Report on Radical Workers’ Bloc at Tolpuddle 2019

It pissed down Friday afternoon and Saturday morning then cleared up, Sunday was hot and we got our kit away dry. Les’ food was superb as ever. We were  a bit thin on the ground as AFed were all up to no good in Slovenia. The POA seemed to be on their best behaviour, so as far as we’re aware no-one got groped or verbally abused.

Rumours of an imminent TERF infestation having circulated on Saturday night, a sharp eye was kept out for them. The fundamentalist WPUK group boasted on twitter that they had marched, but nobody saw any, and a considerable amount of video footage has been examined since. The picture they bandied about shows three transphobes with an imitation union banner stood on the road outside the marquee facing the march route. The CWU’s balloon-bearers are behind them walking in the opposite direction, indicating the march had finished. Another snap shows them stood with the crypto-Stalinist, dictator-apologising Stop the War Coalition, presumably discussing Bukharinist/Trotskyist revisionism or something equally topical.

The ‘Freedom for Ocalan’ campaign stole the show, with a Kurdish marching band, a disciplined, colour co-ordinated bloc and a balloon each end. We slotted in behind, led by Dorset IWW’s Free Kevan Thakrar banner, highlighting the most blatant miscarriage of bourgeois ‘justice’ since the pub bombing show trials and the framing of Stefan Kiszko in the 1970’s.

We didn’t get a stall this year and we hear Weymouth Animal Rights and Brighton Solfed were also declined. but as Dorset have taken over the IWW one we were able to insert some literature relating to syndicalist history, theory and practice. It was missed, because people kept asking about it. Your best bet is to come and see us at Dorset Radical Bookfair on the 7th September, or if you’re too far away get in touch. We haven’t got a literature catalogue and we’re out of space on here. We may have to set up a separate blog to host all the new stuff. There’s a job for someone with a lot of time on their hands (hint).

Shout out to, in no particular order: Rain, Sabcat Andy, Heledd, Sarah-Jane, Neil, Doozer and Les, Nikki and Kev, Swindon Jon, Dodger, Skimmity hitchers, Russ, positive Jon, Jim-Bob, Bristol SolFed, Morrish solicitors, Barnsley folk, Pete the Poet, Keith, Steve W, Robb, Lib-Com Ray and the comrade from Marea Granate, many others whose names I’ve mislaid.

Here’s some video:

Justice for Kev facebook page

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RADICAL WORKERS’ BLOC AT TOLPUDDLE 2019

Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival and rally 2019 Friday, 19th to Sunday, 21st July 2019. View map No stall this year, apparently they were “oversubscribed”. Nah we don’t either, more time to get drunk then.

On the plus side the IWW are back, with a new improved stall run by Dorset branch.

Wob kitchen will run from Friday evening to Sunday lunch, next to the Big Tent; you’ll hardly notice the difference. Wessex Solidarity will make some of our literature catalogue available on the day. We’ve lots of new stuff that isn’t in the reference library as we’re running out of storage space – it hasn’t been updated for years. Why not get in touch now if there’s a subject you’re particularly interested in.

Catering Cadre: Comrade Les, our Wob kitchen chef is offering free training on outside and event catering for Radical Workers and groups who want to feed their members, homeless or unemployed workers in a safe and cost-effective way. Topics including:

  • Basic Health safety and hygiene.
  • Basic budget and Menu planning.
  • Basic dietary requirements.
  • Basic safe use of LPG and Butane gas cookers.

Let us know if you’re interested or come and see us about it at the festival.

Safe Space Policy: “don’t be a dick”.

This year we ask Radical Workers to be especially kind to members of the Prison Officers Association, as they are ever so sensitive, and easily upset by loud noises and rude words.

Bloody hell it was hot! Tolpuddle R.W.B. 2018

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Bloody hell it was hot! Tolpuddle R.W.B. 2018

A rather laid back Tolpuddle with everyone seemingly subdued by the temperature. It was good to see Brighton SolFed take up a stall, and a pity the IWW didn’t manage to book one as we had loads of local Wobs on hand to crew it and plenty of IWW-related literature, which made our table a bit cramped. Les did us proud as ever, Theresa’s innovative engineering solution with the sacktruck made the Wob Kitchen table more strong and stable than her gormless namesake. Misty in Roots was sublime as I remember them from the 70s and I Destroy from Bristol is a band to watch.

We’re definitely past peak J.C., I only heard three desultory chants of “Ooh Jeremy Corbyn” Some geezer in a ‘wake up Labour’ T shirt came by the stall, seemed normal enough then handed over a leaflet – I can’t remember what it was about – full of anti-Semitic conspiracy bollocks. “What is this rubbish? Who cares if George Soros is Jewish or not?” Bloke shrugged and I gave him a pamphlet about anti-Semitism. Later on the march, the crank was spotted wearing a Guy Fawkes mask carrying a portrait of Vladimir Putin with the caption ‘peacemaker’. At the end of the village, the ‘friends of Israel’ we oiked off the site a couple of years ago stood brandishing vast British and Israeli flags, shouting something about Hamas.

Meanwhile the Labour party squabbles over two ‘examples of anti-Semitism’ from the I.H.R.A. code:

 g. Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.

j. Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis

Now usually in anti-oppression politics, the hegemonic group doesn’t get to define what constitutes oppressive behaviour, but this is more complicated. Religion is a species of ideology, and ideology is an excuse for doing what you like and/or a palliative for those you’re doing it to. Worse, it’s a cross-class alliance. Caution should be exercised over cultural identity for the same reason; both these things often have implicit hierarchies embedded within them.

Racism is anything that materially or socially disadvantages members of a racialised group, or makes it more likely they will be targets for violence and oppressive behaviour. It’s a methodology for maintaining a power relation so it only works where such a relation exists. Anti-Semitic oppression falls on Working Class Jews who don’t have the protection of the state of Israel or the U.S. government, it doesn’t fall on Netanyahu and co. They are part of the hegemonic group, not because there is a conspiracy, or because Judaism exerts undue influence, but because they are the ultra-nationalist leadership of a state engaged in military-industrial capitalism. States are cross-class alliances; they don’t represent any people, just a mode of production.

I would say the state of Israel is a racist endeavour, so is the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Russian Federation. Almost all states were founded on racism; they began with a cultural majority carving out a piece of territory, imposing their language and customs and excluding outsiders; they invaded and robbed their neighbours. The economic and political dominance of North-Western Europe and North America was achieved through the pillage of Latin America, Africa, and the Indian sub-continent. That is the context in which the state of Israel was founded.

So what do you think, if a state grants an absolute right of citizenship to Jews and only Jews, is it racist?

Allowing displaced Palestinians to return to Israel-Palestine would deny the Israeli state a Jewish voting majority, without which it could not guarantee such rights in perpetuity. Is it racist to give Jewish people a greater right to self-determination than Palestinian people?

Is it racist to contend that all Jewish people must make this moral compromise?

Is it racist to take sixty to a hundred Palestinian lives for every Israeli one lost?

Is it racist to claim that a body of privileged individuals speaks for an entire Diaspora, or even that anybody needs to? A Diaspora that comprises a range of ethnicities, religious and secular traditions, proletarians and bourgeois alike – including anarchist comrades – especially when clearly, it doesn’t, as many Jews on this island profoundly disagree with it?

Would it have been anti-Semitic for J.C. to refuse an invitation to a cultural event from a group of young Working Class Jews in his constituency on his night off?

Is it racist to conflate anti-capitalism with anti-Semitism, implying that all Jews are supporters of capitalism?

Is it anti-Semitic to call Jonathan Arkush an arrogant prick?

There is a noble tradition of Jewish anti-capitalist movements, anarchist, socialist and atheist in Britain, Europe and the U.S. and Jews have been active in antifascism as long as there have been fascists. The board of deputies is a deeply reactionary clique that opposed every grassroots Jewish antifascist initiative of the 20th century. It opposed the action at Cable Street, and the work of the 43 and 62 groups, which effectively confounded three waves of British fascism, and if you take these things as seriously as we do, undoubtedly saved many lives. There’s a reason for this, self-organised Working Class Jews kicking their persecutors around threaten the vicarious victimhood of their self-appointed representatives. Wouldn’t the board of deputies be buggered if people stopped being anti-Semitic? These wankers are literally playing politics with Working Class lives.

In practice, nobody represents anyone but themselves, communities do not need states or leaders, and many Jewish people agree. We disdain bourgeois Jews because they’re bourgeois not because they’re Jewish. Just as we have no time for black cops, gay fascists or female prime ministers. Where is the clamour about anti-Palestinianism?

I don’t know if it’s actually anti-Semitic to accuse a Jewish person of acting like a Nazi, but it’s pretty fucking tactless, just as I wouldn’t describe an African-American employer as a slave-driver, use your noggin, Ken. You shouldn’t say stupid things like “Hitler supported Zionism” in the sense that “Hitler supported Arsenal”, because he didn’t. The Nazi state cut a deal with one section of the Zionist movement in August 1933 because they shared part of an agenda – getting European Jews to move to Palestine rather than be comfortably settled in Europe. It meant breaking an embargo on German exports. Other Zionists were violently opposed to the idea and fought valiantly against the Nazis. Haim Arlosoroff, one of the architects of the Haavara settlement was subsequently assassinated.

Anti-Semitism certainly lurked below the surface of anti-capitalism, for example in the Occupy movement; it’s faulty politics and bad history. Using ‘Zionist’ as a pejorative is unhelpful and I wouldn’t recommend it. Historically Zionism was diverse, including utopian socialists, religious groups and of course the right-wing nationalists that eventually took it over.

These aren’t problems capitalism can solve. Jews will be free when everyone is free, when identities don’t have to compete on the market and we’ve done away with the bourgeoisie and their toxic state idea.

Kingfisher Victory!

Congratulations are due to the Kingfisher Mums and their supporters today, the CCG have finally capitulated.

Confounding  the many faces set against this campaign, including both of Oliver Letwin’s, with his ugly henchman Richard Grosvenor-Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax M.P., full consultant-led maternity and Paediatric services will be retained at Dorset County Hospital.

Full respect to the Mums who for three years now have maintained a relentless struggle in the teeth of abject treachery and deceit from local politicians and NHS officials, whilst bringing up their families and caring for some profoundly unwell and disabled children. We especially salute the tireless Naomi Patterson.

As history shall recall, Working Class women are a force to be reckoned with.

We didn’t even need to smash anything up, this time.

The NHS was built by the Working Class for the Working Class. Drugs and medical equipment are made by workers not capitalists. Cleaners, doctors, nurses, midwives, porters and technicians are workers. It belongs to us, it’s not a source of revenue for the socially useless. Keep your filthy grasping bourgeois hands off it!

To celebrate, here’s a song about vampires:

Fighting for a living wage: John Hardy and the battle of Pyt House.

On 25th November 1830, at the height of the Captain Swing uprising, labourer John Hardy was killed in action against yeomanry near his home at Tisbury in Wiltshire.

Four hundred quarrymen and agricultural labourers had confronted the landowner and local M.P. John Benett at Pyt House to demand two shillings per day, the quarrymen were at that time on three and a half pence. Instead Benett read a royal proclamation against riot, then offered five hundred pounds to any worker who would inform on ten others.

The workers were unmoved and destroyed Benett’s threshing machines. They were engaged in woodland by a troop of yeoman cavalry that had pursued them from nearby Hindon. A pitched battle ensued as the workers fought back with hatchets, pickaxes, hammers, sticks and stones, knocking Benett unconscious. All day, running battles were fought across the Vale of Wylye and barricades erected on the Warminster road.

Hardy was shot dead and twenty-nine others captured. At Benett’s insistence the cavalry denied the injured prisoners water on the journey to Fisherton Gaol.

A witness wrote: “the blood did trickle out of the wagons the whole way to Salisbury …”

Background, and here we go again under capitalism:

At the turn of the 19th century the industrial revolution was spreading into agriculture and threshing machines abolished a quarter of the work in a few decades. Land enclosures proletarianised the peasantry and stole the commons, resources that had supported them since prehistory.

The ruling class wanted to have their cake and eat it, to create a ‘free market’ for agricultural labour whilst retaining the rigid social hierarchies inherited from feudalism and preventing economic migration. The Speenhamland system of poor relief, adopted in the 1790s, subsidised poverty wages from the parish rates according to family size and the price of bread.

Relief was tied to the parish of birth and set by the local magistrates. Paupers were obliged to take such work as was offered, and vagrancy laws stopped them crossing parish lines to look for better pay or the dwindling common land where they might live for free – “every man must have a master”. Landowners were thus guaranteed a captive pool of cheap labour to use as they saw fit, and to this indignity was added the further degradation of dependence on charity in return for servile conduct.

Steady employment gave way to hire by the day, or the hour, wages fell, and the bread ration was cut. There are tales of paupers being auctioned and harnessed to carts with bells around their necks. Tithes, rents and taxes rose, the bosses amassed great fortunes and ratepayers complained about the cost of poor relief. These included small farmers who didn’t like it either, when one laid off their hands, others would do likewise: “if I must pay his men, he shall pay mine”.

Captain Swing didn’t start as an insurrection against the status quo but was the response of necessity after a series of bad harvests threatened the rural proletariat with starvation. Just as modern unrest is often not specifically anti-capitalist but motivated by a sense of unfairness and injustice, they aspired to no more than providing for their families as in former times. “We don’t want any mischief, but we want that poor children when they go to bed should have a belly full of tatoes” Labourers initially trusted their masters would do right by them if reminded of their obligations: “ye have not done as ye ought”.

Sound familiar?

Their masters needed a shove however, and the practice of collective direct action leads to an appreciation of the strength of the Working Class and its fundamental antagonism to property and privilege. The logic of Swing was simple and infallible: they had been raised to understand they must work to live, they must earn wages or starve as undeserving paupers, therefore they would break the machines that took their work and demand a wage for doing so. The going rate was about forty shillings per machine. The gentry and clergy that lived so well at their expense could provide them with food and beer as they worked – or else.

Meanwhile in the cities radicals agitated for political reform and the Duke of Wellington’s tory government dug its heels in. Dissenters and ranters went around the country preaching everything from the second coming to full communism. There were revolutions on the continent and Kent villages flew tricolours or pirate flags as symbols of rebellion. A demonstration was called for the 9th November at the Guildhall to disrupt the inauguration of the Lord Mayor, to be attended by Wellington and the King. The authorities decided to cancel the day before.

Moving Westward from Kent Swing became a mass movement. The workers were joined by poachers and smugglers, formed alliances across parish and county borders abetted by agitators on horseback. Swing entered Wiltshire and Dorset from Hampshire, then on to Gloucestershire, and touched the industrial midlands where King Ludd reigned twenty years earlier; it reached Cornwall, Norfolk, Hereford and Carlisle. Jails were opened and prisoners released. Magistrates informed the Home Office that two-thirds of the rural population were involved in machine-breaking.

By the end of the year it had brought down Wellington’s government. It also achieved a general increase in wages and lowering of tithes and rents. Many farmers sympathised and voluntarily acceded to the workers’ demands if their neighbours would follow suit, refusing to be sworn in as yeomen or constables, and were invited to join in and take back their taxes. The mechanisation of agriculture was delayed, but that was never the root cause of the misery. The problem wasn’t the machine, but its use to produce wealth for the owner rather than food for the worker.

Swing challenged the hierarchy in two important ways: it assumed a parallel moral authority independent of church* and state, but above all it was mobile; the Working Class were not supposed to move around without permission or invitation.

* It’s instructive that a common form of passive protest at the time was for villagers to walk out of a sermon and smoke their pipes in the churchyard.

Repression followed, and not just against the convicted insurgents. The new poor law of 1834 abolished outdoor relief altogether and made it conditional on forced labour in the workhouse. Paupers, the elderly and infirm were made prisoners of Class War, subject to summary punishment. Wives and husbands were separated and the children of widows apt to be sold to factory owners or shipped to the colonies as indentured labourers. A new centralised law enforcement regime – the filth – was imported from Napoleonic France via occupied Ireland. In February 1832 the Metropolitan Police, formed in 1829 as a pilot project, inserted its first of many undercover cops, Sergeant Popay, into the National Political Union for a year as an agent provocateur. Within a couple of years the Met was being used as a mobile riot squad against the Chartists.

Such events are commonly portrayed as the birth pains of modernism but two hundred years later fuck all has changed. We’re still dependent on wages, still subject to displacement by machines. Technology is still reducing the value of human activity and creating poverty when it should be enhancing our abilities and freeing us for more beneficial occupations. We’re still governed by received values that many passively endorse but few understand where they came from or who they serve.

Capitalism cannot solve these problems, but we can. We ought to celebrate our martyrs:

John Hardy we’re proud of you!

– Mal Content.

Sources and further reading:

http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/ENG-WILTSHIRE/2004-11/1099392025

‘Captain Swing’ – Hobsbawm and Rude

‘Tolpuddle And Swing, The Flea And The Elephant’ – Dr. Roger Ball.

‘The Labourers’ Revolt, correspondence, John Benett M.P and others.’ – National Archives.

Radical workers’ bloc at Tolpuddle 2017.

Not a lot to report this year, except a fine weekend catching up with friends – and a big shout out to Les once again for the Wob kitchen.

On Saturday there was a short discussion to mark the centenary of the Russian Revolution, which Leninist-apologists continue to identify with the Bolshevik power-grab and its agonising consequences, rather than the bold experiments in workers’ self-management that flourished briefly between February and October 1917. These were part of a revolutionary current that developed spontaneously on every continent in the early years of the last century. It had no need of party games or secretive professional revolutionaries. Your first idea is usually the best one but people have an unfortunate tendency to identify with leaders, especially ones that seem to have come out of nowhere (but have actually been peddling the same ideas for years). Just as they grasp the need to take control of an intolerable situation, they hand it all over to someone else, who fucks it all up on their behalf.

That grim “oh Jeremy Corbyn” chant, just irritating at first, became quite uncomfortable as the weekend wore on. The dead flat intonation and utter mindlessness of it evokes zombie apocalypse more than Captain Swing, and the Maoist ‘revolutionary praxis’ group, with their ghastly pantheon of genocidal demagogues, served to remind us what happens when personality cults get out of hand.

On Sunday The Messiah beamed down and performed a Miracle. Just after 4 p.m. we were able to walk right up to the bar and get served straightaway. Cheers Jeremy!