Friday, 30 April 2010

Spanish Protests for Garzon & Victims of Franco

LAST SATURDAY, tens of thousands of protesters turned out on the streets of 21 Spanish towns and cities in support of Judge Baltasar Garzon, who faces suspension from the Spanish bench for having called for the opening of more than a dozen graves of people who were presumed to be Franco's victims, and for demanding the investigation of the 'crimes' of the Franco regime. By breaching the terms of a 1977 amnesty created during the transition to democracy, some magistrates argue that he overstepped his judicial mandate: in English law this would mean he acted ultra vires - beyond his powers.

Garzon's supporters claim he is being pursued by a right-wing gang, including member of the 'Fascist' Falange party and 'Manos Limpias' - a pseudo-sindicato (trade union), that have taken out writs against him. It was Garzon who, some years ago, forced the British Home Secretary, Jack Straw, to act against Pinochet in this country. His actions on behalf of the victims of Franco has divided the Spaniards. The Spanish judges are highly political, and Garzon is no exception. Last Saturday, many of the demonstrators were calling for 'Mas juces como Garzon' ('More Judges like Garzon') and 'Garzon amigo, Espanaesta contigo!' (Garzon old mate, Spain is with you!').

Famous actors and actresses, like Juan Diego Botto, Jose Sacristan, Pilar Bardem and Charo Lopez, world famous film director Pedro Almodovar, and singer, Miguel Rios, backed the protest.

This is happening at a time when the Tameside Arts & Events Department in Greater Manchester, has recently 'deferred indefinitely' an application from Tameside Trade Union Council for a commemoration for James Keogh, a local youth who was killed in Spain by Italian troops supporting General Franco over 70 years ago, while fighting in the International brigade for freedom and democracy for the Spanish people [see Northern Voices 11]. This week, the English Judge, Lord Bingham said on Radio 4's 'Start the Week' that, in his view, the best judges are those that are unknown to the public. This shows us the difference between the Spanish mentality and that of the English: the Spaniard generally is more forthright, blunter and more open than his English counterpart; the English are more reserved, hypocritical and more restrained in the way they go about things. This thought possibly encouraged Christopher Caldwell in the FT to write: 'For all its impressive progress over the past three decades, Spain remains a country with an unsettled - and, by western standards of non-partisanship and impartiality, unimpressive - judicial tradition.' And referring to Garzon, he writes: 'It is no gain for international peace when a freelancer operating in such a system is permitted to make foreign policy for a dozen European countries, all of which have a better human rights record than Spain's over the last 60 years, as Garzon was permitted to do in the Pinochet case.'

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Anthropology of British Hypocrisy

ROCHDALE EXPOSES BIGOTRY against White Working Class:

Folk on the streets of Rochdale are talking about yesterday's confrontation between Gordon Brown and Gillian Duffy over immigration and bigotry. Seldom has the clash between the white working class and the lower middle class political elite been displayed so vividly. Seldom has political hypocrisy been put so bluntly.

This morning's International Herald Tribune described it thus: 'The encounter began mildly enough when Mr Brown, who has been told by his advisors to get out and do a better job of meeting ordinary people, went walkabout among voters in the depressed community of Rochdale, outside Manchester.' But el Bruto Brown is not safe to out on the streets! Hence, guided by his handlers, he was led to meet 66-year-old Gillian Duffy, who challenged him on immigration, the main worry of the white workers of the North. Brown buttered her up before the cameras, then jumped into a waiting car to be sped away only to moan: 'That was a disaster', saying that his aides 'should never have put me with that woman ...' Whereupon, he claimed that Mrs Duffy was 'just a sort of a bigoted woman ...'

My dictionary says a 'bigot' is 'a person of strong conviction or prejudice, especially in matters of religion, race or politics, who is intolerant of those who differ from him.' Judging from Mr Brown's reaction, once in the car, that would seem to sum up his attitude and moreover, it would appear to reflect the spirit of the British political class as a whole, because politics in this country is dominated by the middle classes. They all, including much of the British left, look down on the likes of the Mrs Duffy's of this world, if the truth be known. Does the prejudice of these British middle class politicians know no bounds that they need to belittle Lancashire people and their opinions thus? God help us from the pseudo-tolerance of these educated middle class politicians.

Unite Union

The Unite Unions decision to bankroll the Labour Party to the tune of 11 million pounds in my view is the final straw. I have torn up my union card in utter revulsion at the behaviour of the Union leadership and urge all anarchists and anarcho syndicalists to evaluate the role of trade unions as a bulwark of capitalism. What conceivable purpose can be served by continuing to remain or work within such morally and politically bankrupt organisations. The time has surely come for all radicals to consider alternative forms of grass roots organisation. The trade union movement in Britain is moribund and offers no prospect of transforming society.

Barry

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

UNITE UNION THROWS '£4 Million' at LABOUR PARTY

LAST NIGHT, at a meeting at Rochdale's Catholic Club on Ann Street, addressed by Jerry Hicks - a candidate for general secretary of Unite the Union - discussing the forthcoming General Election and the plight of the trade unions, the blacklisted electrician Colin Trousdale, member of Unite, said that he had not paid his political levy for 10 years. It also emerged that it was suspected that Unite had recently paid out an estimated '£4 million' of their members' money to the Labour Party. This has not been confirmed but it is clear the union is investing millions in the Labour Party.

Jerry Hicks stated that though he did not favour disaffiliation of the union from the Labour Party, he thought the Unite should be more discriminating to whom the money was paid. MPs sympathetic to the unions should get the money. Others at the meeting, some former members, expressed disappointment in the way the Labour Party was evolving and felt that it was beyond repair: beyond saving. Concern was expressed about the lack of support from Derek Simpson, the current Unite general secretary, for the British Airways' workers, the Vestas dispute on the Isle of Wight and the conflict at Lindsey Oil Refinery last year.

Others were angry about the failure of Unite to launch an internal investigation given the clear evidence of collaboration by officers of Amicus (now merged into Unite with the T&G) in the enforcement of the blacklist in the building trade and in the identification of militants. Jerry Hicks argued that: 'The union is run like a business, not a service', claiming 'there's a massive divide between the union leadership and members.'

It was also revealed by one at the meeting that the current general secretary of Unite, Derek Simpson, a former fitter from Sheffield, had developed a taste for the good life. Not only was he ensconced with a lady, a former director of legal services for Unite, in a grace & favour home at Gerrald's Cross, but he had taken to staying at the Waldolf Hotel when in London. While there on one occassion it was reported that he complained about the towels being 'too hard' and had had them changed for something softer on the skin.

Friday, 23 April 2010

LIVING IN HOPES

The political agenda & the unions

A LETTER yesterday from the joint general secretaries of the UNITE union, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, to their members states: 'This general election is the most important since 1997', but that it is 'not a referendum on 13 years of a Labour government.' They say: 'the only choice for the union at this election is to back Labour.' They claim: 'The Tories will attack the unions on our ability to organise, our right to take industrial action and our rights at work ...' Nowhere here is there any suggestion that a Labour government will reinstate the trade union rights and freedoms that existed before Thatcher removed them in the 1980s and 90s.

Yet, two months ago in the Feb/March issue of UNITE's 'workplace Reporter', these same joint general secretaries admitted that 'Gradually [under Labour governments], the right to strike is being eroded, removing from employees one of the few weapons they have to make the bad employers see sense.' They further speculate: 'We know the Tories will do nothing to change this.' They urge: 'With Labour back in office Unite will certainly be pushing to have industrial relations taken out of the hands of the judges, and for unions to have their rights restored.'

There is no promise of restoring trade union rights in the Labour manifesto and all Simpson and Woodley could say in February was 'We believe that Labour's manifesto will offer them [positive reasons to support Labour] and will make a shift towards the values of traditional social democracy.' Gosh! At least Tony Blair had the grace to offer us something 'New' in 'New Labour'; all these general secretaries are promising is something old and 'traditional'.

The biggest weakness of the British left today is its conservatism. They who stop while society moves on will be trampled. Trade union bosses, like Simpson and Woodley, and the left in general, display a kind of wishful thinking. A recent critic of the subservience of 15 trade unions, representing 4.45 million workers, who are still affiliated to Labour has written: 'rather than take the attitude of "better the devil you know", or supporting the party whose cuts will be least, the unions together could have influenced the entire political agenda by moving the centre of gravity away from neo-liberalism ...'

Where, in all this, is any serious program for change? Where's any vision? Or any alternative agenda?

Last night's debate between the main political leaders on SKY TV sounded like a squabble between bosses over how to run a firm. Today's political leaders no longer have an ideal to work for. They are merely living on the accomplishments of their ancestors, and all that raises our spirits now is a hatred of politics and politicians. Today's trade unions [and Unite is the biggest] have a membership of about 7 million, bigger than any other voluntary organisations, but what they have in quantity they lack in quality and intellectual gravitas. Consequently, all the likes of Simpson and Woodley and others in the trade union movement can do is to live in hopes.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Purnell & Mandelson accused of a stitch-up in Stalybridge!

Since being selected as the Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for Stalybridge and Hyde (Surprise, Surprise,) Jonny Reynolds, a 29-year-old trainee solicitor, has been busily trying to put some distance between himself and his former pal James Purnell MP, who is standing down at the next election.

As we reported previously, Mr Reynolds, was initially dumped by a Labour NEC special selection panel and was not put on the original shortlist of candidates after it was claimed that he'd 'performed poorly.' Although the rules do not allow for an appeal once the panel had decided the shortlist, Lord Mandelson and Purnell demanded that Reynolds be put back on the shortlist. This has now led to charges of a stitch-up and threats of resignation from leading local Labour Party activists.

Earlier this week, Tribune quoted a local activist (who asked not to be named) as saying: "The whole process stank so much that many would-be voters wanted no part in the proceedings. Worse still, several local members plan to resign from the party following the election whatever the result. One calling the selection of Reynolds 'an absolute disgrace', says he does not want to be in a party 'led by Peter Mandleson' who many blame for forcing Reynolds on them." Tribune also reported that CLP Secretary, David Moore, is also considering his position after 25 years in the Labour Party.

'Can tha' keep a Secret?' - An old Yorkshire tale of class war, conspiracy, murder …and a nice day out! by Chris Draper

(Due to an editing error in the latest issue of Northern Voices, we've accidentally 'cropped' an article by valued contributor Chris Draper. We hope we can make up for this mistake - to both Chris and our readers - by reproducing the article in full on the blog. The introduction follows and the rest of the article can be read after the 'read more' link below)

In February 1812 at the Shears Inn, Hightown, West Yorkshire a secret meeting of working men took place in an upstairs room. The talk was of desperate measures, how could croppers defend themselves, their families and their community from the destitution wrought by the cloth masters? The men determined to stop the new shearing machines being imported into the Spen Valley. They planned an all out campaign of direct action. A campaign that would climax with an armed assault on Rawfolds Mill and a notorious attempt by the local vicar to force an injured Luddite to reveal the names of his fellow conspirators…

Northern Voices 11 - now available

The long awaited 11th issue of Northern Voices is now available. Contents include:

'Villains & Victims' - the contrasting fortunes of villainous Northern MPs (including James Purnell, Hazel Blears, Tom Levitt & Phil Woolas) and their victims such as 'regenerated' communities in Derker and Toxteth, Blacklisted workers Keaveney & Anderson & agency binmen in Bury.

'On the banks of the River Roach, Jacky Brook, Healey Dell in Rochdale & the Cheonggyecheon in Seoul' by Brian Bamford

'Leeds: Royal Park School - More Municipal Vandalism by Stealth' by John Lawrence

'Six o' Best: Northern Tea Time Treats' by Chris Draper - featuring Eccles Cakes from Salford or maybe, Hebden Bridge; Fat Rascals from Harrogate; Sad Cakes from Burnley; Chorley Cakes from North Lancs.; Bakewell Tarts from Derbyshire; Curd Tarts from the West Riding of Yorkshire; Singing Hinnies from Newcastle and Yorkshire Parkin.

'Glossop North End go to Wembley on a shoestring' by Richard Holland

'Can tha' keep a secret?: An old Yorkshire tale of class war, conspiracy, murder' by Christopher Draper; a history of Ned Ludd in the West Riding of Yorkshire (which can be read in full here).

'The Golden Days of Municipal Motoring' by Chris the Clippy on the disappearance of the North's regional buses and their unique colour schemes.

...plus much more. Also included are the usual local columns (Salford Spy, Tameside Eye), plus restaurant reviews (Sam's Chop House in Manchester and The Plate @ Backridge in the Forest of Bowland), exhibition reviews, the lively letters page, plus an obituary for Pedro Cuadrado, a Bolton local of Spanish origin, involved in the Spanish Civil War and imprisoned by the Nazis, Americans and the British in turn.

Price £1.50 [£2.00 post included] cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' obtainable from c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.

And on sale at a large number of newsagents in Greater Manchester, Rochdale, Tameside, Salford, Swinton, Eccles, Burnley and bookshops in other areas such as News From Nowhere in Liverpool, Bob's Bookshop in Oldham and Bookcase in Hebden Bridge, as well as The Cornerhouse and People's History Museum in Manchester. Northern Voices is also on sale in Glossop at Bay Tree BooksGeorge Street Books and Bestsellers in the Market Arcade.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Hegel or Wittgenstein: The Patria Chica & its enemies

NORTHERN VOICES 11, out next week, features a clash involving Eccles Cakes, Curd Tarts & Yorkshire Rascals over a philosophical point made by Ludwig Wittgenstein who said to his friend Maurice Drury (see Ray Monk's autobiography: 'Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius') that 'Hegel seems to me to be always wanting to say that things which look different are really the same ... Whereas my interest is in showing that things which look the same are really different.' Wittgenstien was, like Tolstoy a critic of Shakespeare, yet he was considering embellishing one of his philosophical books with the motto taken from a phrase the Earl of Kent uses in 'King Lear' (Act 1, scene iv): 'I will teach you differences'. Ray Monk writes of Wittgenstein: 'His concern was to stress life's irreducible variety'. The opening editorial in Northern Voices 1 backed Wittgenstein's view over that of Hegel.

In a letter to NV10 our Midland correspondent, Rachel Whittaker wrote: 'Do we not seek to exploit the common thread of humanity or is our idea of equality based on the idea that some geographical locations make you more friendly, more reserved, or even more anarchist, than others?' Well, if Rachel is right to argue against geographical locations and the variety of human peculiarities that go with them, then how do we explain the flowering of something so anthropologically strange as anarchism occurring in Andalucia or anarcho-syndicalism in Barcelona and Catalonia in the 20th Century? How do we explain Makhno and Zapata in the Ukraine and Mexico? All of these movements had strong elements of the patria chica, and the cultural and regional diversity that goes with it.

One solution may be thought to be Colin Ward's analysis of universal anarchism suggesting that anarchism, far from being anthropologically strange, is really commonplace and can be found all over the show in many social settings, as the seed beneath the snow. And yet, even this doesn't necessarily support the homogenious 'common thread' position as proposed by Rachel Whittaker, because examples of Colin Ward's micro-anarchism, just as much as the macro-anarchism of Spain, Mexico and the Ukraine, all have their own diversity and 'irreducible variety'.

With these things in mind NV11 goes in search of the NORTHERN STOMACH as represented in Chris Draper's 'Six O' Best Northern Tea Time Treats', asking how for instance, does it differ from a Spanish Stomach or a Southern Stomach, and are we betraying our northern souls as well as our stomachs by enjoying ethnic cuisine and foreign food?

Saturday, 10 April 2010

BRADFORD ANARCHIST BOOKFAIR

TODAY the Bradford bookfair took place at the 1-in-12, with about seven stalls including Bob Jones' Northern Herald Books; the Cunningham Amendment & Anarchist Voices; AK Press; SolFed; AF; Antifa; Northern Voices & Northern Anarchist Network. A good response and atmosphere: sales bucked-up in the afternoon with NV going well and the Spanish memorabilia doing best. A flyer was distributed advertising the prospect of a forthcoming NAN at the 1-in-12 in June.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Who ordered bin men back to Bradley Fold?

Binmen escape from unsafe waggon - the photos here are of a Bury MBC bin waggon that burnt out on Wednesday 23rd, March on Stand Street in Radcliffe, while returning to the Bradley Fold Depot in Bury. It was staffed by a team of 3 agency workers who had been ordered to return to the Depot despite a dangerous oil leak on the vehicle. The driver noticed the oil leak while at the Salford tip & contacted the Bradley Fold Depot several times for advice. It is said that at that stage the oil was running onto the exhaust pipe. None-the-less the driver was instructed to return to Bradley Fold at least 10 miles away: a garage that has done repairs on Bury MBC vehicles is situated near the Salford tip.

On the way back, it seems the brakes failed while in Radcliffe apparently because of damage due to the leak: the driver did the best he could and swerved so that the wheels rubbed against the kerb and the waggon slowed down so that the 3 men in the cab were able to jump clear before the vehicle burst into flame. It is not known why the agency workers were told to drive back to base, but members of the UNITE union suspect that pressure is being put on both employees and their supervisors to rush to finish their work. This means serious risks are being taken.

Last week, Bury MBC told the Bury Times that an investigation is being conducted into the incident.


Friday, 2 April 2010

NAN Conference

The NAN Conference held in Burnley on March 27 was particularly successful with a good geographical spread from Wellington in Shropshire to York. The discussions were both stimulating and far reaching covering a range of issues including electoral politics and freedom of speech.

It was also agreed that the NAN and the newly formed Yorkshire Anarchist Group should hold a joint conference at the 1 in 12 Club in June. There is clear evidence that the anarchist movement in the North is growing in strength with 2 further anarchist bookfairs planned in Bradford and Sheffield.

Barry Woodling