It’s been a few weeks since I did a proper news round-up. While there’s not been that much in the way of big, attention-grabbing stories, there’s still a multitude of local struggles going on up and down the country, so I’d like to try and highlight a few of those.
But first, a brief bit of international news. The South African farmworkers’ union, CSAAWU, was recently hit with an incredibly punitive court order forcing them to pay R600,000 (that’s $54,800 or £3,3400), which could well bankrupt them, so it’s good to report that, thanks to international solidarity, they’ve hit their first target of raising $10,000. There’s a long way still to go, but it’s clear that they’re not beaten yet. Meanwhile in Spain, the seven anarchists being held without trial as part of Operation Pandora have been released on bail, although there are still charges against them, and two others are still in prison having been held for more than a year. There’s a new poster out with information about the case here. Edinburgh Solidarity Federation are continuing to hold protests outside the Spanish consulate to highlight the case, with the next planned for March 6.
While the Spanish state has been reluctantly releasing some of its dissidents, the Irish one has been cracking down hard with a wave of arrests against anti-water charge campaigners. I’ve been getting most of my information on this via the Workers’ Solidarity Movement, who put most of their coverage on facebook – see here and here for examples, which can make it a little hard to get more indepth information, but they do have a couple of articles on their main site about the current repression. The Rebel City Writers blog also has an article about the events, along with another looking at how the movement as a whole should react.
In legal news closer to home, charges have been dropped against anti-militarists who took action against an arms fair in Cardiff, and Swansea IWW member Brandon is currently fighting deportation, essentially for being poor.
The movement for affordable housing continues to develop in London, as the March for Homes was followed by a brief invasion of a site where even more luxury housing is being built, as well as a longer-lived occupation of some empty buildings on the Aylesbury Estate. The Aylesbury occupiers are holding a big activity day today, and on Monday they’ll be in court fighting the council’s attempt to evict them. There’s also a pretty extensive week of action being organised by the Radical Housing Network coming up, involving everything from filmshowings and discussions to direct action against an eviction. Meanwhile, the Focus E15 Mothers organised a mock eviction outside the British Credit Awards, the bailiff industry gala. Hopefully, some of this energy will spread beyond the capital – there’s a meeting being held to set up a tenants’ union in Hastings, which is an encouraging sign.
Beyond housing, welfare and public services in general are still under attack, and resistance is still continuing. Haringey Solidarity Group’s campaign to pressure the North London Hospice into pulling out of workfare appears to be making progress, and they’ve called off protests against the hospice for now, although they’re ready to restart the campaign if the hospice try to weasel out of their commitments. Folk in Haringey are also fighting against council cuts more broadly, with big protests at the council meetings where cuts to their services are being voted through.
Elsewhere, Scottish Unemployed Network member Tony Cox was arrested for accompanying a claimant to the jobcentre, and so various claimants’ groups are calling for a day of action at jobcentres on the 25th to highlight this attack on claimants and let people know about their rights at the jobcentre. Beyond that, Leeds Welfare Fightback will be rallying against sanctions, welfare cuts and miserable work on Saturday 28th, and then there’s two national welfare events coming up in March: Disabled People Against Cuts will be taking action on March 2nd against the Work Capacity Assessment and poverty profiteers Maximus (who, in case you’ve not heard of them, took over the WCA contract when Atos were driven out of it), with an impressive 25 events planned across the country, plus another outside Maximus’ offices in Toronto, and Unite Community will be holding a national day of demonstrations against benefit sanctions on March 19th.
While housing and welfare are both important sites of struggle, things haven’t been totally quiet on the workplace front either – Brighton Hospitality Workers are still fighting against wage theft, most recently at Caffe Bar Italia, and London IWW are supporting a campaign run by three dismissed zero-hours hospitality workers at the Friends House, as well as the ongoing struggle of staff who’ve had their wages stolen by Craig Tallents at the Leicester Square School of English. The RMT are demanding the reinstatement of sacked train driver Alex McGuigan, and this article rebuts some of the lies being put around by London Underground management about the case. Safety at the Crossrail project in London continues to be a major issue – on Monday 23rd, there’s going to be an inquest into the death of Rene Tkacik, a worker who was killed on the job, with a silent vigil going on ouside, and there’s also reports that an electrician working on the project has just been sacked for raising health and safety concerns – hopefully we should learn more about that soon.
Finally, antifascists are also keeping busy at the moment – recently we’ve seen the pre-emptive arrest of 27 antifascists before an EDL demo in Dudley, opposition to the leader of the French National Front being invited to Oxford Union, and Polish neo-nazis were forced to cancel a planned gig in Luton. Coming up soon, there’s benefit gigs happening in both Brighton and London, as well as action against a worrying number of far-right events, including Pegida UK and National Action in Newcastle and a planned anti-Semitic demo in Stamford Hill, among others.