love nor money: unpaid work at tesco

2 04 2012

Sharon Borthwick looks at the absurd ideology behind last month’s row over workfare schemes

What a joke to have a national minimum wage if you are then allowed to pay your employees nothing at all. “Stacking supermarket shelves is better than dreaming of stardom via TV’s the X Factor”, smarms Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. For a quiet man he doesn’t half come out with a lot of shit. What of young persons more pragmatic dreams, to gain paid employment after education?

Image

“The idea that we should allow a bunch of extremists to get in the way of providing genuine, voluntary help for young people is just crazy” says the indignant Chris Grayling referring to the successes of left groups including Boycott Workfare and Right To Work in either getting firms to withdraw from or postpone their involvement with the government’s workfare programmes, including Mandatory Work Activity whereby claimants can have their benefits withdrawn for thirteen weeks for not working for zero wages  for eight weeks. Read the rest of this entry »





back in the DHSS

5 01 2012

Terry Liddle looks back on a life working at the Department of Health and Social Security

Having graduated from university on to the dole and then working on a short-term Community Enterprise Programme, which I tried to organise into the NUPE union with little success, I was back signing on. One day the counter clerk at the Unemployment Benefit Office asked: “How would you like to come and work for us?” The “us” was the local DHSS office in Lewisham. After a literacy test, I started work on a Monday morning as part of the lowest grade – clerical assistant.

The work consisted of linking letters to claimants’ files which were never where they were meant to be often being buried under piles created by overworked Clerical Officers. It was boring and the pay lousy, but better than the dole! Read the rest of this entry »





workers’ control in the health-care system

22 12 2011

Mike Levine discusses how we can go beyond the hierarchical form of the National Health Service. The author has spent most of his working life as an NHS researcher.

While the National Health Service is remarkably successful in treating ill people, it is under threat of being opened up to international free markets. Both Labour and Tory/Lib Dem parties seem hell bent on this. The problem with private health providers is that they cannot make a profit out of treating any but the richer part of society unless they are subsidised.

on life support: the NHS is under attack. what is our alternative for how healthcare should be run?

The belief that a health service based upon market systems is more likely than a publicly planned one to lead to a decent healthy life for everyone, is completely unfounded. There is no evidence for it and comparison of the NHS with, say, the USA or European countries shows that Britain spends less in terms of a proportion of GDP for a service which is both good and equally available to everyone. Read the rest of this entry »





the cuts: not just defending the ‘welfare state’

26 11 2011

The Sheffield Commune is holding a public meeting on the afternoon of the 30th November public sector strike.

We will be discussing the capitalist state, the cuts and the communist alternative vision for how workers and service users can run public services.

The welfare state: 'ours'?

From 3:30pm on Wednesday 30th November (after the rally/demo) at the Rutland Arms, Brown Street, near the Showroom Cinema. All welcome, plenty of time for debate. Read the rest of this entry »





N30: there is an alternative

5 11 2011

On 30th November (‘N30’) the UK will see the biggest day yet of strike action by public sector workers as part of a fight against the government’s austerity plans. Over twenty unions representing 3 million public sector workers will strike over government attempts to significantly increase employee contributions while reducing employer contributions to pension schemes, raise the retirement age, and drastically reduce pension pay-outs to workers. Workers in both the public and private sectors are facing similar job cuts.

This strike, as well as the square occupations and the recent electricians’ strike over pay cuts are part of a broader struggle against austerity sweeping across the world. Read the rest of this entry »





opposition and the cuts

10 10 2011

The Commune’s editorial

BBC presenters sat mouths-gaping on 26th September as City trader Alessio Rastani proudly boasted on live TV of the financial sector’s power and its disdain for the victims of the recession. He proclaimed that a crisis was a great opportunity to make a fast buck and that he dreamt of the next such meltdown. Reeking of arrogant class prejudice, here was the true face behind our rulers’ democratic and liberal mask.

That same week, Ed Miliband spoke to Labour conference, calling for a ‘new morality’ rewarding the ‘hard-working’. Yet asked by a member of the public whether he would endeavour to protect workers’ pensions, ‘Red Ed’ said he could promise nothing, since workers getting older is no longer ‘affordable’. Not only did he drive a wedge between the employed and the ‘undeserving poor’, championing harsh penalties for rioters and ‘scroungers’: he disavowed strike action as a means of standing up for workers’ living standards. Read the rest of this entry »





giz a fightback: the ‘80s unemployed

10 09 2011

Unemployment threatens to hit early-1980s levels: but how can the jobless stand up to the government? Terry Liddle reflects on his experience of the unemployed movement in those years

In the early 1980s there were 3 million unemployed and students were moving straight from graduation to the dole queue. No exception, I went to sign on at Spray Street dole office in Woolwich. Outside a group of people were leafleting. They were Greenwich Action Group On Unemployment (GAGOU).  As the factories which lined the river from Erith to Deptford closed down, it was set up by the newly unemployed and a community worker from Greenwich Council, shades of things to come!

GAGOU spent a lot of time on individual cases of which there were many. In this we enlisted the help of sympathetic staff at the dole office. And in turn when they were in dispute our banner would appear on their picket line. But we did not make links with local union branches, many of which would not let the unemployed join, or with the Trades Council. Read the rest of this entry »





why is there class in the classroom?

8 09 2011

Dave Spencer explores the reasons for working-class under-achievement in the British education system.

There is an iron law in the sociology of education which states that the working class in Britain do badly in the education system. A recent study by the Sutton Trust should therefore come as no surprise. It found that over 2007-9 five elite private schools sent 946 students to Oxbridge whereas 2,000 comprehensives sent 927  between them. No surprise too at the recent UCU survey of educational attainment in various parliamentary constituencies. They found that  12.1% of people have no qualifications and 29% have degree level or above.  But this varied considerably from area to area with some working-class areas having over 30% with no qualifications.

prison warder: for many a classist education system is a trial

The basic question of course is – why do the working class do so badly?  At one time there was a straightforward argument between Nature and Nurture, genetics or environment.  It is difficult to argue these days, as some psychologists did in the 1960s, that the reason women and blacks did badly in the education system and society in general is because they are less intelligent. But many people still assume that the reason working class children do badly in the education system is because genetically they do not have the ability. Elitism or the idea that the people at the top of our class hierarchy are there because they are more intelligent is still alive and well. Just look at the smug buggers on the Coalition front bench! Read the rest of this entry »





NHS: privatisation or reform?

9 08 2011

East London GP Jonathon Tomlinson continues our series on alternative ideas as to how public services should be run.

The Government’s intention to privatise the NHS continues unabated after a so-called pause and ‘listening exercise’.

Most importantly, the secretary of state for health’s duty – enshrined in the NHS since 1948 – ‘to provide and secure the effective provision of services’ has been delegated to an unaccountable quango called the NHS Commissioning Board. Entitlement to a comprehensive range of NHS services will no longer be guaranteed by government.

The other significant non-change after the pause is the role of competition which was widely reported to have been watered down, but emerges intact and probably even more central than before, with the Competition and Cooperation Panel (CCP) taking on the role of preventing anti-competitive behaviour. They have made it clear that they regard existing NHS hospitals as ‘vested interests’ and that competition is an unmitigated good. Read the rest of this entry »





understanding europe’s crisis

31 07 2011

John Keeley argues that it’s more than just Europe’s periphery that’s in crisis; it’s the entire capitalist system.

Democracy is derived from the Greek Demos (People) and Kratos (Power). This is what we are seeing on the streets of Athens - people power versus the EU/IMF dictatorship. But what are the roots of this debt crisis and why does the EU/IMF demand austerity?

To understand why each Greek owes €30,000 in debt requires an understanding of the role of credit in the capitalist system. Fractional reserve banking allows banks to lend more money than they actually have. In boom times everything looks rosy to the capitalists and credit is extended and profit rates look healthy. But this expansion of credit fuels overproduction. It then starts to dawn that debt-saturation means not all loans will be repaid. Banks become reluctant to lend to one another and credit dries up. This is a credit crunch. As capitalists retreat to cash, effective demand in the market reduces and a recession occurs. Read the rest of this entry »





reflections on june 30th strike day: a movement taking its first steps

27 07 2011

For Izzy Parrott, the J30 day of action was about more than pensions: but it didn’t have the feel of a wide, grassroots movement. 

I went to the strike with Hackney Welfare Action, a benefit claimant and unemployed workers’ group in Hackney, where members support each other with problems at the Job Centre, take action collectively and campaign against ‘work for your benefits’. This is sister group to the Hackney Housing Group, which I’m personally involved in.

Hackney Welfare Action members first went to the picket line at Hackney Benefits Centre, which was a useful show of support for the three workers on the picket line, including one trade union representative. Only fifteen out of three hundred workers crossed the picket that was made up of three workers and roughly thirty supporters. The workers were pleased to have the support and the dialogue we had reminded me that the picket line is still a great place to have conversations! Read the rest of this entry »





sheffield anti-cuts: a fairer capitalism?

21 06 2011

Clifford Biddulph found the Sheffield anti-cuts alliance heavier on top-table speakers than real politics or organisation

The second public meeting of the campaign against the cuts in Sheffield was was far smaller and less representative than the first founding meeting last year, despite the recent demos and strike votes. Less than one hundred people sat in a University lecture room with seats for five hundred, to listen to seven speakers. It was a trade union rally, not a meeting for activists to discuss the socialist alternative to the crisis of capitalism and how to organise to make the transition to  a real movement.

The character of the speeches was very defensive. It was all about keeping what we had. Defending our welfare state against the Nasty Tories as if the Labour Party was not making cuts in Manchester and elsewhere. There was no criticism of the Labour Party or those union leaders reluctant to fight the cuts. The political implication of the speeches was the Labour Party could somehow represent the fight back or to register that there was a trade union fightback. There was no analysis of the economic crisis and no speaker including a Permanent Revolution supporter, mentioned the S word. John McDonnell MP came closest with his call for a new society.   Read the rest of this entry »





civil servants on strike: we can’t let the floodgates open

7 06 2011

Ahead of civil servants’ walkouts this week and the June 30th strike day, Steve Ryan writes on the Con-Dem offensive against the whole working class

Members of the PCS civil servants’ union throughout a number of departments are taking industrial action over a range of issues, all of which have one theme, and that is government cuts. Department for Work and Pensions and Equality and Human Rights Commission workers are to walk out over office closures, and HMRC tax workers over attacks on sick leave.

con-dems want to crush the possibility of resistance

Also of course it is PCS that has been instrumental in pushing for co-ordinated action on June 30th.

Many on the left see this as something to be fully supported, and of course it is,. However the issues at stake are more complex and even more important than may at first appear. Read the rest of this entry »





bristol anti-cuts: in and for the state?

18 03 2011

Oleg Resin asks if we can do more than make defensive arguments against the cuts

One afternoon towards the end of February, a bizarre scene unfolded in Bristol City Council’s main meeting room. While the local councillors were discussing the vote on the cuts of some £20 million, a small group of protesters was shouting at them from the public corner.

The ‘funny’ thing about this was that while dozens of thousands people work in the public services in Bristol, the only people who in an organised way actually stuck their heads out, and were therefore dragged out by the police, were pro-anarchist Industrial Workers of the World and a few ‘non-aligned’ radicals. Anti-state activists beaten up as a ‘vanguard’ of a pro-welfare state protest! (without a mass following)… If curious, this scene nevertheless captures something crucial to our condition in Bristol. Read the rest of this entry »








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,848 other followers