Thursday, 30 June 2011

As the strike begins...

After all the build up, we find ourselves at June 30th. I write this in haste, being just about to head off to the picket lines, but it's worth noting the occassion.

I'll try to keep tweeting through the day, lest anything of note happens, and of course I'll offer some reflection once it's over. Before we begin, it's worth acknowledging that this is not a "public sector general strike," nor the beginning of a mass strike. It is a set-piece one-day action, and union leaders will be hoping that few of them are needed to win concessions so that it looks like they fought back. They know rank-and-file anger is too strong to defy with a sell-out immediately.

For those of us on the ground, the task is to keep that anger brewing so that it's always too early for a sellout. But ultimately, we don't want the leadership to capitulate slightly later, we want to take the struggle beyond them. So we need to build on what we've managed to instigate for today, and keep offering the kind of spectacular resistance that frightens the officials.

The fightback begins here, but it's up to us what form that takes. Solidarity to all those picketing, protesting, and taking other action today - let's hope this is not the end of it!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

No War but Class War - June 2011

Yesterday and today, workers in Greece have staged the country's first 48-hour general strike. Occupied London, as ever, has the fullest updates. However, we know that there have been clashes in the streets between riot police and strikers, with authorities trying to clear the occupied Syntagma square as parliament voted for more austerity measures in return for a further bailout.

It is worth noting that, already, Greek workers have suffered significant pay cuts and attacks on pensions, as well as cuts to services and increased tolls and taxes. The measures passed today only exacerbate that. Moreover, with this first 48-hour strike actually being the eleventh general strike in two years. It is indicative, perhaps, of exactly how far Britain will have to go beyond limited public sector strikes such as tomorrows. But it also shows the limits of even general strikes if they occur in a pre-defined time frame. More sustained action, such as the "can't pay, won't pay" campaign, has been far more effective.

Then there is the real democracy movement. As an analysis on notes, this was "inspired by the square occupations in Spain, but have taken a different direction, one that favours direct democracy against parliamentary democracy and representation."

The Syntagma people's assembly is "where decisions are taken about forms of struggle and demands, and ideas and practice are developed for alternative organising and politics." No doubt this being the reasoning behind police attempts to shut it down before the vote, especially as on the back of it the last general strike saw an attempt to blockade parliament. The Greek attempts at direct democracy and direct action as a way to challenge austerity are gaining momentum and they offer perhaps the most inspirational example of developing class struggle in Europe.

Moving to China, Adam Ford reports on some interesting developments in the struggle over there;
Following the international credit crunch, Jiaboa's regime feared that demand for Chinese manufacturing would collapse, so they introduced various stimulus measures. That money has largely run out, forcing businesses to attack working conditions with increased ferocity.

At the same time, China's inflation rate has surged to around five per cent, meaning that millions of young Chinese industrial workers face a struggle to put food on their own table, never mind send money home to their rural relatives. Social tensions have now reached the point where even comparatively small incidents can trigger a huge response.

Migrant workers in the city of Chaozhou rioted over unpaid wages at the start of June. The following weekend, more riots broke out when local government security staff pushed a pregnant woman to the ground in the "jeans capital" of Xintang district. A kilometre-long column of heavily armed police were eventually paraded through the streets, in an attempt to intimidate would-be the general public.

Industrial stoppages have followed hard on the heels of these uprisings. Two thousand workers at the Japanese-owned Citizen Watch factory in Dongguan went on strike for several days, in protest against long hours and low pay. Just last week, four thousand toilers in a South Korean-owned Guangzhou handbag factory struck for higher pay and an end to management abuses.

These strikes failed to win concessions from bosses, and police were sent in to suppress the resistance with violence and arrests. But the underlying tensions remain, and will surely be released over the next weeks and months. If workers are able to link up their individual struggles, the stage could be set for a confrontation that would dwarf the 'Arab Spring' in terms of historical significance.
In the United States, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has overruled an injunction against the Governor's law banning collective bargaining. With the passing of the austerity budget, this means that the inspirational movement of February has suffered significant defeat. Juan Conatz provides a more thorough analysis, both of the right-wing attacks and the unions' demobilisation of attempts at radical action.

In Egypt, too, the inspiration from the start of the year has given way to defeat. Only today, more than 1,000 people were injured in Tahrir Square following violent clashes with the riot police. This is just the latest in a line of repressive acts that have occurred this month - such as security forces arresting protesters outside parliament and soldiers attacking protests by railway workers. But the workers continue to strike, and before today's repression there were protests against the ban on strikes and assemblies.

Egyptians are now acting against the limitations of the first revolution, which has seen the West's declared "leader" of the uprisings Mohamed ElBaradei joining a "unity goverment" and declaring it a "red line" to protest against the army. 8th July has been dubbed "Correcting The Track Friday," and will perhaps be where the working class meet their own demand for a "second revolution."

50,000 Canadian postal workers were locked out by bosses on 15 June following weeks of rolling strike action. This came in a dispute about attempts to cut services and establish a two-tier employment system. However, with no agreement reached, the Conservative government has enforced back-to-work legislation to end the strike. The unions are preparing to challenge this through the courts, but it shows just how the struggle is weighted in the employers' favour when staying within the confines of the law.

By contrast, in Britain, Royal Mail workers won victories in two separate wildcat strikes. In London, strikers won the reinstatement of a fellow worker. In Liverpool, the victory was less clear-cut, but walkouts forced management to allow six sacked workers an independent hearing and negotiated with the union to bring staff back to work.

Wildcat strikes have also been employed by workers at the Maruti Suzuki car plant in Manesar, India. 2,000 workers walked out demanding union recognition, and soon after another 1,000 workers from different firms in the industrial belt gathered to show solidarity. Representatives of workers organisations in the region formed a strike support committee, threatening to join the strike if demands were not met. Ultimately, management never acceded to the demand for recognition, but the strike did end with the reinstatement of 11 sacked workers. It has also allowed workers representatives to sit on a governing council, though given the experience of European works councils, this will be at best an ineffective talking shop.

For British workers, particularly those taking action tomorrow and those who will be joining in subsequent coordinated strike action, there are lessons in what is happening abroad. They are the same lessons that the libertarian wing of the workers' movement has been parroting for years - the need for solidarity over legalism, for rank-and-file control of struggle, and for mass movements to reject bureaucrats and would-be revolutionary leaderships.

But the most important point is that the fight we face cannot be won through set-pieces. As we are seeing in Greece, the ruling class are fighting a war of attrition - aiming to wear down the most rebellious section of the working class as a warning to the rest of us. But rather than a warning, it should be a rallying cry, because there is too much at stake if we lose this fight.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Quote of the day...

...comes from The Void, who responds to Michael Gove asking parents to help with teaching during the June 30 strike with this gem;
Let’s not mince words. Any parent who offers to help out in this way is a dirty fucking scab and should be treated with the contempt they deserve. They should be ostracised by their communities and have shit chucked at them in the street. Slogans should be painted on their houses and driveways to make sure people know of the scum in their midst. As author Jack London once wrote: “No man has a right to scab as long as there is a pool of water deep enough to drown his body in, or a rope long enough to hang his carcass with.”

Perhaps it will be the children they supervise who will give them a first lesson in how a scab should be treated. Kids everywhere should be unrelenting in their abuse, delinquency and contempt for these vermin who would happily help to destroy the education system, and not even take pay for doing so. Give them hell kids. And if the fuckers complain tell everyone they tried to touch you up.
I'd also suggest that the same level of contempt be reserved for Ed Miliband, who tells us that we shouldn't strike because it might cause disruption. For his sake, I hope he's spouting expected platitudes and isn't actually so stupid as to think that a logical argument to make.

Perhaps the only thing more wet was the statement by Voice The Union, who are proud to declare that they don't take industrial action. To say "we can only win the argument – which is a strong argument – on pensions at the negotiating table, not on the picket line" with a straight face takes either a deadpan sense of irony or a deeply held level of fuckwittery that I can't even begin to contemplate.

We expect this kind of claptrap from the government, but in a time of escalating class struggle it helps to also keep your eyes on the liberals.

Monday, 27 June 2011

The significance of a single leaflet

After work today, I attended a meeting convened in Bootle to coordinate action around the June 30 strikes. Though poorly attended, it was constructive in a lot of ways. However, what has been playing on my mind since I left has been a leaflet I received - not for its content, but for the name under which the leaflet was published.

The meeting had been organised by PCS branches in Bootle, and took on a fairly relaxed and informal demeanour. From the start, the chair admitted that there were lessons to be learnt from the poor turnout and the way the event was built for. "You've got to start somewhere," was the key point, and there was some brief discussion on how future meetings could be better promoted to encourage attendance. After this, talk moved onto June 30th and beyond.

I use the word discussion because that's what happened. Normally, even if poorly attended, such meetings consist of a top table who are largely there to boost their own careers by giving the same tired speech several times over. Then the "audience" is invited to "contribute," meaning that other would-be politicos can stand up and make speeches, often without much salvageable content. Then everyone goes home bored, disillusioned, and perhaps even demobilised. But that wasn't the case here - there was no top table, no pre-prepared speeches, and no sense that those in attendance were only there as the "audience" for certain people to build their careers.

Rather, discussion flowed and chairing was light. There was talk of a need to make contacts and build to the point where, especially in the event of bigger strikes beyond June 30, cross-workplace strike committees could be formed. The question of how to go beyond the workplace, engage with community groups, and spread the action was raised. There were a number of talking points but also, more importantly, a sense that this wasn't a set-piece meeting. People would stay in touch, and a rough plan of action for June 30th was sketched out amongst those in attendance.

As people who read my blog regularly will know, I'm not often very positive about public meetings. This is mainly for the flaws outlined earlier. But this is not to say that this meeting was perfect, or even invigorating. The poor turnout was one of several limitations and failings of the day. But I remain positive because these were openly acknowledged and discussion on how to improve them was invited - not a typical characteristic of events organised by the professional left.

But the other thing atypical of such events was that it was open and honest about what would come out of it. This was a far cry from the Liverpool People's Assembly Against The Cuts, where the Liverpool Trades Council talked out the time to prevent open debate and refused to acknowledge that most people in attendance were of the impression that some kind of "Liverpool Against The Cuts" group would emerge from it. Solidarity Federation even produced a detailed proposal (PDF) with that expectation in mind. But this was readily dismissed.

Yet, not long afterwards, without the worry of pesky anarchists trying to impose things like democracy and accountability, the Socialist Party-dominated Trades Council resolved "to organise a meeting in the city on 13 July to establish a city wide "Liverpool Against the Cuts"."

Despite the way in which this had come about, and the fact that being a Wednesday 13 July will exclude a lot of people beyond the small circle of the Trades Council, I took this as a positive. I was even willing to accept that what they called a "steering group" could very well be a broad-based campaign by another name. Though later than expected, this could still be a positive initiative.

Except that I found out about the resolution because I was forwarded an email from someone who attends Trades Council meetings. It is still not on their website, and as far as I can tell absolutely no building or promotion has been done for it. Just as with The People's Assembly.

Which brings me back to the leaflet I mentioned at the start of this post. I was handed it by a member of the Socialist Party who attended the meeting. It advertised the march & rally in Liverpool on June 30th, billed as "a day of rage against this government." Nothing unusual there. But then I read the footer: "produced by Liverpool Against The Cuts."

I had just been given a leaflet from a group that does not yet exist. Yet it already has an email account, a c/o address, and apparently some sort of budget to print flyers. Or, less credulously, the Trades Council has taken it upon itself to be Liverpool Against The Cuts in order to stamp its leadership on the movement in Liverpool. Which, it being largely dominated by the Socialist Party as previously stated, doesn't surprise me in the least.

The resolution circulated by email calls for "a broad-based anti-cuts movement, democratically organised, which will be capable of developing the mass support which will be essential in resisting the horrendous anti-working class policies being implemented at both local and national level." But evidently this is just rhetoric, as democracy is clearly not very high on the agenda and mass support is not something that they are trying to actively build for lest it get in the way of being in charge. If you have ever wondered why anarchists reject bureaucracy and top-down organisation, look no further.

I fully intend to say my piece at the meeting on July 13th, and make the argument for a genuinely broad-based and democratic campaign. Class unity is a far more vital principle than the sectarian nonsense of the left. But, if the only thing to be gained by supporting Liverpool Against The Cuts is being dragged along by a Socialist Party/Trades Council front akin to the National Shop Stewards Network, it can get to fuck. The class struggle hasn't got time for such idiocy.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Fighting to keep the door open for squatters

On Wednesday, David Cameron confirmed housing minister Grant Shapps' announcement in March that squatting is to be made a criminal offence. The offence will be confirmed in the legal aid, sentencing and punishment bill and, in Shapps' words, they will "shut the door to squatters once and for all." This needs to be fiercely resisted.

The arguments that Shapps and Cameron use, backed up by the Daily Telegraph's "stop the squatters" campaign, are so familiar as to be wearisome. The squatters are juxtaposed with "law-abiding homeowners," who live in a "quiet and peaceful neighbourhood" until it is "ruined by squatters making excessive noise, fly tipping and committing other anti-social behaviour." Talk of "the distress and misery they cause, and the damage and destruction they can often leave behind" is comparable to the language used when discussing gypsies and travellers. After all they, too, threaten the hallowed sanctity of property ownership.

Away from this rhetoric, property rights under capitalism leave us with a harsh reality: whilst there are around 61,000 households homeless, there are 651,000 empty homes, and this is just England. With cuts in housing benefit, rising costs matched with stagnant wages, and increasing numbers of repossessions, amongst other factors, this disparity will only become greater. Not least as people continue to be forced from their homes by compulsory purchase orders in the name of "community regeneration."

Such things will only leave more people with little other option than squatting. As Katharine Sacks-Jones, head of policy at Crisis, told the Guardian;
A lot of the debate is coloured by media headlines about people squatting from a lifestyle choice in these large mansions. What we really want to make sure ministers are aware of is that there's a large proportion of squatters who are very vulnerable people who are squatting because they simply don't have another choice. This law would be criminalising very, very vulnerable people, and I don't think anyone wants to see that. It's counter-productive. It's not going to address the underlying problems that these people face: that there's a lack of housing.
As well as the fact that "people who are at the raw end of a lot of other social policy end up squatting as it's the one form of self help open to them," the "law-abiding homeowners" Shapps refers to are already protected under a 1977 law for "displaced residential occupiers."

As Paul Reynolds from Squatters Action for Secure Homes (Squash) says, "if someone squats your home, you're legally entitled to break back in and remove them using reasonable force." Meanwhile, "this new law is designed, as far as we can tell, to protect property speculators, people who own long-term empty commercial properties which they're often quite happy to let fall into disrepair." In other words, the propertied class whom the capitalist system entitles to own what they neither occupy nor use whilst so many others are left with nothing.

Already, people are organising to resist the changes in the law. The Squash campaign is just one example. An "awareness raising" campaign, but nevertheless it provides some valuable resources - including the parliamentary briefing Criminalising the vulnerable (PDF), which lays out most of the arguments against the change in the law.

Connected to Squash, Squattastic is a loose network of squatters and squat-supporters which provides a monthly space for networking and planning actions as well as allowing for coordination for the campaign's various working groups.

The attack on squatting is as much an attack on the working class as the cuts, privatisation, and other moves by the ruling class. Squattastic and the people involved in it deserve all the support that they can get, not least from those groups whose direct actions would become more precarious with a change in the law. If we don't, then the consequences for the class struggle could be devastating.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

A response to the EDL on class

On the English Defence League's website, "Jim EDL" discusses The EDL and the working class. He argues that "the political left has embarked upon a deliberate campaign to demonise the [EDL] and its working-class supporters." As with most far-right arguments, it contains truths that need to be addressed as well as ideas that need to be countered.

The article's main fault is that, in trying to take on "the left," it is attacking a vague and ill-defined term and so fails to hit any targets. There are mentions of the Labour Party, the trade unions, "socialists," and Indymedia UK, but there is no real sense that the author is doing anything other than moving from one standard demon of the right to another. As such, the conclusion that "there is only one organisation that represents real working-class interests in Britain, and that it the EDL," is pulled largely from thin air with no grounding whatsoever.

But class, too, is something the far-right only ever pick up on in the vaguest sense. They use the terms "working class" and "middle class," perhaps even "elites," but then talk of national interests as though they are class interests. The contrast between the conditions of different classes is followed by a call for class collaboration and decrying of capitalism with urging people to support the ruling class institutions that uphold it.

The author is right when he says that "many on the left simply demonise groups like the EDL out of hand and will not even listen to their concerns." The prime example is Unite Against Fascism, which keeps politicians, liberals, and mainstream organisations on board by keeping class politics out of its analysis. Hence the call to "defend multiculturalism," after David Cameron's speech on the subject, despite it being a political policy which encourages segregation and keeps the working class competing amongst themselves for resources under the umbrella of capitalism.

Jim EDL recognises this when he says that "perhaps the real intention was to keep the working class down by keeping them poor and vulnerable to the whims of international capitalism." But from this he concludes that "the chattering classes" want "to see England and its culture destroyed," making the class issue a national one. But this isn't the case at all.

Likewise, he is wrong to dismiss "solidarity amongst workers" as "middle class concerns." I have no love at all for the Labour Party, nor any doubt that its time in government had more than a hand in the problems we face today. But those problems are problems of class, not nation, and the fact that Labour are trying to exploit them for votes doesn't change that. Many of us have no illusions whatsoever that the party was ever "thinking about the interests of the working class." But that doesn't change what those interests are.

We're facing the sharpest attacks in a generation. Do the further wearing away and privatisation of the NHS, sending another 11% of children into poverty, the cost of living spiralling as pay doesn't keep up with inflation, or pushing the disabled further into hardship really class as "middle class concerns?" No, they are the concerns of a working class under attack and there is an urgent need to fight back.

The author fails to recognise this, arguing against mass migration on the basis that "the influence, freedom and standard of living for working people increased when the population of England plummeted" after the Black Death. The only problem with this is that the link he posts tells us the real reason that conditions improved - the Peasants' Revolt. As we saw with the creation of the welfare state in a time when the working class was extremely powerful, and the steady rolling back of all our gains when the unions were defeated, the conditions we face depend upon the balance of class power. It is the "solidarity amongst workers" that Jim EDL waves away which have won us every last concession the ruling class has been forced to grant.

The author's conclusion, on the other hand, is that because "the economic interests of the elite are now being facilitated by socialist and capitalist alike," only the EDL "represents real working-class interests," which all of a sudden have nothing to do with this economic exploitation by the ruling class. After decrying the left for facilitating it, the EDL simply accepts it as the norm.

There are innumerable legitimate criticisms that can be made of "the left" - whether that means the trade unions, "socialist" parties, or Labour. If you read through my blog, you'll come across many of them. Likewise, the issue of political Islam and its impact isn't simply an invention of fascists. Again, I've written about the issues around it (and the inadequacies of the left's response) many times. But it doesn't follow from this that we need to ignore class issues and fly the flag instead. What the working class needs is the confidence to take control of our own struggles, rooted in opposition to capitalism and the politicians and bosses who make up its ruling class.

The English Defence League don't want that. They want us to "have respect for our country’s institutions such as the monarchy, the armed forces, and the legal system." But so do the ruling class, and neither group has our best interests at heart.

Let's hear it for Loukanikos

It seems that the riot dog will have plenty of action soon, as 28th and 29th June sees the first 48-hour general strike in the country to coincide with the Syntagma Open Assembly's "48 hours on the streets."

As the elites tell people to shut up and swallow more attacks, let's hope that the riot dogs continue to have plenty of reason to be on the streets...

Friday, 24 June 2011

Remember, these are NOT free schools

The debate over the government's proposed "free schools" continues to rumble on, and Toby Young is amongst those bellyaching that the education of children still can't be done on a for-profit basis. Though about universities, his recent cringe worthy piece on the BBC's This Week shows how ridiculous the hyperbole over education from the right has become.

Specifically on the "free schools" front, it continues to grate that he and others use that term, and make such noise about being "free of state control." He described A C Grayling's New College venture as "preserving academic freedom" and called his opponents "prisoners of a bankrupt ideology whereas we are free thinkers." But, of course, his use of the word freedom is the right's use of the word freedom - specifically, meaning liberty for the proprietors and the masters rather than those who may toil below them.

If we need proof of this, we need only look at the vision of his West London Free School. "Compulsory Latin" is part of their "classical curriculum," there being no suggesting that lessons will be voluntary beyond the "options" that all schools offer. There is "firm discipline," with certain "habits of mind" being "reinforced by staff" on the basis of competition and incentives.

None of that looks particularly revolutionary or libertarian to me. If anything, it's quite pedestrian. But then, for the Toby Youngs of this world, the "silent revolution" is being made for the owners. Terms like "autonomy" and "self-governing" meaning only that the school board doesn't have to answer to the state.

Compare that with the genuine free school of Summerhill. All lessons are optional. All decisions taken democratically at The Meeting, in which the pupils have equal voting rights to the teachers. More than that, "a member of staff has no sanctions against a pupil that the pupil does not have against the member of staff - and that a teacher bringing a case against a pupil is neither more nor less likely to succeed just because of the relative status of the people involved."

Unlike the West London Free School, Summerhill's policies are genuinely revolutionary;
1. To provide choices and opportunities that allow children to develop at their own pace and to follow their own interests.
Summerhill does not aim to produce specific types of young people, with specific, assessed skills or knowledge, but aims to provide an environment in which children can define who they are and what they want to be.

2. To allow children to be free from compulsory or imposed assessment, allowing them to develop their own goals and sense of achievement. Children should be free from the pressure to conform to artificial standards of success based on predominant theories of child learning and academic achievement.

3. To allow children to be completely free to play as much as they like.
Creative and imaginative play is an essential part of childhood and development. Spontaneous, natural play should not be undermined or redirected by adults into a "learning experience" for children. Play belongs to the child.

4. To allow children to experience the full range of feelings free from the judgement and intervention of an adult.
Freedom to make decisions always involves risk and requires the possibility of negative outcomes. Apparently negative consequences such as boredom, stress, anger, disappointment and failure are a necessary part of individual development.

5. To allow children to live in a community that supports them and that they are responsible for; in which they have the freedom to be themselves, and have the power to change community life, through the democratic process.
All individuals create their own set of values based on the community within which they live. Summerhill is a community, which takes responsibility for itself. Problems are discussed All members of the community, adults and children, irrespective of age, are equal in terms of this process.
Nor is it alone, being part of the real free school movement - starting in Spain with Francisco Ferrer's Escuela Moderna. Based on community discipline, democracy, and genuine freedom - they are everything that education secretary Michael Gove's policy is not.

This is not the first time I've made the above argument, but as the debate lumbers on I feel the need to labour the point. Mainstream opponents of the current reforms are starting from an essentially conservative position, looking to preserve the status quo. This essentially frames the debate in the right's favour, painting them as radicals. They are not. It is important to emphasise that there are other ways that education can be radically transformed - and the schools Gove and Young are championing are not free schools.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

No Borders activists blockade deportation flight to Iraq

As No Borders Brighton reported last week, yesterday say 70 Iraqi refugees scheduled for deportation yesterday. However, the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns has confirmed that a court injunction stopped the flight. This came as activists staged a blockade of the detention centre in the hopes of preventing the busload of refugees from leaving.

According to the report on Indymedia;
The blockade started at 4.45pm. The single access road to the business park housing both Colnbrook and Harmondsworth detention centres was blocked with three lock-ons, each one encasing the arms of two people in blocks of concrete mixed with steel, glass, and other materials. Around 30 more people supported the blockade with bodies, banners and noise. They included members of the detainees' families and others from the Iraqi Kurdish community. As the afternoon went on, more people arrived following call-outs on the web, texts and tweets. A few locals passing by also stopped and joined in.

Meanwhile, the Immigration Advisory Service lawyers, representing many of the deportees, were hard at work pursuing a judicial review on the basis that the forced deportation to Iraq would breach deportees' human rights under international law. Evidence of recent escalation in fighting in Kurdistan and other regions contradicts the Home Office's claim that parts of Iraq are now "safe" (see here for more).

Earlier in the day, prisoners had been moved from other detention centres across the country to the Heathrow centres to get everyone together for the flight. These included more than 20 held in Campsfield immigration prison near Oxford, who were on hunger strike. Shortly after 4pm, prisoners were told that they were about to be moved onto buses headed for the plane. Screws from contractors Serco and GEO, who run the two Heathrow prisons, started to round up the first coach load. Another company, Reliance, supplied the guards for the buses, usually two per prisoner. (G4S lost the contract for deportation muscle after the killing of Jimmy Mubenga last year). The coaches were hired from subcontractors WH Tours and Woodcock Coaches, both based in Crawley near Gatwick.

Around 5.15pm, half an hour into the blockade, the first word came through that the judicial review had been successful and won an injunction against the mass deportation. But it wasn't yet clear whether the injunction applied to the whole flight or just to some of the prisoners, and we were still getting reports of some prisoners being loaded onto coaches. In the past the Home Office has thrown legality to the wind and filled up extra spaces on flights with new people, even though they had not been served with so-called removal directions (official deportation order letters) giving them a chance to appeal. We were determined to continue the blockade until we could be sure the whole flight had been stopped.

It took half an hour for the police to turn up. When they did, they looked overwhelmed and confused, they made no attempt at first to clear the blockade, just stood watching with the irate Serco and GEO staff. It was only at 8pm that a new "heavy mob" turned up from City of Westminster Police, including one cameraman. The senior officer in charge read a Section 14 of the Public Order Act notice, ordering us to move across the street or be arrested. Next we were expecting the specialist lock-on cutting team. Besides reinforcements in various materials, the lock-ons featured glass tubes around the arms, and nails ready to smash the glass under pressure. People in the lock-ons could be seriously injured by cut arteries unless specialists removed them with extreme care. It goes against all instincts and dignity to lay down and passively put your life in the hands of cops. But it has proven an effective tactic which can hold a blockade for several hours.

Meanwhile, sometime after 7pm, it seemed that the screws, backed by lots of cops with dogs, were trying to get round the blockade by opening an old unused gate round the back. The exit was too narrow for coaches to pass, but it seemed they were trying to take people out in smaller groups using Reliance security vans. Leaving some supporters for the lock-ons, others went round the back to try and stop them. There we faced a stand-off with about 15 police plus the corporate thugs of Serco, GEO and Reliance.

As the blockade held, it also obstructed the arrival of more Reliance vans as well as the shift change, with many screws clearly pissed off for not being able to leave or get in, and some trying to drive through the lock-ons. More information was coming in on the legal situation and the events inside. Eventually we got confirmation that the 20 prisoners who had been put on the first bus to the airport had been taken back to the wings. By 8.40pm virtually all the erstwhile deportees were accounted for: ten people had agreed to return voluntarily to Iraq, none of the others would fly. So we decided to lift the blockade. There were no arrests, and we even got to keep the lock-ons for next time!

After we moved off, we got to talk on the phone with some of the prisoners who had been scheduled for the flight. They were cheering and clapping. Word will spread around all other immigration prisons now about the action. The cancellation of this flight is an important victory in the struggle against deportations. A charter flight like this costs the Home Office around £150,000 for the plane, security, etc. Legal action was successful this time, but it is not always the case. The blockade may have also helped buy lawyers time to win the injunction, and then to ensure it was applied to all the prisoners, who have to be individually included by name. The blockade also caused further costly disruption to the two detention centres.

But most importantly, perhaps, we hope the action will inspire further acts of resistance, both within and without. This is not the first deportation blockade in the UK, but it is the first since Colnbrook was last blockaded in May 2009. Since then, mass deportation flights have become increasingly frequent, and now also include charters coordinated by the EU joint border police Frontex, which involve several European countries. But resistance is building. Across Europe, activists on the outside have organised numerous blockades and other actions (e.g., Belgium 1 | Belgium 2 | Sweden). The main role of these actions is perhaps as support and solidarity for prisoners on the inside, who have been rebelling with riots and sabotage as well as hunger strikes (here | Italy | Belgium | Greece | Australia etc.). We have much to learn and build. We hope that yesterday at Heathrow revitalises the struggle against the deportation machine in the UK.
It remains heartening to see that such actions are still taking place, especially at a time of heightened class conflict such as now. The No Borders movement remains one of the "invisible struggles." Many people remain unaware of the issues at stake, let alone that there are people struggling and taking action over them.

However, to presume because of this that the work they do is irrelevant would be a mistake. Previously, Paul Stott has cited it as an example of the anarchist movement's "inherent ability to isolate itself, and to make itself look silly, obs[c]ure and distant from people's experiences and aspirations." Others have made similar points, and Manchester No Borders deals well with the main criticisms here.

What I would add is that refugees and "illegal" migrants are also working class people exploited by capitalism. In fact, they are at the sharpest end of it - often without not only basic legal protection and recognition, but the kind of solidarity and organisation that has allowed workers to stand up to the capitalist system. The result of which situation is only that they are perpetually at the whim of the ruling class - creating precisely the kind of black market for labour and undercutting of jobs, wages, conditions, etc that comprise the legitimate worries preyed upon by the media and politicians in making people despise or fear migrants.

Rather than perpetuating this situation either through ignorance or misguided populism, it should be roundly applauded that there are those willing to stand in solidarity with these people. Isolated from the kind of social environment that allows for strong community and workplace struggles, cut off by the legal system, for them the need for direct action is critical. It is important that they take such action for themselves, and the recent examples cited on the Indymedia piece are the hunger strikers in Campsfield, the rioters in Brook House, and the Yarls Wood Four.

But this doesn't absolve us of the responsibility to acknowledge and support their struggles. Immigration controls and the injustice they wreak are integral to the system of global capitalism. If nothing else, we can't ignore their existence and the effects that has on people whilst hoping to build a new, better society within the shell of the old.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Dingle community keeps up the fight for Shorefields

Cross-posted from the Solidarity Federation site.

Teachers at Shorefields College in the Dingle have once again taken strike action against the possibility of the school becoming an academy. The latest day of action has seen the fight grow, with support staff in the GMB walking out alongside teachers from the NUT and NASUWT.

The picket line was well supported. Parents, teachers and support staff were joined by several pupils from the school - whilst members of the Merseyside Network Against Fees and Cuts, Liverpool Trades Council and Liverpool Solidarity Federation were amongst those who turned up in support. The Liverpool Socialist Choir also added a bit of noise to the event, providing lively renditions of workers and trade union songs, old and new.

During the picket, members of Liverpool Solfed handed out the latest edition of our free newsletter, Wildcat (PDF), and the Education Workers' Network leaflet, All Out For June 30th (PDF), about next week's national strikes.

The gathering wrapped up with local union reps addressing the crowd, along with several guest speakers. The Trades Council offered its support, as well as inviting those assembled to a meeting on 13 July to establish a Liverpool Against the Cuts group. One of the reps also read out a statement from an anonymous teacher at a school which had already become an academy - offering a sense of foreboding about broken promises and unacceptable conditions.

The only sour note was struck by a Labour councillor, who insisted that "we're fighting hard on our end" even whilst being part of a cabinet wilfully doing the work of the government in attacking the working class. When she left the picket line, she was heading to Sure Start Centres to talk to them about the closures that she was helping to implement.

Following the picket, those present re-convened to a nearby church café, where sandwiches and drinks had been laid on for the strikers. There, they held a meeting to discuss the next steps of the campaign, as well as to address the bullying and intimidation suffered by members working at the school. Whilst the local media has been generally supportive of the campaign, the vested interests behind the change in status appear to be getting more openly hostile.

Liverpool Solidarity Federation offers its continuing support and solidarity to the Shorefields campaign. As long as there is a fight to be had, we will be part of it - not just to preserve education as it is, but in the push towards genuinely free and democratic education for all.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The war of attrition in Greece

Tomorrow, the Greek government will be seeking a vote of confidence in its economic policies. This is directly linked to a new €12bn bailout package from the Eurozone, as the ruling class fights to keep Greece from defaulting on its debts. But in return for the rescue package, they want to escalate the country's class war even further.

The terms of the package, as told by the BBC, are that the vote of confidence pass and - crucially - that a further €28bn of austerity measures are implemented. This has been described as "privatis[ing] a large state-controlled company every 10 days." This has provoked the largest mainstream trade union in Greece to call the first 48-hour strike in many years, whilst the day of the vote of confidence will see an attempted encirclement of parliament.

The reasoning given publicly for the demand continues to be economic. EU economic and monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn is "certain that Greece will be able to take the decisions needed because the alternative is so much worse." Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, calls this "something that affects me greatly." He recognises that people are "rebelling." But, pushed as to how the country can implement further cuts, he can say only that "they will have to do so." This despite the fact that, even as ordinary people suffer, "no pressure will be put on the financial institutions" - lest we see the dreaded "Greek selective default."

But one does have to wonder how those pondering these actions can continue to be so disdainful of the opposition. Only last Wednesday, the country saw its 11th one-day general strike since the crisis. Tariffs and charges have been rendered ineffective by a highly successful "can't pay, won't pay" campaign. There have been regular riots and running battles on the streets since 2008. All of which has come under the umbrella of "organised lawlessness spearheaded by the hard left."

There are two possibilities as to why, despite of all this, the country's creditors continue to demand that which provokes rebellion against them. One is desperation, the simple fear that a Greek default could bring down the Eurozone translated into a pig-headed pursuit of their own self-preservation. The other is far more dangerous.

The other possibility is that, seeing the present struggle as pan-European if not international, the ruling class are playing war games. Behind the continual demand for austerity, there could be deliberate provocation. By drawing the Greeks out far beyond the constraints of struggle elsewhere in Europe, they are left isolated, and as such unable to win any war of attrition they are forced into. The collapse of their struggle would do for the fight against austerity across Europe much as the crushing of the miners did for the trade union movement in Britain in the 1980s.

Whether or not such a scenario is possible, it is clear that there is desperation on all sides as the Greek struggle ploughs further into unknown territory. Neither side dares to be the first to blink. For our part, though, the hope has to be for the victory of the working class - even if that means the dreaded default. Because if the struggle can be won in Greece, it can be won anywhere.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Iraqi asylum seekers on hunger strike in protest at deportation

The following was posted on the No Borders Brighton blog on Thursday;
In recent weeks the government has detained at least 70 Iraqi asylum seekers, in preparation for a mass deportation to Baghdad and detainees have been given removal directions for 21 June 2011, at 23:00 hours.

Officials from the Iraqi government are currently visiting detainees to confirm their identities so that they can be deported, as part of an agreement between the two governments. 37 Asylum seekers in Campsfield detention centre have responded with a hunger strike. Today will be its fourth day. Supporters have gathered outside Campsfield to protest against the forced removals.

Many of these asylum seekers have been in the UK for several years, making close friends and starting families. Take Adam Aziz Ali, who is due to be removed on a flight to Baghdad on 20th June. Adam is a Kurdish Iraqi. He has been here for five years, living with his partner, Joanne, in County Durham for almost four years. In that time he has become part of her family. They see him as a son, a brother, and an uncle. They cannot understand why a close member of their family should be removed. The Home Office has judged, rather robotically, that Adam has not developed relationships “beyond normal emotional ties”. His human right to a family life is not being affected “disproportionately”.

Iraq is a rocked by civil unrest: sectarian violence, suicide bombings and, more recently, a bloody backlash against civil rights protests.

The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees has reported that “many of those who have been deported to Iraq in the past are now living in hiding, in fear of the persecution they originally left Iraq to flee. Some have been assassinated. Others have committed suicide only days after being deported or have been kidnapped and killed, while others have had mental breakdowns. Many more have had to leave the country and become refugees again.”

Like Adam, many of the asylum seekers due to be removed are Kurdish. The IFIR has shown particular concern for the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan – a society maligned by corruption, institutional violence and a poverty of basic services such as hospitals and clean water. While protests have been held outside Campsfield, sister protests planned in Kurdistan have been denied permission by the regional government. In Adam’s case, the Home Office suggested that “there is nothing to prevent Joanne from accompanying Mr Ali”. We disagree.

It is clear that the government plan to carry out the removals imminently, unconcerned by the asylum seekers’ right to a family life or by the dangers they will face in Iraq.

Meanwhile the asylum seekers are determined to fight the decision. 
I've not much to add to it, except my solidarity with all those affected and a reminder that even as we gear up to the big, headline-grabbing fights, we should never forget the invisible ones.

Strike traps and fights that need to be had

The strikes on June 30th (and the potential for a "wave" following from that) have become the subject of much sabre rattling. First, we had Vince Cable's veiled threats of much harsher strike laws. Then Dave Prentis, General Secretary of Unison - which isn't even taking strike action yet, absurdly declared "we are going to win." Now Ed Balls has weighed in, the voice of Labour Party "moderation."

I call Prentis's intervention absurd because it carries no weight. It is possible to win, and I will come to that, but not on his terms. He offers nothing other than empty rhetoric. He says "it won't be the miners' strike," without any suggestion that he knows what this means.

The miners failed because, exactly like the 1926 General Strike which he also cites, they were left to fight alone and slowly worn down in a war of attrition. This won't happen again quite simply because we won't see such open-ended and potentially drawn-out strikes again. The union's weapon of choice is now the one-day strike, entirely within the framework of a law weighted against them. So no, it won't be the miner's strike - but it won't be radically different either. The rank-and-file will still be pushed forward for a battle the leaders aren't even trying to win. The TUC is still a beacon of inactivity, leaving those unions which do go out standing alone. The government is spoiling for a fight, and looking to bring the last stronghold of organised labour crashing to the ground.

From this, it simply does not follow that "we can win." In fact, if we are going entirely by the actions union bureaucrats pursue, we emphatically won't. This is where Ed Balls steps in.

Making a similar point to the above, he writes that "trade union leaders must avoid George Osborne’s trap." The Chancellor "wants them to think that going on strike is the only option," and is leading them down the road to defeat. However, his analysis goes no further and quickly turns into a party political broadcast when he declares that the only option is "to adopt Labour’s balanced deficit plan that puts jobs first." Slower cuts. Fairer cuts. Nicer cuts.

The shortfall in Balls' argument is that though the June 30th strike is nominally about pensions, for those fighting it is about so much more. It isn't just public sector pensions, jobs, and pay that are under attack - it is the entire working class. Disabled people will be the hardest hit (PDF), being driven face first into poverty, whilst welfare, public services, and the living conditions of all of us face significant decline. We are at a pivotal moment where, if we do not find a way to fight back and to beat these attacks, we risk every gain that the working class has won being worn away at an even faster pace than before. If we can't preserve what we've got, we certainly can't push the boundaries towards something much better.

But if the situation is as described above, what chance to we stand? The answer depends on the extent to which the rank-and-file working class are able to take control of our own struggles. Across the past year, we have seen numerous examples of official leadership being utterly sidelined and even chased away by militants. Now, there is a movement to generalise the strike, and to go beyond the limits of the trade unions.

I've already given a few examples of this in previous posts - such as UK Uncut's "big society breakfast," their other planned actions such as that in central London, and the student walkouts. But the details of what takes place are up for those involved to decide. What matters is that there is action, and that what union leaders are orchestrating as a simple one-day public sector strike becomes so much more. If we want to avoid the "strike trap," the answer isn't to back down and let our "leaders" negotiate a worthless compromise and diffuse most of the anger whilst the attacks go ahead. It is to retain that anger, to galvanise the masses of the working class, and to be more innovative in our fight back.

We have already made a lot of headway in this. Whilst the official movement marks 10th November, 9th December, 29th January, 26th March, and soon 30th June, for the rest of us there has been so much more in between. This struggle has already been at turns bitter, hard, and vibrant, and we have barely begun. The point now is to maintain that momentum and to escalate the fight. No matter the designs of the government or the bureaucrats who want us to follow at their heels.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Quote of the day...

If an employer is looking at two candidates, one who has got disabilities and one who hasn't, and they have got to pay them both the same rate, I invite you to guess which one the employer is more likely to take on.

Whether that is right or wrong, whether you would do that or wouldn't do, that to me is just the real world that we operate in.
This rather neatly sums up the result of competition between workers: the race to the bottom, with workers accepting lower and lower rates in order to "start getting on the employment ladder." Which is great, except that it means accepting a wage upon which nobody can practicably survive.

However, this isn't the point Davies is making. Rather, he argues that because of the situation described above "the people who are most disadvantaged by the national minimum wage are the most vulnerable in society." He worries that "it prevents those people from being given the opportunity to get the first rung on the employment ladder." In other words, Davies doesn't want disabled people to be excluded from the race to the bottom.

It's true that the minimum wage, as it stands, has not had the effect of preventing low pay or made workers overall better off. The Low Pay Commission reported in 2005 (PDF) that employers have been able to offset its effects with reduced staff hours, increased prices, and measures to increase productivity. It has provided an additional justification for pay not keeping up with inflation and the steady casualisation of work. Rather than provide a safety net against low pay, it has almost served as a benchmark for it, with the increases since its introduction steadily decreasing.

However, if the national minimum wage were removed, would we see this trend disappear? Of course not!

From the employer's point of view, workers are nothing more than a resource - a cost. It is therefore in their interests to get as much out of us as possible for as little cost as possible. On this point, Davies' logic is spot on. Where he falls down is with the presumption that we should accept this state of affairs.

Rather than play this game, our interest lies in organising to fight such a trend. As the minimum wage shows, laws are at best a highly fallible stop gap. We cannot rely on the state, which ultimately serves the interests of capital, to assert our needs. Instead, we need to build our collective power as a class - initially in forcing concessions from the bosses, but ultimately to push towards a world where the most vulnerable don't have to offer themselves up at reduced cost in order to "make a contribution to society."

Repression of anti-NATO activists in Serbia

On Sunday and Monday, Belgrade played host to a two-day Strategic Military Partner Conference for NATO. Military analyst Ljubodrag Stojadinovic, told the Southeast Europe Times that "it is a kind of reconciliation of Serbia with the modern world" for "global security co-operation." But protests against the event by the Anti-NATO Campaign provoked harsh repression.

This point has had little coverage. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that there were protests, but that the conference "sparked protests against the event" is literally all we are told. The SETimes reduces the matter to "right-wing parties and nationalist organisations staunchly opposing closer ties with the Alliance." Likewise, the Washington Post tells us that "Serb nationalists — furious over the holding of a NATO conference in Serbia — have burned a NATO flag and put up a huge banner at a Belgrade bridge denouncing the Western military alliance." But, it would seem, beyond the "ultranationalists," nobody had much of a problem with the event.

The Anti-NATO Campaign notes, in its report of the event, that such nationalist protest is "the only tolerated form of organizing." They point to the fact that "at the rally organized by the DSS (ultra-conservative Democratic Party of Serbia), members of the clero-fascist organization “Obraz” paraded, while later the members of the Serbian Radical Party taunted the police, but nobody was arrested."

Yet, the peaceful protest camp organised by the Campaign in contrast represented "authentic popular self-organizing." Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative, the Serbian section of the International Workers Association, is heavily involved in the Anti-NATO Campaign. Its basic principles include being "against all forms of racism, chauvinism and religious fanaticism" and it has "an international character" as opposed to the "ultranationalists" that caught press attention. Likewise, the "authentic popular self-organizing" is reflected in the fact that "all decisions made in the campaign are by the principles of direct democracy, in public meetings of the Campaign."

Which probably explains the state response to the event;
At the peaceful protest against the NATO conference in Belgrade, held at June 12th, which began at 6 pm near Sava Centre, organized by the Anti-NATO Campaign and attended by around 100 people, the police insulted and manhandled people, throwing them on down a slope, while brutally arresting as much as 8 peaceful protestors. Six of those arrested, one of which was a Croatian citizen, were transferred to the New Belgrade Police Station, where they were given a 48 hour detention. The remaining two were taken to the police station at November 29th Street, one of which was soon after released, and the other, Ratibor Trivunac, has been sentenced in an “accelerated proceeding” to 15 days of imprisonment and sent straight away to the Padinska Skela Correctional Facility.

Against the six imprisoned people in New Belgrade, criminal charges were pressed, for “prevention of state official from carrying out orders duty”, while one of them, Kosta Ristić, was even charged with “assaulting a state official”, despite the video footage, which clearly shows that he received the most brutal portion of police treatment. Namely, he was thrown down to the ground and then dragged across the street by several members of the riot police, while a plain clothes inspector attempted to trip him and kick him in the legs.
Video footage of the arrests can be seen here.
The range of people protesting this event - from ultra-nationalists to anarcho-syndicalists - reflects the complexity of the issues surrounding NATO, as well as the lingering bitterness of the 1999 intervention. Until the current conflict in Libya, this was the last intervention by the west largely accepted as "humanitarian."

What it offers us is just another example of the bitter legacy of war. Certainly, there can be no doubt that Slobodan Milosevic and the forces under his command were guilty of the most atrocious crimes (PDF), including the notorious Srebrenica massacre. But this in no way excuses the war crimes carried out by the Kosovar Liberation Army, or by NATO itself. To presume that intervention was the result of anything other than self-interest, or that the crimes of the other side automatically make it just, is an incredible naivety promoted by those who benefit from questions of war being black-and-white.

Indeed, if you want evidence of the grey areas, look at how the "anti-fascist" Allies not only tolerated but cooperated with General Franco in the name of "anti-Communism". Or the United States' support for the exiled Khmer Rouge regime. In the present, the entirely strategic shifting of support from Colonel Gaddafi to the rebels in Libya entirely decimates the notion of "humanitarian intervention." Yet it continues to hold too much political currency to be abandoned altogether.

The link between Serbia and Libya is drawn by the Anti-NATO Campaign, who describe Serbia as "only one in the long line of destructive NATO actions against humanity, as we are witnessing in Libya these days." Thus, "the fact that NATO ... is holding a gathering is reason enough to organize an international counter gathering."

But, more than that, the point needs to be that people are willing to organise and act against militarism - no matter who is engaged in it. The lesson here is that the "sides" in most wars are drawn up by the power games of the global ruling class, and no matter who gains the upper hand it is ordinary people who suffer the consequences. We are our own side, and the actions we take must reflect that. Solidarity to all those involved in the Anti-NATO Campaign, and particularly those suffering state repression.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A quick note on Greece

Today, workers in Greece staged their 11th general strike against the crippling austerity measures being imposed there.

People in front of the parliament this morning, via Occupied London

Petrol bombs thrown to riot police, in front of the parliament, via Occupied London
There isn't much more that can be said on the situation in Greece that hasn't already been said. However by the same token I couldn't let what is happening there pass without comment. As such, I will refer people to my post on Greece and the need for "organised lawlessness", and also point people in the direction of the Occupied London blog for the most comprehensive coverage of events over there.

Needless to say, I offer my solidarity to everyone who is taking a stand in Greece. If they fail, the ruling class will know that they can get away with anything to shore up their own position, and we will see attacks elsewhere become more brutal. Victory to the working class!

All out for June 30th!

It has now been confirmed that around three-quarters-of-a-million people will be taking strike action on 30 June. There will also be rallies in most towns across the country, student walkouts, and a number of direct actions organised to coincide with the day. Despite the severe limitations of the official action, what happens two weeks tomorrow will have a significant impact on class struggle in the months to come.

The University and Colleges Union (UCU) has already balloted members and taken a first round of strike action, and it will be out again on June 30th. The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has announced a series of dates around the end of June and beginning of July for action on the London Underground, and they will be bringing the trains to a halt until noon on that day.

Yesterday, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) both returned "yes" votes. The NUT's was an overwhelming 92% and the ATL's an also formidable 83%. For the latter, this will be the first national strike action it has ever taken and this is highly significant as an indicator of the growing level of anger over the government's austerity agenda. The day after the result was announced, the national executives of both unions rubber-stamped the 30th June date, but this was largely a formality. With the level of rank-and-file anger on offer, it would be insane to do anything else.

Today, the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) joined them. Their yes vote was a less impressive, but still decisive, 61%. What is notable, for those arguing against the ballots on the grounds of low turnout, is that PCS got 32.4% of its members to vote, ATL 36%, and NUT 40%. Which, of course, suggests that with higher turnouts support for strikes increases sharply.

But this is merely a point of note. We are not going to get the chance to have a reasoned debate with ministers over the strikes and put our case forward on the same platforms or with the same exposure. Nor should we waste our energy pushing for such a thing. Our society is not a debating chamber but a power struggle, and though we should of course counter the propaganda being put to the working class there should be no illusions that we can convince those in power to reject their own class interests.

What is more important at this point is that we build to generalise the strikes. Leafleting of schools and colleges needs to focus on encouraging student walkouts. Non-union members and support staff need to be encouraged not to cross picket lines, even if this means pulling sickies. We need to see mass turnouts on the picket lines and as much disruption as we can muster. Most importantly, we should be building the momentum to go beyond June 30th. Not just for the even bigger coordinated strikes hinted at for the Autumn, but for a wave of unrest and disruption genuinely built and led from below.

The strikes on June 30th may well be the biggest industrial action in a generation. But no general secretary or national executive can take credit for them. We are here because of the mass anger that is boiling over and because the union movement was forced to respond to grass-roots direct action movements like UK Uncut that exposed them as stale and inactive by comparison. There is no reason that we can't push the struggle much further - indeed, for victory, we cannot afford not to.