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#N30 - trade unions plan united strike for pensions

Marching together on 30 June
The fight is on. TUC conference today unanimously backed co-ordinated industrial action to defend public sector pensions. The country's three largest unions - Unite, Unison and GMB - formally announced they will ballot members for strikes.

On 30 June civil service union PCS, teacher unions NUT and ATL and lecturers' union UCU held a co-ordinated national strike involving over half a million people. They plan futher national strike action in November.

But today's announcement by the big battalions of Unison, Unite and GMB holds out the hope of a huge escalation in the campaign to protect pensions. Other unions balloting for action are the Fire Brigades Union, teachers' NASUWT, Scottish teachers' EIS, senior civil service union FDA and Northern Ireland's NIPSA.

There have been strikes by local government workers in Birmigham, Southampton and Doncaster. But their unions, most importantly Unison which has over a million members across local government and the NHS, have previously held back from national strike action.

TUC leader Brendan Barber announced the date as 30 November following a special meeting of public sector unions immediately after TUC conference. National co-ordination is vital to confront a concerted government effort to make workers pay more, work longer and get less.

The announcement of a ballot by Unison general secretary Dave Prentis was greeted by a standing ovation at the TUC. Prentis has recently shown he can retreat rapidly from good rhetoric. There must now be huge grassroots pressure to turn words into action. The stakes could hardly be higher.

Ed Miliband's pathetic stance on the strikes has already been thrown back at him by the Tories in prime minister's question time. This sort of behaviour by Labour leaders is bad enough at any time, but when strikes are clearly on the horizon it leaves him irrelevant - and himself part of a 'squeezed middle' who will become increasingly weak and marginal.

Unity is key - across the public sector unions and reaching out to the private sector. As PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said today: "We have always said that the more united we are, the harder it will be for the government to push through their ideologically-driven and damaging cuts. This is not just a fight for public servants, we want fair pensions for all."

Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, has emphasised the need to link up with private sector workers over pensions, especially since the government is trying to divide and rule over supposedly 'gold plated' public sector pensions. Given the weakness of union organisation in the private sector, this is an essential part of building a movement across the whole working class. McCluskey has also stressed the need for a coalition of resistance, which can give a boost to the international conference against austerity on Saturday 1 October.

There will now need to be jointly-organised mass campaign rallies and protests throughout the country. These can be on a much bigger scale than before. Trade union activists will be campaigning for the highest possible Yes vote.

The pensions dispute is for the whole anti-cuts movement, not just public sector trade unionists. It is our movement's best chance to strike a blow against this government's austerity drive.

Also published at Counterfire

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

Cable Street: they did not pass

Via Philosophy Football:

'Seventy-five years ago, on 4 October 1936, the people of the East End united to stop Sir Oswald Mosley's blackshirted British Union of Fascists from marching through their community. An estimated 100,000 gathered to prevent this parade of anti-semitic hate behind the slogan 'They shall not pass'.

After hours of confrontation, sometimes violent and centred on Cable Street, Mosley was forced to abandon his march. They did not pass!

Philosophy Football's design is based on the original 1936 street sign for Cable Street.'

Available from HERE
  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

#N30 - students pledge to back unions with 'mass direct action'

As student campaigners, we fully support the trade union movement's campaign against austerity, including the biggest wave of strike action since 1926. The government's plans for universities represent a threat to the very purpose of education, with the poor being priced out of a marketised system of private providers, while school and FE students are being robbed of basic support.

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts has now called a national education demonstration for Wednesday 9 November, and we will organise for a day of mass direct action and walkouts to coincide with the strike. We will not allow this government to abolish the welfare state and destroy our futures.

Michael Chessum National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, and NUS NEC
Luke Durigan UCL Union education and campaigns officer
Daniel Lemberger-Cooper Royal Holloway students' union president
James Haywood Goldsmith's students' union president
Edward Bauer Birmingham guild education officer
Sean Rillo Raczka University of London union vice-president
Alusine Alpha Bradford students' union treasurer
Mike Williamson Edinburgh students' association education officer
Alan Bailey NUS LGBT officer
Matthew Bond NUS disabled students' campaign
Alex Peters-Day LSE students' union general secretary
Liam Turbett, Aiden Turner and Liam McCombes Free Hetherington Glasgow occupation
James McAsh NCAFC national committee, Edinburgh University
Gordon Maloney NCAFC national committee and NUS Scotland executive
Bob Sutton Liverpool guild of students vice-president
Aaron Peters NCAFC national committee
Claire Lister NCAFC national committee, Birmingham University
Alasdair Thompson STUC youth committee
Alice Swift NCAFC national committee, Birmingham University
Arianna Tassinari SOAS students' union co-president for education and welfare
Amena Amer LSE students' union education officer
Edward Maltby NCAFC national committee, London
Lukas Slothuus LSE students' union welfare and community officer

Via The Guardian

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

Sanum Ghafoor at Counterfire conference

Counterfire had its first national conference at the weekend. Clare Solomon chaired a public event on Saturday evening, addressed by a range of Counterfire activists: Lindsey German, Sean Rillo Raczka, Joshua Virasami, Neil Faulkner and Sanum Ghafoor. You can watch video of the other speeches HERE.

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

Tottenham riot - report and video

Report by Elly Badcock and Dan Poulton, re-posted from Counterfire:

Weaving down a dark alleyway attempting to bypass police on horseback, we passed a burning pile of rubbish and police gear, abandoned arrest log sheets and DNA testing kits. Over the fences of houses plumes of smoke rose above the railway bridge.The acrid smell of burning cars filled the air.

We had left the police line to get closer to the riot which had exploded in response to the shooting of Mark Duggan, 29, in Tottenham on Friday night. For a community marginalised by cuts and racism – Tottenham has the highest rate of unemployment in the country at 8.8% - the killing of yet another young black man by the police brought an already tense situation to the boil.

Flames erupting from shop fronts formed the backdrop to groups of hooded young men hurling glass bottles at a police force which had clearly lost control, despite the rather strained efforts of one senior Met official to state the contrary. Efforts to disperse the nearby crowds were futile, as police charged forward only to be blocked by swiftly erected burning barricades.

The police assured media outlets that the fire brigade was being swiftly deployed. Not from where we were standing - shops blazed along the high road, with no fire engines in sight. A member of a family we spoke to said she knew Mark Duggan and that the police had no need to kill him. The family understood why the police had become the targets of such pent up anger.

This is the third riot Counterfire has reported in the last year- a heavy handed police raid in Bristol in April was met with a protest and police later attacked the crowd, and in Glasgow disturbances broke out when police used similar methods to clear young revellers in Kelvingrove Park during an unofficial Royal Wedding party.

One account on Twitter earlier said that Saturday’s riot was sparked when police attacked a 14 year old girl during a peaceful protest demanding justice for Duggan.But whatever the origins of the riot it is clear that there is massive public anger at a time when cuts are biting, and hitting the poorest areas hardest.

With the Met already embroiled in a corruption scandal in the wake of the News International hacking saga, and recent police attacks on protesters like Alfie Meadows and Jody Mcintyre, the British establishment has not been so mistrusted or even hated for many years. The ConDem government’s austerity measures can only deepen this animosity and increase tensions as the streets continue to fight back.

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

Crypt Fest: ULU’s Central School of Speech and Drama Theatre performances this Saturday.

Central School of Speech and Drama are putting on a short festival of work from their Advanced Theatre Practice course (of which SHUNT are alumni) coming up this week on Saturday 30th July. They have formed various companies after a year of study based on collaborative and alternative theatre making, and Saturday night will be a [...]
  • Written by solomons mindfield
  • Category: Comment

Good riddance to Blue Labour

Lord Glasman, pioneer of 'Blue Labour'
Oh dear. It seems Blue Labour is fragmenting. The motley crew of Labour right-wingers has fallen apart because leading light Maurice Glasman went that bit too far.

Blue Labour has largely been a vanity project for Glasman, but he still needed a number of like-minded thinkers (if 'thinkers' is the word) to make it work. His extreme anti-immigrant comments to the Tory press have, however, alienated allies like Jon Cruddas - who, whatever his faults, is still anti-racist.

A vital part of Blue Labour's appeal was its orientation on the right-wing press. Just think about the name: hardly a great idea if you want to win supporters inside the Labour Party, but provocative, catchy and distinctive enough to get commentators and editors salivating. After the hacking scandal, it is no longer quite so sexy to have a direct line to influential media insiders.

So the timing of Glasman's nasty little attack on immigration was far from ideal. Not only were his prejudices unpalatable to a number of fellow Blue Labourites, but it was hardly the moment for using a right-wing rag to convey your ideas.

Glasman's whole routine is founded on shameless populism, propagating the foul idea that Labour must pander to prejudices supposedly synonymous with working class people to be electable. Flag, faith and family - but definitely no foreigners - is the core of the project. This - rather than fighting cuts, defending the NHS or redressing inequality - is apparently how working class votes can be won.

The hacking scandal has already weakened the Blairites on the hard right of the Labour Party (it is they who have previously been most shameless in their sycophancy to Murdoch). This latest episode suggests incoherence and disarray in these same circles.

If Ed Miliband has an ounce of sense he will create considerable distance between himself and Glasman, instead of vainly scampering after the latest novelty 'fresh way of thinking', however superficial, confused or obnoxious it may be.

See 'The end of Blue Labour'

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

Norway killer linked to EDL

The Guardian's report 'Norway gunman claims a London connection and links to the EDL' informs us:

'Anders Behring Breivik, the man behind the Norway killings that left 93 people dead, began his journey in extremist rightwing politics at a small meeting in London in 2002, according to his online manifesto, and may have attended a far right demonstration in the UK as recently as last year.

In a 1,467-page document that contains chilling details of his preparations for Friday's attacks, Breivik outlines his UK links, claiming he met eight other extremists from across Europe in London in 2002 to "re-form" the Knights Templar Europe – a group whose purpose was "to seize political and military control of western European countries and implement a cultural conservative political agenda".

The manifesto, signed "Andrew Berwick London 2011", contains repeated references to his links to the UK far right group the English Defence League. On Sunday there were unconfirmed reports from one of the organisation's supporters that the 32-year-old had attended at least one EDL demonstration in the UK in 2010.

"[B]ar one or two doubt the rest of us ever met him, altho he did come over for one of our demo in 2010 … but what he did was wrong," said an EDL member online.

In the manifesto titled 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, Breivik writes: "I used to have more than 600 EDL members as Facebook friends and have spoken with tens of EDL members and leaders. In fact; I was one of the individuals who supplied them with processed ideological material (including rhetorical strategies) in the very beginning."...

It reveals an obsession with the Crusades and a supposed threat to Christian Europe posed by Muslim immigrants and mainstream political leaders. Breivik predicts a European civil war will take place in three stages, ending in 2083 with the execution of "cultural Marxists" and the deportation of all Muslims.'

The Guardian's report is likely to be damaging for the EDL in three ways. It may prompt the British state to be less tolerant of EDL demonstrations. It also threatens to embarrass many of the 'softer' supporters, who could be inclined to dissociate themselves. Some supporters are more dedicated than others - bad publicity (and it doesn't get much worse than this) can separate a broad layer of casual supporters from the committed hardcore. Finally, this can galvanise anti-racists to take action to beat back the EDL threat.

The key to defeating racist movements is the collective action of the anti-racist majority. The police and intelligence services can't be relied upon to deal with violent far-right groups and individuals - not least because the state is culpable in the Islamophobia which creates the conditions in which they fester. A sustained mass campaign against the Islamophobia which provides the breeding ground for the EDL - and equivalent organisations or networks elsewhere - is required.

The appalling media reaction to unfolding events on Friday evening - with a widespread assumption among editors, journalists and commentators that it must be 'Islamist' terrorism - served as a vivid reminder of the prevalence of elite Islamophobia. It hopefully shocked people into recognising how embedded anti-Muslim assumptions have become in the media.

Islamophobia, not only in the UK but across much of Europe, is state-led. A 'respectable racism' which has become vastly more prevalent during a decade of the 'war on terror', it finds its most acute expression in EDL mobilisations - and, even worse, the horrific massacre on Friday. We need to permanently turn the tide against this racism in the media, in politics and on the streets.   

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

BNP could split after Nick Griffin wins leadership by 9 votes

Former friends: Andrew Brons and Nick Griffin
While the BBC was, disgracefully, giving an EDL leader a platform on Newsnight, the corporation's website brought us something to smile about. It seems the divisions inside the British National Party run as deep as we thought. BBC News reports:

'Nick Griffin has been re-elected as leader of the British National Party, according to the party's website. It said he received 1,157 votes and his opponent, Andrew Brons MEP, received 1,148. Eleven papers were spoiled.

The website quoted Mr Griffin as saying the "time for division and disruption is over" and urging members of his party to "go forward together". In May, the BNP, which has been hit by divisions, lost many of the seats it held on local councils in England.'

June 2009 seems a long time ago. That's when two MEPs were elected from the BNP: Nick Griffin in the north west and Andrew Brons in Yorkshire and Humberside. The European Parliament elections marked a high point for the fascist party, following breakthroughs in local elections during the previous few years. Growing 'respectability' was symbolised by Griffin's infamous appearance on the BBC's Question Time.

In two rounds of local elections since then - last year and again this May - BNP support has fallen, with the party losing most of the seats it defended. Most spectacularly, the BNP lost all its 12 seats on Barking and Dagenham council in east London in May 2010. The party's activists were also disappointed by their general election results, feeding disaffection and division.

Since then the tensions have turned into open revolt, with Brons becoming a figurehead for those challenging Griffin's fuhrer status. The two MEPs have clashed publicly. Their party has also suffered a deep financial crisis, leaks of membership lists and embarrassing revelations about violent conduct by its members.

This has all been rather cheering for anti-fascists, whose activity opposing the BNP over many years helped prevent it getting more of a mainstream foothold. Defeats and disappointments for the fascists encouraged the divisions which now threaten to fragment it. Griffin's hope for an end to 'disruption and division' is likely to prove forlorn.

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood: is this what counter-revolution looks like?

Amid continued protest in Egypt and the formation of a new government, the Muslim Brotherhood’s position continues to be a source of debate. Joseph Daher has written a new analysis for Counterfire, which begins:

'The Muslim Brotherhood was the largest opposition party during the Mubarak era. Under the Mubarak regime, the Brotherhood was formally banned but nevertheless tolerated. The begrudging toleration, however, did not save its members from frequent arrests and trials before exceptional courts.

The group achieved its best election result in 2005 with independent candidates allied to it winning 20 percent of the seats. The government subsequently launched a crackdown on the Brotherhood, detaining hundreds of members, and instituting a number of legal "reforms" to make them illegal. During the fraud-ridden 2010 parliamentary elections, the government found pretexts to invalidate the candidacies of virtually all Muslim Brotherhood-linked independents.

The Brotherhood leadership backed the revolution from 28th January, while the youth of the party were part of the revolution since day one, from the 25th. The position of the Brotherhood towards the revolutionary process since the fall of Mubarak has been ambiguous. Many protesters in Egypt have characterized the Brotherhood’s behavior as counter-revolutionary, while others say that it is nevertheless the largest and most organised party in the country so there is a need to collaborate with it.'

Read the full article: Egypt's revolution and the Muslim Brotherhood

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

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