Monday, June 30, 2008

Support Tube Cleaners

Anyone available in London tomorrow (Tuesday) evening who wants to support the striking Tube cleaners - and, let's face it, why wouldn't you? - please gather at Kings Cross station at 7pm. Bring a banner if you have one, but most of all, bring yourself.

More info on the strike here.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Save Our Old Town Street Party Cancelled

Street party organisers see red over Orange march blunder

Published Date: 28 June 2008


A STREET party planned for today has been cancelled after organisers were told at the last minute it clashed with an Orange march.

Hundreds of people were expected to attend the community event in the Canongate, which has been planned since April.

But council officials failed to notice until last week that the annual march had already been given permission on the same day. Around 420 people from the John Knox District Lodge No. 5 are set to march through the city centre this afternoon.

The Canongate Community Forum said it had no choice but to cancel the event. Organisers had already spent hundreds of pounds on planning the party, and had expected several hundred people to attend.

City centre SNP councillor David Beckett said he was writing to the council to complain and ask for compensation.

He said: "This is really disappointing.The thing that really annoys me is they knew about the Orange walk in March. I can understand the organisers' frustration. It was only last Friday that they decided that the street party couldn't go ahead."

The Canongate Community Forum had planned the party to coincide with the closure of its office on St Mary's Street, as well as celebrating the beginning of the school summer holidays.

Chairwoman Catriona Grant said members could not believe it when they were told last week of the double booking.

She said: "We did everything correctly. We applied for permission in April, and we've been in correspondence with the council since then. We'd already spoken to the chief constable about the road closures. Then they said there had been an oversight, and the Orange march had already been agreed.

"They tried to persuade us to move up East Market Street, or finish earlier. But the marchers will be disembarking at about 3.30pm, and we didn't want to be squeezed on to a little bit of ground outside the council headquarters.

"We've already spent hundreds of pounds on booking the bouncy castle and other entertainments. We're not a big organisation."

A council spokeswoman said: "During the summer period there is an extremely busy schedule of events in the city.

"In this case as soon as a the clash was noted a compromise was offered. This meant the street party would have moved one block down the street and the assembly point for the march would have also been moved. Unfortunately the street party organisers were not happy with this."

RMT Annual General Meeting report part 1

Writing that report on RMT's AGM is taking a while, so I'll post some tasters now and finish the story tomorrow (hopefully).

This is the first time I've been a delegate to RMT's AGM, but not being the shy, retiring type, I had a hatful of resolutions to propose, and something to say on several others.

Industrial issues that reached the conference included refusal to work on the grounds of safety, short-notice duty changes and, of course, the Tube cleaners' fight for decent pay and conditions. Resolutions on staff assaults, lethal Unimog machines and pensions all attracted a lot of support although little controversy.

There was certainly controversy on Israel / Palestine, where I proposed a resolution calling for support for the Palestinians and an independent Palestine alongside Israel, condemning Hamas, and proposing solidarity campaigning rather than boycotts. The issue of contention was the boycott, which existing RMT policy supports and which Bob Crow vigorously defended in opposing the resolution. The resolution was carried with a big majority, and I look forward to helping the union put it into action.

The AGM heard John McDonnell give a thorough report on the work of the union's Parliamentary group. I complimented him on his defence of abortion rights and recorded my disappointment at the few members of the Parliamentary group who voted the wrong way.

Later that day (Thursday), the union agreed to take steps forward to assert working-class political representation, passing this resolution proposed by my good self.

More later ...

Pic: The five (count 'em) women delegates.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Off for a few days

No posts from me until Monday.

I'm off to meet Dave in a Paris hotel room as he makes his way back from swanning around Africa in a corporate jet;-)

I think Janine is going to post on the RMT conference, but treat this post as an open one. Chat amongst yourselves .


Round up : Nadine Dorries and the HFE Bill, The home secretary telling Iranian Gays to get in the closet and shock horror two men kiss on TV

A round up of reactionaries, a carnival of them perhaps !

First off it seems Nadine Dorries is putting up another amendment, even though all the ones cutting the rights of women were defeated in the Commons. The F Word has the story :

A colleague has just informed me that Nadine Dorries MP has again used the HFE Bill to table another amendment to the Abortion Act to restrict access by lowering the time limit to twenty weeks from twenty-four.

The Bill has finished its second reading and is awaiting a date for the Report Stage. Evan Harris MP has tabled two amendments to expand abortion rights and my colleague believes that Nadine Dorries has issued her amendment as a reaction to force another debate at the third reading of the Bill.

Next, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has said that if gay people are 'discreet ' then they won't be persecuted in Iran :

Gay and lesbian asylum-seekers can be safely deported to Iran as long as they live their lives "discreetly", the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has claimed.

In a letter to a Liberal Democrat peer, seen by The Independent, Ms Smith said there was no "real risk" of gay men and lesbians being discovered by the Iranian authorities or "adverse action" being taken against those who were "discreet" about their behaviour.

... in her letter to Lord Roberts of Llandudno, Ms Smith rejected a call for an immediate halt to the deportation of gay and lesbian asylum seekers. "We recognise that the conditions for gay and lesbian people in Iran – and many other countries – are such that some individuals are able to demonstrate a need for international protection," she wrote. "We do not, however, accept that we should make the presumption that each and every asylum-seeker who presents themselves as being of a particular nationality or sexuality, regardless of their particular circumstances, should automatically be ... allowed to remain in the UK.

She added: "With particular regard to Iran, current case law handed down by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal concludes that the evidence does not show a real risk of discovery of, or adverse action against gay and lesbian people who are discreet about their sexual orientation."

Gay campaign groups estimate that 4,000 Iranians have been executed because of their sexuality since the late 1970s. Ms Smith suggests it is far fewer.

Hmmm, so would 1000 or 2000 be OK?
And why should LGBT hide their sexuality and live in fear of being discovered. It seems to imply its some sort of luxury , I mean would she suggest to a black person who faced oppression due to their skin colour that they paint themselves white? Who knows with New Labour . Looking back to this country when gay sex was illegal, where at least LGBT people were not executed, there were many living miserable 'pretend'lives in fear of discovery.In Iran the stakes are higher .

Right, now on to the heinz ad story:

The corporation decided to withdraw the light-hearted Deli Mayo commercial within days of its launch because it was "listening to its consumers".

The Advertising Standards Authority said yesterday that it had received 202 objections from viewers, a high number in such a short time but that total is only a quarter of the complaints that came in for a Volkswagen Polo advertisement that drew accusations of cruelty after it featured a shivering dog outside a car.

The ASA said viewers had complained that the Heinz scene depicting two men giving each other a quick kiss goodbye was "offensive", "inappropriate" and "unsuitable to be seen by children". The jokey commercial depicts a classic morning scene at a family home as the children pick up their sandwiches for school. "Mum", however, has been replaced by a male New York deli worker clad in a chef's hat and apron. As the father of the house grabs his sandwich and bids goodbye with the words "See you tonight, love", the deli worker looks affronted.

"Hey, ain't you forgetting something?" he says as the father returns to give him a peck on the lips, calling after him: "Love you. Come straight home from work, sweet cheeks."

A spokesman for the ASA said it has yet to decide whether to investigate if the commercial breached its rules, adding: "Homosexuality in itself is not a breach but they could look at it from the point of view of taste and decency."

Taste and decency !! They weren't fisting on national children's TV ffs , it was a quick kiss . Why does it bother people so much. There are lots of adverts of heterosexual kissing and many a lot more sexualised . The advert actually played up to stereotypes in that the 'mum' was the one feeding the kids and kissing goodbye to hubby as he headed off to work.

It may come as a shock but not everyone lives in suburbia with 2.4 children in a heterosexual marriage with a good ol' fashioned mum in the kitchen. Lesbian and gay people can be parents too.

Heinz stated :

Nigel Dickie, a spokesman for Heinz UK, said the Deli Mayo ad was intended as "a humorous take on a slice of life" but the company had decided to pull it last week, before the ASA complaints, because of "consumer feedback".

Nope thats not consumer feedback, that's 200 bigots . Oh and the advert was not shown during children's TV, not that I see that as a problem, because the product is unhealthy! There is a boycott of heinz being organised;wonder if they listen to those consumers.

Pic : Stonewall campaign poster

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How the left should resolve their problems

After much serious thought on the subject I have come up with the answer to all the squabbles on the left. I considered serious political theoretical and strategic discussion but decided to cut to the chase, yep all the old bitter battles as to who did what in 1981 or more recent spats with the SWP could be settled by a cage fight.

Apparently :

The fighting style itself is a physically gruelling mixture of wrestling and martial arts where almost anything goes. Only biting, clawing, gouging, and low blows to the genitals are forbidden. Unlike commercial wrestling leagues, there are no dummy punches or special clickers in the shoes to make it sound like a blow has been landed. Like boxing, a winner defeats their opponent either by knocking them out or on judges' point-scoring. Pinning down one's adversary also works.

No more arguing the toss over who has the correct line and quoting obscure Marxist theory, no more rehashing old feuds , just a good old fashioned fight.

So, who would you like to see in a cage fighting ?


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

London Underground Cleaners Strike

Janine I'm sure would normally post on this, but as she is away i'll give a plug to the strike and action to support it.

Info via a Face book group:

On 26 June and 1-2 July, more than 700 cleaners on London Underground, organised in the RMT union, will be going on strike for

- At least £7.20 per hour, the minimum London living wage set by the GLA last year;
- Full sick pay;
- Final Salary Pensions;
- 28 days annual leave plus bank holidays (at the moment some cleaners only two weeks);
- Free travel;
- An end to third party sackings - this is the practice of cleaners being dismissed with no disciplinary hearing or right of appeal at the order of parties other than the employer.

The comrades voted for a strike by over 99%!

These low-paid, mainly migrant workers are organising alongside other workers on the Tube to take on the London Underground bosses and the multinational cowboy contractors they hire. They are an inspiration to all workers and activists fighting back against exploitation and oppression.

RMT members are planning meetings, demos, leafleting and other activities to support the strike.

What you can do:

- Get involved in this activity, leafleting etc;
- Come to a picket line, and if you can bring a delegation from your union branch, workplace, SU, campaigning group etc;
- Invite a speaker to your organisation;
- Make a donation to the strike fund (details soon);
- Send a solidarity message to

If you want to do any of this, or help out in some other way email

For more information, see the Tubeworker blog, run by socialist activists in the RMT


Monday, June 23, 2008

The rise of the BNP and the left's reaction

London Richard Barnbrook drew 69,710 first preference votes and 128,609 second ones in the Mayoral election in May. He then went on to gain the first BNP seat on the London Assembly.

The BNP are gaining respectability and are successfully capitalising on the disillusionment with New Labour amongst core working class voters , which is what the left is failing to do. Its no good shouting fash or nazi when The Independent give spreads to Barnbrook, we need to think tactically and cleverer. We need a united campaign, putting aside sectarian squabbles. Surely the May elections were a wake up call ?

So the SWP, through the front organisation of UAF call a demo. One that walks miles through deserted streets, at one point passing through a tunnel which seems to have no light at the end of it , a metaphor for the left commented Dave to me.

I looked around me and saw a mix of old trots and students, mainly white. Many of the usual suspects were not present. Respect had a banner and a few members such as Liam.The Socialist Party were there as were the Sparts. Yes there were lots of unions banners but I'm not clear how much real backing there was.

It was noisy in parts, especially when going through said tunnel. But the streets were mainly quiet and it was nowhere near the upcoming by elections being contested by the BNP in Chadwell Heath (Barking & Dagenham) and South Hornchurch (Havering).

It seems the repercussions of the Respect split are still being felt and many did not want to build for what was seen as an SWP event . The SWP have their demo, others go leafletting and both take pops at each other over at Liam's in the comments. There seems to be a little glee from some commentators at the fact the SWP did not pull off a successful demo . The SWP meanwhile seem to be incapable of learning any lessons and seem to be in full on denial mode. Yep its a running joke that the SWP double the figures for marches, but to state :

Up to 10,000 people took to the streets of London today to join the national march against the fascist British National Party

is pure fantasy . 2,000 is much more like it and I wish it had been more. To state up to 10,000 is just stupid and fooling no one.

Over at Liam's, in what was a good post on the demo and ways forward, the SWP and Respect lot snarl at each other like a couple after a nasty divorce and the left are a bit like the kids, caught in the cross fire and suffering from the bitterness all around.

If the BNP wanders over to some of the left blogs and read this they will be laughing. They have got their act together whilst we snipe.

This shouldn't be about building the Party, paper selling or fighting each other. Its the BNP we should be fighting and we owe it to those who will suffer the most as they gain seats and credibility while we lose ours.

Pic courtesy of Paddy the Puritan.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

RMT AGM and New Website

I'm off to RMT's AGM (conference) today. I'm not sure what access I will get to the internet while I'm there, so will make no promises on blogging.

In the meantime, my fellow RMT London Underground station and revenue staff reps and I last week launched our new website, RMT Platform. It is primarily aimed at our members, but I think other trade unionists and lefties should take a look too. It is always worth seeing what each other are doing with this kind of thing, to compare notes and get ideas. Register for an account and you can get an even closer look.

I have to say that I am really quite excited about this website. I'm even more excited about the fabulous strike ballot result that our Tube cleaner members delivered on Thursday, which you can read about on the RMT Platform website!

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Hopi weekend school

I wasn't able to make the weekend school, but I notice on the Hopi website there is a clip of John McDonnell speaking. It looks like his full speech and more clips will be put up soon.

The left needs to make more use of video and audio clips , as Mod often tells us! He is right though, not everyone can make events for all sorts of reasons and we need to be creative about ensuring the widest possible audience.


Compass conference

Been too tired and busy to post on the Compass conference as promised.

Haven't really got anything to add to what Dave said .

Compass have put the main bits online, so check it out and let me know what you think in the comments .


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cuba Scraps Equal Pay

One story this month that seems have slipped quietly under many lefties' radar is that Cuba has scrapped its 'equal pay' system and brought in performance-related pay.

Deputy labour minister Carlos Mateu Pereira said that the new policy would enable Cuba to conform to “the socialist principle of distribution, wherein each person receives according to his or her contribution, that is: pay for quantity and quality.” Oddly, I thought that the relevant 'socialist principle' here was 'from each according to ability, to each according to need'. Perhaps I should not have opposed my employer bringing in a performance-related bonus in our most recent pay deal after all.

The 'equal pay' rule probably meant, in practice, equally low pay, and I doubt there was ever genuine income equality between a factory worker and a member of the Castro family.

But this latest development must surely underline that the left and the labour movement should take a more critical attitude to the Cuban regime, and should direct its solidarity to Cuban workers rather than to their rulers.

We oppose policies such as performance-related pay in Britain, so why support or remain silent about it in Cuba?

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Quick catch up on Compass and Hopi

I'm not at my laptop for a few days, so just a quick post. I went to Compass on Saturday and popped into the Hopi social. Its the sort of opposite of having a shower when feeling a bit grubby, after a day with clean cut Compassites I needed a night in the pub with stroppy lefties . Oh and gossip of course. Now what was that... something about popular fronts, TWags and initiation rites into the CPGB involving chocolate digestives ...

I wanted to do a report back but don't have time today. I'll do one, though a bit out of date by then, on Thursday. Meanwhile check out two posts, one a report and another looking wider at social democracy.

Meanwhile Jim has a good report of the Hopi weekend . I would have liked to have attended but due to a clash and having to get home on the Sunday I couldn't.
Jim highlights the nature of the debate :

One welcome element of the school was the utter civility and open mindedness of debate. I know this is not necessarily prized as a virtue among much of the left but for me I find it very helpful if I'm to be involved in anything. Despite the fact that there were some quite pronounced political disagreements among the participants the debate was always conducted in a thoughtful and respectful manner, and never along party lines or for point scoring. It's almost as if participants were listening and engaging with what each other had to say - unheard of!

That was very much my impression when I attended their event last year.

Check out the rest of at Jim's blog.

Pic Nothing to do with the post .

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Free Public Transport

The Scottish Socialist Party are having a week of action around the need for Free Public Transport to reduce CO2 emissions, to deal with rising fuel costs and to reduce pollution. Transportation should be a public issue NOT a private one.

As fuel prices soar and the cost of transport continues to increase, the
time has never been better to introduce free public transport across

At a stroke, thousands will benefit by saving hundreds of pounds a year in
transport costs, and thousands more will be given the incentive to cut car
journeys and help reduce pollution.

Roads will be safer, with communities less isolated, as not only will public
transport be free but services will be dramatically improved to make sure
people have access to reliable bus, train and ferry services when they need

Our bus and train services will need to be re-regulated and brought back
into public ownership. This will allow services to be integrated and to make
sure investment is there to improve services, not line shareholders’

At a cost of £1billion per year, you may think this is too expensive. But
road accidents alone cost £1.4billion per year, and it is estimated that
traffic congestion costs £15-£20billion a year. Free fares will also
increase the spending power of over a million workers by between £40 and
£100 a month.

It will be the biggest single pro-environmental policy enacted by any
government anywhere on the planet. By dramatically slashing car-use and CO2
emissions it will reduce Scotland’s reliance on depleting oil reserves and
help to reduce levels of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
As it is mainly people on low incomes who rely on public transport,
free-fares will eat into Scotland’s horrific levels of poverty.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flexible Working: A Small Change For The Better

It seems that the government has agreed to extend flexible working legislation to cover parents of kids up to the age of 16. As someone who proposed a resolution demanding this at TUC Women's Conference a while back, I'm pleased. The existing legislation, under which you could only request changes to your hours and location of work when your child was 5 or under (unless s/he is disabled) seemed to suggest that juggling the demands of work and children becomes a piece of piss on the day the littl'un turns six. Not.

Mind you, it remains merely a right to ask for flexible working, and employers retain the near-limitless right to say 'bugger off'. As with many employment laws, its usefulness in the workplace is limited by the weakness of the law itself, and also dependant on the strength of union organisation. In a non- or weakly-unionised workplace, the boss will feel free to say yes or no entirely on their own whim. But with a strong union, high membership level, and trained, confident reps well-integrated into an active branch, you have a much better chance of workers getting what they need.

I represent quite a number of union members in flexible working applications. You win some, you lose some. The legislation sets up the member to have to practically beg their manager to make adjustments to their working conditions that are actually no big deal for the company but mean the world to the worker. Sadly, you also frequently have to contend with resentment amongst the workforce, sometimes deliberately stoked up by managers. In a shiftwork industry, workers can get to believing that if someone gets, for example, daytime weekday shifts, then that's not fair on everyone else who has to do the dead-early starts, post-midnight finishes and weekends. Somehow, it gets forgotten that many flexible working applicants ask for shifts that most workers would consider anti-social, meaning that their workmates have to do these less often.

So this new change in the law is welcome, but does not not go nearly far enough. Workers need the right not just to ask for hours that fit our caring responsibilities but the right to get them. And to get them without causing detriment to other workers.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Can New Labour get any worse pt 2 ?

Just spotted this on John McDonnell's website :

Threat of Emergency Powers to be Invoked against Striking Tanker Drivers

I have said all I can on the issue of the 42 days vote in the Commons in an article today on the Guardian's website "Comment is Free." I can't get much angrier at the behaviour of the Prime Minister and the Labour MPs who supported this attack on human rights. But just after the vote on 42 days detention when you thought the assault on people's civil liberties couldn't get worse the Government has briefed the press that it is threatening to invoke emergency powers in the oil tanker drivers' dispute to draft in soldiers to drive the tankers and break the strike. The drivers are members of UNITE.

When the Government introduced the Civil Contingencies Act many of us warned that it would be used against trade unionists and this latest threat from Downing Street confirms the role emergency powers can be used to undermine trade union rights.

Just at a time when there are attempts to achieve a negotiated settlement to the tanker drivers' dispute this inflammatory threat will exacerbate the situation and undermine the potential for resolving the dispute.

If the troops are brought in by the Government the leadership of UNITE will need to consider seriously whether now is the time to call for solidarity action from other union members and other unions no matter what the current law says about the illegality of solidarity action.

Any more posts like this and i'll have to rename this blog grimmerdownsouth :-)

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Can New Labour get any worse ?

Well yes.

There has been lots of debate on the 42 days detention without trial vote in the commons last night.
I'll add only a little more .

First off what the fuck when New labour relies on Widdecombe and the DUP to get this through ,when the Tories can appear more 'left' than some Compass and LRC MPs.

Yep, Cruddas, Trickett and it appears some LRC supporting MPs ( I haven't had time to check the names ) are to the right of David Davies !

We are not talking radical leftie principles here, its basic civil liberties and yet in they trooped to prop up New labour when supposedly they believe its dying .

Civil liberties trashed .

But wait, it gets worse, via the F word

But it would never have happened without support from the DUP - according to the Telegraph, he secured this support by promising - among other things - not to end the ban on abortion in Northern Ireland.

Shaun Woodward, the Northern Ireland Secretary, assured the DUP that the Government had no plans to end the ban on abortion in the province. Abortion has never been legal in Northern Ireland, and women and girls seeking a termination often travel to the England for the procedure.

I wonder what they offered the Compass and LRC MPs ?

(Of course we shouldnt be involved in what happens in the North of Ireland, but given we are then its despicable that women's rights are so easily bargained away).


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Professional Trade Unionism

Lenin once referred to "that section of the middle class whose profession it is to organise trade unions". He was referring to (part of) the Labour Party leadership, but was also making an astute observation about who runs trade unions. In the hundred years since he said so, the notion of trade union organisation as a 'profession' has deepened, and blocks rank-and-file workers asserting control over our own unions.

On the couple of occasions in recent years when I was a delegate to TUC Congress, I was struck by the number of times I was asked, "Which union do you work for?". Having patiently explained that I don't work for a union, I work for an(other) employer, I am a member of a union and was elected by fellow members to represent them at the Congress, I think I was viewed as some kind of rare and quaint species. Congress, it seems, is a gathering of trade union professionals at which the occasional rank-and-file worker is permitted to intrude.

I was also struck by the number of people there who went straight from high office in the student movement to a job with a trade union, without pausing to actually work in that union's industry first. This may not be such a problem if such people were simply functionaries of the union, doing what they are told by elected bodies, but many wield significant power within the union and even voting and speaking rights at events such as TUC Congress.

The notion that unions need to be run by 'professionals' creates a gulf between the leadership and the rank-and-file, by putting out an idea that only a small elite are good enough to do the onerous work of negotiations, organising etc. This, of course, is nonsense - the ranks of our unions are stuffed full of talent, creativity, ideas, passion, skills, held back by bureaucracies unwilling to let the members get ideas above their station and challenge the right of the 'professionals' to run things.

So am I saying that unions should be gloriously unprofessional? Proudly amateurish? No. Trade unions should do high-quality organising and publicity work, they should prepare for and run negotiations with sound research and a serious attitude. They should ensure that every cog in the wheel of their organisation is well-oiled - that membership departments run efficiently and accurately, balloting procedures are followed to the letter, legal claims dealt with smartly, and so on. But this should be in the service of a rank-and-file-led union not of a well-fed 'professional' bureaucracy.

It is important for socialists and rank-and-file activists to assert that any office that holds significant power or authority within a trade union should be elected. As far as I know, the only unions which elect their Regional Organisers/Officers are ASLEF, CWU and RMT (apologies to any that I may have slurred by omission). And yet the holders of these offices have a huge say over industrial strategies, even over whether workers get to fight back at all. As I understand it, if you are in Unison and want to have a strike ballot in your workplace, you need the permission of the Regional Organiser - and extracting that appears to be quite a difficult task. When Hackney Council threatened to close my son's nursery in 2002, every nursery worker was a Unison member, they all wanted to strike, and they had the full support of the parents. Unison wouldn't let them. The nursery closed.

Starting late last century, many unions took on an 'organising agenda'. This was very welcome, helping to flatten out the fall in union membership and to unionise new workplaces and industries. However, much of it has been top-down. The TUC's contribution has been the Organising Academy, creating professional organisers often fresh from student-dom rather than from the shop floor. 'Organising' is often seen as a shortish-term blitz of resources to a particular workplace, centred around full-time organisers, which can succeed in signing up new members and getting a recognition agreement but often neglects the need to develop reps and activists, and to let them take the lead. Of course, if the aim is to organise a completely non-unionised workplace, then you need the initative to come from 'outside'. But that can be from rank-and-file workers in other parts of that industry or city as well as from full-time organisers, and the aim must be to put the newly-organised workers into the driving seat as soon as possible.

In addition, over-professional union organising can fall into the trap of organising by schedules and targets. I have heard several stories of workers keen to organise in their workplace only for the relevant union to brush them off because they were not on this month's list of target workplaces.

I'm currently reading a book about the US Teamsters union. A particularly interesting comment notes a shift in the approach to organising from a 'bottom-up' approach of convincing the workers to join and build the union, to a 'top-down' approach of persuading the employers to accept the union. It refers to a particular part of America in the 1920s and 30s, but is relevant and thought-provoking for today.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Hands Off The People Of Iran Weekend School

Info on the weekend :

On Saturday-Sunday, 14-15th June 2008 the Campaign Hands Off the People of Iran will hold a weekend school, in University of London Union, Malet Street to discuss issues regarding the threat of war, sanctions and various aspects of the opposition to the the rule of the theocracy, inside Iran.

The final timetable for the HOPI weekend school is now up. Also note that there will be a social event on Saturday evening just around the corner from the Smugglers Tavern, Warren Street, W1T 5ND.

The organisers hope the two day event will be informative and there will be plenty of time for debate.

Saturday 14th June 2008

Introduction: The threat of war
Mark Fischer, Hopi chair and Communist Party of Great Britain

The 1979 revolution and its aftermath
Torab Saleth, Workers Left Unity Iran

Message from Iranian students in Tehran

Lunch Break

13:30 - 15:30
The working class movements and their response to the economic crisis in Iran
David Mather
Amir Javaheri Langaroudi

speaker from inside Iran- Recent workers struggles in Iran

Coffee Break

War, human rights and ‘humanitarian interventions’
Prof Bill Bowring, author and lecturer at School of Law, Birkbeck College London
Mike Macnair, lecturer in law at Oxford University and CPGB

18.30 onwards: Social at the Smugglers Tavern, 28 Warren Street, W1T 5ND

Sunday 15th June 2008

message from women activists inside Iran

Christine Cooper

Lunch Break

John McDonnell (MP)

Iran, Israel and the Middle East and the nuclear question
Moshe Machover

Coffee Break

Can imperialism liberate women?
Azar Majedi, Hopi steering committee

17:00 - 18:00
Iran's national minorities- Baluchistan
Rahim Bandoui


Saturday, June 07, 2008

Iris Robinson MP suggests victim of homophobic attack seeks help for being gay !!

I despair sometimes, why can't god bothers stop worrying about what others do in bed. Pink News reports :

The wife of the First Minister of Northern Ireland has caused controversy with her born-again Christian outlook on life.

Iris Robinson is MP for Strangford and chairs the Northern Ireland Assembly's health committee .

Reacting to news that a man was viciously attacked because he is gay, she suggested that he should consider therapy to "cure" him of his homosexuality.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster today she condemned the attack on Stephen Smith but added:

"I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals trying to turn away from what they are engaged in.

"And I have met people who have turned around to become heterosexual."

This pisses me off in so many ways. For many years lesbian and gay people were seen as suffering from a psychiatric disorder and it was only in 1973 that it was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) . Lesbian and gay people were often subjected to 'treatments' such as :

surgical treatments such as hysterectomy, ovariectomy,clitoridectomy,castration,vasectomy,pudic nerve surgery,and lobotomy. Substance-based treatment attempts have included hormone treatment,pharmacologic shock treatment, and treatment with sexual stimulants and sexual depressants. Other attempts include aversion therapy, the attempted reduction of aversion to heterosexuality,electroshock treatment,group therapy, hypnosis, and psychoanalysis.

Lesbian and gay people were made to feel guilty and lets not forget that for gay men having sex together was illegal and of course still is in many parts of the world. There were, and still are, religious , social and family pressures. Lesbian and gay people still face attacks even in gay friendly Brighton .

So this guy gets beaten up by homophobic thugs and Ms Robinson suggests he needs treatment to 'turn' !! No, the vicious bigots should be punished and attitudes that lead to such violence need to be challenged. No matter how much she condemns the attack, her words only add to an attitude that lesbian and gay people are sick and need to be cured. This breeds breed violence and discrimination.

Sadly many people are still pressurised to conform to heterosexual norms , usually through family and religious pressure. Others have residual guilt and if they do try to change only end up unhappy and living a lie, trying to please the religious intolerance of people like Ms Robinson.

What is her problem, why does it matter to her if two men have sex together. No one is asking her to indulge in a little girl on girl action, no one is telling her not to be in a heterosexual marriage and family.

Oh and something I did hear about on the pro choice demo and that Pink News refers to :

Mrs Robinson's view of gay and lesbian people is well-known. Last month she castigated MPs in the House of Commons during debate on fertility treatments.

MPs decided to remove the requirement on doctors to consider the need for a father when assessing women for fertility treatments.

"Envisage, down the road, a child going to primary school and being collected by two females or two males, and the bullying and abuse to which those children will be exposed; or going into their parents’ bedroom, as is natural for a child to do, and finding two women or two men making love?" said Mrs Robinson.

"I stand by my faith and the word of God that man was created in the image of God and that woman was created from the rib of Adam to be his helpmeet and companion. That is the natural progression of procreation.

"The word of God says that procreation is through a man and a woman.

"We are moving mountains to facilitate immorality and to bring the rights of lesbians above all others in this country.

"It is a shame, and honourable Members ought to hang their heads in shame."

Oh for goodness sake what a stupid bigoted woman , no one is saying children should walk in on their parents having sex , whether straight or gay. Is she saying that its OK for kids to see their heterosexual parents having sex ?? I would assume that any parent , whatever their sexuality, would ensure they children did not walk in. Perhaps it is a regular occurrence in Ms Robinson's home for the kids to wander in and catch her and hubby going at it, is that 'natural'?

Oh and if she believe's that being gay is a psychiatric illness it could be argued that religious beliefs are a bit delusional and could do with some treatment. I mean hearing voices, messages from a imaginary god, belief in miracles, woman made from ribs ...sounds a bit psychotic to me, must dig out my DSM and see what it says. Thing is Ms Robinson and her ilk are free to believe such superstitious nonsense and live their lives as they wish. I'm not suggesting they seek a 'cure.' Can't they just leave others to live their lives ?

Pic : last years Pride in Brighton .Another good religious chap bothered about other people's sex lives and trying to save souls :-)

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Friday, June 06, 2008

friday rant about cyclists

There is an article in the Independent about the different ‘tribes’ of cyclists.

Let’s see...yep they are missing out the ‘tosser’tribe. I know its green and cars are bad blah blah, but some cyclists are tossers.

Of course we want to get people out of their cars and bikes are one solution, along with improved cheap public transport. Given that cars are BAD some people think that because they ride a bike they are GOOD and somehow morally superior, even when cutting up people on pavements. Yep, look at me , I’m green . Yeah a green tosser all too often.

So morally superior do they feel towards car drivers they neglect to reflect on their own arrogant and thoughtless behaviour.

OK examples.
Well for starters cycling on pavements, busy ones. Yeah I know that roads are often not great for them, but pavements are for people. Many times I have had a cyclist hurtling towards me who expects me to move out of their way. I have been sworn at a good few times and of course give as good back.

Pavements are full of all sorts of people who cannot always move out of the way quickly and why should they. This includes the elderly, those with poor mobility or a disability, visual impairments or hard of hearing, those with small children and prams. I heard recently of an elderly woman locally who was badly hurt after a cyclist collided with her on the pavement and its no consolation that cars are more dangerous.

Pedestrians move across pavements and as they are not on a road and are not in a car do not signal, this means bikes can run into them if they cross their path. Again I have been sworn at, but on busy roads walking along a pavement you don’t always hear a bike coming up behind you and as I say it’s a pavement and you’re walking so don’t expect to have to look behind as if driving .

Then there are cyclists who don’t seem to think the highway code applies to them so will go through red lights , even at pedestrian crossings and yes this does endanger people. There is a narrow one way road near me where buses come along and yet cyclists speed down it the wrong way . I have seen cars swerve out of their way yet I'm sure if they were hit they would consider it must be the car driver at fault.

I know this may sound a bit Jeremy Clarkson, but i'm not anti bike, but anti the tosser element. I know there are lots of good cyclists and all that, but there are far too many tossers on bikes . Cyclists should treat pedestrians with the sort of care they want themselves and not excuse it all on cars making their life difficult.

And yeah I am in a ranty Stroppy mood today :-)

Pic Naked Bike Ride in Brighton. Next one tomorrow !

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Blair's Promoting Faith

Quite extraordinary. Tony Blair is launching a new charity to "enlist religion as a force for economic development and conflict resolution, rather than violence and strife". So, to reverse the role it has played for centuries then, eh?

I'm not quite sure what role god-worship has in economic development, unless Tone wants to teach the clerics to get modern and market their product in a more proft-savvy way.

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation was launched on May 30, 2008, in New York City. Blair's fantasies include ideas such as this: "If you got churches and mosques and those of the Jewish faith working together to provide the bed nets that are necessary to eliminate malaria, what a fantastic thing that would be." Look, I really don't get how the two ideas in this sentence go together. Surely bed nets are necessary to eliminate malaria, whether they are supplied by Jews, Muslims, raving atheists, or bed net suppliers to whom religion is irrelevant.

Apparently, "Mr. Blair said at the launch in New York Friday that people cannot understand the modern world unless they understand the importance of religious faith." And also, "there is nothing more important than getting people of different faiths and cultures to understand each other better and live in peace and mutual respect; and to give faith itself its proper place in the future." Nothing more important? Seriously?! The elimination of poverty, equality, fair distribution of wealth, climate change, rights and freedom ... No, no, no. Getting people to understand each other's superstitions is far more crucial.

As for Mr. Blair's heartfelt desire for peace - it would, surely, carry more credibility if he hadn't pursued those wars.

Mind you, calling his new project the 'Tony Blair Faith Foundation' may suggest the faint possibility on god-like pretensions on Mr Blair's part.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Jim Jay and men on the moon

I'm not sure what sparked this off, perhaps too much time on his hands this week as he is on leave, but Jim Jay has put up a poll as to whether men have walked on the moon.

Jim seems a little irritated by the conspiracy theorists :

Look, I'm sick of this - men have been to the Moon and come back to tell the tale. No - it does not make you radical to deny this.

I know I have no personal evidence that this is the case - but it is. Accept it! This is conspiracy theories gone mad for Goodness Sake. You don't have to question everything that's ever happened you know, you really don't.

I'm posting up a poll (see right hand column), to close the last day of the month, asking readers "Have men walked on the Moon"? Do not disappoint me readers.

I'm not putting a don't know option either because you blooming well do!

Now for some reason, even though I am sure men have walked on the moon, its very tempting to vote no. Just to be annoying and silly and because he is beating me at facebook scrabble. I urge you all to do the same!

Pic pinched from Jim as I'm being lazy today re blogging.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Always look on the bright side of life ...

I know Dave is known for his cheery positive outlook on the state of the left, ok bit sarky, but this post is spot on, if depressing.

I know many will be saying oh well , Labour are no better. Hmmm, as someone who lived under the Tories I think there is a difference, however slight. One area will be that of women's rights and the Tories pushing their pro (straight, married) families agenda that Duncan Smith is pulling together. Its highly likely that with more Tories in the Commons that Nadine Dorries, and her assorted god bothers, will push through attacks on women's right to choose. The Tories aren't really cuddly and when they win they tend to get more arrogant .

Dave is right, this won't be a one term government and by the second the gloves will be off. Watch what Boris does, never mind booze bans, I think there will be more to worry about. Already he has said he will not renew the oil deal with Venezuela, leading to the removal of cut price fares for those on income support. Expect more of the same, he is not playing to inner London , but the Daily Mail suburbs.

Anyway, reading Dave's post reminded me of this...

Where is Spitting Image when you need it...

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Boris Bans Booze: London Gets A Hangover

My contract of employment obliges me to point out whenever I express an opinion about the Tube that these opinions are my own, and should in no way be taken to represent those of London Underground or TfL. So now you know.

A century ago, there were feminists who called for alcohol to be banned because they blamed it for domestic violence. Their view was understandable, as women took regular beatings from men who came home drunk, then as now. It took Prohibition to change their minds, as booze was banned but domestic violence continued.

In 2008, Boris Johnson thinks that banning booze will prevent, or at least reduce, bad behaviour on London's transport. He too is mistaken, and his motives may not be as worthy or understandable as the early twentieth century feminists. He was on a yacht when the booze ban came into force on Saturday night, which, being neither in London nor a form of public transport, was exempted. He has noticeably not called for the banning of alcohol at the Henley Regatta, which, after all, might piss off one or two of his constituents - popping the cork and letting the bubbly flow is part of the event darling, and you'd never catch a Hooray Henry misbehaving under the influence now, would you?

The relationship between booze and bad behaviour is more complex than a simple ban implies. Does alcohol cause aggression, or are people who feel aggressive anyway more inclined to drink? Perhaps aggression and violence fuel each other - but only in some people, not others. Boris' ban is not on disorderly or aggressive behaviour but on drinking alcohol or carrying open containers of alcohol. So someone who is behaving like a tosser, but not in possession of an open can whilst travelling - perhaps having got well and truly tanked up before setting off home - would not be covered by the ban; but on the other hand, a person behaving impeccably and sipping from a can or bottle while minding their own business would fall foul of the new rule.

Those of us who work on the Tube have been dealing with boozy passengers for years. Most are good-natured, some provide us with a right laugh (I particularly remember the pair who missed the last Central line train home because they sat on the station stairs thinking they were in the carriage). I'm always rather pleased that they are travelling on the Tube, rather than driving.

Some, however, can be a problem (as can some sober people). You do get assaults on staff. You do end up calling ambulances when drunk people topple down the escalators. They can be hard work. And the cleaners get the worst deal of all - clearing up cans, spillages and vomit, all on poverty wages that Boris Johnson wouldn't get out of bed for.

But Tube staff have never called for this to be dealt with by banning drinking.

Even if you supported the ban, the way it has been brought in is appalling. I for one do not recall Boris Johnson saying he would do this during his election campaign - it might have cost him votes, after all. Then he announces it days after being elected, imposes it a month later, and expects things to go smoothly! As if. There was no consultation with the trade unions, no extra staff on duty on the night it came in, and a promise of police back-up that was laughable.

Personally, I oppose the ban. And I support people's right to protest against it. But none of this excuses some of the behaviour on Saturday night when Tube workers were assaulted, abused and spat at. Anyone who thinks that's a good way to defend freedom and oppose Mayor Johnson should go home and sleep it off. And when you wake up with a hangover, think about the cleaners wading through broken glass to mop up the booze, vomit and piss.

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

SSP Conference

22 degrees celcius in Edinburgh, the fun fair at the Meadows yet over 100 Scottish Socialists consented to come together for the second conference of the year! We had some outstanding motions to discuss from the last conference and the positions to elect from the new constitution. Our Executive is now made up of

Pam Currie (National Secretary)
Eddie Truman (Assistant Secretary - web based)
Morag Balfour (C0-chair) with Anthea Irwin (Co -Chair)
Frances Curran and Colin Fox (Joint Spokespersons)
Ken Ferguson (Voice editor, Policy and Press Office)
Jim McVicar (Treasurer)
Richie Venton -(Trade Union and Workplace Organiser)
Johanna Dind ( South East Scotland & Borders)
Denise Morton (West Scotland)
Gill Tyrer (South East Scotland & Borders)
Pauline Bradley (West Scotland)
Jo Harvie (West Scotland)
Cathy Pederson (West Scotland)
Andy Bowden (West Scotland)
Liam Young (West Scotland)
Allan Graham (North and East Scotland)
Kevin McVey (Central Scotland)
Gerry Corbett (North & East Scotland)
Jack Ferguson (West Scotland)
Bill Bonnar (West Scotland)

All are in position for four years and then have to resign - we have introduced a stepped period so they don't all have to resign together. i think this is unique on the left in Britain.

We discussed a skilled worker's wage for those elected and employed by the trade unions. Global Economy, Red/Green Eco -Socialist Conference in October 2008, attending the Convention of the Left in Manchester in September and campaigning around free public transport.

Here's some photos of the day taken by Eddie Truman

I am elected as the Auditor of the Party alongside Raphael de Santos - not very glamorous but someone has to do it.