Saturday, 30 April 2011

No War but Class War - April 2011

In Britain, a number of things took place in relation to the class war. However, by far the most significant has been what took place in Stokes Croft, Bristol. That eruption of class anger, in the face of an attack by the state on behalf of capital, was perhaps only a taste of what is being felt more broadly. After all, austerity is only an escalation of the class antagonism that defines the status quo.

But whilst "official" movements have been more than happy to play by their opponents' rules - the TUC March for the Alternative and the coming public sector strikes a case in point - the people organising themselves at a grassroots level are not. Stokes Croft was just one example of that and, like the victims of violent repression in Trafalgar Square on March 26th, all attempts by the mainstream media to marginalise them and play up the false binary of "good protester/bad protester" need to be resisted.

The confrontation in Stokes Croft flared up again as the media fawned over the royal wedding, with police attacking a peaceful mass gathering. This occurred whilst wedding "security" became the pretext for rounding up known activists in London.

As I said yesterday: "The mask of liberalism is slipping, and that must be considered a good thing as more people awaken to the true nature of the state and its relation to capital. But this inevitably means that those in power will be more willing to exercise the state's monopoly of violence with little discrimination. We need to watch our backs, but always continue to organise dissent and challenge established power."

Similar repression has been taking place in Italy. There, the "Outlaw Operation" saw 300 officers in 16 different cities carry out anti-anarchist raids. According to sources, "the operation was part of an enquiry started in 2009  linked in part to anarchist publications and in part to recent attacks against detention centres and corporations like IBM and ENI (multinational oil and gas company)."

In the Middle East, despite first the war in Libya and then the royal wedding distracting the media, people continue to rebel and rise up against their governments. As the people demand freedom, democracy, and an acceptable standard of living, western imperial powers rush to consolidate their own position in the region. In other words, the class conflict of the Arab Spring cannot be ignored, even as the needs of dictators struggling to maintain a grip on power take a back seat to the interests of the broader ruling class of capitalism.

Since they ended the three decade reign of Hosni Mubarak in February, Egyptian workers have been discovering that they have no less an enemy in the 'interim' army administration. The army has its own commerical interests to protect, so it has repeatedly attacked protesters in the now highly symbolic Tahrir Square, forced through a repressive new constitution, and effectively banned strike action in the country. In this, it has the full support of the US, which has sent high profile representatives to Cairo, each promising military and financial aid for the junta. In the face of this, an illegal strike movement seems to be growing, as large numbers of workers fight for better pay and conditions.

Having forced the resignation of the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January - an event which inspired the oppressed in Egypt and around the Arab world - Tunisian demonstrators have forced many political concessions. Immediately after Ben Ali's departure, a 'caretaker' government was formed, including several key members of Ben Ali's own RDC party. Protests eventually forced their departure, the banning of the RDC, and the start of prosecutions against Ben Ali, his family, and former government ministers. The regime is now headed by eighty-four year old Beji Caid el Sebsi - a veteran of Tunisian bourgeois politics. Having abandoned Ben Ali once they sensed the game was up, the US is now watching developments keenly, and hoping that the political concessions won't encourage widespread industrial struggle.

Obama is trying to recast 'blood for oil' as humanitarian intervention in Libya
The US is leading a regime change military operation in the Libya, aimed at replacing recent ally and now once again 'mad dog' Muammar Gaddafi with a government that can better guarantee the flow of oil to the west, and particularly the US. The UK, France and Italy are pursuing their own imperial interests in the country, and there has been much in-fighting between the supposed 'allies' for the spoils of this war. The Libyan working class seems to be unrepresented in a ragtag 'rebel' army now led by a longterm CIA asset, and advised by US, UK and French military leaders. Frustrated by the lack of progress from the 'rebel' soliders, the US is now trying to assassinate Gaddafi. The pretext of a 'humanitarian mission' to enforce a 'no-fly zone' is now barely mentioned by the politicians or the corporate media.

After three months of brutally repressing protests against his government, US-backed dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh has now offered to resign, and hand the reins of power over to his deputy, Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi, and a coalition comprised of various bourgeois opposition groups. The agreement was brokered by the Saudi-based Gulf Cooperation Council and the Obama administration, amid fears that Yemeni unrest might spread into neighbouring Saudi Arabia, which has the world's biggest oil reserves. Another consideration is that Yemen sits on the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which is the waterway through which most Persian Gulf oil is shipped to the outside world. However, the deal was made conditional on the bourgeois opposition shutting down the protest movement, and this will be a difficult task, since protesters tend to see them as Saleh collaborators, and not leaders. Furthermore, the agreement highlights US hypocrisy, since a very similar one was roundly rejected in the case of Gaddafi in Libya.

In another country bordering Saudi Arabia, the Al Khalifa royal family is terrorising the population, with even hospitals now being "places to be feared", according to the Physicians for Human Rights group. Since the last open displays of working class defiance in February, more than a thousand people have been disappeared. In mi-March, Obama gave the green light for Saudi forces to be deployed in Bahrain, further underscoring the strategic importance of the immediate region for US imperialism. Unfortunately for him, material needs cannot simply by terrorised out of existance, and they will find further expression soon enough. 

Perhaps the most brutal repression in the Middle East at the moment is happening in Syria, where the regime is opposed by the US and Israel, as well as the broad masses within the country, although for altogether different reasons. President Bashar al-Assad is systematically ordering his troops to slaughter protesters, and then slaughter people who attend their funerals. The US has announced that it is considering sanctions against the Syrian government, and is clearly hoping to engineer the downfall of a regime with links to Iran, and which frequently makes use of anti-imperialist rhetoric. However, more strident opposition to Israel is a key demand of the Syrian protest movement, alongside the need for better living conditions and democratic reform.
In the United States, postal workers are critical of a deal reached between the American Postal Workers Union and the US Postal Service. According to Labor Notes, whilst the agreement "bring[s] back thousands of contracted-out jobs and protect[s] existing employees against layoff," it also "creates a lower wage scale for new career employees and an additional second-class workforce."

Such deals are the norm in a lot of workplaces, allowing the union to present a victory to existing staff whilst leaving the company plenty of room to exploit future employees and whittle sdown working conditions on the basis of a divided workforce.

Whilst this is nothing new in itself, the lesson it presents to American workers is important. The dispute in Wisconsin - which last month saw schools in New York walk out in solidarity - propelled unions to the fore in the American class consciousness. However, in a time of broad austerity measures and attacks on the working class (as everywhere else), US workers need to be aware of the collaborationist role played by union leaders. An excellent analysis of the situation and the antagonisms between workers and their so-called leaders can be found at The Trial by Fire.

Elsewhere in the US, a series of solidarity strikes have shut down ports and other workplaces in Oakland, opposing the attacks on workers' rights in Wisconsin and Ohio. At the same time, the IWW is arguing that May Day celebrations must combine the struggles of immigrant and native workers. Class consciousness and solidarity in America is crystalising, and it will be interesting to follow as resistance to their government's class war agenda unfolds there.

In Greece, pressure is mounting on the government to default on its debts because of a strategy of "organised lawlessness." I previously expounded on this in more depth here, and I maintain my assertion that this is the most effective way for the working class to assert its interests. Only by making austerity the more expensive - and troublesome - option can we hope to force the ruling class to back down.

Just one realisation of this point comes from France. There, faced with job cuts and the threat of class and school closures, teachers and parents have begun a wave of occupations across the country. Given the success British parents had at Lewisham Bridge, this may prove an extremely effective tactic.

Finally, a tragic report from on events following a crushed strike in South Korea;
It has been two years since the management of Ssangyong Motor Company in Pyongtaek, South Korea, announced the layoffs of 1000 workers. Shortly thereafter, those workers occupied their plant and held it for 77 days, from May to August 2009, when they finally succumbed to a massive police and army assault.

In the immediate aftermath, many militants were arrested and some were sentenced to years in prison. Most, however, were laid off, on different terms (some with the hope of a recall after one year which to date has never materialized).

Two years after the announcement, fourteen people, both strikers and immediate family, are dead. (This is in turn part of a larger pattern in South Korea, including a spate of deaths from cancer by workers for Samsung and four recent suicides of students at KAIST, Korea's "MIT", resulting from grade pressures. Korea has the highest suicide rate of any advanced industrial country, and rivals the U.S. for deaths and injuries on the job per capita.)

Five Ssangyong workers have committed suicide and five have died from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack or brain hemorrhage.

Doctors believe these were caused by severe stress in the aftermath of the strike and layoffs. Some of the suicides resulted from economic problems following the lay-offs.

In Feb 2011, one worker on unpaid time-off died of a heart attack. Under the pressure of the layoffs, his wife had killed herself in April 2010. They had two children. The worker's bank balance was close to zero.
The following is gleaned from an article in the South Korean daily newspaper Hangyereh:

A Korean hospital also found that more than half the Ssangyong strikers it has seen are suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, and 80% are suffering from severe depression. Almost all the workers involved have reported a deterioration in their marriages. Their average post-restructuring monthly income, of 822,800 Won ($757), represented a 74 percent reduction from their previous salary.

After the defeat of the strike, 462 workers were put on unpaid leave. The promised one-year period has elapsed, yet the company maintains it is unable to begin reinstatement. Workers who retired or were fired are having difficulty finding new employment because of the Ssangyong “scarlet letter,” and have been making do with temporary jobs and day-to-day work. Also absent has been any social safety network to address their deteriorating health and financial anxieties.

Hangyereh calls the 14 deaths "social homicides". 
Our solidarity ought to go out to all of the workers suffering in Pyongtaek. Their suffering should also serve as an example of exactly where a downward trend in workers' rights and class struggle can lead.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Bread, circuses, and repression

I didn't see the wedding of William Windsor and Kate Middleton. I had better things to do, namely going door-to-door delivering anti-fascist leaflets in Anfield. But the repression that preceded it - indeed that it gave pretext to - should concern everybody who wishes to live in a free society.

Yesterday, the Metropolitan Police launched a "pre-emptive strike," in anticipation of "trouble" at the wedding. They arrested twenty people in raids of London squats, their only crime as far as I can tell that of being "anarchists." They were amongst a wider group of 90 people banned from going into central London on the day of the wedding.

The eccentric Chris Knight was one of three people arrested for planning to behead effigies of the royals. A crime of the same severity (one would have thought) as burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes on November 5th.

In Cambridgeshire police arrested Charlie Veitch, of the Love Police, "on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance." That is, for planning to speak into a megaphone in a way not entirely flattering to the British monarchy. Heaven forfend. Indeed, this is surely a greater crime even than murdering an inanimate object. If you would like to speak to the custody officer holding Charlie and ask why his voice is considered a threat, please feel free to call (+44) 845 456 456 4 and ask for the custody block.

But as if the death of effigies and a man's voice weren't obscene enough, as the wedding procession was underway police saw people (gasp!) assemple and put on masks. This horrendous act of terrorism justified the invocation of Section 60 of the Public Order Act. Police established a royal wedding "exclusion zone" within which they could stop-and-search without discretion and ask anybody to remove masks or face coverings. One man was arrested for singing "We all live in a fascist regime" to the tune of We All Live In a Yellow Submarine. The "clash" that followed this should be read as "the police being arseholes and starting a fight." A total of 45 people were arrested.

All of this comes on the back of a wave of media hysteria. The London Evening Standard was particularly absurd with its claim that "up to 1,500 hardcore militants plan to storm buildings around Trafalgar Square and The Mall, displaying obscene banners and obscuring the London skyline with billowing smoke as images of the wedding are beamed to millions of viewers around the world." Not least because of the ridiculous contents of their "anarchist organiser's" backpack. But they were far from alone.

Indeed, the coverage offered by the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, et al has bordered on the insane. But it has also hit the right note of hysterical fear-mongering. Perhaps the most obvious comparison was the first red scare of 1919-20, with its almost demonic charicatures of anarchism.

Even coverage of the planned protests by Muslims Against Crusades (since called off) spent most of their word count going on about "anarchists." It is coming to something when even the Mail will dedicate a considerable chunk of an article about the rabid lunatics of the Islamic far-right to "anarchists" and "troublemakers" of the left.

But then, MAC are just lunatics using the wedding as a convenient focal point for another attempt to piss people off. Anarchists, on the other hand, recognise that "it's capitalism, not feudalism, that is ruining the lives of working people." Our intention is to "continue to focus our energy and resources to support workers in struggle, get active in our own workplaces, and build a sense of community that transcends commodity relations and nation-states." Hence unlike MAC - who have faced no pre-emptive raids or other repression - we are a genuine threat to the established order and must be stopped.

The mask of liberalism is slipping, and that must be considered a good thing as more people awaken to the true nature of the state and its relation to capital. But this inevitably means that those in power will be more willing to exercise the state's monopoly of violence with little discrimination. We need to watch our backs, but always continue to organise dissent and challenge established power.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

International workers' memorial day

Tomorrow is a bank holiday. Heads of state from across the world, including some despicable tyrannies, are flying into Britain. There will be street parties, a parade through London, and rolling 24-hour news coverage. But two people getting married tomorrow pales in importance next to today.

Every year, on the 28th April, workers around the world commemorate International Workers Memorial Day. It is our day, to honour the countless workers who have died - and who continue to die - in hazardous and unsafe workplaces. We mourn the dead, but continue to fight for the living - because a strong, organised workforce is the only guarantee against employers sacrificing the safety of the workers in order to squeeze another fast buck out of us.

Perhaps the most horrific example of this in recent times is the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India. Staff layoffs, corner cutting, and gross negligence led to the incident which killed 3,500 immediately and up to 25,000 since, as well as causing birth defects in newborns.

This was just one case, but it is symptomatic of global capitalism. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) exists to ensure that such pesky things as health and safety regulations aren't used as "disguised protectionism" or pose a "barrier to free trade." As a result, around the world, free trade is killing people. David Cameron wants this to spread to Britain, aiming to "curb" what he sees as the "red tape" of health and safety legislation. The media is complicit in this aim, perpetuating myths (PDF) about health and safety but falling silent when the lapses in it kill.

This is why it is as important as ever, today, to "remember the dead and fight for the living." In a society tailored to the interests of capital, it is only our strength as a class that can challenge the bosses squeezing profit from us at the expense of our health - and even our lives.

You can't fight the cuts by voting

One of the key anarchist arguments against the electoral system is that it is a significant drain on energy and resources in pursuit of an illusion. This is not just in reference to the mainstream parties. In fact, nowhere is it truer than in the Socialist Party's "anti-cuts" electoral agenda.

The Socialist Party is the driving force behind the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). This electoral front "stands in opposition to public spending cuts and privatisation," and amounts in essence to the latest leftist initiative in pursuit of a new workers' party. Their paper's latest editorial tells us that we should "fight the cuts" by "vot[ing] for a socialist alternative." In their eyes, there is a "need to develop a serious political alternative," and electing socialist candidates "drawn from the best working class fighters" will allow them to "coordinate the fightback."

The example set for this, in the mind of the SP, is their predecessor organisation - Militant Tendency - and its tenure on Liverpool and Lewisham councils in the 1980s. If electoralism is the biggest diversion from genuinely militant class politics, as anarchists argue, then Militant is the totem which keeps it alive.

But, as with all myths, the reality of Militant is by contrast somewhat disappointing. Beyond the line that they built 5,000 houses, created 1,000 new jobs, and built sport centres, parks, and nurseries, the reality is that the significant victories came from direct action at a grassroots level, whilst the glorious failures were most definitely engineered from the top down. It is important to separate the two elements in order to understand what works as a strategy and what is a dead-end road.

The bulwark of the Militant strategy was the "illegal" budget. That is, passing a budget in line with local needs and inflation, and presenting the shortfall that arises as a concrete demand to government.

We already know that this wouldn't work today. Were a City Council to set such a "needs budget," they would simply be shoved aside by bureaucrats from central government who would implement the cuts for them. But even in the 1980s when it was theoretically possible, this strategy didn't work. As it ran out of cash, Liverpool's Militant council made cuts through a partial run-down of services, whilst their last-gasp tactic - delivering redundancy notices to 30,000 council workers - backfired spectacularly.

The sight of a fleet of taxis delivering redundancy notices is for many Liverpudlians the summation of the era. Allegedly a tactic to buy time, on the basis that the government couldn't let an entire council go redundant, it came months after Liverpool had already secured a £30 million Swiss bank loan. Not to mention that the council, in their vanguard role, were offering others up as sacrifices - and unwillingly, given that the unions didn't accept it. As Derek Hatton himself put it, "we were their employers, and they fought us bitterly every inch of the way." As any genuine socialist might expect in the relationship between workers and bosses.

But whilst the council capitulated on their slogan of "better to break the law than break the poor," the working class didn't. The people of Toxteth won £20 million of extra money in 1981 by rioting against the poverty and deprivation in their area, as one example, whilst the success of the mass non-payment campaign in beating the poll tax is widely known.

It will be argued that Militant Tendency members were involved, even instrumental, in the poll tax rebellion. There are contrasting views on this, but ultimately it is irrelevant. The point is that we are talking about direct actions that were successful in forcing concessions versus an electoral strategy which was flawed from the outset and ultimately crashed and burned. To try exactly the same thing again and expect a different outcome is nothing short of madness.

If we are to defeat austerity, the working class must adopt a direct action strategy. Make the country ungovernable, and the cuts impossible to implement. To do that, we must exorcise the ghost of Militant Tendency as it leads us once more down the dead-end road of electoral politics.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

No justice, no peace...

In a press release today, the Metropolitan Police announce that 11 people have been charged over the student protests on 9th December. This has caused considerable outrage since one of the arrestees is Alfie Meadows.

Those who followed events on that day may remember his name from this;
A 20-year-old student underwent a three-hour operation to treat bleeding on the brain last night after being hit on the head by a police truncheon, according to his mother.
Alfie Meadows is said to have fallen unconscious on the way to hospital after being struck as he tried to leave an area outside Westminster Abbey during the tuition fee protests in central London. The incident has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Meadows was among 43 protesters and six police offices who were taken to hospital for injuries.
One can only speculate as to when exactly head-butting a police truncheon became a crime.

This further demonstrates that, far from being an aberration that occurs in isolation, police brutality is an integral part of state power. As someone on Twitter wrly noted, "had [Ian] Tomlinson lived he would have faced trumped up charges too."

It is worth remembering this incident, the next time somebody tells you there can be such a thing as "proportionate" policing.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Public sector unions and the ideological defenders of capitalism

Over at the Adam Smith Institute, Tim Worstall attempts to answer the question "what are public sector unions for?" Unfortunately, coming from Worstall's ideological position, and building your argument upon strawmen and (deliberate?) misconceptions, the wrong answer is almost inevitable.

He starts off on fairly firm footing. He gets "what unions in general are for." It's a fairly objective description, too: "they are the banding together of the workers to make sure that the employers do not oppress them." Further, he acknowledges that "such freedom of association is just as important in a free society as freedom of speech." Fair enough. I can't quibble with him on that point because I'd make the same argument.

Where things get ropey is here:
But government is the wise and benevolent looking out for all of us isn't it? At least, among those who purport to support public sector unions it does seem to be. That's why they tell us that ever more of our lives must be determined by government. Yet more regulation , nudging, prodding, of us to do the right thing. As determined by the politicians, those wise, benevolent and disinterested beings who determine what the regulation, nudging and prodding will be.
This assumes that supporting the right of workers employed by the state to combine equates to supporting the expansion of the state and its encroachment upon vital freedoms. But such an assumption is a non-sequitur.

More accurate would be the argument that public sector unions and their supporters support the preservation of public services and welfare which benefits the public, whilst not necessarily defending the functions of state beyond this. This would be, for example, why it is possible to support an institution such as the NHS whilst opposing (say) the war in Afghanistan and the Trident nuclear missile programme. Not a difficult concept, you might think, but its one that seems to continually evade the entire right-wing.

This same blinkered view is behind the common rightist refrain of "shouldn't anarchists support the cuts?" But this is much like asking if we should support constant reductions in take-home pay on the grounds that we oppose the wage system. It's a nonsense, cooked up by people who only see abuses when they are perpetrated by the state.

So, no. Supporting unions in the public sector isn't synonymous with supporting the state in all its endeavours. Hence the redundancy when Worstall asks "if government, politicians, are indeed those wise and benevolent beings, then why should those who are employed by them need protecting from them?" Public sector unions have no such illusions in politicians. Thus, "mak[ing] sure that the employers do not oppress them" remains the goal. Which should really go without saying if you're not trying to demolish the arguments of an opponent you've constructed yourself for rhetorical purposes.

Proof that this line of reasoning is driven entirely by liberal ideology comes from what follows next. Worstall argues that "those of us subject to government" should be able "to refuse to perform under the contract we've signed." Which presumes that society and the relationship between state and citizenry is built upon "social contract."

This is complete nonsense. State power is predicated upon a monopoly of violence, and if "those of us subject to government" want protection, we need to organise - exactly as workers do against an employer. This is the basis of political organisations, community campaign groups, or the kind of revolutionary unions advocated by anarcho-syndicalists. The "tax strike" advocated by Worstall is the rebellion of the more privileged - the middle classes and petty bourgeois - an inherently individual action which most people don't have the resources to undertake (and, in most cases, simply can't do because of Pay As You Earn).

The resistance of working class people is collective. Direct action, not simply to withdraw from a contract that doesn't exist, but to force the state to concede to our power. It was on this basis that the welfare state came into being, and it is on this basis that every victory we have ever won came about.

For Worstall, if "government are people we need protection from [and] thus public sector unions are necessary," then "government is dangerous, we all need protection, and we certainly shouldn't be campaigning for it to have ever more power over our lives." This is something I can agree with, with the caveat as explained above that we aren't actually campaigning for any such thing.

However, by the same exact logic, if we need to compine "to make sure that the employers do not oppress" us, then employers are dangerous. We all need protection from them, and we certainly shouldn't be campaigning for them to have ever more power over our lives. Freedom is a universal concept, and so what applies to the state applies equally to any other body built upon a top-down structure and claiming a monopoly of force over a given area. The argument against the state is also the argument against capital.

Moreover, whilst public sector unions are campaigning to defend not the state but confessions won from it, Worstall and his co-thinkers are campaigning in defence of capital and it having ever more power over our lives. Not only that, but by opposing the concessions we've won and advocating a return to its traditional role, they are campaigning for a strong state whose force stands behind that private power.

Liberalism is the defeault ideology of capitalism. When Tim Worstall, the Adam Smith Institute et al speak of freedom they are making philosophical excuses for the social order that dominates all our lives. That truth, like Worstall's strawman version of the purpose for public sector unions, is "not an argument that I'd want to have to try and defend in public."

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Wedding crashers

The English Defence League are mobilising members for the upcoming royal wedding. They "will form a ring of steel around that wedding" to protect it from disruption. This only underlines the role of fascism as a defender of the dominant social order.

Ostensibly, the EDL's mobilisation is to counter a planned protest by the Islamist group Muslims Against Crusades. This group of lunatics are planning to "burn the Union Flag, images of the Crown, and effigies of the bridal couple." In response, the EDL say "there’s going to be chaos." They plan "be at each train station [in London] to make sure they don’t come." They claim they are "going in to prevent a crime because the police won’t stop it."

The problem with the whole thing, of course, is that it is entirely overblown. Like the poppy burning episode, this won't be a clash of civilisations but a spat between two small gangs of idiots. But the EDL can't be entirely blamed for the hype. The Daily Mail, reporting MAC's plans to protest, tells us that "thousands of protesters" would be turning up to set various things alight. But I'd be genuinely surprised if the group could muster 25 people, let alone thousands.

As for violent clashes, I refer to the record of MAC's predecessor - Islam4UK - for running away from a fight [1, 2, 3]. Not to mention the huge police operation that makes street battles between Islamists and fascists extremely unlikely, to say the least.

Either way, the EDL - whose past activities include issuing terror threats to Asian taxi drivers - have given assurances that "ordinary Muslims ... would have nothing to fear." Their website even goes so far as to urge that "all moderate Muslims who reject the extremists" should "join with us instead - to help safeguard the celebrations, and to make it clear that these people do not speak for you."

But why should they? Why should not supporting the wingnuts of Muslims Against Crusades equate to getting behind a hooligan organisation like the EDL? The answer is that it shouldn't, except for the organisation promoting that key tenent of fascist ideology - loyalism. That is why "the celebrations" go unquestioned, and the only logical alternative to a hardcore Islamist doctrine is "a love of this country." The clear implication being that you must support the social relations built around state power in order to be one of the good guys.

The only problem with this is that there will be plenty of other anti-monarchist events taking place around the country on this day. The vast majority will be by ordinary people who, for a number of reasons, oppose the existence of this last relic of feudalism. They are not religious hardliners, nor supporters of terror. But because they don't fit with the EDL's black and white viewpoint, they needn't be considered.

Given the EDL's form in attempting to intimidate socialists, invade left-wing meetings, or generally disrupt those it doesn't consider to have the appropriate "love of this country," this is a cause for concern. EDL members are known to turn on each other when lacking any other targets for a fight. Whose to say that, in the very likely event of MAC chickening out, all those reds, lefties, and unpatriotic people not paying slavish homage to the marriage of complete strangers won't become a convenient target?

This, coupled with a growing establishment tolerance for the EDL, is a very worrying prospect. We should never forget that fascism is a weapon, waiting to be picked up by those in power and used against the working class. As the fightback grows, we should expect that weapon to be used more often.

Friday, 22 April 2011

The Battle of Stokes Croft

Last night, an attempt to evict squatters in Stokes Croft led to clashes on the street between the police and local people. The following is an eye witness report from a local resident, taken from Bristol Indymedia.

Battle begins

Late yesterday afternoon (21/04/11), bailiffs and a man from Bristol City Council arrived at the ‘Telepathic Heights’ squat on Stokes Croft, opposite the controversial new Tesco, to begin an eviction (this is not a new squat - it has been occupied for many years without incident, but suddenly, persons unknown want it evicted). A protest quickly gathered and the bailiffs were forced to withdraw. Then around 9pm a massive police operation began, with the officers already in riot gear and full length shields backed up by horses, vans and the police helicopter. Officers apparently forced their way into the squatted building and evicted the occupants. The operation was very heavy handed and no explanations were offered regarding the reasons, but all the same it was relatively quiet by around 10pm.

However, for reasons unknown the police had blocked off the Stokes Croft/Ashley Road junction, causing diversions for or just blockading out local residents and allowing a huge crowd to gather. They faced off local people just going about their business behind their riot shields in a square formation, but although the atmosphere was tense, it was not yet universally hostile. If the police had discreetly withdrawn after their dubious ‘operation’ between 9 and 10pm, the situation would have defused and disorder could have been easily avoided. Instead, they continued to obstruct a main junction in a provocative, obstructive and hostile manner, almost as though they were waiting for something to trigger, as of course it inevitably would.

They marched them up Nine Tree Hill, then they marched them down again

Between 10 and 10.30pm the police were attacked by one group with an onslaught of bottles. Incredibly, they continued to stand in place, and as the night wore on young people, either drunk or high on adrenalin, formed ad-hoc groups to bait the police. As the police used baton charges, dogs, horses and vans to repel these sporadic and rather ineffectual attacks, the crowd’s mood also became increasingly hostile. No explanations were offered by the police, and as it became apparent that the vast majority of riot police were not even Bristolian but had been ferried in specially from Wales, it looked increasingly like an army of occupation.

The police tactics were unfathomable. They seemed to consist of running from one end of Stokes Croft to the other (and up several side streets), randomly charging about the place, getting more and more people involved and moving the violence into new areas that had previously been quiet. Needless to say, the ‘active’ (ie. rioting) members of the crowd simply avoided the charges and filtered around to attack the police all over again from a different angle. The police helicopter flew low overhead constantly from 9pm to 4.30am, beaming its searchlight on anyone and everyone. This was not a tactic to win any ‘battle for hearts and minds’ either.

At around 12.30am the police made a series of stupid and tactically pointless forays up Nine Tree Hill, despite the constant rain of missiles, even reaching the traffic barriers at Fremantle Square where for a short period they formed a shield wall and then retreated. It conjured up the absurdist imagery from the nursery rhyme, The Grand Old Duke Of York: ‘And when they were up they were up, and when they were down they were down, and when they were only half way up they were neither up nor down.’ Because all that they had accomplished was to cause a violent overspill into Kingsdown, where more bottles could be thrown, bins overturned and set on fire. This scene was also being repeated on Ashley Road and on other streets way beyond Stokes Croft. It was becoming apparent that the police, or heddlu to use the Welsh term, did not know the area or its topography and were simply floundering about in a brutish manner.

By 2am the police had achieved their apparent aim, assuming that they had any, by uniting the entire community of the area against them. By the time they retreated back down Nine Tree Hill it was no longer ‘anarchists’ who formed the majority of the crowd, but young people of all social classes and ethnic backgrounds. Some older people also joined in, and children too. The police then resumed charging up and down Stokes Croft, now against a crowd of hundreds. Around 2.30am your intrepid reporter decided it was time to catch some shut eye, of course only achieved with the help of ear plugs to block out the infernal sound of the helicopter.


But lo and behold, by this morning the police spin machine had discovered an ‘explanation’ for their action. They had received ‘intelligence reports’ that Stokes Croft Tesco was ‘about to be fire bombed’ by ‘certain’ people at Telepathic Heights squat. And ‘in the interests of public safety’ etc they had ‘robustly and precisely’ arrested the ‘four individuals’ involved, and it was ‘not actually their intention at all’ to close down the squat. The police statement after the event makes the night’s chaos seem reasonable and proportionate. But just to be sure, push the ‘terrorism’ fear button. ‘Unfortunately, a tiny minority of criminal elements...’ etc.

However, if this was indeed the case it is strange that we were not informed of this ‘reason’ from the start. But the first mention of it appears in the prepared police statement made this morning. The whole theory of a group of extremists preparing Molotov cocktails to fire bomb Tesco, while not impossible, is highly questionable. For if one receives word of an imminent terrorist act (and such it would be, because Stokes Croft Tesco is in a terrace and has residential flats overhead), this surely calls for a covert op by a small number of special anti-terrorist police, not a massive manoeuvre that involves half the police force of a neighbouring region, South Wales. It also beggars belief for what reason one would deploy horses and dogs if there was a risk of facing Molotov cocktails. So either the Bristol police authority are utter tactical and financial dunces, or else there is another agenda.

Before we analyse this, let us look briefly at the cost. According to the Devonshire and Cornwall police website, it costs an (all in) £1675 to keep a police helicopter in the air for a single hour. This is likely to be an underestimate, but still, from 9pm to 4.30am amounts to approximately 7 1/2 hours. So you do the arithmetic. Then what it costs, and to whom, to draft in the riot squad from another region entirely. Add to this the fact that police officers who serve past midnight have their pay doubled. Then the costs of cleaning up the mess for Bristol Council, and the likely legal battles regarding the squat and the fate of its occupants that lie ahead. And this in an era of alleged ‘austerity’, huge cuts to public spending and a need for everyone to ‘tighten their belts’ (unless you’re a banker, a corporate monopoly, or a royal, of course).

So let us finally look at whose interests are furthered by last night’s disturbances. The police can use it to argue that the government will need them to face the bleak future of endemic social conflict ahead, and therefore they should think twice before cutting them. So let the axe fall on easier targets, like on healthcare, libraries, or disabled care. And while they are at it, they can also gain a big pay bonus! The government meanwhile want to make squatting effectively illegal, though how else they expect people to cope with the increasing pressure on affordable housing and the growing number of repossessions is not to be addressed. No matter, for the ‘example’ of Stokes Croft squatter ‘extremism’ (manufactured or real) can feed straight into the ideological machinery.

And there are also the interests of Tesco to consider. The store opened one week ago against long term and widespread public opposition in the area, with Bristol Council role-playing Pontius Pilate, bowing spinelessly to the corporate lobby. Since then there have been further attempts by Tesco to consolidate its position. First the original tenants of the properties overhead (suddenly tenants of Tesco) were evicted and new tenants brought in, because the original tenants had ‘shown sympathy with the protestors’. But Tesco have also been keen to force a removal of Telepathic Heights, as the squat which is also directly opposite the new store provided a focus for the resistance. In addition there has been a very successful and totally peaceful protest outside ever since the store opened, which has, just with cake, music and persistence, effectively made the Stokes Croft Tesco ‘closed for business’. An attempt to criminalise the squat and involve it in a street battle with the law obviously serves the PR interests of Tesco in a big game of ‘guilt by association’ with the protestors. The fluffy demonstrators with their ukuleles and pipes are now by implication ‘evil petrol bombers’ for propaganda purposes, and can be dealt with as such.

Welcome to Greece (or maybe Belfast?)

It remains to be seen whether the public will fall for this time-honoured ruse of divide and conquer. In the meantime, with the determination of this government to push ahead regardless with the agenda of feeding its fat cat friends at public expense, such spontaneous uprisings on the streets of the UK are likely to become increasingly widespread.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Coordinated strike action and militancy from below

It is now a near certainty that we will see coordinated public sector strike action within the next couple of months.

UCU have already balloted. PCS is putting a motion to its conference in May. The NUT will be seeking permission to ballot this weekend. Even the moderate ATL already has a mandate to ask members for strike action. Unite has hinted its support. The only question now is how events unfold once the ball gets rolling.

The significance of such action shouldn’t be understated. Up to 800,000 people could be out on strike if the action goes ahead, more than official estimates of the TUC’s March for the Alternative. That this action is economic, rather than a simple A to B march, also means that the action will have an exponentially greater effect upon the government, without us having to listen to speeches by the likes of Ed Miliband.

But we ought to be honest about the limitations of this action. There is a tendency on the left to overplay the value of one-day strike action, and this instance is no different.

John McInally, national vice president of PCS, writes for the Socialist that whilst “PCS supports demonstrations, peaceful direct action, building the anti-cuts movements in our communities and all other forms of campaigning,” ultimately “the key to defeating the coalition is widespread, coordinated industrial action.” This statement is not entirely true, and in effect marginalises the effort of those beyond highly organised workplaces.

Less than a third of workplaces are covered by collective bargaining agreements and less than a quarter of workers are in a trade union. The unemployed, a demographic which is growing in the wake of the ruling class’s austerity agenda, cannot take traditional strike action. Yet it would be wrong to say that these groups have no economic power, or that they must play a secondary role in class struggle. To marginalise these groups, on such a spurious basis, is to guarantee failure.

To fight the cuts effectively we need to recognise the value of other forms of direct action beyond traditional walk-outs. Economic blockades can have the same effect as a strike. Occupations are a useful weapon against closures. Not to mention the numerous forms of disruptive action that workers can take without having to sacrifice a day’s pay – from go-slows to sabotage.

It is thus important not to see action in the public sector as some kind of substitute for broader class action. There needs to be a more explicit effort to connect the struggles of various groups, for example claimants who face being chucked off benefits and Jobcentre workers facing an increasingly repressive targets culture. Greater coordination of action is also a must. Not just between different groups of strikers but also between different forms of direct action.

In building for these coordinated strikes, militant workers should be emphasising this point. They are not occurring in isolation, but within a broader climate of class struggle. With the PCS and NUT ballots both for discontinuous action, allowing them to call further strikes without having to re-ballot, the link between struggles can be made more explicit in the future.

In building for the action we ought also to be arguing not just for a “yes” vote but also for mass attendance of picket lines and strike rallies. But we should not simply be mobilising the rank-and-file simply to be led. We should be arguing for workers to organise on a horizontal basis, and for a willingness to go beyond the limitations of the trade union bureaucracy. Whilst the left will be concentrating its efforts on attempting to build militancy in the leadership, how the struggle turns out will really depend on what we can build at the grassroots.

This means not just mass militancy, but locally-controlled strike funds and strong solidarity across workplaces and communities. But it also means a recognition of the fundamental nature of bureaucracy and top-down organisation.

A bureaucracy by nature has interests apart from those it is supposed to represent. In the case of trade unions, this means being of value as a mediator between labour and capital. Indeed, the value of this role has long been recognised by the bosses, who have on numerous occasions used union leaders as a way to police the workforce. Changing the faces behind the union may change the degree to which this happens, but it will still happen. The problem is not in the specific figures at the top, but in the structure.

Thus, anarcho-syndicalists recognise that reform of trade unions is akin to alchemy. Instead, we would argue for workers to take control of our own struggles. It is now more important than ever that this principle is put into practice.

Some thoughts on union democracy

A few days ago, the ballot paper for the PCS National Executive Committee elections landed on my doorstep. Numerous comrades in the union have been urging people to vote, and have their say. My own view is somewhat more cynical, as one might expect from an anarcho-syndicalist.

According to General Secretary Mark Serwotka's introduction to the election pack (download PDF), "it is important that you vote in these elections" because "it’s your union" and you should "have your say in who runs it." The idea being that if we "decide which candidates would provide the most effective leadership for the union," it will act in our interests.

However, this is exactly the same argument as that behind parliamentary democracy. The point about surrendering decision-making power to another (instead of exercising it, as is the popular belief) is indeed more acute. The CNT, the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist union, boycott union elections for precisely the reason that by voting for them, you "give your ‘representatives’ the power to sign and negotiate for you."

Thus, as the Direct Action Movement (predecessor to the Solidarity Federation) put it in their pamphlet Winning the class war, "it is by having the power to negotiate on behalf of workers that they retain their influence within the workplace and ultimately attract and retain members." But "having that control and influence in the workplace" is why "they are of use to the boss class." Those we vote for to "provide the most effective leadership for the union upon election" "offer stability in the workplace, they channel workers anger, shape and influence their demands and, if need be, act to police the workforce."

It is precisely these limitations of mainstream trade unionism that makes attempting to transform them an exercise in political alchemy. This is why you will never see an anarcho-syndicalist faction vying for control of any trade union's executive committees.

Referring specifically to PCS, those factions vying for control are the ruling (and Socialist Party-dominated) Left Unity, the Independent Left, and the right-wing 4themembers.

If I were to cast a vote, it wouldn't be for the right. Promoting "partnership not confrontation, co-operation not struggle" is exactly the opposite of everything I believe, taking the membership-policing role of trade union bureaucracies to its extreme. But this in no way means that I will vote left "to keep the right out." Such an approach is as hollow as voting Labour to keep the Tories out or voting for anybody to stop the BNP. Challenging the dominance of right-wingers means winning the war of ideas on the ground, not forming electoral blocs for the "lesser of two evils" or "enemy of my enemy" approach.

After all, the rank-and-file is what's important. They are, in fact, everything. Sectors of the authoritarian left will enthusiastically insist that they, too, believe in the importance of building a rank-and-file movement. But the difference is that they build it to be led. The point, as a libertarian, is to cut loose those who would be leaders for a militant and self-organised workforce based on direct democracy and free of hierarchy.

Or, as the CNT put it, "you and only you, are representative. When you take in your hands your problems, you gain representation."

I should state, at this point, that I don't believe in entirely boycotting all forms of trade union democracy. Whilst they remain the largest worker organisations in the country, they offer the infrastructure at a local level which gives workers a lot of valuable protections. Local rep roles can also serve as a useful jumping off point for rank-and-file organisation and for taking an active role in workplace struggles. But there should be an awareness of exactly where the limitations of the union structure lie and an active effort to promote mass participation over representation.

Ultimately, the aim is to reach a point where we can establish a genuine revolutionary union, "based on direct action and an explicit rejection of the representative union functions."

As such, I will not be taking part in elections for a structure which I fundamentally believe that organised workers are better off without. What is on offer is little more than a choice between factions which, by varying degrees, will stage-manage workers' discontent and act as the keepers of industrial peace. Facing an escalating class war, this is not what we need.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

National week of action against Atos Origin

Disability activists, claimant groups and anti-cuts campaigners have called a national week of action against Atos Origin beginning on Monday 9th May. It is vital that people support this campaign and that more people are made aware of the insidious work that this company does.

Last year, Atos was awared a £300 million contract (PDF) with the Department for Work and Pensions. This is "to support the UK government’s welfare reform agenda." They will "deliver medical advice and assessment services" so as to "help people to move into and progress in work." Which, beyond the double-speak, means booting as many people as possible off welfare.

When Liverpool Solidarity Federation last picketed their offices, we heard a number of anecdotal stories about this - including an older man who was declared fit for work on the basis that he could (barely) hold up two plastic bags containing Yellow Pages, and a guy whose report on the stress he was suffering from was compiled without any input from him at all. But Atos's failures go far beyond anecdotes.

The Herald reported that "two claimants, both from West Dunbartonshire, died from the conditions which caused them to claim Incapacity Benefit (IB) while waiting for appeals to be heard against cuts to their benefits."

They can only be the tip of the iceberg, given that Atos has wrongly denied benefits to 30,000 people over two years. Yet the government still claims 500,000 people on sickness benefits are "fit to work."  At the same time, they are looking to take two million people off disability living allowance. This is nothing short of an attack on the most vulnerable in society.

If you are in Liverpool I urge you to join our picket of Atos's offices. Assemble in The Plaza, Old Hall Street, at 11.30am on Monday 9th May. Bring flags, banners, and placards.

If you are in London there is a picnic and party in Triton Square, home of their head office, on the same day. Other events around the country are listed on Facebook here, and if one hasn't already been arranged then feel free to take the initiative and set it up yourself!

An injury to one is an injury to all. We should all stand in solidarity with those being targetted to show Atos and the government that these injustices will not stand!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Quote of the day... Liberty's comment (PDF) on the police heavy-handedness and brutality witnessed by protesters in Trafalgar Square on March 26th;
We are aware from media reports that a significant number of arrests were made later in the evening as a result of the events at Fortnum & Mason, and that the police were engaged in a number of separate public order incidents in central London long after the TUC march had ended. As these occurred after our observation had concluded we are not in a position to provide any comment.
 This might be fair enough if it was "no comment" in relation to direct legal observation, but there was separate comment from them when first-hand reports of the violence did come to light. This is emphatically not the case. On police violence against anti-cuts protesters, Liberty have been resoundingly silent.

Indeed, according to today's press release, the main issue was that "the fatally-flawed tactic [of kettling] was under near constant consideration." Which, again, is a significant point. Except that Liberty boil down the issue to a tactical one. It "is a blunt, resource-heavy and logistically difficult tactic and it is difficult to understand why it has become such a favoured option when policing protest." But the violence coming out of it doesn't even warrant a mention.

The 15-page report the organisation have released along with this is little more than reinforcement of the mainstream narrative.

They have "no doubt that the organisational cooperation between the Metropolitan Police and the TUC was a significant factor in ensuring that the vast majority of people who attended had a good day." Their "impression
was that the police reacted proportionately and gave appropriate consideration to the rights of the peaceful protestors on the TUC march."

Those who broke away are "violent individuals" who "affected" the peaceful marchers. They class as "the greatest policing challenge" on the day, and so their take on events can be readily dismissed. Far more important is that the police need better toys, because "communications technology between the SOR and officers on the ground could be improved." They do acknowledge "no evidence of a need for additional police powers," but that is perhaps the most positive thing you can say about the report.

This report only underlines what I said both before and after the TUC march. Whilst Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti speaks of "the right to peaceful dissent in the oldest unbroken democracy," her organisation is now safely assimilated within the establishment which views genuine dissent as little more than a "policing challenge."

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Greece and the need for "organised lawlessness"

Since last March, workers in Greece have faced crippling austerity measures on the back of a €147bn IMF bailout package. A year later, despite fears it could bring down the Eurozone, calls among the country's elites to default are growing. The reason is one the global working class should take heed of.

Since the austerity measures began, Greece has seen eight one-day general strikes. However, although on the day these strikes have had a severe economic impact, their limited span meant that the bosses were able to weather the storm. As with all single-day industrial actions, they amounted to little more than token gestures by union tops wanting to give the appearence of militancy as the ruling class decimated people's lives and livelihoods.

Far more important has been the "can't pay, won't pay" campaign. As inflation rose and wages to declined, making it harder to cover living costs, more and more people refused to pay hospital fees, public transport  costs and road tolls.

The Guardian reports that the level of anger that the campaign has channelled means that "the ruling socialists will announce reductions of up to 50% in road toll fees." This comes after "a man shot a bus inspector hired to crack down on fare dodgers" and "protesters stormed a police station, snatched hundreds of confiscated number plates and set light to thousands of fines."

Elsewhere, health minister Antonis Loverdos was attacked and residents of the suburb of Keratea dug up roads to stop a new landfill site being built.

The effects of this are clear. Greek political analyst Takis Michas notes that "there is clearly a breakdown of the rule of law, and without the rule of law there can be no economic development." So this "organised lawlessness spearheaded by the hard left" is clearly having the desired effect.

Indeed, it is no coincidence that "a growing chorus of voices is urging the Greek government to restructure its debt" now. Elites are getting anxious as they "wonder if Greece is becoming ungovernable." We should take heed of this. If the Greek working class were taking austerity lying down, or discontent were confined to safe channels, there would be no problem for the markets.

Greece has long proven - for those willing to pay attention - that socialists in power are indistinguishable from neoliberals when they have to balance the books of capitalism. Now, it is reinforcing the message that if you want the state to back down you have to make the country ungovernable.

The chasm between libertarians and reality

If ever you needed proof that those attending the so-called Rally Against Debt are not in any way representative of ordinary people, you need only read the pronouncements of its biggest advocates. In particular, what caught my eye was the response of Devil's Kitchen to the fact that the government's austerity measures will increase household debt for ordinary people.

The detatchment from reality is astounding;
Now, I am about to advance something of a radical idea, but hear me out... Are you ready?

When your household income drops, how about YOU DROP YOUR SPENDING TOO?

I mean, for fuck's sake, it's not a difficult concept. I know that, for the last 15 years or so, you have been watching financially incontinent governments piss money away like a drunken sailor who's just won the Lottery spending his way through the entire port—but emulating the government is just stupid.

If you haven't got the fucking cash, don't bloody spend it.

It's not difficult, seriously.
Except, for an awful lot of people, it is. When the percentage of GDP going on wages has shrunk steadily over 30 years, and most wage increases are real-terms pay cuts, it really is fucking difficult.

Not bloody spending the cash means not paying bills and struggling to stay afloat. Maybe not for DK and his ilk. The fantasy world they inhabit far away from really-existing-capitalism seems such a swell place. But for us ordinary, working class people, that world doesn't exist. This one does, where their dogmatic bullshit doesn't match up with what's actually happening.

The libertarian right is not a movement for freedom. There is no liberty to be had in what they advocate. It is certainly not a movement of ordinary people. Their Rally Against Debt is "the privileged and elite crying out for increased hardship to fall on the working class so that they can be better off."

We should remember that when they take to the streets. Just as "socialism" without freedom is brutality and slavery, so "freedom" without socialism is privilege and injustice. For genuine libertarians, those of us who are fighting for a better world rather than just cheering on the state as it attacks ordinary people, these worthless cretins are the enemy too.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Time for a break (from reality)

The lunatic right in America offers us this stark warning about their current president;
Team Obama’s anti-anti-missile initiatives are not simply acts of unilateral disarmament of the sort to be expected from an Alinsky acolyte.  They seem to fit an increasingly obvious and worrying pattern of official U.S. submission to Islam and the theo-political-legal program the latter’s authorities call Shariah.
Yup - that's right. "In the face of rapidly growing threats posed by North Korean, Iranian, Russian, Chinese and others’ ballistic missiles," Obama's "determined effort to reduce America’s missile defense capabilities" aren't just peacenik idealism. They're a surrender to Islam.

The proof of this? Drumroll please...

Apparently, "code-breaking evidence" comes in the form of "the newly-disclosed redesign of the Missile Defense Agency logo." The dastardly Islamo-commie Obama's redesigned "shield appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo." Insidiously, he has confessed to "accommodating that “Islamic Republic” [Iran] and its ever-more aggressive stance" by redesigning a logo specifically for the wingnuts to decode.

Judge for yourself;

Yup. I'm convinced.

It's not using the same aesthetics as the Obama campaign logo (including the all-American red, white and blue colouring) to present the old logo of a rocket firing into the atmosphere in a more modern way. It's clearly a secret symbol of global jihad and Islam's conquest of America.

Fetch the tinfoil hats, and run for the hills...

Quote of the day...

The new rules show that, after a period of great uncertainty, the government is listening harder to business concerns.

The changes to the 'tier two' arrangements mean that companies will have a better chance of getting much-needed international talent, and growing their business. This in turn will benefit UK plc.

However, we will continue to monitor whether the latest immigration rules hamper businesses seeking to recruit the skilled personnel they need. If problems do surface, the government must remain flexible, and make changes once again.
In part, there can be little doubt that David Cameron's latest pronouncements on immigration, and the recent immigration cap, serve as a diversion. As millions of people face attacks on their livelihoods and services, he is playing the race card to avert our attention elsewhere.

At the same time, the supposed "split" between him and Vince Cable over this issue is just wide enough for local elections to fit through. Afterwards, there can be little doubt that they will be working hand-in-glove to continue delivering their onslaught against the working class. In other words, as ever, the immigration issue is convenient political capital for those in parliament.

However, we shouldn't doubt the purpose that this also serves for capital. As immigration minister Damien Green put it, "we have worked closely with businesses while designing this system."

In elite circles, the question on immigration is an economic one. It is about striking a balance between exploiting migrants which, in Vince Cable's words, "is crucial to British recovery and growth" and implementing controls which create a multi-tier workforce. This allows various groups - illegal migrants, legal migrants, natives - to be played off against one another, driving down wages, undercutting conditions, and as a consequence increasing the profit of the bosses to the detriment of everyone else.

This is, of course, the basis for the far-right's "they're taking our jobs" argument. However, by focusing on migrants - rather than the broader tendency of capital to pit different sections of labour against one another - they are also playing the divide-and-conquer game. Not least because they claim to speak for one section of labour (the white working class) and place it on a pedestal above the others, which must be expelled.

But, contrary to the fascists and to Cameron, this is not an issue of race and nation but of class. For proof, we need look no further than the exemption from the migrant cap for high earners. It is working class migrants who must be regulated and filtered, because it is they who will be played off against the local working class for the benefit of business.

This is not a new tactic. We have seen it before, perhaps most notoriously when Margaret Thatcher stole the thunder of the National Front. But it is an insidious and divisive tactic, and one that demonstrates perfectly why opposition to racism and fascism is inextricable from the politics of class struggle.