Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Quote of the day...

...comes from the Daily Mail, who offer this headline;

Mother of 10 living in three-bed council home demands TWO houses next door to each other 'because we need more room'

Outrageous! Except, of course, that as usual the story is a non-story.

The "mother of 10" in question is actually a mother of seven, who also cares for three other children. Because the social housing supply in Bradford is "very limited," she currently "shares a bedroom with a son, daughter and partner."

The "demand" of the headline comes from this comment;
I can't cope, there's no room in the house for the kids. 

I have got four girls in one box room. I have had to put a partition up in one bedroom so we don't have boys and girls sharing together.

They are always fighting over the bathroom. 

We have taken on three extra kids and no-one's given us any help. Nobody helps at all and I don't get anything for free, not even free school meals. 

I have put my name down for a few places. When people have got ten kids they should knock two houses through for them.
Yes, that is an offhand comment in a quote she offered to the newspaper. From which the Mail constructed a "demand" to "officials" for which there is no substantial proof.

Yet this is perhaps the story with the most substance in today's edition. A half-baked pop at poor people padded out with gossip, absurd human interest stories, and a look inside Barack Obama's "thoroughly modern" oval office. And Mail Online is the most popular online newspaper site in Britain.

Proof that, in the propaganda war waged by the ruling class, apathy is more valuable than reaction.

Monday, 30 August 2010

No War but Class War - August 2010

Easily the most high-profile struggle this month has been that of public sector workers in South Africa. They walked out over pay, the latest in a long-run of disputes in the country, and have promised that the strike will be indefinite until demands are met.

I commented that this tactic should serve as a lesson for British workers, hamstrung by stringent laws and bureaucrats all-too-willing to follow them.

However, Adam Ford notes that the South Africans have bureaucrat issues of their own;
For the moment, the Congress of South African Trade Unions leaders are talking tough, but behind the scenes they will be working with the government. Since the ANC came to power under Nelson Mandela in the 1990s, COSATU have been an enthusiastic partner in forcing through privatizations, spending and wage cuts. 
The question is, with President Jacob Zuma ordering ministers to negotiate an end to the strike, how this will affect the chances for significant victories in the strike.

In Britain, there have been a number of ongoing disputes, though these have been rather more low-key than the South African strike. Part of the reason for this is the ruling class desire to play down industrial unrest, with the cuts still to come. But the unions also seem unwilling to publicise workers' struggles.

Unite, in particular, made a point of claiming that there would be no industrial unrest in response to austerity measures because "we don't have the volatile nature of the French or the Greeks."

This should be seen in the context of the union's recent sell-out of BAA workers;

Last week the Unite union agreed a below inflation pay deal with management of BAA, which owns six British Airports including Heathrow and London Stansted. Under the deal 8,400 employees, including security, firefighting and ground handling staff, will receive a 2 percent pay rise, a one-off bonus payment and other bonus payments linked to a productivity increase. The 2 percent deal is a de facto pay cut as inflation now stands at 5 percent.

Unite claimed the deal was a victory, which it now “expected to set the standard for future industry pay deals”.

Mocking Unite’s rhetoric, the Daily Telegraph wrote, “BAA settles airport pay dispute on worse terms than BA”. The Telegraph noted that the pay deal is lower than that which is mooted to have been offered by British Airways (BA) to its cabin crew staff in their ongoing dispute. That deal is now being put to a ballot.

The stitch-up of the BAA workers came only a week after Unite, the GMB union and BA management agreed that 3,000 BA ground crew workers will face pay cuts and up to 500 “voluntary” job losses. ‘Some 200 workers have already been forced to leave. A pay freeze until October 2010 has been implemented and flexibility arrangements will be introduced. This is also being put to a ballot, with the unions recommending acceptance.
After being forced into militancy during the British Airways dispute by the rank-and-file of the BA Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA), Unite are now trying to calm any tendency towards militancy. They want negotiations with management to be on their terms, not those of the workers.

LibCom, ever a useful resource for this kind of information, offers a round-up of other struggles across Britain;
Bin workers strike at West Lothian council

Refuse workers at West Lothian Council have taken strike action over a pay cut being imposed as part of the downgrading of their jobs.

All refuse workers face a job downgrade which will amount to a cut of at least £2,800 a year. The first 24-hour strike took place on Friday the 27th of August, and was sanctioned by the GMB union.

The action, which involved 93 workers, follows the council implementing what it says are its legal obligations to equalise pay for similar skill levels in order to close the pay gap between men and women in the public sector – traditionally 'female' jobs have historically been less well paid than 'male' jobs of a similar skill level. Strikes have followed similar moves at other councils around the UK, as councils attempt to 'solve' the problem of low pay for female workers being cutting the pay for traditionally 'male' jobs, rather than raising those of 'female' jobs.

Bus strikes in Liverpool

Bus workers have begun a four-day strike in Liverpool over pay.

Workers at Stagecoach Liverpool have been offered a 2% pay offer by management, which represents a real-terms pay cut when inflation is running at 4.5%. The action, backed by the Unite union, involves hundreds of staff and stands to hit one in five buses in the Liverpool area. The strike began on Friday, and is running until Tuesday.

London Underground Strikes Announced

200 Alstom-Metro maintenance workers on the London underground have voted for strike action over a management pay offer.

According to the RMT union, which organised the strike ballot, the offer on the table is significantly lower than comparable pay offers for other parts of the London Underground workforce. The first strike will take place on the 5th of September, with further 24-hour strikes to follow in October and November.

The announcement follows an overwhelming strike vote from RMT and TSSA union members over plans to close ticket offices around the capital with the loss of around 800 jobs. 10,000 workers including drivers and station staff stand to take part in the strike action. The first of four one-day strikes is due to start on September the 6th. An indefinite overtime ban will also apply as part of the action.

Southampton Librarians Strike

Library workers in Southampton struck for two days on the 12th and 16th of August in protest against the council's scrapping of two libraries and the replacement of staff with unpaid volunteers.

The strikes follow earlier action in June, after the council announced the closure of Millbrook and Thornhill libraries last year. Millbrook library remains one of the last remaining public services in that area of the city.

The attacks on public services and public sector workers under Southampton's Tory council are a foretaste of what is looming on a national scale, with the “big society” of volunteers being the pretext for job cuts and rolling back vital services.

London hospital drivers and firefighters balloted

The Fire Brigades Union has launched a ballot of its members in London after management scuppered negotiations and moved to cancel existing contracts and impose new ones on staff, which would involve different shift times and working hours. Ballot papers are due to be issued at the end of the month, with action possible from September onwards.

Meanwhile, members of the GMB union employed by the London Ambulance Service are being balloted at the time of writing over the privatisation of key services. The staff are employed to transport patients across the capital to sites and take them to and from hospital. The South London Healthcare NHS Trust has put the service out to tender.

The contract covers London Ambulance employees in Greenwich, Barnhurst and Bromley, who transport patients to Kings College, Lewisham, Royal Marsden and Guys & St Thomas hospitals, and has been awarded to Savoy Ventures Ltd. At a meeting where Savoy representatives were invited to discuss the takeover with GMB members, they made clear their intention to ignore Transfer of undertakings (TUPE) legislation, flouting employment law, cutting the outer-london weighting allowance and threatening “downward harmonisation” from current pay levels to those of Savoy's lowest-paid workers. Such flouting of the law would be in keeping with the transfer of the contract, as public procurement laws stating that contracts should not be awarded to companies whose directors preciously oversaw insolvent companies were ignored. Robert Lawrence Adams, who runs Savoy, was previously involved in companies still owing money to HM Revenue and Customs. 
Earlier this month, migrant workers at a factory in Malaysia rioted after their employer delayed sending an injured worker to the hospital, resulting in his death.

The fighting, which included rubbish and stones being thrown at riot police, took seven hours to contain. Following the riot, management agreed to meet with a representative of the workers, who are demanding an increase in pay and the presence of a mini-clinic on site to prevent further such fatalities.

These demands have been met. LibCom reports that "management agreed to pay compensation of 10,000 Ringgit to the dead worker's family; increase the minimum monthly salary from 428 to 546 Ringgit; [and] provide an ambulance service for emergency cases and on time treatment at a clinic on the factory premises."

However, the broader picture in the country is no cause for celebration;

This case of exploitation of migrant workers is only the tip of the iceberg in Malaysia. Most of the more than 3 million migrant workers (almost 10% of the Malaysian population) earn very low wages, work long hours and live and work in appalling conditions. According to the Nepalese embassy, during 2009 a total of 183 Nepalese workers in Malaysia lost their lives, and another 81 workers in the first six months of this year, mainly through illness and suicides. There are also many cases of deaths due to industrial accidents involving migrant workers.

In the meantime, the employers are using low wage migrant workers as a ‘threat' to discourage local workers from demanding high wages. The weak trade unions, with a right-wing reactionary and bureaucratic leadership, are not capable of playing a role in leading common struggles between local and migrant workers. At the same time, almost 90 percent of workers are not unionized, and the government's pro-employer labour and trade union law further undermines the rights of workers.

Although local workers are given a slightly better deal in wages, when compared to the high inflation rate their salary is not sufficient to manage their living expenses. Many are doing two jobs to meet their needs, and many even end up in the hands of loan sharks when they see no other way out. Even a recent government survey of about 1.3 million workers has shown that almost 34 per cent of them earned less than 700 Ringgit a month - below the poverty line of 720 Ringgit per month.
This highlights how international capital can use migrants against natives in order to drive down wages and undermine working conditions.

Unity as a class is the only way to combat this. But, as the example of Malaysia's trade union leadership demonstrates, it must be done through workers' self-organisation, by-passing the weak and crippling bureaucracy of traditional trade union structures.

In America, there have been a number of significant struggles which highlight the growing class consiousness and militancy of workers in the US.

Baristas of the IWW's starbucks union shut down a store in Omaha in protest at cutbacks imposed on the staff by management. As one Barista said, "Starbucks rewards workers with a poverty wage while they give their Wall Street pals dividends."

This latest action is part of an ongoing campaign against union busting and attacks on the workers by Starbucks.

In the words of one shift supervisor, "since the recession began, Starbucks executives have ruthlessly gutted our standard of living. They doubled the cost of our health insurance, reduced staffing levels, cut our hours, all while demanding more work from us. Starbucks is now more than profitable again. It's time for management to give back what they took from us."

A similar struggle sprung up almost spontaneously at a hotelin California, where non-unionised workers started a wildcat strike in response to labour law violations and unacceptable working conditions.

California state law requires one unpaid 30-minute lunch break and two paid 10-minute breaks for every eight-hour shift. It also requires one hour’s wages be paid to compensate for any missed break. But workers at the Embassy Suites in Irvine, California were being denied both breaks and pay.

The management were fully aware of the situation, and had even threatened workers with disciplinary action for attempts to assert their rights. But, at 4am on August 9th, the workers "lost our fear."

About a third of the staff formed a picket line, and through conversation with other workers as they arrived during the day, convinced more and more to either join the picket line or head home. They returned to work the next day knowing that their employer would continue to try and subvert their rights, but unwilling to simply take it any longer.

One temp housekeeper, threatened with the sack for refusing to cross the picket line, saw their fellow housekeepers refuse to start their shifts in solidarity, and was able to keep her job. The workers have seen first-hand the gains of militancy and solidarity, but their struggle for real concessions continues.

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) has responded to the anti-Muslim hysteria surrounding the building of the so-called "ground zero mosque" after member Ahmed Sharif was attacked in his cab.

The NYTWA has been organising for 12 years to battle the low pay, long hours, and minimal legal protections afforded drivers. Now, according to Labor Notes, they are using that experience to build strength in numbers against potential hate crimes.

An in-depth analysis of the group's broader organising efforts can be found here.

China has also been experiencing increasing waves of unrest, stemming from a variety of competing factors which have made the country's state-capitalist economy increasingly volatile.

As the Solidarity Federation report in the latest edition of their free newspaper Catalyst (PDF);
Rapid industrialisation over the past few decades has created massive internal migration from the countryside to the cities on an unprecedented scale, dwarfing Britain’s industrial revolution two centuries ago. Now, this new urban working class has begun to flex its muscles, disrupting production in order to assert their demands.

The high-profile suicides at Foxconn, who make iPhones for Apple, were merely the tip of the iceberg. There, angry workers rioted over sweatshop conditions, chanting “capitalists kill people” and brandishing pictures of the CEO of Foxconn, Terry Gou. The company quickly offered improved wages and conditions in an attempt to quell the storm. However these headline-grabbing measures were quickly eaten up by reductions in overtime and speed-ups on production lines.

Elsewhere, 1,000 workers at the Denso car parts plant in the southern province of Guangdong won a two-day strike over poor breakfasts. China’s factories are vast – some the size of whole cities. Some employ tens of thousands of workers at a single site. Coupled with long working hours, this means workers often don’t leave work to eat meals, and the quality of those meals has proved a flashpoint. Workers ignored the pleas of the official union to return to work, and forced company bosses to improve meal provision.

For nearly three decades, corporations have increasingly relocated manufacturing to China to take advantage of a vast supply of cheap labour and lax regulation. The consequences of that lax regulation have also provoked social conflicts. 1,000 villagers in Jingxi county, Guangxi province, near the border with Vietnam recently protested against pollution from an aluminium plant owned by one of the country’s largest aluminium producers. Villagers blocked the gates to the plant and damaged production facilities, and one local government official was taken to hospital after being hit by stones.

In the past two months workers have walked out at three Honda plants, a Toyota supplier, a Hyundai factory in Beijing, a rubber products manufacturer in Shanghai and a Carlsberg brewery. Recently, workers at Japanese electronics firm Tianjin Mitsumi crippled output with a sit-in, complaining they were being asked to work extra hours for no extra pay.

The rising assertiveness of Chinese workers is causing some corporate investors to look elsewhere. However, industrial unrest is a pattern repeated across the region. In Cambodia, workers staged a three-day strike in July in a dispute over the minimum wage, while in Vietnam thousands of workers at a shoe factory staged a strike demanding higher salaries. While wages in Vietnam and Cambodia are still a fraction of those won by Chinese workers, increasing militancy is rapidly closing the gap.
Across the world, the class war continues to heat up as workers realise just how much solidarity and a militant resolve can win them.

Even more hearteningly, the number of instances of workers rejecting the betrayals of union bureaucrats is growing. The recent expulsion of UAW officials from a meeting of workers in dispute with the General Motors in Indianapolis is just one example.

Of course, ramping up the fightback risks more ferocious attacks from the bosses. But in the climate of austerity it seems a risk that many workers are willing to take.

We need to hope that, as the lessons spread and the working class become better equipped to defend themselves, the ruling class finally learn a lesson. Namely, that the threat of mutually assured destruction will not make us accept our lot in life.

We built this world. We created their wealth. And we are not afraid of ruins.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Health and safety to be attacked on the basis of deliberate misinformation

In a shock twist, an investigation by a Tory peer and veteran of the Thatcher administration has found exactly what his ideology demanded. Lord Young, has called health and safety regulations a "burden that we have to eliminate."

According to the Telegraph report;
Britain's onerous health and safety laws are stifling enterprise and may have pushed up unemployment, the peer appointed to review the legislation warned last night.

Lord Young said that small firms were spending up to a day every month ensuring they were complying with the regulations. He said that it was a “burden that we have to eliminate”.

The former Cabinet minister, appointed to review health and safety laws by David Cameron, will propose a crackdown on “ambulance-chasing” lawyers next month.

He will recommend new restrictions on adverts by claim management firms and changes to no-win, no-fee legal arrangements.

In an interview, Lord Young said: “What we have got to do with health and safety is to reduce bureaucracy. It is all cumulative and it adds to costs.”

He accused some lawyers and claim-management firms of “inciting” people to bring frivolous claims.

“There firms are inciting people to bring claims,” he said. “They are not bringing cases that will win in court, they are just looking to bring cases that will last two or three letters until the other side pays them off.

“They are factories churning out letters and it is an area of great concern. There is no magic bullet, but it is a matter of bringing these claims management firms under control.”
When Young was first appointed as David Cameron's advisor on this subject, I wrote in some depth about this. I dissected the media propaganda against "elf n safety" and explained how the Bhopal disaster was an inevitable result of exactly this kind of ideological warfare against workers' rights.

An additional point that I would make here is that Young, Cameron, and the report above all play the exact same trick - conflating "ambulance-chasing lawyers" with health and safety law.

The former do actually exist, of course. An industry has indeed emerged on the basis of "where there's blame, there's a claim." Though it hasn't taken off, and Britain hasn't developed a compensation culture, it is not entirely a figment of the right's imagination.

But this has nothing whatsoever to do with health and safety legislation. It is the work of private companies looking to turn a profit from accidents, not of the state or "bureaucracy."

The Health And Safety At Work Act (HASAW) and subsequent legislation, on the other hand, gives employers, landlords, and individuals specific duties in order to minimise risk and address hazards in the workplace. But even now, in many instances, it leaves a lot of workers without protection.

It should come as no surprise that the media and politicians are capable of such intellectual dishonesty. But with a trade union response still lacking, there is a risk that expectation has led to acceptance.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

EDL fail to ignite race war in Bradford, but Hope not Hate and UAF fail to impress

Much to my chagrin, I wasn't able to be in Bradford today. However, thankfully, many others were - and they were able to ensure that the English Defence League didn't get the all out riot that their members were spoiling for.

The event had the potential to be carnage. Not least with Hope not Hate and others not only crying out for the intervention of the state, but actively discouraging others from turning up and doing anything at all.

The argument for this active negligence was predicated on strawmen;
The UAF plan to hold a counter protest against the EDL. However how successful have UAF counter protests been so far? There have been many activists arrested for going too far at their demos and knowing that in 2001 the ANL were blamed as much as the National front for their counter demo whipping up tension in Bradford it will only take one spark to create the same dynamics that could cause a repeat. Luckily the police have positioned them well apart from each other, but since the EDL have been known to tear through barriers and barricades elsewhere is this going to be enough?
The main problem with this line of reasoning is that it equates UAF with the entire antifascist movement. It is not. (I'll come to UAF's "counter protest" momentarily.)

In fact, in Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Birmingham, the EDL were effectively demobilised as a result of being outnumbered by militant antifascist counter mobilisations. This left them unable to do very much at all and sent them packing with their tails between their legs.

It is when the antifascist presence has been small to non-existent, such as in Stoke, that the EDL are able to go on the kind of violent rampage that people feared in Bradford.

As such, Hope not Hate's message to antifascists "stay away" was a potentially dangerous one.

Unite Against Fascism, at least, saw the need for a physical presence opposed to the EDL. But, in a "unity event" which billed as "not a counter protest" but "a peaceful celebration of diversity," they kind of missed the point. You cannot effectively oppose violent fascists whilst avoiding them.

As I argued before the event, the only serious response to a potentially violent fascist street movement such as the EDL is physical opposition by a militant and self-organised working class.

Fortunately, I wasn't the only person making this argument and, on the day, it appears that that's what we got.

Members of Liverpool Antifascists, along with other comrades from the Stop Racism and Fascism Network, travelled up today to support the direct counter-demonstration called by Bradford United Against Racism. By all accounts, their efforts were succesful.

The police had around 500 EDL members kettled in Bradford Urban Gardens, in the city centre. However, about 30 of them climbed over the 8-ft tall temporary barricade in order to throw stones, missiles, and a smoke bomb at the police. Several times, members of the EDL also managed to escape from the main block by forcing themselves through the police barricades.

With UAF's event taking place half a mile away, and the even more absurd "Be Bradford – Peaceful Together" over a mile away, the mainstream antifascist movement had no response.

However, Bradford United Against Racism and the SRF Network gathered in opposition beyond the police lines. When EDL members broke free, they found themselves forced back into the police kettle as a result of being outnumbered by antifascists.

When a group of one or two hundred broke out from the EDL demonstration to rampage around the city, they got a nasty shock. Most of the counter-demonstration chased them through town before trapping some of them in Forster Square railway station and giving a few a good kicking. 

Attempts to attack a local mosque were also beaten back, and some of the EDL coaches were stoned and had their tyres slashed.

Even as it was, with the dominant forces in the labour and anti-fascist movements working with community and religious leaders to prevent a counter-demo, we gave the racists a seriously hard time. We don’t care about the imams, police and Lib Dem councillors. But trade unionists and socialists who did not even join the counter-demonstration once it began should be deeply ashamed of themselves.
Clearly, a quite different story will be told by other antifascist groups.

UAF has, at the time of writing, not yet published coverage of the day. But Nick Lowles, on the Hope not Hate blog, has written it up as a victory for state bans and impotent police vigils. The vital direct opposition from hundreds of antifascists goes unmentioned.

As the AWL argue, this is why we need "to challenge UAF and Hope Not Hate’s stranglehold over anti-fascist activity, particularly in the labour movement." It is divisive and destructive.

This does not mean that SRF should emerge as the new antifascist monopoly. It certainly deosn't mean the AWL should replace the SWP as the Trots steering the single-issue front group. The strength of the SRF is in its decentralised and openly democratic nature, and it has to stay that way.

But, as long as UAF and HnH dominate the antifascist skyline, the movement will continue to decline. We already knew how ineffective and unconvincing their watered down politics were. But, in shirking all responsibility for the actions of the EDL by refusing to confront them and (in HnH's case) encouraging people to not turn up at all, they have actively betrayed those they claim to stand up for.

The EDL have now been ferried out of Bradford, without major incident or a repeat of the 2001 riots. But, with a larger fascist presence it could have been a very different story. Indeed, if several hundred locals and antifascists hadn't defied UAF and HnH it would have been a different story.

The time is long overdue for the antifascist movement to pull itself together. As we saw in Bradford today, working class militancy is the only way forward.

Friday, 27 August 2010

"Ground Zero Mosque" - the height of absurdity in America's "culture wars"

When the English Defence League descend upon Bradford tomorrow, many are worried that the event will ignite racial tensions in the city. In New York, in the controversy surrounding the so-called "ground zero mosque," they've already exploded.

Student Michael Enright allegedly slashed taxi driver Ahmed Sharif's throat after asking if he was having a good Ramadan. A disturbing incident in itself, it comes amid ever more heated rows.

On Monday, the city saw opposing groups of protesters face each other over the issue. Opponents chanted "No mosque, no way" as supporters responded with "Say no to racist fear". In the anti-mosque gathering, protesters rounded on a man they thought was Muslim because he was wearing a skull cap.
The backdrop to all this are the plans to turn a makeshift place of worship in lower Manhattan into an Islamic cultural centre. Upon completion it will be known as Park51.

The project, upon completion, will contain the following facilities;
  • outstanding recreation spaces and fitness facilities (swimming pool, gym, basketball court)
  • a 500-seat auditorium
  • a restaurant and culinary school
  • cultural amenities including exhibitions
  • education programs
  • a library, reading room and art studios
  • childcare servicea mosque, intended to be run separately from Park51 but open to and accessible to all members, visitors and our New York community
  • a September 11th memorial and quiet contemplation space, open to all
The mosque, as you can see, is only a part of the "ground zero mosque," and will in fact be run separately from the main project. Moreover, despite the inflammatory title it has earned, it is not at ground zero.

Charlie Brooker makes this point with more than a degree of relish;
To get to the Cordoba Centre from Ground Zero, you'd have to walk in the opposite direction for two blocks, before turning a corner and walking a bit more. The journey should take roughly two minutes, or possibly slightly longer if you're heading an angry mob who can't hear your directions over the sound of their own enraged bellowing.

Perhaps spatial reality functions differently on the other side of the Atlantic, but here in London, something that is "two minutes' walk and round a corner" from something else isn't actually "in" the same place at all. I once had a poo in a pub about two minutes' walk from Buckingham Palace. I was not subsequently arrested and charged with crapping directly onto the Queen's pillow. That's how "distance" works in Britain. It's also how distance works in America, of course, but some people are currently pretending it doesn't, for daft political ends.
And yet, still, "ground zero" gets tagged on as an identifier not only by the protesters and right-wing demagogues, but by the media. Even the BBC, deemed by complete fucking idiots to be biased to the left, talks of the "Ground Zero Islamic centre." Which just reinforces the nonsense.

As a result, the tenth anniversary of 9/11 will be marked by reactionary idiots opposing a "mega mosque" which is more a product of their imaginations than anything else.

It should come as little surprise that the key organiser of this event - Pamela Gellar - is an avowed supporter of the English Defence League. Her organisations, the Freedom Defence Initiative (FDI) and Stop Islamisation of America (SIOA), are the group's closest analogues stateside.

So, what to do about them? The problem is that, even more so than here in Britain, they are able to demonstrate and march without effective opposition.

As mentioned earlier, the recent anti-mosque protest which saw reactionaries turn on a man for his choice of attire was met with an opposition demo. However, this was organised at the last minute and paled in comparison to the enormous stage-show on offer from the other side.

At the same time, the politics of the counter-demonstration were vague at best. Class consciousness is nowhere near as prevalent in America, and as a result it is easier for people to become drawn into reactionary movements. Moreover, that reaction is far more likely to take a constitutionalist form than a white nationalist form.

Whilst fascism turns the working class against one another on the basis of race and nationality, American constitutionalism uses the rhetoric of freedom to turn working people directly against their own interests. The Tea Party movement is a case in point.

Events such as the anti-mosque protests, of course, are where the lines get blurred. However, whilst it would be safe to say that identity politics are being used to distract from more pressing realities, it would equally be safe to say that the vast majority of those amongst the crowds aren't racists, fascists, or white nationalists. Their flag-waving patriotism and belief in freedom as defined by the right is probably genuine.

As such, traditional antifascist tactics will need tweaking to meet the challenge. The stabbing of Ahmed Sharif and the recent protest chaos, as well as a wave of hate incidents around the country, mean that physical opposition remains important.

But alongside this a serious political challenge needs to be made to the reactionaries. Not by liberals defending Barack Obama, or by "anti-racists" whose views are little more than black-and-white slogan-repetition. It has to come from the perspective of ordinary people with a clear, intuitive understanding of the class tensions simmering below the surface of American life.

Otherwise, all we will be able to do is watch as the culture wars consume the politics of class war.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Some thoughts on the woman who put a cat in the bin

The video and the story have gone viral, so I really shouldn't have to explain the story of the woman who put a cat into a wheelie bin in Coventry. The woman who did it has since been identified as one Mary Bale and questioned by the RSPCA.

I have two cats and, being a "big girls' blouse" as my other half puts it, I love them to bits. I'm extremely protective of them, and would be as justifiably furious as Lola's owners.

But, like them, I do think those who have taken to venting their spleen over this (and countless other issues) on Facebook verge on the bat shit crazy. Yes, this was at best an incomprehensible and thoughtless act. But calling for the woman to be "repeatedly head-butted" is hardly a rational response.

This is not to say that acts of animal cruelty should be excused or ignored.
The recent story of a dog which was tied to a rucksack and thrown in a canal moved me closer to mindless violence than the cat story. If I saw such a thing taking place, I doubt I could be held responsible for my actions.

But, even if it were justifiable, beating the living fuck out of everyone who was caught would not stop animal cruelty. Nor change the fact that, legally, the consequences are akin to those for graffiti.

What the solution to that is, I can't say. But, in working it out, our main point of reference must be our reason, not our sensitivities. Otherwise, we are no better than the angry mobs who - in a fury over paedophiles - harangue the innocent and in fact put children at greater risk.

Mary Bale has been questioned by the RSPCA and will be punished accordingly. Lola the cat, meanwhile, has fully recovered from her ordeal. There is no need for any repeated head-butting.

Enemies of Reason has some reflections on this of a more philosophical nature.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Anarchist action at the party conferences - and beyond...

In the same manner as the Radical Workers' Bloc planned for the Liberal Democrat party conference here in Liverpool, it seems anarchists in Birmingham have their eyes on the Conservatives;
As most of you know, the Tories are holding their Conservative Party Conference in October to meet with various heads of industry to define the future of our communities.

As usual our our interests are being decided by corporations such as RBS, BAES, A|D|S, G4S, ASDA / Wallmart, Tesco and the Tobacco Manufacturers Association to name but a few.

If the corporate involvement of the CPC hasn’t pissed you off enough, the Tories will be holding various champagne breakfasts, dinners and events in Birmingham to discuss cuts in spending that will negatively impact on our lives over the coming months whilst the rich and corporations continue reaping the benefits.

They talk, but what the hell do these bastards know of our struggle?

Enough! You have bitten the hand that fed you for the last time.


CPC Convergence Direct Action Bloc!

Sunday October 3rd 2010 from 12 noon

Remember all the cool kids are wearing black…

Venue / Target map…

Updates / Banners / Posters / Stickers
http://toffsout.wordpress.com/ (Mirrors coming soon)

Spread the word and get organised.
It is good to see anarchists taking the initiative and bringing the struggle to the streets. I only hope that, as a movement, we are able to keep our focus once the big moment in front of the cameras passes.

As I said in relation to the Radical Workers' Bloc, the point at such protests isn't to appeal to the politicians, but to our fellow workers. There we are making the case for a campaign of militancy and direct action, fighting the class war on the streets and picket lines.

Once the conferences are over, we still have to do exactly that.

Even if these events attract twenty thousand people under the anarchist banner, the red and black flags will wave for nothing if we don't follow through with our rhetoric.

When the crunch comes, we have to lead by example.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Steering the Camp for Climate Action back on course

The Camp for Climate Action 2010 is drawing to a close. Having occupied a site on the doorstep of Royal Bank of Scotland's (RBS) global headquarters since last Thursday, tomorrow they will be returning the basecamp to nature. So what's been achieved - and what was the point?

Firstly, it should be said that the camp was never going to bring down capitalism. That was never the point, and it would be a rare and special soul who went to the edges of Edinburgh with that idea in mind.

So why do it then? In the words of the Camp's website;
The Camp for Climate Action is a grassroots movement taking direct action against the root causes of climate change. After mobilising and helping stop the proposed third runway at Heathrow and a new coal fired power station at Kingsnorth, we're growing into a mass movement reclaiming our future from government and profit-hungry corporations.
The point is not some vague and impossible goal of "overthrowing capitalism," but of challenging its advances in the present whilst drawing peoples' attention to what is happening.

The choice of RBS as this year's target is a case in point;
RBS is the UK bank that has been the most heavily involved in financing fossil fuels and corporate bad guys around the world. It took part in providing E.ON with $70 billion at the time it was looking to bust out 17 new coal and gas power plants across Europe, and underwritten $8 billion in loans to ConocoPhillips in the last three years, who apart from being active in the Peruvian Amazon are one of the biggest players in the Canadian tar sands. In fact RBS is the UK bank the most heavily involved in providing the most loans to oil companies that are extracting tar sands and in doing so trashing the climate and destroying Indigenous Communities.

Since the financial crisis, RBS has received billions of pounds of public money to keep it afloat, to the point where it is now 84% owned by the UK public. Communities in the UK are now facing years of cuts to health, education and social services as a result of bailing out the actions of irresponsible bankers. And now they are using our money to prop up the E.ONs and the Shells of this world.

Using public money to support banks in trashing the climate embodies the absurdity of the economic and political system we live in. We need to stop our money from being used to finance tar sands, coal and all fossil fuels, and we need to have democratic financial institutions that serve the needs to people, communities and sustainability rather than just lining the pockets of greedy bankers.

The only way to prevent catastrophic climatic change is to stop burning fossil fuels by leaving them in the ground and switching to the alternatives. The current growth-orientated economic system causes our society to be addicted to burning fossil fuels. In order for our species to survive we need to move beyond capitalism by radically transforming human social relations.

World leaders, Politicians and the Capitalists they serve are failing to prevent the destruction of our planet because they have a vested interest in maintaining profits through business-as-usual. The false solutions they offer (such as bio-fuels, carbon trading, carbon capture and storage, nuclear etc) serve only to "green" capitalism in the search for more growth.

Banks and finance institutions are essential to maintaining the social control of capitalism for the benefit of the ruling class. British banks such as Barclays, Lloyds TSB and RBS are also major investors in companies that extract and burn conventional and unconventional fossil fuels. While the economy is in crisis after the bailouts and austerity measures begin to bite we must ask: Why is it that elites are benefiting from the profits of destructive investments which are killing the planet all loaned with money they stole from the public in the first place?

This disastrous investment must stop because fuels such as coal and the tar sands will if fully exploited certainly lead to global climate catastrophe. The building of new coal power stations and the expansion of other polluting industries must also be stopped and existing plants decommissioned.

The exploitation of Coal, Tar sands, Oil and Gas affects the health and environments of communities the world over, often causing militarization and conflict. Many are resisting this locally and finding solidarity globally, the climate justice movement works in solidarity with these struggles against these corporations for direct community and worker control.
Direct community and worker control being not only the ultimate goal of the anarchist movement but also, as I've argued previously, the only way to seriously combat climate change. This cannot happen overnight, but only through serious efforts to educate, agitate, and organise.


There was a day out from Climate Camp to Cousland on 21 August to participate in Growing Resistance, an event organised by Coal Action Scotland in solidarity with Communities Against Airfield Open Cast.
Report from the Growing Resistance event.


On Sunday, several hundred climate campers, including lots in 'greenwash guerilla' outfits took a stroll across the bridge from the camp and into the grounds of RBS Headquarters. Undeterred by police attempts to keep them on the climate camp side of the bridge, a large number of activists reached the RBS HQ, where it appears that balloons full of molasses (dirty oil) were catapaulted at the building, a couple of windows got broken and some activists may have got onto the roof (unconfirmed).


Monday's Day of Action saw campers taking diverse actions against RBS and other connected climate criminals. Five activists were arrested following an occupation, lock-on and banner drop at the headquarters of Forth Energy in Leith, protesting against the company's plans for four biomass power stations. In Edinburgh, a giant pig delivered and spilt a large quantity of 'oil' at the entrance of oil prospectors Cairn Energy, with more sprayed onto the walls; several branches of RBS also received attention.
In themselves, these actions have done nothing but cause some inconvenience to RBS and good copy for the media. The "climate justice movement" is not a big one, and its hestures are often tokenistic. Moreover, being an extremely broad-based movement, it is unable to build momentum based on class struggle.

In short, it holds lofty and admirable goals at its core, but is doing little more than tread water.

This is not to say that actions such as Climate Camp are a waste of time and should be scrapped. Far from it. If we are to take that attitude, we might as well simply declare that we are fucked, wash our hands, and wait for disaster.

More constructively, we need to see this movement become more explicitly anti-capitalist. If that seems a strange statement, then it is down to a fundamental misunderstanding of what capitalism is.

As an article on Infoshop.org explains;
Capitalism is the name for an entire social order. It is not just an "economy." Thus, the international nation-state system is an integral part of capitalism, and has been from the very beginning. Capitalists took over the pre-existing state forms and turned them to their own ends, integrating them into their project of accumulating capital. The ability to make profit from privately owned productive properties would be impossible without the legal framework provided by governments, backed by police and military violence. Businesses and governments are in bed together, and have been for the past five hundred years (profit takers + politicians = capitalism). Yet even when a few climate justice activists do admit that capitalism has to be destroyed in order to stop global warming, they fail to note that states do too. Except for anarchists. 
Though the mission statement and press releases from Climate Camp hint at exactly this perspective, talking of the "political and economic power" that "lies at the heart of the problem," an anti-statist anti-capitalism is never explicitly laid out.

Indeed, as one commenter noted on Indymedia, "many come from an anarchist position, [but] others [come] from more mainstream (i.e. Labour, Conservative, and Liberal) positions." This limits the potential of the Camp to offer a genuinely anarchist perspective on the matter or to push for the kind of broader social movement neccesary to enact real change.

Indeed, the dilemma Adam Ford described a year ago still holds true;
The idea of a class-based transformation of society is rejected – in some cases because of righteous disillusionment with traditional forms of class struggle, in many cases because the individual is from a relatively wealthy background. When such people see impending environmental catastrophe as the number one threat to their lives, their philosophy often becomes more anti-technological than anti-capitalist. Taking this perspective to its logical conclusion, capitalism and the state wouldn’t be much of a problem if they could somehow leave people alone in ecological peace, but since they can’t, both must be overcome. But with international class-based solidarity apparently ruled out, the result is that “setting an example” (as one woman put it) becomes the main method of ideological recruitment.
This sets green and black anarchism up for its own failure. Due to the built-in ideological structures of mainstream media and the state, the example set is of using those compost toilets, getting attacked by police, and putting yourself in mortal danger on your week off. Understandably, this is not an example that many are willing to follow.
Thus, a shift in focus is needed from the "lifestyle" of the Camp to germinating the ideas behind it amongst the working class. After all;
While capitalist ideas prevail amongst the working class, invasions of power stations are less direct action and more dramatic lobbying; ultimately impotent appeals to the government to see further than the short term bottom line, something it is organically incapable of doing.
Needless to say, overcoming this point will not be easy.

As the Infoshop article notes, effective and long-lasting action "will require an unprecedented, massive, global anti-capitalist (including an anti-statist) movement." Such a thing may be beginning to emerge, but it remains in its infancy. Susceptible to easy diversion along less radical paths.

In both action and dialogue, we need to fight to ensure that doesn't happen. In short, we need to turn direct action away from gesture politics and towards pushing more long-term change.

Monday, 23 August 2010

UN excuses corporate crime in the Niger Delta

The Guardian reports on the frankly stupefying findings of a UN investigation in the Niger Delta;
A three-year investigation by the United Nations will almost entirely exonerate Royal Dutch Shell for 40 years of oil pollution in the Niger delta, causing outrage among communities who have long campaigned to force the multinational to clean up its spills and pay compensation.

The $10m (£6.5m) investigation by the UN environment programme (UNEP), paid for by Shell, will say that only 10% of oil pollution in Ogoniland has been caused by equipment failures and company negligence, and concludes that the rest has come from local people illegally stealing oil and sabotaging company pipelines.
The reason for this outcome is that the investigation was "paid for by Shell." I very much doubt any multinational company would be so stupid as to pay for an investigation likely to find them at fault.

Further, as Mike Cowing, the head of a UN team studying environmental damage in the region, admits, UNEP "cannot say whether a particular spill is from one cause or another." In fact, because "our [anecdotal] observation is that there is a serious [bunkering ] problem," they pluck the figure of 90% out of the air.

This figure is in contrast to Environmental Rights Action, Nigeria's leading environment group, whose "observation is the direct opposite of what UNEP is planning to report."

Not that we should be surprised, since the official spill site list "is given by the oil companies themselves."It is "endorsed by the [government] agencies," who are of course also have oil interests in the region and are highly dependent on Shell. The idea that "no party will be able to influence the science" is laughable.

Nonetheless, this exposes the weakness of the UN and its various enforcement bodies in the face of corporate capitallism. Cowing claims to be "focusing on the science" because "UNEP is not responsible for allocating responsibility for the number of spills being found in Ogoniland." But if so, then what is the point?

Writing on this issue last November, I cited an Amnesty International report (PDF) which told how decades of pollution have seen "violations of the right to an adequate standard of living, including food and water, violations of the right to gain a living through work and violations of the right to health."

Worse, "the government of Nigeria has given the oil companies the authority to deal with matters that have a direct bearing on human rights." Which has "fundamentally undermined access to effective remedy, contributed to ongoing violations and led to deeper poverty and deprivation."

In April this year, a report on oil production in the region by the Independent noted that "medical studies have shown the gas burners contribute to an average life expectancy in the Delta region of 43 years." In addition, "12 per cent of newborns fail to see out their first year."

From which, I made the following point;
In the midst of such a scene, armed and militant resistance is inevitable. Though attacked as criminals, the armed rebels of the Delta are supported by indigenous people for one quite simple reason. They get results.

As Joseph Hurstcroft, executive director of Stakeholder Democracy Network, told the Independent, "there is an obvious correlation between militancy, reduced oil production and reduced flaring." When it is near-enough estalished fact that the oil companies "will never stop gas flaring until the oil wells run dry," what else can those affected do but take up arms?
My article, of course, wasn't just about the Niger Delta. For that is just one of many areas around the world where the oil companies'  profit is resulting in untold human misery.

But all the UNEP findings do is reinforce the propaganda of the state-corporate interests responsible for this. As Ben Amunwa of London-based oil watchdog group Platform told the Guardian, "many Ogoni suspect that the report's focus on sabotage and bunkering will be used to justify military repression notorious in the Niger delta, where non-violent activists, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, were executed."

There can be little doubt that Shell's "exoneration is a thinly-veiled propaganda exercise. It leaves the issue of environmental destruction largely unaddressed and the people of the Delta at further risk of state repression if they try to stand up for themselves.

Let us hope, at least, that UNEP can deliver the promised "massive clean-up" without interference from Shell or the government.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Quote of the day...

...isn't a quote so much as it is a cartoon;

The only observation worth adding is that the exit is as much of a lie as the victory. Whilst the headlines declared that the last US combat brigade has left Iraq, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley has said that "we are ending the war... but we are not ending our work in Iraq."

The Americans and British "have a long-term commitment to Iraq." Hence why this "end" to the war leaves 50,000 armed troops behind.

Apparently, they "will only use their weapons in self-defence or at the request of the Iraqi government." But this would hardly be the first falsehood told to us by the US military. For one, the collateral murder incident springs to mind. 

This is not to mention the war crimes committed in Fallujah in 2004. And the fallout which people - including the newborn - continue to suffer as a result.

So, yes, for all intents the war may be over. But its effects will continue to be felt for many years to come, not just in terms of lives lost and physical suffering, but in the economic turmoil as the country continues to be carved up for capital.

The soldier who shouted "We've won. It's over. We brought democracy to Iraq!" deserves a medal for irony.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The radical workers' bloc: making the case to the working class to fight our own battles

After David Cameron graced us with his presence to unveil the "big society" in July, Liverpool next month gets to play host to his party's "yellow wing" (sorry, the Liberal Democrats) next month. Their annual party conference will be at the Echo Arena from the 18th to the 22nd September.

The following release comes from the Liverpool Solidarity Federation;
The Merseyside Trades Union Council have called a demonstration at the Liberal Democrats’ annual conference. This has been billed as “against coalition cuts in public jobs and services” – but we want more.

Of course, we need to protect jobs.  Every job lost to redundancy means more workload for those who remain.  An injury to one really is an injury to all.  We also need to stop the cuts that take away vital services, hard-won by generations of struggle. But these are not Liberal Democrat, Tory, or even coalition cuts – they are cuts by the ruling class, which we would be facing whoever got into power.

Liverpool Solidarity Federation and others are forming a Radical Workers’ Bloc on the demonstration.  We reject the notion that a different government will bring about a solution for us – the cuts will be defeated on the streets and on the picket lines, not at the ballot box.

We need to send a message not only to this coalition government but to all political parties. The working class will not take these attacks on our livelihood lying down. We do not need anyone’s permission to fight back, and we do not need politicians or bureaucrats to lead us.

Join us on the Radical Workers’ Bloc on 18h September at the Echo Arena in Liverpool. Look for the red & black flags and the Liverpool Solidarity Federation banner.

Flyers and posters will be produced as soon as we have a definite time for the event. You can RSVP via Facebook here.
This is not about attempting to change the mind of the Liberal Democrats in government. It is not about urging rank-and-file Lib Dem members to try and change their party from the inside.

Both things are unattainable, the party being built in to the power structure of our capitalist system long before they entered into a coalition with the Tories. As I have argued previously, the differences between the three parties are differences of style, not substance.

Rather, what this protest represents is a chance to speak to and engage with other members of the working class who are angry, uncertain about the future, and determined to fight back.

This is our chance to put forward our view of what an effective fightback against the cuts will look like. That is, a movement built from the ground up, based on direct action and confrontation rather than lobbying and gesture politics. It is, in short, our chance to explain why the working class should drop the bureaucrats and fight our own battles.

That we can worry and agitate the Lib Dems, used to their false-image as the "nice" party nobody takes umbrage with, is just an added bonus.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Hope not Hate declares victory as history threatens to repeat itself in Bradford

Earlier this month, I laid out the argument for militant working class resistance against the English Defence League in Bradford. Specifically, I explained why both a state ban and a "unity event" which refused to directly confront the fascists were the wrong approaches to take.

Nonetheless, Hope not Hate reports that its campaign for a ban on the EDL has been succesful;
The Home Secretary has today banned the EDL march in Bradford on 28 August. While there is still the probability of a static protest the fact that the EDL will not be allowed to march through predominantly Asian areas of the city, as they had intended, must be welcomed.

The ban comes after the HOPE not hate campaign, through it's Bradford Together initiative, collected 10,700 signatures from within the city in three weeks. This equates to almost 6% of all adults. The campaign has brought together people of all ages, races and religions in a determined bid to stop racist hooligans invading the city and provoking trouble.

In the event of the EDL holding a static protest, Bradford Together will organise a peace vigil in Bradford city centre on the Friday (27 August). This will give local people an opportunity to show their opposition to the EDL and celebrate modern Bradford without fear of a confrontation. This event is being supported by the Bradford Council of Mosques, other faith and community groups and Yorkshire & Humber TUC.
Thus the debate between Hope not Hate and Unite Against Fascism is resolved to the advantage of both. HnH's opposition to any counter demonstration at all has disappeared, they get their state ban, albeit only on the march, and UAF get their non-confrontational event.

Meanwhile, the EDL are insisting on Facebook that "bradford is still going ahead a 100 percent. we are doing a static demo which the police have agreed will be ok" [sic]. Thus, the city will still be invaded by several hundred fascists who, if past experience is anything to go by, will be boozed up and screaming racial epithets across a city torn apart by race riots nine years ago.

On which point, incidentally, it is worth noting that the National Front were banned from marching in Bradford back then. They still turned up in the city, as the EDL plan to do, and ignited tensions that had been building for weeks.

Thus, as the Stop Racism and Fascism network have reiterated, the only real defence lies in direct confrontation;
Leaving the EDL to march through Bradford without mass opposition does not guarantee the safety of the local Asian population. On other EDL demonstrations the police have at times been unable or unwilling to control these racist thugs. In Luton the EDL managed to smash up Asian owned shops and in Dudley they attacked a Hindu temple. In both of these cases the anti-racist counter demonstration was small or non-existent. Only a large, organised counter-demonstration that outnumbers the EDL several times over will be able to guarantee this kind of attack cannot happen.
The point of antifascism is not to give the state a mandate for repression. It is not to hold a big, colourful party at the same time as fascists are rampaging elsewhere and call it a "victory." It is to confront the far-right, both physically and ideologically, and defend our communities - our class - from them.

If we ignore that and grow complacent, especially now that a ban on marching has been issued, then we might as well watch history repeat itself before our eyes.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The case for a workers' struggle not constrained by the law

The strike is the latest development in a long period of unrest in the country. This includes the Transnet transport workes' strike, wildcat bus strikes, postal strikes, construction strikes, and the high-profile strike by match stewards during the world cup. Not to mention the ongoing shack-dwellers' struggles

This latest strike is a response to pay negotiations with the government. The state offered to increase the monthly housing allowance, but refused a pay rise above seven percent.

However, as Al-Jazeera's Haru Mutasa says the resolve of the strikers is strong;
They say they see politicians living lavish lifestyles, they question why there was money for the football World Cup [staged in South Africa] and say they are tired of corruption allegations in government departments and that they will not put up with it anymore.

They are saying that they are not going back to work until their demands are met and that they don't care how long the strike drags on.

It's going to have a big impact. Schools are shut down … we've heard people have barricaded hospitals. If this strike drags on a lot of people will become the casualties of the strike action.
This is in sharp contrast to Britain, where tough talk isn't matched by action.

For example, the latest upcoming action is a "lobby" of the TUC conference in Manchester, organised by the National Shop Stewards Network.They are still trying in vain "to convince our trade union leaders of their power, which could potentially stop this government in its tracks."

According to the blurb on the event's Facebook page;
We need a national demo in London on a Saturday with all TUC affiliates giving it top priority. A national demo could set the tone for a one-day public sector strike, marking the beginning of a serious fightback against these vicious cuts.
To call this lacklustre would be a bit of an understatement. As the Spanish CNT has argued, single-day actions amount to little more than "gesture strikes."

A 24-hour strike, assuming that the mainstream unions even call one, "would act only as a giant safety valve for employee discontent." Instead, "the only possibility for correcting this situation is to fight this economic aggression through social confrontation, to continue and expand protests to all sectors."

This involves following South Africa's lead and making any strike action indefinite;
An indefinite general strike paralysing the country until the government withdraws anti-worker and anti-social actions would by contrast act as a binder for workers to recover their class consciousness and act together, with an eye to the destruction of the capitalist system through social revolution which is the only truly effective medicine against congenital diseases of the system. 
One reason that such a thing will not happen under the stewardship of the TUC unions is that they are hamstrung by this country's anti-strike laws.

Since December 2009, employers have used the High Court to block the Christmas British Airways strike, the Easter rail strike, and a Johnson Press strike. A further injunction against BA workers was overturned, and a threatened action against Aslef never reached fruition.

At the start of the month, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development recommended that ministers tighten the law on strike ballots even further, in line with Vince Cable's thoughts on the matter.

As well as a myriad of technicalities surrounding ballots, which applied politically would have seen this country without a government for several decades now, the laws also make both general and indefinite strikes a pipedream.

It is, at this juncture, far too late to lobby for a change in the law. Even if it were possible to do so within an extremely short time, no politician would be stupid enough to restore legal rights for organised workers whilst launching full-scale attacks on our class. It would be suicidal. Even if it did happen, it simply leaves orkers in the same position if and when such a change were reversed.

Changing the law shouldn't take up our time and energy - but the fact that they exist should. We can no longer ignore the fact that the only legal actions are those that are largely ineffective.

The push now has to be for "illegal" actions that can have a serious impact. To win this class war, we need sit-down strikes, occupations, wildcat walkouts, and blockades. We must build networks of solidarity and walk out in support of other struggle. And there cannot be any limit on the length of our actions beyond the strength of our resolve and our ability to raise strike funds.

As the attacks on the working class become more tangible and the rhetoric from the left gets more heated, the law remains the elephant in the room. If we do not address it, we will remain hamstrung by it. Thus, any "serious fightback" will be dead before it begins.