the organizational and imaginative capacities of parts of our movement”, and the consequences of this attitude “negatively affect the ability of “anarchist” groups in the West to actually produce radical and meaningful alternatives to capitalism and the state.” If only Western anarchists were less willing to say bad things and more willing to say good things about the PKK, capitalism would probably be on its knees by now.

To Stanchev, failure to have a conversation about the deep crisis he’s diagnosed is to “risk marginalizing ourselves and transforming our movement into a self-centered subculture that is incapable of connecting to the outside world.” That’s a big claim, and it would be nice for him to unpack it a bit. If, by “the outside world”, he means people struggling on the other side of the world, in places like Chiapas and Rojava, he may have a point, but it would be a curious one to make considering how keen he is to establish that the people in those movements “do not need any judgment or approval from some privileged ideological purists elsewhere”. On the other hand, if he means people living and working near us who aren’t part of the tiny self-centered activist subculture he diagnoses… it’d be hard to imagine anything more ridiculous than the idea that, to really help us connect with the people around us, what we need is not a better solution to housing problems, shitty public transport situations, stagnating or declining real wages, the victimisation of workplace militants, the difficulties of navigating an increasingly harsh benefit system or mass child abuse scandals like those in Rotherham or Oxford – no, what will really help us connect to other people outside the activist subculture is having the correct line on an obscure social movement thousands of miles away.

If anyone reading this recognises themselves in Stanchev’s description of a self-centered subculture that can’t connect with the outside world, and wants to change this, then please, please: stop reading this. Stop reading articles about Rojava. Listen to the new Kendrick Lamar album, watch some Game of Thrones, go to that curry house in town that does really good biryanis, or do one of the hundreds of other things less insular and more interesting to other people than paying attention to a debate between different anarchist and communist interpretations of the situation in Kurdistan.

As I’ve mentioned above, Peter Storm’s reply does a good job of taking apart many of the central fallacies of Stanchev’s position, like the claim that Dauve’s analysis is flawed because it fails to recognise that “the “proletariat” in the classical Western sense does not exist in Rojava.” Of course, this claim itself depends entirely on how we define “the proletariat”; if Stanchev had paid a bit more attention to the positions of the people he aims to criticise, he might have encountered the following “classical Western” definition of the proletariat:

“A large part of the world’s population must sell its labour power in order to live, since it has no means of production. Some sell their labour and are productive. Others sell it and are unproductive. Still others cannot sell it: capital only buys living labour if it can hope to valorize itself at a reasonable rate (the average rate of profit); they are excluded from production. If one identifies proletarian with factory worker (or even worse: with manual labourer), or with the poor, then one cannot see what is subversive in the proletarian condition. The proletariat is the negation of this society. It is not the collection of the poor, but of those who are desperate, those who have no reserves, who have nothing to lose but their chains; those who are nothing, have nothing, and cannot liberate themselves without destroying the whole social order.”

It seems unlikely that Stanchev genuinely believes that there are no dispossessed people with no control over the means of production in Rojava (or at least that there weren’t any at the start of the experiment), so it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that he just genuinely doesn’t know what he’s talking about on this subject.

While it makes a number of useful points, Storm’s reply fails to pick up on the single most damning silence in Stanchev’s text, the failure to reply to Dauve and TL’s strongest point, which is worth quoting at length (splicing together wording from the two different versions):

“During Parisian demonstrations in support of Rojava, the banner of the united anarchist procession demanded “Arms for the Kurdish resistance.” Considering that the average proletarian does not have assault rifles and grenades to clandestinely send to Kurdistan, from whom do we demand such weapons? Should we rely on international arms dealers or NATO for weapons deliveries? Such deliveries have cautiously begun, but anarchist banners have nothing to do with them…   So, when voices call for military support to help Rojava face the jihadist onslaught, what exactly are they talking about? Either it is empty talk, or it can only mean asking for more Western air strikes… Mass slaughter is obviously not what those who call for “Arms for the Kurdish resistance” really want. So it is empty talk. An attitude. That’s perhaps the worst part of the story: that in the Middle East an effort at self-organisation and self-defence, genuine but unable to transcend itself because of hostile circumstances, should serve in Europe and north America as a pretext for mobilisations and slogans that nobody seriously expects to be acted upon.”

Considering how crucial Stanchev sees this issue as being for libertarian practice at home, you’d expect him to outline how, far from just consisting of “mobilisations and slogans that nobody seriously expects to be acted upon”, the correct kind of solidarity with Rojava will unlock a new kind of effective, creative praxis. Instead, for all his bewailing of the empty rhetoric impotently spouted by Western anarchists divorced from practice, his practical suggestions, much like those of the earlier Anarkismo statement, amount to… nothing. Ironically, the AFed statement that he bewails as an example of “short-sighted, poorly informed, dogmatic and sectarian” criticism of the movement in Rojava actually ends with a list of suggestions that, while still somewhat vague and imprecise, are still far more concrete and constructive than any practical proposals Stanchev has to offer.

Stanchev complains about anarchists (and, indeed, non-anarchists such as Dauve & TL) locked into a dogmatism that leaves them unable to do anything other than issue “empty statements” but doesn’t offer any specific constructive alternative. It’s hard to say what he would prefer: if someone rewrote the AFed and Dauve/TL articles to remove all the most critical parts and add a bit more glowing praise, would they stop being abstract statements and suddenly become a great practical contribution? For my part, I find myself very sympathetic to the criticisms put forward by Dauve/TL and Peter Storm. I also remain very interested and open to any suggestions for practical action that could be taken to sabotage ISIS, the Turkish state, or the various other reactionary actors that pose a threat to any attempt at positive social change in the region.

Since I don’t want to repeat Stanchev’s hypocrisy, I’ll close by suggesting some practical steps that UK anarchists can take that might have some actual effect on something: support Shilan Ozcelik*. Write to her while she’s locked up, turn up to her court dates to let her know she’s not alone, get in touch with her defence team to find out if there’s anything else that might help, do whatever lobbying activities you feel would be useful to get the charges dropped. That won’t do much, but it’s something, and it’s something that can be done without requiring any unconditional acceptance of the more excitable claims made by the PKK or PYD’s boosters. It’s also far more concrete and practical than anything that’s come from any of the various polemics bewailing do-nothing armchair theorists in their ivory towers. Insisting on serious critique doesn’t make you unable to act, and refusal to offer any serious critique won’t make your abstract statements any more relevant or practical.

* a canny reader might raise an objection at this point: since everything that’s best about revolutionary (anti-)politics involves acting together with other agents who’re already capable of taking action in their own right, and what’s most disempowering about traditional leftist activism tends to involve acting on behalf of passive victims who’re seen as unable to act in their own right, championing an engagement with the case of Shilan Ozcelik (who, whoever capable she may have been of independent action as an alleged volunteer for the Kurdish resistance, certainly comes across as more of a passive victim when being held in a prison cell) over the social experiment taking place in Rojava as a whole (where, whatever other criticisms can be made of “democratic autonomy”, those taking part are certainly capable of acting for themselves) can be seen as pointing back towards the miseries of martyr politics, representation and all the rest of it. There may well be something in this criticism, and I’m all ears if anyone can suggest a more practical way that we can make a genuine, active contribution to the Rojava experiment.

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Springing into action: early April round-up

Another quick round-up:

The warehouse workers who’ve been organising in West London want to hit the road and talk to other workers in big warehouse hubs across the country, as well as organising film screenings of a new documentary about struggles by warehouse workers in Italy. If you’d like to get in touch about an event in your town, you can contact them at angryworkersworld@gmail.com.

The Freedom Riders, the group of pensioners and disabled people who’ve been taking direct action against transport cuts in South Yorkshire with mass fare-dodging actions, have been going strong for a year now, and celebrated their first anniversary with a demonstration in Barnsley on Tuesday 31st. They’ve produced a two-sided leaflet to explain the story so far in their fight for free travel on both trains and buses.

The Barnsley freedom riders celebrate their anniversary

Shilan Ozcelik, the Kurdish girl being held in remand for allegedly wanting to resist ISIS, appeared in court at the Old Bailey on April 1st, where her application for bail was denied, and a provisional trial date was set for September, meaning that, unless something changes, it looks likely that she’ll serve six months inside before even having her case appear before a jury. Also in London, the Sweets Way occupiers lost their fight against an injunction in court on Monday, but have reacted by occupying a new location, and are gearing up by launching a weekend of fun and resistance. The Aylesbury Estate occupation was also evicted, but went out with a hell of a bang, as chronicled in this video.

In more international court-related news, I’ve not seen any UK-specific events so far, but supporters of imprisoned Crimean anarchist Aleksandr Kolchenko are calling for an international week of action in the first week of April demanding his release. And the Spanish state has launched another wave of repression against anarchists. Edinburgh Solidarity Federation are continuing their series of protests against the Operation Pandora crackdown.

On the education front, universities seem to be experiencing another wave of occupations at the moment, with King’s College London, the London School of Economics and the University of the Arts London all seeing occupations.

The past week or so has also seen militant resistance to yet another tiny far-right march, this time a white pride march in Manchester, as well as opposition to a threatened appearance from the National Front in Merthyr. The coming weekend will see two more similar events down south, with Pegida heading to the capital for the next in their string of embarrassing damp squibs and, more seriously, the EDL coming to Oxford to try and get publicity off the back of a child abuse scandal. Futher ahead, antifascists in the north are gearing up to oppose the March for England, which has been moved to Blackpool after having been chased out of Brighton. It would be a real embarrassment if the change in location meant the far-right were able to march unopposed, so we need to make sure they don’t feel any more welcome in the north than they did in the south.

Other continuing items of interest include Plan C Manchester’s continuing list of demands as an attempt to open up a more imaginative conversation in the run-up to the election, and the long-running organising around welfare and workfare that should see another week of action at the end of April as well as a welfare action gathering at the end of May.

Next, a quick set of financial appeals: the Kate Sharpley Library would appreciate donations to help them preserve rare materials from anarchist history, US anarchist publishers AK Press are seeking money to help them get back on their feet after a recent warehouse fire, and the Creating Commons in New Cross project is looking for a few more donations to help meet their fundraising target.

More international news: the Portland Solidarity Network are celebrating a massive victory in their organising against sexual harassment at a for-profit beauty school, and the rebirth of the social strike movement in Quebec looks to be worth keeping an eye on. Not being involved in the struggle there directly, I can’t comment on what the movement looks like from the inside, but some participants are arguing that the leaders of ASSE, the militant student association that played a crucial role last time round, are actually holding the movement back this time.

Finally, in closing, it’s worth noting that this past week saw the 25th anniversary of one of the greatest displays of militant working-class power and anger in this country in living memory (even if I don’t remember that much about it myself, having been a small child at the time). It’s an anniversary the media have been quite quiet about, almost as if they don’t want us to remember the full power of our collective strength. Whether you were there first time or not, it’s worth taking a moment to look back at these clippings from History is made at night and the police log from that day, as well as this collection of personal accounts.

One of the most iconic images of the riots.

Posted in Anarchists, Housing, Occupations, Protests, Racism, Repression, Riots, Students, The right, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Know your rights on the work programme: you don’t have to show work programme providers your claimant commitment

Via the always-excellent Johnny Void, I found this DWP memo, which has some useful information about the rights of claimants sent on the work programme:

“From the 23rd March 2015, we have agreed that it would be beneficial for Work Programme Providers to potentially have sight of the Claimant Commitment at the first point of contact.

Sharing of the Claimant Commitment is voluntary but is encouraged… If the claimant refuses to share their Claimant Commitment you should not take any further action to pursue.”

If you’re wondering why the DWP wants work programme providers to be able to see your Claimant Commitment, it’s spelt out that it can provide “Information on messaging around a claimant’s non-compliance with work related requirements”. So, translated out of bureaucrat-speak and into English, that means that the jobcentre wants work programme contractors to be able to see your Claimant Commitment in order that they can grass you up and get you sanctioned. But, though they’ll try to get you to do it, it is voluntary, and they don’t have any powers to punish you for not doing it.

Of course, as ever with the jobcentre and the various shady companies who make their money from DWP contracts, there’s always the risk that they’ll try to intimidate you, so if you think they might try and pressure you it’s probably worth going to the library or somewhere to print off a copy of the DWP memo so you can prove that they’re not meant to take any action to pursue your claimant commitment.

And, as ever, our legal rights are only worth as much as we’re able to enforce them by acting together, so it’s a good idea to make sure that everyone else on your work programme course knows about their right to refuse. With a bit of luck, chatting about your right to say “no” to the work programme contractors over this issue could lead to bigger conversations about other ways the jobcentre and private companies try to screw claimants over, and ways you and the other people on the work programme could try and stand together to stop them. Good luck!

Posted in Know your rights, Unemployment/claimants and welfare | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Another round-up of repression and resistance

Once again, it’s been a busy week, especially on the legal/repression front. To start off with a bit of an international round-up: In the US, Dante Cano has been bailed out of prison, but is still facing charges, and Bay Area activists are asking for solidarity with Kali, a comrade who’s serving a four-year prison sentence following his arrest during Occupy Oakland, as well as encouraging people to write to Davontae Smith, who’s been in jail since November after being arrested at a Ferguson solidarity protest. Over in China, five feminists are still being held in jail, and sixteen more were detained for showing solidarity with them. A lengthy interview with one of their friends has been translated in two parts here and here. Chinese socialists have called for international solidarity protests to be held outside Chinese embassies (in the UK, there are Chinese embassies in the UK in Manchester and Edinburgh as well as London, so people in a range of locations can get involved). And over in Sweden, a growing number of anti-fascists are being imprisoned, and their comrades have launched an appeal for financial support.

Back in the UK, there’s also a lot of news from the prisons and detention centers: 72-year-old Sylvia Boyes has been given a two-week prison sentence after being convicted for obstructing the highway during a protest against the DSEi arms fair, Shilan Ozcelik is still being held in prison for wanting to fight against ISIS, and her address has now been confirmed, and the wave of protests and hunger strikes rocking the immigration detention system is still ongoing. In yet more repression-related news, a new campaign’s been set up against IPP, the law that means some prisoners can be kept in jail after their sentence finishes, and a fundraiser and info night will be held in Bristol in early April. Also this week, South Wales anarchists are asking for friends to join them on Tuesday evening in Cardiff and Wednesday morning in London ahead of their court case over the activities of spycop Mark Jacobs, and blacklisted worker Dave Smith is due in court on Friday, having been arrested at the Construction News Awards last week while highlighting Crossrail’s dodgy record of firing workers who raise safety concerns. To support Dave, and the principle that people shouldn’t be fired for highlighting life-threatening safety hazards, please join him at court on Friday 27th at Westminster Magistrates Court, 181 Marylebone Rd, NW1 5BR from 9am onwards.

Also related to the ongoing struggles in construction, employers on Teesside have been attempting to undermine industry standard conditions, and so a network of Teesside Construction Activists have started fighting back – construction’s one of the last few remaining industries with a strong culture of rank-and-file organisation, and so this new group look like one to watch, I’d certainly suggest that anyone in that area of the North-East should try and lend a hand where possible.

Over in Dublin, this weekend saw another great showing by the ongoing movement against water charges, which is still one of the most impressive anti-austerity movements to emerge in any English-speaking country over the last few years – see Solidarity Times for more coverage of the movement.

A small section of the massive water charges march going through Dublin.

Finally, as chronicled by North East and Brighton Antifascists, it’s been a busy, and mostly a very bad weekend for the far-right: the White Man March in Newcastle encountered heavy opposition that prevented them being able to march along their designated route, and left their supporters complaining that National Action let their “mates take a kicking off lefty scum”. Britain First got their banner nicked in London, and Pegida’s launch in Scotland amazingly managed to be even more embarrassing than their first day out in England, with four people taking part in their demo. But on a more serious note, while the anti-Semitic march in London scheduled for today has been postponed, last night saw a synagogue attacked in Stamford Hill, and nazis have claimed responsibility:

Screenshot of "national liberation" nazis claiming responsibility for the synagogue attack.

A few more items of anti-racist news to conclude: Nigel Farage got chased out of his local while having lunch, and the Anti-Fascist Network have put a thoughtful statement out about child abuse, and are calling for people to come to Oxford on the 4th April to support survivors and oppose the EDL’s attempt to hijack this issue to promote their own agenda.

Antifascists with the seized BF banner.

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