Monday, 29 February 2016

'Rather an illegal Budget than an immoral one'

by Andrew Wastling

' Swingeing cuts of £22 Million were agreed by Rochdale Council as its
leader dubbed the Tory's austerity drive “ morally bankrupt “. The
town will have suffered £200 Million worth of cuts by 2017 – including
£1 million next year'
, the  Manchester Evening News reported last week , and added that this
was to include :

'Plans put forward include cuts to HIV prevention and support
services totalling more than £2.5 million. Funding for specialist HIV
prevention & support services is set to be cut  by £110,000, while
money spent to help drug and alcohol abuse sufferers could be slashed
by £1.2 million over the next two years'

' Rochdale Council agrees swingeing cuts but leader slams "morally
bankrupt" Tory austerity drive'

[ Manchester Evening News , 24 February  2016 ,

Yes he's quite right it is a 'morally bankrupt' Tory austerity drive
- but to agree a " morally bankrupt " budget surely raises questions
of Labours role as a functioning  opposistion party ?

Lets hope Councillor Farrnel is just the first of many Labour Council
Leaders to speak out about this vile Tory government whose financial
diktats and slash & burn austerity would not be out of place in Franco
s Spain or post Allendes Chile. He at least wasn't taking  Tory slash
& burn austerity lying
down - but what happened to the rest of them ?

We already know it's the same old Tory Story from the remote
so called Tory elite in  Westminster - We never expected anything
different from them – they are after all Tories.

However local people certainly do want and expect something different from
Rochdale Labour Party .

They did not vote in Labour Councillors only to have them meekly
“rubber stamp”  Cameron & Osborne’s  policies through the back door
of Labour Town Halls .

They voted Labour to stand against Tory Policies and their pernicious
,evil right wing ideology  and their savage attacks on ordinary
workers , the frail & vulnerable in our Northern towns .

They did not vote Labour in to play role the collaborator or to act
the role of second understudy to the Blue Tories or for the Labour
Party to facilitate the most
concerted political attack on our local working class communities
since the 1930's to adopt the guise of  quisling Red Tories.

If Labour Councillors are not going to take a stand against the worst
cuts to Local Governments Public Services since 1974 when will they
finally get a political vertebrae, and at last take a principled
political stand and say enough is enough ?

" Jerusalem " ,Sir Hubert Parry's , rousing anthem for the labour
movement,has rightly been in the Labour Party song book for many years
. At home sung anywhere from a church congregation to a union picket
line this hymn encapsulates much of why the Labour movement was

The Party's very raison d’etre set to music many people feel.

Perhaps the remaining majority of those Labour Councillors who pointedly failed
to speak out , and the others who failed even turn up to the Budget
fixing meeting last Wednesday night , might like to skim over the
last verse for a timely reminder ?

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land

It will be noted that very few if any other than the hand picked
spokesmen out of 48 Labour Councillors were moved enough by righteous
anger at the " morally bankrupt "  Budget to bother to speak out in
opposition to this Tory imposed Austerity budget and instead of
attempting to defend the walls of Jerusalem they meekly collaborated
with the Tory Government in their brick by brick demolition of the
Welfare State, the NHS and Public Services – most appeared to me to
have thrown in the towel before even breaking into a few drops of
perspiration never mind a proper sweat.

A case more of demolishing - than building -Jerusalem - a more total
near - capitulation  of the hard won victories of the reforming 1945
Labour Government it’s  difficult to find.

There was very little  " menatl strife " in the Council Chamber on
Wednesday evening  and as for  " swords not  sleeping  in hands" - the
protestors looking down on the assembled Labour councillors  struggled
to hear what most said and to work out  if indeed they were even
actually awake or not ?

It was abvious to all watching from the Public Gallery that not only
were most Labours Councillors swords  " asleep "  in their hands they
were self evidently too blunt and rusty to defend Jerusalem, and
probally little use for even fighting their way out of a soggy paper
bag -   " pathetic ", " cringe worthy " and " spineless " were among
the most common words describing most Labour councillors  performance
in the post budget autopsy at the bar.

“Our hands are tied “ , bleat Labour , “there is nothing we can do to
stop them!”

“Then what is the point of voting for you  at all ? “ , the local voters
will soon start responding .

Anti austerity protesters have a few suggestions to our Labour
Councillors of what could be done by way of opposing the Tory Cuts
rather than  simply "rubber stamping" them without a struggle:

For example minutes from some Northern Councils show “ No Cuts Budgets
“ have been discussed by some Greater Manchester Councils at official
level .

If Labour councillors mounted a serious campaign alongside the other
120 Labour councils they could demand what they need to avoid a cuts
budget .The  Government couldn't find enough retired civil servants to
replace them all. Northern Councils acting in unison could force this
government with its wafer-thin majority to back down. In the meantime
they could continue to fund services using reserves, as 82% of
councils already do, and borrowing powers, especially given the
extremely low interest rates being charged currently.

Rochdale Labour Council have so we are told  £169.6million  in usable
reserves. Could these reserves not be  “front-loaded “ to keep our
communities & vital front line services from being devastated by Tory
“ slash & burn “ Austerity measures and then repaid back from
Westminster once we get a financially saner Corbyn premiership Labour
government back into power at Westminster in two years time ?

Such a course of action would not be illegal and councillors no longer
face the risk of being surcharged or banned from office But if they
really want to fight to save services this is just one course of
action open to them.

And of course as a tactic of last resort – good old fashioned
,peaceful , non-violent civil disobedience - rather than collaborate
in implementing an immoral budget those Labour Councillors still in
unions could for example ask their union reps to ask their membership
to refuse to implement cuts legislation, take industrial action ,
adopt go slow policies, walk outs and worker occupation in departments
forced to implement brutal cuts by a reluctant Labour Council.

A united front between Labour Councillors and Council workers about to
be made redundant would be a better response than just timidly rolling
over and giving up without even a struggle as many appear to have done
this week.

Those Labour councillors of faith could refuse to participate in
actively facilitating a Tory Budget that breaches their individual
consciences and runs contrary to deeply spiritual ,religious faith or

Christian Councillors for example could make public statements to the
effect that refuse to participate in the implementation of the Budget
on the grounds it runs in direct contradiction to the Christian
parable and Jesus ministry to the poor and vulnerable :

“Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the
needy in court”  Proverbs 22.22

I'm equally certain Muslim, Hindu and Socialist councillors in the
local Labour Party should if they are men & women of true conscience
be able to easily find a reason not to willingly participate in such a
divisive and socially destructive piece of legislation if they choose
to do so .

After all as the great Martin Luther King Jr,  pointed out in the sixties :

“An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust,
and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to
arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in
reality expressing the highest respect for the law”

In the end when  all is said and done It is surely better to
peacefully break unjust laws than to break the backs of poor and
vulnerable people  .

If our local Labour party and our elected councillors are not prepared
to take a moral lead and resist this vindictive Tory imposed Austerity
others are prepared to do so .

Yours faithfully


Attempt to Gag Blacklist Claimants

CONSTRUCTION firms attempt to ban a number of blacklisted workers from giving evidence in the blacklisting super-trial was thrown out by the High Court on Friday (26 Feb). Edmund Nourse QC representing the blacklisting firms; Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska and Vinci asked for the court to restrict the number of witness statements to 17 'lead cases' and rule out a number of blacklisted workers from giving evidence. The firms specifically tried to ban the witness statements from electrician Billy Spiers and bricklayer John Bryan. But Lord Justice Supperstone ruled against the companies attempt to silence workers who have been victimised over decades. 

After the ruling Billy Spiers, chairman of the UNITE national construction committee commented:
'I had a real bad time getting work on the cards after being put on the blacklist. I was sacked and apart from T5 and Isle of Grain where the union fought for me to be employed, I struggled, sometimes being out of work for a full year at a time. Along with a lot of my workmates who have been Shop Stewards or Health and Safety Representatives, its been difficult.  These blacklisters are still not showing any remorse. Trying to stop witness statements from blacklisted workers at yesterday's High Court hearing just demonstrates their attitude: shame on them'

John Bryan, blacklisted bricklayer from Bermondsey commented: 
'After waiting since the 1980s for some kind of justice, I cannot just walk away and leave our struggle without taking it as far as I can. I will support my mates in this fight. Blacklisted workers will not be silenced.' 

Additional information from the High Court hearing on Friday: 

1. A total of 240 cases have now settled. 
367 cases are still live.
Plus another 75 new claimants joined the litigation last week alone. 
Final deadline for claimants to join the group litigation was extended by 7 days til Friday 4th March. It is excepted that the total number of claimants going to the full trial will reach over 450. 

2. The full trial is scheduled to start on 7th May and finish on 31st July. 16 witness statements have been submitted by the comanies including directors of multinantuonal companies who held the role of chairman and vice chairman of the notorious Consulting Association

3. After being instructed by the court to go back and search again. The firms now claim to have found the computer servers where emails from Cullum McAlpine & Gerry Harvey were stored. They still haven't actually handed them over yet. 

4. There will be another case management hearing some time in first week of April.

5. German TV cameras filmed blacklisted workers outside the High Court.

6. Print quality photographs available from Guy Smallman (NUJ)

Blacklist Support Group

Local Vermin & the Bury Times!

Dear Editor (Bury Times),

WHILE members of the Bury Unite Commercial Branch welcomes the letter of support from Councillor Dorothy Gunther (Opinion Thursday, Feb. 11th, 2016), we fear that the concerns of  binmen, councillors and residents about the increased sightings of vermin in Bury since the introduction of the new bin collection scheme will not have any impact unless we all speak more loudly about the dangers.   This will require something of a campaign in the forthcoming months.

Naturally, the vermin of Bury do not have a vote, but if they did, surely they would vote for the Labour councillor who pronounced in July 2014 that ‘There is no evidence there will be a detrimental impact on public health such as vermin, unpleasant smells and fly tipping’ as a consequence of the new system. 

Politics often involves some self-deception, and political wishful thinking; consequently the Labour leaders in Bury have been more inclined to listen to managers and officials, who may wish to promote their own agendas, rather than hear the views of their own rank and file binmen.   The citizens of Bury deserve better than this.

Yours sincerely,

Brian Bamford:  Secretary of Bury Unite Commercial Branch

Kate Middleton’s Anarchist Ancestor

The second in a continuing series by Chris Draper of, 'Lives of Northern Anarchists'.
Thanks to everyone who responded to the story of John Oldman and
feel free to add comments, info or criticism below.
THE Royal Family are parasites but Kate Middleton had one admirable ancestor; Edith Lupton, an anarchist. 
The paternal ancestors of the Duchess of Cambridge, were a prominent Leeds family and 'Luptons' attended Kate and Will’s wedding.  Curiously, Edith’s activism is always omitted from published accounts of the Lupton lineage (eg. Wikipaedia, Daily Mail, Daily Express etc).

Edith Lupton would certainly have livened up Kate’s wedding reception. In 1898 Edith was imprisoned for a month for disorderly conduct and assaulting a police officer.  Described in court as, 'well-educated, 56, an artist and social reformer', Edith denied spitting in the policeman’s face but explained 'that it was her custom to show her contempt for the force by going into the middle of the road and expectorating on the ground whenever she met a policeman.'

Born in Leeds in 1843 into a wealthy household, Edith’s father was a Unitarian Minister who chose not to practice his religious calling but instead rely on dividends from property and railway shares. When Edith was growing up, the family lived for a while in Whitby and then Chesterfield before returning to Leeds.  Edith was educated at home, initially by a governess and then by her father before training as an artist at the Slade in London.  In 1872 she was one of the first women awarded a silver medal for drawing by the University of London and went on to exhibit at the Royal Academy before returning north.

Edith was a feminist with an abiding commitment to children.  In 1882 she campaigned as the sole “Independent” amongst eighteen other assorted 'Church' or 'Liberal' candidates for the Bradford School Board.  Bradford’s MP, William Forster, had introduced the national system of compulsory state-education before assuming responsibility for the policy of coercion in Ireland. Edith’s libertarian instincts identified the continuity of this authoritarian approach.  She campaigned against state imposition and for local education and was duly elected with the second highest vote, beaten only by the Rev. Simpson who stood as the 'Catholic' candidate.  Supported by both male and female workers of Bradford, the local paper reported an interesting crisis of conscience experienced by one group of citizens fearing for their souls if they voted with their hearts, 'In Caledonia Street, some of the Catholic women, feeling an inkling to vote for Miss Lupton and not liking to openly support that body affected ignorance or illiteracy. When the returning-officer directed them to vote they declined to make a cross on the paper, saying they were forbidden to do so except for religious purposes and they went away without voting.'

Edith threw her heart and soul into community politics, intent on humanising the Bradford school system.  In February 1883, she organised a School Board Concert at the Mechanics Institute with songs, recitations and performances by the Bowling Brass Band.  In September she began a campaign to end compulsory homework for primary school children.  The following year she persuaded over fifty eminent physicians to sign a petition published in the Yorkshire Post that stated;

 'We, the undersigned medical men of Bradford, believing that evening brain-work is undesirable and frequently injurious to young children, most earnestly beg the board to give effect to the resolution passed at the recent meeting in St George’s Hall, to the effect that, Home lessons should not be enforced on children under ten years of age.'

In November 1884 Edith wrote a lengthy essay excoriating the state-school system that was widely reported by the press:
'She begins by saying that…a gross and ignorant tyranny has in the name of education risen up amongst us and it is time the nation opened its eyes to what is going on…She considers that not only are delicate children treated with what are at times barbarous cruelty but that the vitality of strong children is often seriously depressed by antiquated and ignorant modes of instruction.'

In the summer of 1887 Edith garnered the support of a dozen Women’s Suffrage Societies for a formal appeal to Queen Victoria, to support their campaign for political parity with men but to no avail.  Edith had come to recognise the limitations of local politics and polite petitioning and the undesirability of state-socialism.  Whilst she fervently opposed state schooling most of the labour movement celebrated it as a welcome advance.   

By November 1887, Edith had come to identify herself as an anarchist and spoke at Leeds alongside colourful local libertarian Greevz Fisher (the subject of a future essay in this series) at a public meeting presided over by Auberon Herbert.  'The Chairman said that on the subject they had met to consider that night they all had a great mistrust of State direction… First of all they were struck by the very remarkable thing they were doing in allowing a few gentlemen to sit in an office in Whitehall from which they shaped and directed the education of the whole people of this country.'

Edith didn’t stand for re-election to the School Board in 1888.  She did attend the annual conference of the 'National Society for Women’s Suffrage', at Manchester Town Hall and was duly appointed to the Executive Committee but she wasn’t impressed. Edith’s exasperation with the constitutional tactics of the Victorian suffrage campaigners finally erupted at the 1891 National Conference at Westminster Town Hall where it was widely reported that 'Miss Edith Lupton, rising in the body of the hall, moved an amendment practically taking the form of a vote of censure on the Parliamentary Committee.'   Why should women thank them when they had achieved nothing!   'The amendment was seconded but ruled out of order by Lady Sandhurst.'

In 1890 Edith moved down to London to agitate full-time for William Morris’s Socialist League (SL).  She initially joined the 'North London SL', which met every Wednesday evening off Tottenham Court Road, and she spoke at Hyde Park alongside anarchist heavyweights Sam Mainwaring and Tom Cantwell.   Over the summer of 1890 Edith lectured at a variety of Socialist League pitches in both central and east London before settling in south London, where her favourite pitch was New Cut, Southwark, which the SL’s newspaper Commonweal assured readers 'is as bad as any slum in the East-end”.  From the outset at New Cut, as Commonweal  reported, Edith was at home with the slum-dwellers, “Great enthusiasm shown by the people at both meetings.'

In August, Lupton attended a, 'Revolutionary, Anti-Parliamentary Conference' held at the Autonomie Club but her ideas didn’t go down too well.  'Miss Lupton believed in assembling the people in the streets; only by teaching them together could we infuse courage into them.  Revolt, too was generated in this way, as fire by the sharpening of flint against flint.  There must be leaders – (some cries of “No!”) – but they must arise when the time came.  Leadership was necessary – (renewed dissent) – but we must not plan it.  We must not make a trade of it; only we must be ready to utilise it when necessary.'   The dissent was ominous, Edith’s pragmatism would have been welcomed in previous years but by the autumn of 1890 the Socialist League had been taken over by an intolerant 'anarchist' faction, carried away by their own fiery rhetoric and determined to exclude all but true believers.  William Morris had already been squeezed out of the editorial chair and was soon to leave altogether and Edith’s card was marked.

Edith stuck to her guns and at the end of the month addressed a meeting of the SL at the Commonweal Hall in Holborn on the topic of, 'Woman'.  The result was pithily reported by the paper as, 'Animated discussion'!   A week later, Edith was arrested whilst speaking for the cause in Southwark.  On that occasion, Commonweal offered encouraging support and ridiculed the officers who accused her of being drunk and disorderly.  'Our uniformed friends had relied upon the loyalty of their divisional surgeon – perhaps thinking that an unprotected female would never dream of demanding to see him.  Both expectations were disappointed. Miss Lupton insisted upon her right and the very police doctor was compelled to certify that she was perfectly sober.'   Her case was dismissed.

The following Sunday the SL organised a demonstration in Southwark to protest at Edith’s arrest and, 'A large and enthusiastic crowd assembled encouraged the speakers and showed every sympathy with the meeting.'

In September, Edith, then living at 59 Selhurst Road, Thornton Heath, took over as Secretary of the South London branch of the SL and extended her range of regular speaking pitches to include Streatham and Battersea.  She teamed up for some of these talks with an especially appealing character called Robert Harding, the 'Peaceful Anarchist', who employed a range of innovative strategies to attract a crowd that often involved him being extravagantly chained to railings, lamp-posts and park benches to the anger and frustration of the police and further amusement of the audience. 

In early October Edith was advertised to speak alongside William Morris, Kitz, Nicoll, Mowbray, Louise Michel and other stars of the movement at a forthcoming commemoration of the judicial murder of the Chicago Anarchists but politics intervened.  Besides lecturing for the SL, Edith had been organising to liberate women from the dreadful working conditions of commercial laundries and with several other feminists had devised a scheme for creating Co-operative Laundries.  At the end of October a prospectus was unveiled in the pages of Commonweal:
'Our object is to put a stop to the “sweating” which so largely and increasingly exists in the laundry industry, to pay proper wages, to shorten the hours of labour, to provide comfortable and well-ventilated work-rooms and to raise the workers at the same time from the position of wage-slaves to that of owners of their own earnings.  We also make a special appeal to our comrades as women, for not only do women suffer as wage-slaves but as chattel-slaves also.'

Instead of supporting the plan, the paper’s new editors appended a critical footnote to Edith’s Co-op article, denouncing the scheme’s facility for raising capital by offering interest to subscribers.  This undermining of Edith’s efforts exemplified the narrow sexist approach of the editors rather than the practicality of Lupton’s scheme.  When Edith and her trio of co-workers defended their ideas in the Commonweal of 1st November 1890 the editors couldn’t resist having the last word but in doing so revealed their millenarian prejudice:
 'We have quite as much sympathy with the sweated laundry women as Miss Lupton, only we are not sure that co-operation, or even trade unionism will sweep their slavery away…nothing but the Social Revolution will raise the mass from the horrible misery from which most working-women suffer at the present time.' 

As 1890’s, workers were increasingly lured away from anarchism by electoral opportunism many comrades responded, not by patiently seeking to re-establish links but instead by retreating onto an ever diminishing island of revolutionary fundamentalism.  Nothing but an immediate destruction of capitalism deserved contemplation, all else was worthless palliative. Edith’s name was removed from posters advertising the Chicago commemoration and the South London SL dissolved.  William Morris spoke at the event but left the League soon after, yet Edith persevered.  The following spring, Edith recorded her occupation on the official census as, 'Lecturer for a Socialist League (Agitatress)'.   The feminisation of 'Agitator' was certainly significant and it’s likely the substitution of 'a Socialist League' for 'The Socialist League' indicated Edith’s distancing from the much diminished official SL organisation. 

Edith continued campaigning for laundry workers and by July 1891 twenty-seven trades councils were demanding action but to Lupton’s consternation it seemed the State intended to pre-empt the laundresses’ efforts to organise co-operative control of their industry.   Ironically, having already been rebuffed by the anarchist editors of the SL, Edith was in May 1892 derided by arch-statist, Eleanor Marx with similar prejudice.  When it appeared the State was about to control laundries, (as reported by Eleanor Marx):
 'immediately Mrs Fawcett the reactionary bourgeois advocate of women’s rights…who has never worked a day in her life, along with Miss Lupton, an anarchist (likewise a woman of the middle class), sent a counter delegation to protest against this intervention in woman’s labour.' 

Continuing her campaign for laundry co-operatives brought her into court several times in 1892 with fines imposed and two weeks in prison served.   Before the County Court in October Edith drew feminist conclusions:
 'Men are a miserable lot of curs, brought into the world to run down and denounce women and prevent them from obtaining their rights.  I have fought for women’s rights before and I will fight for them again.  I represent the poor washerwomen.'

In September 1893 under the heading, 'EDITH’S PRANKS', the Leeds Times reported:
'At the Marlborough-street Police Court, London on Monday, Miss Edith Lupton, a shabbily dressed woman, well known in London parks as a speaker was charged with being drunk and disorderly.'  Perhaps she was, for on that occasion Edith didn’t insist on a second opinion but neither did she give Mr Hannay, the magistrate, an easy time.  When Hannay asked if she had anything to say she replied, 'Nothing. I have had the honour of appearing before you three times and the last time I was here you punished me because I defended myself' – Mr Hannay: 'Surely you must be mistaken' -  Miss Lupton: 'Oh no. Would you like to hear your own words?'  –  Mr Hannay: 'Not particularly'. –  Miss Lupton: 'You told me that you would have let me off if I had not accused the policeman of telling lies and I made up my mind that when I next was brought here I would not say a word.'- Mr Hannay: 'Pay 10s.'

Edith kept on campaigning, and getting arrested, and as late as February 1898 she had a most erudite letter on 'Woman’s Suffrage' published in the Pall Mall Gazette but she was increasingly isolated, impoverished, ill-dressed and inebriated. In the indictment that opened this essay Edith was once again in Southwark Police-court charged with disorderly conduct and assault.   'Police Constable Reylance stated that he found the prisoner very drunk in Long Lane and she deliberately came up to him and spat twice in his face.  The defendant delivered an oration from the dock, quite in the Hyde Park manner. She had devoted her life to the poor and lowly.'   It was Edith Lupton’s last recorded act of rebellion.  In 1904, she died in Marylebone, impoverished and un-mourned.

For Peace, Love & Anarchy
Christopher Draper

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Cervantes Institute Manchester on Deansgate

There's No Winter Blues

at Manchester's Instituto Cervantes

Cineastas y cinéfilos se
dan cita en el Instituto
Cervantes de Mánchester,
pues proyectaremos
una selección de
cortometrajes del
Kino Film Festival.
Además, participamos
en la proyección y
charla con el director
Oskar Alegría en
HOME, donde
presentará su
filme 'La casa Emak

Film-makers and film
buffs meet at
Instituto Cervantes,
as we'll be screening
a sample of short
films from Kino Film
Besides, we'll take
part in the screening
and Q&A with Spanish
director Oskar Alegría
at HOME, where he'll
talk about his film 'The
Search for Emak Bakia'.
 Kino Film Festival24/02/2016 - 25/02/2016 - 26/02/2016Miércoles/Jueves/Viernes - Wednesday/Thursday/Friday (6.30pm)
Entrada libre/Free entry (RSVP)
Ciclo de cine:
Kino Film Festival
La Società Dante
Alighieri, Alliance
Francaise y el Instituto
Cervantes de Mánchester 
participan en este festival
con tres programas de
cortometrajes de
producción europea. (+)  
Cinema Season: Kino
Film Festival
Società Dante Alighieri,
Alliance Francaise
and Manchester's Instituto
Cervantes take part in this
festival with three short
film programmes by
European directors. (+) 
 Emak Bakia by Oskar Alegria09/03/2016Miércoles/
Wednesday (6.30pm)
HOME (2 Tony Wilson Place,

M15 4FN Manchester)

'La casa Emak Bakia'
+ charla con Oskar
Una película vanguardista
de Man Ray llamada Emak
Bakiaen vasco “Déjame
en paz”, desata la historia
de una búsqueda. (+) 
'The Search for Emak
Bakia' + Q&A with Oskar
A Man Ray avant-garde
film called Emak Bakia,
or Leave Me Alone (from
Basque), will be the starting
point of a search. (+) 

Friday, 26 February 2016

William Morris at Wakefield

Below is a short piece regarding WIlliam Morris's early years.
This Saturday, 27 February 2016, we have a meeting at the Red Shed, 18 Vicarage Street, Wakefield WF1 1QX on WILLIAM MORRIS: REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALIST OR UTOPIAN DREAMER?  The event starts at 1pm.  The speakers are Colin Waugh (Independent Working Class Education Network), Bill Martin (Socialist Party of Great Britain) and Brian Else (Wakefield Green Party).
Admission is free and all are welcome.  There is a free light buffet and also a bar with excellent real ale. 

William Morris was born on 24 March 1834 at Clay Hill, Walthamstow. It was then a "pleasant village" to the east of London.
Six years later the family moved to Woodford Hall, a Palladian mansion stood in 50 acres of parkland with adjacent farmland.  Only a fence separated it from Epping Forest and it was -Henderson (1967) reflects- "very much the squire's house" with the garden gate opening on to the local churchyard.
The move to Woodford Hall had been made possible by a precipitate rise in the price of copper shares.  William Morris's father had 272 shares in a Devonshire copper mine.  They were originally valued at one pound but were now changing hands for £800.  His holding therefore was now worth about £200,000.
At the age of nine Morris was sent to prep school in Walthamstow. He got there each day -2 miles- by pony.
Then in the autumn of 1847 -his father having passed away- Morris was sent off to Marlborough 'one of the new public schools founded for sons of the middle classes.'
Life there wasn't very regimented.  Indeed he would later say he learned next to nothing "for indeed next to nothing was taught."  But it suited Morris.  He was able to Savernake forest, the stone circles of Avebury and the pre-Celtic long barrows on the ridges above Pewsey Vale.  Plus he was able to peruse literature in the school library -it was well stocked with books on archaeology and medieval architecture.
Marlborough was in ferment however.  It culminated in a "rebellion of the whole school" in November 1851.  Morris's family -who'd married to Water House, Walthamstow- brought him home and got him a private tutor to prepare him for Oxford.
In June 1852 he sat for the matriculation exam in the hall of Exeter College, Oxford. Sat next to him was Edward Burne-Jones.  They would become lifelong friends.

Alan Stewart
Convenor, Wakefield Socialist History Group

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Workfare taskmaster punched by angry Jobseeker in Ashton!

AS an old garrison town, Ashton-under-Lyne, has always had something of a reputation for being boisterous and rowdy. In Victorian times, the town had a reputation for being one of the most drunkenest towns in the North West. 

It therefore comes as no surprise to many of us, that we heard today during one of our regular weekly Ashton Jobcentre protest, that a downtrodden and miserable Jobseeker, had turned very nasty while on a placement with a so-called local training provider in Ashton-under-Lyne. We are reliably informed that this morning, a member of staff working for 'Avanta' in Ashton, was violently assaulted by a disgruntled inmate. 

We have been unable to establish why this incident occurred or whether the police were called. However, the CPS Jobcentre union, have reported that violent incidents directed against their own members have risen exponentially as benefit sanctions have increased and claimants have been put under greater pressure to meet targets.

One expects that violent incidents of this kind are likely to continue.

No Manchester Bookfair in 2015!

We spotted the notice below issued by David and 'Veg'
on the Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair website.
The reluctance of the People's History Museum to provide
a venue to David and 'Veg' was known to us because of
difficulties with regard to the organisers of the bookfair
allowing free access.

No Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair 2015
We’re sad to announce that there will be no Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair this year (2015).
Our usual venue, The People’s History Museum, was not available and we were unable to find another suitable space that was accessible, affordable, big enough and available!
We hope to be back in 2016 if we can find a suitable venue.
If you are interested in getting involved in organising the bookfair please drop us an email:
David and Veg
Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair

Progress at Freedom Press?

ON Tuesday the 8th, March 2016, we have been told that there will be a social get-together between the Friends of Freedom Press and the Freedom Press Collective in Angel Alley, Whitechapel.  It seems that the Freedom Collective asked for this to take place after differences of opinion over how Freedom should be managed in recent times.  Until recent years Freedom newspaper, founded in 1886 by the Russian anarchist and geographer Peter Kropotkin, was one of the oldest established radical publications in the world.  We must now wait to see how things turn out in the coming months.

Progress Report on Blacklist Case

Blacklist Support Group Photo Opportunity
9:30am Friday 26th February 2016
Royal Courts of Justice
The Strand 

2 weeks ago it emerged in the Daily Mirror and subsequent press stories that a small number of blacklisted workers had received between £15-20 million in compensation between them but the full blacklisting super-trial is still scheduled to start on 7th May. The construction giants; Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska and Vinci have already admitted their guilt and responsibility for targeting union activists during their 1993-2009 operation of the Consulting Association blacklist and for decades beforehand under the guise of the Economic League. It is believed that over 100 new claimants with blacklist files have joined the litigation within the last week alone. 

This Friday is the first hearing since the stories in the press and also the first since witness statements were exchanged by the legal teams. 16 leading industry figures have given written statements, including Directors of multinational companies and former Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of the Consulting Association. The glaring omission from the list of blacklisters is the name of Cullum McAlpine, the man who bankrolled and was founding chairman of the Consulting Association. In previous hearings, the High Court has been shocked to hear that not a single email or letter to or from McAlpine was disclosed, in fact many such documents were destroyed, despite a court order requiring full disclosure.  

Dave Smith, BSG secretary commented:
"As we get closer to May, we can nearly taste the victory. The prospect of directors of multinational corporations who violated our human rights being forced to give evidence under oath in the High Court is whetting our appetite.  
The British legal system needs to demonstrate that big business is not above the law. The guilty must be punished; in court and by their removal from publicly funded contracts. If there was any real justice, the wretches would already be in jail". 

Blacklist Support Group

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Ian Stewart, Chief Economist for Deloitte's, asks what are the alternatives to EU membership?

THE date for the UK referendum on EU membership is to be Thursday 23rd June 2016. The last referendum took place in 1975, just two-years after the UK joined the EEC. In that referendum the electorate voted 67.2% to 32.8% to stay in. Since then, the EU has grown from 9 to 28 members. As the pound slumps to a seven-year low against the dollar fuelled by investor uncertainty about the UK's economic prospects should it vote to leave the EU (BREXIT), we thought it might be useful to publish an analysis from Ian Stewart, Chief Economist, for Deloitte's. The following is taken from the Deloitte 'Monday Briefing':

"* UK voters have consistently been among the most euro-sceptic in Europe. Nonetheless, in the last 40 or so years the UK public has been more likely to support staying in the EU than leaving. Since Ipsos MORI started polling the public in 1977, on average 47% of UK voters have supported membership and 40% have opposed it, with an average of 12% undecided. The pro-EU vote dropped to a low of 26% in 1980 rising, over the following decade, to a peak of 63% in 1991, shortly before the pound's ejection from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.  
* More recent opinion polls from a number of pollsters show a marked narrowing of the pro-EU lead since last summer, partly in response to the migration crisis. Across four polls carried out since January, the pro-EU vote averaged 43% and the antis 41%, with 2% undecided. There is a wide variation in the readings between individual polls and telephone polls show higher level of support for EU membership than online polls.  
 * The salience of migration in today's debate marks another difference with 1975. The Maastricht Treaty of 1992 established the right of people to live and work anywhere in the EU. EU enlargement into Central and Eastern Europe in 2004 led to a marked rise in immigration into the UK and pushed migration up from the list of UK voter concerns. More recent migration from North Africa and the Middle East, and the breakdown of the EU's Schengen agreement, have added new concerns. Since last year YouGov's polls show voters rating immigration as the most important issue facing Britain.  
 * Yet whatever the polls say about migration, the bedrock economic issues of "what will it mean for jobs" and "am I better off in the EU" are likely to prove decisive. As in the Scottish referendum and last year's General Election, the safety of the status quo, and fear of the unknown, will be significant factors.  
 * The current, pervasive sense of geopolitical and economic uncertainty – encompassing everything from chaos in the Middle East, to a more assertive Russia, terrorism, the slowdown in China and sluggish world growth – heighten the appeal of the status quo.  
 * At the heart of the pro-EU campaign will be the message that leaving would be a huge risk. As the Prime Minister said on Saturday, "I believe Britain will be safer, stronger and better off in a reformed EU". Of those campaigning for Brexit, he said, "All they are offering is a risk at a time of uncertainty: a leap in the dark. Leaving Europe would be a threat to our economy and national security." The Prime Minister's strong personal poll rating is an asset for the pro-EU campaign - and one which the Brexit camp hope will be offset by Boris Johnson's emergence, yesterday, as one of their own. 
 * Attitudes to the EU tend to divide along lines of age, education and social class. Support for the EU is strongest among younger, university educated, and more prosperous voters. The EU is least popular among older, more conservative voters, and those without university degrees. 

* YouGov reports that 63% of under-30s favour staying in the EU, a proportion that falls to 44% in the 60s. The people who voted to stay in the Common Market in 1975, those in their 60s and above, are now most likely to vote to leave. 
 * Those belonging to the 'AB' social class – generally the higher managerial and professional occupations – support the EU by 56% to 44%. A majority of people in the 'DE' and 'C2' social grades are opposed to EU membership as are those for whom GCSEs are their highest qualifications. 
 * Support for the EU has consistently been highest in London and Scotland and lowest in East Anglia, Yorkshire and the West Midlands. In February Ipsos Mori found 54% of voters across the UK favoured EU membership while 62% of Scots did so. The Scottish National Party argues that if Scotland votes to stay and the rest of the UK votes to leave Scotland should hold a further referendum on independence. 
* With the race apparently close and polls showing between 10-20% of voters yet to make up their mind, undecided voters will be crucial to the outcome. Their views are likely to be influenced by the media verdict on the Prime Minister's renegotiation. But it also seems likely that the centrifugal pull of the status quo will see the "don't knows" shift disproportionately towards the pro-EU camp. 
 * One of the major challenges for the anti-EU campaign groups is that there is no agreement on an alternative to EU membership. All options are speculative. Any settlement would depend on what the UK sought to achieve following a vote to leave the EU, and what its former EU partners and other countries were prepared to concede. The most frequently talked of options are the Norwegian and Swiss models or operating under the rules of the World Trade Organisation.  
 * Outside the EU Norway has membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), giving it full access to the Single Market and an opt-out of certain elements of the EU, such as the Common Fisheries Policy. The downside is that Norway has to accept almost all EU legislation, including on the free movement of people, and makes significant contributions to the EU budget, while having no direct say in EU decision making or regulations.  
 * Switzerland's membership of the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) offers a more distant relationship with the EU. As an EFTA member, Switzerland has been free to negotiate the terms of its relationship with the EU and rest of the world on a bilateral basis. Budget contributions to the EFTA secretariat are minimal. In practice Switzerland has signed up to a high proportion of EU regulation, including the free movement of people, and has to make contributions to a number of large EU programmes, in return for access to the Single Market. 
 * At the other end of the spectrum, the UK could opt for the most distant economic relationship with the EU and forego preferential access to EU markets along Swiss or Norwegian lines. As a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) the UK would acquire Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status and would be free to negotiate its own free trade agreements with the EU and other countries. This is the experience of countries such as Australia, which obviously is not subject to EU regulations and budget contributions, but does not have unfettered, tariff-free access to the Single Market.  
 * These examples only illustrate the experience of other nations outside the EU. The UK is a much larger, more populous nation than Norway and Switzerland and there is no precedent for the departure of a nation from the EU. Much would depend on whether the negotiations that followed a vote to leave would be harmonious or fractious. In such negotiations the UK would face a trade-off between autonomy and accepting regulation to gain access to EU markets. A more distant relationship with Europe would give greater control over borders and regulations, but could also mean a more restricted access to EU markets.  
 * The UK's aims in any negotiations would depend partly on the result of the referendum. A narrow vote to leave could lead to the UK government trying to achieve further adjustments to the UK's relationship with the EU that could be presented to voters in a second referendum. A landslide vote to leave which was seen as a rejection of EU migration would make it difficult for the UK to seek a Norwegian or Swiss style settlement which requires free movement of people.  
 * In the referendum voters will be choosing between a known, if evolving, relationship with the rest of Europe and leaving the EU. A vote to leave would be the start of a long and complex process of negotiation as the UK sought to create a new position in the world.  
 * The pro-EU camp will emphasise the risks and uncertainties of leaving. In response their opponents will seek to create a vision of a confident, prosperous Britain secure outside the EU, but on friendly terms with it.

* We will return to this question of what life might look like outside the EU in a future edition. In the meantime we will cover the referendum news, the polls and the bookies' odds each week in the "Brexit and European politics" section of our news stories."