Monday, 31 January 2011

Blacklisted worker Colin Trousdale calls on Unite the Union to 'name the names'

Activist Committee member condemns blacklist collaborators

A Unite Executive Council Report dated 30th Nov - 2nd December 2010 includes a minute entitled: Blacklisting Investigation (Unite Officers):
"Assistant General Secretary Paul Talbot, Head of Legal, reported that of the 5 (Unite) officers so far identified, only one is worthy of further investigation. Joint General Secretary Tony Woodley asked Paul Talbot to carry out further investigation.
"It was reported that Jim Simms of Beaver Management Services Limited (BMSL) had made statements that union officers were complicit in the Blacklisting of members, one at a public meeting during the TUC (Conference) week and another under oath at a Tribunal. Joint General Secretary Derek Simpson said the Legal Department would write to Mr Simms asking him to substantiate these remarks or refrain from making them in future."
Mr Simms is not the first employer to raise concerns about the role of former Amicus union officials in the use of the blacklist in the British construction industry; Alan Wainwright, in 2004 a Regional Production & Resources manager for Haden Young a subsidiary of Balfour Beatty PLC, began a whistle blowing campaign against blacklisting in the construction industry. In a letter in 2006, he expressed doubts about an Amicus official in the Midlands and he wrote to Derek Simpson, then the General Secretary of Amicus: 'I cannot believe that after over nine months now being in possession of the blacklisting information, that this union is not asking Balfour Kilpatrick why the lists (blacklists?) of names were forwarded .... and .... circulated ....' On the 6th, July 2006, Mr Wainwright in a letter to Derek Simpson wrote: 'I therefore do hope that you will now take this opportunity to take a more proactive approach to establishing the true facts from your staff and more importantly, take action to ensure the matter is fully investigated and eradicated from the industry for good.' It seems that despite Mr Wainwright's best efforts that we are still awaiting the Utopian dream of a blacklist-free construction industry and if Derek Simpson has his way the union renegades who helped enforce the blacklist will get off scot-free.

Speaking in a personal capacity, blacklisted worker Colin Trousdale, a member of the Unite Manchester Area Activist Committee said 'It appears to me that these officers will go unpunished if it is left up to the hierarchy of the union both past and present! We must continue with our endeavours to unmask these wretches and make them face the wrath of their victims if nothing else. I have seen three comrades go to the grave without the chance of clearing their name or at least having the knowledge of who in our union betrayed them, I will not go to mine without justice for them and myself.' 

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Tell Tale Tommy Tit!

Tommy Sheridan sent down for 3 years!
Yesterday, Tommy Sheridan, the Scottish socialist with a passion for Swinton's sunbeds, was sentenced 3 years for perjury. This is the latest chapter in a sorry affair that has seen Tommy's supporters accuse some of his former Scottish Socialist Party mates of conspiring in a 'vendetta' with the police and the News of the World to jail him. Yet the case against Tommy is detailed and the charge sheet can't easily be dismissed as 'trumped up' when all of it seems to relate to specifics in the original defamation trial including the claims that he and other attended Cupid's Healthclub, 13-17, Sutherland Street, Swinton, Manchester on two occasions in 1996 and 2002.

One charge reads: 'the truth being as you well knew, that on 9th, November 2004 at the Executive Committee meeting of the Scottish Socialist Party held at 70, Stanley Street, Glasgow, you did admit to attending said Cupid's in Manchester (sic) on two occasions in 1996 and 2002 and that you had visited said club with said Anvar Begum Khan'.

Despite this, Tommy's solicitor has said he will appeal against the conviction and would start legal proceedings against News International - the owner of the News of the World - the Metropolitan Police and Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator jailed for hacking mobile phones for the paper.

However, many on the left have had their doubts about Tommy Sheridan since the days of the poll tax, when he denounced those who fought the police in the mass riot against the poll tax in London - which took place on 31 March 1990. That was the day before the tax was introduced in England and Wales. Shockingly Tommy on that occasion publicly threatened to "name names". The police had widely advertised for people to tell them the names of alleged rioters, and partly as a result of police acting on such information, and as a result over 100 individuals were jailed. One tweet yesterday reminded Tommy: 'What goes around comes around'.

There is something about these people on the British authoritarian left in parties like the Socialist Party and Militant - the mentality of the schoolmistress, the classroom creep and the tell tail tit.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


This excellent video has been put together by the Blacklisting Support Group. It shows how over forty scumbag construction companies were exposed as serial blacklisters when the offices of the 'Consulting Association' were raided by staff from the Information Commissioners Office who enforce the Data Protection Act. Despite changes to legislation and government intervention, the video shows how companies continue to blacklist workers with impunity. Well worth watching.

Monday, 24 January 2011

'Eat me! Eat Us All! Eat Thyself!' and at that the Superannuated Schoolmistress bit his head off!

SELDOM since Goya painted 'Saturn Devouring His Son' in his series 'Pinturas Negras', has there been a more graphic illustration of self-destructive nature as that displayed at last Saturday's National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) Conference near Euston Station in London. Socialist Party prophetess, Linda Taaffe, had first proclaimed her party's controversial proposal for an 'All Britain Anti Cuts Campaign' promoting anti-cuts candidates at elections and setting up a 'Committee of 10' at last December's NSSN Steering Committee Meeting. Only her Socialist Party members backed this proposal during that long vexatious afternoon.

Marx has been described as 'the Machiavelli of the proletariat'. In his book 'School for Dictators' the Italian novelist, Ignazio Silone, wrote: 'In our own time, Marx - with different means and different intentions - fulfilled the same function as Machiavelli in the 1500's: he tried to clarify the real workings of capitalist society of his time, freeing it from the veils of German idealistic philosophy and of French humanitarianism.' Does the Socialist Party's desire to put local councillors on the spot by urging them to declare illegal budgets do anything to 'clarify the real workings of capitalist society of [our] time'?  Linda Taaffe may tell us - from her vast experience of the Poll Tax - that Getting councillors to do this, in the language of the schoolyard, is 'Easy-Peasy'.

Last Saturday, Linda Taaffe, a superannuated schoolmistress at the head of the Socialist Party, with high-pitch emotion moved her proposal at the NSSN Conference that she had hitherto described as 'Higgledy-Piggledy' but was now rewritten and tarted-up to exclude the former 'All Britain - Uber Alles' content and any reference to back anti-cuts candidates and thereby not to offend the anarchists or anarcho-syndicalists in the NSSN who Linda seemed to want to court against the SWP. Of the syndicalists the Socialist Party said they regarded them 'as mostly genuine in their arguments'. The SWP they claimed were self-serving in their opposition.

The Chair of the NSSN, Dave Chapple, a long term trade unionist and revolutionary syndicalist, had already made his position clear in his response to a complaint about his chairmanship at the NSSN Steering Committee: in a charge from a Socialist Party member that because of his conduct he was 'unfit to chair' the NSSN meetings and should stand down; Dave had retorted that this was a brilliant idea but 'Why stop at me?' Why not dispose of all the 17 members of the Steering Committee, including the Deputy Chair and Treasurer, who opposed the Socialist Party proposal and then the Socialist Party would have a free run without the vexed problem of having to persuade others of syndicalist and Marxist ilk? Dave Chapple was saying 'Eat Me! Eat Us All! Eat Thyself!' and that is what the Socialist Party, in its wisdom, did last Saturday afternoon. While the Socialist Party clearly lacks prudence in this respect one must wonder about some of the union officials who encouraged them in this endeavour.

Thursday, 20 January 2011


A leaked report into Tameside Hospital which has been seen by Northern Voices and which has been sent to the Secretary of State for Public Health, Andrew Lansley, has condemned Tameside Hospital management for lacking capability and for failing to provide leadership and integrated governance.

The report written by Milton Pena, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the hospital since 1997 and Chairman of the Senior Medical Staff Committee (SMSC) also accuses hospital management of putting finance and performance before the safety and care of its patients.

Between 2002-2009 Tameside Hospital was one of the worst 10-20 performing NHS Trusts in England for mortality, out of 153 NHS Trusts. In 2003, Mr. Pena reported the hospital to the Commission for Health Improvement and in 2005, he reported the hospital to the Health Commission. In 2005, Tameside Hospital management took disciplinary action against him for speaking out publicly about his concerns for patient safety. The author of the report says that the reasons for contacting these external organisations was mainly because of unsafe care to patients due to poor nursing staffing levels in the orthopaedic wards. As Chairman of the SMSC, he also reported the hospital to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in August 2009.

Although the hospital has been keen to publicise the fact that they have reduced the Hospital Standard Mortality Rate (HSMR) i.e the death rate as compared with the average hospital, the report points out that it is reasonable to conclude that this improvement in the figure may be due to changing the coding process rather than any improvements in clinical and nursing care. The report says that while the Trust Board reported on 30th September 2010 that:
"It is clear that clinical documentation and coding have played the largest part in the reduction seen", the hospital`s Medical Director, had nevertheless stated that the recent improvement in the HSMR was due to improvements in care. To add to this confusion, the report says that after the Board meeting on 30th September, 'Team Brief' reported that: "It is clear that documentation and coding have played the largest part in the reduction seen".
In his report Mr. Pena, says that: "This ambiguity shows lack of clarity in the collective thinking of the Tameside Hospital Foundation Trust (THFT), the Medical Director, has failed to show what steps were undertaken by the Trust Board to improve the HSMR for acute myocardial infarction, stroke and broken hips".

The report says that a review of contemporary adult deaths at the hospital was carried out by a consultant paediatrician and adds: "This is worrying because he is outside his area of expertise".

According to the report there has been a collapse of the bed management system at Tameside Hospital. There is a persistent failure to admit patients to the right bed and the right consultant with patients being distributed arbitrarily to the next available beds. The reports says that due to a lack of bed capacity some patients have to wait many hours or sometimes the whole night waiting for a bed while sitting on chairs or lying on trolleys with drips etc. Some patients find that while in theatre having operations, their bed has been taken by another patient. Patients with infections are admitted onto medical and surgical wards exposing other patients to the risk of infections. Patients admitted to hospital for operations often find that no bed is available and have to wait until a hot bed is vacated. The report says that the lack of bed capacity may be a significant factor in spreading infections as patients move from ward to ward. Also, the lack of beds has led to the current practice of sending patients with fractures and needing admission to A&E to their homes to wait for an operation. The report says this can make subsequent operations more difficult as the bones begin to set in the wrong position.

The report accuses the Trust Board of failing to recognise the serious nature of complaints raised by patients over the years. The report says that since 2003, there has been a failure to provide safe levels of nursing care during many shifts in medical, geriatric, surgical, orthopaedic and A&E wards. It also says that the Trust Board: "has been oblivious to an embedded culture of bullying and intimidation that pervades the Trust". Apparently, hospital employees are not allowed to ask critical questions at the open forum and there is a tendency to hide facts from the public and media.The report says that there is low staff morale and a failure to retain skilled doctors and nurses. Consultants have left mainly due to dissatisfaction with working conditions.

The report also says that the Chairman of the Board, the Rev Tim Presswood, has failed to put important reports on the agenda for discussion such as a report by the Royal College of Physicians in 2009; a report by the Deanery in May 2010 and the Junior Doctors Charter. It points out that a report by the consultants Korn/Ferry/Whitehead Mann, said that the Board were not discussing urgent clinical matters in depth and not conducting rigorous debate on key issues. The Chairman and CEO of the hospital Christine Green, were also said to lack the leadership qualities required. Mr. Prestwood`s response (he receives £44,000 p.a, for a minimum three day week) was to tell the press that he was no Alan Sugar but would take note of what was said in the report.

We understand that a copy of Mr. Pena`s report has been forwarded by the Secretary of State for Public Health to the Regulator Monitor.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A Question of Degrees? by Rachel Whittaker

Image: copyright Alice Light
This is the text of the talk given by Rachel Whittaker at the Bolton NAN last December. Reflecting on her own experiences of the education system, Rachel argues that the problem with education goes far beyond the currently contested issues of fees.

Maybe I’m not the right person to be standing here giving this talk today. I’m no longer a student and the very fact that I’m discussing this in a cosy meeting room instead of getting my ass into gear to make it to at least one of today’s protests might damage my arguments somewhat. On the other hand, my general experiences as an activist and, for the last three years, as student have given me some insight into the general state of higher education and I believe that this issue goes much deeper than tuition fees.

I’m happy when I hear student activists making it clear that they are seeking to forge links with other groups opposing the slash and burn policies of the Con-Dem coalition but I think some important aspects are being overlooked in their own campaign, which, as education is surely at the heart of any fledgling revolutionary movement, have a major impact elsewhere.

I attended the University of Wolverhampton, which, according to the Times Education Supplement is (as of 2009) the only university in Britain where the majority of undergraduates come from working class homes and where 1 in 5 students are from areas with low participation in higher education. Its research record, however, shows that research is mainly applied and largely serves the needs of business and industry.

In fact, the university likes nothing more than to brag about its connections with business and throws various large numbers into the mix in terms of the funding this has achieved. And yet, in 2009/2010 it sought and achieved 150 voluntary redundancies from amongst support staff, cut a large number of study modules and moved to a more prescribed system of study where, in some cases, the student was offered no choice of subjects whatsoever. In some of my subject modules, the library contained one copy of the set text for an entire class.

In terms of its actual performance, the university is more difficult to pin down. I found most of the lecturers to be approachable, generally in the students’ corner and in some cases, genuinely inspirational, but the wider system of hierarchies and bureaucracy seemed to operate as it wished with no recourse to anyone, students or lecturing and support staff. In more official terms, the university reports high approval levels in student satisfaction surveys and it was highly commended for its academic quality and standards by the QAA after an official inspection in April 2009. By contrast, it was ranked 102nd out of 114 institutions in The Times Good University Guide 2010 and, perhaps to its credit, no longer participates in private league tables, believing them to disadvantage universities of its type.

I did meet a number of open-minded lecturers who encouraged me to plough my own furrow in terms of my studies but others made me feel like a kind of lovable maverick to be patronisingly indulged. “Oooh, we had another anarchist once” was the eager response from one lecturer but he was decidedly less enthused when my participation in class discussions was not the kind of participation that his traditionally Marxist view of education allowed for. I didn’t fare much better amongst my fellow students and whilst I was hardly expecting a hotbed of anarchism, the university’s infamous ‘hard left’ presence in the 1980s being almost entirely rooted in the Militant Tendency and other Trot manifestations, I wasn’t expecting this either: “You’re always talking about capitalism, I don’t even know what it is”. Hardly any of the students I encountered envisaged their university experience as one of freedom and learning for its own sake, most having their eyes set on achieving entry into the job market at a slightly higher level than their non-degree wielding contemporaries or simply avoiding the job market in the short term.

When you couple this with an academic structure that prompts a second-year history degree student to complain: “On no, not the French Revolution AGAIN, I just don’t understand why it’s so important” and I tell you that a majority of MY fellow students treated lectures as a chance to sit and whisper excitedly about their latest mobile phone, you might ask what kind of students have actually been taking to the streets over tuition fees? If the idea of paying to be educated actually meets least resistance in universities where a majority of students are least equipped to pay, perhaps Nick Clegg is right and the protests really will put working class people from going to university.

I worked part-time while I was at university and even with my partner working, I still had to take on student debt to the tune of £15,000 and compared to what might come, I can probably feel that I ‘got off lightly’. I don’t intend to ever pay it back because I don’t intend to ever earn enough money to do so, in fact, I didn’t go to university to improve my career prospects or even because I felt that I needed a degree to prove myself - but because it was supposed to be an opportunity for expanding my mind, learning and engaging with others in an open and nurturing environment. Perhaps I would have been better served trying to achieve this in my everyday life via collective projects with fellow anarchists but the supposed access to resources promised and in some cases actually provided by the university environment proved seductive nonetheless.

Of course, there are more institutions to consider here than the University of Wolverhampton and some will certainly nurture a more radical environment than I have experienced. On the other hand, it is also to be noted that many such institutions will have attracted students precisely because they have this reputation. Preaching to the converted, either at an institutional level or via high-brow libertarian ghettos like the Anarchist Studies Network doesn’t address the wider system taking hold at Wolverhampton and elsewhere, whereby the student is merely another capitalist commodity and is expected to be grateful for being shaped into such.

A fellow student of mine had been promised a management position at Asda if she got a degree, they didn’t care in what, just as long as she got a degree. Nor was her faith in this as something to be grateful for shaken by some of the reasonably vigorous critiques of capitalism, corporations and big business that cropped up during our three-year course. In fact, she was one of many who dutifully avoided ‘thinking outside the box’ to produce a degree according to Simon Schama and Andrew Marr and here it is evident that even when individual lecturers provide students with alternative viewpoints, they either fear to take them up because it will jeopardise their future plans, or they see them as abstract and difficult concepts best left to others.

Back in October, some business leader or another was asked on Radio 4’s Today Programme if he thought that those businesses who insist that job applicants be educated to degree level should be the ones providing the funding demanded of students. His reply was that business gives enough by providing the jobs in the first place, an argument of debatable validity in any case. Ultimately, though, the corporate world is not just providing jobs they are controlling the university system with sponsorship, apprenticeships and other investment in their own interests thinly disguised as philanthropy. Students are the asked to pay for the privilege of being brainwashed.

Even where my lecturers did provide alternative points of view, the university itself was complicit in tacitly discrediting them and although much is made of the university achieving benchmarks of ‘compassionate capitalism’ like fair trade status, this actually equated to a few varieties of tea, coffee and snacks in the various canteens, all completely lost in the mass presence of Coca Cola and other corporate giants. Students aren’t even provided with free drinking water and despite my persistent badgering in this regard, the overall response was that in terms of cost, popularity and fringe benefits for the university, Coca Cola wins hand down.

When you add this to corporations like Asda demanding any kind of degree for their management training, it’s clear that this is a symbiotic system between business, government and finance which encourages the early establishment of debt on the basis of a brighter future that doesn’t actually exist. Your so-called ‘better job’ is ostensibly to fund a mortgage and other consumption-driven debts, and with old-age no longer a time of rest and reflection after a lifetime of wage slaving, this system, whether under Labour, the Tories or the Coalition, will never be one of cradle-to-grave care, it will always be about cradle-to-crave servitude.

Some might argue that I am ignoring the potential for wider student radicalisation thrown up by the recent tuition fees debate but why should it always be the lot of radicals that they must wait for times of widespread social disaster to gain a hearing, let alone widespread support. If we don’t do something to break this cycle, we are becoming just as much part of the ‘boom and bust’ mentality as the capitalists and surely this starts with demanding education that is not only free in monetary terms but free from the kind of sinister social grooming employed by capitalist and Marxist alike.

It is easy to confuse long-term radical solutions with militant knee-jerk reactions and the danger here is that ‘right to work’ and ‘right to study’ protests in the coming months and years will remain couched in what is ultimately the right to achieve access to the limited perqs of capitalism. Even in setting themselves up as the vanguard of resistance to tuition fees, the NUS has taken a moderate line, promising to fight the issue at the ballot box and, as we have seen, labelling any deviation from the kind of protest that files through the streets chanting slogans as ‘despicable’.

I think we need to focus not on the left/right divide in education, or even elitism vs. equality, but on the difference between authoritarian and libertarian education. Let’s face it, as anarchists, we’re never going to be flavour of the month in any curriculum, left or right, and whilst bonfires in Parliament Square might express intent, they don’t say much about the alternatives we have to offer. In this room alone, there’s probably hundreds of years of collective experience and knowledge in areas more diverse than a three-year degree course could ever hope to cover and perhaps the really subversive thing to do here is to actually share our knowledge rather than just claiming to be the enlightened few. Of course, we’ll still have to fight eventually, governments and vanguards are even less likely to let anarchists go un-demonised and unmolested if they are street speakers, independent publishers and ‘plebs colleges’ promoting anarchy in the truest sense of the word.

I’ve heard the recent student protests described as a revival of the left and Ian Bone tells me that they’ll be a revolution by Christmas or, at least, by the time of the royal nuptials next April. Meanwhile, I expect the Socialist Worker Party are thinking all their Christmases have come at once, fond as they are finding impressionable and outraged youth in their collective stocking. But let’s not get caught up in assuming that a majority recognise us as different from the SWP, who thought it pertinent to censor the main thrust of their protest banners, obscuring the rallying cry of ‘Fuck Fees’ with strategically placed asterisks. I’m not sure if setting fires and smashing windows achieves anything more but it certainly sets out our stall as those who don’t want to be told what to do, how to learn and what to pay for it by anyone, let alone how we should protest if we don’t like it.

As Lenny Bruce would surely remind us, if you take away the right to say fuck, you take away the right to say fuck the government.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Northern Voices 12 - Out now

Spying in the North & beyond:
Northern Voices 12 kicks-off with a topical story on state sponsored snooping. Derek Pattison looks at the well-paid agencies that spend their time infiltrating peaceful protest groups and compiling data on innocent folk. Recent reports in The Guardian newspaper say this includes joining the Clown Army, collecting data on innocent folk, as well as leading Climate Camp demos; these seemingly stop-at-nothing spies even sleep with the enemy in the cause of surveillance. According to this report protesters were held overnight at Oldham Police Station and a member of the Manchester Anarchist Federation was ‘quizzed’ by the police in 2009: yet despite repeated requests by NV this robust anarchist has relentlessly refused to talk to us about this.

Kiddie fiddling in Rochdale:
NV12 features a survey of the political life of the controversial northern politician from Rochdale, Cyril Smith, in which a former editor of RAP (Rochdale Alternative Paper) disputes a report in the Rochdale Observer last September, quoting Cyril’s brother saying that the allegations of Cyril's improper treatment of boys in his care in the 1960s had been ‘disproved'. NV12 also covers Sir Cyril Smith's relations with the local asbestos trade and contacts a solicitor involved in the notorious Stefan Kiszko case. Sir Cyril Smith died on the 3rd, September 2010; there were many tributes but some criticisms.

Manchester Matador Interview:
Former butcher’s boy Frank Evans went from a Salford slum to make his name in the bullrings of Spain and Latin America. Now in his late 60’s, he talks to Northern Voices about the place of bullfighting in Spanish life and the attitude of Spaniards to him as a northern English lad; he considers his future and that of bullfighting in the current credit crisis in Spain.

Reports on Council finances in Salford; Tesco’s corporate connivance in Tameside – is this more shades of Pathfinder & ‘renewal of the North’ with Tesco Towns; plus Salford Spy and Tameside Eye.

A Bit on the Side:
Art reports with an exclusive interview with Burnley artist, Liam Spencer, about the work of the Lancashire impressionist - 'winkling out gems from unlikely sources' - now showing at Rochdale’s Touchstone Gallery, and a retrospective review of last year's Picasso Peace & Freedom Exhibition at the Liverpool Tate. Chris Draper – NV’s lad in the back row - gives us his ‘Six o’the Best’ Northern films and he offers a controversial review of Howard Brenton’s newly adapted play of Robert Tressell’s book ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists at the Liverpool Everyman. Also a review of the latest volume of Geordie pitman Dave Douglass’s autobiography.

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 The Oakwood public house.

Sunday, 16 January 2011


Dukinfield councillor John Taylor (pictured above), the Deputy Labour Leader of Tameside Council in Greater Manchester, loves to vent his spleen in his weekly letter to his local rag the Tameside Reporter. So numerous are his letters that many local people have nicknamed the paper the 'Taylor Times'.

This former welder and keen Manchester City fan known locally as 'Wag' Taylor (an epithet he acquired owing to his rare attendance at school), dislikes the Human Rights Act(brought in by New Labour Home Secretary Jack Straw),benefit cheats, fireworks,and illegal immigrants. He also is in favour of national identity cards and is a huge fan of the deviant performance artist Ms. Vicky Leyton, better known as 'Sticky Vicky' the vaginal magician.

Several years ago after returning from holiday in Benidorm, councillor Taylor, (the then Chair of Tameside Social Services) took up his pen and doggedly wrote to the 'Taylor Times' (sorry the Tameside Reporter) and said:

"I was on holiday last week in Spain, in a place called Benidorm, where they have a famous local act, a lady called Vicky Leyton, known as 'Sticky Vicky'. She would go down a bomb in Staly Vegas" aka Stalybridge.(see Northern voices 7).

More recently councillor Taylor has turned his mind to more weightier matters such as dog fouling and dog control orders as well as alleygating. He has become something of a hate figure among some local dog owners who recently organised a demonstration in a local park, in opposition to the restrictions placed on dogs and their owners such as the requirement to have maximum lead length of two metres.

Although a Labour councillor, councillor Taylor`s political views would not be out of place in the columns of the Daily Malice, sorry, the Daily Mail. Like the Daily Mail, he also detests the Human Rights Act. Last December (2010) he wrote in the Reporter: "The human rights act is an act that protects criminals and terrorists. We do not need this act in Great Britain." Last February (2010) he was pictured in the same paper proudly displaying his newly purchased ID card. He told the paper:

"From what I understand, people who come to this country, whether they are immigrants or asylum seekers - have to have one of these ID cards - and so they should. If people come to this country and don`t get an ID card I would want to know why...People always bring up the Big Brother stuff but I don't have a problem with that, it is there to look after you...ID cards, CCTV and surveillance are all making things safer - It`s just part of everyday life...Get used to it."

Amazingly,despite his right-wing reactionary views and his penchant for banning things, two years ago, councillor Taylor, claimed that he`d received death threats after being posted on the fascist website 'Redwatch'. Some people have suggested that politically he has far more in common with those on the far right than he realises.

Friday, 7 January 2011

James Pinkerton obituary

From Freedom #6315 (27th July 2002)

One of the most brilliant anarchist intellectuals in the north of England died in March. James Pinkerton, secretary of the Syndicalist Workers' Federation (SWF) until 1963, had been involved in anarchism when he came out of the army not long after the Second World War.  He'd stumbled on some anarchist speakers at London's Speakers' Corner while on a visit to the opera.  After that, he and his friend Jack McPhearson set up the Dukinfield Anarchist Group north of Manchester.

Although they were both opera lovers and played musical instruments - Jack was an excellent pianist and Jim played the cello - they were unimpressed by English middle class pretensions.  Ken Hawkes, the leading figure in the SWF, called them 'the musical anarchists'.

Both lived in council houses up to the end of their lives and both considered it best to belong to the working class.  When, in recent times, a friend of Jim's who'd become middle class said 'there's nowt better than being working class', Jim said he understood perfectly how he felt. 'The English middle class live in a no-man's land', he said.  There was a paradox, of course.  Here was a man living in a council house, playing the cello and deafening the neighbours with his treasured collection of records, which he blasted out daily from powerful speakers, his pantry full of the best Burgundy and clarets and a library of books to rival the contents of the Hay-on-Wye literary festival.  Many's the day he'd insist on playing Caruso, Nelly Melba, Alfredo Kraus or a Zarzuela from Spain, before we went down to the Trades Council meeting in Ashton town centre.

This paradox of the English social classes in the north was brought home to us when Jim was on his deathbed and unable to talk.   A Manchester book dealer, who'd befriended Jim in his later years, left his business card with a neighbour. For an anarchist this would be unseemly.  But a business card has a certain magic it would take a Balzac to explain.

The book dealer was given the key and, while creaming off the first editions, noticed letters written by Brian Bamford from Franco's Spain.  It looks like the main body of anarchist archive material went to the tip with Jim's prize collection of records, simply because English working class people don't understand these things.

Competing with the bourgeoisie

Brian remembers that in the 1960s his mother was donkey-stoning the doorstep when an anarchist friend turned up and, because of that and his middle class accent, she took an instant dislike to him. Even when Jim was best man at Brian's wedding, he said he felt uncomfortable with Brian's father and left early.  Brian reckons his father thought Jim was leading him astray, sending him to Spain to fight the Franco regime.

Stuart Christie said that, at the time of his trial in Madrid, his mother turned up and bumped into fellow anarchist prisoner Fernando Carballo.  'I introduced my mother to Fernando, who was handcuffed to my wrist.  I could not help but feel that she believed he was the evil monster who had lured her boy into this mess'.

It was the same at Jim's funeral.  His relatives were polite, but there was an air of distrust about the anarchist contingent, the healthy distrust all English people have for politicians of all kinds.  The irony of it all would have tickled Jim.

Once, when asked at a wine tasting if he was 'in the trade', Jim responded typically.  'No', he said. 'I'm that rare thing, a working class wine drinker'.  And even in his drinking, he had a contempt for the English middle classes, saying he was reluctant to buy his wine from supermarkets 'because the middle class have a cut-off price of about £9 a bottle'.

That was about ten years ago, but as he poured a glass for Brian in the 1960s he said, 'you know, we're not aping the bourgeoisie, we're competing with them'.  Anyone who could wean former Dukinfield refuse collector and Trades Council anarchist Derek Pattison from beer and savoury ducks to fine wines, pheasant, partridge and wood pigeon must be quite remarkable.

Despite his love of the English working class, on one occasion Brian mentioned that Vernon Richards, former editor of Freedom and another music lover, was Italian. Jim replied that he would most liked to have been a member of the Italian middle class.  That was the class he most envied, and this comment was obviously associated with his passion for Verdi and Italian opera. When he was lying on his deathbed,  Derek and Brian went with Harold Sculthorpe to put headphones on Jim to play him Verdi and Puccini.

Politically he identified with the Spaniards and the Anarchist Federation of Britain, which later became the SWF.   At the time of the split within the British anarchist movement, he sided with them against the then Freedom Press Group.  His feeling, as we understood it, was that Freedom Press was too remote and aloof from ordinary people.

He thought that Freedom in the 1960s had a good position on civil liberties and that, under Vernon Richards's editorship, it was 'a good bedside read'.  But he felt it lacked a grasp of the economic and social conditions of everyday life.  For him, it was never a paper that could become part of a movement as the Spanish anarchist papers had become.

He admired the Spanish anarchists politically and socially, even if he was drawn to the Italians culturally.  In June last year, after we'd had some Spaniards from the CGT round to his house, he remarked that 'we English are like shrivelled-up prunes compared to the Spaniards'.  He clearly took a dim view of the English anarchist movement.

Jim resigned as national secretary of the SWF in 1963, at a time when the peace movement was in ferment. Many young people were joining the anarchist movement, and some had gone into the SWF. While he was happy to see the numbers increase, he said that not many of the newcomers were workers.

In the 1950s he'd translated the SWF pamphlet Communist Terror in Bulgaria from French and, with Jack McPhearson from Dukinfield and Julian Pilling from Burnley, had gone on to reproduce Direct Action as a propaganda sheet on a flat-bed duplicator.  He'd been treasurer of Northern Industrial Action, a group of libertarians including anarcho-syndicalists from the SWF, people from the old Solidarity Group, the Independent Labour Party and miscellaneous anarchists.  This group, formed in Manchester around 1962, was the North's answer to the National Rank and File Movement. He attended meetings of the reformed Manchester Anarchist Group from 1964, as well as the 1965 SWF conference. He also wrote for Freedom on the anarchist movement in Manchester.

Adviser to apprentices

He was an adviser to the engineering apprentices in Rochdale when they put out their paper, Progress, in 1960.  This was in the wake of the national apprentices' strike for improvements in wages and conditions in May that year.  He also assisted with the production of Industrial Youth (IY), which came out during the engineering apprentices' strikes of 1964 and 1965. This paper was supported by the Manchester Apprentice Wages & Conditions Committee during the dispute, and continued as a publication for apprentices until late 1966.

Jim was named at the time by the Economic League, an organisation of bosses' informers, as someone implicated in the apprentice's paper.  One employer circularised the Economic League's findings to its apprentices, warning them of anarchist involvement.

In 1970, Jim attended the trials that followed the Arrow Mill strike at Rochdale, where the police had been brought in to break up a sit-down strike of Asian workers.  An anarchist had been arrested for actions that took place on the premises during the dispute.  After the strike and the trials, he backed the Campaign for Shop Stewards in Textiles in Oldham, Shaw and Rochdale, which had Asian and anarchist involvement. It was during this campaign that he first met then mill operative Bob Lees.

Later in the 1970s, he was involved with the North West Workers' Alliance which used to meet in Oldham.  This was an anarcho-syndicalist body which was associated with the SWF.  A copytaker on several newspapers in Manchester, he was an active trade unionist in NATSOPA and SOGAT and Father of the Chapel on the Daily Herald and the Sunday People.

Most people outside the North West won't have heard of Jimmy Pinkerton. That's because he was never a prolific writer or regular public speaker. He despised oratory.  He was really a Socrates of the north of England, who stimulated those with whom he came into contact.  Not just with wine and music, but with his intellectual rigour and the breadth of his ideas.

He'd left school at 14 and was near enough self-taught but we, who've done our stints on the treadmills of the universities, have seldom found anyone to compare for clarity of vision and thought with Jimmy Pinkerton.

When he attended the Marseilles Conference of the AIT as an SWF delegate in the late 1950s, he later said the French delegates had considered him an 'opportunist'. He spoke fluent French and was always determined to discover practical solutions for the presentation of an anarchist programme.

He'd often upset people, such as when he supported the 1999 NATO action in Kosovo. He considered the action necessary to stop Serbian ethnic cleansing, and quoted the historical example of the Roman legion that had done a detour to put down a case of child sacrifice in the empire.  'Sometimes', he said, 'the big battalions do the decent thing'.

He was critical of Chomsky's line over the Balkan conflict, which he saw as worn-out anti-Americanism. Many of our discussions in recent years centred on Chomsky, following the criticisms of Chomsky's linguistics and philosophy in a recently published journal, Chomsky and his Critics.

Jim was puzzled by Chomsky's hostility to the late novels of George Orwell, and he said some of Chomsky's comments were 'intelligent'.  He took the view that Chomsky was jealous of Orwell because he was a creative writer and a novelist, while Chomsky - for all his brilliance was simply a 'functional writer'.

With Jim Pinkerton's loss, there will be a gap in the lives of so many of us who looked to him for intellectual stimulation, moral guidance and friendship. A couple of years ago, referring to his regular talks with some of the northern anarchists, he told us 'you lads keep me going'. Jim was the father of northern anarchism and we are his children.

Brian Bamford, Bob Lees and Derek Pattison

A shorter obituary by Brian Bamford for the Guardian, can be read here.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

NORTHERN ANARCHIST NETWORK: Colin Ward, Luddites, students & the new syndicalists

ABOUT 25 attended the NAN last December for a meeting at the Bolton Socialist Club which discussed the place of the anarchists in the current economic crisis. Richard Holland provided us with an outline of the 'hidden history' of the Luddite movement in the North.  It was argued that to the conventional left the Luddites presented a bit of a challenge as being something 'not quite Kosher' and not so acceptable as the Chartists, who could be safely categorised as a logical historical step towards 'respectable' historical institutions such as the Labour Party.  The NAN agreed to work for a celebration of Luddism in 2012.

In her contribution on the student struggles, Rachel Whittaker disputed that tuition fees were the most significant problem, claiming that the current ideology of the corporate emphasis on career, vocational studies and business management, is the real issue degrading education in modern times. The growth of private colleges run by companies may be an example of this.

Keir from Edinburgh described the situation of the labour movement since the Coalition government began its program of cuts in public services. Keir is one of the voices of the new syndicalists within the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN), who are emerging as the realisation grows that British party politics is basically a bag of wind.  The 'syndicalists' are now perhaps the fastest growing section of the NSSN, which is itself now facing a power grab by the Socialist Party; certainly the syndicalists probably have the most members of the NSSN national steering committee after the Socialist Party.

Dave Goodway addressed another alternative to party politics by looking at the relevance of the ideas of Colin Ward, who died earlier in 2010. Colin Ward's ideas, he said, are rooted in a few books which he made the most of, and can perhaps be best summed up in a proposition expressed in 1910 by Gustav Landauer that stated: 'The state is not something which can be destroyed by a revolution but is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of human behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently'.  Given the banal political recipes put forward thus far by the conventional British left and others to deal with the economic crisis, it is surely vital that someone on the libertarian left comes up with a better agenda for social change.  By throwing together this eclectic mix of speakers, the NAN may have made a step towards developing a much needed alternative analysis.