voting labour is not a fall-back option

19 11 2009

“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in…”***

by David Broder

The bitter chill of winter is never more harshly felt than at a labour movement conference with grandiose ambitions but limited prospects. This was much in evidence at the Labour Representation Committee last weekend, which marked a step back from any meaningful idea of renewing working-class representation.

Of course, the joke that the left is so keen on unity that it has sprouted a dozen competing unity projects is no longer particularly funny. But this problem is political, not merely organisational. For even worse than factionalism is simple retreat into the Labour Party. Read the rest of this entry »





cricket for iranian workers: hopi vs. lrc

20 07 2009

Fundraising cricket match: Hands off the People of Iran vs. Labour Representation Committee. From noon on Saturday August 1st at Low Halls sports ground, South Access Road, London E17, followed at 8pm by social at Dalston Social Centre, 2 Belgrade Road, N16.

The plans are slowly taking shape for what should be an excellent day with cricket, a barbecue, a bar, and some promising entertainment in the evening provided by our fans and supporters (click here to download leaflet). Read the rest of this entry »





solidarity with cleaners in struggle: public meeting – 4th august

16 07 2009

A public meeting has been called by the Labour Representation Commitee on Tuesday 4th August to discuss solidarity with cleaners in struggle. This once agan raises the question of why senior figures in the Unite United Left have not so far been prepared to offer their solidarity to union members in struggle.  Download  pdf leaflet here.

Tuesday 4th August, 6:30pm
Somerstown Community Centre, 150 Ossulston Street, London, NW1 1EE, (5 minutes from Euston Station)

In recent years brave union organising efforts have been mounted by migrant workers to demand basic rights and a living wage. A number of cleaning companies have responded by sacking union members and activists; they have colluded with the Border Agency in immigration raids to break organised workers. This is an urgent issue for the whole labour movement – come and discuss what should be done.

Spanish translation follows.

Read the rest of this entry »





update on cleaner activism in london

7 07 2009

Alberto Durango’s appeal: A very lively demonstration of trade unionists joined victimised rep Alberto Durango at his appeal with Lancaster Cleaning Company on Friday 3rd July. The demonstration was endorsed by John McDonnell MP and numerous other figures from the labour movement.

The employer was presented with a powerful case for Alberto’s reinstatement and responded saying they are re-investigating as a result of new evidence. In fact the evidence in question was predominantly Lancaster’s own company records, an indictment of their decision to sack Alberto in the first place.

LRC Supports Willis cleaners and Alberto: The National Committee of the Labour Representation Committee has added its voice in support of the Willis cleaners and Alberto. Read the rest of this entry »





8th june london forum: do we live in a democracy?

24 05 2009

The next of The Commune’s ‘uncaptive minds’ public forums takes place in London on the evening of Monday June 8th, and is on the question of ‘do we live in a democracy?’.

The recent MPs’ expenses scandal has brought renewed attention to the checks and balances of the House of Commons, from right and left alike. There is widespread anger at the excesses of the worst offenders, with the Speaker of the Commons axed, some arguing for more ‘regulation’ of the system and others calling for a clearout of the current MPs in favour of more ‘responsible’ MPs and more ‘independents’.

But few are questioning the Parliamentary system itself (see our recent editorial): although in recent months the mainstream press has been happy to use Marx’s economics to explain the economic crisis, they don’t dare to touch communists’ radical critique of the state, the ‘executive committee of the ruling class’.

At the meeting we will not only be looking at the current scandal and the response, but also the state of our democratic rights in general and its implications for our struggle for a different kind of society. The speakers leading off the debate will be The Commune’s Nathan Coombs and Labour left MP John McDonnell.

The meeting takes place from 7pm on the 8th at the Artillery Arms, near Old Street. All are welcome – get in touch with us at uncaptiveminds@gmail.com if you would like more information. Map of the venue below. Read the rest of this entry »





ten days that shook new labour

5 02 2009

an article on the refinery strikes by John McDonnell MP

Large numbers of workers taking spontaneous direct action have not only shocked this New Labour Government but have also disoriented some sections of the Left.

I have been off the scene largely because of the 3rd Runway announcement two weeks ago. When the Government announces that 10,000 members of your community are about to lose their homes and you are their MP you have a responsibility to focus your attention on their deep felt cares and concerns. So in the last couple of weeks I have thrown myself into organising meeting after meeting in my constituency, speaking to over 1500 people and contacting by various means nearly 20,000. Their response has been feelings of fear, insecurity, anxiety, anger and sheer determination to fight back. Read the rest of this entry »





the commune issue 2 published

22 01 2009

issue2cover

february 2009 – £1 + postage and packing, email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com to order

click here for pdf or see individual articles below

barack obama is lipstick on a pig – by Ernie Haberkern

civil service pay dispute: defeat or victory? – by Steve Ryan, Wrexham PCS

class struggle on the london underground – interview with Vaughan Thomas, RMT London region chair (LUL)

occupations: the way to win? – guest editorial by Gregor Gall

the people’s charter: a charter for change? - by Chris Kane (online only)

militancy and mobilisation in the anti-war movement

the mindset of israelis in the gaza conflict – by Solomon Anker

anti-semitism and the war – by Aled Thomas

unemployment: a view from the front line – by Christine Hulme, PCS DWP

welfare ‘reform’, the brown premiership and the recession – by Chris Grover, Lancaster University

what does ‘socialism or barbarism’ mean today? – by François Chesnais

call centres: the workers’ enquiry – review by Jack Staunton

ukraine’s ‘new left’ and the russian ‘gas war’ – by Milan Lelich

the socialist movement in iran – by Sam Parsa

political platform of the commune






the people’s charter: a charter for change? – updated

18 01 2009

In recent weeks and months a “People’s Charter” has been elaborated by a commission involving a number of leaders of the trade unions and the left, notably the leadership of the RMT railworkers’ union but also John McDonnell MP, leading officials in other broadly radical trade unions such as the FBU and NUT, and prominent members of Respect and the Communist Party of Britain. This “charter for change” has not yet been finalised, but it appears that its text will be decided upon and then launched at a rally, rather than openly and democratically discussed across wider layers of our movement. We disapprove of the manner in which this project has been carried out, and do not think much of the current raft of “programmes for government action” issued by left groups which say little about what action we ourselves must take and what movement we need to do it.

However, we publish this draft of the document (see below) in the hope that it will provoke discussion and allow dissenting voices in the labour movement like our own to be heard: as always, feel free to post comments and replies. A more thoroughgoing analysis and critique appears in the second issue of The Commune. Read the rest of this entry »





report: conference on working-class political representation

11 01 2009

by Chris Kane

About 120 people attended Saturday’s conference, which was called by the RMT rail union.  It was much smaller than a similar event held a few years ago and unfortunately clashed with the anti-war march and the Socialist Workers Party conference.  The event itself was not built widely with a clear agenda or purpose.  The contrast between the vibrant militant youth of the anti-war mobilisations and this conference could not have been greater: it was veterans of the left, mostly over forty, male and white.   But there was an open and extensive debate and plenty of time was allowed for contributions from the floor.

RMT leader Bob Crow opened the event by responding to criticism by a 90 year old communist who said that “this is just a talking shop”. Crow defended it on the basis that “there is a need to talk to break down the barriers of the past”.  He said that if New Labour were to found itself as a political party today there would hardly be a “trade union which would affiliate”.  It was in his view a thoroughly capitalist party and could not be reclaimed: he praised John McDonnell MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP, and pointed out that when they are gone, there will be no similar people to replace them. Read the rest of this entry »





bulletin for january 10th rmt conference on “the crisis in working-class political representation”

8 01 2009

On January 10th the RMT is holding a conference on “the crisis in working class political representation”. Three years after staging a similar conference – and after three years in which no progress has been made – the union leadership is carrying out some of ‘the letter’ of its conference policy to set up workers’ representation committees, although the event on Saturday will have no motions, votes or powers to make decisions. Nevertheless it should provide a forum for discussing the question of where left electoral initiatives have gone wrong and what we can do next.

We will be distributing a bulletin arguing that saying  “shall the unions stay in the Labour Party or set up a new party [a Labour Party Mk II]?” is asking the wrong question. We do not want either, but a wholesale reorganisation of the trade unions and an end to the rigid separation between workplace activism and Parliamentary/electoral politics which characterises so much of the history of the British labour movement. Click here for a pdf of the bulletin.

rmtbulletincover

The event takes place from 11am to 3pm at Friends’ Meeting House near Euston Station. Speakers include Bob Crow, Mark Serwotka and John McDonnell – register at www.rmt.org.uk





hands off the people of iran conference report

14 12 2008

by David Broder

On Saturday 13th December I attended the conference of Hands Off the People of Iran, a solidarity campaign not only opposed to military attacks, “surgical strikes” and sanctions against Iran, but also supporting struggles against the régime waged by the workers’ movement, women’s and student organisations.

Just over sixty people attended, which was slightly down on last year, no doubt largely because the threat of a US or Israeli military attack on Iran seems lesser now that the US government and its allies are making deals with Islamist élites in order to extricate themselves from Iraq.

After a report on the last year’s activities, there was a general discussion on the current situation, led by Torab Saleth. This particularly focussed on the seemingly more “pragmatic” attitudes to foreign policy now held by the American ruling class, as symptomised by their majority support for Barack Obama in the recent presidential election and the weakening of the neo-conservative voice on Capitol Hill.  Torab and several speakers from the floor warned that the situation could change suddenly, particularly given the continuity shown by Obama’s appointments, the risk of the US ruling class lashing out under pressure from the recession, and even the possibility of an Israeli “surgical strike” without Obama’s approval. A further consideration is, of course, the weakening of the Iranian economy with the collapse in world oil prices.

In any case the situation is in many ways unpredictable because (i) the Obama administration and the Iranian régime are not utterly irreconcilable and could easily reach accommodation: the latter supports the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and aggressively implements IMF neo-liberal reforms (ii)  nor are their relations purely “rational” or reflective of greater economic or strategic dynamics. Read the rest of this entry »





photos of the last of our forums on 1970s class struggle

9 12 2008

Last night (Monday 8th December) we held the last of our first series of “uncaptive minds” forums. The subject of the series was the 1970s class struggle, and we held meetings on struggles such as the Grunwick strike, the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders‘ occupation and the Leeds women clothing workers’ strike as well as discussing the organising methods of the time and focussing on debates in the movement such as the issue of workers’ control.

30 people attended the last of our seven fortnightly meetings, which was on the subject matter ‘Where did it all go?’. A few photos are featured below.

Liam comments: “earlier this evening I went along to a meeting organised by The Commune at which John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn very vividly brought to life politics and class struggle in the 1970s. John mentioned an example of a factory in his area in which the management removed the phone from the union office. The shop steward walked to the phone box at the end of the street and brought 250 workers with him. He got his phone back. Jeremy described his time as an organiser for NUPE when he would walk into school kitchens and recruit all the non members into the union. Contrast this to the contemporary situation. The young workers in my local branch of Woolworths yesterday were energetically recreating the 1974 Bulgarian retail experience. It hadn’t crossed their mind to strike, occupy the shop, hold a public meeting. Stoic acceptance that they were losing their jobs and the hope that something else would turn up seemed to be their attitude.”

A new series will begin in the New Year, looking at wider aspects of capitalism and the working class today. More information to follow shortly. Read the rest of this entry »





changes to line-up for monday’s forum

6 12 2008

PCS activist Christine Hulme has been added to the platform for Monday‘s ‘uncaptive minds’ forum on the 1970s class struggle. She will be leading off the discussion alongside John McDonnell MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP and RMT activist Steve Hedley.

Unfortunately, Joe Marino will now be unable to attend, for health reasons.

The meeting begins at 6:30pm on Monday 8th December. The venue is in central London – email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com or phone 07595 245494 to find out more details.





where next for the LRC?

29 11 2008

This article was commissioned as a discussion item for Stroppy Blog and as such only represents my own opinions, not necessarily those of anyone else from The Commune – David Broder.

The turnout at the Labour Representation Committee conference on November 15th reflected the role of the current economic crisis in pushing people long involved in the left back into activity: numbers were up from 200 last year to around 270 (not as reported on our website), even though the number of young people involved has declined.

There were several positive steps made at the conference that could breathe fresh life into the organisation, not least its call for a series of discussions on workers’ self-management, social ownership and what we mean by socialism – developing the work begun by the Left Economics Advisory Panel on breaking from Old Labour and Stalinist conceptions of socialism – and the LRC’s affiliation to Hands Off the People of Iran. Hopefully both steps will allow the membership of the LRC to be more involved week-to-week and month-to-month. Read the rest of this entry »








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 16,928 other followers