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 r.r.darlington@salford.ac.uk website: www.business.salford.ac.uk/mirs


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:

THEME: DO THE ANARCHISTS HAVE AN ANSWER TO THE ECONOMIC CRISIS?

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 theredferninquiry.co.uk

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 Justhost.com 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

WE`RE ALL IN IT TOGETHER!



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

OLDHAM MP MICHAEL MEACHER STICKS UP FOR WOOLAS:
(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

WOOLAS SUSPENDED BY LABOUR PARTY!


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 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:

THEME: DO THE ANARCHISTS HAVE AN ANSWER TO THE ECONOMIC CRISIS?

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.