Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Property ladders, rent-seeking and God-given rights

A new survey has shown that two thirds of people who don't yet own their own home fear that they will never get on the property ladder. They argue that banks will "find excuses" to turn them down. As a result, we are now looking at the emergence of "generation rent." Not to mention entirely the wrong debate being had on the question of property ownership.

At the liberal end of the spectrum, Sean O'Grady writes for the Independent that "this generation will just have to get used to the idea that there is no God-given right to home ownership or, more pertinently, the large capital gains that accrued from it in the past." He offers a number of sensible reasons - from the fact that houses are still historically expensive to the fact that income is not keeping up with inflation - as to why houses are no longer affordable. However, this is not offered as a fault with the present system. Rather, for O'Grady, it begs the question: "why this sense of entitlement anyway?"

Apparently, because "nobody claims they have to own a Porsche the moment they leave college, or pester the bank of mum and dad for designer furniture," a home too is a frivolous luxury. It is "just another form of consumption." Which must mean that vagrants are just those who reject materialism.

Conversely, the Telegraph worries that we are losing our status as a "nation of home owners." This perspective looks back to Margaret Thatcher's "right to buy" initiative, seeing this right not as a privilege equivalent to owning a Porsche but an integral facet of the free market system. It is the "aspiration" that O'Grady decries, where a house is not a domicile but an investment and a potential pension fund. Thus, for "generation rent," there is a "risk [of] insufficient finances at retirement."

Neither of these perspectives are in tune with the reality and the main concerns of most of the populace. Instead, they sum up an economic debate ongoing within the elite sectors of the current capitalist system. As summed up by the Financial Times, we are looking at two rival policy positions.

One the one hand, there is the argument that "home ownership rates will fall sharply unless terms are made easier for first-time buyers." On the other, is the concern "that failure to set loan limits has contributed to the boom and bust in housing." At the heart of the debate is whether or not the Financial Services Authority's proposals to set limits on mortgage products is a good idea. The key concern, of course, is the markets and the "stability" of the capitalist economy.

On the ground there is an altogether different concern - that of human beings having shelter and a place to live and thrive. For most of us, the current economic system is simply the only means for us to secure such dwellings - whether by rent or mortgage. Meanwhile, as Daniel Knowles neatly puts it in his Telegraph blog, "each month, an anonymous company gets to collect more of my income than I pay in taxes. No one getting a share of that money had anything to do with building the house. They are simply profiting from the fact that it’s still useful." Which is exactly what the government does with tax, though so many crusaders against rent-seeking fall silent when the usury is private.

A house is not a luxury akin to a Porsche or "another form of consumption." But, by the same token, it is not simply a capital asset to be used in securing yourself a decent pension pot. It is a domestic dwelling. Or, as the comedian Alun Cochrane put it, we should "bloody live in it."

The "right" to private property not only leaves so many people renting or living with their parents for far longer, unable to take their first step onto the "ladder." It also leaves around 61,000 households homeless whilst there are around 651,000 empty homes in England alone. All for the "freedom" of a minority to seek rent and gamble on capital accumulation. Which is the more important debate we are not having.

This just in - something was on TV a month ago...

Today, the Daily Mail reports with outrage that "a young mother has dismissed concerns that the 3,500 cigarettes she smoked while pregnant affected her daughter and bizarrely insists it actually made the baby stronger." This apparently "has caused outrage among health professionals." But it also raises several questions.

Firstly, although this is of course an absurd and utterly wrong point of view, why has it caused "outrage"? After all, the woman in question - 20-year-old Charlie Wilcox - made the comments whilst appearing on the BBC 3 show Mums Behaving Badly. The whole point of the show was to highlight the harmful behaviour exhibited by some mums to be and offer remedies. In fact, I remember watching the show and seeing the midwife demonstrate not only why her view was wrong but also how much smoking actually harms babies.

If the aim is to raise awareness, then surely the programme did that. In fact, Wilcox being something of a wilful idiot will only have helped the case. Claiming that smoking is "making the baby use its heart on its own in the first place, so that when it comes out, it's going to be able to do them (sic) things by itself" after being told that you're choking your unborn child pretty much marks you out as wrong.

If this had been a celebrity uttering such views, without context, then sure. I could understand the outrage. But Charlie Wilcox was expressly put on television as a demonstration of what not to do, rather than as a role model for the kids. As such the outrage is very much misplaced.

Not that its outrage at all, if we're honest. The Mail have quoted the midwife's words from the television show, plus a spokesman for the charity No Smoking Day. Hardly a cavalcade of moral outrage, especially since the latter is quite literally only quoted on the risks of smoking whilst pregnant. No comment whatsoever is offered upon the views of one rather dim 20-year-old. But then, this fits perfectly with the newspaper's long history of claiming a single quote - often out of context - as a storm of righteous indignation.

More importantly, though, is the question of why this is news. Is the Mail really so desperate in filling its pages that it will quite literally churn a basic outline of a TV show - last aired almost a month ago - into a "story"? The answer, it seems, is yes.

Monday, 30 May 2011

No War but Class War - May 2011

The key event of this month has been the still-ongoing Spanish 15-M Movement. The initial protest was organised around the slogan "we are not goods in the hands of politicians and bankers." Marches and rallies took place across the country, but it was in Madrid that events went beyond a standard day of action. The occupation of Puerta del Sol became a beacon of the "Spanish Revolution" across the globe.

This inspired a wave of solidarity protests internationally, including the small one I attended in Liverpool but also far more radical ones - such as that in Brighton - which also became protest camps.

There were, and are, a number of internal contradictions in the movement. Most of them have been highlighted by the statement from the CNT, particularly the juxtaposition of revolutionary demands with traditionally reformist concepts that politicians ought to give voice to those they represent. Nonetheless, in a time of high youth unemployment and vicious austerity measures, the movement's main positive was that in action it was far more radical than in theory.

A case in point for this was that the encampments continued after the election, and a sign of just how radical the camps were came from the decision by the police to forcibly evict protesters. However, the authorities appear to have greatly underestimated what they were dealing with and not long after many of the protest camps were back as they had been before.

The Spanish protests have inspired a similar movement in Greece, which has quickly escalated alongside a pre-existing campaign of "organised lawlessness" as the country awaits the IMF's verdict on its attempts to bring the budget deficit under control.

Occupied London, which has provided constant and extensive coverage of the situation in Greece since December 2008, offers us the resolution by the 3,000-strong popular assembly of Syntagma square;
For a long time now, decisions are taken for us, without us.

We are workers, unemployed, pensioners, youth who came to Syntagma to struggle for our lives and our futures.

We are here because we know that the solution to our problems can only come from us.

We invite all Athenians, the workers, the unemployed and the youth to Syntagma, and the entire society to fill up the squares and to take life into its hands.

There, in the squares, we shall co-shape all our demands.

We call all workers who will be striking in the coming period to end up and to remain at Syntagma.

We will not leave the squares before those who lead us here leave first: Governments, the Troika, Banks, Memorandums and everyone who exploits us.

We tell them that the debt is not ours.



The only defeated struggle is the one that was never given!
In South Korea, there have been echoes of the Ssangyong strike of 2009, in the police repression of a strike and occupation at a Hyundai factory. The majority of occupiers were arrested after 3,000 riot police attacked the 500 taking part. As libcom.org note, "the raid marks a significant attack on a building strike wave in the South Korean automobile industry which has seen several victories, but also follows several years of mounting repression against the workers' movement."

Al Jazeera notes that repression is a more prominent feature of the "second wave" of the Arab Spring. "Marred by ugly sectarian violence in Egypt and on-going scuffles between police and protesters ahead of the July elections in Tunisia, even the success stories of 2011 are permeated with unease over what lies ahead." But even were that not the case, in those two instances western powers were able to "jump on the revolutionary bandwagon" and even "ease their erstwhile clients from power." But in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria are right in the middle of "the complexity and contradictions of the international alliance system of the region" and so the "tanks, snipers, noxious gases and bulldozers" are better able to repress the would-be revolutionaries.

The media has played its role too, not giving this second wave anywhere near the attention it (belatedly) did the first. Which is even before we mention the NATO intervention in Libya which has only further complicated matters and made explicit the fact that the region faces not just competing class interests but imperial ones too.

If there is any lingering optimism about revolution in the Arab world, then, it seems somewhat misplaced. Not least because, even though it is true to say that the current uprisings against the ruling class are global, they remain unconnected. There are references, such as the comparison between the Puerta del Sol and Tahrir Square, but they are abstract. The solidarity demonstrations outside Egyptian embassies never maintained momentum for subsequent uprisings. The few anti-war protests in relation to Libya petered out. By and large, those who face tank attacks in Syria or air strikes in Yemen face them alone.

This is not to say that there is no hope. Indeed, people continue to struggle on even in the face of such repression and bloodshed. More generally, that people have risen up at all is a testament to their strength of character given that they come from countries which engage in brutal repression even without the context of a revolutionary uprising.

In America, perhaps the most significant struggle of the moment is a hunger strike by grocery store workers. The group, led by immigrant workers, want the reinstatement of an illegally fired comrade, but also against cuts in wages to the minimum wage and sometimes less, with absolutely no benefits whatsoever.

As the Huffington Post's Dave Jamieson writes for The Trial By Fire;
All night long, Jose Garcia performs his job while surrounded by food — a painful bit of irony, he says.
The 52-year-old Mexican immigrant works the overnight shift cleaning floors inside a Cub Foods store in Minneapolis, Minn., a job he’s mostly appreciated for the nine years he’s held it down. But lately, waxing aisle after aisle filled with groceries has simply reminded him of how little he has.

Despite his long tenure with the same cleaning company, Garcia says he earns a wage of $9 an hour — more or less the same rate he was making when he started cleaning floors back in 2002. Taking inflation into account, his salary has effectively gone down since he started working on the cleaning crew.

There are times when he can’t afford as much food as he’d like. He says it pains him to see workers at the store throw out unsold perishables like roasted chicken at the end of the night.

“It’s perfectly good food,” Garcia says through a translator. In the past, when he’s asked if he can take the food home, he says he’s been told that under-the-table giveaways are against store rules.

Sometimes he resorts to visiting the charitable food pantries around town. The irony there doesn’t escape him, either: Grocery stores like the one where he works often donate the very food that goes to those pantries and, eventually, to the needy like himself.
This situation is mainly due to contracting out, which puts intense downward pressure on wages and conditions. In some cases, sub-contracting goes on for several layers, and "there are workers who end up not getting paid at all," according to organiser Veronica Mendez.

This situation will only continue as job growth continues to be largely in low-paid sectors. Part of the result of that is workers being in ever more precarious positions, and thus the traditional strike not being an option. This explains Garcia's drastic choice of protest, but it also shows how far organised workers have to go. These are after all nothing less than starvation wages.

To end on a positive note, one solution for people in such a precarious position is the solidarity and concerted campaigning efforts of others. Whilst the mainstream trade union movement has started lumbering towards a one-day strike on June 30th - which many are ridiculously billing as a "general strike" - the Solidarity Federation, supported by members of the Anarchist Federation and the British IWW, have put that principle into action to win victory for a London agency worker.

The importance of this shouldn't be over-stated. However, the Cautiously Pessimistic blog points out that "he important thing is that this is a victory. A clear, straightforward, knock-out victory." If we can win one, there's no reason we cannot win more. In doing so, whilst being willing to learn the lessons of our failures, there's no reason we can't also win bigger.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

An afternoon with UK Uncut

Today marked a national day of action called by UK Uncut. Across the country, activists took part in occupations - or "bail-ins" - of bank branches. An unusually fair-minded and balanced report of the day can be read in the Daily Mail. In the early afternoon, I attended the Liverpool action.

The day had been called as an "Emergency Operation," seeking to draw attention to the multi-billion pound subsidies still being paid to the banks as the NHS faces cuts. A £20bn "efficiency drive" will see 50,000 NHS jobs go over the next five years - largely on the front line. But as this happens the banks, previously on the receiving end of a trillion-pound bailout, are being subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of £100bn. Which, in one UK Uncut supporter's words, "shows the government's true colours."

Those true colours are capitalist ones. I've said before that UK Uncut's actions are far more radical than their politics, and this remains true. Whilst their press releases talk of how they can make the government listen or shift politicians' priorities, on the ground they have proved extremely capable of using direct action - the aim of which is not to appeal to leaders' sensibilities but take what is wanted directly or to force concessions by causing disruption and inflicting economic damage. The same distinction, in fact, between a trade union march and strike action.

For the Liverpool action, supporters convened in Next to Nowhere - the radical social centre underneath the News from Nowhere bookshop. I recognised a few of those involved from previous UK Uncut actions, as well as the support they had offered Liverpool Solidarity Federation in our pickets of Atos Origin. However, it remained a pleasant surprise to note that those taking part were all largely "new." That is, not the people you see at every demonstration, recognisable by the newspaper on their arm. Though some would paint it as UK Uncut's weakness, I would see it as their greatest strength - the opening they offer for young people and others with little practical political experience into radical movements.

As people gathered in the social centre, two police community support officers appeared outside the bookshop. However, they appeared largely unaware of the day's planned actions and were rather standing watch due to the EDL's appearance a couple of weeks back. The police were actually late to the party today, which was unusual given the high profile the action was given.

After a brief assembly, where the organiser of the event passed around the Green and Black Cross legal support number and went through how the action would proceed, we were off. People made their way down to two separate rallying points in Liverpool One shopping centre before heading over to NatWest bank. Inside, a short burst of a megaphone's siren was the signal to begin. A number of people took over floorspace to engage in street theatre, dressed as doctors, nurses, and patients. Others stood up and held flags and signs, or gave out leaflets, as it was announced over the megaphone who we were and why we were there.

For my part, the first thing that I did was approach staff. There were only a few people working in there, but I made a point of telling them that this protest was not against them and that, as bank workers were amongst those facing lay-offs whilst those at the top revelled in bonuses and pay rises, this was their fight too. To which end I also handed out copies of Solidarity Federation's "Stuff Your Boss" leaflet (PDF).

Almost immediately as the action began, a man came up and asked us to leave. Despite being in plain (and rather scruffy) clothes, he claimed to be the bank manager. His request was obviously refused and he quickly got on the phone to try and get security and the police down to the bank. Liverpool One security responded more quickly than the police, but being unable to do anything other than stand outside they received thanks over the megaphone for "supporting our cause by standing outside even though they're supposed to be working." At this point, customers still came and went freely.

It was at about the hour mark when the decision was taken to close the doors and ask customers to leave. The police had still not arrived and staff looked on whilst the manager and one security guard blocked the door, allowing people to go out but not to go in.

Whilst doing so, the manager asked a couple of those protesting whether they worked. When one replied that they were unemployed because the shop he had worked at had gone under, you could see the spark of smug glee in the manager's eyes. Another said they were a student, to which he sneered that "my taxes are paying for you to learn." I interrupted that I had a job and I was a trade union rep and asked if he had anything to say to that. When he said "I used to be treasurer for my regional trade union," I inquired whether he was on the right wing of the union, given the ease with which he could sneer at those losing their jobs and at the attacks on the working class. He quickly fell silent.

When the police did arrive and took the opportunity to talk to staff behind a shutter in the middle of the shop, a few of us took the opportunity to step outside. It would be wise to have a number of people on the outside as well as the inside, to ensure that nothing similar to the travesty at Fortnum and Masons took place.

By now, quite a crowd had gathered - along with a number of freelance press photographers. There was a lot of support in the crowd, much of it drummed up by students and UK Uncut members who started chants and involved people outside the bank in the action. However, there were also a lot of young kids who gathered, fascinated by what was going on, and passers-by of all ages gave thumbs up, cheers, and other brief shows of support. This only grew as people learned that the focus of the protests was the NHS.

Unfortunately, not everyone felt the same way. One man took it upon himself to storm over to the police and demand everyone's arrest. He needed to get money out at his branch, and as a result democratic rights, due process, etc, could get stuffed. It quickly became apparent that reasoning with him wasn't an option as he had a chip on his shoulder and was looking for a barney.

After getting nowhere with me, he stood outside the bank shouting at those inside, getting more irate as they laughed at him. But, to be fair, if you put on massive shades and then wear them as a chin strap when you get "serious," you're asking to be mocked. Repeatedly. Having "quiet arse" as your heckle of choice is also a guarantee of having the piss taking out of you as a complete moron. Nevertheless, he did find one person amongst the crowd of inconvenienced bank customers (most of whom were good natured about it) to sympathise with his moan that "they've made their point, so why not move on now." I quickly realised the folly of trying to explain how disruptive direct action works to them.

After two hours occupying the store, and with the branch successfully shut down, UK Uncut left the bank and briefly rallied and chanted outside before "dispersing" and hanging around the area in more informal gatherings. During this time, our heckler took it upon himself to get in the face of a young woman and have a go at her. When a couple of us intervened and got in his way, he stormed off in a sulk. Unfortunately, he didn't go that far and stood just beyond the bank with his arms crossed and a face on him like a bulldog licking piss off a thistle.

That wasn't the end of it, and a short while later an attempt was made to occupy Vodafone next door. It wasn't successful, but it did result in the police and security blocking the doors to stop people entering, thus having the same effect of shutting the shop down. After rallying here for about twenty minutes, the group made the decision to move on. NatWest was shut down, as was Vodafone. The impact had been made, and there were more targets to be found.

This prompted our heckler friend, who had returned because his need to withdraw cash had been replaced by a need to buy a phone, to start shouting "go on, get lost." But, of course, trying to make out like a huge gang of people are leaving on your say so is going to make that group stop out of principle. Unfortunately, when confronted, the anger got far too much for him and he gave the window of the shop a swift kick. Had it broken on him, I think I would have quite literally pissed myself laughing. He made a swift exit before any police came over to investigate, and advice to take anger management and calm down followed him on his hasty retreat.

I parted ways with UK Uncut soon after. However, I have since learned that as they tried to take their actions further into the City Centre they were met with heavier security. There were no arrests, but the security from Liverpool One manhandled activists and tried to provoke them into a fight whilst the police looked on. No doubt they were only ready to act if it was the protesters stepping out of line.

This only demonstrates the extent to which the actions of groups like UK Uncut pose a threat. As noted earlier, their politics are not especially radical. Their message is largely drawn from that offered by the PCS union, who have now come out in full support of the group. But their actions utilise the power of ordinary people to disrupt businesses, upset the flow of capital, and make a dent in profits simply by standing together and taking action for themselves. That, both as an idea and in action, is a dangerous concept.

It is easy to scoff at a group of largely unseasoned activists, turning the streets into a pantomime and causing a ruckus. But the fact is that they have taken off where the traditional movement hasn't. They appeal to the young and the disaffected because they take direct action and because they organise without hierarchy or formalised leadership. Moreover, they show that such an approach works.

I would certainly argue that UK Uncut has its limitations and contradictions. It would be great to see such mass direct action coupled with a clear revolutionary perspective, and a greater willingness to break the law in many instances. But these debates can be had and are being had. What's important is that those who involve themselves in actions such as today's are recognised as valuable to an escalating class struggle. Let's not marginalise or exclude them as we approach a one day strike action which has at least as many limitations and contradictions.

Friday, 27 May 2011

June 30th - the building has begun

Yesterday, I received my ballot paper from PCS for national industrial action. Would I be prepared to take strike action and industrial action short of a strike? Yes and yes. Having voted to that effect, I popped my ballot in its envelope and posted it. Now begins the real campaigning work.

In the run up to, and aftermath of the vote at PCS conference, I found it far too easy to be cynical. Slogans such as "strike for the alternative" implied that a one-day strike was the limit of trade unionists' imaginations. Socialist Party and PCS Vice President John McInally's articles in the Socialist confirmed this position, claiming the ballot "set out a strategy capable of defeating the cuts" and describing General Secretary Mark Serwotka and President Janice Godrich as delivering "analytical, fighting speeches." Far from a great militant fightback and "strategies for struggle," promoting illusions and taking extremely limited actions was the order of the day for the official leadership.

But my cynicism is, and always has been, aimed squarely at bureaucracy and hierarchy. At a rank-and-file level, the picture is often very different. My own branch - where as an anarcho-syndicalist I am a minority of one - has formed a strike committee and we have built encouraging mass picket lines into our campaigning drive. We are also in the first stages of setting up a locally-controlled hardship fund. Efforts are under way to make this more than just a tired and routine one-day set-piece.

Nor are we unique in this respect. A number of organising meetings have taken place across the country to discuss ways to "generalise the strike." The idea that this must be more than just a one day strike, and that it must be more than just civil and public servants, teachers and lecturers involved is taking hold and spreading.

As far as I can see, it is unlikely that June 30th will become a general strike in the understood sense. However, we can turn it into a social strike through the use of widespread direct action. UK Uncut are currently focused on Saturday's actions over the NHS, but I hope they will be out on the day, doing what they do best. I hope the local groups campaigning to save Sure Start centres, libraries, etc, choose that day to organise pickets, occupations and blockades. I hope that school children continue the recent trend of leading their own walkouts and stand in solidarity with their teachers. I hope that disabled people continue to engage in disruptive direct action to draw attention to themselves.

In short, I hope and urge that on June 30th there is a widespread movement to inflict as much economic damage as possible. The attacks we face are coming at us as a class, and our resistance should not be divided into categories or single issues. After all, an injury to one is an injury to all!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Workfare the Future says GMB Union

The following is reposted from the Unemployment Movement. It's something that needs wider attention because it shows the GMB leadership up as nothing less than scabs, taking the side of the bosses and the ruling class. Such a fact cannot be ignored.

Paul Kenny, unelected leader of a scab union
The GMB union with the work program provider Kennedy Scot has this week thrown its whole weight behind `Workfare`, with revelations it is promoting heavily the draconian model used by America to the coalition government.

Unions as a general rule have distanced themselves from workfare but the National Union of General and Municipal Workers (GMB) in its first unprincipled jaunt into the fray of a condemned policy has through a report called `Welfare to Work in the 21st Century` (PDF) made recommendations that the Department of Works and Pensions pilots a US welfare-to-work programme developed by America Works.

The report authored by the University of Portsmouth and accountancy firm PKF, is notable by its lack of any real content and exceptional by the fact that amongst its four authors are two criminologists; which highlights the disjunction between criminality and how the unemployed are associated. This association is not lost on the company being promoted as `American Works` primarily works with the hardest to help: offenders, disabled and long-term unemployed, who are vilified in the UK`s press.

Describing the company `America Works` as `Innovative` at the launch of its report in the House of Lords the GMB placed heavy emphasis on the company placing over 200,000 US citizen into employment, replete was the fact that this is the number since 1984. The spin doctoring of its success is not however wasted on the American press who have questioned the cost-effectiveness of this company along with its troubled history in other cities, apart from it much vaunted success in New York.

In a statement Paul Kenny, Secretary General, GMB has said “The GMB is looking at how best to support both our members who are facing redundancy as the public sector cuts bite and those suffering the scourge of long term unemployment. We welcome the idea of pilots across the country to evaluate how best to do this.”

Losing membership as a precursor to this move into workfare could well seem self-serving but ignores the body of evidence available that besides providing cheap labour and subsidizing employers, workfare takes jobs away from other workers and serves as a mechanism for keeping wages down and profits up. Not principles generally associated with unions, however if the management is trying to placate its masters it will suit the business world and the politicians just fine.

UPDATE: It seems that, to their credit, the rank-and-file of the GMB have forced a U-turn out of their leaders. Though this is welcome, it in no way exonerates the cretinous leadership for supporting the government's attacks on welfare in the first place.

A diatribe on rape and its apologists

In an interview with the BBC, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke referred to "serious rape," as though it were a distinct category of sexual assault. Though he later tried to save himself by insisting that "all rape is serious," this kicked up a storm which inspired calls for him to he be sacked. Which, naturally, encouraged the wingnuts to weigh in.

Richard Littlejohn decided to tell us that "the confected, hysterical reaction to [Clarke's] remarks was frankly typical of the debasement of political debate in this country." Yup, that's right - the drivelling moron behind the most incoherent novel ever written is lecturing us about the level of political debate in Britain. But, irony aside, more important is that this vile misogynistic cretin is lecturing women (sorry, "the self-appointed Boadiceas of feminism") on rape.

Wouldn't you know, whilst he's got "no doubt that the victims of the most violent attacks ... carry their trauma with them for the rest of their days," he's equally certain that most cases of rape can be boiled down to a woman being "so sloshed she can’t remember whether or not she consented." With such a false binary built up, it is then very easy to say that "there are varying degrees of so-called ‘rape’, deserving of different punishments." Because "there’s a world of difference between a violent sexual assault at the hands of a complete stranger, or gang of strangers, and a subsequently regretted, alcohol-induced one-night stand."

Peter Hitchens takes the same tack. "Some rapes ARE worse than others. There, I've said it," reads his headline. He's daring us liberal PC-fetishists to shout him down, you see. Something that doesn't exist called "revolutionary feminism" has apparently "scared most politicians, most judges, most journalists, most civil servants – and most people – into accepting its nasty dogmas." Except, of course, the highly paid columnists of one of the most widely read newspapers in Britain. How brave they are, dominating the comment pages and reaching far more people than the most revolutionary of feminists even whilst living in a country under the iron heel of feminazism. Or something.

Anyway, he too argues that rape more often means "a dispute about consent, often between people who are already in a sexual relationship." By contrast, only "the forcible abduction and violation of a woman by a stranger" is serious and to give other acts the same label is to dilute the crime.

The reason that I haven't yet commented on this is because it pisses me off. It's not a "debate." It's not "contentious." It's not "a matter of opinion." It is reactionary vomit spewed out by two highly-paid shitbags so thick that they believe rape by someone you know is not a big issue yet will argue that people disagreeing with them and voicing that opinion amounts to censorship. Even as they not only have a weekly platform for their opinions but are fucking paid for them.

This is not to mention the MEP Roger Helmer deciding that the victim of a date rape is culpable for "establishing reasonable expectations in her boyfriend’s mind." Yup, apparently once a man gets enough blood into his cock he becomes "unable to restrain himself" and so he is "not always equally culpable" as stranger danger. The lesson being that he should "expect a much lighter sentence" and the woman should perhaps learn to not get "cold feet." You know, man up and just take it - after all, men can't be expected to go beyond primal instincts and behave like highly evolved sentient beings or anything!

It utterly boggles my mind that some people cannot get this concept through their thick skulls. Rape is a sexual act performed on another without their consent or against their will. No exceptions.

This counts if they are a complete stranger or your closest friend. Whether they are sober or so drunk that they can't see straight. Whether they are running away from you or changed their mind just before you were about to leap into bed. Whether they are wearing a full burkha or are butt naked.

There are no "degrees," and if you'd happily pin somebody down and force yourself inside them after they beg you not to just because you have a hard-on, this is not getting carried away. It is you being a vicious, worthless fuck so devoid of morality or empathy that you believe there are people in this world who exist only for your gratification whether they like it or not. You are a vile cretin and the world would be better off if you spontaneously combusted.

Peter Hitchens and Richard Littlejohn are odious, hateful men. This is not a novel condition. But they are paid a lot of money to be so odious and hateful - and more importantly to reach a national audience with such views.

This is part of the reason we live in a country where half of women think rape victims are sometimes "asking for it." Which, of course, does nothing to alter a situation where so few rapes are punished in court and victims are treated as perpetrators. Such views need to be challenged, no matter how much the mouthpieces for such hate piss and moan about it.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

That whole Ryan Giggs thing

Of late, the injunction taken by a Premiership Footballer - now revealed as Ryan Giggs - to hide his affair with a reality TV "star" has set a debate raging over free speech and privacy.

It goes without saying that I couldn't care who's shagging who in celebdom. It's the kind of non-story that dominates the news to distract from more pressing issues. Plus, when I do want detachment from reality I'd much rather watch something like Game of Thrones.

That said, when Giggs went beyond the press and tried to censor Twitter, it caught my attention. Firstly, it was a truly idiotic thing to do and it's little surprise that it backfired spectacularly. But that was also when it occurred that there may be broader consequences to it than a footballer trying to hide where his knob goes.

David Allen Green has put forward the best written argument for this being a privacy issue. In the New Statesman, he says that "the environment for the practical legal protection for personal privacy has changed" and that "this may not necessarily be for the better." However, I'm disinclined to agree with him. After all, for the victims of websites like Redwatch, or those subjected to trial by media - such as Chris Jeffries in the Joanna Yeates murder case or the original (innocent) suspects in the James Bulger trial, who were hounded out of their homes after the actual killers were arrested - this point has long since come and gone.

I'm more inclined to agree with Nat over at Forty Shades of Grey, who sums up why the worrying precedent was set not by those who violated the injunction, but by the one who sought it;
1) When you act like a selfish cunt and then selfishly go to get an injunction using s.8 of the Human Rights Act 1998, you're helping to develop this judge-made law further and have it apply to more and more situations, just to suit your needs. That's all well and good for you, but what about if the law that you helped extend is then used to censor something that undeniably is in the public interest - like the Trafigura case? Then people get hurt. People get really hurt. Not like 'my husband is porking a z-list celebrity' hurt, but physically hurt. And you helped that.

2) If you eventually do succeed in forcing Twitter to hand over the details of anonymous users that apparently broke your injunction, then (aside from it being insanely hypocritical) you've potentially made it so that Twitter can be forced by other companies and agencies to give out details, because of the whole 'judicial/persuasive precedent' thing. I'm going to assume that you were too busy bumping uglies with wannabes to pay attention to current affairs, but there's been a lot of civil uprising recently, and a lot of it has been brought to attention via Twitter. Now, if you get your way, and Twitter are forced to give up the details, what's to stop other agencies using it? What's to stop the government getting the details of everyone who talks about protests on Twitter and using the pre-arrest tactic more often? What's to stop governments that are a bit more torture-happy from getting details of protesters from Twitter?

Sunday, 22 May 2011

A conversation with a homeless ex-soldier

Whilst at the Spanish solidarity protest which I reported in my last post, there was an incident which - for me - brought home the depth of the problems we currently face. I've been running over it in my head since it happened, and I'd like to share some thoughts here.

Firstly, the incident itself. I was sitting with others in a circle in Williamson Square when a man wandered into the middle and started having a go at those gathered. "People like you make me sick," he said, "why don't you do something for this country? Why don't you fight for your country, like I did?" Hearing this, I stood up, wary of a possible confrontation. Most people looked on, unsure of how to respond. The man kept moving around the circle, uttering similar sentiments.

A comrade from UK Uncut moved in to defuse the situation, taking him aside and asking him what he wanted. It transpired that he was a beggar, after money to buy some food, so the comrade gave him some change. The man took it and moved out of the circle. But as he came back past, he shouted a few more times before moving away.

At this point, I stepped out of the circle myself and approached him. When he turned to me, there were tears in his eyes. He told me that he didn't really have anything against those protesting, but he was just really angry. It transpired that he was a soldier, discharged with disabilities relating to a gunshot wound. He had been made homeless and, whilst the Job Centre had told him he was unemployable, he was unable to get any disability benefits for his condition. "I fought for this country," he said, "I got shot, and in return they've abandoned me."

This was the source of his frustration and his anger, but it quickly became clear that he had nobody to aim it at. As we talked, he compared his position to "Lithuanians being taken on as cheap labour," "Spaniards coming over here and getting given a £2 million house," and so forth.

I argued that this wasn't the case, and that he was in the position he was in because the government had screwed him over. I talked about the pickets we had done of Atos Origin and of the similar things happening to disabled people. My point, ultimately, was that "the government and the press want us all at each others' throats on the basis of race, nationality, and so on. But it's them - the politicians, the bosses, the landlords - who are screwing us all over and who we need to fight against."

There was some agreement, and he kept apologising for his behaviour to those protesting. I told him not to worry about it. He had every right to be angry, even if he'd chosen the wrong target, and I just wished he had a way to do something about it. But there was one thing he said which really got to me: "I wish I could kill myself. If I wasn't afraid of death, I'd end everything."

That, for me, summed up the absolute despair and desperation that capitalism offers those on the lowest rung of the ladder. That section of society which isn't just disenfranchised or under attack, but has been entirely swept under the carpet.

For them, talk of solidarity and fighting back is an abstract thought of which they don't have the luxury. They are trapped in an existence which sees them begging for enough money to buy some food at McDonald's. These are the people who show up the idea of defending the status quo, or seeking only slight reforms for a "nicer" capitalism for the limited and absurd notion that it is. If we are merely fighting to keep things as they are, we are fighting to keep such people bound to poverty and misery.

This doesn't mean accepting the government's attacks, or the erosion of 150 years of hard-won rights and concessions, of course. But it does mean that keeping things as they are should not be the limits of our imagination, lest we utterly abandon those who have nothing to defend. If empowered to do so, it is those on the bottom of the social pile who will fight with the greatest passion and energy, unrestrained by a contentment with the status quo. If there is a living embodiment of that statement, it is the shack dwellers' movement of South Africa. Until such movements of the lowest and most dis-empowered are growing everywhere, the lowest layers of society will have no voice.

But all of these thoughts came afterwards. As I wished the man good luck, and he went off to apologise to those he had attacked, all I could feel was an overwhelming sense of futility. He spent his days begging in order to afford a sandwich, and I had nothing to offer him except a few useless words. We will know that we have gotten somewhere when that reality begins to change.

The Spanish Revolution comes to Liverpool

Today, there was a demonstration in Liverpool City Centre in support of the uprising in Spain. The brainchild of Spanish students, the event had been organised at the last minute and not widely publicised. After finding out about it on Twitter last night, I decided to check it out.

When I arrived in Williamson Square, I discovered a small group of people gathered between the Liverpool FC shop and the water fountain. Some were busy sticking flags and home-made signs to steel railings. Others constructed or wrote on more signs, and very quickly a few messages became a wall of solidarity for Spain - and also for Greece and Italy, as their flags hung alongside Spain's whilst students from those countries distributed leaflets detailing what has inspired the spreading wave of protests across Europe.

I spoke to a man whose girlfriend was a Spanish student. He explained to me how she and others had come up with the idea for the event on Friday, inspired by the plans for similar events in London and around Britain. As we talked, a crowd grew and before long there were upwards of fifty people present, not too shabby for a demo organised on two days' notice.

It was also noteworthy that almost all of those involved were Spanish, and certainly not recognisable as any of the same faces you see at every protest and demo in the city. In fact, the only people there who could be described as "regulars" in activism were two of us from Liverpool Solidarity Federation and a small bunch of teenagers involved in UK Uncut. Anarcho-syndicalists and youth with no particular deference to the traditional hierarchies of the left arguably fitting into the event with far more ease than a stall staffed by old Trots living on well-worn formulas for theory and action ever could.

This may be reflective of the greater level of anti-authoritarianism in Spanish culture, and the ¡Democracia Real Ya! movement's rejection of collaboration from political parties or labour unions. A statement by the Spanish CNT backs this position up by noting that "these groups are even more afraid than the government of losing the small amount of legitimacy that they have left in the minds of some citizens."

Of course, this doesn't mean that there aren't things to be critical of in the current wave of protests. The CNT have noted the contradictions within the movement, many of which were evident today.

For example, a leaflet given out in Liverpool quotes ¡Democracia Real Ya!'s "manifesto." This contains, alongside a number of radical and even revolutionary sentiments, ideas that are calling for little more than a tweaking of the status quo. For example, the idea that "politicians should be bringing our voice to the institutions, facilitating the political participation of citizens" or talk of "consumer rights." As the CNT point out, "overcoming the two-party system and gaining a modification to the Electoral Law will not make us freer, nor will it favour individual sovereignty." For that, we must go further and recognise that "the politicians do not represent us, nor do we need them."

Similar contradictions are evident in the much more fledgling radical movement in Britain. Actions are far more radical than the words that back them up, whilst revolutionary sentiments are tempered by the illusion that, somewhat modified, the current system can serve our needs.

That said, such contradictions and the process of overcoming them are to be expected as political consciousness and a culture of resistance grows. We learn by practice, talking and arguing out our ideas, engaging in action, and seeing how far we can go. There is no formula or blueprint for revolution and even the theory is something to be engaged with rather than confined to dusty books.

The main focus of today's demonstration was a circle of people sitting on the ground, sharing their ideas and their reasons for being there. In a significant sense, there was no real knowledge or expectation of how the event would pan out. Signs were held up and masks worn, but there were only brief periods of chanting which quickly gave way to groups of people talking among themselves. At the end, the circle didn't so much break up as gradually disintegrate. Fortunately, before this happened there was an exchange of emails and contact details as well as some discussion on where to go next.

This is the important point. For all the contradictions and inexperience that may be evident, we are seeing the birth (or rebirth) of mass movements across the globe. In times of crisis and austerity, people are pulling together and learning once more how to act on their own behalf. That, alone, is worth celebrating.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Rhythms that carry

Last night, I attended Liverpool 1911- A City on the Edge 'Rhythms that Carry'. Taking place as part of the Writing on the Wall festival, it was an exploration of the broad tendencies and influences on Liverpool in 1911 as well as a look at where we are now, 100 years later.

The event was split into two halves. First, a talk by Steve Higginson and Tony Wailey on the sprawling tensions of Liverpool 1911 and the influence of wider cultural, educational and musical movements on the Liverpool General Transport Strike. This was followed by an open session for questions and contributions from the crowd, largely a discussion over these various issues but also of how they relate to the present.

Of late, 1911 has held an increasing fascination for me. Not least because it, and the period of the Great Unrest within which it occurred, have breathed life into a period rendered dull and dry by history textbooks.  If I were to go purely on what I was taught at school, I would believe that noth much of import happened between the Great Exhibition and World War One. This is always the case, of course, official history being written from the perspective of the ruling class and the class antagonisms that defined eras largely buried. As both a history geek and a working class militant, it's thus always interesting to unearth such hidden histories.

Looking at that year, and the surrounding timeframe, we see the truism that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It was noted, both in the main talk and in the on the open discussion, that a sense of solidarity and collective strength existed then that doesn't really exist now. Hence why, as different sections of the working class came out on strike in a wave, those who had already won concessions were able to declare that they wouldn't go back in until the next group had won - and so on.

It was a strength that not only brought Liverpool to a standstill, but put the entire country on the brink of revolution. This is why it was a strength to which the government's response was soldiers on the streets and a warship in the Mersey. A city under effective martial law, still able to win strikes.

But where that strength (or rather, that awareness of strength) isn't around today, and where the ports and railroads no longer hold the strategic value that they once did, other things remain the same. The talk noted that this period in history represented the birth of "speed up capitalism" - a notion amply demonstrated by a clip from the film Modern Times by Charlie Chaplin - who was educated and who danced in Liverpool prior to 1911.

Today, the same repressive conditions parodied by Chaplin, monitored every second on the job and even as he went to the toilet, will be most familiar to call centre workers. We have in the last thirty years seen a return to a similar level of casualised work as there was in 1911. But now, without the same level of class consciousness and active solidarity.

We also have, as was the case then, an extremely top-down trade union movement slow to react to the interests of workers and a burgeoning, militant rank-and-file looking to act for themselves.

A case in point of this was the growing influence of anarchist and radical syndicalist tendencies upon Liverpool. Liverpool dock worker James Larkin was at the forefront of calling for more democratic trade unions, whilst Liverpool seafarers who came under the influence of the Industrial Workers of the World on the New York Waterfront were central to the resurrection of the Seaman's Union.

James and Nellie Dick, respectively a Liverpool seafarer and an Eastern European immigrant, launched a short-lived "Modern School" in 1908, inspired by the free school model of Spanish anarchist Francisco Ferrer. It was Huyton-born Lenny Abbot who would take the movement to New York in 1911.

A more in-depth look at anarchism, and particularly anarcho-syndicalist tendencies in the Liverpool labour movement can be found in the book Building the Union: Studies on the growth of the workers' movement: Merseyside, 1756-1967. Key passages are reproduced by a comrade from Liverpool SolFed here.

The importance of these currents were summed up by Steve Higginson after the event was over. Referring to the Communist Party assessment of Liverpool as "an anarchic place where spontaneity and the flamboyant gesture are preferred to the disciplines of tactical thinking and planned interventions" and "an organiser's graveyard," he noted that "it was just a Communist organiser's graveyard" and that "anarchism was the big influence on 1911."

This is important because it offers hope today. It reminds us that libertarian values and rank-and-file organising are not new ideas but borne of a long and proud tradition. One that we can learn from, yes - the mistakes and failures as well as the successes, to build up a genuinely radical resistance today.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Another arrest for Liverpool BNP's Peter Tierney

BNP "super activist" and increasingly-unhinged lunatic Peter Tierney was arrested on Thursday. Details of the actual charge haven't yet emerged. However, according to the BNP website, it was in connection to him distributing a leaflet on the "Labour 25."

The Labour 25 is, allegedly, a roll call of 25 Labour Party officials or councillors guilty of sex offences.  The website is here, and I must stress that I cannot account for the veracity of the charges one way or the other. What I do note, though, is that the language used - with stresses on "Marxist" and "Zionist" all over the place - clearly denotes it as being the product of far-right nationalists.

The style of the latest post, in particular the flow of text being interrupted by hyperlinks, is very similar to that of a lot of articles posted on the Liverpool BNP blog indicating at least a crossover of the two groups. Thus, it is no surprise to hear that Tierney was giving out "Labour 25" leaflets.

Nevertheless, it remains true that the logic employed on the site is extremely flawed. From the original position that "there are 25 convicted paedophiles behind bars having had positions with the Labour Party," it goes on to wonder "how many more remain free as the Labour Party ignores the infection in their ranks." This is then tied into the "introduc[tion of] explicit sex education for 5 year olds" and "acceptances of homosexuality material [sic] also aim[ed] at primary school children."

All of the above gives the site's authors cause to ponder "are these grooming tactics brought into the curriculum by the Labour party" and "are paedophiles really becoming a protected species"? The answer to both of which, of course, is no.

The reality is that Britain doesn't have "explicit sex education for 5 year olds." Primary schools are in fact free not to offer any kind of sex education and parents can opt-out if they do. In fact, we're even lacking explicit education at an older age, as three in ten teenagers say they need more sex and relationships education. Far from being overloaded with information about sex, British children are largely ignorant of a lot of the important facts.

It is a common fallacy on the extreme right to assume that if a number from any given demographic do/have done something, then all within that group are guilty of the same. Hence 25 paedophiles being from the Labour Party (true or not) makes the Labour Party a party of paedophiles. Just as the existence of Asian gangs which groom and attack young girls makes "Muslim paedophiles" pretty much a tautology. However, for some reason, the existence of paedophiles in the BNP [1, 2, 3, 4] doesn't mean that all fascists are child abusers.

It is also important to note that the link the BNP/Labour 25 make between homosexuality and paedophilia is at best dubious. At worst, it is a deliberate distortion to engender and justify homophobia.

All of these notions fit in naturally with the standard practice of racist discourse (though it doesn't have to apply only to ethnic groups), where out-group hostility means applying common - usually negative - traits to all those of an enemy "tribe." Only the in-group are granted the privilege of any kind of individualism.

Such beliefs are long-held within fascist circles, and so it is no surprise to find the BNP promoting them. But it does show the depths to which a failed and imploding party have sunk, making something as profoundly horrific as child abuse into a party-political issue.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Quote of the day...

...has to be this point from John Redwood's Diary;
Occasionally I hear old rhetoric aimed against the Trade Unions. In the private sector that is a battle fought and decided years ago. There is no need for friends of management to demand tougher laws or to pursue an anti Union vendetta.

Trade Unions can be a good way for some  employees to organise their representation to management. They work best where there are large groups of employees doing the same or similar work with a graded pay structure. Modern well informed Trade Unions are not a soft touch,  nor are they business wreckers. They recognise the need for managers to manage, and recognise the need to generate revenues and  profits before discussing how to share them out.  They see the need to raise quality and efficiency if British companies are to survive and compete successfully in a very competitive world. There are fewer jobs from loss making or near bankrupt companies.
In the Thatcher government, John Redwood was head of Margaret Thatcher's policy unit in the 1980s. He oversaw the privatisation of the Telecoms industry. He was dubbed the "Pol Pot of privatisation" by the Yorkshire Post. So, why has this man chosen to speak out whilst the CBI are calling for tougher strike legislation?

The answer is that the CBI's call is the voice of a distinct and vocal reactionary element amongst the ruling class. Seeing growing unrest across the world in the face of austerity, poverty, or the class war more generally, they want to bludgeon to death the notion of any such thing happening here. That PCS conference endorsed a ballot for national strike action, and the possibility of coordinated strike action in the public sector looms, will only have exacerbated the fears driving this.

It has to be recognised that these fears are largely an over-reaction. It quickly becomes highly publicised, by this is largely because it makes good copy for the press and fits into their narrative. In short, it is a form of flak applied to a democratic rather than media body - keeping them in line, and laying the ground work for opposition if they step out of it.

Stepping back from reaction and propaganda, however, a more measured view from the ruling class sees something different.

Trade unions can be really useful channels of communication when you are managing a large workforce. When things go wrong, it is much easier to deal with union reps who can calm some of their wilder elements down, than with several hundred angry employees among whom a number of loose cannons could go off at any moment.

Many of the firms which brought in pay cuts and short time working during the recession were unionised. It is much, much easier to bring in changes to terms and conditions when you have a collective agreement. Without one, you have to hope that each person will accept the new terms and conditions. Ultimately, if they don’t, you have to sack and re-employ them, something which a lot of employers talk about doing but few actually do because it’s such a lot of aggro and it can sour employee relations for years.

As Redwood says, if you have built up good relationships with your unions, when things get tough they will, more often than not, work with you.
A case in point of this is the fact, as reported in the Evening Standard yesterday, that industrial action is at a record low.

On both the trade union side and the politician / management side, tough talk is part of the bluff and bluster needed to win votes and/or confidence from members or shareholders. But the reality is that trade unions are more often than not operating in partnership with management. This is why we will see the leaders negotiate sweetheart deals which sell out the rank-and-file. Partnership is incompatible with class antagonism.

Or, as Anton Pannekoek once put it, because they "sit in conferences with the capitalists, bargaining over wages and hours, pitting interests against interests, just as the opposing interests of the capitalist corporations are weighed one against another," trade union leaders "learn to understand the capitalist’s position just as well as the worker’s position; they have an eye for “the needs of industry”; they try to mediate." Thus, in fact, "the capitalist function of unions is to regulate class conflicts and to secure industrial peace."

Where the likes of Redwood veer back into dogma and propaganda is by claiming that such "peace" - and the low ebb in industrial unrest tells us we're getting there - is defined by the equivalent duty on employers to "to treat its employees with respect and give them sufficient scope to use their skills and improve their performance."

We know that this is not the case. The steady casualisation of labour over the last thirty years has seen wages decline as a percentage of GDP, often amounting to real-terms pay cuts when measured against inflation. We have seen an erosion of workers' rights which leaves many treated with utter contempt but not knowing how to fight back. It is almost certainly true that, with the coming cuts, the public sector is using industrial relations as a blunt instrument where the private sector is often more savvy and subtle. But this doesn't mean that the public sector will be better if it goes the way of the private sector. That way lies a race to the bottom.

For the ruling class, the task of public sector employers is "to have a strategy to lift the public sector’s achievement as an employer, whilst pushing through agreed changes to working practises that boost quality and output for any given level of resource put in."

For the working class, the task at hand is quite different. We need to rebuild the culture of resistance and class antagonism that we once had. Not to contrast the "militant employees" with the supposed "sensible majority," but to meet the steady decline of pay and conditions and rolling back of everything we've won with a serious fightback. Such a fightback will not come from gesture strikes, even a million strong.

It comes from a militant and well-organised rank-and-file movement, built from the ground up and in control of its own struggles. Such a thing cannot be built overnight, but it is long past time to abandon the broad lefts and official leadership. That the Pol Pot of privatisation is defending the current position of the trade unions demonstrates exactly how far we have to go.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

“We aren’t merchandise in the hands of politicians and bankers”

Thousands of Spaniards have occupied Puerta del Sol, Madrid's main square, in protest against unemployment, austerity, and government corruption. The sit-in is now in its fourth day, and continues to grow. Their slogan: “we aren’t merchandise in the hands of politicians and bankers.”

The attitude of the protesters appears to be one of angry defiance, with BBC News reporting that slogans include "violence is earning 600 euros", "if you don't let us dream we won't let you sleep" and "the guilty ones should pay for the crisis." The Washington Post quotes an unemployed man called Ines Bajo as saying "we the unemployed, the badly paid, the subcontracted in precarious jobs, the youth of Spain, want change and a future with dignity."

According to the CNT, "even with the contradictions that can be seen", the event shows the Spanish working class "follow[ing] the example of the popular classes in the Arab world." They also "call [people] out to the streets to denounce this irrational system and transform it radically" in favour of "solidarity, mutual aid, direct action and self-management."

Certainly, as in Egypt, those involved have not only taken over a square of land but "have set up citizens' committees to handle communications, food, cleaning, protest actions and legal matters," according to the BBC.

Despite the ruling from the election board that there is no justification for the gathering and that there may be grounds for the police to disperse it, it looks as though it will have staying power. There is certainly enough anger and desperation to see people resist any attempts at eviction. At the same time, speculation that these protests alongside the organised lawlessness in Greece may spell the collapse of the Euro provide an economic incentive to the authorities for their hasty destruction.

It is far too early to judge how effective the action in Spain will be as a tool of class struggle. But what is clear is that there is potential here. There are contradictions in the emerging movement, but that is to be expected. What is important is that we are seeing something genuinely radical, beyond the single-day set piece of the recent general strike. Let's hope it goes somewhere.

More reports can be found here and real-time updates can be seen on Twitter via #spanishrevolution.