Thursday, 16 December 2010

The future of the National Shop Steward Network: a statement from NSSN Officers and Steering Committee members

"We are drawing attention to the disastrous outcome of the Steering Committee of the National Shop Stewards’ Network (NSSN) meeting on Saturday 4th December.

The majority in the meeting, who were Socialist Party (SP) members, voted through a series of decisions despite the opposition of absolutely everyone else, of various political affiliations and none.

The meeting decided to propose that the anti-cuts conference being organised by the NSSN on January 22nd should set up an “NSSN All-Britain Anti-Cuts campaign” and the election of a committee at the conference, which would be separate from the existing NSSN structures. As supporters of the NSSN, we are aware that the NSSN and its supporters are already working, locally, regionally and nationally in opposition to the government’s attacks on our public services and jobs. The NSSN has an immense task in helping to build for effective action which can begin to beat back these attacks, although it is noteworthy that the original proposal put forward by the Socialist Party omitted any mention of the NSSN working to organise industrial action against the public sector attacks.

However, to agree that the NSSN has an important contribution to make to the anti-cuts movement is a long way from agreeing to the need for it to launch yet another national anti-cuts campaign. At a time when there is pressure for anti-cuts campaigns to work together – witness the protocol agreed between the Coalition Of Resistance and the Right To Work campaign; the forum on December 5th organised by Right To Work on working together; and the pending meeting called by the Trade Union Coordinating Group on December 14th – the creation of yet another group can only be seen as counterproductive. That the NSSN participated in the forum on December 5th and intend to take part in the meeting on December 14th stands in stark contrast to this move.

Attempts by non-SP officers of the Network to remove the most contentious aspects in advance of the Steering Committee meeting were unsuccessful. The proposals were the subject of a lengthy heated debate. Attempts to delete contentious parts of these proposals were defeated by the SP majority, with no wider support. Attempts to make positive proposals to work constructively with other anti-cuts organisations were defeated in the same way. The only real progress was the removal of a proposal that the NSSN should support anti-cuts candidates in local elections in May, a proposal which would have immediately wrecked the non-party and cross-party nature of the NSSN.

Launching a further national anti-cuts campaign, while obstructing cooperation with other organisations, would be a retrograde step, as well as changing the nature and direction of the NSSN. If the NSSN becomes controlled by one political party which is unwilling to work constructively with any other shop stewards in the network, we would see no point in further participation. Confirmation that this is the way the the SP intends to proceed seems to be borne out by events since the meeting of the Steering Committee – the secretary has unilaterally announced that only SP members will represent the NSSN at 2 forthcoming meetings discussing left/anti-cuts cooperation, with not even a pretence at consultation with non-SP officers .

We therefore urge the Socialist Party to pull back."

NB: A personal request from Dave Chapple, NSSN Chair: "We are circulating this statement throughout the trade union movement, especially activists in NSSN affiliated or supportive unions, to which, ultimately, the NSSN should be responsible. Please discuss it at your trade union branch or other union meetings. We need messages of support for this statement, but would also welcome questions and comments, sent to the address below. NSSN Officers and steering committee members listed are willing to attend trade union meetings to put our case, so please consider inviting us.

Finally, friends, our London conference on 22nd January gives us a chance to return the NSSN to a sensible consensus-based policy: please do your best to attend: a substantial turnout of mainstream trades union activists can ensure that the NSSN has a future: the Socialist Party alternative, as the 'trade union wing' of a small left group, has no future at all."

Dave Chapple, CWU, Chair, NSSN Steering Committee;
Jane Bassett, NUT, vice-Chair, NSSN Steering Committee;
Bob Archer, NUT, NSSN Website/Press Officer;
George Binette, Unison, NSSN treasurer;
Ray Morell, Unite, NSSN National Organiser;
Becca Kirkpatrick, Unison, NSSN Affiliations/Fund-raising Officer

plus the following members of the NSSN Steering Committee:

Brian Bamford, Unite;
Andy Reid, PCS;
Stuart Melvin, USDAW;
Glyn Harries, Unison
Ian Allinson, Unite,
Gerry Downing, Unite,
Jeremy Drinkall,Unison;
Helen Steel, Unison
Pete Firmin, CWU,
Steve Ballard, NUT
Paul Turnbull, CWU

UK Uncut 'Pay Day' this Saturday, 18th December, all over the North

The latest Day of Action called by the Tax Avoidance highlighting outfit UK Uncut takes place on Saturday 18th December, in cities all over the UK, including the North of England.

Saturday's targets are once again Vodafone and the Arcadia Group. The list of actions has grown massively to 51 towns and cities since the last Day of Action, and they are all listed on this page of UK Uncut's website, and we'll round up those in the North of England below:

Durham - Target unspecified. Starts at 1 p.m. in the Marketplace.

Halifax - Target unspecified. Meet outside Halifax Bus Station at 1.30 p.m.

Kendal - Targeting Topshop & Vodafone, taking place between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. outside those stores.

Leeds - Targeting Topshop & Vodafone. Meet at 12 p.m. in front of Topshop on Briggate.

Liverpool - Target is secret! Meet under the big screen outside Clayton Square Shopping Centre (opposite Radio City Tower)  at 12.30 p.m. You are requested to bring a sleeping bag!

Newcastle - Meet at the Monument at 1 p.m. Targets are "companies that dodge tax and support attacks on education and other public services".

Manchester - Target is unspecified, but likely to be Arcadia group stores where mass disruption is the plan. Meet at Piccadilly Gardens next to the statue at 11 a.m. Interested parties are requested to bring horns, buckets, vuvuzelas, whistles etc, with the plan being to make a lot of noise.

Middlesbrough - Target is Topshop. Meet at the MIMA Art Gallery (next to the big bottle and the town hall) at 12 p.m.

Preston - Target unspecified. Meet outside Fishergate Centre at 2 p.m.

Sheffield - Target is Boots. Gathering at 11am on Fargate for a theatre performance against tax avoidance with leaflets highlighting Boots tax avoidance.

Many of the above events have relevant facebook pages - see the links for each city above.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


They just can`t help putting their foot in their mouths these Tory inbreds from down south. Earlier this year David (Lord) Young was forced to apologise and resign after telling the British public that they`d never had it so good. Last month, another Tory buffoon Howard Emerson Flight, the former MP for Arundel and Southdowns, hit the headlines when he said that government cuts in child benefit would discourage the middle-classes from breeding but would encourage 'breeding' amongst the poor. Flight is the author of 'All you need to know about exchange rates'.

This week, the leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, David Shakespeare, (pictured above) who is the leader of the Local Government Association`s Conservative group, announced that he had a novel idea for getting unemployed northerners back to work. He`s suggested that unemployed northerners should go south to pick fruit like Eastern European immigrants and he believes that if unemployment goes up: "the north may replace the Romanians in the cherry orchards...and that may be a good thing."

Greater Manchester MP`s have reacted angrily to his comments and say Shakespeare is 'out of touch' and like most Tories, is too south-east focused. Tony Lloyd, Labour MP for Manchester Central said:
"on one level , I can dismiss him as stupid or bigoted, but on another level it is really worrying. That he represents a nation-wide organisation is just astonishing. He clearly is a buffoon. Any Tory - indeed any politician - who holds that opinion isn't fit to hold public office."
Barbara Keeley, MP for Worsley and Eccles South, said: "At a time when they are talking about job cuts no one should be making flippant comments about unemployment."

Graham Stringer, the MP for Blackley, said: "What the north needs is the kind of investment the south has benefitted from for years - we need the level of attention it has had."

Northerners who fancy a job in a cherry orchard down south and who wish to respond to David Shakespeare`s comments can contact him at:

Thursday, 9 December 2010


The sorry sight of Prince Charles' 'Chasmobile' outside the Royal Variety Performance tonight. Window broken, covered with paint. Students know how to party!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Student occupation of Roscoe Lecture Theatre, Manchester University

For the last 10 days, there has been an occupation of the lecture theatre in the Roscoe Building at the University of Manchester by students protesting at proposed tuition fee rises and education cuts. The presence of the Socialist Workers Student Student is very obvious, but their tactics are scarcely winning over many students. The main problem is that the occupation is transient, and for long periods normal lectures take place in the lecture theatre.

There have, however, been some interesting alternative lectures on the Diggers, Levellers, Mary Wollstonecraft etc, resulting in an exchange of ideas and libertarian and anarchist ideas are gaining some traction. I have participated in the last 5 days of the occupation as a community activist and NSSN supporter and have distributed literature on anarcho-syndicalism which has been well received. Friends of Seisdedos have also made a donation to the fighting fund.

Finally a number of leaflets promoting the NAN in Bolton as well as The OK Cafe have been circulated. The OK cafe is an autonomous space in the squatted Lord Nelson pub on the corner of Great Ancoats Street and Newton Street: Contact, or go to

Monday, 6 December 2010


A blast from the past. An old aquaintance of mine from Salford, Johnny Clarke, the so-called punk poet aka the Salford Bard. Back in the 70`s he did regular performances in the upstairs room of the Black Lion pub in Salford near to Salford central bus station off Chapel Street. That was in the days before he was famous - before he did the sugar puffs add along with the honey monster. Although the pub no longer stands, Johnny Clarke, went on to big and better things appearing on such programmes as the Old Grey Whistle test. A favourite poem of mine was the one I remember him doing at the Black Lion, about Risley remand centre which started thus: 'Risley, Risley, Ree, they put you up for free...'I`ve looked for this poem but alas have been unable to find it. The last time I spoke to Johnny Clarke was outside the Free Trade Hall in the 1980s when I went to see Arthur Scargill at a miners rally. My mate asked Johnny Clarke, what he thought of Scargill and he replied in his inimitable style, "He`s a popular icon."

'My name's “HUNT”, not “CUNT”!'

James Naughtie delivers a spoonerism before breakfast

'AFTER the NEWS', announced the normally sober broadcaster, James Naughtie, 'we are going to be talking to Jeremy Cunt Jeremy Hunt! - the Culture Secretary about the art of Broadband'. That was just before the Today News on Radio 4 at 8am this morning, and within minutes the emails were flooding into Broadcasting House with one from a psycho-linguist who said David Cameron was to blame for appointing a man with the name of 'Hunt'. As if that was not enough, it was a live broadcast and Mr Naughtie had to go on to valiantly, between chuckles, to struggle to introduce the 8am News while all the time desperately pretending he had a frog in his throat. Chris Draper tackled this spooneristic problem with Yorkshire Curd Tart in the last issue of Northern Voices. Today's incident didn't quite descend into the giggles that accompanied the Brian Johnson cricket commentary that included the 'leg over' term, but it has led to widespread comment throughout the day on Radio 4. However, an hour later Andrew Marr referred to the James Naughtie incident on Start The Week on Radio 4, during a discussion on Freudian slips, and blurted out 'Jeremy C***' before gasping with laughter.

Dr Mike Page, a reader in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, has said it was a classic Spoonerism — the verbal blunder named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), renowned for such slips while warden of New College, Oxford. Dr Page said: 'Studies show that where two words share the same vowel sound this will promote the exchange of the preceding consonant ... like saying queer old dean' instead of dear old queen'.

Dr Page did not think the slips revealed that BBC presenters hold the Culture Secretary, who has ordered the corporation to cut spending, in low esteem.

'Freud's theory of para-praxes is that an unconscious or concealed view may emerge inadvertently in a verbal error, but Naughtie was almost certainly a spoonerism. Marr fell victim to the white bear effect': the more he tried not to think of the word, the more he primed his brain to say it.'

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Blacklisted Electrician Steve Acheson in Court for Trespass

Steve Acheson, blacklisted electrician, is in court in Runcorn at 2pm, Tuesday 7th December, at the Runcorn County Court, Halton Lea, Runcorn Cheshire. Warrington Trades Council is lobbying the hearing in solidarity with Steve. Please attend if you can.

It would appear to be a preliminary hearing for trespass by the power company who run Fiddlers Ferry power station, Scottish & Southern Electricity, as they object to Steve protesting outside their gates against his dismissal - nearly 2 years ago now. Steve's dismissal was connected with the use of an illegal blacklist by construction employers against union activists.

The case will turn on the finer points of the English law of trespass. There is one legal case (Harrison v. Duke of Rutland, 1893) which seems to say that the only right on a public right of way is to "pass and repass", however thankfully there is more recent case law (Hirst and Agu v. Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, 1987) which seems to establish a right to use a right of way for any purpose so long as it is "reasonable and lawful."

As Steve's protest is peaceful, and commits no criminal damage and takes place on the public highway, not on land belonging to SSE, it is difficult to see how they will win the case. It is likely to turn on what a judge deems "reasonable" in the circumstances.

Andy Ford (the contact phone number is 0774 241 7862; if anyone needs further details),
Campaigns Officer
Warrington and District Trades Council

Friday, 3 December 2010

UK Uncut 'Day of Action' called for tomorrow, all across the North of England

The latest Day of Action called by the Tax Avoidance highlighting outfit UK Uncut takes place tomorrow, Saturday 4th December, in cities all over the UK, including the North of England.

The campaign originally sprung from the revelations in Private Eye that Vodafone had avoided £6 billion of tax with the collusion of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, £6 billion being the same amount that the ConDem government are trying to cut out of the public sector. As a result, UK Uncut held a day of action to shut down Vodafone stores all over the UK.

Tomorrow is the turn of the Arcadia Group, the high street clothing retail group, owned by the billionaire Sir Philip Green. Green was recently asked by David Cameron to audit government spending a procurement, and is another well-known tax avoider, whose companies are registered in his wife Cristina's name, Cristina being a resident of Monaco. Arcadia owns stores such as Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Topman, Topshop, and Wallis.

Actions for the UK are listed on this page of UK Uncut's website, and we'll round up those in the North of England below:

Leeds - Meet at 12 p.m. in front of Topshop on Briggate.

Liverpool - Targeting Topshop. Meet under the big screen outside Clayton Square Shopping Centre (opposite Radio City Tower)  at 11a.m.

Manchester - Targeting Topshop, Boots & Barclays: Scroogey Santas, a protest against the corporations behind the cuts. Meet at Piccadilly Gardens at the Fountains at 3p.m. for a moving demo with music (Xmas theme).

Sheffield - Targeting Burton, Topshop, HSBC, Vodafone, Boots, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis, Barclays and Lloyds. Most of these can be found on The Moor and Fargate. 10 a.m. start outside the Town Hall.

York - Targeting HSBC, Vodafone, Boots, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis, Barclays & Lloyds TSB. Ghost (Tax) Tour - A magical mystery tour of missing millions, starting at 1p.m. at the fountain in Parliament Street.


At noon today it was announced on the BBC2 news programme Daily Politics that Phil Woolas the disgraced former MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, has lost his appeal in the High Court against the decision of the Election Court (the first of its type in 99 years) which sat earlier this year in Uppermill, Saddleworth, to remove him from office for 'illegal practices' i.e.making false statements and deliberately telling lies against his Liberal Democrat opponent Elwyn Watkins,during the general election campaign this year.

According to today's Independent, the three High Court judges dismissed the least serious charge on which Woolas was convicted that he'd claimed that Watkins had broken a pledge to live in the constituency. They nevertheless upheld the two most serious charges against Woolas that he`d falsely claimed that his opponent had sought to win the votes of 'Asian extremists' who had advocated violence and that Watkins had refused to condemn the threats of violence.

As the NV blog has previously reported, Woolas's legal position appears hopeless. Although he said he had 'no regrets' about his conduct, he has been banned from standing for public office for 3 years and now faces the prospects of a criminal investigation which could result in a jail sentence. During the general election campaign, Woolas, a former immigration minister, tried to win votes in his constituency by getting "white folk angry." After the High Court judgement Woolas said: "It is the end of the road - I am out."

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Building Trade Union, Community & Political Resistance to Austerity Cuts

SPEAKER: Alex Gordon (President, National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers (RMT))

6.00 p. m. , Thursday 9 December 2010

The Main Lecture Theatre, Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, Aytoun Street (2 minutes from Piccadilly Railway Station)

The RMT has been prominent among British trade unions calling for ‘generalised action’ to oppose public spending cuts by EU and UK governments and in defence of jobs, living standards and public services. The RMT has urged trade unions to hold a sustained campaign of coordinated strikes across both the public and private sectors, combined with forging direct action alliances with community groups and campaigns, with the aim of mounting the biggest show of united working class resistance to government policies since the success of the anti-poll tax movement.

In the wake of recent strikes on London Underground, Fire Service and BBC, as well as student protests in response to the new austerity measures, Alex Gordon explains why the government’s ideological-driven cuts are not necessary and puts the case for European-style mass protests to turn them back.

Manchester Industrial Relations Society
Secretary: Professor Ralph Darlington, Salford Business School

University of Salford, Salford, M5 4WT. 0161 295 5456 website:

Ian Bone on Alex Gordon:

Well congratulations to my old drinking pal in the much lamented FOX in Easton in Bristol ALEX GORDON on being elected President of the RMT. Alex was once a member of DAM the anarcho-syndicalist organisation and hang out with the fearsomely anti-fascist ELDAM ( we could certainly do with their return now!). How much of his syndicalist politics he retains is unclear and many anarchists will not forgive his behaviour at the ESF social forum at Alexandra Palace. However I wish Alex luck in forging a fighting union with Comrade Crow. As I forecast in my last Freedom column Alex will be the first syndicalist to hold a major union office since the days of Tom Mann and AJ Cooke. If he lives up to them or Noah Ablett we might start getting somewhere.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

'White Folk': just another clan or ethnic category?

LAST week, three High Court judges reserved judgement when considering Labour MP Phil Woolas's bid to seek a judicial review to challenge an earlier decision of an election court on the 5th November to declare void his election to the Seat of Oldham East & Saddleworth at last May's General Election. A judgement may be expected this week. An earlier Court had said he could not seek a judicial review in the High Court and ought to go the the Court of Appeal. Mr Woolas's legal team have argued that the election court is an inferior court and that its decisions could be subject to judicial review in the High Court.

Since November 5th, 2010 Phil Woolas is no longer the MP for Oldham East & Saddleworth. This weekend Northern Voices spoke to some of Mr Woolas's white constituents in an area called Derker in Oldham, that has suffered from a scheme called the Pathfinder under the previous Labour Government: the controversial Housing Market Renewal Initiative Pathfinder has left massive areas of dereliction in our northern heartlands. Surprisingly, considering what the Labour Government did to them, one woman told me that she thought it was 'disgusting' what Elwyn Watkins the Liberal Democrat had done in taking the case to Court to seek redress.

What are we to make of this? After all, Joe Fitzpatrick, the Labour Party agent for Mr Woolas, in the run up to the general Election had said in an email to a colleague that 'If we don't get the white folk angry, he's gone' and 'We need to do an article ... to explain to the white community how the Asians will take him (Phil Woolas) out.'

Why should the 'white folk' readily tolerate being treated thus? Why should the 'white folk' accept being treated as an ethnic category to be cynically stirred up?

Perhaps the 'white folk' despise a bad loser more than a dirty campaigner. One possibility is that folk just don't like being exposed as being fools, but my source suggested that while there may have been lies in the leaflets of Phil Woolas she told me there were lies in the literature of the Lib Dems. Yet there is just a possibility that my contact believes or wants to believe in what Woolas said about 'Watkins being in the pocket of Islamic extremists' or words to that effect. What perhaps rests behind this is suggested by what the Labour Agent, Mr Fitzpatrick, also said in his email: '... and Musad ( a Lib Dem councillor) his stitched up his clan and the Bengalis'. This suggests something of the wheeling and dealing that goes on in the marketing of clans in these northern towns and in this fixing process 'the white folk' or the white working classes become yet another ethnic category to be traduced, deceived or just 'stitched up'.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Northern Anarchist Network (NAN) Bolton Conference, December 2010 - Updated Agenda

NAN Conference at Bolton Socialist Club, Wood Street, off Bradshaw Gate: Saturday 11th, December 2010, starting at 11.00am:


Updated Agenda

11.00 a.m. Richard Holland on "Luddites 200: preparing for the Bicentenary"

11.30 a.m. Dave Goodway on "Colin Ward's seed beneath the snow and the 'Big Society' "

1 p.m.  LUNCH: loads of cafes, bakers & food in the Club as well

2.00 p.m. - 2.45 p.m. Rachel Whitaker on "A Question of Degrees: Why Tuition Fees Aren't the Only Problem", followed by

2.45 p.m. - 4.00 p.m. Keir (Edinburgh) & Dave Douglass (South Shields) invited, from the National Shop Stewards Network to talk on the cuts & the place of anarcho-syndicalism & the general strike in our time.

We'll also fit group reports into the agenda at some point!

Harvesting the bodies of Sellafield workers by Dave Chapple

ORGANS and bones were illegally harvested from the bodies of dead nuclear industry workers at Sellafield without their consent over a period of 30 years, an inquiry found last Tuesday. The relatives of 64 staff, many of whom only discovered their loved ones had been stripped of livers, tongues and even legs decades after they were buried, said the inquiry's findings proved the existence of an "old boys' club" among pathologists, coroners and scientists around Sellafield prior to 1992 which prioritised the needs of the nuclear industry above those of grieving family members.

Your can find more information in the following publications:

Independent 17th Nov 2010
Guardian 17th Nov 2010
Telegraph 17th Nov 2010
Times 17th Nov 2010
Carlisle News and Star 16th Nov 2010
Whitehaven News 16th Nov 2010

The full documents published today are available from

See also DECC Press Release 16th Nov 2010

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Fitwatch website taken down by order of Police

Northern Voices is proud to express solidarity with Fitwatch and publish their last website posting below in full.

The article contained advice to any students worried about their legal situation following the occupation or the Tory Party HQ during the NUS demonstration in London last week. The Fitwatch website was yesterday taken down by the hosting company on the 'order' of a Will Hodgeson, who is Acting Detective Inspector of the Met (CO11 Public Order Branch). No legal authority was given, but acted like the proverbial Pavlov's Dog and complied with Police repression. 

Fitwatch is a site dedicated to the identification, monitoring and surveillance of Police 'Forward Intelligence Teams' (FIT) that take pictures and video of all and sundry on any demonstration you care to mention. An archive of the site has been erected at this site. Fitwatch itself is expected to be back online with an offshore host very soon.

The remarkable and brilliant student action at Millbank has produced some predictable frothing at the mouth from the establishment and right wing press. Cameron has called for the ‘full weight of the law’ to fall on those who had caused tens of thousands of pounds of damage to the expensive decor at Tory party HQ. Responsibility is being placed on ‘a violent faction’, after the march was ‘infiltrated’ by anarchists.
There are an encouraging number of initiatives to show solidarity with the arrested students – something that is vital if they are to avoid the sort of punitive ‘deterrent’ sentences handed out to the Gaza demonstrators. A legal support group has been established and the National Campaign against Cuts and Fees has started a support campaign. Goldsmiths lecturers union has publicly commended the students for a ‘magnificent demonstration’ .

This is all much needed, as the establishment is clearly on the march with this one. The Torygraph has published an irresponsible and frenzied ‘shop-a-student’ piece and the Met are clearly under pressure to produce ‘results’ after what they have admitted was a policing ‘embarrassment’.

51 people have been arrested so far, and the police have claimed they took the details of a further 250 people in the kettle using powers under the Police Reform Act. There may be more arrests to come.

Students who are worried should consider taking the following actions:

If you have been arrested, or had your details taken – contact the legal support campaign. As a group you can support each other, and mount a coherent campaign.

If you fear you may be arrested as a result of identification by CCTV, FIT or press photography;

DON'T panic. Press photos are not necessarily conclusive evidence, and just because the police have a photo of you doesn’t mean they know who you are.

DON'T hand yourself in. The police often use the psychological pressure of knowing they have your picture to persuade you to ‘come forward’. Unless you have a very pressing reason to do otherwise, let them come and find you, if they know who you are.

DO get rid of your clothes. There is no chance of suggesting the bloke in the video is not you if the clothes he is wearing have been found in your wardrobe. Get rid of ALL clothes you were wearing at the demo, including YOUR SHOES, your bag, and any distinctive jewellery you were wearing at the time. Yes, this is difficult, especially if it is your only warm coat or decent pair of boots. But it will be harder still if finding these clothes in your flat gets you convicted of violent disorder.

DON'T assume that because you can identify yourself in a video, a judge will be able to as well. ‘That isn’t me’ has got many a person off before now.

DO keep away from other demos for a while. The police will be on the look-out at other demos, especially student ones, for people they have put on their ‘wanted’ list. Keep a low profile.

DO think about changing your appearance. Perhaps now is a good time for a make-over. Get a haircut and colour, grow a beard, wear glasses. It isn’t a guarantee, but may help throw them off the scent.

DO keep your house clean. Get rid of spray cans, demo related stuff, and dodgy texts / photos on your phone. Don’t make life easy for them by having drugs, weapons or anything illegal in the house.

DO get the name and number of a good lawyer you can call if things go badly. The support group has the names of recommended lawyers on their site. Take a bit of time to read up on your rights in custody, especially the benefits of not commenting in interview.

DO be careful who you speak about this to. Admit your involvement in criminal damage / disorder ONLY to people you really trust.

DO try and control the nerves and panic. Waiting for a knock on the door is stressful in the extreme, but you need to find a way to get on with business as normal.

Otherwise you’ll be serving the sentence before you are even arrested.

The Big Society (or a Bullingdon Club Conception of ‘Anarchism’) by Laurens Otter

Recently, a young Muslim woman was tried for attempted murder; she had violently attacked an MP who ardently supported the invasion of Iraq (knowing it to be illegal under International Law) and, not understanding why he had not been punished in any way for sanctioning the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians, she took matters into her own hands.

No doubt her methods were not the most well chosen but anyone who examines her motives and general inspiration must see how closely they match the ‘Big Society’ ideal as preached by the Government.

Curiously, however, the Prime Minister did not dispatch the Attorney General (nor even members of his department) to the court to plead the woman’s case - to point out that she was a volunteer, acting to redress an unpunished crime in the public interest. Indeed, whilst the Attorney General might have argued in court that, in a country that has (at popular demand) abolished the death penalty, this woman should have confined herself to some lesser sanction, there can be no argument that she was acting in the spirit of the Big Society as it has thus far been outlined.

One may deduce, of course, that there is an unstated premise of the Cameron Big Society theory, i.e. that only such ‘voluntary acts’ and ‘local initiatives’ that support the Establishment and reinforce the existing class structure (or which meliorate the evils it creates without inconveniencing the elite) are to be applauded. In fact, one only has to look at the general context of the theory to see that it can only be advocated by Tories on the basis of such a premise.

If it were not so, unofficial strikes against injustice would be applauded. The Government would be giving grants to the students now protesting against their policies. And the peace movement, who have for years opposed war with only the resources available via their own pockets or appeals, would not be in such a position. Do the military hold a coffee morning every time they need a new tank? If Cameron meant his Big Society - without that unspoken Tory premise - he would have already moved to redress this disparity.

So, the Big Society cannot mean volunteering and local initiatives in order to attain a society of liberty and equality. Despite all the talk of decentralisation, there is to be a highly centralised decision-making process to determine what does and does not constitute good local initiatives and, as the criteria will never be spelled out, they cannot be debated, so the elite will decide with no popular discussion of any real sincerity.

The published arguments for the Big Society might have been purloined from anarchism but the arguments are used to cover Bullingdon Club elitist prejudices and those who know anything of the actions of this club’s membership may doubt whether a failure to support the Muslim woman was even based of any particular dislike of her methods.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


George Osborne the Con-Dem Chancellor of the Exchequer repeatedly tells us that 'we`re all in it together'. But when it comes to Britain`s MP`s it seems to be a case of don`t do as we do, but do as we say.

Osborne is one of eighteen multi-millionaires in the Con-Dem cabinet. Despite the so-called financial crisis, last month, the Daily Telegraph revealed how 40 party activists including David Cameron attended an 'election thank you' dinner hosted by the outgoing party treasurer, Michael Spencer. According to the Telegraph, the dinner guests 'quaffed heroic quantities' of Chateau Petrus costing £1,000 per bottle. As Spencer is estimated to be worth £630 million, the costs incurred are like spare change in his back pocket. Spencer has donated £3.8 million to the Conservative Party. According to the Daily Mirror('FATCATS UNITED' 22/12/10), the "tycoon controversially sold £45 million of shares in his broking firm ICAP, weeks before they fell in value."

This week it was reported in the press that the (dis)honourable MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, Phil Woolas, who was recently stripped of his seat and banned from holding office for three years by an election court, is to receive a £40,000 'winding-up allowance' and an annual pension of £30,000 after being an MP for just thirteen years. Parliament's lavish pension scheme, is regarded as one of the most generous in Britain.

Following his suspension by the Labour Party, a number of MP`s have rallied around Woolas and have suggested that he`s been treated harshly. They have branded deputy Labour leader, Harriet Harman, a disgrace for saying that Woolas had no future in the Labour Party. Many seem to think that he`s been 'hung out to dry' and that making false statements and telling lies about a political opponent is par for the course and the stuff of politics.

David Winnick, the Labour MP for Walsall North, said:

"It`s not acceptable to most of us to say that Phil`s time in the Labour Party is finished forever. We see a colleague who fought a very tight marginal, he may have gone over the top, but that`s no reason to say his political career is over for good."

Although Woolas`s legal position appears hopeless, he`s nonetheless pursuing all sorts of legal avenues to try and restore his battered reputation. His appeal for a judicial review was recently thrown out and he faces Labour Party disciplinary action.

Despite the feelings of some Labour MP`s, public opinion appears to be against Woolas. A recent Yougov poll showed that 71% of respondents felt that the courts were right to rule against Woolas whereas only 7% felt it was the wrong decision.

Woolas recently stated that his supporters and financial backers included Gordon Brown and Cherie Blair. One serious criticism levelled against Woolas, is that during his election campaign he inflamed racial tensions in Oldham in the run-up to the General Election in a desperate bid to discredit his opponent in order to retain his seat.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Thick as thieves these MPs

(Northern Voices understands Michael Meacher - here seen cavorting with bikini-clad young women and a shark (below), Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton, shares an office with Phil Woolas, the disqualified Oldham East Labour MP found guilty last Friday of lying about his Lib Dem opponent, Elwyn Watkins, at the General Election in May. Hence, it may well be that the current dodgy predicament of Mr Woolas may have a knock-on effect on the office running costs for Mr Meacher and that his concern for the plight of the staff may not be totally disinterested. Our readers must judge for themselves on the wisdom of Mr Meacher's remarks [extracted from Meacher's blog] below on behalf of his colleague Mr Woolas.)

'Of course MPs should tell the truth. It is not for me to determine whether or not my colleague Phil Woolas did so now that the court has reached its decision. I do however believe that he has been treated harshly, and that some of his traducers should take a wider look at this whole question of truth-telling because it could open up other embarrassing revelations. It has always been a good principle: let him who is innocent cast the first stone. I don’t of course have details of any other specific case, but it would certainly be surprising if among the other 649 MPs there was not a single instance where a Member had not strayed beyond the limits of truth and honesty in portraying a political opponent in an election.

'This is unlikely to be an isolated case – indeed the only reason why this case came to light in the first place is that Elwyn Watkins, the LibDem candidate, had the resources to bring it. He works for an Arab sheikh in the Middle East, so money was no object. Indeed, in the course of the one-week election court proceedings it appears that Watkins himself admitted that he had spent some £200,000 on the election, which is 7 times above the maximum permitted limit.

'Nor have Phil Woolas’ employees been treated fairly when they themselves cannot in any way be held responsible. They have been told by IPSA that their employment contracts terminated at 11am on Friday when the court gave its judgement. That would seem illegal by excluding the statutory period of notice, and it also means they will no longer be available for completing the constituency caseload even up till the judicial review in a fortnight, let alone till the by-election. Worse still, IPSA are now demanding that Phil Woolas pay back all his office expenses and staff expenses since the election in May, which could amount to some £70,000. This is gratuitously punitive and unfair when the money was used in good faith and for the benefit of the constituency, not the MP himself.

'But there are deeper questions about truth-telling raised by this episode. What about those MPs, including some on the Front-Bench of all three parties, who flipped the designation of their homes saying that first one house and then another was their second home when they knew that one or other statement wasn’t true? The cost the taxpayer in some cases tens of thousands of pounds, yet have never been brought to book. What about Nick Clegg (and he’s far from the only one) who solemnly declared he would abolish tuition fees and then voted to treble them? Or is it all right to lie to the electorate to win votes so long as you don’t lie about your political opponent to win votes? How about a right of recall for those MPs who deceive the electorate by their dishonesty?'

Saturday, 6 November 2010


THE disgraced Oldham East and Saddleworth MP, Phil Woolas,(pictured left above) has been suspended by the Labour Party following damning criticism by two High Court judges that he had made false statements and was 'guilty of illegal practices' under election law.

Yesterday at the Uppermill Civic Hall, Saddleworth, the election court declared the election result void and ordered a by-election. Woolas won the seat at the last General Election by the narrowest of majorities(103). Elwyn Watkins, his Lib Dem rival, accused Woolas of mud slinging and of telling deliberate lies in his election material in order to win the election. He then took legal action against Woolas which led to the historic election court being set up in Uppermill earlier this year.

In his election material Woolas had alleged that Elwyn Watkins (LIbDem) had tried to win the votes of Muslims who advocated violence and had refused to condemn the extremists in his own constituency who had threatened him with violence.  The two High Court judges, Mr. Justice Nigel Teare and Mr. Justice Griffith Williams, said that this clearly amounted to an attack on his opponents 'personal character or conduct' and they added that Woolas had: 'no reasonable grounds for believing them to be true and did not believe them to be true.'

Another allegation made by Woolas, which was also found to be untrue by the election court, was the false claim that Watkins had broken a pledge to live in the constituency. Woolas was nevertheless cleared of knowingly making a false statement that Mr. Watkins' election campaign costs were likely to be in excess of £200,000, the legal limit.

After the judge`s ruling yesterday, Woolas, was ordered to pay Mr. Watkins the sum of £5,000 and was also ordered to pay his rival`s legal costs. He was also barred from holding public office for three years.  Speaking to the Manchester Evening News (M.E.N.) Mr. Watkins said that people who deliberately lie about their opponents: 'have no part to play in democracy' and he added:

"What Mr. Woolas decided was that he would do anything to keep his seat and his position of power. To my mind in a democracy that is just not acceptable."

After the ruling Woolas announced that he would be seeking a judicial review and would be making no further comment.  The Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman responded by condemning Woolas and stated that the Labour Party would not be supporting his appeal. Effectively his political career is now finished.

During the expenses scandal, Woolas came under a barrage of criticism for his expenses claims.  One of his claims for MP`s expenses included items of women`s clothing, women`s shoes, nail varnish, tampons and nappies.  As MP`s expenses claims are supposedly for personal use it is unclear why these claims were made.

When Woolas was asked whether his claim for precisely £210.31 indicated that he had put the shoes and nail varnish on expenses, he replied: 'I take your point and I understand the extrapolation.'

When challenged by the press about these outrageous claims, Woolas, responded by threatening legal action (see N.V. mag issue 11).

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Northern Anarchist Network (NAN) Bolton Conference, December 2010

NAN Conference at Bolton Socialist Club, Wood Street, off Bradshaw Gate: Saturday 11th, December 2010, starting at 11.00am:


Provisional Agenda

Kicking off at 11 a.m., we have Kier from the NSSN Syndicalists to talk about the cuts and the place of anarcho-syndicalism and the general strike in our time. Comrade Douglass has been invited.

After a lunch break at 1 p.m., we'll have group reports from around the North (& beyond) at 2p.m.

From 2.30 p.m. to 4.00 p.m., there's a Colin Ward-esque theme "The Seed Beneath the Snow or the Weed Beneath the Snow" - is there to be more State, or less?

We have invited other contributors, so the agenda may be amended at a later date.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

ConDem Cuts

At a recent meeting of the Manchester Branch of the National Shop Stewards Network, I was criticised for having the temerity to suggest that endorsing a progressive penal policy, including supporting the release of many thousands of prisoners who have been locked up for minor and trivial offences,  is the right approach. Apparently the Prison Officers Association sponsor the NSSN, and my comments were deemed as "out of order" since they implied a cut in Prison staff and the closure of prisons.

As an anarchist I have a somewhat nuanced perspective of the campaign against the cuts. Any significant cuts in the state bureaucracy and moves towards a small state should surely be welcomed. Statist socialists, either of the Marxist or Fabian hue, seem ready to oppose any diminution in the State sector including the Army, Navy, Airforce, Defence and Armaments, Police etc.

I would like to posit a rather iconoclastic perspective which hopefully will lead to an informed discussion about the cuts: why not put forward our own deficit reduction plan, i.e. Anarchist Cuts. Lets cut Defence spending by 80% and focus on civil defence rather than wasting tens of billions on useless armaments and war fighting. Lets cut the spending on the Courts, Police, Prisons and the whole apparatus of "Law and Order".   Furthermore lets cut the massive State Bureaucracy, especially the managerial and elite strata.

Anarchists need to be creative and proactive in response to the current economic situation. Knee jerk reactions by the traditional authoritarian left in opposing any cuts at all solves nothing. It's important to put forward a vision for the future which entails models of workers and community control from the bottom up based on social co-operation and mutual aid. The antiquated paradigm of state control no longer has any resonance given the experience of the Soviet Union and its satellites. Laissez-faire capitalism or the free market has also manifestly failed at the present time.

The historical experiences of the CNT in Spain during the Spanish Civil War provide an example of the way forward Workers Control, not state control,  offers an answer to the current economic and social quagmire. Anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists need to be bold and be prepared to argue for their ideas and translate them into practice.

Groucho Marx

Manchester and Salford Film Coop is showing the film Duck Soup in January 2011. This film stars the Marx Brothers and it so threatened the Fascist Dictator Benito Mussolini that he barred it from Italy. According to the writer J B Priestley "Karl Marx showed us how the dispossessed would finally take possession . But I think the brothers Marx do it better". Antonin Artaud described their films as " a hymn to anarchy and whole hearted revolt". Groucho can loosely be described as a libertarian socialist, and he supported Heywood Broun when he stood for Congress in the Manhattan district of New York on the socialist ticket. Other supporters include George Gershwin, Fred Astaire, Harpo Marx and Helen Hayes.

Groucho was dismissive of the Hollywood Communists. He described them as "the kind of Hypocrites who would sing in between laps around their swimming pool". Nevertheless Groucho opposed the witch hunts of McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee. He supported the Committee for the lst Amendment in defence of freedom of speech.

An underground newspaper in the San Francisco Bay Area asked Groucho for his views on Nixon, the US President. "Do you think theres any hope for Nixon?" The reply- "No I think the only hope this country has is Nixons assassination". He was investigated by the FBI and listed in their files as a political threat to the President.

Groucho once referred to the United States as the "United Snakes" on a quiz show and contributed to an anti-fascist rally in the 1930s.

Finally Groucho Marx influenced the French students in May 68 in Paris. Grafitti read "je suis marxiste, tendance Groucho". He also quipped "Military Intelligence is a contradiction in terms"

The Film Coop shows monthly films at the Kings Arms, Bloom Street, Salford.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


GREEDY LAWYERS and bolshy bosses are ganging up with exotic politicians like the bleach blond Boris Johnson, to call for what the Financial Times (FT) today describes as 'tougher anti-strike laws'. A survey carried out by the Law Firm DLA Piper found that three-quarters of employers polled backed stronger anti-strike legislation. It also found that 90% of executives in both the public and private sector anticipate 'a lot more industrial action in the months ahead'.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) – the bosses' union – is calling for a change in the law to only let strikes go ahead if 40% of balloted members support them, as well as a majority of those voting. David Bradley, DLA's Piper's Head of Employment Law, said: 'the study's findings provide strong encouragement for the government from business leaders to tighten the laws around strike action.'

If this happens it will bring legal challenges from trade unions under the European Convention of Human Rights, as David Bradley notes. Brian Groom, Business & Employment Editor of the FT writes: 'the coalition government has no plans to change the laws on industrial action ballots', despite incitement from colourful conservatives like Boris Johnson. Mr Johnson very likely finds RMT strikes by Bob Crow's underground workers boring, with the dreary Londoners forming queues along the Thames for launches to take them up and down the river hoping to reach their places of work and business. Far better, from Boris's point of view, to close off this orderly form of protest – the strike and the peaceful picket – that forms a social safety valve for disgruntled workers, and to open the door to the more dramatic alternative of the street riot. The street riot, in the form of the Poll Tax Riot - was the unintended consequence and ultimate culmination of the original anti-trade union laws enacted by the Thatcher administration. Besides the riot, which Thatcher brought back to our English streets perhaps for the first time since the 19th Century, another unintended consequence of the Thatcher laws and of the shift to the streets from the workplace of social conflict was the increasing adjournment of militant shop stewards and the union representatives to the Courtroom and the Tribunal to seek legal redress instead of negotiated settlements. Thus the bosses, by getting rid of the workplace strike and factory occupation, has given us something more bloody and socially disruptive on the one hand in the street riot, and on the other a peaceful utopia for the legal profession to exploit in the Courts and Tribunals.

DLA Piper lawyer, Mr Bradley, claimed: '... private sector employers feared they could suffer “contagion” from strikes in the public sector'; if they supply the public sector they might be hit as a knock-on effect or if militant public sector workers transfer to the private sector they might bring their militant behaviour with them. He told the FT: 'employers would not necessarily find it easy to challenge co-ordinated strikes on the grounds that they were political.' Mr Bradley argued: 'As long as there was a legitimate trade dispute over terms and conditions, unions had considerable discretion about the timing of strikes.'

No wonder Mr Bradley's law firm has gone from strength to strength in recent decades since Mrs Thatcher's anti-trade union laws: a random perusal by Northern Voices shows it to be one of the largest law firms in the world with over 3,500 lawyers and revenues of $2.25 billion in 2008/09 and 69 offices across 30 countries. One of their members, Paul Burnley, head of the Corporate Defence group in Leeds, defends companies and their boards of directors in 'high-profile health and safety investigations: he is an expert in crisis management and acted for companies like Hickson & Welch in the Castleford Disaster; Associated Octel in the gas explosion at Ellesmere Port; the Leeds/Bradford air disaster at Dunkeswick and more recently for Jarvis in the Potters Bar disaster.' Sir Nigel Knowles from Sheffield is chief executive officer (CEO) of DLA Piper and he says that he will 'Face up to the people lobbing grenades into the arena — and remove them'. Saying 'Stay true to your roots', he told an interviewer in 2008: 'Among all the international expansion, I’ve made sure that our relationship with those Yorkshire clients that have been loyal to our Leeds office has stayed strong. Bradford & Bingley were an early client of ours, who have gone on to become a FTSE 100 company. We’ve grown together.' Bradford & Bingley, let's recall, was nationalised later in 2008, a victim of the credit crunch and has now been taken over by Banco Santander. Another DLA Piper partner, Michael McKee, was asked in an interview on Sky TV on July this year about criminal behaviour connected with the collapse of the banks and interviewer, Jeff Randall, asked: 'Just because the CEO gets a big bonus when a bank goes down, that doesn't mean he was a bank robber, not literally?' To which McKee replied: 'Absolutely'.

It's not bad for some!

Thursday, 14 October 2010


Steve Fisher's quest to become a tenant director of New Charter Homes is rapidly degenerating into a ludicrous farce, a kind of Brechtian theatre of the absurd.

In June we reported that Mr. Fisher (53), pictured above, who has lived at his present address for the last 26 years and has been a New Charter tenant for ten years, had been told by New Charter boss John Ardern that his nomination to stand for election as a tenant director would not be accepted because the company considered him too 'adversarial'. To be precise, four years ago, New Charter took civil legal action against Fisher and sought an injunction to compel him to tidy-up his natural wildlife garden. When he successfully fought the action as 'litigant in person' and went to the press complaining of the injustice of his landlord's actions, New Charter became so incensed by the press criticism that they went kicking and screaming to their legal department, who in turn, threatened the local Tameside Advertiser with legal action.

Since his scrape with New Charter in 2006, Fisher, has been effectively placed under a cordon sanitaire by the housing company. In 2007 he was designated by them as a 'prolific complainant' and the following year, he was banned from entering and speaking to New Charter staff apart from reporting repairs. His only contact with the company is now through his go-between John Ardern, who took the original decision not to accept his nomination as a tenant director.

Mr. Fisher is not taking this lying down and yet again, he`s invoked the company's complaints procedure. He is after all a 'prolific complainant' and must live up to his well earned reputation. Last month he was told by Tony Powell, Executive Director of Neigbourhoods that he upheld the original decision which was in the 'best interests of the company'. He also told him: "Your attempts to involve the media and engage other people through the internet against New Charter also have influenced my decision". And he also adds: "The subsequent e-mails sent by yourself to Mr. Ardern ... contained a number of profanities and allegations of impropriety by the company". Referring to other communications he says: "In other e-mails which I have seen you have made a comment about 'Pope Danny McLoughlin' and referred to other tenants (not specified) as 'nodding donkeys'".

In his dealings with New Charter Mr. Fisher has obviously trodden on some big corns. But Steve Fisher unlike many people nowadays, is not a 'Yes Man'. He does not doff his cap even to his landlord. He`s not the kind of person that housing companies like to pack their Boards with. While it might not 'be in the best interests of the company' to accept his nomination, so what! Mr. Fisher's concern is with what is in the 'best interests' of the tenants, not the company. As a New Charter tenant he therefore sought to stand in an election and to be judged by his peers and not by some middle-class over paid lackies of a housing company who have taken exception to his frankness and his use of the internet and the media. There`s obviously no room for democracy within New Charter despite what they say, and this issue looks like it's going all the way to the Housing Ombudsman.

100 years ago: French Railway Workers' Derail Trains

AS Northerners we tend continually to look South for inspiration and backwards for inspiration. 75 years ago 150 Welsh miners occupied a pit at Nine Mile Point in Monmouthshire: see below. But 100 years ago, during the syndicalist phase in their history, French railway workers derailed trains on the 12th, October 1910. On that day, bands on strikers on the Western Railway began to render the operation of the line impossible by cutting the signal and telephone wires, throwing the points out of order, and stopping all possible traffic by placing obstructions on the line or derailing engines and trucks. Just after 8 O'Clock in the morning strikers armed with clubs and iron bars invaded the line between Asnières and Bois-Colombes. By about half past ten 300 strikers broke into Colombes station and chucked benches on the line so as to prevent the Argenteuil trains from running. Minutes later they stopped the Cherbourg mail train and a train from Mantes. They quickly uncoupled both locomotives and derailed them on the points, completely blocking both lines.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

75 years ago: when the Welsh Miners stayed down the pit

WHEN the Chilean miners emerge from the San Jose mine - it is 10.30pm and the twenty-fifth miner has just got out - it is also the 75th anniversary, almost to the day, of a pit occupation by 150 Welsh miners employed at Nine Mile Point in 1935, one of the biggest collieries in Monmouthshire. On October 12th, 1935; this protest against the employment of 88 non-union miners began. The unionised miners responded with an occupation of the pit and hunger strike. When at the end of their morning shift the elevator came for them to return to the surface the men refused to leave the mine, declaring that they did not intend to leave until the non-union men had been discharged. They said that they would stay underground without food, will sleep in their ordinary clothes at their usual work places and would not communicate with the outside world until their demands were met.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Myth of General Strike

Syndicalist Bedfellows Seduced

YESTERDAY the Global Edition of the New York Times ran a story about last month's general strike in Spain entitled 'For Spanish labor, a dance of discontent'. The general tenor of this report tended to support the sceptical position taken by the syndicalists at the National Shop Stewards' Network (NSSN) steering committee meeting last weekend in London, when they challenged the proposal put by the Socialist Workers' Party members on this committee to work for a 24-hour general strike. This report says the Spanish 'general strike' was according to the analysts 'a well-choreographed dance in which unions could show their discontent with the measures (of the Spanish Government) without significantly damaging their natural ally, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose popularity is at its weakest point since being elected.' I think that the argument of the British syndicalists to these types of 'general strikes' is that at worst they risk bringing the weapon of the general strike into disrepute in the eyes of the working class, and, at best, are a safety valve weakening serious social unrest. They are not like the British Poll Tax Riot, sometimes referred to over here these days by militants on the left, which was unpredictable and seriously shook the regime but they are a kind of fancy shadow boxing and the leaders of the NSSN should understand this. The vain hope expressed by the SWP mover of the motion in London that he wished that Britain was like Spain and had had six 'general strikes' since 1979, shows the mindless misunderstanding of some on the British left of Spanish politics because, in a way, last month's Spanish general strike demonstrated the impotence of the Spanish trade union movement.

Indeed, most accounts claim that the Spanish strike was not a 'rousing success' and in interviews given after the strike commentators note a certain curious 'concord in which the unions declared victory but could not point to specific concessions they expected to win from the government - while the Spanish labor minister praised the union's bargaining skills'. The Spanish Government measures have cut severance pay for fired workers and made it easier for companies to put workers on less hours in response to temporary drops in demand. There has been a reduction in the collective bargaining power of the unions as well. The unions also oppose the threat in the Socialist Government's proposed budget to raise the pension age from 65 to 67.

The Spanish 'general strike' was called on the 29th, September to co-ordinate with the other European demonstrations but it seemed to turn into pockets of unrest and protest across the continent and didn't have the impact of the Greek struggles earlier in the year. Nor are the Spanish workers united in their struggles, our sources inform us that in Madrid there were three separate demonstrations during the 'general strike': one by the main unions - the UGT and Workers' Commissions; one by the anarchist CNT; and another by the anarcho-syndicalist CGT. But Spain still has 20% unemployment according to the official statistics, though these figures do not take account of the normally thriving black economy in Spain; hence, the Socialist Government is in a weak position and a poll last week in the newspaper El Pais showed the Socialists trialing the conservative Popular Party by 15%.

The problem is that the British left is so aware of its own weakness that it feels a necessity to play-up the events in Spain or Greece to create for itself an ideal type example to aim to remedy our own situation, but very often they not comparing like-with-like and are usually using foreign appearances to overlook and escape from the very real nature of our own situation. In the end on the left we are often seduced by our own slogans and apparently exotic foreign events, and things like the myth of the general strike; which requires more thought and consideration than the SWP proposal offered us at last weekend's NSSN steering committee meeting.

UPDATE: this post is now attracting responses from SWP members, whose comments can be read after the full post here. Click here to read SWP supporter Geoff Brown's post on his blog.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Northern Voices @ 2010 London Anarchist Bookfair

On Saturday 23rd October, Northern Voices will have a stall at the annual London Anarchist Bookfair. This is the biggest annual event for Anarchists (of all persuasions) from all over the country, and abroad as well, and unlike the Manchester one, we're not banned from it!

On the day, you can chat to us about the magazine, buy current and back issues and perhaps, if you feel you have something to say, talk to us about contributing to the next and subsequent issues. We will also have information about the Northern Anarchist Network.

The Bookfair is being held at Queen Mary & Westfield College, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS (click here for a map) between 10.00 am and 7.00 pm on Saturday 23rd October. There are lots of meetings happening all day, as well as films and cabaret, and a list of stalls (who have websites) can be found here.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

National Shop Stewards Network: Syndicalists vote against general strike?

YESTERDAY, a proposal from Socialist Workers' Party (SWP) members of the steering committee of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) to 'campaign for a 24 hour general strike' was opposed by syndicalists on the committee on grounds that it was an absurd and premature proposition in the current climate. In the end the vote went against the syndicalists, but it was significant because this was the first time an organised section from the libertarian left has made an independent intervention. The syndicalists also issued a statement which declared: 'Syndicalists are opposed to the cynical use of the NSSN as a vehicle for sectarian aims. Talk about rebuilding the Labour Party Left or building alternative parties is a diversion ... it ignores the fact that militant trade union activity is a political power in itself. We believe that these distractions will only slow us down in reaching our goals of a strong working class able to defend itself and make significant gains. (The) NSSN is a broad-based organisation the class struggle and narrow political agendas must not be allowed to sap energy or hamper progress in the struggle.' (a full copy of this statement will appear in a comment on this post shortly).

These syndicalists, who have support in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Northumbria in the far North through the centres of our civilising industrial culture in Manchester and the West Midlands, down to the smoky city that is London and the wild South West, are trying to set an agenda outside the urban street-theatre of party politics with its rent-a-crowd and ridiculous resolutions such as the general strike proposal. They are in a sense the phantoms of freshness on the political left, far different from the traditional old left like the SWP and the Socialist Party, and even at odds with their would be allies among the Anarchist Federation and the Solidarity Federation. Their aim is to bring some sense and serious purpose to the British political left.

A syndicalist lass named Becca from Birmingham was elevated to the new post in charge of 'Fund-raising and affiliations' which became a 'job-share' with another lass named Suzanne from London. In the course of the meeting Becca drew the meeting's attention to the election address of Dave Chapple, Chair of the NSSN, which outlined what he thought the new officers and steering committee members should be doing:

  1. Mapping of ... potential militant NSSN support in the 'upper' part of our movement: trade union national officers, national executive members, regional officials, branch officers and local reps;
  2. Mapping all well-organised workplaces by union and location.
  3. Recording and contacting all workplaces & Branches that take local, national or unofficial industrial action.
  4. Drawing up and carrying out an action plan to build the NSSN within different unions, different cities & regions, and different types of union rep.
  5. Establishing a sound financial branch affiliation base.

Dave Chapple then asks: 'How can we grow without this information.'

A business-like approach on the libertarian syndicalist left! How different from the left party politicians and how different from the dilettantes who one sees shifting from one talking-shop to another among the affiliates of Manchester Anarchist Federation and the Manchester Solidarity Federation. It is far too early to say if these new young syndicalists will get anywhere, much less transform British politics, but today, as the Conservatives meet for their national Conference in Birmingham, it is a time for turning over stones to see what's underneath. The NSSN syndicalists have made a start.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Not invited to the Manchester Anarchist Bookfair

For some reason as yet unknown to us, Northern Voices has not been invited to the Manchester Anarchist Bookfair. But worry not, you can still buy the latest issue of Northern Voices as well as back issues, plus our other publications on the Northern Anarchist Network stall.

The Bookfair is being held at the Dancehouse Theatre, which is located on Oxford Road (opposite the BBC building) between 11.00 am and 5.00 pm tomorrow, Saturday 2nd October. There's food and talks too (as well as lots of other stalls), so plenty to keep you occupied if you're in town.

Hope to see you there.

Puny Anti-Cuts Protests in UK: Jonnie come lately in Spain

JUDGING by the anti-cuts protest outside Salford Town Hall on Wednesday the British working class, even in the public sector, are not angry enough about the Coalition Government's threats of cuts in the public sector - yet. Even the well known local trade union leader, Alex McFadden, didn't turn up: according to the rumours he was off networking with the Council to get another grant for the Salford Unemployed Centre in Eccles.

In Europe, the Spaniards led the field with a nationwide general strike. The trade unions estimated about 70% participation in the strike. Workers in Spain's heavy industry backed the strike lowering industrial power usage to 20% of normal. Valencia and some other main ports were shut, but the transport network, including the Madrid subway, were unaffected by the strike.

In Madrid the big shops stayed open with one fishmonger saying: 'This is a pantomime staged by union leaders to show that they still can play a role' and he added, 'If they had really meant to intervene, they would have done something when the economy started to collapse, rather than keeping their mouths shut until it's too late.'

Sandalio Gómez, a labour relations pundit, said: that few Spaniards understood 'why a strike is now being held 3 months after the labour market reform was actually approved', and he claimed 'The unions still have an important role but they have become far too institutionalised, reliant on government subsidies rather than membership fees - and that has left their leaders out of touch with the reality of workers' lives' and this had reduced their credibility. The International Herald Tribune suggested that these protests, unlike the ones in Greece in May, had been less traumatic for the European governments.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

General Strike in Spain: lunchtime protest in Salford

THE rain today did not deter the 100 local authority workers who demonstrated against the proposed cuts to public services by the Coalition Government outside Salford Town Hall in Swinton. Ray Walker, Branch Secretary of Unison, addressed the protest from the Town Hall steps. Salford Trades Council raised their huge red banner held by Alex Halligan and Steve North, and smaller flags of the GMB union and Unison were on show. Political groups like the local Green Party and the odd anarchist were in evidence as were some supporters of the National Shop Stewards Network. Today, of course, was a European day of action with a 'General Strike' in Spain and other actions in Greece, Ireland, and Brussels. Spain has had six 'General Strikes' (four of 24 hours; one of half a day; one of 1 hour) since the death of General Franco in 1975 only one, in 1988, which paralysed the country. These Spanish 'general strikes' are safety valves and what we would call token strikes, they are more effective than a day of action but not much more. But, it is doubtful that the British TUC could even call a successful Day of Action at the moment.

Buy Northern Voices12 with more stories on the Salford areas and with our special regular feature 'Salford Spy': price £1.50, out next month, from certain select newsagents in Swinton, Walkden, Eccles and Salford or write for postal subscription: £10 for the next 5 issues to Northern Voices: c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


'I know thee not old man.': Prince Hal in Henry IV [part II]

IT was like a play by Bertold Brecht when two weeks ago Dave Harker, of North East National Shop Stewards Network, declared to a large fringe meeting on the Blacklist: 'Anyone who asks us to vote Labour must be living in Cloud Cuckoo-Land'. This was met with spontaneous applause much to the dismay of the left-wing MP on the platform: John McDonnell. Mr McDonnell MP had urged voting Labour in the midst of his oration to the campaigners against the blacklist and another speaker on the platform went on to say it is 'a pity he was not one of the candidates for Labour leader'.

But 'Cloud Cuckoo-land' is still, not an easy realm to escape from for many on the left, and the big unions still spend millions supporting the Labour Party. Will they get their money's worth this time? The political pundits are not yet tipping the restoration of trade union rights to the pre-Margaret Thatcher situation, which is something unions like UNITE have been demanding. The best thing on offer from the new Labour leadership, at the moment, seems to be a 'Living Wage; right to request flexible working for all workers'.

This falls far short of what last March, Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, the leaders of UNITE the UNION, were calling for when they said the last Labour Government had let the labour movement down by failing to do away with Thatcher's anti-trade union laws. Yet in second quarter of 2010, UNITE gave the Labour Party £1.67 million; this compares with £1.2 million that Unison gave the party and £1.05 million donated by the GMB.

At the TUC Conference in Manchester a local group calling themselves the 'northern syndicalists' issued a 'Trade Unionist Review' arguing that:

'After the General Strike in 1926 the Baldwin Government, like Thatcher in the 1980s, had been eager to exploit its victory and in May 1927 it introduced a bill to amend the Trades Disputes Act of 1906. Its main clause made illegal the sympathy strike or “any strike designed or calculated to coerce the government”... The historian, A.J.P. Taylor, writes of this Act (the Trade Disputes & Trade Union Act) that, unlike Thatcher's anti-union laws, “it was fiercely contested in the house of commons, and its repeal followed close on Labour's victory in 1945”. The northern syndicalist Review adds: 'No such attempt at repeal of Thatcher's anti-union laws followed the election of Blair in 1997, indeed the Labour Government, that was in office with an absolute majority up to May this year, dismissed trade union demands for change in the law.'

Today it would be a rash inmate of the Labour Party realm of Cloud Cuckoo-Land, who should risk forecasting any repeal of the laws that inhibit trade unions as a result of last weekends election of Ed Miliband as Labour leader. Indeed, John McTernan, political secretary to Tony Blair 2005 to 2007, wrote in the Telegraph yesterday that now that Ed Miliband has got the job 'he never needs to do anything for them (the unions) ever again.' Mr McTernan says he should tackle Derek Simpson as the newly crowned Henry V dealt with Falstaff when he came to Court looking for favours: 'I know thee not old man.'

Sunday, 26 September 2010


NOTHING to frighten the horses in the Labour leadership election at the Manchester's conference centre with the election of Ed Milliband yesterday. And, nothing to trouble the status quo at the Convention of the Left across the road at the Friends Meeting House. So the party which can only select between Oxbridge graduates confronts a Cabinet full of millionaires, while the far left in the Friends Meeting House yesterday acted, at times, as if it was at the Funeral of the Left addressed by a downbeat John McDonnell MP, he who never gets enough nominations, warning us all of a 'long haul' and that he didn't think the Liberals would split away from the government.

The organisers of the Convention of the Left, with John Nicholson sounding hoarse and looking haggard, did their best to cheer up the throng of some eighty or so dispirited revellers at the event going on about Right to Work campaigns and Stop the Cuts. It all sounded thoroughly so 1980s. Is David Cameron really the new Thatcher? It all seems a bit overwrought. Thatcher was a lower middle-class grocer's daughter with all the bitterness of those particular social animals - the Midland shopkeepers- while Cameron has that English upper-class air. That's why I can't agree with Laurens Otter's analysis below and don't believe Cameron wants to grind down the poor and if we accept Professor Robert Skidelsky's thesis it is the markets that rule us and not the government (see Financial Times: June 17th, 2010: 'Once again we must ask: "Who governs?"'). Thus the consensus across the mainstream political spectrum, even that of the Milliband brothers, is that ultimately we have to please the international bankers and investors.

The Convention of the Left was full of hopes and vain expectations, and the spirit of Mr Micawber that 'Something will turn up' to transform the situation: a Poll Tax type riot perhaps or maybe the climate camp warriors will come to our rescue? One workshop was asked to define what the 'Left' was? Mostly for most that meant 'More of the State', look at what happens when you get a downsized State – look at the USA and Katrina; but some, like a film-maker and former anarcho-punk from Hackney called Sean pointed to Detroit, where people on their own initiative are transforming the depressed city by growing crops amid the desolation. Others, like a lad formerly from Big Flame, seemed to have misgivings the 'More State' solution.

Barry Woodling, who described himself as an anarcho-syndicalist, caused a stir when he drew attention to the decision of Castro and Cuba to set about reducing the size of the workforce employed by the State: The International Herald Tribune [18/09/10] reported: '... the Cuban government's recent eye-popping announcement that it will reduce the government work force by 10% and expect the hundreds of thousands of laid-off workers to find places in a new system that has a resemblance to free enterprise.' Screams came back from old codgers declaring: 'You read the wrong papers!' Barry battled on declaring that the National Shop Stewards Network, that had held a Lobby at the TUC conference two weeks ago that featured on SKY TV, offered a radical alternative to the current stale politics of the left. Meanwhile, I'm worried that I'll lose my bus pass.

Friday, 24 September 2010


Bury Council has told its trade unions that they intend to cut take-home pay by locking staff out for 3 days without pay next Christmas. They also intend to further restrict take home pay by removing incremental progression for the next three years.

At the same time, proposed changes to the Management Board will see two senior managers benefiting from an additional £94,000 to their salaries. The Chief Executive of Bury Council, Mark Sanders, who last year denied that there had been evidence of blacklisting on the The Rock - a controversial construction site in Bury - told the Bury Times that he was resigning because he thought 'it was important that we all share in some of that pain ...' He also said he wanted to get to know his wife. He told the paper he wasn't being 'sanctimonious' and assured us 'There's no conspiracy under the surface here. There's not something going to jump out and bite you.' The locked-out workforce next Christmas may not agree!

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