Thursday, 31 March 2011

Bolton Forger's Masterpiece on Show next month up North

ART FORGER Shaun Greenhalgh's Amarna Princess will be displayed in an exhibition at Bolton Museum on April 15th, as part of what the staff have entitled 'Fakes & Forgeries'. A neighbour of Shaun Greenhalgh on The Crescent, Bromley Cross, Bolton said it should have been entitled 'How He Foxed them All'. Last November Councillor Elain Sherrington, Executive Member of Adult Services in Bolton told the Bolton News: 'We are delighted to be chosen as the first venue outside London to host this prestigious exhibition.'

Yesterday one of the Metropolitan Police's art & antique unit's former officers involved in the Greenhalgh case in 2007 featured on Radio 4's Midweek program. In it he appeared to claim that the British Museum experts had discovered the fake in the characters on the Assyrian relief by Shaun Greenhalgh, but this was not the case: those experts and many other London experts were fooled by most of the work including the fake Amarna Princess. When Shaun's father presented what were purportedly three Assyrian reliefs of soldier and horses, from the Palace of Sennacherib in 600 BC to the British Museum in 2005 the experts there concluded they were genuine and were interested in buying them as they seemed to match a drawing by L.H> Layard in its collection. It was only later when Bonhams auction house antiquities consultant, Richard Falkiner spied what to him was 'an obvious fake' and informed the British Museum that some odd aspects were noticed. After that it took the Arts & Antiquities Unit at Scotland Yard 18 months to get round to arresting the Greenhalgh family.

Now Councillor Sherrington is anxious not to condone the criminal activity and she says: 'This exhibition educates the public about forgers, explains the techniques they used and how they were caught by the authorities and, rather than glamorising crime, will hopefully show that even the most artful of forgers is eventually brought to justice.' Amen!

To Northern Voices, the Greenhalgh case shows up the pompous folly of all those Metropolitan experts who were foxed by the northern Greenhalgh family. The case offers a dire warning to all those who put their faith in experts and so-called authorities of all descriptions. The Amarna Princess was first put on display at Bolton Museum at an exhibition opened by the Queen, and Shaun's father George was there for media photos. At next month's exhibition Detective Constable Ian Lawson, from the Metropolitan Police's Art & Antiquities Unit, will be giving a forgery talk in the museum's lecture theatre:; Tickets are £5 and include a preview of the exhibition.

More on the TUC March: From Manchester to Hyde Park

Up before dawn to pick up some comrades to get to Manchester Piccadilly for the 8.00 am Unite charter train. Arrived London Euston 10.50 am. Make our way to the Embankment for 11.00 start of march (30 minute walk). Just crossed Euston Road and walked into the ranks of the Camden against the cuts feeder column as we walked along in the spring sunshine to the strains of Bob Marley, more people joined the ranks at every corner. Marley now drowned out by a pipe band. Just before we got to the Embankment we came across our first GOON SQUAD about 20 strong all dressed in black and masked up, I commented to my comrades that it was obvious what their intention was. Upon arrival at the embankment it became apparent that we would not be able to make our way through to the massed ranks of the Unite contingent. As we picked our way through the crowds we passed the main Unison column headed up by a New Orleans jazz band, on past the R.M.T. headed up by their Easington branch brass band, pausing to say hello to Bob (Crow) and Alex (Gordon ) we found our way to the U.C.A.T.T. column which incorporated the justice for Shrewsbury pickets detachment . During our passage through the ranks we had encountered several similarly sized and clad GOON SQUADS It was clear they had been briefed to stay separate to avoid the chance of them all being KETTLED. We started towards Hyde park at about midday about 100 yards down the embankment I was charged with carrying the Shrewsbury banner which I did with pride until our arrival at Hyde park at 3.45 pm, along the route we saw graffiti on walls and The Ritz had been re-painted but we didn't see any violence or confrontation: on the contrary the police seemed unusually laid back. We couldn't get near enough to the stage to heckle Millibore, even had we been in time to hear his drivel. We left the park about 4.15 pm to head back to Euston, passing droves of people still heading into the park (by this time the police were filtering the columns, 100 in 100 out ).

I would estimate the marchers to be in excess of 500,000 all angry, all loud . On the way back we saw a GOON SQUAD starting a fire at the crossroads on Regent Street, goading the police to provoke a reaction. Half a million people marched against the cuts 200 got arrested, WHICH MADE THE NEWS? A good start which needs to be carried on with political resistance in the May council elections, not as reported on Radio Lancashire by the chairman of Lancashire T.U.C. with more protests during the summer and autumn commendable as that is. We must have an alternative politically to the three major parties who all want to cut. Lancashire County Council head-hunted a guy from Knowsley Borough Council on a six figure salary to orchestrate the cuts - I've got a suggestion how to save a six figure sum!



Rochdale Memorial Gardens by Pimlico Badger

'SOCIETIES ...', said the Oxford academic and political theorist, Stuart White, at the Memorial Meeting dedicated to the social thinker Colin Ward* held last year, '... use various techniques to meet needs and solve problems.' They use markets that rely on private property, competition and the pursuit of self-interest; and they use organisations based on authority, command and bureaucracy. But besides the pecuniary motive of the businessman and the power-drive of the politician and the office functionary, there is the social method of do-it-yourself, mutual aid, cooperation and self-help.

This month, in the Rochdale Observer, a dispute broke out about a planning decision to chop down some trees in the Memorial Gardens, originally designed by Edward Lutyens, in Rochdale Town Centre. Two regular writers in the printed version of Northern Voices have conflicted over whether or not the Council have an obligation to consult before embarking on these kind of 'cosmetic' enterprises: should they for example consult the 'Friends of Rochdale Memorial Gardens' - a group which the Council was anxious to set up to get funding for the gardens? Dr. Les May, a local biologist, thinks not and in last Saturday's Rochdale Observer wrote in response to a representative of the 'Friends Group' and local campaigner Mr Jason Addy: 'Even though members of 'friends' groups are self appointed, unelected and unaccountable Jason Addy seems to feel that such organisations should be allowed to interpose themselves between we the voters and council tax payers, and our council...'

Fair comment! But, without considering the merits of the specific case of Rochdale Memorial Gardens, Dr. May's broad brush challenge to the activists of the 'friends groups', if followed through, does imply an apology for a kind of elective dictatorship. After all, as the poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht pointed out during an insurrection in the old East Germany, we the people are 'unelected' and he even suggested that we needed to elect a 'new people'.

To be fair Les May has outlined his criticism of both voluntary groups and Colin Ward's theories in more depth in the current Spring issue of Northern Voices No.12** ('Rochdale's Weeds Beneath the Snow'). In that article he argued that '(Colin) Ward's ideas are not a million miles from David Cameron's "big society",' and '[b]oth start from the point that formal, state or local government institutions are slow, overly bureaucratic and unrepresentative.' Les May insists that: 'In spite of their good intentions experience suggests that all organisations whether "voluntary" or "official" have the potential to lose sight of their origins and purpose and become more concerned with perpetuating their existence.'

Les May writes that Cameron's 'Big Society' is close to Colin Ward's view of voluntary action, but Colin Ward's ideas are more all embracing than he gives them credit; according to Stuart White 'Colin's work prompts us to ask: how far does the "big society" apply to the economy?', and 'is it a corrective to the "big market" as well as the "big state"?' Furthermore, does Cameron's concept stretch to 'workers' control' in industry? Will it mean the replacement of commercial banks with mutualistic financial institutions? Shall it mean building up community production as an alternative to reliance on the market?

Les May, in both the Rochdale Observer and Northern Voices No.12, produces some evidence from which he claims to show that some voluntary bodies develop bossiness among their leaderships and lose sight of their more virtuous aims. From this, Dr. May develops a sweeping, broad-brush criticism of voluntary activism and an implied support for the status quo that borders on the idea that 'We should render unto Caesar that that is Caesar's'; just so long as Caesar is properly elected and constitutionally accountable to some electorate.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Is George Osborne Dodging the issue of Tax Avoidance? Friends in high Places!

Nice video put together by the campaign group 38 Degrees alleging that the Chancellor, George Osborne, is dodging the issue of tax avoidance.

According to the group, tax dodging costs the UK up to £120 billion every year. Osborne himself also stands accused of dodging paying £1.6 million in inheritance tax while clobbering everyone else with a VAT rise. He is the beneficiary of a £4 million trust fund, which will mean that the family fortune will pass to him almost tax free.

Earlier this year, Osborne along with his wife and two children, took a skiing holiday in Klosters as the guest of Caspar Rock, who runs a £3.5 billion investment fund. He stayed at his £1.7 million chalet. Casper`s wife (Kate) is also a top official in the Tory Party.

Osborne, also a multi-millionaire, likes to ingratiate himself with the rich and powerful. Another friend is Nat Rothschild. Before becoming Chancellor, Osborne, stayed as a guest of Rothschild - along with Peter Mandelson - at his holiday retreat on the Greek Island of Corfu. He also enjoyed the hospitality of the Russian billionaire oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, who invited him to stay aboard his yacht while Osborne tried to solicit a £50,000 donation for the Tory Party.

Given the tax rises and the savage cut-backs that are being imposed on people and public services, as the Con-Dem millionaire government seeks to cut public spending, attention has naturally been drawn to those fat cats who avoid paying tax by adopting tax avoidance measures. For example, it has been alleged that HM Revenue & Customs let Vodafone off a £6 billion bill on profits channelled through a Luxembourg subsidiary. The tax agency denies the claim.

Critics such as UK Uncut, say that Sir Philip Green the head of Arcadia Group, paid out a £1.2 billion dividend in 2005 out of Arcadia retail group to a family trust (his wife) which campaigners say was in reality his income which should have been taxed as such. Sir Philip`s wife Tina, lives in Monaco and as a resident of Monaco, she was not not required to pay tax on the money.

Recently, Sir Philip, was appointed by David Cameron to head a Whitehall spending review. When questioned by a journalist about his suitability for the post and his financial affairs, he reportedly called the journalist a 'fucking tosser'.

Reflections of a TUC Marcher from Leeds

There is something a bit dismal about marches like one the TUC organised on Saturday. Hundreds of thousands turn out expecting not to be taken notice of. Their particular calls to save whatever service they most dread losing are but complaints to the wind. The TUC have hitched their wagon to the Labour party and it is headed along on the capitalist free-way. There must be some cuts, so who knows who will keep more of their share, and who will be ditched? How can solidarity survive? So the TUC demand is for 'jobs and growth'? The only way to create jobs in this way of thinking is to secure investment from capitalists and provide them with nice dividends. As if to make this more respectable the TUC are calling for 'a million green jobs'. Those who are excluded from this arrangement might wonder why they don’t call for full employment. Unions have always struck me as self-centred special interest societies, with career bureaucrats who cannot be entirely trusted. They do a lot of good in their way, but do not seem to aspire to provide any fresh thinking, or speak for the whole of society as any self-respecting organisation of 7 million should have the cojones to do. After the bank bail out and the credit boom, they should be trying to articulate some conclusions about the monopoly over money creation and the very selective availability of it for those who control it. There does seem to be unlimited availability of money for specific abstract functions but a scarcity for vital functions. The function of money as a means of exchange can therefore be challenged. By calling for full employment such a challenge is made. To borrow from Ann Pettifor, we can afford whatever we can do. Work is central to this argument, because it is the work that creates the wealth, not the wealth that creates the jobs. We simply have to identify the work that needs doing, and manage the demand in the economy to make sure the jobs are created. That might mean reducing taxes, or increasing central government spending, or allow local government to borrow or even create currency. Who can deny that the benefits of full employment would be enormous? If the TUC wanted they could plan this, get the Labour Party to endorse it and then get it on the international agenda. It would be a start.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

TUC Demo

Impressions of the March 26th Demo:

This demonstration can best be described as the contrast between the TUC cart horse and the Anarchist Trojan Horse. A TUC march of 500,000 anti-cuts protestors through the streets of London achieved absolutely nothing except providing a platform for trade union and Labour worthies. The real action took place away from the official march, where the symbols of finance capital were attacked. As the Wobblies put it "direct action gets the goods". The subsequent press hysteria relating to the actions outside of the main march proves the point that the real challenge to capital and the state is to be found amongst UK Uncut activists and various anarchist formations. The compliance of the authoritarian left with the official demonstration was clear for all to see. This was compounded by the pathetic calls of the SWP and the Socialist Party for the TUC to call a one day General Strike which recognises the legitimacy of these organs of quasi-state control. The political impotence of the authoritarian left compares unfavourably with the dynamism and creativity of anarchists and other libertarians who embrace direct action and offer the only way forward to defeat the ConDem Government policies.

Monday, 28 March 2011

'The healthiest fish ... halibut': Big Bob on protein!!!

Cheeky Cockney Union Man Cocks a Snoop at our Northern Chippy Cuisine

SAYING he had no specific plan to co-ordinate strikes with other unions, Bob Crow told the FT's political correspondent, Jim Pickard, (see 'Lunch with the FT' interview - 26/03/2011) that 'if there are disputes in rail, shipping or bus industries at the same time over cutbacks, we would be fools not to co-ordinate the timing.' He estimates that 5,000 of his own member's jobs are at risk of redundancy.

The SWP and others on the Left have been urging a 24-hour general strike, but a petitioner on last Saturday's Unite train back from the protests in London had a hard time convincing people to sign up to get the TUC to call one. The SWP lad said the last Saturday's protest against the Coalition cuts showed what happens when the leadership of the TUC call for a demo. But it didn't do much good in the 1980s when the TUC last called for 'Days of Action' by trade unionists. This didn't faze the SWP lad, who claimed that it is different now to the 1980s; indeed it is, the trade unions are weaker now than they were in the 1980s.

Curiously Bob Crow told the FT that he is not against all cuts like some other leftwingers, nor is he a 'deficit denier'; his proposed alternative to the cuts is a 'one pence tax on all emails' according the last Saturday's FT. This would, says Full-fact an analytical website, raise £12 m a year well short of the UK's deficit. Other parts of his political philosophy include a dislike for free trade and a passion for bigger import and export duties. He reputably keeps a bust of Lenin in his office but believes in pay differentials being on a six-figure salary himself. He supports a policy of 'opportunities for all', which I suppose Dave Cameron would ascribe to.

The grilled halibut at the Rules "hunting, shootin', fishin'" establishment in Covent Garden, that claims to be London's oldest restaurant, costs £53.90 for two, and the chips were £7.50 for two portions. But Big Bob knows the place well and he said that 'we had a summit here ... five weeks ago' and gossiped about Blair and Brown using the same place not to mention 'Nell Gwynne and King Charles'. Then he said: 'That's the healthiest fish you could have, halibut' it's 'full of oil, good for everything, bones, joints, healthy glow.' That, and the fact that he works out six days a week is what he reckons keeps him so fit.

One is left wondering if he will in the end prove to be a better and more successful leader for the British Left than was Arthur Scargill in the 1980s.

'I can't get over how organised these anarchists are!'

photo by Dominic Alves
A PUNDIT on Radio 4 yesterday said: 'I can't get over how organised these anarchists are!' He and Brian Paddick, a former senior Metropolitan police officer, marveled at how the anarchist last Saturday had managed to stay ahead of the police in London. Actually it seems that the chaos on Oxford Street and elsewhere was the result of fast moving activists from the young anarchist 'Black Bloc' and UK Uncut.

It had been an early kick off for us up North on Saturday morning when we, along with thousands of other trade unionists, caught the trains from Manchester Piccadilly station. It was a good humoured crowd that landed at Euston armed with whistles, tabards and banners from the Unite union. Oh yes, and the regional officers were handing out arrest cards from Thompsons Solicitors - just in case. Then it was off down to the Embankment for most of them while others made for the feeder marches from the University of London.

After sipping tea at Albertinis near the RMT officers near Euston we made for Holborn only to catch a bus to Oxford Street and the store of John Lewis where my companion wanted to buy some moisturiser before joining the TUC march on Piccadilly en route for Hyde Park. The stores round Oxford Street like Boots and Top Shop already had police outside and by that time it was 2 p.m. and the Black Block and UK Uncut were surrounding our bus as it skirted round Oxford Circus. Time for another cup of tea - this time English Breakfast in John Lewis - which provided us with a safe haven to watch the riot police vans at the back. Text messages told us of breakaways from the main march and riot police on Oxford Street with a possible kettle forming at Oxford Circus. Suddenly, sirens wailing, nine riot wagons with lights flashing tore off towards the trouble. 'Isn't it a shame', said one woman in the Coffee Bar. Then, on advice from the local Cockneys, we sneaked out by the backdoor of John Lewis anxious to dodge most of the trouble and head for the main protest at Hyde Park. 'I wouldn't go there; if you don't have to!' said a security guard on the street outside as it seemed by that time that things were kicking off all over the show around Oxford Street.

Yet, determined to show our faces, we headed off down Oxford Street past Bond Street tube station and Vodafone. Others carrying Unison banners were walking back in the opposite direction saying that they'd been on their feet since 9 a.m. and had had enough. By then messages were coming in to say that the Ritz had been trashed and Fortnum & Mason occupied and it was then 'la hora de comer' in Spain (3-4 p.m.), so we retreated, or skedaddled, back to John Lewis on Oxford Street for a plate of grilled Mackerel and salad, and a glass of tap water. After that it was time to think about getting the Unite train from Euston station even though it was 4.30 and John from the Leeds contingent still hadn't got into Hyde Park.

Later, near Euston in the Exmouth Arms, people there with the NUT from Liverpool were complaining that the anarchists would get all the news coverage. That hasn't altogether been the case and a professor on the Radio 4 Today program this morning said that the 'Black Bloc' was only a small faction among the anarchists, pointing out that anarchists were in favour of organisation but objected to top-down bosses and bureaucrats. Today's web page of the BBC says: 'The label "anarchist" has been widely used to describe violent protesters' and asks, 'what does it mean to be an anarchist nowadays?' This morning, interviewed by John Humphries, Dr Alan Finlayson, a reader in politics at Swansea University, whose research interests include protest movements in the UK, analysed last Saturday's protest including the anarchists.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Conjecture & speculation on the Blacklist

'It is easier smell a rat than it is to catch a rat': Ludwig Wittgenstein

'DID you not smell a rat, then?' asked the legal representative of N.G.Baileys, Mr Thomas, at the Manchester Employment Tribunal yesterday. It was at a pre-hearing review involving five companies - NG Bailey, NRL, Carillion, Beever Management Services Ltd (BMSL) and Balfour Kilpatrick - the applicant was the electrician, Graham Bowker, who was claiming that each of the companies had denied him employment on grounds of his trade union activities. Of these companies three are known to be subscribers to the Consulting Association, whose manager, Ian Kerr in 2009 at Knutsford Crown Court was found guilty of assembling an illegal data base and one which trade union solicitors describe as a 'blacklist'.

The purpose of the Manchester Tribunal Hearing yesterday was to allow the respondent companies the chance to get Graham Bowker's applications thrown out on grounds that they had been submitted too late. The legal representative for NG Bailey was suggesting that Mr Bowker could have applied as soon as he was made aware by the evidence of the management whistleblower, Alan Wainwright, in the case of Steven Acheson v Logic in 2007. Mr Wainwright gave evidence that he had operated a 'blacklist' and in his summary of that case the Tribunal Chairman in that case had made a finding of fact that there was a blacklist in operation in the British construction industry. The employers' legal representatives were eager to ask why Mr Bowker had not started his application against them earlier.

But while it was clear at the Tribunal Hearing that Mr Bowker had been 'smelling a rat' regarding his chances of getting work in the British building trade since the beginning of the millennium he still had the problem presented by the philosopher Wittgenstein that it was much less easier to 'catch a rat'. Time and again he told the employer's legal representatives and the Employment Tribunal that the clues to his blacklisting (and that of many others) were all emerging with each successive case from the DAFF case in 2004 via the Logic case in 2007 but the specific evidence was missing. [For example after the Logic case in 2007, the then Secretary of State for Business & Enterprise, Pat McFadden had written a letter to the local MP of another 'blacklisted' electrician, Tony Jones, saying that his Department was aware of Mr Wainwright's claims and had interviewed him, but Mr Wainwright could not explain the criteria used by companies to place individual workers onto the list that he was operating and enforcing.]

Thus, it could be argued, and is still being argued by the bosses, that what Mr Wainwright had at his disposal was not a 'blacklist' but merely some kind of benign filtering process. Nick Toms representing Graham Bowker, and Unite the Union, asked: 'Mr Bowker is it true that Carillion and some of the other companies still deny that it was a blacklist?' To which Mr Bowker was compelled to answer 'Yes'. The subscribing companies to the Consulting Association innocently claim it was just about 'cross referencing' employees' names.

But yesterday, there were a few shocks in store. Graham Bowker in justifying his delay in making the application to the Tribunal, even in April 2009 after he the Information Commissioner's Office had supplied him with the data proving he was on the Consulting Association's files (Blacklist), made reference to the work he had to do at the time in preparing for the action against the companies concerned in civil court. He told the Tribunal that at that time 'Six of us had to go down to London at our own expense to see the civil rights lawyers'. The members of the Manchester union branch have throughout believed that the Civil Courts would offer a better remedy that the Employment Tribunals. Mr Bowker also attacked his own Unite union leaders when he went on to claim that he had, in 2009, been at a meeting in Liverpool that included the national officer Tommy Hardacre, and other local and regional officers: Mike Gasgill, Steve Benson and Colin Carr; yet from these officials he had received little or no guidance. He went on to claim that after the merger of Amicus and the Transport & General Workers' Union to form Unite the Union and that there had been no direct line of communication to the union officials or legal representatives over this matter. Mr Bowker claimed on oath that he considered that the problem was 'because there was a conflict of interest between the union officers and the blacklist' and he said: 'They were (in my opinion) trying to time us out'. This 'conflict of interest' relates to the fact that several officials of the union are believed to have participated in the blacklisting, and the names of nine of these are on the document files of the Consulting Association.

Bury Council Boss Bob Bibby says: 'the people of Bury don't care who empty their bins'

BURY's TORY Council leader Bob Bibby reportedly said that people in Bury did not care who collected their bins. His ‘transformation strategy’ included the assumption ‘that the council will not directly deliver services’.

Councillor Bibby may have recognised the impact his clumsy management of this strategy has had on his own employees. He has been forced to write to them assuring them that he will take full account of the consultation and that ‘in house’ delivery of services will be fairly considered alongside the option to bring in alternative providers. Since Councillor Bibby made his statement, waste management at Bradley Fold Waste Depot has assured binmen there that they had no plan to privatise the service.

Bury Action Group is urging the council to publicise the outcome of the consultation. How many responses supported the outsourcing of services and how many were opposed? How has the consultation influenced Councillor Bibby’s report? Bury Action Group member, George Heron, commented:
'We think the Tory Group has been taken aback by the strength of the response to their token consultation. Perhaps that will be reflected in the leader’s final report and in the way the "strategy" is implemented – but we can’t rely on that.'
Bury Action Group can be contacted via or by phoning George Heron on 0161 798 8762

Monday, 21 March 2011

Listening to Judge Garzón: Escuchando al juez Garzón

SHOWING on Wednesday night at the Cornerhouse cinema in Manchester, as part of the ¡Viva! Spanish & Latin American Film Festival, is a screening of an interview with the Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón. Judge Garzón is perhaps the most famous living Judge because of the part he played in 1998 in the detention in this country of the Chilean dictator General Pinochet after issuing an international arrest warrant on him for the torture of Spanish citizens. The Chilean Truth Commission (1990–91) report was the basis for the warrant, marking an unprecedented use of universal jurisdiction to attempt to try a former dictator for an international crime. Garzón's request for the extradition of Pinochet to Spain was later rejected by the then British Home Secretary, Jack Straw, on health grounds.

Garzón also filed charges of genocide against Argentine military officers on the disappearance of Spanish citizens during Argentina's 1976-1983 dictatorship. Eventually Adolfo Scilingo and Miguel Angel Cavallo were prosecuted in separate cases. Scilingo was convicted and sentenced to over 1000 years incarceration for his crimes.

In October 2008, Garzón opened a controversial inquiry into alleged crimes against humanity committed by the Nationalist government during the Spanish Civil War and the years that followed the war. This action was controversial because the offenses were nearly 70 years old, previous to the concept of crimes against humanity, and a 1977 general amnesty act barred any investigations related to criminal offenses with a political aim previous to 1976. In 2008 the inquiry was suspended. In September 2009, a trade union called "Manos Limpias" (Clean Hands) filed a lawsuit against Garzón alleging that Garzón had abused his judicial authority by opening the inquiry. Garzón denied any wrongdoing.

In April 2010, Garzón was indicted by the Spanish Supreme Court for prevarication for arbitrarily changing his juridical criteria to engineer the case in order to bypass the law limiting his jurisdiction. If convicted, he could be barred from his duties for 20 years. Garzón's indictment has been highly divisive within Spain and controversial abroad. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemned the indictment, and The New York Times published an editorial supporting him, whereas The Wall Street Journal condemned Garzón's proceedings in an editorial supporting the rule of law. There were public protests in Spain from left wing organizations supporting Garzón.

Wednesday night's black and white screening will take place at 8.40pm at the Cornerhouse cinema on Oxford Street, Manchester.

Zusammenmarschieren & the 'New Syndicalists'

THIS MONTH a dispute broke out among the 'new syndicalists' formerly attached to the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) about how best to proceed and create a movement for radical syndicalism. The main argument was about the best tactics to use in the everyday world of work and the labour movement. The basis of the dispute was the dissembling behaviour of a union leader, in this case Bob Crow in his apparent support for the Socialist Party (formerly the Militant Tendency), against the other political groups in the NSSN.

One side argued that given the slippery vacillation of Bob Crow over this issue which led to large-scale resignations by syndicalists and others from the NSSN steering committee in January, was such that he and the half-baked political group - the Trade Union & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) - to which he and the Socialist Party are linked became a valid target for criticism and lampoon: after all, why had we resigned from the NSSN if we didn't want to hurt people's feelings? Others said that we should exercise foresight, be more pragmatic and restrained in our dealings and, it seems, avoid hurting the feelings of union leaders so that henceforth they would not be able 'to hold a justifiable public grudge in future'.

This confrontation in turn led to some interesting comments, one from 'Nick D' who wrote: 'I want to see syndicalism develop as an industrial and political force that moves millions. That requires pragmatism, to build power. Not anarcho political program in a vacuum (sic).' About a century ago the idea of syndicalism had a strong following among some groups of industrial workers and trade unionists in this country, and in 1912, the South Wales Miners published a syndicalist booklet called 'The Miners Next Step'.

One of the things that attracted me to these 'new syndicalists' with their historical roots in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and Liberty & Solidarity was their down-to-earth, business-like approach to the trade unions and labour movement. Here were a group of young people who seemed to lack the antiquated sectarian baggage of the other affiliated anarcho-syndicalist organisations. But not being sectarian should not mean that we lose the critical vitamin when dealing with people like Bob Crow and smelly little political orthodoxies like their TUSC.

The call of 'Nick D' for 'an industrial and political force that moves millions' and 'power before programme' is what Wyndham Lewis called the 'associational habit' of mind and is very north European, very Anglo-Saxon and very retro. We had such a thing in the TUC for much of the last century up to about 1985: that is what Jimmy Pinkerton, international secretary of the Syndicalist Workers Federation circa 1960, used to call 'pure syndicalism' or 'syndicalism without the vision'. It ended with the defeat of the miners. In Germany, according to Ignazio Silone, it went some way to explain why the German workers' attitude toward fascism was different from that of the Spaniards. Silone wrote in 'School for Dictators' that 'the growth of big industry has been a powerful help in reinforcing the tendency of Germans - workers included - toward zusammenmarschieren (marching together).' His conclusion regarding the German workers was that 'individual initiative has been reduced to zero' and 'their interparty struggles are essentially struggles between different machines'.

Nick D's proposal for 'power before programme' would mean that the program or vision would be set by others such as the Labour Party or, shabby little shockers like the Trade Union & Socialist Coalition under Bob, Alex Gordon of the RMT and Linda Taaffe of the Socialist Party. This weekend will see the British Left marching together against the Government cuts in public services - zusammenmarschieren - like a machine but it will be an intellectually and morally bankrupt machine and one perhaps even more derelict than the Government of millionaires that we are protesting against.

Friday, 18 March 2011

How The British Get Ripped Off On Pensions!

A recent report by the Organisation For Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) into the state of the British economy, revealed an interesting fact. While basically supporting the Con-Dem millionaire governments austerity measures and the public services cut-backs, the organization nevertheless said that the government had one of the worst records in the developed world for failing to collect taxes. According to the OECD report, there has been a failure to collect more than 60% of tax revenues.

Clearly, you can`t avoid or evade paying your taxes if you are on PAYE. So who might these people be who don`t pay their full share of the tax burden? Though the current rate of corporation tax in the UK is 28%, it was recently announced that Barclays Bank paid just £113 million in UK corporation tax in 2009 - a year when it made a record £11.6 billion in profits. This amounted to just 1% of its 2009 profits. Barclays boss Bob Diamond, told a Treasury Select committee in January, that Barclays paid £2 billion in taxes to HM Revenue and Customs in 2009, but what he failed to mention, was that most of this, was payroll taxes for the banks employees.

Another company which is highly adept at using tax avoidance measures is Boots the chemist. Apparently its registered office address is a P.O. Box number in Switzerland. By using this measure, the company saves billions of pound in taxes - yet another tax loophole.

With all these tax scams going on, is it any wonder that public services and state benefits, are being cut in the UK. If these greedy capitalist bastards paid their fare share of taxes, perhaps we could keep the public toilets open in Manchester, as well as the libraries, and the pensioners and disabled could keep their free bus passes.

This week it was reported in the national press that the state pension in austerity Britain (£97.65 a week) is among the meanest in the developed world and the the British have to wait longer than people in any other industrialised country before they retire. Pensioners in the UK, receive state pensions worth around 41.5% of average after-tax earnings. This is lower than Spain where the state pension is 84.9% of average earnings and Italy where it is 75.3% of average earnings. In France the state pension is 60.4% of average earnings and Germany 57.9%. By 2050, the UK`s retirement age (68), will be the highest in the world.

Despite all the bluster from the likes of Vince Cable about closing tax loopholes and cracking down on bankers bonuses, next week, George (we`re all in it together) Osborne, is expected to announce in his budget speech, that he`s going to slash the taxes paid by major corporations on their foreign earnings as part of his 'budget for growth'. But what would you expect from a government of millionaires working in the interests of millionaires.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Andrew (Andy) Wilson - The Northern Voices Poet - An Obituary

It is with sadness that we have to report the death of the Dukinfield poet, Andy Wilson, who died in Tameside Hospital on 2nd March aged 63 years.

A factory worker for many years, Andy, worked for James North in Hyde and was also a union shop steward. He last worked as a supervisor for Boris Buckley`s a textile manufacturer on Whitelands Road, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire. After working for the company for 20 years, he was made redundant in his late fifties. A former pupil of Crescent Road, secondary modern school, he was a well known figure in Dukinfield and in his local pub the Albion, which stands at the junction of Oxford Road and Birch Lane.

As a writer of poetry, he was also a well known figure among the circle of poets(People`s Performance) who met regularly in the upstairs room of the Q inn in Stalybridge. The group which was set up by Jan Malpas, a poet from Hollingworth, gave recitals and produced an anthology of poems entitled 'Poetry Live' and a CD (People Perform Poetry) of local poets reciting their verses. For a number of years, Andy wrote poems for Northern Voices magazine about themes as varied as Viagra, 'Ode to a Beer Pump', 'Ode to a Flea', 'Dieting on the Dole', and the 'Taproom Q.C'. He was also a great fan of the music and lyrics of Bob Dylan and in particular, the Canadian poet, musician, and songwriter, Leonard Cohen. Cohen is on record as saying that a prominent influence on him, had been the Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca.

About four years ago, Andy, was diagnosed with bowel cancer, which in turn, led to other health complications. Despite his health problems, he could still be seen on occasions walking to the pub for a few pints with his mates. He was a genuine character who will be sadly missed by his many friends and his family. His funeral takes place on Tuesday 15th March at Dukinfield Crematorium, at 2.00 pm.
"Burn in the shadow of the mill,
Put to the loom to brake their will,
They toiled all day from dawn to dusk
And lived on sweat and cotton dust,
But in their country`s hour of need
They left the loom to go and bleed,
And in a field where poppies grew,
They gave their lives for me and you,
No more toiling at the loom
or dancing to the gaffers tune,
They lie with comrade cold and still,
Like empty bobbins in the mill."
Children of the Mill - A poem by Andrew A. Wilson.

More thoughts on Libya

A phone call last Friday to Johnny L from the city of Sirte, Gaddafi's birthplace and tribal homeland situated part way between Tripoli and Benghazi, told of a well-armed public ready to fight the rebels should they try to invade. Sirte is an artificial city with well watered lawns from underground wells and concrete bus-stops and no buses; the Libyan population there, at least the males, don't like work and import labour from elsewhere in Africa to do the donkey work around town - it is a cushy corrupt lifestyle supported by the revenues from oil and the people there are seemingly determined to defend it. Our informant tells us that most of the ordinary population in Sirte receive media reports from Tripoli rather than from the international media. Johnny L writes:
 "If I was to give another talk on Libya I would concentrate more on the very visible social disparities between West and East and the disparities within the West. Back then (in 2009, when I gave my talk to the Northern Anarchist Network in Shropshire) rebellion seemed so unlikely, though I had heard about unrest and military action. Once we were diverted from using Benghazi airport and had to fly out 'diplomatic' from Al Beida because of trouble in Kufra in the deep south east. Sebha in the mid west desert and Kufra are possible untouchable air bases for G, but I don't know what the politics are there. When the tribes in Kufra rebelled a couple of years back there was fear that this would spread to Benghazi through family and I suppose tribal contacts, hence the quarantine in Benghazi.

"If Gadaffi cannot 'easily' take neighbouring towns it points up the problem of taking Benghazi and therefore a probable divide between East and West. I hope that the East might open up into a 'Free Libya' and trade under its own account, so completely isolating Gadaffi. That means holding onto oil fields and producing oil, and that requires neutralising Gadaffi's air strike capability. I think the left and libertarians should recognise the spontaneous nature of this rebellion and see it as an urge to basic freedom. So make common cause with Cameron... strange bed-fellow."
Johnny L

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Roscoe occupation update

The occupation of the Roscoe Building by Manchester Autonomous students has continued for 18 days. The main objectives are to build for the anti cuts demo on the 26th March, promote alternative education, create a safe space for organising events, films, talks and workshops and build international solidarity for the movements in North Africa.

Over the last 2 weeks there have been workshops on BDS (Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions) re Israel, Discussions about NHS reforms. a talk on the Ragged Trousered Philantropists by Dave Harker, meetings of Students for a Sensible Drugs Policy, speaker on Schooled in Precarity, anti-fascist meetings, public order training and a talk on African homophobia.

Every week there is a general organising meeting and each day a catch up meeting to plan activities and review the progress of the occupation as well as discussing any issues that may have arisen. The ethos of the occupation is undoubtedly libertarian with a major emphasis be placed on consensus in the decision making processes.

The space is truly empowering and there is a strong sense of unity amongst all the activists. Future events planned inlude an anarcha-feminist day and discussions on anarchist theory and practice.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Manchester Tribunal Chucks Out Costs Claim

'THESE CASES', the barrister, Nick Toms, told Northern Voices at the Manchester Employment Tribunal today, 'are very unusual'. He was speaking of an claim for costs by the agency Meridian against the electrician Colin Trousdale in the case of Meridian v Colin Trousdale.

The basis of the firm's claim for almost £17,000 in costs against Mr Trousdale was that he had used a 'scatter-gun' approach to make a claim against the Agency that had a contract with Bailey Building Services, and he had charged it with failing to offer him work because of his trade union activities and knowing him to be on a blacklist run by the Consulting Association. Bailey Building Services was a known subscriber to the Consulting Association' for its blacklist data. Colin Trousdale had withdrawn his claim against the Meridian Agency in September 2010 on the advice of his solicitor, but Meridian had then pursued him for costs on the grounds that his case had had no chance of success, and claiming he was 'harassing' the firm, they further argued that his claimed was 'misconceived' he was being 'vexatious' and 'unreasonable'. It was also claimed that he failed to pull out of the application against Meridian before the high legal costs had been incurred.

Mr Trousdale's barrister, Nick Toms, argued that in the case of blacklisting, as with other 'discrimination' cases, it is often hard to assess the strength of a case until late because it is the nature of such cases that initially the evidence is slight. Employers being unwilling to admit to discrimination, thus evidence had to extracted gradually. Thus, weak cases on paper often turn out to be strong once the witnesses go under oath in the witness box. The Tribunal this afternoon found against Meridian and awarded no costs against Mr Trousdale or his union Unite.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Anti-blacklist demo targets Olympic site

By Rory, from the Blacklist Blog:

LAST TUESDAY, NO TRUCK Anti-blacklist protesters stopped traffic entering the Olympics site, in a protest against the dismissal of whistleblower Frank Morris.

Anti-blacklist protesters caused chaos outside London’s Olympic Park this week when they stopped deliveries getting onto the site for more than an hour. Traffic ground to a halt in Pudding Mill Lane on 1 March as the demonstrators from the Blacklist Support Group crossed continually a zebra crossing near the site gates. Traffic disruption is a common and very effective union protest tactic in the US, but is new to the UK.

The protesters were supporting an RMT member who was recently removed from the job. Enfield-based electrician Frank Morris was shifted from his job at the prestigious media centre at the Olympic site after blowing the whistle on the use of an illegal blacklist on the construction project.

His dismissal by subcontractor Daletech Services followed weeks of intimidation and threats of violence by members of senior management after he had raised concerns about the dismissal of a co-worker.

The co-worker was dismissed from the Olympic Media Centre being built by Skanska and Carillion after his name appeared on a blacklist of trade union members, many of whom were targeted for their health and safety activities. After Morris raised concerns about this illegal practice, he says he was victimised, bullied and threatened with violence by senior management to the point that he had to call the police for his own protection before finally being dismissed.

RMT is backing his unfair dismissal claim to an industrial tribunal. RMT union official Steve Hedley commented: “In over 25 years representing workers I have never seen such a blatant stitch up, victimisation and even threats of violence to a union activist whose only ‘crime’ was to expose an illegal blacklist operating on the Olympic site.”

Site worker Paul Tattersfield has become the latest worker to win a blacklisting tribunal. It found Balfour Beatty Engineering Services Ltd has refused him employment because he was on The Consulting Association blacklist. The company is known to have been a major support of the covert blacklisting operation.
The tribunal awarded him just under £24,000 including loss of earnings, injury to feelings and aggravated damages.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Tameside Hospital given 'Red-Rating' for lack of Governance by Health Watchdog!

'The rot starts at the top' says Liz Degnen (pictured above),who is campaigning to sack Christine Green and the Board at Tameside Hospital.

A report issued this week by the health watchdog 'Monitor', has accused Tameside Hospital management of failings in its quality of care and control. The report has highlighted six areas of concern which include: breaches in the quality of care given, failings by the Board of Directors, financial problems and an inability to plan recovery and take appropriate action as issues have arisen.

The report says that despite the hospital forecasting a surplus of £0.9 million for 2010/11, Tameside Hospital is now facing a £1.5 million deficit. The report also adds that there has been an overspend on pay costs which are £3.2 million higher than originally planned. In particular, the Board of Tameside Hospital is criticised for failing to identify, challenge and scrutinise problems, which led recently to a vote of confidence ballot among senior doctors at the hospital. The report says that Monitor were not informed of this vote of no confidence ballot by hospital management, nor were they told by management, about the hospital`s financial deterioration. The report also points out that the hospital`s Director of Finance has also resigned. The report says that:

"The lack of challenge and scrutiny is a concern" and adds, "while the Board has taken action to improve procedures and processes around managing pay costs there is no clear evidence that these have been effective and sustainable. We remain concerned that the Trust Board may not, in the future, be in a position to identify new issues as they arise and act promptly."

The hospital has been given a 'red rating' for governance and two out of five, for its financial control. The Chief Executive of Monitor, David Bennett, told hospital management:

"I must emphasise that failure by the Trust to deliver timely and sustainable progress towards full compliance with its Authorisation would be likely to cause Monitor`s Board to consider again the Trust`s position and the potential use of its formal intervention powers...the Trust is in significant breach of its Authorisation and will be red-rated for governance risk with immediate effect."

The Chief Executive of Tameside Hospital, Christine Green, said that the Trust accepted Monitor`s ruling and fully understood its implications. She added:

"We are working closely with Monitor and are developing actions plans to return the Trust to financial stability."

Protests & Cuts in Rochdale

ON 23rd, February, protesters were outside the Gothic style Town Hall in Rochdale as the Labour Council prepared to make £64 million in cuts: children's services cut by £7m a year, voluntary & community sector by £3.6m, vulnerable people & adult care by £6m, teen training by £1m and a plan of cutting the number of councillors by a third and holding elections every 4 years. School uniform grants to go and £25 to be charged to people for replacement waste bins. Touchstones Museum to close for 11.5 hours a week. There will be a review of the amount of cash to be given to trade unions from the Council under trade union facilities agreement.

This last is controversial in so far as it has been used in the past by Councils to neuter the trade unions by threatening to withdraw the trade union facilities agreement. The TU facilities cost in the case of Rochdale is £107,000 a year. It can lead to a cosy relationship between the unions and the employer to the cost of the union membership. In his book 'School for Dictators', the Italian novelist, Ignazio Silone argued that free trade unions are essential to a free society, but if a trade union gets grants from a local authority can it still be 'free'? It could be that in those circumstances the union official becomes as the sociologist, C. Wright Mills said: 'The manager of discontent'.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

From 'Our Man in Benghazi'

The latest from 'Our Man' - Johnny L - see 'Libya: The Manchester Connection' below

Hi Brian 
That's very amusing and fair. I feel that events have gone so quickly and the press have done a pretty good job of catching up.

Though they have perhaps overblown their assessment of the 'end game' in Tripoli. That might be a very long end game. Coming out of Tripoli I expect the regime army could retake neighbouring towns quite easily. Misurata is the town to watch. I don't know how any rebels from the East could travel easily to Tripoli - that would mean passing Sirt - said to be a Gaddafi stronghold. If they take Misurata, they link Sirt to Tripoli. My contact in Sirt says it is all quiet. Another is not mentioning the war, as it were, are probably too afraid or in denial. 
I think there might be a long stalemate with Tripoli pretty much subdued. It will then become a matter of squeezing Tripoli and Sirt. This looks highly likely with the oil fields in the hands of the rebels and the financial squeeze on the regime. I would expect people to become pragmatic when it pinches too much. As for the rebels - ordinary people - they look a rough bunch, much as I remember them - and quite a few must have military training, and now military weapons...
Also interesting signs of forming an alternative administration - talk of non-hierarchical committees mentioned in one report - wonder how long that will last - any 'democratic' experience will be of such committees and people's congresses - so they know how to chew the fat... also very promising that people insist on a united Libya with Tripoli as the capital .... a bit of a surprise that, to this outsider. And all this talk of the influential tribal leaders - But is Libya grappling with the problem of modernity? 
Johnny 'L'