Saturday, 30 April 2016

U.S. Farm Workers' 'Blacklisted'

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April 28, 2016
Dear Joe (Bailey),
Seven farmworkers have been blacklisted from working at Jackson Farms for speaking out about unfair labor conditions, and they need your support.

In October 2015, the same day political supporters came together for a fundraiser on NC State Senator Brent Jackson’s farm, Jackson’s son, Rodney, fired a migrant farmworker from Mexico named Jose because he couldn't pay $2,400 for a gas pump piece that broke during a workplace accident. Jackson fired Jose and told him he had 30 minutes to leave the farm or the police would be called.  Suddenly without a job or a place to live, Jose was forced to wait on the side of the road until the owner of a nearby Mexican store came to pick him up and assist him with purchasing a plane ticket back to Mexico.  

Send a message to Senator Jackson and the tobacco companies and tell them that this type of retaliation is unacceptable.

This is not the only case of retaliation for voicing complaints at Jackson Farms. Six other employees have filed legal claims, along with Jose, over wages not paid to them in the 2015 season. Farm employees called many of the workers to scare them into dropping the lawsuit, and when they refused they were blacklisted and denied employment for the 2016 season.

This type of retaliation sets a clear example for other workers on the farm: complain and you will lose your job.

Tell Senator Jackson and the tobacco companies that we won’t stand for this type of unfair treatment of workers. Reinstate the workers now, and guarantee freedom of association for all farmworkers!

This is what happens when workers aren’t free to organize and negotiate fair terms of employment, and when there is no safe grievance mechanism for workers to voice complaints. This is what it looks like when employers use fear to keep workers silent, even when their wages are being stolen or they’re forced to work in unsafe conditions. And this is exactly why tobacco companies must work with FLOC to ensure that freedom of association is protected on every tobacco farm, and that all workers can safely speak out against injustice.

Please take a minute to send an email in support of these farmworkers, and share with your family and friends.

Thanks for your continued support.

Hasta La Victoria!

Chesterfield’s 'Anarchist of the Abyss'

by Christopher Draper

FOR seven weeks in 1903 Jack London dossed down with drifters and derelicts in East End lodging houses.  On returning to America, Jack famously published his account of these exploits as the hugely influential, 'People of the Abyss'.  Three years earlier, a Chesterfield anarchist published an account of life in common lodging houses drawn from a lifetime’s experience tramping around the North as a militant navvy.  Andrew Hall’s historic account has been completely ignored and his activism unappreciated, until now.

Hall was defiantly bottom drawer, a navvy who looked, lived and spoke the part and no intellectual slouch. According to the local paper, at a Hull 'Paris Commune Commemoration' in 1893, Andrew 'traced back the history of the fight now pending for more bread and more pleasures of life for the toilers…He held that it was better to die fighting than starve like a rat in a hole.'  Andrew Hall was a navvy with attitude.

Born in Coatbridge in 1851, as a teenager Andrew laboured in coal mines until, aged 17, a protracted strike forced him to leave home and seek work south of the border.  On the tramp around Newcastle, Bishop Auckland and Durham, Andrew slept in common lodging houses until he found employment navvying on the railways. After a period in the early eighties employed on the 'Hull to Barnsley', Hall followed the line south to London. 

Years wielding a pick in cold, wet, dangerous conditions meant “Navvy Hall” didn’t need lectures from metropolitan soap box agitators to hate bosses but he lapped up their ideas of an organised fight back. In 1886 Andy joined the Hampstead branch of Britain’s first Marxist party, the Social Democratic Federation (SDF).

To militants of the SDF Andrew certainly looked the business. In complete contrast to frock-coated, top-hatted stockbroker Henry Mayhew Hyndman, the party’s self-appointed leader. Hall’s fustian jacket, flat cap and twisted muffler shouted “navvy”. Both cap and jacket were flamboyantly discarded as Andy invariably introduced himself to audiences with the words, “I’m Andrew Hall the navvy!” Crowds loved him but the authorities despised the rabble-rousing “Navvy Hall”. 

Hall’s agitational ability was immediately exploited by the party elite who allotted him a prime spot on the “Number 2 platform” at the NW corner of Trafalgar Square for their Sunday 29th August 1886 demo. The rambling resolution put to the crowd concluded by urging the SDF, “to secure for the producing classes collective control over the railways, shipping, mines, factories, machinery and land…and to recommence at once their vigorous agitation in favour of the organization of the labour of the unemployed.”

The press denounced the rhetoric but praised the attire of most platform performers, 'Nearly all the orators wore red ties, scarf, rosette, ribbon or red flowers. Not a few were well dressed and wore top hats'. Sartorial standards were maintained by the socialists at the evening’s celebratory dinner, 'The company might have been one entire and perfect bourgeoisie in the predominance of black coat and the hat of civilisation…one of the few exceptions was the navvy Hall, who literally came in his working clothes, though they were very clean ones and who sat at meal with his shirt sleeves tucked up and showing the brown arms as high as the elbows and in his belcher twisted with nautical freedom round his sinewy throat.'

In September Hall was arrested for “obstruction”, along with comrade Ernest Rossiter, for speaking from a chair in Bell Street, London. According to police, “He was surrounded by about 500 people, entirely blocking the roadway and footway…During the meeting three cabs passed along Bell Street and had to pull up and stop, while the speakers got off their stand and a way was made through the crowd for them to pass. The cabmen and the fares were booed by the crowd and one cab and fare was followed and chased into Edgeware Road.”
Religionists and temperance soap-boxers who caused similar obstruction were ignored by public authorities who confined their efforts to driving socialist agitators off the streets.

A month later, the Sussex Courier, suggested the SDF’s new roving agitator was guilty of more than obstruction and dress-code faux pas, intimating that, “Navvy Andrew Hall whose outrageous threats and language towards the upper and trading classes” had incited Tunbridge Wells’ socialists to embark on an incendiary spree causing considerable damage to three commercial premises. 

On 9 November 1886, the day of the London Lord Mayor’s Show, Andrew Hall, Tom Mann and comrades organised an unofficial Trafalgar Square counter-demonstration to draw attention to the plight of the unemployed and the public’s right to free speech. It was promptly banned by the authorities but as a defiant crowd gathered, “Andrew Hall -  who previous to addressing the crowd, took off his coat and rolled up his shirt sleeves – said, amid great cheering, that they meant to show Sir Charles Warren that no unauthorised and irresponsible Chief Constable was to be allowed to proclaim a meeting of British subjects…at no distant date the working men would raise in their strength and sweep away the last vestiges of despotism…The speaker’s gesture bespoke a considerable acquaintance with the art of self-defence – Looks as if he wanted to hit him a clip under the jaw – remarked a critical bearer – and this won him the sympathy of the crowd.”

“The resolutions had scarcely been passed when the police…commenced to clear the Square. The foot police pushed and elbowed the people off as well as they could and were aided by mounted police. A body of Life Guards was sent by Sir Charles Warren and immediately rode up”. Andrew’s politics were too revolutionary for the SDF, not straightforward Marxism nor undiluted anarchy but more an iconoclastic libertarian communism. He was deeply suspicious of constitutional politics and a powerful advocate of insurrection. 

After the Trafalgar Square demo the SDF sent Hall north. According to the Times, “The relief of the unemployed is becoming a serious question in Northampton. Many persons are out of employment and meetings of Socialists and the unemployed are held on Sunday mornings. A London Socialist named Hall appeared at the police-court yesterday with a following of unemployed and Socialists. He asked the magistrates for assistance and on account of his behaviour was ordered out of the place. Hall then harangued the crowd outside the Town-Hall…Hall advised the men to attend the police court in hundreds next morning and show the magistrates they would not be trampled on by the police nor by the upper classes…The following day police arrested two local men assisting Hall’s campaign. They were questioned and following their eventually release an open-air demonstration was held on the large market square, when the navvy Hall made a bitter speech against the Corporation.”

The following Sunday Andrew was recalled to London to speak from the platform at another mass demo in Trafalgar Square. “Sir Charles Warren has at his disposal not less than 4,000 men, nearly a hundred of whom are mounted… and two guns of the Royal Horse Artillery battery will be located in the vicinity of Charing Cross…loose stones and debris, which might be used as missiles were removed from the streets…” but they needn’t have worried, the socialists were well behaved. Not so the following February when Hall played a leading role in disrupting a religious service at St Paul’s Cathedral. The SDF issued the following (abbreviated) statement, “The Archbishop of Canterbury has been asked to preach to the unemployed next Sunday in St Paul’s Cathedral on a text chosen by one of our comrades, Let him that stole steal no more but rather let him labour…Modern Christianity is essentially a middle-class creed with a capitalist paradise here and hereafter held up before its votaries to cheer them on in their struggle for personal gain on earth and individual glorification in Heaven.” Andrew and chums secreted themselves inside the Cathedral whilst most of the demonstrators stayed outside with banners and flags, “Most of which were red but some were black with white letters…one sentence ran, I was hungry and ye gave me no meat . Another was, I was naked and ye clothed me not. The red flags were
surmounted by caps of Liberty”. “That the purpose of the gathering was to disturb the congregation and to scoff at religion was very early seen…The doors were closed and then there were heard by those under the dome the sounds of speech-making and cheering…from the spot where the disturbance occurred came the navvy Andrew Hall.” No arrests were made and Navvy Hall continued campaigning for revolution without regard for the approval of the authorities or the party hierarchy.

In February 1887, after the authorities banned a torchlit parade Andrew had organised to pass through the West End he held a token demonstration at Clerkenwell Green. Torches were defiantly lit, Hall’s incendiary rhetoric delivered and an hour’s frenzied window smashing and riot ensued before the police finally regained control of the streets. A few weeks later, after one of Andrew’s SDF colleagues was harassed and then arrested by police, Hall organised an “Indignation Meeting” at Marble Arch that thousands attended. “Mr Hall (a navvy who took his coat off to speak though a few snowflakes were falling) said that for the future when one comrade was arrested Sir Charles Warren would find that ten men would jump into the breach (Cheers).”

By 1888 Andrew had already accrued eleven arrests and considered it expedient to go navvying on the “Towcester & Olney”. Revisiting Northampton he supported the SDF election campaign with Hyndman but his help proved a two-edged sword as the local candidate observed, “The press boycotted (his campaign) until the services of Navvy Hall were obtained and no sooner did he use rough language that his remarks were inserted.” Hall’s rough language offended polite society and Mr Hyndman was not amused but this only encouraged Andrew to ditch SDF Marxism and embrace the anti-parliamentary politics of the Socialist League (SL).

In 1889 Navvy Hall moved north to Chesterfield where he helped Raymond Unwin start an SL inspired socialist group and attracted the favourable attention of Edward Carpenter. In June, Edward cycled over from Millthorpe with his friend Jim Shortland, “with a bicycle between us, to Chesterfield for an evening meeting in the market-place. There is a navvy there – Andrew Hall – a regular rough looking chap who lives in a common lodging house, who speaks on Socialism every Sunday evening. He has read a lot of history and all sorts and speaks well. There was an attentive audience of 400 to 500.”

On Sunday 1st June 1890 the pair shared a platform, “In the morning Andrew spoke on Brimmington Common and in the evening a large audience assembled in the Market Place and in spite of the rain kept together and listened attentively to the addresses given by comrades Hall and Carpenter”. In Sheffield, a couple of weeks later, “Our comrade Andrew Hall, from Chesterfield, addressed some very large meetings.” Two weeks after that, in Nottingham, Andrew addressed a conference of socialist clubs. Hall returned to Nottingham in late July where his militant brand of socialism was much appreciated, “Andrew Hall of Chesterfield gave three stirring addresses to very large audiences. He created great interest by the way in which he spoke of gaining our object by any means. He advocated the same methods in defence of our cause as were used against us. We are expecting some lively meetings when our comrade again visits us which he has promised to do in a few weeks time.” When he visited Leicester in early August, “Hall’s evening address was truly eloquent and the audience was much impressed.” The Hull dockers were equally impressed a couple of weeks later, though the unappreciative police arrested him for “obstruction”. Fined five shillings plus costs, Andrew refused to pay and was sent down for seven days. When Tyneside libertarians founded Newcastle Communist Anarchist group in December, Navvy Hall was the man they chose to headline their first public event where he “addressed a large workmen’s meeting on the Quay and in the evening spoke against Parliamentary action.”

Andrew’s fiery spirit struck a chord with Sheffield navvies who begged him to represent them against the bosses. In autumn 1890 the Working Man’s Times reported that, “Mr Andrew
Hall, the Secretary of the Sheffield and District General Labourer’s Union has been actively engaged during the past weeks organising men at various firms in the town and much credit is due to him for the energy he has shown in that direction…We are bound to admit that whilst admiring the ability of the lecturer, we think such statements as ”that if all capitalists went to ---- tomorrow we could do without them”, are calculated to do more harm than good and would counsel moderation on some of these points.” Forty years on one old labourer recalled Andrew’s militancy in the Sheffield Daily Independent, “Navvy Hall’s policy was Strike first and negotiate afterwards!”

It wasn’t long before Andrew’s men exercised their collective muscle as trouble erupted at Messrs Samuel Osborne and Company’s Rutland Works. After a foreman tried to discipline eight labourers the rest came out in sympathy and instructed the management to negotiate through Secretary Hall. “The men have today chalked the walls with the word STRIKE and on the door has been written: Don’t come to work here there is a strike!” 

Invariably labelled “Socialist”, Navvy Hall’s politics were roughly anarchist and he often accompanied well-known libertarian speakers on the most advanced platforms. In November 1890 Andrew commemorated the judicial killing of the Chicago anarchists alongside Cores, Samuels, Charles and Maguire at Leeds. At another Commemoration alongside Cores, Creaghe, Samuels et al at Sheffield Hall was “received with the utmost enthusiasm by the large audience”. By then Andrew’s fiery rhetoric had begun to worry the more pacific Carpenter faction. George Hukin recorded his own anxiety in a letter to Carpenter, “I suppose you’ll have heard how Andrew Hall during his speech dropped to his knees and, well I’ll give you his own words; “With the shadow of the rope hanging over me, I call upon each of you to vow with me that we will never rest till the murder of our Comrade has been avenged, blood for blood and life for life” and etc. There was a good big meeting and nearly everybody held up their hands for the vow. I must say I didn’t like the proceedings much – too much blood and vengeance about it.”

Undeterred, in 1891 Andrew commemorated Chicago at the old Alhambra Palace in Porter Street, Hull alongside anarchists Naewiger (future biog), Gustav Smith, George Cores and Chas Reynolds. His political principals proved more enduring than his union career. Despite adding the endorsement of Tyneside labourers to his appointment by the Sheffield men he soon met opposition from union “moderates”. As local unions merged to create a national organisation a bureaucratic mentality and strike-averse policy developed, which Hall virulently opposed and he didn’t expect any support from Sheffield Trades Council; “The gravamen of the charges was that that body was the tool of the Liberal Party and that it was doing nothing in the interests of the working classes…The working classes did not get a fair share of what they produced and would not do so as long as they had trade union officials who were drawing their £2, £3 and £4 per week for doing nothing. He did not believe in paying such high salaries. They ought to be paid at the same rate as when they were working in the shop and then they would not go among the better classes for he found when they did and they got onto Town councils and other offices they were no good to working men.” In 1892 Hall resigned in disgust from the union he’d help create. 

Throughout the 1890’s Hall was based at the Beehive Common Lodging House, Knifesmith Gate, Chesterfield. The Derbyshire Courier published a brief description, “The rooms on the ground floor are dark and the ceilings low and broken. The walls of the bedrooms on the ground floor are damp and the floor is paved with bricks. The living room for the lodgers is dark, its floor is in bad repair and it is unfit for use. The scullery and pantry are roofed with glass skylights which are in a very bad state of repair. The back yard is small and its surface in bad repair as are the also the floors of the slop-closet privies. Only three of the eight bedrooms on the first floor are fit for use…” but according to Andrew it was preferable to other doss houses. At Alfreton “there’s three men, or if there is a double bed, six men for each bed (or rather bundle of rags, which is a more accurate description) every 24 hours: the moment one man gets out there is another waiting to take his place”.  

In March 1893 Andrew Hall revisited Hull to speak at the Liberty Club Commune Celebration (as referred to in the introduction). Andrew “held that the worker was kept, in a large extent, in ignorance by the parson who sometimes stated that it is God’s will that some people should be poor…it was the will of the profit monger and sweater. He referred to the gallant conduct of the soldiers of ’71 who, when ordered to fire on the people, refused to do so, and fraternised with the people. He held that it was better to die fighting than starve like a rat in a hole; and a bullet at a barricade was more preferable than a crust in a slum. He held that a man who starved was a coward.” 

Andrew spent the summer of 1893 navvying at the Loughborough sewage works. By September he was back at the Beehive when a fellow lodger and his mate were killed navvying in separate incidents at Calow tunnel. Thomas Carrigan was crushed by a fall of dirt in a “shoot hole” following the death just the day before of John Morris who was hit by a runaway wagon. Mr Busby, the coroner made no criticism of safety on site, simply recording both fatalities as “Accidental death”. 

Without abandoning his revolutionary ideas in 1893 Andrew Hall joined the newly founded Independent Labour Party (ILP) and the following July at a huge gathering in Sheffield he spoke from the platform alongside Labour luminaries Keir Hardie, Pete Curran and Emmiline Pankhurst. Ignoring ILP policy, Andrew continued to also speak up for anarchism. As late as November 1896 Hall was billed alongside Louise Michel, Joseph Perry, Alfred Marsh, John Turner, Will Banham and Herbert Stockton (future biog) at what Freedom described as “the largest ever commemoration of the Chicago anarchists” at Holborn Town Hall. 

As the century came to a close so (almost) did the English anarchist movement, eclipsed by Labourism. Andrew Hall was too old for navvying and in September 1900 was glad to accept an offer of employment as live-in manager of the Beehive. As a local personality, the editor of the Derbyshire Times commissioned Andrew to reflect on his lifetime’s experience of common lodging houses across the North. The result was a fascinating series of articles published in the paper as, “Sketches of Lodging House Life”; and then nothing.

In 1905 Chesterfield Council condemned the Beehive as “unfit for human habitation” and it was pulled down without a murmur from Andrew. Where was he? He wasn’t among a handful of anarchists whose activism survived until the 1910 syndicalist revival and he never rose through the ranks of the Labour Party. Did he just retire from activism or perhaps succumb to early death and an unmarked grave? 

Peace & Love
Christopher Draper
(Northern Anarchist Lives – 4)
(NAL: 1 Oldham Anarchism, 2 Lupton from Leeds, 3 A Liverpool Nut Case…next month… NAL 5 – “Frank Kapper’s Cunning Plan”)

Monday, 25 April 2016

'Vote Leaves' Campaign Director tells select committee, "Accuracy is for snake-oil pussies."

Vote Leave silly Ass - Dominic Cummings

IT's been a pretty bad couple of weeks  for the pro-leave 'Brexit' campaigners, with U.S. President, Barack Obama, telling the British public that Britain would be in the back of the queue in trade negotiations with the U.S. if it votes to leave the E.U. In addition, pro-leave Justice Minister, Dominic Raab, recently announced that if Britain leaves the EU, Brits may have to apply for visas when travelling or holidaying in other EU countries. If this wasn't bad enough, 'Vote Leave's' campaign director, Dominic Cummings, made an ass of himself when he appeared before a Treasury select committee last week. When asked about the accuracy of 'Vote Leave's' figures on it website, he told the committee - "Accuracy is for snake-oil pussies... And besides, I've got a really bad memory." To top it all, some of the pro-leave camp, such as the the Labour MP, Gisela Stuart - born and raised in Bavaria Germany - are now calling on the Home Secretary to ban Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, from entering Britain to support the Brexit campaign. 

Some pundits take the view that the EU referendum is a bit of a sideshow offered to get the Tories re-elected at the last election and that Obama's recent trip to Europe, was basically to finalise negotiations on the neo-liberal'Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership'(TTIP) the U.S. / E.U. trade deal, that is being pushed by Britain's Conservative government. The trade deal which was dreamt up by corporate lobbyists, involves a radical agenda for further deregulation and privatization across Europe. If TTIP is adopted, businesses would be able to sue national government's under the 'Investor-State Dispute Settlement' (ISDS), if they felt laws, such as social and environmental protections, were 'unfair'. Although other European countries have expressed concern about TTIP's corporate court system, David Cameron's Tory government, have secretly written to the European Commission, demanding that it be retained.

The following analysis is taken from the 'Monday Briefing', a personal view by Deloitte chief economist, Ian Stewart:-

* Last week was a good one for the 'remain' camp in the UK's EU referendum campaign. The Treasury published an analysis of the economics of leaving the UK which concluded that a Brexit would involve significant net costs for the UK. Later in the week US President Barack Obama warned that outside the EU the UK would be "at the back of the queue" for a trade deal with the US.

* But where does public opinion stand?

* No opinion polls had, as of Sunday evening, been released which covered the period following President Obama's comments on the risks of Brexit. But even before the President's comments the lead for the remain camp had widened.

* Taking an average of the six major polls published up to 19th April, adjusted for the removal of the 'don't knows', the remain vote stood at 54% and the 'leaves' at 46%. This is the widest lead for remain since 23rd February.

* This is a snapshot of public opinion. But taking a longer perspective on the opinion polls what lessons emerge?

* First, polls carried out by different pollsters frequently give different results. Thus ComRes and ICM both conducted polls between the 8th and 10th April. ComRes gave remain a seven percentage point lead; ICM put leave three percentage points ahead. This difference reflects a wider conundrum. On-line polls tend to show a stronger showing for the leaves than telephone polls. Unfortunately we don't know which approach is right, something that introduces a further uncertainty into gauging public opinion.

* Second, public opinion is changeable. Last summer, a poll by IPSOS Mori, one of the most longstanding pollsters on the EU issue, showed that 66% of UK voters support EU membership, the highest reading in more than 35 years. Since then there has been a reduction in the lead for remain, probably partly in response to the migration crisis. Our calculations show that, on average, remain had a three percentage point lead over leave in April's polls so far, down from 14 percentage points in June of last year. More recently, in the space of just over four weeks, between 10th January and 14th February, the lead for the remain camp using a smoothed, six-poll average, went from 10 percentage points to zero.

* Third, UK public opinion often shifts in tandem with the relative economic fortunes of the UK and of its major EU partners. In 1975, at the time of the last UK referendum on membership of what was then the European Economic Community, the UK was the "sick man of Europe", wracked by high inflation and low growth. To a troubled UK Germany offered a model of prosperity and stability. In 1975 the electorate voted by 67% to 33% to stay in, a level of support which, as far as we can tell, has never been repeated. UK public support for the EU also surged in the early 1990s as the UK fell into recession and Germany boomed in the wake of reunification. Conversely the euro crisis of 2011-13 saw UK public opinion turn cooler on membership of the EU.

* Fourth, support for the EU is lowest among less affluent voters. Currently support for remaining in the EU is running at just 32% among skilled and unskilled manual labourers and the unemployed. More educated, affluent voters tend to be strongly pro-EU.

* Fifth, young voters, those aged 18 to 24, tend to support EU membership, with April's polls showing support running at around 60%. Older voters, those aged 60 and above, are more sceptical, with support for remaining currently at 32%.

* Sixth, unsurprisingly, views on Europe vary by political affiliation. A majority of Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters favour remaining in the EU. Only 37% of Conservative supporters polled in April would vote to remain in the EU. Puzzlingly, an average of 6% of UKIP supporters polled so far this month say they would vote to remain in the EU. Voters in Scotland and London tend to show higher levels of support for the EU than other regions. The former is in marked contrast to the referendum in 1975 when Scotland was resolutely Eurosceptic and the Scottish National Party campaigned to leave the EEC. 

* What is clear, and last year's General Election result demonstrated this, is that political polling is not a precise science. BBC's analysis of data from 92 opinion polls carried out in the run up to the election showed 56% had predicted a Labour lead rather than a Conservative majority.

* There are, of course, other measures that can be used to assess the likely outcome of the referendum.

* As of Friday, the odds offered by bookmaker Paddy Power implied a 33% chance of Brexit. It seems probable that betting markets are focussed on the significant number of don't know voters, averaging at 15% in April's polls so far, and expect a repeat of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, where the don't knows tended to go with the status quo.

* In its April issue of economic forecasts, Consensus Economics polled economists on the likely outcome of the EU referendum. Both UK and euro area economists assign the same probability to Brexit at 41%, a rather higher figure than betting markets.

* Turnout will be key. Older people are more likely to vote than the young. In both the Scottish referendum and the General Election, older voters strongly favoured the 'no' campaign and the Conservatives respectively. Given younger voters are more likely to vote for remaining in the EU, a low turnout will favour the leave camp while a high turnout should favour the remain camp. But, as post-summer and recent moves in polls suggest, public opinion is volatile and susceptible to outside events.

* To keep abreast of the latest polling trends we have the found the following websites useful:
The National Centre for Social Research - and its poll of polls - 
The IPSOS Mori polling data -
The Economist's poll tracker -

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Trouble at the Co-op!

Did you know our Co-op is at risk?

THE Co-operative has always been different. It’s always been owned by its members, which means that it’s not just another grey PLC with the usual disinterested shareholders. 
Because it is owned by its members, we have always been able to trust it. 
That is why we – and this includes many Unite members who work in it - don’t want that change. 
However, while all eyes are on May’s elections and the EU referendum, the Co-operative Group is once again calling a vote that would change the Co-op forever – but not for the better.  
Starting this week, millions of individual members of the Co-operative Group will have a vote on whether or not to continue their historic partnership with the Co-operative Party. 
If you’re a Co-op member - if you shop or bank at the Co-op - a ballot paper could be arriving any day either in the post or by email. 
On behalf of your union, Unite, I urge you to vote to Keep it Co-op and vote in favour of motion 12. 
We believe that if support for the Co-operative Party comes to an end there will be one less voice in Parliament speaking up for our communities and one less organisation telling big business it can’t have it all its own way.   
So whether you are eligible to vote or not, please sign up at the ‘Keep it Co-op’ website to call upon the Co-op Group to maintain its radical, progressive roots, with a democratic voice for its members and staff, and a powerful voice in changing politics. 
It’s vital we ensure that voice remains. Last year, thousands of people rallied around, voting resoundingly to keep the link between the Co-operative Group and the Co-operative Party. 
Let’s ‘Keep it Co-op’ again. 
Yours in solidarity, 
Len McCluskey
Unite general secretary


Friday, 22 April 2016

Case Work & Mrs Danczuk!

Casework_February.jpgThis chart above from Mr. Danczuk's office (slightly obscured) provides a breakdown of the varying types of case work dealt with by the team in Simon Danczuk’s constituency office in Rochdale.
In total, staff handled 56 significant new cases, dealing with everything from immigration to police matters.

On 13th, August 2015, the SUN NATION WEBSITE ANNOUNCED:

'Selfie queen Karen Danczuk is touting for a new career in PR after she lost her old job when she split from her MP husband.'
The article continued:

'Karen, 32, known for her selfies, earned around £20,000 as Simon’s secretary but lost the job after their June split. Now she has taken to her blog in a bid to land a public relations job.' 

And she said:
'I decide I want a part-time job in PR. I click away and enthusiastically upload my CV and covering letter.'
Now eight months later, she has landed a job for £12,000 back in the Rochdale constituency office of ex-hubby Simon Danczuk, the now slightly tarnished MP for Rochdale.  Mr. Danczuk is still suspended from the Labour Party.  
Today, ROCHDALE ONLINE reported that Councillor Ashley Dearnley, the Rochdale Conservative Group Leader, refused to condemn the Danczuks, he said:
'It is not for me to say who an MP should or should not employ.  It is after all public money and all information is in the public domain.'
Whilst there is no 'rule' that MPs should advertise positions, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) publishes guidance that advises MPs to: 'Advertise the vacancy and conduct appropriate assessments to ensure you have the best candidate for the role'.

Mr Danczuk did not advertise the position.  Asked why he had given a taxpayer funded job to Mrs Danczuk without advertising the role and conducting interviews, a spokesman for Mr Danczuk said: 'Karen brings a significant level of knowledge and experience to this vital role.'
Well, no doubt she will be well qualified to deal with the work load of the '56 significant new cases, dealing with everything from immigration to police matters' mentioned above.'   The chart above though not fully shown, give us some idea of what Madam Danczuk will have to get her head around and we all know that she is competent on Twitter and handy at doing selfies.
Who are we to judge who Mr. Danczuk should employ?  Even if it does come out of the public purse!

The Mighty Walzer at Royal Exchange

 Tracy-Ann Oberman

The Royal Exchange Theatre presents:
Adapted by Simon Bent

30 June – 30 July – The Theatre 

Elliot Levey, renowned stage and screen actor and Tracy-Ann Oberman, recognised for her explosive role as Chrissy Watts in EASTENDERS and the powerful Yvonne Hartman in DR. WHO, lead an outstanding cast of ten in the Royal Exchange Theatre’s world premiere of THE MIGHTY WALZER. Directed by Jonathan Humphreys and adapted by Simon Bent from the novel by Man Booker Prize winning author Howard Jacobson, this sharply comic coming of age story follows Elliot Levey’s Oliver as he discovers the fast paced world of ping-pong and the wonderfully enigmatic Lorna Peachley.
Tracy-Ann Oberman plays matriarch Sadie Walzer in this hilarious homage to the Manchester of Jacobson’s youth that runs at the Exchange from 30 June – 30 July. The cast is completed by Daniel Abelson, Joe Coen, David Crellin, Ilan Goodman, Ann Marcuson, James Parris, Lily Sacofsky and Jonathan Tafler.
Director Jonathan Humphreys said of bring this cast together…
‘I am incredibly excited about this razor sharp group of actors we have to perform Simon Bent’s dazzling new adaptation of Howard’s Manchester masterpiece. They are an inordinately talented bunch who are going to bring 1950s Manchester into startling high definition at the Exchange this July.’
Elliot Levey’s credits for the stage include CORIOLANUS (Donmar Warehouse), THE RULING CLASS (ATG) and KAFKA'S DICK (Theatre Royal Bath). Film and television credits include THE LADY IN THE VAN (Nicholas Hytner) and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (BBC). Tracy-Ann Oberman’s credits also include NEW TRICKS (BBC) and MCQUEEN (St James Theatre / Haymarket).

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Danczuk Squeezes the Stipend!

YESTERDAY the Mail Online reported:
'Disgraced MP Simon Danczuk (the MP for Rochdale) has re-hired his selfie-loving ex-wife to help run his constituency office with the 32-year-old reportedly being paid more than £12,000 a year for the part-time role.  Danczuk, 49, who remains suspended from the Labour party after sending a string of lewd texts to a teenage girl, apparently re-employed Karen because she "understands the casework".  She is now said to have taken up the £12,000-a-year job to "do him a favour" after other workers quit.'

The Sun quotes a local Labour source saying 'this will be seen as fleecing the taxpayer yet again' and the pair 'are already seen locally as freeloaders out for themselves'.

Today Rochdale Online reported:
'Rochdale Lib Dem Leader Councillor Andy Kelly is calling for the Danczuks to finally end the "media circus that continues to drag the town down".  Councillor Kelly said: "I am quite frankly flabbergasted at this news.  It is an absolute disgrace.  I thought the Danczuk's couldn't stoop any lower. It appears that they can.  They are sticking two fingers up at Rochdale people and it's completely unacceptable.  It's time for Simon to go".' 

It is most likely that Simon will hang on as long as he can to squeeze the last bit on stipend out of the long suffering tax-payers.  From an anarchist point of view Simon Danczuk represents a caricature of what politics is all about.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Car Wash Generation in Brazil!

After Lula-era excess, the Car Wash generation upends Brazilian politics

Misha Glenny* (Financial Times:  March 18, 2016 )

AS Brazil has succumbed in the past two years to a political, economic and constitutional crisis, its people have grown worryingly polarised — further undermining what was heralded as a great emerging economy success story.

Many are incensed by the revelations of mass corruption at the state oil company Petrobras . Equally, they are ap­palled by the president’s handling of the economy.  Her ratings have plunged almost as fast as the currency; support for her impeachment has risen, along with unemployment and inflation.

Demonstrations against the president’s Workers’ party (PT) are spreading and turning violent. But neither the president nor Mr Lula da Silva — still the party’s mastermind and great symbol — nor her supporters are likely to go down without a fight. The political rhetoric on both sides disguises considerable vested interests. So, while the economy begs for stability, the country appears set for even greater turmoil.

The possible impeachment of the president is moving to the centre of the political stage. The greatest threat to Ms Rousseff lies in the revelations of corruption at Petrobras. Although she has not been directly implicated, much of her party’s senior leadership has — a fact that is driving the street protests.

Added to that, the end of the commodity boom reveals that part of the economic transformation of the 2000s was an illusion. Mr Lula da Silva used the boom to build up his reputation, domestically and globally, as a friend of both the markets and of the poor. But last year, Brazil’s economy shrank 3.8 per cent. The era of largesse is over and structural weaknesses in the economy are all too obvious: excessive dependence on commodities, unproductive jobs in the state sector, overgenerous pension provisions, a weakening tax base and low levels of investment.

As if it were not hard enough to shake off apocalyptic visions, the mosquito-borne virus Zika has added a biblical touch to this demonic mess. Were it not for Syria, migration, the UK’s EU referendum and Donald Trump, Brazil would dominate global headlines. It may yet do so as the city of Rio de Janeiro, with its distressed infrastructure, prepares to host the Olympics in August. The International Olympic Committee has identified significant problems with Rio’s readiness. The pro­spect of national embarrassment looms.

Meanwhile, the primary challenge to Ms Rousseff and Mr Lula da Silva is from the judiciary.  Driving the “Car Wash” investigation into Petrobras and the Mensalão scandal that preceded it, are the supreme federal tribunal, the public prosecutor’s office and the federal police. Historically these branches of the criminal justice system were regarded as pliant facilitators of the venal habits of governments and economic elites.  But in the past decade they have shown a greater willingness to take on corrupt politicians and their business partners in a series of criminal investigations. 

Operation Car Wash has been probing payments allegedly made by big construction companies and other corporations to Petrobras in order to secure lucrative contracts. The money was then channelled to parties, including the PT, and individual politicians.  PT members claim the judiciary is acting as a cat’s paw for the super-rich elite and its political allies, who want to take revenge on the party for its support for the working class and poor.

That does not quite square with the facts.  The head of the opposition, who denies wrongdoing, is currently being investigated on suspicion of having taking money. Marcelo Odebrecht, the boss of the country’s largest construction company, was last week jailed for 19 years.  Until now the fabulously rich captains of industry believed themselves immune from judicial threat. For Brazilians, Odebrecht’s imprisonment is even more startling than the investigation into Mr Lula da Silva.  If the elite is using Car Wash to protect itself they are not doing a very good job.

In a country renowned for institutionalised corruption, the rules have changed:  anyone is vulnerable to Brazil’s new breed of Untouchables — police, judges and prosecutors.  Central among these is Sérgio Moro, who is in charge of many of the Car Wash cases.

The 43-year-old Harvard-educated judge is representative of a generation who in the 1990s drifted away from politics, which they saw as mired in graft.  Some sought an outlet for their idealism in the law. The result can now be seen in these investigations, where many of the officials involved are now in their thirties and forties. The officials have proved less susceptible to bribery and intimidation than those pursuing political careers at the top level.

Things are going to grow considerably worse in Brazil before they get better. It is going to be a tumultuous few months in the run-up to the Olympics. But ultimately Brazilians must embrace the changes that Mr Moro and his colleagues are pursuing if the country is ever to break the back of the cosy relationship between big money and rapacious political parties.

  •  The writer is author of ‘Nemesis: One Man and the Battle for Rio’

Real News Report on Brazil

Biography:  Maria Mendonca is director of Brazil's Network for Social Justice and Human Rights. She is also professor in the international relations department at the University of Rio De Janeiro.

Brazil's Impeachment Vote a Political Trial to Subvert Democracy

SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It's the Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

LATE Sunday night, Brazil's Chamber of Deputies which is the lower house of it's the lower house of its legislature, voted to move forward on impeaching President Dilma Rousseff. The voted followed 3 days of debate and passed with the required 2/3 majority. Rousseff and her supporters argued that the opposition is staging a coup against her. After all she's not being accused of having committed a crime or convicted of one. Rather she is being accused of having quietly taken out loans from government banks during an election year in order to temporarily hide a budget deficit. In contrast to Rousseff, most of the legislatures who are advocating for her impeachment are themselves under investigation or charged with far more serious offenses; outright corruption to enrich themselves. The impeachment process now moves through Brazil's Senate which must decide with a simple majority vote whether to hold a trial against Rousseff. If it passes, Rousseff will be temporarily removed from office for 6 months while a trial takes place and Vice President Michel Temer will take over for her. The Vice President himself faces some of the same charges that is being levied against President Rousseff.

With us to take a closer look at what's going on in Brazil is Maria Mendoza. Maria is Director of Brazil's Network for Social Justice and Human Rights and she's also Professor in International Relations at the University of Rio de Janeiro. Thank you so much for joining us Maria.


PERIES: So Maria let's start with this impeachment vote that took place on Sunday. Would you say that it has merit?

MENDOZA: No not at all. The deputies didn't even discuss what kind of accusation there was supposedly against the President. It was just one series of discourses about god, the family, the importance of reserving the conservative values in society. Some of them even praised the dictatorship, the military dictatorship, the torture, the repression that happened at that time. So it was kind of a horror show that we watched over and over at this surreal debate that didn't even touch the issue of supposedly Dilma had done anything wrong. So it's clear that for us that now especially after we watched the debates that there was no accusation against her. It's actually a political trial a way to subvert the vote, the elections that took place in Brazil just in October of last year.

PERIES: Maria now you are working with a number of progressive social movements in Brazil. What are the sentiments there? How are they feeling? What are the levels of organization and support for the PT government if there is any?

MENDOZA: Yes, there have been large demonstrations against the impeachment and in the fans of democracy in Brazil. Even the social movements that have been more critical of the government are now taking the streets and protesting because it's clear to us that we're facing a parliamentary coup, very similar to what happened in Honduras and Paraguay recently. So we need to join forces and defend democracy. It's very important to have international solidarity. One of the main leaders of the opposition right now who is pressuring for the impeachment is visiting Washington, D.C. today and is trying to lobby the U.S. congress for support for the impeachment in Brazil. The same way that U.S. organizations have said that the U.S. government did not criticize the coup in Honduras and could also have had a role in that, I think it will be very important for the U.S. audience to pressure their representatives to criticize the impeachment process in Brazil the same way as other international organizations as the OAS have done. The UN, the Organization of American States, UNASUR, several multilateral organizations have criticized the impeachment process in Brazil when we expect that the U.S. government will play a positive role in this case.
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