Cleaners striking at HSBC to kick off a class struggle May Day in London

Grassroots cleaners’ union CAIWU have finalised their plans for May 1st:

In the morning, cleaners at HSBC’s head offices are striking about overwork, intrusive management and lack of sick pay.

After that, at 12 noon they’ll be boarding an open-topped bus for a tour of various ongoing disputes throughout the city, stopping off at the Italian Consulate which recently sacked six cleaners, Lilian Baylis Technology School where cleaners are demanding a living wage, and at Facebook’s headquarters where catering staff are being victimised and overworked following a recent successful campaign for a wage increase.

Consulate Mayday 2019 flyer 1.4 front

Engie-LB Mayday 2019 flyer 0.7 front

Facebook-ToGo Mayday Flyer 2019 0.6 front

Other mayday-related events I’m aware of include the Barnsley festival of solidarity, Manchester’s anti-fascist 0161 Festival, and the Angry Workers of the World’s Marx reading group and film showing about workers organising in a German car factory.

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Posted in Strikes, Unions, Work | Tagged , | Leave a comment

UK prisoner/legal support updates: Extinction Rebellion prisoners, Kevan Thackrar and the JCB 5

The Activist Court Aid Brigade has an update on the Extinction Rebellion prisoners who’ve been held in remand for the Docklands Light Railway action: one has been released on bail, while Mark Ovland is being held at

Mark OVLAND A0671EJ HMP Pentonville Caledonian Rd London N7 8TT

A third, Luke Watson, is also imprisoned, but his contact details have not yet been confirmed. Many people, myself included, will have pretty strong criticisms of Extinction Rebellion’s methods, along the lines of those made by the Anarchist Communist Group, and will be more sympathetic to other approaches to fighting climate change; but tactical and strategic disagreements, no matter how strong, should never mean a lack of solidarity towards those facing repression.

Meanwhile, Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee member and longtime prison rebel Kevan Thackrar has been subjected to severe racial abuse recently, and is urgently in need of outside supporters to help show solidarity and protect him. IWOC suggest:

“Please write to prison and Ministry of Justice officials to demand that Kevan is protected from prisoners and officers perpetrating racist abuse and violence, and that he is afforded his basic human rights such as time out of his cell, meaningful human contact in the prison and contact with family and friends.

You can write to:

CM R. Grice
Head of Security
HMP Whitemoor
Longhill Road
March
Cambridgeshire
PE15 0PR

Or phone the prison on: 01354 602 350

David Gauke
Secretary of State for Justice
102 Petty France
Westminster
London
SW1H 9AJ

Or contact him at the Ministry of Justice: https://contact-moj.dsd.io/correspondence/topic

Steve Barclay
MP for North East Cambridgeshire
stevebarclay.net/contact

You can also write to Kevan. He may not always be able to reply but really appreciates support and solidarity:

Kevan Thakrar A4907AE
HMP Whitemoor
Longhill Road
March
Cambridgeshire
PE15 0PR”

Finally, five people are facing trial in June on two charges related to actions at JCB sites, which aimed to disrupt that company’s activities making equipment used to demolish people’s houses in Palestine. They’re asking for help in covering their legal costs, and you can donate here.

Posted in Climate Change, Racism, Repression | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Antifascist prisoner Jock Palfreeman on hunger strike, and last-minute callouts for this weekend

Jock Palfreeman, antifascist prisoner and chair of the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association, has launched a hunger strike “as a protest against the corruption and abuse of power by the management of Sofia Prison, and in particular, the chief of staff, Desilav Angelov Traykov.You can email the Bulgarian Justice Ministry in support of his strike at priemna@justice.government.bg, or write to Jock directly at

Jock Palfreeman, Kazichene Prison, Kazichene 1532, Region Pancherevo, Sofia, BULGARIA

Antifascist events happening this Saturday include mobilisations against the far-right “yellow vests” in Leeds, the For Britain Party in Swansea (with a separate meet-up point for people travelling from Cardiff), and the Southall 40 memorial march. Other things happening this weekend include the UVW union’s 5th birthday party on Saturday night, Workers’ Memorial Day events going on across the country on Sunday, and a “Commemoration, conflict and conscience: The hidden stories of WW1” festival in Bristol, telling the stories of strikers, mutineers, deserters and more.

Posted in Anarchists, Repression, The right | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

His academic rust could not burn them up: a very late reply on orthodox Markism and skipping class

Does anyone really think, for instance, that things would improve if we replaced the whole managerial and banking class with a whole new set of (‘better’) people? Surely, on the contrary, it is evident that the vices are engendered by the structure, and that while the structure remains, the vices will reproduce themselves.

 – Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism

About two months ago, I re-visited Mark Fisher’s essay on “Exiting the Vampire’s Castle”, trying to set out my disagreements with it in a calmer and more constructive way than I’d been able to at the time. This is something I’d been thinking of doing for a while, but the specific prompt had come from encountering some posts on a “Fisherist” blog called Xenogothic; Xenogothic then subjected my own writings to some fairly scathing critique, which I’m just now getting around to replying to. I had intended to do this a few weeks ago, but I’ve been going through something of a speed-up at work, which means that I’ve not been getting to do anywhere near as much reading, writing and thinking as I’d like; as ever, the reader can make up their own mind as to whether that has any relevance or not.

Xenogothic objects to a line where I referred to Fisher as having a definition of class that seemed to have “nothing to do with your position in society or what your material interests are”, asking whether I was “insinuating that Mark is some sort of oppressive millionaire?”

I would have thought this was obvious from the original context, but the only thing I was trying to insinuate was that Fisher seemed to have a definition of class where there was nothing contradictory about being a working-class millionaire, which seems a reasonable enough conclusion to draw from the fact that he listed people saying “that Brand couldn’t really be working class, because he was a millionaire” as an example of the sorts of wrongheaded and objectionable things that vampires say.

Does the fact of being a millionaire affect one’s class position at all, or doesn’t it? And if it does, then why this attachment to defending a piece of writing that claims it doesn’t?

Xenogothic insists that they “have very little time for people who argue that you can somehow graduate (perhaps literally) from your class position”, which I think neatly sums up the argument about class implicit in VC, and also leads to some totally incoherent conclusions – either insisting that we live in a totally feudal caste society where no individuals ever experience any social mobility, or else admitting that they do but it doesn’t really matter, because “class” is some kind of inherent internal identity that can’t be changed, like genetics or one’s immortal soul.

Xenogothic does admit that it is worth being wary of “the self-made men of this world, who loved to talk about starting from nothing” and who try to dismiss talk of class as a structure “on grounds of individualised success”. But that’s the thing: the Fisher/Xenogothic approach to class also stresses individualism over collective analysis and action, because the effect of this whole line of argument about “working-class academics/media professionals/millionaires” is to make a claim about individual identity and to tell us that we shouldn’t consider academics, millionaires or whoever as a collective social category.

The annoying thing about this is that, as I’ve said, it is absolutely possible for academics to act as part of the working class, and indeed, around this time last year, supporting the UCU dispute was one of my main priorities. But you can’t take collective action in your workplace if you’ve convinced yourself that you’re the only working-class person there and everyone else is on the wrong side, which is where this idea of “being working class and in an institutionally bourgeois position” seems to lead. It feels a bit strange to be accused of “insisting… on the deconstruction of platforms for solidarity” by someone who also slags everyone at their workplace off for being bourgeois.

I’m reminded here of that Kickstarter memo about “privileged workers appropriating unions”; we all laughed at it, but if we accept the Fisher/Xenogothic position that the UCU’s membership is made up of the bourgeoisie, then maybe it has a point?

Xenogothic adds that another point where they agree with Fisher is with regards to “his call for more working class voices in our media, in our culture, in our politics, in our schools and universities”. They add that “I don’t just mean “entrepreneurs”: I want better voices too”, but this is still far too vague for me. What roles are we talking about here? What structures are those roles a part of? At his worst, Fisher was prone to writing as though just inserting individuals into structures could transform those structures rather than vice versa; this is an illusion that Xenogothic seems to share.

If the call for more working-class voices in media and culture means constructing alternative platforms and institutions, run on different values and collectively controlled by everyone who works in/contributes to them, and re/creating genuinely participatory cultural movements that break down the old star/passive fan binary, then great, that sounds grand; but if this means “more Guardian commentators, but make them not posh”, or “someone with a regional accent getting a job as director-general of the BBC or commissioning editor on Channel 4”, then like… that’s fine as far as it goes, I guess, but I can’t say it’s anything I’m particularly excited about.

Similarly with the idea of more working-class voices in politics; some Labour politicians are poshos, but certainly not all of them, there’s a fair sprinkling of Blunketts, Prescotts and so on. More importantly, every single Labour councillor in the country, no matter what they score on the oppression-o-meter, has to perform the role of governing within the confines of an austerity budget handed down from central government, a central government that is in turn under pressure from the kinds of international institutions that battered the principles out of Syriza. Until that changes – and my suspicion is that the only way it’ll change is when councillors are more scared of the potential disruption caused by their own constituents than of the orders handed down by central government and the law – the only consequence of getting more principled, dedicated socialists with regional accents onto the council will be that they sound a lot more convincing when they tell us how sorry they are to be closing our libraries and nurseries.

On the other hand, while texts like Vampire’s Castle show Fisher’s worst side, he was also capable of being far more insightful at times, as in the section from Capitalist Realism quoted above: “Does anyone really think, for instance, that things would improve if we replaced the whole managerial and banking class with a whole new set of (‘better’) people? Surely, on the contrary, it is evident that the vices are engendered by the structure, and that while the structure remains, the vices will reproduce themselves.

That, I think, gets to the heart of it; and I’m not convinced that the politics and culture industries are that fundamentally different to finance and banking.

Xenogothic complains that “if you somehow get there, your working class identity is void — at least according to CP. If you publicly fight for working class issues, on a larger platform than most, you’re a sellout and a hypocrite… It’s a facile and reductive argument and one which Mark himself derided.”

There’s a few important points to note here. The first is that, once again, Xenogothic clearly sees class as being about individual identity, not about collective social struggle and material interests. I suspect that the problem here is that they’re also conceiving of class as a moral category, rather than a social/economic one, which is why making an observation about someone’s class position is treated as though it was a personal attack.

On hypocrisy: I’ve never called anyone a hypocrite for “fighting for working-class issues on a large platform”. What I do have an issue with is when academics have a swipe at people who they see as possessing “an academic-pedant’s desire”, as living off the creation of “academic capital”, as having their “natural home in universities”, when academics speak out against ideologies that they say are “usually propagated by those studying for postgraduate qualifications, or those who have recently graduated from such study”. I think there is at least a potential danger of hypocrisy there.

And, for that matter, I still think it’s a bit hypocritical to use “There must be no lightness, and certainly no humour. Humour isn’t serious, by definition, right? Thought is hard work, for people with posh voices and furrowed brows.” as a criticism in a giant article that doesn’t even have so much as a knock-knock joke in.

Commenting on my attempt at a reworked and reworded critique, they dismiss it with “the tone was never offensive, the ignorance was, and all that’s happened here is the tone has been replaced, in a weak attempt to save face, whilst the ignorance remains.” I suppose it’s not really my place to tell other people that they should be (retrospectively) offended by my tone if they don’t have any objections to it, but it does feel odd that Xenogothic wants to dismiss tone as irrelevant while also championing a piece of writing that essentially functioned as an extended plea for civility.

If Fisher was right to champion Brand’s “good-humoured humility” against the “stony faces” of those who promote “sour-faced identitarian piety”, and to call for “conditions where disagreement can take place without fear of exclusion and excommunication”, then considering the tone in which things are expressed seems pretty reasonable; or, of course, Fisher might have been wrong, in which case why this urge to defend his every word against any kind of criticism?

Xenogothic says that I “actually end up parroting the argument he himself makes in “Exiting the Vampire Castle” and elsewhere, choosing a supposedly nicer way of articulating the same call for solidarity using “non-cancelled” references”. Not how I’d phrase it, but yeah, there’s something to that; I wasn’t trying to claim that everything Fisher ever did or said was wrong, more that, if your aim is to promote solidarity and kindness, maybe there’s better ways of expressing that than just going “oi, all youse petit-bourgeois vampire dickheads need to stop being so sour-faced or I’ll disarticulate your fuckin’ heids in”. There’s plenty of times and places where it’s necessary and appropriate to be polarising, but I’m still not convinced that when you’re telling people to get along better is one of those times.

Next, they raise the issue of me not being enough of an expert Fisherologist, saying that I need to “read something else by Mark other than Capitalist Realism”. Which I think is missing the point somewhat; saying “this person wrote lots of other things, many of which were good” is a perfectly fine rebuttal if the point being made is that “this person was bad and never said anything worthwhile”, but it doesn’t really work as a reply to “this particular article is a bad piece of writing and it’d be nice if people could stop talking about it.”

Which raises the other problem with “read something else by Mark”: the only reason I’m still thinking about VC in 2019, more than most of his other writings, is because people are still talking about it in 2019, so surely if anyone needs to be told to “read something else”, then it should be Jodi Dean, since she’s the person who just gave a lecture about it.

Xenogothic also accuses me of deflating intersectionality, because ““Intersectionality” is not a term for overdetermined and individuated identity pockets, as it’s so often deployed in the naive “identity politics” milieu… It’s the opposite of an individualised politics.” Well, OK, but surely “individualised identity pockets” works as a fair description of this “working-class millionaire” thing, with its insistence that we can’t count certain millionaires as being millionaires, or academics as being academics, in case we imply that their “working class identity is void”?*

Xenogothic takes great exception to my mention of Sajid son-of-a-bus-driver Javid, pointing out that his background doesn’t “cancel out the fact that he is a Member of Parliament for a sitting government that has enacted countless racist and classist policies since being in office, some of which he has personally presided over”. And yeah, I agree that mentioning someone’s class background doesn’t cancel out their current social position, but that’s the whole point. The question isn’t that Javid is nasty and Fisher, or that nice Owen Jones or whoever, is nice, but whether we can talk about a class distinction between them. After all, Xenogothic, in their own words, doesn’t believe that “you can somehow graduate (perhaps literally) from your class position”, so following their logic we must understand Javid as being working class. Or, if we admit Javid’s class position has actually changed, then that line of argument totally falls apart.

Xenogothic characterises my argument as “academia at large emerges as the primary straw man here, with Mark propped up as some imaginary representative of all its bourgeois functions”, but it’s not me who brought academia into the discussion around VC, it was there from the start. Again, just to repeat, it was VC that set up an image of an enemy who are described as possessing “an academic-pedant’s desire”, as living off the creation of “academic capital”, as having their “natural home in universities”, and so on. All I’ve done is to suggest that, if you’re going to have a critique of academia, then you can’t just decide to rope off some academics as being different and not relevant to the topic. Or we could just collectively agree that “not-an-academic top trumps” is a pretty boring game to play and that there’s many more interesting things to do, which I’d be happy to agree with, but again that’s one more reason why that particular academic-baiting article should have been left behind in 2013.

They accuse me of not only “disarticulating Mark’s class position but so much of his other writing and political activity as well”. At this point, since I’ve probably read the word “disarticulating” more in that one blogpost than I’d encountered it in the last few years put together, I do have to raise my hand and ask what the precise difference between disarticulating and separating is – does “disarticulate” convey some nuance of meaning that “separate” doesn’t, or is it just that the more academic-jargon term is seen as inherently preferable to the more standard-English one?

More to the point, is it really me who’s disarticulated/separated out that one article from the rest of Fisher’s life and work? When Jodi Dean decided that, out of everything Fisher had ever said and written, she wanted to make that one particular article a focal point of her memorial lecture, wasn’t that also an act of disarticulation/separation? The actual separation took place years ago, when that one text was elevated to a status of prominence that the rest of his work doesn’t enjoy, but that was the work of Fisher’s supposed fans and boosters more than of his supposed critics. And yet, even though this is the one article people are still choosing to give lectures about in 2019, Xenogothic complains about me responding to that one text, rather than any of the various writings that people aren’t giving lectures about.

In my previous piece, I mentioned that “Nick Cohen, a media commentator utterly opposed to the kind of communist political project that the author promoted when he was alive, recently cited the article as if it somehow… supported his own centrism”. Xenogothic describes this as me pointing “to Nick Cohen’s appropriation of Mark’s essay as a sign of how bad it must be… conveniently ignoring the scorn Cohen received and the k-punk clippings sent to Cohen in the aftermath of the article’s publication that insulted him in vitriolic terms.”

As an awkward git, there is a part of me that wonders if these kinds of vitriolic insults being sent to a media commentator could be described as, say, “What these figures had said was sometimes objectionable; but nevertheless, the way in which they were personally vilified and hounded left a horrible residue: the stench of bad conscience and witch-hunting moralism”, or “an atmosphere of snarky resentment”, or something similar; but to be honest I can’t really say that I’m that bothered by people being mean to Nick Cohen.

We can certainly agree that the substance of Fisher’s thought has nothing in common with the centrist waffle of someone like Cohen; but the question is, then, what is it about VC that seemed attractive to Cohen, so that he would try to associate himself with it?

At the risk of being grandiose, any attempt to use Marx’s thought for emancipatory purposes must grapple with, and actively fight against, the image of Marx as guiding ideologue of the Russian/Chinese/North Korean/etc states; similarly, if not on quite the same scale, if we want to claim Fisher’s legacy as a guide to liberatory anti-capitalist action, then we need to combat the image of Fisher as the visionary genius whose central insight was that “well, people who criticise media commentators are actually bad”. And this image, the Fisher that can appeal to someone like Cohen, is based around VC, not Fisher’s work as a whole. Just as no-one has done more to tarnish Marx’s name than so-called Marxists, considering the example of Cohen shows that some self-proclaimed Fisher fans are far more of a threat to his legacy than any of his critics. Cohen may be the most glaring example here, but he’s far from the only one.

The crucial point is that the “disarticulation” Xenogothic objects to has already taken place, through the work of people like Angela Nagle, who claim to be Fisher’s disciples while boosting up and promoting that one particular piece of writing; and, when someone like Jodi Dean chooses to deliver a memorial lecture focused on that one particular piece of writing, they reinforce that disarticulation, further contributing to the image of Fisher as being first and foremost “the vampire guy”. And yet, if I critically comment on that image, then according to Xenogothic it’s as if the whole situation was my fault.

They object to me “proclaiming “working-class academic” to be something of an oxymoron”, missing the actual argument I was making, which is that it’s only an oxymoron if you’ve already chosen to define academics as being bourgeois. I never said that definition was correct, just that it was one Fisher and Xenogothic seemed to have chosen to use, in which case they should probably accept the full implications of that.

And again, from this I stand accused of trying to “deny Mark’s inspiring and unparalleled political activity on campus”, because I wrote about the VC article and not about Fisher’s statement for the Goldsmiths People’s Tribunal. I’m happy to agree that Fisher did, said, and wrote many things that were more interesting and inspiring than the VC article; but again, Angela Nagle didn’t get a book deal and a whole career out of re-hashing How the World got Turned the Right Way Up Again, Nick Cohen doesn’t go around trying to make himself sound clever by citing Memorex for the Krakens, and Jodi Dean did not, as far as I can tell, fly over to London to give a memorial lecture based around Fisher’s statement to the Goldsmith’s People’s Tribunal. So if I find myself provoked to revisit that one text more than some of his other, better, ones, I don’t think that’s because of an individual pathology on my part.

Xenogothic also brings up Fisher’s 2014 article, Good For Nothing, and berates me for a line in my 2013 article that “betray[ed] an ignorance regarding Mark’s openly discussed job history when articulating his experiences of depression.” To which I can only put my hands up and admit that, in November 2013, I was indeed totally ignorant of the contents of an article that would be published in March 2014. Perhaps it was irresponsible of me to respond to a piece of writing without first waiting for a year or so to see if anything else would be published that I should take into account.

Because I suggested that academic is not a great career choice for someone who wants to have a go at people for being academics, Xenogothic accuses me of “simply echo[ing] the depressive voice in Mark’s own head. “That’s not the right job for you.” Well, what is?””

Unfortunately, there isn’t one, that’s the whole point. I thought that the “do what you love” line of neoliberal ideology had been pretty thoroughly debunked by this point, but perhaps not in some circles. I don’t really believe in finding “the right job” in capitalism – freedom can only come from refusing the roles we’re offered, not picking the right one. Again, I would have thought this might be 101 stuff.

I wouldn’t particularly recommend that Fisher, or anyone else, choose my job instead, because it’s pretty miserable in its own way and leaves me stressed and/or tired a lot of the time; the main positive advantage it has going for it, and I don’t think it’s an insignificant one, is that it’s so obviously inane and pointless that no-one could positively identify with it, there’s no ideology that says getting to be really good at the kind of drudgework I do is a path to liberation. That, and if I really want to rip on people for being academics I can do it without being a hypocrite.

In closing, Xenogothic stresses that ““Exiting the Vampire Castle” was just that — an exit — but Mark went on to do far more valuable things elsewhere and in other contexts. Exiting was his first step on the road to collective joy”. I’m happy to agree on that point, but once again I have to ask, why this insistence on returning to that first step again and again? If you’re going to get mad at someone for focusing on that one step rather than the more valuable things he did elsewhere in other contexts, then why me and not Jodi Dean? I’m happy to agree to leave that “first step” behind if everyone else does, but as long as other commentators insist on holding it up as a vital reference point, I think critiques of it will continue to have some relevance.

 

*to avoid any confusion, I don’t actually think that “millionaire” and “academic” are equivalent positions, but the Fisher/Xenogothic position, with its stress on individual identity rather than social/economic position, doesn’t really seem to be able to distinguish between them.

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

Mid-April events listings

A few upcoming events:

On Monday 15th, Extinction Rebellion are calling for a day of action around climate change, and the newly-formed Green Anticapitalist Front have put out a specific call for people to join them for “environmentalist actions starting on Monday 15th of April in London, outside St Paul’s Cathedral, meeting at 12 noon. We will be assembling at St Paul’s Cathedral for a tour of the heart of global extractive finance, also known as the City of London.

We support the efforts by groups like Extinction Rebellion to build large movements, but we also support the many working class, immigrant, anti-borders, socialist, anarchist and communist groups which have been working to dismantle the capitalist roots of climate change, species extinction and extractive industrialism. Unlike Extinction Rebellion, we are not asking you to get arrested but we must highlight the fact that capitalism is the root cause of this crisis and bring this message to the workplaces of the people profiting from environmental destruction.

The Green Anti-capitalist Front is not a group, but rather a banner to bring together all of us who want to join the struggle against climate change, but who see that the only way of doing that is by digging up this threat by is roots – capitalism and state violence. We are calling for all anti-capitalists to join us on the street and show that London is both red and green.”

On Tuesday 16th, there’s an interesting event about the history of antifascism in London, and Leeds Plan C are hosting a book launch and discussion for Keir Milburn’s new book, Generation Left.

Brighton Antifascists’ regular “cantifa” fundraiser night continues every Wednesday, with some live folkpunk musicians joining them on the 17th.

On Friday 19th, workers at Sellafield power plant are walking out for a ten-day strike in a dispute that’s seen contracting company Mitie writing to workers, threatening them with disciplinary action if they don’t reveal whether they’re union members.

On Thursday 25th, the Angry Workers of the World and Labournet.tv present the premiere of a new documentary about workers’ organising at a car factory in Germany. The RMT are calling for a national demo in support of Southern train guards on Friday 26th, which will be the third anniversary of the “keep the guard on the train” dispute starting there. There’s also a “spring social” party at Mayday Rooms that night.

That weekend will also see the main events of the Southall Resists 40 commemoration in Southall, Plan C London hosting a discussion on “the history and formation of Plan C from its beginning in 2012, the fusion of various ideas within the post “anti-capitalist” movement of the early 2000’s that met the student movement of 2010, and the emergence of ideas like social strike, social reproduction, luxury communism, commons and forms of constituent power”, and the United Voices of the World union’s 5th birthday party. Sunday 28th will see Workers’ Memorial Day commemorated at various events across the country.

Closing out the month, Leeds Anti-Fascist Network are holding a film night and social on the 29th, and then there’ll be various events going on across the country for Mayday, including the Barnsley festival of solidarity, the antifascist 0161 festival in Manchester, and militant grassroots cleaners’ union CAIWU organising an open-topped bus tour of London stopping off at various employers they have beef with. There’s also the Angry Workers of the World Marx reading group on May 2nd, and they’ll be hosting a second showing of the German car factory documentary in West London on the 3rd.

Further into May, May 18th will be a very busy day indeed in West Yorkshire, with the With Banners Held High trade union festival in Wakefield, a solidarity fundraiser night in Leeds for people facing repression in Italy, and a big antifascist mobilisation against the “Yorkshire Patriots” in Dewsbury. This last is being supported by other organising meetings in places like Dewsbury/Batley and Wakefield. Further ahead still, there’s the call for a decentralised anarchist festival at the end of May, with a deadline of May 1st to get events listed.

Posted in Climate Change, Strikes, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Boycott Workfare Universal Credit Welfare Rights Advice

This news from Boycott Workfare is apparently from last November, but I’d only just seen it:

Image for Boycott Workfare Universal Credit Welfare Rights Advice

Boycott Workfare is the only independent campaign to successfully oppose all forms of ”conditionality” aka sanctions and workfare, no ifs, buts, political strings attached or punches pulled.  We are now stepping up to take on Universal Credit. The Conditionality of Universal Credit aka sanctions and workfare have received little attention in reports by campaigns, charities, mainstream media and alternative media outlets. Among other things, we will be exposing the realities of Universal Credit and those profiting from it, and challenging the current narrative of the Westminster Village political class. It’s time to reshape the discussion on Universal Credit to make a difference from the perspective of ordinary working class people living in the real world – not out-of-touch politicians, journalists, so-called industry professionals or policy wonks.

As of today, we are launching a new practical anti-conditionality resistance campaign focused on Universal Credit – the biggest change to social security for over 60 years – and as a starting point, we are now offering free welfare rights Universal Credit-related advice to claimants. Anyone needing help with Universal Credit is invited to contact us via email info@boycottworkfare.org.  We will also offer face-to-face Universal Credit advice for claimants (currently only available in central London). These advice sessions are by appointment only, please email us to book one, along with brief details of the help you need in advance. The first of these sessions will be held on Saturday the 10th November from 14:00 -17:00, kindly hosted at MayDay Rooms, 88 Fleet St, London EC4Y 1DH.

The areas we can help claimants with include:

How to avoid claiming UC in Full Service areas if already receiving any so-called ‘legacy benefits’ (JSA, ESA, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit, working Tax Credit) or on becoming unemployed

The possibility of returning to ‘legacy benefits’ in ‘Gateway/Live UC Service’ areas and when to withdraw a claim for UC in Live Service areas to avoid losing money for part of a monthly ‘assessment period’ – though please note these options are now much more difficult due to the rapid roll-out of Full Service UC.  

Complaining if you’ve lost income after being wrongly advised to transfer to UC

Re-claiming Council Tax Reduction when transferring to UC

Making sure a 2-week Housing Benefit ‘run-on’ has been received along with a housing element in the first assessment period after transferring to UC

Changing ‘claimant commitments’ and moving to different UC conditionality groups

Understanding work search and work availability conditions in the ‘all work related requirements group’

Varying the general 35-hour a week work search and availability rule

Limiting or suspending work search and work availability requirements for claimants otherwise subject to ‘all work related’ conditions

Checking whether sanctions (reduced entitlements for alleged failures to comply) have been applied to UC claims and effectively challenging sanctions

Dealing with the conditionality regimes imposed by private and voluntary sector contractors on behalf of the DWP

Challenging Workfare-related sanctions

Appealing fines and penalties imposed under UC

Making ‘Mandatory Reconsiderations’ about UC decisions

Appealing to First Tier tribunals about UC decisions

Asking for compensation via the complaints systems

Dealing with practical problems in claiming UC, payment delays and claim closures

Claiming UC Advances and appealing recovery rate decisions

Overcoming some of the UC barriers set up for EEA migrants concerning ‘right to reside’ rules

Overcoming some of the problems for sick and disabled claimants on UC

How to be assessed as having limited capability for work under UC – even if working

Checking errors in UC monthly calculations

Complaining about DWP and 3rd party deductions from UC for overpayments/debts

Alternative Payment Arrangements’ (APA’s)

Understanding the ‘conditionality earnings threshold’ of the employed and the ‘minimum income floor’ of the self-employed claiming UC

Understanding how the timing of changes (e.g. to rent) and an earnings cycle (e.g. weekly) affect UC payments

Possible ways of claiming UC while studying

Possible ways of claiming UC if under 18

Overcoming housing element UC restrictions for single renters under 22

Applying for Discretionary Housing Payments

Applying for Discretionary Council Tax Hardship payments

If your problem isn’t in the list above, still get in touch and we’ll see if we can help but please remember, we are currently only able to offer welfare rights advice about Universal Credit, Sanctions and Workfare.

Unlike state-funded welfare advice organisations like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) with their ‘gagging clause’ restrictions, we will not hold back in our criticisms and demands for change while helping claimants. Much of the current focus of ‘UC support’ for claimants provided by charities and local authorities is on enforcing ”compliance”. Indeed, the DWP is paying CAB to concentrate on the IT skills needed to manage claims and on ‘budgeting skills’ – whilst the very same claimants are being plunged further into poverty via UC and ”conditionality”. CAB as an organisation has been paid off by the government to become a Universal Credit enforcer. Fail to attend a budgeting skills appointment with CAB? Then expect to be sanctioned as CAB will be contractually obliged to report it.

The only way to fight Universal Credit is to ensure that claimants know their rights and to actively challenge the narrative of punishment via conditionality. This is where you can come in to help. We plan to expand this part of our campaign and want you to get involved. We would love to hear from anyone and everyone interested in opposing conditionality and in working with claimants to help secure welfare rights. We’re especially keen on hearing from people with direct personal experience of the social security system. Why? We are claimants just like you, and the only way to win and get the welfare state you want is by coming together with like-minded people to actively expose and challenge the inadequacies of system we have. Work with us to help bring down Universal Credit.

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

Anarcho/class struggle event listings for late March

A quick list of upcoming events:

This weekend will see stuff happening in Bristol, Barnsley and Birmingham, as Bristol antifascists are hosting a fundraiser, women involved in the South Yorkshire Women Against Pit Closures campaign are launching a book about their struggle, and there’s a march against police brutality through Birmingham after a recent police killing there.

The Anarchist Communist Group have been busy, recording two new podcasts on parliamentary democracy and internationalism, and they have a few meetings in early April, with a talk about anarchist communism in Canterbury on the 4th, a “No War but Class War” meeting in Leicester on the 6th, and a discussion on art and anarchism in London on the 7th. They’re also asking for donations to help fund their print projects.

Throughout April, “the Southall Resists 40” project will be hosting events to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the murder of Gurdip Singh Chaggar and the anti-racist struggles that came about in response.

Other upcoming events: On April 4th, the West London Solidarity Network and the IWW’s Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee are holding a joint meeting to organise support of Feltham youth prisoners. On the 6th, the IWW are hosting a summit in Birmingham for workers in post-16 education to respond to the increasing crisis in the sector, and Plan C Bristol are hosting a session of their social strike game. The next day, Keir Milburn of Plan C will also be giving a talk in Bristol about his new book, Generation Left.

On Saturday 13th, Liverpool has an anarchist bookfair, and on the 27th the United Voices of the World union are holding their 5th birthday party.

Late April/early May is of course always a busy time in anarcho and class struggle calendars, with Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28th followed by May Day, which should see stuff going off around the country; a few events I’ve seen confirmed so far include the festival of solidarity in Barnsley and the antifascist 0161 festival in Manchester. The Angry Workers of the World are also holding a Marx reading group on the 2nd of May.

Further ahead still, With Banners Held High, Wakefield’s trade union festival, will be on May 18th, and there’s a call for a decentralised anarchist festival with events across the UK and Ireland at the end of May, with a deadline of May 1st to get events listed.

Posted in Anarchists, Protests | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment