Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Bury Binmen back Ian Allinson in Unite's Top Job

YESTERDAY afternoon, a Bury Unite Commercial Branch meeting of mostly binmen in the Queen's Hotel on Bradley Lane, became one of the first Unite Branches to nominate Manchester lad, Ian Allinson, for the next General Secretary of Unite the Union. 
In putting forward Mr. Allinson for the Bury branch's nomination the Branch Secretary, Brian Bamford, said that he was not so keen on 'coronations' in matters of political or union issues, and that he felt that it was important that the Unite membership get as wide a choice as possible to lead them. 
Mr. Bamford made it clear that while he respected the current leader Len McCluskey he did not think it was healthy for the union to have a narrow choice of candidates. 
There was some debate about if by putting Ian Allinson on the ballot paper the Bury Branch would be splitting the so-called 'left-vote', and one or two people at the meeting said 'Who's heard of Ian Allison outside of Manchester?'
Someone else claimed that Len McCluskey was a well-established experienced officer, and Mr. Allinson was a new boy on the block, so wouldn't it be better to support someone more knowledgeable?
In response it was then argued that many people hadn't heard of Jeremy Corbyn before he was elected as the Labour leader.  Others thought that some officers spend too long in office, and thereby lose contact with the rank and file membership.  Ian Allison, who is a convenor at Fujitsu in Manchester, is not a paid official.
The only other candidate for the General Secretary's job, Gerard Coyne, is a Unite regional officer in the Midlands.
After considering the proposals of all three candidates the meeting voted unanimously to nominate to nominate Ian Allinson for General Secretary.

Councillor Allen Brett 'Rattled' by Mr. Hennigan


TO judge by his letter in last Saturday's Rochdale Observer Councillor Allen Brett is seriously rattled at the return of David Hennigan to local politics.  Now I know that Mr Hennigan is up to his neck in efforts to whip up support for protests against the recent rise in councillors expenses, but let's face it if Labour and the Tories had not made the mistake of voting themselves a rise at the present time, the Lib-Dems would not be able to 'make hay while the sun shines'.

In complaining about Mr Hennigan 'peddling his nasty brand of personal and offensive politics' Councillor Brett displays a conveniently short memory.

After Simon Danczuk's book was published in April 2014 there were repeated demands from Labour activists that named Lib-Dems should 'apologise for Cyril Smith'.  This only stopped when it was pointed out that when Cyril was conducting his fake medicals and spanking bottoms at Cambridge House he was a member of the Labour party.  And of course the late Mr Roger Chadwick is on record as saying that he told the Labour agent about Cyril's activities in 1966.  Whose turn to apologise now?

When this ploy brought only ridicule a story was drummed up about some notes which someone working for ex-Lib-Dem MP Liz Lynne had (probably) made of a telephone conversation about Cyril Smith 20 years years earlier.  Trivial though the story was it did not stop a Labour councillor writing a letter to the Rochdale Observer which started off referring to 'notes', which a few lines later became a 'file' and finally a 'dossier'.  

As for when the 'nasty brand of personal and offensive politics' came to Rochdale though there has always been antagonism between the parties it seems to have appeared in a particularly virulent form at about the same time as Mr Danczuk was selected as PPC for the town. I hasten to add the caveat that 'correlation does not imply causation'.

If you are sceptical check out this website:
http://rochdaleraw.blogspot.co.uk/2008/11/big-cyrils-rap-sheet.html

It ran from November 2008 to February 2010 and styled itself Rochdale Alternative Website (RAW). By using images of the front cover of Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) it sought to give the impression that it was somehow taking over from where RAP left off, though having studied the content, I doubt that co-editors of RAP would have had anything to do with it.  They always had the guts to put their name to what they wrote.  Something that very few of those who contributed to the site ever had the courage to do.

If you have the patience to check out all the postings you’ll come across both personal abuse of Rochdale Lib-Dems (including of Hennigan) and closet homophobia.  You’ll also find both the same knowledge of Cyril Smith’s antics at Cambridge House and the misspelling of people’s names that characterises Danczuk and Baker’s book.

Interestingly enough the very first words to appear on the site mentioned the cartoon which Danczuk and Baker used in the second edition of their book without seeking  permission from RAP’s co-editors.  This resulted in the book’s publishers later paying £250 for the privilege and Mr Danczuk having a boy’s toilet in Gambia dedicated to him.

For the full story see:
http://northernvoicesmag.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/more-crappy-behaviour-surrounding.html


It is rumoured that RAW was run by a group which referred to themselves as 'Team Danczuk'.  However there seems to have been a ‘great falling out’ which may have mirrored what was happening in Rochdale Labour party at the time.
http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/local-news/party-stalwarts-left-facing-axe-929702
http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/local-news/whitewash-claims-as-party-expels-five-930407
http://danczuk.tripod.com/domestic-behaviour.html
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3157459/Disturbing-questions-Simon-Danczuk-crusades-against-abuse.html

After the ‘great falling out’ a fake version of RAW looking identical to the ‘real’ one appeared which Labour party members used to attack each other and announce that they were not going to campaign for someone they called ‘Dumchuck’ (and other things).

Someone seems to have decided that these postings suggested that there may be less than wholehearted support for Mr Danczuk amongst Labour activists and had the ‘fake’ site taken down.  But it did exist and you can still find traces of it on the web if you look hard enough.

The ‘real’ version of RAW does not reflect very well on Labour either.  Whilst it still exists it makes Councillor Brett look like a Humbug who complains about a Lib-Dem activist when Labour activists have done much worse.  It also reminds people that complaining about Paul Rowan claiming 40p for a banana looks like silly whinging when set against Simon Danczuk claiming £11,000 for two of his children staying with him and then having to repay it when it came to light that it never happened.

But from my perspective it does serve one useful purpose.  It points up just how much Simon Danczuk and Matthew Baker owe to the work done 39 years earlier by the co-editors of RAP David Bartlett and john Walker.  What becomes
very clear after reading the RAW blog is that far from being the man who ‘outed’ Cyril Smith, Simon Danczuk is just a ‘Johnny come lately’.

I have no evidence that Allen Brett, Simon Danczuk or Matthew Baker were responsible for the content which appeared on the RAW website.  But it would be remarkable if they were not at least aware of it.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Tameside libraries to go unstaffed! Are library users at risk?



A report that recommends the introduction of ‘self-service’ libraries in Tameside, (Open+), was considered by the Executive Cabinet of Tameside Council on Wednesday 14 December 2016.

The report incorporates the findings of a library survey that took place over a six- week period during July and August and which received 807 responses on-line, but only 794 valid responses, after invalid responses were removed. The report says that the views of elected members were sought along with MPs and council staff, as well as young people and members of the Bengali community, in Hyde.

As part of ‘Vision Tameside’, the report authored by ‘Emma Varnam’, Interim Assistant Executive Director for Stronger Communities, says that £496,200 is to be invested in a range of technologies that will allow customers to use libraries when unstaffed.

As part of their ‘Vision’, the report says that it is intend to increase the number of volunteers to “support paid staff delivering the service.” Although the report says that it is not the intention to run any library using just volunteers, annual savings of £185,000, are to come from reduced expenditure on library staff, brought about by using volunteers and self-service libraries, which will include ‘self-issue’, ‘self-booking’ on PC’s and unstaffed hours. In June, a “Library Service Brief”, informed staff:

“The implementation of new technology will necessitate reconsideration of staffing levels i.e. a service review. This will again present opportunities for staff to apply for voluntary severance.”

In November, Sir Richard Leese, the leader of Labour controlled Manchester City Council, told a meeting of voluntary organisations that it was the role of voluntary organisations to “fill in the holes” left by public service cuts.

The report says that the introduction of self-service technology will increase library opening hours and allow Tameside Libraries to be retained in an affordable way. The law, the “Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964”, requires Tameside Council to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all individuals who live, work, or study, in the Borough and who are desirous of using the service. Usually following a complaint, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has powers to intervene when a library authority fails (or is suspected of failing) to provide the required service.

Despite having “usable reserves” of nearly £205m as of 31 March 2015, Tameside Council closed five libraries in September 2012 and opening hours, were cut at the other eight remaining libraries. There are currently eight libraries in Tameside out of 22 libraries, a reduction of almost 64%. Most of these were axed well before the austerity Tory government of David Cameron, or the banking crises in 2008. Not only have Tameside library opening hours been reduced, but publications such as magazines and books have also been massively cut over the years.

The report stresses that there has been a downward trend both nationally and locally in both visits to libraries and issues. It is felt that the internet, smart phones, tablets, gaming and e-books, have all played a part in this downward trend. However, while there may be some truth in this, the report fails to recognise that fewer libraries, opening for fewer hours, with much reduced stock, might also explain the reduction in library visits and issues. Curiously, whereas library book loans, according to Nielsen Libscan, are reckoned to have slumped by almost 16m in the last two years, book sales for adults and children’s books have continued to climb. Library campaigners, such as Tim Coates, blame the reduction in cuts to book stocks and opening hours, which he believes undermine libraries.

The Tameside library survey indicates that most people use the library service to borrow books, to access PC’s, read magazines and newspapers, and to ask for advice and information. The report also indicates that library users greatly value the work that library staff do and don’t want to see staff axed. Many people indicated that the number of Tameside councillors should be cut along with their expenses in order to fund services and staff.

The responses given in the Tameside library survey of 747 people, are extremely interesting and perhaps not what Tameside Council were expecting. When asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the proposition that self-issue technology in libraries and longer opening hours with reduced library staff, was preferable to closing more libraries, 63.15% agreed and 36.85 disagreed. Some 65.88% of people said that they used self-service technology regularly, occasionally, or had done so one or twice. A quarter of responders (25.72%), indicated that they would not use self-issue technology under any circumstances. The survey of young people (106 people responded), indicates that 50.94% agree with the ‘vision’ but 49.06% disagreed. Interestingly, most young people surveyed, said they would not use self-service technology. When asked about voluntary work with Tameside library service, most people surveyed (86.13%), said they would not be interested in volunteering. No doubt, many people object to doing a job (unpaid), that someone was previously paid to do. There also seems to be some evidence that females are reluctant to use an unstaffed library because they feel unsafe in the presence of men, whereas, men are more likely to use an unstaffed library. One female respondent, indicated that she had observed a library user watching pornography on his library computer.

Although it is proposed to install CCTV in libraries and that only people given ‘VIP user status’ - a trusted member of the library service - will be given access to unstaffed libraries, it is felt that this is not sufficient to mitigate any risk. In “Open+” mode, children under 16-years-old, must be accompanied by an adult. At some unstaffed libraries in Stockport, library users are already being warned that they use the library at their own risk. This of course, does not indemnify any council, who have a duty of care, to members of the public using their premises.  Those who are given access to unstaffed libraries also have ensure there is no “tailgating”. The report also recognises that older people may have difficulty using self-issue technology such as swipe cards. People with disabilities may also have difficulty with access.

The report makes clear that there are currently 45.2 full-time equivalent staff required to operate the library service, whereas, only 38.6 would be required under the new operating model. In addition, a further 6.6 jobs are to be axed, around 15 jobs in total. However, in the Tameside Library service, there are more chiefs than Indians (59 library officers to 45.2 library staff). The report isn’t clear where the axe will fall on library bosses, if at all. 

Tameside Leader fails to deliver on pledges!

Old Ashton Baths - December 2016

In the Spring 2016 issue of Tameside Council's free rag, 'The Tameside Citizen', Kieran Quinn, the Executive Leader of Tameside Council, outlined 16 pledges that he claimed would make a difference for Tameside communities. One of his pledges was that Tameside Council would rollout free WiFi across the town centres of Tameside. But with roughly three days to go before we go into the New Year 2017, it looks like 'The Leader' will fail on this pledge and has failed to come up with the goods! But what should we expect from any politician, if not false promises.

We were told in the summer issue of the 'Citizen', No76:

"By the autumn all nine of the borough's town centres will be covered by the SWIFT network - Smart Wireless Internet for Tameside. Access to the free town centre Wi-Fi will be fast and simple. Once logged in, people will be automatically connected as they move from town to town go to Tameside College or visit Tameside Hospital. Ashton and Dukinfield will benefit from dark fibre broadband, installed for the digital hub at Ashton Old Baths, which offers the highest speeds and reliability in the UK."

Talk about being hoist by your own petard, where is the dark fibre broadband? The people of Tameside are still waiting for this pledge to come to fruition. You'll find more fibre in your breakfast cereal than in Tameside. As for the Ashton Old Baths, the last time I past, the windows had been put in and the building is now occupied by pigeons.

Film-maker calls on Danczuk to sleep-outside


SIMON DANCZUK MP  has declined to sleep on the streets after the documentary film-maker, Gary Jay suggested he do so following Danczuk's derogator comments about beggars in Rochdale town centre last week.
A year ago, Gary spent four days filming his experience of living on the streets in Manchester city centre for a documentary called ‘Human Garbage’ during which time he was attacked, spat on and threatened.
The film-maker Mr. Jay was reported in the Manchester Evening News (MEN) as saying:
'I slept with drug addicts, alcoholics, was threatened by the city’s drug dealers with my life and attacked.

'I would like to send out a personal challenge to Mr Danczuk to do exactly the same thing again, with me to see what it is like to beg for food, money to feed yourself, be spat at, be ignored, sleep in doorways, be robbed, be attacked and be preyed on by drug dealers.

'I promised my family I would never do such a thing again, but I can not stand by and watch as a man who demands such high wages comment on people who have little to nothing and not be challenged for his actions as a member of parliament.

'I thought it was disgusting for a person in a position of power to make a comment like that. Now he’s now part of the problem.'
The MEN has contacted Mr Danczuk for a comment, but apparently the MP has not yet responded.

Cartoon from Washington Post


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Danczuk: 'Many are Called, Few are Chosen'!



SIMON Danczuk the MP for Rochdale, according to the Manchester Evening News last night has been branded ‘heartless’ and ‘an inhuman disgrace’ after comments about ‘beggars’ in Rochdale.  On a tweet he wrote:
'Begging - counted 4 beggars between Rochdale Exchange & Wheatsheaf entrances last Tuesday. Should at very least be moved on.'
The MP later defended his remarks - and says he was trying to draw attention to police ‘losing control’ of Rochdale town centre - claiming officers aren’t doing enough to tackle begging and anti-social behaviour.
People may excused for thinking that Mr. Danczuk detests beggars or is deeply concerned about the problem of anti-social behavour in Rochdale.
Nothing of the sort!  The man is totally disinterested in these matters except as a device to get public attention.
Mr. Danczuk has seized on his fleeting encounter with a few paupers in Rochdale town centre to wallow in another bit of cheap publicity.
In the Book of Judges there is a chapter on the coup d'état of Abimelech, the illegitimate son of Gideon, who hired and armed gangs of paupers and vagabonds to assist him in seizing power.  With their assistance he slaughtered one by one and 'upon one stone,' as Scripture says, the seventy sons that Gideon had had by his lawful wives 
The story of this misdeed is followed, in the same chapter, by a truly pitiless parable on the vocation of the political leader in which all the trees sought a leader:  first the olive; then the fig tree and the vine, but ultimately settling upon the bramble to rule over them.  This has been described as the most subversive passage in the Bible, because the bramble, a self-indulgent plant agrees to rule over the other trees because, unlike the others, it has nothing better to do.
Mr. Danczuk is the consummate politician because like the bramble in the Bible he is not fit for owt else, and he pushes himself forward because he is really disinterested in poverty and child sex abuse.  The beggars he sees on the streets of Rochdale or the survivors of sexual abuse he chooses to interview for his book are just a means to an end for Danczuk, the professional politician.
That's why Mr. Danczuk is a man born to a political vocation who cannot adapt himself to everyday life, because he wants power for its own sake. 
In the Biblical parable already quoted the olive, the fig and the vine, refuse to take power not because they don't want to rule but because they can't rule because it is not in their natures.  Their nature is to lead an orderly life, and not to be rushing about, holding forth in the streets and giving themselves airs. 
Simon Danczuk is currently holding forth about the police's failure to move the beggars today, tomorrow there will be something else for him to go on a sterile rant about to capture the headlines.  He'll do anything to gain re-admittance into the Labour Party.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Norman Smith MBE & lesser critics of N.V.

Northern Voices Editor - Brian Bamford

THE letter below from the former Rochdale Mayor, Norman Fowden Smith MBE, who has recently died, was sent a decade ago to Harold Sculthorpe, who was then part of the editorial committee  of Northern Voices.  It is addressed to the editor, Brian Bamford, and purports to be a complaint about coverage of Mr. N. Smith in the NV No.6 edition of that journal in which there was reference to his support for developers on the Spodden Valley site with its serious issues with regard to the threat of asbestos disturbance.  Norman had been referred to as 'a stout defender' of the developers.  Mr. N.F.Smith is of course the brother of the then famous and influential figure Sir Cyril Smith, who lived on Emma Street in Rochdale.  Norman Smith was perhaps the first person to threaten Northern Voices, but others followed; notably the veteran anarchist, Ronald Marsden, of Barlow Moor Road, West Didsbury who, in 2009, objected to something in NV in which attention was drawn to his acquisition of some photos of a refugee camp in Lancashire: he went on threaten NV with 'criminal libel' and bullied our printer and some of our outlets.  Then there were two individuals Matthew Baker, formerly an aide to Simon Danczuk, and the former police officer and later lecturer, Gordon Mills, who both complained that NV had wrongly said they were 'sacked' from their posts.  We corrected these admitted errors but both Baker and Mills went on to threaten NV with allusions to defamation.  In the case of Gordon Mills he also challenged the Guardian, the Morning Star and the USI over similar issues.  We understand that the GMB union is presently his target.*
Besides these litigious personalities there have been other valiant attempts to persuade us to watch our backs.  In 2012, the 'anarchist' former school teacher, Sally Miller nee Hyman, recruited a contingent of schoolboys to ambush a bookseller at the London Anarchist Bookfair and tried to have the publication removed from sale. 
The letter sent a decade ago from Norman F. Smith to Harold Sculthorpe and addressed to Brian Bamford as editor, is as represented below, it was all in capital letters:


FROM MR NORMAN SMITH MBE,
TO:  MR BRIAN BAMFORD
NORTHERN VOICES.
DEAR MR BAMFORD
THANK YOU FOR YOUR LETTER AND COPY OF YOUR NO.6 N. VOICES.
        I VERY STRONGLY OBJECT TO YOUR ARTICLE.  I HAVE NEVER ONCE DEFENDED THE DEVELOPERS RE. SPODDEN VALLY, OR SUPPORTED THEM.  TO SAY SO IS A LIE AND YOU KNOW IT.  I FIND YOUR ARTICLE AND REFERENCES OBJECTIONABLE AND SEE NO REASON TO REFER TO MY BROTHER.
I HAVE SPOKEN TO MY SOLICITOR, AND I HAVE GOOD REASON TO CONSIDER YOUR ASSERTIONS TO BE LIBELLOUS.
ALL I HAVE EVER DONE IS STATE THE LEGAL POSITION, PLANNING WISE AND HOW – NOT IF – IT SHOULD BE OPPOSED.
I REQUIRE A FULL PUBLISHED APOLOGY FROM YOU, IN YOUR “NORTHERN VOICES” AND A STATEMENT OF THE ABOVE FACT, AND AN ADMISSION THAT WHAT YOU WROTE WAS AN UNTRUTH.  I ALSO REQUIRE YOU SEND ME THE RELEVANT ISSUE – FREE.

Norman F Smith.


Owing to our knowledge of the past involvement of Sir Cyril Smith MBE with Turner Bros. Asbestos Company, and the supportive comments of his brother Norman F. Smith MBE with regard to the developers plans to build on Spodden Valley, Northern Voices refused to give either an apology to Mr. N. F. Smith or to offer him a free copy of Northern Voices.  We heard nothing further from either Norman F. Smith MBE or his brother Cyril.
*  A retired policeman who worked for a secretive unit monitoring political protests is suing a trade union over claims that he colluded with an unlawful blacklisting operation that prevented construction workers from getting jobs.
In a libel claim lodged in the High Court, Gordon Mills, who worked for five years in the unit, has accused the GMB of defaming him and is claiming up to £10,000 in damages.
His legal action is being defended by the GMB which said it had been acting in the public interest. The union said there was “credible evidence” suggesting that Mills, while he was a police officer, shared information with construction firms which were funding a clandestine blacklist of workers.



For more go to

Former police officer suing GMB trade union for defamation | UK news ...






Thursday, 12 January 2017

Unite Chief & Anonymous 'Smear' Tactics


Len McCluskey says 'Unite members deserve better'

LAST week, Len McCluskey, the current General Secretary of Unite the Union, dispatched a letter to the members of the Unite union complaining about an 'anonymous' communication which he described as 'abusing and smearing both the name of our great union and myself'.

Mr.McCluskey claims: 

'Clearly, this mailing is connected with the election for General Secretary presently under way and is part of a campaign to attack Unite for its fighting back approach to defending our members.  The “articles” contained within it recycle smears from newspapers which are not merely hostile to myself, but to trade unionism.'

The anonymous document is a re-print of stories in the press from the MailOnline; The Times and The Sunday Times.  The claims, which Mr. McCluskey describes as 'lies' including claims about a 'cut-rate £90,000' loan and other lurid stories..

McCluskey argues that the 'ruling establishment, both in the media and political circles, have ,,, an absolute interest in both undermining myself as your General Secretary and your union as the leading democratic force fighting to defend and advance the interests of working people across our nations.'
It is suggested that the anonymous communication seems to be 'a breach of Unite's data security' and Gail Cartmail, the Acting General Secretary of Unite is presently investigating the matter.
Up to now two other members of Unite have declared their intention to fight for the top job in Unite:  Ian Allinson, from Higher Blackley in Manchester, the chair of Unite's UK combine in Fujitsu, and Gerard Coyne, a full-time officer from the West Midlands.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Trade Unionists in Uproar over Council Pay Rise


TRADE UNIONISTS, at  last Saturday's meeting of the Greater Manchester County Association of Trade Union Councils, were spitting blood about the decision last month to agree a rise in Councillor's allowances of some 34% at the Rochdale full council meeting.  The feeling was that this plays into the hands of Ukip and is a kick in the teeth to  the trade unions and rank and file workers. 
A delegate from Manchester TUC said that he thought the councilors generally were so cynical that other Councils like Manchester City Council would have rubber-stamped the rise in the same way as the Rochdale councilors did.
It seems that local politicians round here are on a race to the top, which most of the rest of us are on a race to the bottom.  Not only do we have Simon Danczuk MP for Rochdale, almost boasting about coining-in his expenses, but he has also a side-line with a photographic company FameFlynet Pictures to grab more. 
Now, according to  Lib Dem activist, David Hennigan; the Rochdale Council Leader and cynic-in-Chief Richard Farnell, has told his Council Group that people will 'forget this very quickly' Is there an unholy alliance on Rochdale Council with the Tories voting with the Labour Party on the race to the top in councilor's stipends?
Not all Tories it seems are in agreement with what's going on and Rob McLean, a Conservative member in Healey has come up with the idea of writing to all councillors in the Borough with a list of questions. See: http://www.rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/2/news-headlines/107424/pressure-increases-on-councillors-to-justify-34pc-allowance-increase
Meanwhile, Dave Hennigan writes:  'As you may or may not know - the Lib Dems in this Borough are leading the campaign against this.  You can sign our petition' : here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-34-rmbc-councillor-s-allowance-rise-until-reduction-of-councilors

Bristol Radical History Group Agenda

Slaughter No Remedy: Walter Ayles, Bristol Conscientious Objector

Date:
Monday 16th January, 2017

Time: 7.00pm
Venue: Upper Engagement Room, The Students' Union at UWE, Union 1, Frenchay Campus, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol, BS16 1QYPrice: Free
With: Colin Thomas
Organised by UWE Debating Society

‘Canting humbugs’ was the way some in Bristol characterised opponents of the ‘Great War’. But it is now clear that men like local councillor Walter Ayles, prepared to go to prison for their beliefs, had considerable local support. Colin Thomas author of  Slaughter No Remedy: The life and times of Walter Ayles, Bristol Conscientious Objector recounts the life and times of Bristol's most famous war resister.

Life and Death in two Victorian Workhouses

Date: Tuesday 17th January, 2017
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: Concorde Hall, Downend Folk House, Lincombe Barn, Overndale Road, Downend, Bristol, BS16 2RW
Price: Visitors £3.00With: Rosemary Caldicott and Di Parkin
Organised by Downend Local History Society (DLHS)
Rosemary Caldicott author of The Life and Death of Hannah Wiltshire tells how a local community pulled together to uncover murder in the Bedminster Union workhouse. Di Parkin co-author of 100 Fishponds Rd: Life and Death in a Victorian Workhouse gives an illustrated history of life, death and burial at the Eastville Workhouse.

The Dings and World War One: The Remarkable Story Of The Jefferies Brothers

Date: Wednesday 18th January, 2017
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: Bethesda Methodist Church, 138a Church Road, Redfield, Bristol, BS5 9HH
Price: BHHG Members £1.50 - Non Members £2.50With: Geoff Woolfe
Organised by Barton Hill History Group (BHHG)
An illustrated talk by Geoff Woolfe  author of The Bristol Deserter on the life and times of Arthur and Alfred Jefferies, both of whom were born in St Philips and lived in the Dings. Both fell as victims of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Arthur was killed in action in Geuedecourt on September 16th 1916. Alfred was shot at dawn for desertion on November 1st 1916.

Cheers,

BRHG

The Banks & other agents of Social Change


Toxic Meltdown Still Has Knock-on Effects on Banks

CRITICISM of the Obama administration still continues, owing to its failure to prosecute Wall Street executives over their responsibility for the bundling and structuring of dodgy mortgages on American homes into sold to investors around the world, which became a highly profitable business for the Wall Street banks as well as European banks before the catastrophic 2008 meltdown.  This represents the latest hangover of the sub-prime property market meltdown.

At the year end, some European banks did deals with prosecutors over historic claims that they pushed toxic mortgage securities in the years in run up to the financial crisis.  Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse will pay-out nearly $13 billion combined to settle with the United States Justice Department.

These banks have now settled and may, according to the New York Times, have benefited from paying billions less than was once anticipated.   The $7.2 billion settlement with Deutsche Bank produced relief among investors who had been upset when it became clear in September that prosecutors were after a penalty of something like $14 billion. 

Deutsche Bank shares, on the news of the settlement, rose by 5% in Frankfurt, before settling up 0.8%.

The UK bank, Barclays, was a smaller operator in the mortgage backed securities market, and it seems to be prepared to wait and take a chance on waiting to see how things work out once Donald Trump takes over as President.  Barclay's shares fell in London trading last week as investors assessed the risk of forthcoming legal action.   Barclay has said it will 'vigorously defend' itself against a complaint brought by the Justice Department after recent settlement talks collapsed.

Holding banks accountable for the sub-prime meltdown is still being debated in political discussions, books and films like 'The Big Short' which came out last year. 

The Banks, mostly American, have already paid out over $100 billion in settlements with the US government.  But though the banks have written cheques but the Obama administration has been criticised for not prosecuting Wall Street executives. 

Last May, a federal appeals court over-turned a $1.27 billion penalty against Bank of America over the sale of  bad mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The appeals panel found that prosecutors 'didn't provide enough evidence that        either the bank's Countrywide unit or a former Countrywide executive had committed fraud in a loan program known as “the hustle”.'

The Deutsche Bank settlement lifts the shadow hanging over the bank.  Since taking over in mid-2015, John Cryan, Deutsche Bank's chief executive, has been trying to break with the bank's legacy of the legal woes. 

Banks, Values, & Corruption
In 1961, Philip Holgate wrote in Freedom, which was then the main British Anarchist journal, an essay entitled 'CAPITALISM – The Image of the Truth' in which he noted:  :

'In sentencing executives of two electrical engineering companies, and twenty-one companies themselves, to fines of nearly two million dollars, and terms of imprisonment, an American Federal judge accused them of having “mocked the image” of the nation's free enterprise system by their offences against the Anti-Trust Laws.'

James Pinkerton, a northern anarcho-syndicalist member of the Syndicalist Worker's Federation (SWF)* and its international secretary, used to say that by saying a society was 'corrupt' one hasn't even begun to describe a society, because all societies are corrupt in so far as their members in the nature of things would breach the salient values of that society.  Thus it ought not to surprise us that the bankers in the USA and Europe in 2008,.would shun banking ethics to stoop to either create dodgy sub-prime packages; manipulate benchmark interest rates; or launder Russian money, and that in the same way the electrical engineering companies in 1961 would 'mock' the values of free enterprise by price-fixing to place high tenders to diddle the government's Tennessee Valley Authority.

Mr. Holgate in his 1961 Freedom article, argues that the electrical engineers are simply perpetuating a capitalistic myth of free enterprise which they and other capitalists don't really believe in.  Mr. Pinkerton the anarcho-syndicalist, would I suspect suggest that despite their beliefs in the values of capitalism, the real life capitalists are only human and would breach their own values for practical advantages.

Big or small:  Social Change & the Economy

In an article entitled 'Unfree Enterprise' in Freedom in January 1962, the paper's then 'Italian' anarchist editor, Vernon Richards, wrote:

'We are always pointing out that the capitalist economy is monopolistic, and that all this talk about free enterprise, and the stimulus of competition is just a lot of talk with no basis in fact.'

Mr. Richards then ponders:

'.... from the point of view of those who seek to completely reverse the values of society so far as production and distribution are concerned – does the growth of monopoly make change more difficult or easier?   Are the chances of change greater in a nation of small shop-keepers, small farmers, small industrialists, small businessmen than in one of huge combines in which agriculture has been industrialised, industry virtually internationalised and distribution centralised?'

Vernon Richards' claims 'that the growth of huge impersonal corporations tends to unite the ordinary people in a way which “individualist capitalism” did not'. 

It's strange that Mr. Richards in another essay in the 1960s when comparing the Spanish workers with that of the American, should say that the average U.S. worker usually 'hasn't two radical ideas to rub together'.    Another Italian, Ignazio Silone wrote in his book 'School for Dictators' that perhaps the lack of dynamism of the industrial workers 'is a consequence of the of the growth of big industry.'  Developing this argument Silone argues persuasively:

'Moving from the artisan's shop and the small plant to the great factory, the worker in time undergoes a considerable transformation.  His [sic] mental horizon is broadened and his class consciousness increased, but at the same time he loses his taste for freedom and his readiness for individual action.  The worker in the great factory is apt to be bolder and stronger in mass actions, whether peaceful or violent, whereas he he is generally unable to act alone or in a small group.'

It's worth noting that in the May 1979 General election about a third of British trade unionists voted Conservative.  It was after this election that the communist historian, Eric Hobsbawm, wrote his critique of the traditional labour movement entitled 'The Forward March of Labour Halted', in which he argued that by itself trade union militancy could not automatically create class-consciousness or organise a radical socialist advance. 

Trade Union Bosses &amp the Decline of Industry

In September 1982, the sociologist Tony Lane in a controversial and important article in Marxism Today entitled 'The Unions:  caught on the Ebb Tide' wrote criticizing the 'sectional interests' of the trade unions and their 'a lack of will to fight' causing a 'crisis of legitimacy', further explaining that this had caused a schism between the trade union leaders (including shop stewards) and the rank-and-file members feeling that there was little democracy in the movement.  In his critique Tony Lane wrote censuring the trade union bureaucracy for failing to deal with the significant changes to the manufacturing industry in the UK and decline in large-scale urban factories where traditionally the organised trade union membership was based, and he predicted, almost two years before the Miner's strike, that unless there was clear leadership on how to tackle these problems with more interactive democracy at the workplace, the rank-and-file membership would face 'uncertainty as to whether the unions are worth fighting for'. 

For Tony Lane in his Ebb Tide essay, it was not so much the Thatcher's anti-trade union legislation or the 'resurgent laissez-faire Toryism', but the longer-term economic shifts that were having an impact in undermining the influence of the labour movement.  In the mid-1970s, Tony Lane, then at the University of Liverpool, had been invited by Derek Pattison, now the current President of Tameside TUC, to address a body of northern anarchists and in the North West Worker's Alliance (NWWA) and some members of the Syndicalist Worker's Federation (SWF)**, about the theme of his book  'The Union Makes Us Strong' at a pub on Union Street in Oldham, and Bob Holton had just written his book  'British Syndicalism 1900 to 1914:  Myths & Realities' in 1976.



But Tony Lane by 1982 had identified the dilemma in the British labour movement in so far as it lacked a strategy which proved fatal during the Miner's strike of 1984-85.  It lack a strategy because on the shopfloor the workers during the periodic boom years from the late 1960s until the early 1970s had been able to depend on day-to-day tactics in dealing with their managements: if the worker's loss a fight with their boss one day they could always look forward to fighting another day under more favourable circumstances.  This bumping along approach led to laziness with regard to a strategy for solidarity with other workers.  In the 1980s when the rainy days came and didn't go away they were ill-fitted to take the employers and the state as Tony lane had predicted. 
Curiously in the mid-1970s the northern anarchists in the North West Worker's Alliance around Manchester, were anxious to break with what some saw as the 'sectarian syndicalist' approach of the English anarchists who had failed to impact upon the British labour movement during the period of change from the Roberts Arundel dispute in Stockport in 1967 onwards, the anarchists who had been active on the ban the bomb demos failed to bring anything to the picket lines as was shown by their lack of involvement of either the anarchists or syndicalists in the Pilkington's glass-worker's strike of 1970.
In 1976, Bob Holton had written his book on 'British Syndicalism – 1900 to 1914: Myths & Realities' at a time when shop-floor syndicalism showed some promise .  But Tony Lane by 1982 had identified the real dilemma in the British labour movement in so far as it lacked a strategy which proved fatal during the Miner's strike of 1984-85.  It lack a strategy because on the shopfloor the workers during the periodic boom years from the late 1960s until the early 1970s had been able to depend tactics in dealing with their managements: if the workers loss a fight with their boss one day they could always look forward to fighting another day under more favourable circumstances.  This bumping along approach led to laziness with regard to a strategy for solidarity with other workers.  In the 1980s when the rainy days came and didn't go away they were ill-fitted to take the employers and the state as Tony lane had predicted.
Curiously in the mid-1970s the northern anarchists in the North West Worker's Alliance around Manchester, were anxious to break with what some saw as the 'sectarian' approach of the English anarchists who had failed to impact upon the British labour movement during the period of change.  Despite valiant attempts this group failed to mobilise the dormant core of anarchists in the Syndicalist Worker's Federation (SWF) in Manchester who failed to interact with the struggles of working people in the region.  As Tony Lane has shown in 1982, the British labour movement continues to lack a strategy but tiny groups like the SWF, the Solidarity Federation and the anarchists often show no signs of having any grasp of tactics either.
*    The Syndicalist Worker's Federation was founded in 1954, when it emerged as an anarcho-syndicalist organization from the then Anarchist Federation of Great Britain.  In 1994, it adopted its current name the Solidarity Federation, having previously been the Direct Action Movement since 1979.
**  The rather London-centric Albert Meltzer, in his autobiography 'I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels' wrote: 'The SWF, anarcho-syndicalist but choked by weeds of the neo-leftism surrounding it, disappeared as an organised body soon after Tom Brown's death (Brown was seen as the main London theorist of the SWF), apart from the  Manchester stalwarts.'

This shows Mr. Meltzer's parochial attitude in so far as the genuine anarcho-syndicalist activists in the North at the time were outside of Manchester in traditional industrial and mill towns like Oldham, Ashton-under-Lyne, Middleton, Rochdale, Bury, Burnley.and Bolton.   In 1971, there had been the Arrow Mill strike at Courtaulds in Castleton, Rochdale, involving mostly Asian workers.  During that dispute which included a sit-in strike, an anarcho-syndicalist 'work's counsellor' had been arrested.  After this dispute and the trial that followed, the local publication Rochdale's Alternative Paper (RAP) was founded, and textile trade unionists and syndicalists in the National Union of Textile & Allied Worker's Union (NUTAWU) in the towns to the north of Manchester began a campaign for shop-stewards in textiles.  This campaign was resisted by union bosses like Joe King at the NUTAWU headquarters in Accrington, and Albert Hilton, Arnold Belfield at the local office in Rochdalre and the local official in Oldham.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Non-violent action in Tameside dispute


by Martin S. Gilbert
REPORTS of different forms of action around the world give ideas about replicating them at home.
Also, they can remind us about fairly similar action in our own  areas.  'Rev Billy & the Church

of Stop Shopping' (Peace  News October-November, pp 9 – 11) gives an example of well planned, effective NVDA (non-violent direct action).  In the late 1990s during the year-long Tameside Care Workers dispute*, at Ashton-Under-Lyne in Greater Manchester we performed a non violent 'invasion'.  Tameside Care Group were forcing new contracts: a second pay cut, reduced service conditions and no sick pay**.  A local solicitor who had financial interests in those care homes was refusing to negotiate with the union.  Also, that gentleman was showing interest in child fostering businesses. 
Supporters of Earth first and Northern Anarchist Network assembled close to that solicitors office.
On my own, dressed in business suit and with a shiny brief case I told the receptionist about my
'appointment'.   She looked at various papers for a record of such meeting.  While thus distracted, it was enough time for our non-violent invaders to swarm over the building.  They emptied filing cabinets and tossed stuff out of windows before leaving as quickly as they came. 
It raised moral among the strikers and made the solicitor negotiate with them.  Sadly this strike, the longest ever in that area failed to win it’s objectives.
Some readers will be critical of the above account claiming it was  dishonest of me to put on a business suit to confuse the receptionist.  Others might claim that we all should have stayed to get arrested and should not have destroyed any office records.   But those records were 'caring'  for the 1%.   Also,  there is the idea that always getting arrested at actions is 'putting oneself on the

sacrificial plate of the state'. 
On balance I think that Rev Billy would have approved. 
*  A report in the journal 'Caring Times' (1999): 'About 150 people took to the streets between Stalybridge and Ashton-Under-Lyme in Greater Manchester on Saturday, 27 March (1999) to mark the first anniversary of the dismissal of some 200 care workers by the Tameside Care Group. Accompanied by supporters, children and a police escort, the sacked care workers were calling attention to the year long dispute which is scheduled for a 10-day industrial tribunal hearing in Manchester beginning on 1st June. The Tameside Care Group took over the operation of residential care homes from Tameside Council in 1990. In January last year (1998), close to 200 care workers at 12 residential homes in Tameside were served with termination notices after they refused to sign new contracts. The contracts involved acceptance of a pay cut (the second since the Tameside group had assumed control of the homes), reduced conditions of service and having the company sick pay scheme abolished. The workers then balloted for official strike action and were subsequently dismissed. '      
**  In April 1999, UNISON North West Region published a report which outlined the impact on staff:
'Throughout the history of the Trust and its subsidiary company financial savings have meant reductions in staff costs, with all the decreases falling on already low paid and undervalued staff. The staff working for Tameside Care Group have been poorly treated for nearly a decade and any improvements in the condition of the homes have been at the direct expense of care workers and domiciliary staff, most of whom are low-paid women workers. 200 staff went on strike in March 1998 and were sacked by the company. A year later the dispute is unresolved; an Industrial Tribunal set for June has already cost the company large sums in terms of legal fees, employment of agency staff and disruption to the service.'

                                                                                                        

Friday, 6 January 2017

Former Rochdale Mayor, Norman Smith dies


THE former  Liberal Democrat Mayor of Rochdale, Norman Fowden Smith MBE died on Wednesday evening at Rochdale Infirmary following a long illness.  The 84-year-old who was also a town councillor, and was the younger brother of Cyril Smith, the former Rochdale MP.
Norman Smith MBE died on Wednesday night (4 January) at Rochdale Infirmary after a long illness.
He was born on 22 March 1932 and leaves behind his wife Shirley, daughter Christine, son Craig, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
He was the youngest of three children, Mr Smith was brought up on Falinge Road, where he shared a house with his older brother Cyril Smith (who went on to become at different times a major figure in the local Labour and Liberal Parties in Rochdale), his older sister Eunice, and their mother and grandmother. He lived in the Rochdale until his death.
He was Mayor of Rochdale between 1986-1987 and was also a councillor for the Spotland ward for over 25 years.
His previous occupations included leading ambulance man in Heywood, chauffeur, running his own taxi business, and running a corner shop in the 1950s - which I think was actually a branch of the Co-op up Castleton.  He finished his National Service in the 1950s.
Mr. Smith received an MBE from the Queen on 31 December 1991 for public service.  He was also awarded Freeman of the Borough on 23 June 2004.

Details of the funeral arrangements are yet to be made. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Simon Danczuk's Troubles

by Brian Bamford
NORTHERN Voices' has seen correspondence which shows that the Metropolitan police were alerted on the 25th, January last year, to possible fraud with regard to Mr. Simon Danczuk's expenses claims as an MP for Rochdale.   Mr Danczuk was originally suspended from the Labour Party a year ago for sending 'lurid' texts to a 17 year old girl asking for a job?  Since then he has become entangled in the other allegations of expenses fraud.
The complaint at that time came from the office of Rochdale Councillor Andy Kelly, who now claims 'the ongoing investigation from the Met Police into Danczuk's expenses make being welcomed into the Labour Party "inconceivable".'  Mr Danczuk had had to pay back £11,583 in expenses for 'claiming expenses he wasn't entitled to' according to the Independent Parliamentary Standard's Authority (Ipsa).  Another member of the public had also complained.
Ipsa’s compliance officer, Peter Davis, has said in his report into the complaint:
'The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the MP obtained an increase to his accommodation expenditure budget by claiming dependent uplifts for his two oldest children for a period of over three years, when, at no point were either of the children routinely resident.'  
The compliance officer must also conclude that this was done knowing that there was no reasonable prospect of the children staying at the accommodation.
Because these very serious allegations are still hanging over Mr. Danczuk, Councillor Andy Kelly, leader of the Rochdale Liberal Democrats, has said in a statement that Simon Danczuk's recent claim that he is about to be reinstated into the Labour Party 'is yet another example of the cavalier attitude of our town's MP.'
Rochdale's Councillor Kelly quite reasonably added:
'We could have a situation were he is welcomed back into the Labour Party on the Monday, charged with misuse of public funds on the Tuesday and kicked out again on the Wednesday.'
A Crown Court judge in a recent local case said that the defendant lacked insight, well there could be no better example of a lack of insight than that presented by Simon Danczuk's bluster to gain re- admittance to the Labour Party.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Leeds Soviet – 1917!

by Christopher Draper


HISTORY's most remarkable social experiment began one hundred years ago. As the Russian war effort disintegrated, autocratic Czarism was abolished and a revolutionary SOVIET system substituted.  Soviets were collectives of workers and soldiers organised to end the war and radically democratise Russia.  In March 1917 (February in the old Russian calendar) the PETROGRAD SOVIET led the revolution and despatched a four-man delegation to England to encourage British workers to follow their lead.  On 3 June 1917, over a thousand workers’ representatives met at LEEDS COLISEUM, Cookridge Street to emulate their Russian comrades and organise a British network of ”extra-parliamentary Soviets with sovereign powers”. 

Powder Keg
The War Cabinet was worried.  A strike started at a Rochdale engineering company already affected 48 towns and involved over 200,000 workers.  Colonial Secretary Edward Milner confided fears about the Leeds Soviet to the PM, 'this Convention will begin to do for this country what the Russian Revolution has accomplished in Russia…and I fear the time is very nearly at home when we shall have to take some strong steps to stop the rot in this country unless we wish to follow Russia into impotence and dissolution.'

Breaking the Mould
Convened by the “United Socialist Council”, the Leeds gathering included delegates from Trades Councils and Unions, local Labour Parties, the British Socialist Party and the Independent Labour Party as well as independent Socialist Societies, Women’s organisations, local Co-ops and assorted Peace  Groups.

The Yorkshire Evening Post more colourfully described the congregation as, 'a heterogenous crowd of Pacifists, republicans, Pro-Germans, Socialists, Industrial Unionists, Syndicalists and Anarchists.'

With the anarchist movement divided over Kropotkin’s support for the war, both factions nevertheless welcomed the Russian Revolution.  Despite issuing no formal invitations to anarchists, libertarian ideas received full expression from delegates disenchanted by the compromising, careerism of professional Labour Party politicians and Trade Union Officials.  

Four Steps to Heaven…
There were just four resolutions to be voted upon at Leeds, with no amendments permitted. After speeches and debate, all resolutions were enthusiastically supported. They were (in abbreviated form);
a)  'This Conference of Labour, Socialist and Democratic organisations of Great Britain hails the Russian Revolution'
b)  'This Conference...shares with the Provisional Russian Government…the pledge to work for an agreement with the international democracies for a re-establishment of a general peace…a peace without annexations or indemnities'
c)  'This Conference calls…for full political rights for all men and women, unrestricted freedom of the Press, freedom of speech, a general amnesty for all political and religious prisoners…'
d)  'The Conference calls upon the constituent bodies at once to establish in every town, urban and rural district, Councils of Workmen and Soldiers…'

Delegates, Messages and Speeches
An opening message was read to the delegates from an army unit recently returned from France:
'We should very much like to see the establishment of a society on lines similar to those of the Council of Soldiers and Workmen in Russia for we are quite convinced that the great majority of men in the Army are in sympathy with the Russian aims (Cheers).'

Ramsay MacDonald, Noah Ablett, Ernest Bevin, Charlotte Despard, Bertrand Russell and Tom Mann all made stirring platform speeches but the pithiest comments came from Willie Gallacher, Sylvia Pankhurst and Fred Shaw of Huddersfield.

Gallagher presciently advised delegates that the Russian Revolution was far from settled.  Their Russian comrades, 'have the biggest fight on, not against the capitalists of Russia but against the capitalists of other countries who have determined that the Socialists of Russia have to be beaten back.  Give your own capitalist class in this country so much to do that it will not have time to attend to it.'

Sylvia Pankhurst underlined the inspirational importance of solidarity amidst the senseless carnage, 'I am very glad to feel that at last we shall come out of this slough of despond and that the workers will be united in common action'.  She saw Soviets as, 'a straight cut for the Socialist Commonwealth we all want to see'.

Fred Shaw expressed shop floor enthusiasm for 'WORKERS AND SOLDIERS COUNCILS' 'As one of the rank and file I support this resolution because of its revolutionary possibilities. The time is ripe for the working classes to take things into their own hands and follow Russia. This war has driven out of the minds of the workers many of the old middle-class ideas about the State.'

The Next Step
The Leeds Convention set dates and venues for regional follow-up meetings to create a national network of a dozen 'SOVIETS' or 'WORKERS AND SOLDIERS COUNCILS (WSC)'.

The NORTH comprised 3 SOVIETS or WSC, based respectively at Newcastle (“North East Coast”), Leeds (“Yorkshire”) and Manchester (“Lancashire, Cheshire & North Wales”).

As soon as dates and locations were advertised for these founding meetings there were serious problems. Leeds Council had already created difficulties for the June Convention by cancelling the organisers’ original booking of Leeds’ Albert Hall. Delegates were also turned away from Leeds hotels despite having reservations and many had been forced to sleep overnight in railway carriages. When the Government learned of the outcome of the Leeds Convention they determined, in Milner’s memorable phrase, “to take strong steps to stop the rot”. As a result only 3 of the 12 WSC Districts were able to successfully organise meetings without suffering cancellations, bans, violence or arrests and none of these were in the North.

Stopping the Rot - Leeds
When the August date of the follow-up Leeds WSC meeting was announced no specific venue was advertised prompting gleeful press speculation that no-one was prepared to provide a venue for the occasion. Refused once again by the local authority, the press crowed, “the local pacifists must surely have been at their wit’s end to find a hall or they would never have taken the course of asking the Corporation to grant them the use of the Town Hall”.

The Government was even more at its wit’s end that the Council might finally relent so it stepped in and peremptorily banned the meeting under the draconian provisions of DORA (“Defence of the Realm Act”). “His Majesty’s Secretaries of State, in pursuance of Regulation 9a of the Defence of the Realm Regulations…do hereby prohibit the assembly of persons for the holding of a meeting to promote Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils which is proposed to be held in the City of Leeds on Saturday 25th August 1917 or on whatever other date it may be proposed the same.”

Selection of a Yorkshire delegate to the Central WSC had to then be conducted by postal ballot. David Blythe Foster, a founding member of Leeds Tolstoyan Brotherhood Workshop was duly elected.

Stopping the Rot – Newcastle
The Newcastle WSC meeting was one of the first advertised, 'Saturday 28th July, 3pm, Newcastle Town Hall'.  Then Newcastle Council stepped in and cancelled the booking.  Fortunately the local committee were able to secure an alternative, though smaller venue, Newcastle Central Hall for the same date.  As the Daily Mail reported, it was a lively meeting:
'Violent scenes were witnessed at the conference in Newcastle promoted on Saturday afternoon promoted by the Workers and Soldiers Council… The platform party was about to take their seats when several interrupters broke into the meeting and it was found that the doors had been rushed by a crowd of noisy demonstrators following a succession of free fights.  Mrs Despard made a successful effort to restore order but by that time a young Navy man and others who had mounted the platform endeavoured to address the meeting.  One of the interrupters who wore a gold stripe on his civil uniform divested himself of his coat and baring his arm showed a wound and shouted, That is what I got for fighting for traitors. Colonial soldiers afterwards stormed the platform and a wild scene ensued, during which there were violent altercations and free fights on the platform…It was found impossible to continue the meeting.'

Ashington miner, George Henry Warne, was subsequently selected by postal ballot as the District’s delegate to the Central WSC 

Stopping the Rot – Manchester
The Manchester WSC meeting was scheduled for Saturday 11th August 2.30pm at Milton Hall, Deansgate. By then, violent attacks by soldiers on WSC meetings were commonplace and it was clear this disruption was tolerated if not encouraged by civil authorities who prosecuted the victims rather than the perpetrators. The possibility of such violence was cynically exploited by the authorities as an excuse to cancel WSC bookings.

When Manchester Council banned the Deansgate meeting the booking was quietly transferred to Stockport Labour Church in the hope of avoiding disruption – no such luck! “Lively scenes were witnessed at Stockport on Saturday afternoon at a meeting to elect a delegate to the Workers and soldiers Council. A hostile crowd attempted to rush the hall…Footpaths to the hall were chalked, This way to the traitors’ meeting. On leaving the hall the delegates were set upon on all sides, the women smacking the faces of their pacifist sisters…stalwart men looked most humiliated as they were bowled over and battered on the ground…the rioting continued for over an hour.”

Charlotte Ann Findlay was eventually selected as WSC delegate. She had little political profile but her husband was a well-known lecturer at Manchester University and campaigner for progressive education.

Cracking the Convention
The State’s determination to prevent the Sovietisation of the British labour movement exacerbated pre-existing cracks in the fragile workers’ coalition. Reservations about the whole SOVIET project were expressed at the Leeds Convention by Joseph Toole, who claimed, “There are already sufficient organisations to do the work which has been outlined – Trades Councils, local Labour Parties, Socialist organisations and various other organisations. Russia and this country suffer from entirely different sets of circumstances”. Toole and his fellow Labour bureaucrats, MP’s and Councillors resented intrusion into their petty fiefdoms. The national Labour Party directed members not to have anything to do with the WSC initiative and the Government piled on the pressure. 

In July 1917 the War Cabinet decreed that no soldier must play any part whatsoever in any WSC and to counteract the anti-war appeal of the Soviet initiative the Cabinet agreed to pour government money into building a nominally “independent” national network of pro-war groups under the umbrella of a “National War Aims Committee” directed by the spy and novelist, John Buchan.  When Prime Minister Lloyd-George spoke for the NWAC on August 4th he exemplified this anti SWC obsession, assuring listeners :  'The Nation has chosen its own Workmens’ and Soldiers Committee (cheers) and that is the House of Commons. We cannot allow sectional organisations to direct the war or dictate the peace (cheers)'.

According to David French (OUP) “The Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch MI5 and Military Intelligence were directed to watch militant trade unionists, peace and anti-war campaigners and socialist activists and isolate them from the rest of the organised labour movement and armed forces.” “By Spring 1917 MI5 had compiled 250,000 cards and 27,000 personal files, going well beyond the estimated 70,000 adult enemy aliens resident in Britain at the outbreak of war.” (Christopher Wrigley).

Voice from the Trenches
Despite the best efforts of the authorities some brave soldiers continued to organise WSC. The Midlands’ WSC representative Private Charles James Simmons(CJS), 2nd Worcester Regiment proved most determined. The Government could hardly brand CJS a disloyal coward as he’d volunteered for the army four years before war was declared and had served in uniform ever since. Severely wounded at Vimy Ridge, one of his legs had to be amputated below the knee and he was sent home as unfit for service but “of good character”. As an evangelical Christian and Socialist CJS fearlessly voiced his conscience and back home in England in 1917 Private James tirelessly campaigned for the WSC in the press, on the streets and on repeated tours around the North.

On Saturday 29th September 1917 the Rochdale Observer reported:
'The campaign that Private C J Simmons has been conducting at Rochdale has been brought to an abrupt conclusion.  On Tuesday he was warned by the police against speaking on account of the nature of his remarks the previous evening but the soldier paying no regard to the caution addressed a large gathering.  Private Simmons should have spoken at a similar meeting at Town Hall Square on Wednesday evening. Mr J W Chadwick, who was in the chair, was in the act of calling on the soldier to speak when two military policemen appeared and arrested him.'

Simmons was held in Rochdale police cells overnight before being taken under military escort to incarceration at Chester Castle. After his case was raised in Parliament he was released and discharged from the army in November 1917.  'Ex-Private Simmons” immediately resumed his anti-war campaigning.  Returning to Rochdale the following month, the local Socialist Society advertised his talk in the “Pioneers Assembly Room” with the strap line, “We sang the Red Flag to him last time. Come and sing it with him this time”!

Continuing his tour into the new year, “Ex-Private Simons” got as far as Burnley before in March 1918 the authorities caught up with him again and he was charged under DORA (“Defence of the Real Act”) that, “On the February 21st he did by word of mouth, at the Cooperative Hall, York, make statements likely to prejudice the training, discipline and administration of His Majesty’s Forces”!

Sentenced to three months hard labour at Leeds’ ARMLEY GAOL he was subsequently employed as an ILP organiser and advised conscientious objectors at military tribunals. By then the authorities were confident they had the militants under control.

Wot no Revolution?
Lance Corporal Dudley was initially more effective than even Private Simmons in declaring a Soldiers’ Soviet at Tunbridge Wells on 24th June 1917!  Representatives of half-a-dozen battalions cooperated with Dudley in approving a Soldiers’ manifesto and declaring a WSC.  The Tunbridge WSC proved short lived as an acting Brigadier rigorously enforced military discipline and dispersed the units with Lance Corporal Dudley promptly posted to active service in France. 

Despite all these interventions by the end of September 1917, all dozen WSC districts had managed to elect delegates to the central body. At the beginning of October Britain’s formally constituted national “WORKERS’ AND SOLDIERS’ COUNCIL” met for the first time.

The central WSC subsequently published a seven point programme laying out its formal objectives. It’s sufficient to consider the first to realise how far the body had retreated from its initial revolutionary ambitions; 
'1. THE WORKERS’ AND SOLDIERS’ COUNCIL has been formed primarily as a propaganda body, not as a rival to, or to supplant,  any of the existing working class organisations but to infuse into them a more active spirit of liberty.'

After expressing six more similarly pious hopes the programme added, “A Sub-Committee is preparing a manifesto on A Plea for a People’s Peace and a vigorous campaign is about to be inaugurated”!

The authorities must have been quaking in their boots! “A Plea for Peace” and “A Vigorous Campaign” disturbed no-one. The Grand Old Dukes of the Labour Party and Trade Unions had stifled the movement with bureaucracy whilst the State had exerted its customary range of repressive measures.  Militants were conveniently constrained by red-tape and the movement emasculated.  The resultant WSC programme so lacked vigour and inspiration that that the delegates never even bothered to reconvene.

Lessons from History?
Besides Private Simons only two other WSC delegates fought on for militant socialism, Sylvia Pankhurst in East London and John Maclean on Clydeside. Of the three Northern delegates, both David Foster and George Warne became run-of-the-mill Labour Party MP’s whilst the third, Charlotte Findlay simply returned to political anonymity (her husband made two unsuccessful attempts to become a Labour MP). 

Private Charles James Simmons also represented Labour as an MP but as the Oxford ONB records, 'Simmons was considered a firebrand by political opponents and allies alike…critical of the Chamberlain government for its rearmament policy, failure to support Republican Spain and appeasement of Hitler.'

After Lenin’s November 1917 coup-d’etat Russian Soviets were subordinated to the Diktat of the Bolshevik Party and the four delegates of the Petrograd Soviet, Genrikh Erlikh, Iosif Goldenberg, Alexander Smirnov and Nikolair Rousanov sent to Britain became persona non-grata in Russia. Iosif
Goldenberg, an ex-Bolshevik critic of Lenin perished in 1922, Smirnov and Rousanov emigrated and survived whilst Erlikh emigrated to Poland only to be executed on Stalin’s orders in 1948.

The Russian Revolution was an experiment that failed and Lenin no more than a mad scientist.  Paul McCartney is right and Sylvia Pankhurst was wrong, there is no “straight cut to the Socialist Commonwealth”, only “a long and winding road”. 

Christopher Draper – January 2017