Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Guest post - Ahmadinejad’s ‘mature democracy’: reply to Andy Newman

Cross posted from Dave's Part :

HOW would you define a ‘mature democracy’? Would a government that restricts the right to stand in elections solely to candidates approved in advance, and even then regularly stuffs ballot boxes, deserve the designation in your book?

What if you were told that the state in question was an open theocracy which consolidated its hold on power through the execution of tens of thousands of communists and other leftists, at a conservative estimate?

Would it affect your judgement if you were further informed that in the country we are talking about, independent trade unionism is not allowed, and homosexual acts sometimes attract the death penalty?

If you see yourself as a socialist or a liberal, would you pen a leftist apologia for a ‘mature democracy’ that has in the last few days killed at least eight pro-democracy protestors and arrested several key opposition leaders?

Blogger Andy Newman - main writer on Socialist Unity, Britain’s most widely read far left website - would. Thanks to his cadre Marxist background, he can see through the smokescreen of ideology generated by the bourgeois press, designed to dupe the impressionable into misguided solidarity with the victims of the dictatorship in Iran.

It’s their own fault they are corpses. The stupid bastards didn’t seek the ‘dialogue and compromise required for a peaceful win-win resolution’ with Ahmadinejad's 'mature democracy'. Read it all here.

The spooky thing is the way that Newman’s long and unnecessarily prolix screed transposes the arguments that Stalinists and even some orthodox Trotskyists deployed in decades past in defence of the Soviet Union and its satellite regimes.

Readers with long enough memories will find many claims in the piece strangely familiar. There is the contention that while the system under discussion is obviously not democratic by our standards, it can - by chop-logic yardsticks - be classified as democratic in a different way; standard liberal criteria do not apply.

Oh, and the economy works to the advantage of the poor. Any amount of evidence adduced that points to the enrichment of the elite is by the by here.

Newman notes that ‘general subsidies have been a big part of the welfare state in post-revolution Iran’, risibly painting Ahmadinejad as some kind of Persian Polly Toynbee.

He thereby forgets that all modern states have some kind of welfare element. He might as well maintain that Hitler operated a pretty neat job creation programme, and offered soft loans to unusually fecund German mothers.

Given the centre of gravity in Marxist thinking in the past, it is just about possible to see where Uncle Joe’s fellow travellers were coming from. But somehow a man politically formed in the one far left tendency that above all others resisted this chain of thought has ended up as a compagnon de route of repressive political Islam.

Let’s dispose right way of the inevitable canards that will surely be thrown in my face. I am opposed to military intervention in Iran by any imperialist power or any imperialist proxy. Nor does opposition to Ahmadinejad imply backing for Mousavi.

Elementary Marxism suggests that both represent opposing factional interests within the same ruling class. So we are duly reminded by Newman that ‘progressives need to avoid a simplistic polarisation between different strands of elite opinion both of which are disadvantageous to the mass of the population’.

That’s a bit of a contradiction, given the way in which he is plainly aligned to Ahmadinejad’s ‘populist and redistributive social welfare policies’.

But we should take our guidance from the Iranian left on this one; you know, Andy, the people you ostensibly uphold as co-thinkers. They are on the streets, participating independently within the broader Mousavi current.

In need of some wriggle room, Newman opts for the famous ‘in so far as’ tactic. ‘In so far as’ the protestors wish to change some of the ‘more oppressive aspects of Iranian society’ and stick to demanding such things as union rights, they can be completely supported. Presumably the less oppressive aspects of Iranian society are fair enough. Newman does not say under which category throwing students off tall buildings can be classified.

Many of Newman’s other positions will astound anyone aware of the revolutionary Marxist tradition in which he was formed. Revolution ‘might mean civil war’, Newman points out. Nobody who has read a few history books will doubt that.

Hilariously, he blasts the Mousavi opposition for its resort to ‘extra-constitutional means’. One shudders to think what he would have made of that naughty boy Lenin, or even the early 1980s Labour Party soft left, which advocated ‘extraparliamentary action’.

The clincher for Andy is that Ahmadinejad has the armed forces on his side. Dictatorships generally do, mate. You are politely referred back to Engels for the Marxist position on ‘bodies of armed men’, comrade.

Newman’s conclusion? The western left should avoid ‘trite cheerleading’ in support of the Mousavi tendency. What we need is to be trite cheerleaders for Ahmadinejad’s ‘mature democracy’ instead, he seems to suggest. I think he is wrong.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fuckwit of the year

In a day or two I plan to put up a poll.

Suggestions welcome for candidates?

Paddy of course will be on the list, but I do need more names, even though I'm sure he will be a front runner.


Cross post from Hopi - 27 December: Iran’s bloody Sunday

Cross posted from Hopi :

December 27 was the bloodiest and most violent convulsion in Iran since the June elections. Millions of ordinary Iranians came out onto the streets to use the Ashura ceremonies and mourning as a focal point of opposition protests. In every part of Iran security forces backed up by Basij militia and the revolutionary guard (Pasdaran) resorted to ever intensifying violence as swarms of protestors over-ran state-repressive forces. It is unclear how many have been killed and arrested at this time, the regime say that only 4 have been killed, whilst student websites and news feeds from Iran put the number around 15. ‘Reformist’ leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s nephew is among the dead. The official reason for these deaths have been accidents and murder by ‘uknown assailants’. The regime has admitted to arresting over 300 protestors yesterday, this number will undoubtedly be much greater.

Mass protests rock Islamic Republic

Clashes took place in Shiraz, Isfahan, Ardebil, Arababad, Mashhad. Whilst Marshal Law was declared in Najaf-Abad, at least four have been killed in the city of Tabriz and the house of recently deceased Ayatollah Montazeri was the scene of heavy fighting in Qom.

Protests began in the morning around 10 am with heavy security presence on major streets, squares and transport links. In Tehran the supreme leader’s residence was surrounded by massed ranks of Pasdaran and police. Throughout the day chants against Khamanei, such as ‘this month is a month of blood!- Khamanei will be toppled’. A clear indication of how far the protest movement has come since June, not only is the regime fearful of a re-run of the election, but are now considerably worried that a revolution is underway. In Tehran clashes erupted at many religious sites as soon as people started to gather for the planned opposition protests. The fighting was intense, with security forces taking several defeats as demonstrators burnt police vehicles, stations, Basij posts and erected barricades. In a couple of instances police and Basij were arrested and detained by the people and three police stations in Tehran were briefly occupied by protestors.. Demonstrators also attacked the Saderat Bank in central Tehran, setting it on fire.

As the day wore on the security forces began to crack, the first division of the special forces refused orders to shoot protestors. There are many pictures and videos that show police retreating or being beaten back by protestors (some are in this report). There is also unconfirmed statements from sections of the army declaring that they will not be used to put down popular unrest. During the evening clashes erupted outside the IRIB headquarters with security forces firing tear gas and bullets into the crowds who responded with rocks and burning barricades. Later on there was fighting in and around Hospitals in central Tehran.

Following the protests several aides to opposition leaders have been arrested whilst injured protestors have been interviewed, beaten and arrested whilst in hospital, the many injured have had to endure interrogation with painful injuries. In response to this it has been reported that medical staff have been patching people up instead of admitting them to the already overcrowded wards. In many parts of Tehran residents opened their doors to the injured and exhausted demonstrators.

The Ashura protests saw a qualitative change in the protests, the people of Iran attacked and won street battles in Tehran, attacked a set fire to police stations and security forces vehicles, demonstrators arrested and detained many riot police and Basij throughout the day. Possibly more importantly the regime has undermined its own religious credibility by making martyrs on Ashura day. Neither side of the regime can now back down, and through this split the mass movement is breaking down the Islamic Republic. Many calls have come not just for the end of Khamanei’s rule, or Ahmadinejad’s government but for the end of the Islamic Republic itself. On the streets protestors have begun chanting ‘Independence, freedom, Iranian Republic’, a slogan which has been condemned by ‘reformist’ leader Mousavi as too radical. The Ashura protests have further underlined that the Islamic Republic is facing the greatest existential threat since its inception and the Iraq-Iran war.

Below are some videos of the protests:

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Cross post from Hopi - Regime threatens mass murder whilst left activists are arrested

From Hopi
We will fight until all of our classmates, comrades and friends are released. we wont let the Islamic republic take the revenge of its inevitable collapse on activists.

We will fight until all of our classmates, comrades and friends are released. we wont let the Islamic republic take the revenge of its inevitable collapse on activists.

Below is a brief report of the moves the regime has been taking against known leftwing activists and the threats that leading officialis have been giving on state television. This report was sent to us by Anahita Hosseini of the ‘Independent Leftist Students’ who represent an anti-imperialist socialist tendency within the student movement in Iran

After the mass protests of Sunday December 17 the regime is showing its fear of people uprising by going to well known activists homes one by one and arresting them. This morning armed plain cloths forces went to Mahin Fahimis home who is a member of the organization of: mothers for peace and arrested her and her son Omid Montazeri who is a known leftist student activist. Omid is Hamid Montazeriz son a known communist activist who was executed by the regime during the mass murders of the leftists and Mujahadeen in prison in 1988.

Ardavan Tarakameh another leftist student activist who was staying in Omids home this morning was arrested, afterwards the plain cloths forces went to Ardavan’s parents home and searched it all and took some books and notes, and told his mother she is not allowed to ask any questions about what they are doing or where her son is. Zohreh Takaboni one of the mothers for peace whose husband was also executed as a leftist in 1988 has also been arrested.

The regime has started a new scenario since this morning on all of their TV channels they are talking about what happened in the 80s they are talking about the leftist opposition of Iran in those days and how the regime killed them! because of their activities, they are frankly threatening people that they are not afraid of repeating the history.

After yesterdays uprising it became more obvious that no one is of the illusion of re-running the elections. The slogans are aimed at the regime and Khamenei himself, radicalization of the movement has made the regime fearful of the effect of the lefftist and the other radical activists on the current uprising. They are threatening to bring back the black and the bloody decade of 80’s in which they mass murdered thousands of the bravest, purest and the true believers of freedom and equality especially in 1988 when they executed thousands (possibly 30 thousand) leftists and Mujahadeen and buried them in the mass graves. Now they are threatening their children and all the other activists and all people who are yelling their anger against them, in their official news today they said: the rebels have crossed the red lines by having slogans against Khamenei and they will all pay back for it. what is obvious is that they will not be able to repeat the bloody years of 80s because they cant mass murder a nation. But we should take the threat serious on the level that we know this regime has nothing to lose and before its final collapse they may do anything for revenge. They may try to limit the number of activists against them, the threats they have started against people is important on these levels, and it is our responsibility to fight until the release of each and every political prisoner in Iran alongside supporting the peoples uprising. Underestimating the threats of the dictator regime in taking revenge on the protesters can end in a catastrophe.

We will fight until all of our classmates, comrades and friends are released. We wont let the Islamic Republic take the revenge of its inevitable collapse on activists.

Unity – Struggle – Victory

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Monday, December 28, 2009

In praise of Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas by a Welsh communist and rugby lover

Guest post by Ben , also at Third Estate blog and cross posted here.


It is rare in the news that you read or see something that cheers you up. The far left press’s eternal Panglossianism – occasionally tantamount to self-delusion – does not count in this respect. Overwhelmingly, it serves to maintain a pseudo-reality in which the bosses are really bad (and things are getting worse for them), and we, the left (ie this or that particular sectlet) are progressing inexorably towards socialism. Shades of Stalin’s five year plans and Brezhnev’s ‘we will be at communism by year X’, maybe?

So it was that, being both a huge rugby fan and somebody who has consistently agitated for LGBT rights all of his adult life, there was a story that did cheer me up last weekend – Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas coming out. Despite being a harrowing tale of a man coming to terms with himself and the world around him, it is one that fills me with great optimism and hope. He is the first openly gay professional rugby player and – as an ex-captain of Wales with over 100 Welsh caps, loads of points and even some appearances as captain for the British & Irish Lions in New Zealand – probably the most high-profile sportsman to come out.

The Wales on Sunday (think News of the World but with fairly decent rugby reporting) stated that his homosexuality is “one of the worst kept secrets in the game”. This is certainly true.

It must have been about ten years ago that I first got wind of rumours of Alfie’s homosexuality. And it was on the pitch. A huge Cardiff fan, I was in the stands with a cheap £1 ticket (them were the days!) for a home game against Ebbw Vale. I was quite shocked by some of the fans’ reaction: “You can’t play rugby, you’re a fucking queer”. It was Alfie who had the last laugh though, scoring no less than five tries (!) against a distraught Ebbw back line that could neither deal with his pace, twinkle-toes step or his sheer physicality. Good on you, Alfie.

Rugby is a much maligned and misunderstood sport often dismissed as the preserve of brutish, air-headed public school boys engaged in an 80 minute futile war of attrition. I often despair at such an ignorant conception of the game, comparing people who spout such nonsense to the way that the political establishment, academia and ‘Marxologists’ alike malign Marxism – purporting to disprove its fundamental tenets without even having bothered to read any of the stuff. One ‘authoritative’ work I read stated in its introduction that the problem with Marx was that he saw all property as theft! Are you taking the piss from the grave, Mr.Proudhon? How does this stuff even get published?

Anyway, there is method in my invective. In many ways, ‘Alfie’ does sum up the multi-faceted and complex beauty of the game of rugby, and why it is more than the standard “big blokes running into each other”.
He combines 15 stones of brute strength with a sprinting ability not far behind some of the best athletes. Running full tilt, he can turn on his feet quickly enough to find the smallest of gaps in the 50-stone-thick wall of the opposition back row, he can put a ball carrier into the air and then proceed to rip the ball from his clutches, and he can pass and kick with a subtlety that many basketball players and footballers would be proud of. As somebody who has followed Cardiff Blues and the Welsh XV since he was able to mouth the word ‘rugby’, Alfie has always been a personal hero of mine. He knew that to succeed and fully reach the awesome potential of his talents he had to live a lie.

Merely in order to survive, most of us live some sort of existence where we have to lie not only to others but – perhaps more importantly – to ourselves. ‘Being successful’ or, the term I loathe most, ‘bettering yourself’ at the very least means telling some fibs to somebody sometimes, and usually a whole lot worse… ‘Life choice’ – the watchword of liberals – almost invariably means eking out an existence in some unfulfilling job at the expense of pursuing manifold interests and developing our talents. We are trapped in the realm of necessity, where our private sphere of activity precludesour development into well-rounded human beings who are at once critics, sheperds, hunters and fishermen. As such it is hardly surprising that both the playing and watching of sport become mere forms of escapism, a means of ‘getting away from life’, rather than actually feeding into this social development. Particularly in rugby with its ‘macho’ image, this means that bigotry and intolerance are easily replicated at all levels of the game. In this instance, it is a narrow, partriarchal, understanding of gender and sexuality that has been exposed. For some, after all, it is anathema that a man who is sexually attracted to other men could be a strong, physically fit and successful rugby player, just as a ‘real man’ (ie a heterosexual one supping Strongbow whilst perusing page 3) could ever be, say, a successful dancer or fashion designer. As somebody who has played rugby from the age of 4, the Alfie case pertinently brings home how – for all the claims about gay equality – there is still a long way to go in a struggle that is intricately bound up with far more wide-ranging social change than formal equality and the hijacking of LGBT rights via the ‘pink pound’ and so on.

Had Alfie planned all of this in order to bring these questions out? Or are more sinister forces of blackmail (ie The Daily Mail) at work? Back in the heady days of him captaining Wales to Grand Slam success, for example, he had to leave the Welsh camp in order to persuade a newspaper from printing something about him.

This direct correlation between his rugby success and the media interest in his private life underlines the tragedy of all this. The media will sink to almost any depths in order to make money – often ringing up celebrities and sports stars to inform them that they have certain pictures of them with women (or maybe in the Alfie case, men) which they will publish unless the person in question comes in to give an interview etc. Tiger Woods was naive enough to go for the interview and boast of his ‘brilliant’ family life. Now, I hate golf with a passion,but I am pretty sure it suffers as a sport without its best player. The details of the Alfie case are still unknown.

Anyway, after narrow defeat to the Aussies in September 2006, he broke down and revealed all to (then) Welsh coach Scott Johnson, who informed the two most senior players in the Welsh side – Martyn Williams and Stephen Jones. He recalls waiting to talk to them for the first time afterwards:

“As I sat in the bar waiting for them, I was terrified, wondering what they were going to say. But they came in, patted me on the back and said: ‘We don’t care. Why didn’t you tell us before?’ (The Sunday Times, December 20).

This was the nightmare from which Alfie could never escape in the pursuit of his dream to be a rugby player – a dream which he knew he could only achieve at the expense of his family, friends, fellow players and himself as a gay man. Although many young Welsh boys would kill to be a Grand Slam-winning Welsh captain, it is impossible to comprehend the mental torture that he must have been through in all of this. He even turned to the church to ask God to ‘rid him’ of what he saw not as his burden of ‘shame’.

That he put up with this intolerable situation for so long shows just what the human spirit can adapt and to what lengths it can go to come to terms with the world’s prejudices. For Thomas, this even meant a loving relationship with a woman who he said he – and this can be believed – “would die for”. It is shocking to think just how many men are currently living (‘living’ seems the wrong word) such lives in order to be ‘normal’. In a country where rugby probably has more of a following than Christianity, let us hope that he serves as an inspiration to many other men enduring such existential anguish.

gtWhether one is the village priest, local barman or captain of the Welsh rugby team, every fetter on the flowering of one’s individuality and personality must be fought tooth and nail. As we have seen in the tragic case of the gifted footballer Justin Fashanu, who took his life after coming out, when it comes to such an infinitely complex matter as concealing and denying one’s own sexuality, these are genuinely matters of life and death. Although my heart also goes out to Alfie’s wife, with whom he has obviously shared a loving relationship, I do not in any way blame him. He knew full well that he could either be gay or a professional rugby player. For someone with his ability, this was no easy choice to make. It is one that nobody should have to make again.
As good a player as he is, Alfie is not going to rid sport, let alone society, of homophobic attitudes and prejudices. LGBT oppression can only be overcome through mass class organisation and a political programme that does not treat such questions as mere trifles to be fought merely in the workplace, but as key democratic questions for society as a whole. Given the left’s narrowness in passing off some sort of generalised and deepened trade union dispute as a ‘strategy’ for working class power, it is hardly surprising that we have such a shoddy record in this field. And those who scorn the notion of a communist political platform for sport should take another look at the best of our history and events like the Workers’ Olympics.
In spite of some rather vomit-inducing reporting in The Times (cue Thomas in the pink Cardiff Blues’ away strip with the heading ‘pink power’ and a huge picture of him getting ‘double-tackled’ by the Kiwi back row) the establishment response, and indeed that of the rugby world more generally, has been positive. Fans have rallied to his defence and hopefully this will mark a sea change in rugby culture. Let us now hope that he can finish off his highly successful career and start to live his life away from media hounding and the paparazzi preying on him on the streets of Cardiff.

What Alfie has done is to open up an argument that Marxists – whatever our opinion of what, in this author’s eyes, is the best sport on the planet – would be stupid to ignore or to play down. You can rest assured that the topic will be heatedly debated in Welsh pubs, rugby clubs and over family dinner tables during the festive season. Just as in the Cardiff Arms Park stands ten years ago, old prejudices and outright reactionary sentiment will surface, but this can only be overcome through democracy, discussion and exposure (like all prejudices, in fact). With the spread of girls’ mini-rugby and mixed-sex ‘tag’ rugby in schools, concerted LGBT campaigning in rugby and sport could bear fruit.

In 2010 we might just see a sporting world where homosexuality is at least less of a taboo, and for this we must thank Alfie.

At least this is something Welsh rugby fans can look forward to…With or without Alfie, my Cardiff Blues are still in the doldrums after being trounced by Toulouse last week. We are a watery image of last year’s successful team. With the prospect of the Blues not making the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup (think Champions League but with an oval ball), Wales looking flaky ahead of the The Six Nations and an ‘ENGERLAND’ football Summer ahead, this writer’s sporting year ahead does not look great though. C’mon Ivory Coast!

Ben Lewis is a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain ( and a regular writer for the ‘Weekly Worker’. He blogs in English and German at ‘Die Welt ist Klein’ (


Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Festivus


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hackney-wide Controlled Drinking Area consultation

Below is the text of an email I nicked from the Hackney Solidarity Network email list about the Council's proposal to create a 'Controlled Drinking Area' throughout the borough. So Stroppy will have to stay indoors on future visits, then.

I agree with the points in this email, and, having just filled in the consultation, I would also add that:

(a) The issue with harmful behaviour is the behaviour, not whether it is alcohol-fuelled or not. If someone is abusive or violent to me on the street, is it somehow more OK if they are sober?! No.

(b) The questions are loaded. One of them asks what type of alcohol-related anti-social behaviour I witness most often. I replied that I could not answer this question as I would not know if most of the behaviours listed were alcohol-related or not. For exampe - noise nuisance. If my neighbours are yelling at each other or paying loud music at 3am, how do I know if they are pissed or not?


Please help stop Hackney Council introducing a Controlled Drinking Area across the borough.

I know it is nearly Christmas but please spare a few minutes to participate in this online consultation exercise. The deadline is Christmas Eve so we have to be very quick! You just need to go to and select the "Borough Wide Controlled Drinking Area Survey". You can look at their background information there and participate in the online survey. There's only a few questions and basically it would be very helpful if as many of us as possible could register our opposition to this.

The council are consulting with residents on whether they should make the whole borough a Controlled Drinking Area. This would give the police the right to challenge anyone they see drinking alcohol in public - who will then have to either surrender their alcohol for them to pour away or risk getting a fixed penalty fine.

• Not only is this a gross infringement of our civil liberties, and a reinforcement of the powers of the state against the freedom of the individual, but it would have a particularly harsh impact on some of the more vulnerable sections of the community.

• A CDA would give the police an easy opportunity for discrimination and harassment. Experience in other boroughs has demonstrated that the police use this power selectively and only target homeless people or other people who they view as undesirable.

• It can also be understood as part of a whole process of criminalising homeless people. If you have no home you cannot drink "at home" - which is particularly difficult if you have a serious alcohol problem.

There is a lot more to say about this matter but there's only four days to go. So please try and fill in the survey - it really does only take a few minutes. And please forward this to any sympathetic Hackney residents who you know, thanks?


Hackney peeps - do the consultaion, go on. Other folk - the comments box is yours.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Legal Step Forward on Disability Rights

In the latest in an ongoing series of Janine's handy legal news for workers, I am pleased to report that the Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled that the Disability Discrimination Act protects not just workers who are themselves disabled, but who are "associated with" someone else with a disability.

The delicious irony in this particular case, the employer concerned was a firm of solicitors, who appeared to think they should not be excessively punished for mistreating an employee with a disabled kid.

Mrs Coleman, a legal secretary, gave birth in 2002 to a disabled son who required specialist care. She claimed that her employer refused to allow her to return to her previous job when she came back from maternity leave; refused to allow her to work flexibly; and subjected her to abusive and insulting comments about her child.

Among other things, Mrs Coleman claimed disability discrimination under the DDA. Her employer responded that she could not bring a claim under the Act because it only covered disabled people and she was not herself disabled. But after various to-ings and fro-ings, the EAT has ruled in Mrs Coleman's favour. Good on yer, Mrs C.

The only catch is that this decision applies only to 'associative discrimination' in respect of disability harassment claims and direct disability discrimination, not to disability-related or failure to make reasonable adjustment claims.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Fuck you I wont do what you tell me"- Rage against the Machine beats the X Factor winner !

Good to see the campaign to get RATM to number one succeeded, with a fuck you to bland X Factor manufactured production line pap pop.

Oh and Shelter also benefits, so win win :

... a Facebook group called “Rage Against the Machine for Christmas No 1” quickly transformed itself into a major grassroots protest against the X-Factor attracting more than 980,000 followers. The campaign took on an increasingly anti-corporate and pro-social justice tone with followers encouraging each other to donate to the homeless charity Shelter which received £65,000 in public donations. Rage Against the Machine also lent their support to the campaign, promising to donate their royalties to Shelter and to play a thank you gig in the UK next year if the campaign was successful.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

No Gold Medal for Workers' Safety

Oddly, this appalling story of a worker's gruesome death on the mega-shopping centre site adjacent to the Olympic site in East London has barely registered in the media - only, apparently, on a trade website.

Are we only allowed to read good news about the 2012 Games?

Worker injured on Westfield Stratford City site dies

Employer 'deeply saddened' by death of Shaun Scurry one week after sustaining injuries on a scissor lift

The worker injured on the Westfield Stratford City construction site has died after a week in hospital.

Shaun Scurry sustained serious injuries on 9 December after using a scissor lift on the development near the 2012 Olympics site in east London.

A statement issued on behalf of Scurry’s employer, Firesafe Installations Ltd, said they were “deeply saddened” by his death and that their “thoughts and prayers are with his family”.

Ongoing investigations into the cause of death are being made by Firesafe Installations and the Health and Safety Executive.

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Save Brighton fire station

An update e-mail from Claire, who is helping with the fire-station campaign, info on some action to support it and an appeal to those of a more shallow nature of a chance to hang out with firefighters (for those who like uniforms :-) ) . Of course I'm sure the readers of this blog would not be swayed by anything other than politics :

By now, I hope you've all signed the petition to save Brighton's Preston Circus Fire Station which is under real threat of closure. If not, please read my first email below and use the links it provides to do just that. The campaign website: also provides examples of emails that you can send to local councillors in Brighton & Hove or East Sussex - as this is a decision to be taken by East Sussex Fire Authority. Please also remember to forward this email to everyone you know, as fire, flood, etc affects us all.


Our local firefighters will be holding their annual collection for the Firefighters Benevolent Fund outside Preston Circus Fire Station on Monday 21 & Tuesday 22 December, from 10am to about 3 or 4pm on each day. During this time, any working firefighters can't be seen themselves to be campaigning against their management's proposal to close our local fire station; however, they'd welcome members of the public turning-up to do just that. So how about it? Are you up for it, maybe even for half an hour during your lunch break?

The plan is that as people stop to make donations to a firefighter, one of the campaign suporters will give each member of the public either the campaign postcard and/or a campaign sticker. The firefighters get most of their donations from passing vehicles, so it'll probably be mostly just passing postcards and stickers quickly into cars, but the more people we have there to do this, the more effective we can be and the more this message gets passed on. NB: Just as the firefighters in uniform can't help with the campaign, we can't get involved with any collecting of money, so donations must always be immediately referred to the official collectors.

Depending on how much time they have, we will aim to speak to those stopping to donate who are especially interested in the campaign. It's planned to have a banner and a stall outside the Circus Circus pub opposite the station itself and the idea is to encourage as many people as possible to sign & return the petition postcard and/or sign the internet petition. If considered feasible, we may even organise 1 or 2 laptops connected to the petition there and then; however, there are issues with wi-fi security, the weather, etc.


Not only will you be helping to save Preston Circus Fire Station but, during the firefighters' collections, the lower level of the fire station is open to the public. So, provided they aren't called out on duty, you can admire the vehicles, sit in a fire engine and look-up a firefighters' pole - Brighton has some of the longest firefighters' poles in the country, so that's really an offer not to be missed! And if that's not enough - haven't you ever wanted to get up close to a real firefighter?! Free advice and the fitting of smoke alarms can also be arranged.

This is actually a pre-Christmas treat for all the family which you definitely shouldn't miss! Please let me know if you can come down to help out on either day and what time(s) you can make. Please also pass this email onto anyone else who might be interested. After all, Brighton & Hove is a tourist resort so, arguably, the provision of our fire service is of legitimate interest to people all around the country.

Cheers, Claire

UPDATE from Claire

We have cancelled Monday and Tuesday's actions in support of the campaign to save Brighton Fire Station. So please pass this message onto anyone you may have encouraged to come along.

Whilst we are sad to lose such a major opportunity to raise the profile of the campaign, we are also quite pleased not to be freezing our butts off in sub-zero temperatures for up to 6 or 7 hours! Makes you appreciate what the firefighters do, methinks...

The firefighters decided that they did not want to jeopardise the future of their annual collection (which is only allowed with the permission of East Sussex Fire Service management) by simultaneously campaigning against the decision to close the Preston Circus Fire Station (a decision taken by East Sussex Fire Service management). I'm sure that you understand why!

Picture of Firefighters at Brighton Pride.


Friday, December 18, 2009

A little Xmas ditty

Not exactly Cliff Richard ;-)

Hat tip Neil on Facebook.


Friday Fuckwit: Abbott Promotes Private Privilege

Some of us have long doubted Diane Abbott's credentials as a "left-wing" MP.

And here she is, at it again ...

Dear Friend,

I am writing to you about a full fee scholarship for the Sixth Form of City of London Boys School I have been asked to find applicants for this. City of London Boys School is one of the best boys schools in the UK. It has wonderful facilities and regularly comes near the top of the examination league tables. I can vouch for the school because I sent my own son there!

They have a full fee sixth form scholarship available. This has been especially funded by Linklaters the top City law firm. The scholarship means that the boy selected will be able to attend the sixth form of City of London free of charge. There are two main criteria.

The first criterion is that the applicant should either be living, or be at school, in the London Borough of Hackney. The other criterion is that he should be an academically gifted young man. He should be predicted to get at least six As at GCSE.

So, if you know of a gifted young Hackney schoolboy who would benefit from attending one of the best schools in the country for sixth form, please get back in touch with me and state his name, address, predicted grades at GCSE and why you think that he would benefit from attending Sixth Form at this school.

Happy Holidays
Diane Abbott MP

Frankly, I am appalled that a supposedly socialist MP is promoting a fee-paying private school.

She would be better off fighting for more funding, places and accountability for Hackney's state schools so that all the borough's boys and girls can benefit, rather than offering one youngster a leg-up into privilege.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Peter Tatchell stands down as Green candidate

Below is a statement from Peter. Sad to hear how badly his health has been affected and that he is unable to stand .
Met with Peter a few weeks ago and was concerned then that he seemed unwell. On a positive note, after all the attacks on him from some sections of the left, it was good to see him get such a good reception and support from WAF at a recent event they held to celebrate 20 years .

Take care Peter and look after yourself.

Tatchell stands down as Green candidate

Brain injuries from Mugabe and Moscow bashings thwart bid to be Oxford East MP

"It is with great regret and reluctance that I am standing down as the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East. My brain injuries from the Mugabe and Moscow bashings mean that I would not be able to campaign effectively in the general election or do the duties required of an MP, if I was elected," human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell announced today.

"It would not be right for me to seek election if I could not do the job of an MP to the high standards that I want and that Oxford East voters have a right to expect.

"If I was elected, I could manage the parliamentary duties or the constituency work. But my health is not strong enough for me to do both.

"This is huge disappointment and frustration. Oxford East is a target Green seat. In the county elections in June, the Greens were neck-and-neck with the Liberal Democrats as the main challenger to Labour. The European elections saw the Greens win in Oxford East, well ahead of Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories.

"The brain damage caused by Mugabe's thugs in Brussels in 2001 and by neo-Nazis in Moscow in 2007 has been compounded by head injuries in an accident while I was campaigning in Devon in July. A bus on which I was travelling swerved and braked sharply. I was thrown forward, hitting my head on a metal handrail.

"The injuries don't stop me from campaigning but I am slower, make more mistakes, get tired easily and take longer to do things. My memory, concentration, balance and coordination have been adversley affected. I can't campaign at the pace I used to.

"I was selected as the Green Party candidate for Oxford East in April 2007. A month later, I was badly beaten around the head by neo-Nazis during an attempted Gay Pride parade in Moscow.

See here:

"This exacerbated the brain damage caused when I was bashed unconscious by President Mugabe's bodyguards in Brussels in 2001, after attempting to make a citizen's arrest of the Zimbabwean leader on charges of torture.

See here:

"Following the Moscow assault, I never rested and recuperated. I carried on campaigning, with a very heavy schedule of commitments in Oxford East. After several months, I was severely exhausted. This stress and exhaustion probably intensified the damage and thwarted my recovery.

"I have postponed making this announcement for several months, in the hope that I might get better and be able to carry on as the Green candidate. Unfortunately, my condition has not improved. If anything, it is worse.

"There is, however, a glimmer of hope for the future. The medical advice is that if I slow down and reduce my workload my condition may improve in a year or so. On the downside, I am unlikely to ever recover fully. Some of the damage is probably permanent.

"I don't regret a thing. Getting a thrashing and brain injuries was not what I had expected or wanted. But I was aware of the risks. Taking risks is sometimes necessary, in order to challenge injustice. My beatings had the positive effect of helping draw international attention to the violent, repressive nature of the Russian and Zimbabwean regimes. I'm glad of that.

"My physical inconveniences are nothing by comparison to the far worse beatings inflicted on human rights defenders in countries like Russia, Iran, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Columbia, Sudan and Burma. These heroic activists often end up jailed or dead. I count myself lucky.

"The Oxford Green Party expects to select a new parliamentary candidate in January. That person will have my wholehearted support. I intend to campaign with them during the general election.

"I would like to thank members of Oxford Green Party for their immense kindness, support, and generosity during my two and a half years as their candidate. It has been a pleasure working with the Oxford Greens and I wish them future success," said Mr Tatchell.

Pic of Peter, from the Outrage flickr site, on the Saudi demo. Especially for Anon !


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Workers Standing Up For Themselves? There Must Be A Law Against It!

British Airways have gone crawling to the unelected octogenarian wig-wearing brigade in an attempt to get cabin crew strike action declared illegal.

The company claims inaccuracies in the union's ballot, in that people who no longer worked for BA were sent ballot papers. I would be interested to know whether BA notifies Unite when employees leave, because it seems to me that if an employer refuses to assist a union in maintaining 100% accurate membership information, then it has no right to complain if there is a slight flaw.

Moreover, the very idea that a handful of inaccuracies would have altered the outcome of a ballot in which over 80% voted and over 90% of them voted Yes is, of course, completely absurd.

And therein lies the crux of this particular anti-union law. It is not designed to ensure ballots are spotlessly accurate - if it were, it would require employers to co-operate with the union in maintaining records. Rather, it is designed to give courts a pretext to ban strikes at the behest of any employer who can find the tiniest imperfection in the ballot.

The bigger the workforce, the higher the number of workplaces and grades, the faster the staff turnover, the nearer impossible it is for unions to keep up-to-the-minute information for balloting. When RMT on London Underground fell foul of the law on balloting information in 2001, there were 150 staff movements per week on the Tube!

Meanwhile, Unite General Secretary Tony Woodley has just been on the telly. He told us that his members (not himself, presumably) were prepared to take a permanent 2.5% pay cut as an alternative to BA's proposals, and that they would call off the strike if the company paused - explicitly, did not need to indefinitely postpone - its imposition of attacks on pay and conditions. If this was an attempt to appear 'reasonable', it appeared to fail spectacularly, as text messages condemning the union continued to wing their way to the BBC. A bit more assertiveness and a bit less grovelling would go a long way.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

BA Strikes - Bah Humbug!

News broadcasts since yesterday have been dominated by Unite's announcement of 12 days of strike action over Christmas by British Airways workers, who face 30% pay cuts. Predictably, the tone of the coverage is outrage that the workers - who voted by more than 90% on an 80%+ turnout for action - should have the damned temerity to strike. After all, it is hardly a gesture of festive goodwill to ground the planes over the holiday season, is it?!

What the newshounds singularly failed to mention is that neither is it a gesture of festive goodwill on the part of the bosses to cut workers' wages by 30%! If anyone is in the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge here, it is BA management, but just because workers are refusing to play Tiny Tim, it is them who get the blame.

On the telly news this morning was an irritated posh woman, bemoaning that she would not be able to spend Christmas in Mauritius because of industrial action with which she has no sympathy. In the current economic climate, she declared, they should be grateful to have a job at all. No bread? Let them eat cake, I reckon!

How is it that when workers go to work and make big money for the bosses, it is the workers, rather than the bosses, who are expected to be grateful?! How is it that when times are good, the bosses get to cream off massive profits, but when times are bad, workers have to "share" in the sacrifices ie. take the hit?

I consistently argue within my own union that when we strike, we should do so at times that will hurt the bosses rather than our fellow working-class people. I have argued strongly against, for example, Tube strikes on New Year's Eve, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. That is an argument of tactics, to be had among rank-and-file members, and I would be interested to know what input the workers themselves had into the decision regarding the timing of this action.

But under the barrage of anti-union, anti-worker, hypocritical cant from BA management and their media mouthpieces, I am fully behind the BA workers' right to take whatever industrial action they feel will be most effective in defending their livelihoods against a vicious assault.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dear, erm, ...

Evidently, some people - or companies - struggle with how to address partners who are not married.

A few days ago, myself and the other 'arf received a letter addressed to, wait for it ...

Ms. and Mr. Janine and John Booth and Leach

I don't think I have ever seen a more absurd and ungainly attempt to do the simple matter of addressing an envelope. Personally, I can not see for the life of me what is wrong with the straightforward:

Janine Booth and John Leach

... but I guess that the combination of different surnames and the seemingly-unshakeable insistence on totally unnecessary titles led them to this appalling mouthful.

It would be interesting to know whether a computer or a human being is responsible.


Friday, December 11, 2009

It's Official: Race and Sex Discrimination Can Work Together

An interesting Employment Appeal Tribunal case has ruled that although workers have to submit claims of race and sex discrimination separately, Tribunals can consider their combined effects.

In Ministry of Defence v Debique, the EAT considered the case of a female single mother from St Vincent who had to resign from the army because she could not meet her employer's requirement that she be available to work 24/7. This was discriminatory on the grounds of sex because women are more likely to be single parents; and discriminatory on the grounds of race because commonwealth soldiers do not have the right that British national soldiers do, to have a relative live with them to help with childcare.

If the army had relaxed either the requirement to be available 24/7, or the bar on having a relative live with her to help with childcare, then there would not have been discrimination. Because it did neither, there was discrimination. Hence, the discriminations combined: she was discriminated against as a black woman.

It is my firm belief that lots of black women workers experience discrimination in which sexism and racism combine rather than simply co-existing. The extent to which this ruling will help other workers remains to be seen, but however small, it does appear to be a step forward.

If you are a union rep reading this, then you might well have a case in which this EAT ruling is useful to you.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Protests in Iran - A statement by Iran Khodro Car Workers

Received from Hopi, links to information about protests in Iran.

A statement by Iran Khodro Car Workers – December 6 2009

Fellow workers and friends,

During the last few days tens of workers, students and grieving mothers [a reference to mothers of young people killed following protest gatherings on December 4] have been arrested and sent to jail. Many of our colleagues and fellow workers are in prison. Tens of students, who are our children and our allies, are incarcerated. Mothers have been held. The government is closing its eyes to reality and arresting anyone they want. The country is under the grip of security forces and people do not even have the right to gather in a public park.

- In which country is it illegal to demand payment of unpaid wages?

- In which country is it forbidden to go to a park or to climb mountains? [The regime has banned students from climbing in case they organise political meetings under the guise of mountain climbing]

- What is the crime of our grieving mothers?

- In which country is it illegal to form workers’ organisations?

Fellow workers, how dare they be so shameless? We must protest! The situation created by the government is unbearable. Freedom is a basic right of all human beings

Long live freedom!

Group of Iran Khodro Workers
Translated and distributed by Hands Off the People of Iran


Monday, December 07, 2009

Harrow next Sunday: Counter-protest against anti-Muslim mobilisation

Message from Barnet TUC below.

I'm no fan of any religion, but as a secularist, I firmly believe that people should not be attacked and persecuted for adhering to a particular religion. So when a bunch of right-wingers turn up to demonstrate against a mosque (not, note, against a political Islamist event, but against a mosque), then I reckon that socialists, anti-fascists and secularists should turn out to defend it.

I expect David Duff will not be attending, as he thinks that Muslims are only ever the perpetrators of attacks, not the victims of them ...

Mobilise against the far-right!

Harrow, Sunday 13th December
Counter-demonstration to Stop Islamisation of Europe (SIOE) rally

In September the anti-Muslim group SIOE planned to demonstrate outside Harrow mosque on the pretext of commemorating the 9/11 events. In the event, they were not able to hold their demonstration as there were too many counter-protestors. However, in the past few months SIOE fellow-travellers the English Defence League (EDL) have organised several demonstrations in English towns, and the far-right have taken heart from this. Now SIOE plan to come back to Harrow on Sunday 13th December for a static demonstration, again outside Harrow mosque. They are likely to be more numerous this time than last.
Unite Against Fascism and other groups are again organising a counter-demonstration. The SIOE is due to hold their protest from 2-4pm. The counter-demonstration will be from 12 noon until after the SIOE protest is due to end.
Trade unionists and anti-fascists should support the counter-demonstration – and visibly! We oppose the politics of the far-right, and also the deterioration in social conditions that creates the ground in which far-right sentiment breeds.
Please join the counter-demonstration and, most important, for visibility, please bring union banners.
If you would like to go to the counter-demonstration with fellow trade unionists, we are suggesting that people meet at Harrow and Wealdstone train station at 12 noon.
Vicki Morris
Publicity officer, Barnet trades union council (Barnet TUC) /

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

10 years anniversary of the Montreal Massacre

10 years ago, on 6th December at about 17:00 14 women were murdered at an Engineering College at Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Marc Lépine, a 25-year-old Quebecker had tried to join the Canadian army and was knocked back and later tried to join the Polytechnique but was not accepted.  He believed he was a victim of feminism - women were on the Engineering course he wanted to enter and he believed that affirmative action had stopped his inflated right to attend the course.

His suicude note read: 
Please note that if I am committing suicide today ... it is not for economic reasons ... but for political reasons. For I have decided to send Ad Patres [Latin: "to the fathers"] the feminists who have ruined my life. ... The feminists always have a talent for enraging me. They want to retain the advantages of being women ... while trying to grab those of men. ... They are so opportunistic that they neglect to profit from the knowledge accumulated by men throughout the ages. They always try to misrepresent them every time they can.
Attached to the letter was a list of 19 prominent Québec women in non-traditional occupations, including the province's first woman firefighter and police captain. Beneath the list Lépine wrote: "[These women] nearly died today. The lack of time (because I started too late) has allowed these radical feminists to survive." 

When he entered the classroom he shouted "I want the women. I hate feminists!,"   He seperated the men from the women. He killed six women then went on a rampage throughout the college, looking to murder more women. Twenty minutes later he had killed 8 more women and injured 9 other women and 4 men - he then killed himself.

The murdered women were:

Geneviève Bergeron, aged 21;
Hélène Colgan, 23;
Nathalie Croteau, 23;
Barbara Daigneault, 22;
Anne-Marie Edward, 21;
Maud Haviernick, 29;
Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31;
Maryse Leclair, 23;
Annie St.-Arneault, 23;
Michèle Richard, 21;
Maryse Laganière, 25;
Anne-Marie Lemay, 22;
Sonia Pelletier, 28; and
Annie Turcotte, aged 21
In memory of these women 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence became an international campaign.  Throughout the world between the dates of  November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights. 

The 16 Days Campaign has been used as an organising strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women by:
  • raising awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels
  • strengthening local work around violence against women
  • establishing a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women
  • providing a forum in which organizers can develop and share new and effective strategies
  • demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world organizing against violence against women
  • creating tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women
Patrick Stewart speaks out against violence against women today at Amnesty International Conference - see his speech here

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Guest post - Men's Societies in Universities

I have been sent this by Natalie, who asked if i could put it up on the blog .

Truth Not Fiction

When it comes to politics, it can seem as if some people live in a different world to the rest of us. Either this, or we must be forced to concede that amongst the attendees at one of Britain’s most prestigious Universities, are some of the most utterly clueless and dangerously idiotic folks in the world. I mean, how many people genuinely have trouble getting to grips with the fact that a) women are an oppressed group and b) men are not? You’d think the answer would be somewhere between “fairly few” and “no one could possibly be that impervious to reality”, but alas, it seems one particular group of individuals at Manchester University - the recently formed MENS Society - are really that naive.

Why yes, they genuinely appear to believe men are an oppressed group and no amount of pay gaps, glass ceilings and double burdens is going to shake their unshakable belief that we live in a woman’s world.

The Men’s Society was formed with a number of stated aims, including Top Gear viewing, mandatory pub crawls, beard growing contests, trips to gadget fairs and participation in “Tough Guy” contests. Assuming that there wouldn’t be genuine coercion involved in the mandatory pub crawls, these aims are all fairly harmless taken by themselves. But when they form the core activities of a Men’s Society which also subscribes to the aim of constructing a “male identity”, it’s clear why this is harmful. Some people (including such nominal lefties as Reuben at The Third Estate) have attempted to argue that the Men’s Society is going to open up a debate about society’s normative gender roles and how to conquer them. But if beard growing and proving oneself a “Tough Guy” are the vehicles through which gender can be openly debated, the women’s movement thus far has missed a big trick.

The founder of the Men’s Society - curiously enough an abstinent, teetotal evangelical Christian - has expressed interest in campaigning for a Men’s Officer in the Students’ Union and said that straight pride is “an idea”. He’s also OK in principal with the existence of a White Society, which at least shows he’s not as hypocritical as the Men’s Society cheerleaders who baulk at the idea of racism replacing sexism in our Students’ Unions.

The problem is, too many people - especially amongst the bureaucrats who control these Unions - have totally forgotten why Women’s Officers and Women’s Groups exist in the first place. They’re there because women still suffer oppression in society; they’re not there to promote knitting, shopping and makeup. The argument that we should have a Men’s Officer because we have a Woman’s Officer, or Men’s Groups because we have Women’s Groups is utterly fallacious; these things exist for women to help compensate for the oppression suffered under patriarchy and to advocate that men should have the same under the banner of “equality” represents a huge leap backwards in the struggle for genuine equality.

This notion of men’s oppression doesn’t stop with Manchester’s Men’s Society either. This week alone, articles have appeared in The Mail and The Times both arguing the needs for “men’s lib”. Hang on, you might be thinking, what happened to women’s lib? I’ll tell you: it’s on the back burner because the topic de jour is male oppression and the “examples” of it are rife. It’s not so upsetting that the paper which supported both Hitler and Mosley’s British Union of Fascists is in favour of the Men’s Society, but The Times, at least carries a bit more intellectual weight.

According to The Times, men are oppressed because there isn’t a “Ministry for Men” in government and there is a multibillion pound cosmetics market targeting men (the fact that it is dwarfed by the female cosmetics market and the beauty expectations placed upon the perfectly waxed, tanned and made-up women of the world, is neither here nor there). The slogan “Mums shop at Iceland” is another example of male oppression and nothing to do with the patriarchal society in which women are raised from birth with the intent of fulfilling all the roles of mother and housewife. Jo Brand is also, presumably by her very existence, listed as a man-oppressing force.

Well I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous. There is a reason why if you ask someone on the street what “misandry” means, 9 times out of 10 they won’t have a bloody clue.

Unfortunately, the Men’s Society virus appears to be spreading. A group has now been formed at Oxford, where a number of men are also falling foul of the imaginary misandry plague. Now, just to be clear, in the regular world white male Oxbridge students are about as oppressed as the Royal Family or the Pope. If they are experiencing any social trauma, then they need to be seeing a Doctor or Counsellor, not banding together as men and organising under the unfortunate tagline “Have you got balls? Literally.” Fortunately, at Oxford Women’s President is campaigning against this grouping; at Manchester, the Woman’s Officer - the Students’ Union official whose job it is to campaign for the liberation of women students - has dogmatically refused to take a side.

Men’s societies, groups and clubs should be seen for what they are: part of the backlash against the gains made by the women’s movement. It’s no coincidence that they have hit the national headlines at the same time as the Policing and Crime Bill (penalising women sex workers) and the Welfare Reform Bill (attacking single mothers) were passed, and a Vogue Editor publicly stated that maternity rights have made women unemployable.

But what would I know? I’m just a “feminist Nazi dyke” as one of our opponents puts it.

More here at the Facebook group.

Picture nicked from Jim J , who also posts on this topic.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Living It Up at Your Expense

The fat cats are at it again. This time it is Network Rail big cheeses.

Faced with the questionable need to discuss exactly how to chuck 1,500 maintenance workers on the dole, they thought the best place to do this would be a five-star hotel.

Obviously, the reason they have to sack all these workers, putting passenger safety at risk, is because they can't afford to carry on employing them. But, equally obviously, they can afford to pamper themselves.

After all, comfort and opulence for deserving fat cats is far more important than the trivial matters of workers' livelihoods or safe railways.

The Network Rail board will meet tomorrow (Wednesday 2nd December) at the Langham Hotel, which describes itself as "a sublime choice among London luxury hotels", offering "impeccable 5-star luxury accommodation" and "the epitome of elegance and poise".

Netowrk Rail is the government-subsidised, "not-for-profit" (ha ha) company set up to replace Railtrack, when even the privatisation fans in government decided that Railtrack was killing rather too many people. Obviously, when company bosses are not allowed to make profits, they simply spend the money on treats for themselves instead!

Of course, any union leader tempted to condemn this should first ensure that they are not open to similar criticism.