Dear Arthur – A Message to the Gender Police

The background to this is an exchange between some wobblies and a character called Arthur Brick in comments under Martin’s New year video, it can be found here: https://youtu.be/irNeK4DIgyg – ed.

A couple of months ago – Long enough for me to have already forgotten about it, I lightheartedly posted a simple phrase “If I can’t dance and be non-binary it ‘aint my revolution”. That’s it. I then forgot all about it. I think Emma wouldn’t mind after all she wanted nice things for everyone and sure embracing yourself for who you want to be is a nice thing.

I was reminded of my post this morning by a person by the name of Arthur, Arthur Brick bless you my dear you clearly feel threatened by the thought of me. I say the thought because you don’t know me and I don’t know you. Arthur wrote under my post “Non-binary? Fucking hilarious” (thanks for that Arthur, I actually think I am sometimes).

Don’t worry Arthur I’m not upset or hurt, my fragile masculinity has taken a lot of knocks over the years from people I actually love and care about, so it’s toughened me up 😊

What I found interesting about it though is that Arthur clearly is so threatened by the fact that I don’t fit into their view of what’s right and wrong in the patriarchy, that Arthur has decided to take it upon themself to police my gender. To be clear Arthur has never met me so that makes it a bit easier, Arthur has a picture in their minds eye already about who I am and wants to belittle me and make sure that I am aware that I’m not as good as Arthur. Arthur is a better revolutionary than me.

What I find disturbing about this little banging of heads is how easy it is to attack a person you don’t know. Am I to presume by this that Arthur would not want me to fight on their barricade, after all if they can’t control my behaviour with their simple gender stereotypes they may find they are no longer the boss. What next? Will Arthur be refusing to fight alongside women, gays, blacks? This is how the class is kept divided and this is why we are in the mess we are in today. The people of my class hail from all corners of the rainbow. We are all different but our strength lies in those differences being united against the ruling class. Those who wish to sow division are doing the class war no favours. Of course the sad thing is that Arthur will probably scream and shout that it is I who wants to divide the class by not pretending to be the person that Arthur says I should be. 😊

Bless you Arthur I’m sorry I had to pick on you there are lots of Arthur Bricks who feel they are the boss of my class war.

– Peregrin

Defend Rhodri! Retaliation at Berwyn

Prisoner Solidarity Network

The Prisoner Solidarity Network have just received news that Rhodri ab Eilian was assaulted by prison staff at HMP Berwyn yesterday (10th February 2021). This attack comes less than two weeks after Rhodri stepped forward to speak publicly about discrimination, racism, and the denial of language rights at the prison. Both Rhodri and the PSN see this assault as a clear example of retaliatory violence and call on everyone to mobilise urgently in Rhodri’s defence.

Following yesterday’s attack, one of the staff involved threatened further violence, telling another prisoner he was going to “punch his little head in.” Rhodri knew the risks and still did what’s right. It’s our responsibility now to defend him. We’re calling on people to: Contact relevant authorities to demand Rhodri’s safety and ensure disciplinary action is taken against the responsible staff. We’ve compiled a list of contacts below and a template email you can use.

To whom it may concern, I’m contacting you to request an urgent intervention in response to staff violence at HMP Berwyn. You will be aware of ongoing concerns about discrimination, racism, and the denial of language rights at the prison.

Yesterday (10th February 2021), less than two weeks after speaking publicly about conditions at Berwyn, Rhodri ab Eillian was assaulted by staff. Despite being fully compliant with instructions, ab Eillian was mobbed by a group of prison officers and subject to unprovoked and excessive restraint, leaving him with shooting pains through one arm and shoulder and bruising. His injuries have been logged by prison healthcare staff. This has been followed today by further threats from officer 777 – one of the group involved in the assault.

There is the clear implication this attack was retaliatory, following immediately on from ab Eillian’s public statements about staff misconduct at the prison. The use of intimidation and violence to suppress such allegations is completely unacceptable. This incident only exacerbates existing concerns regarding the management of the prison.

I’m contacting you to request you support calls to ensure ab Eillian’s safety and that appropriate measures are taken to address the prison officers responsible.

Yours sincerely,

Corona comment number six, from the South of England: Gulag archipelago, by Mal Content.

Since my last comment the bourgeois state has ratchet-tightened its grip on all aspects of life, with the apparent acquiescence of a large section of the British population – Leaving out the six counties, who seem most preoccupied with not being able to buy vegetables. The demagogues of the devolved administrations* crazed with a little power, vie with each other to boss their subjects about.

* Scots nationalists have blown their best chance of independence in a century with all guns pointed at their own feet, I wonder if MI5 had a hand in that.

As I have observed elsewhere, ‘Lockdown’ is a measure taken by prison governors to facilitate searching of inmates for contraband, apprehending a fugitive or putting down disorder. Doors are all locked forcing each prisoner to remain wherever they find themself. It is predicated on the idea that prisoners have no agency, they do not ‘own’ their flesh, their time or their productive and creative abilities. Incarceration in the United States is an extension of chattel slavery as permitted by the thirteenth amendment; in Britain it originates from the custom of holding a person hostage pending payment of a debt. Other cultures find their own justifications. The first use of this term in respect of the corona virus epidemic was in the People’s Republic of China, which is of course nothing but a giant gulag. It will be deeply offensive to many of our Class who have suffered such abuse.

The latest regulations blatantly reserve overseas travel for the rich, and whilst it will amuse us to watch entitled posh people treated like common prisoners there is a serious point. Jewish workers, whose recent ancestors fled Nazi Germany and other European pogroms find it disturbing to need “permission” to leave the country. We have refugees from the former Soviet bloc and other totalitarian regimes. They know what it means to have papers out of order.

The middle class, the stodgy, flabby rump of totalitarianism, continues to twitch its curtains on full pay, brags about attending ‘zoom meetings’ from the bath or not getting out of bed at all. They quibble about how many times they are “allowed” to walk the dog or whether to have their mum over for lunch. Whilst they sit around their computers knocking themselves off like safari-park chimps, the Working Class must run the gauntlet of crowded workplaces, dodgy PPE and weirdoes who thing it’s clever to gob in their faces.

Gulag:
Acronym of Glavnoye Upravleniye Ispravitelno-Trudovykh Lagerey.
Russian: “Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps”

People are afraid, for sure, not just of the virus but of starvation and homelessness, of their kids condemned to the scrapheap, their parents dying alone. Rumours abound, of the cops using number plate recognition to clock how far a vehicle has travelled from its registered address. There are despicable class traitors who will grass on their neighbours. Although there is no stop and search power that requires anyone to answer questions*, we hear of people being threatened with arrest for refusing to identify themselves. Call their bluff I say, you waste my time I’ll waste yours.

* Unless you’re driving, then it’s name and address only.

Bosses are taking advantage of the ‘furlough’* to shed workers with protected characteristics, and the super-rich, as always, are making money hand over fist. The sums may seem abstract, but the only value of wealth is the expectation that someone, somewhere will labour to acquire it. This is achieved by limiting access to the product of our own labour. As Heywood put it: “if a man has a dollar he didn’t work for, someone else worked for a dollar he didn’t get”.

* Another prison term. ‘Furlough’ is temporary release. As most prisoners in the U.S. are no threat to anybody but themselves, should they become logistically inconvenient, or if there is no work for them to do, they can be put out to save the state the expense of feeding and housing them.

For years we were offered a false dichotomy between state control and free market – either way is unregulated aggregation of economic power. Somehow the state has been rehabilitated without ever lifting a finger on our behalf, and to contradict its nonsense is to be aligned with cranks with their own set of authoritarian delusions.

Now having had the ‘rona twice I don’t consider it a hoax, it was like sleeping sickness with a loss of mental focus and bodily appetites. The cough only set in after a week but it never quite went away. It tends to magnify symptoms you live with normally, in my case headache, joint pain and irregular digestion. But everybody’s different, some test positive with no symptoms at all, some clearly have it but test negative or inconclusive.

We hear a lot these days about “imagining new futures” but no-one has any answers beyond more of the same, with a bit of technological wizardry thrown in. You cannot “unite” a society built on domination and abuse that refines its exploitative mechanics with every crisis it visits on our Class. The idea that there is an alternative to the status quo that is still military-industrial capitalism is irredeemably stupid. It wasn’t too much of a surprise that fucking idiot Hancock is influenced by Hollywood films, he could have just read his government’s own report on preparing for a pandemic, published in 2016, if he were serious about becoming health secretary. Are we really going to let wankers like that get the better of us?

You cannot compromise with the ruling class because they won’t compromise with you. They will maintain their privilege at all costs – and it costs them nothing. Black people, and other disadvantaged groups will need to take matters into their own hands because the liberals and the reformists can do nothing for them. They will need to fight their oppressors with the same ferocity with which oppression was imposed on them. Compliance will eventually cost more of our lives than any pandemic. The proper response to the Colston situation was for a hundred thousand Bristolians to turn out on the streets and tell the ruling class we will not allow it to try these comrades, precipitate a real insurrection, there’s never been a better time.

There are no broad sunlit uplands on offer, only a brutal, vicious war with the prospect of the means of production finally under control of the producing Class – it’s got to be worth a fight, stuff your prison logic, let’s put our heads together and have a serious discussion about how to fuck shit up.

“The Rank and File Strategy”: A Syndicalist View. By Tom Wetzel

Black Rose Anarchist Federation – Federación Anarquista Rosa Negra

Veteran activist and writer Tom Wetzel enters the wide ranging debate on the left around the “rank and file strategy” orientation to the labor movement. This piece is based on material is his forthcoming book from AK Press, Overcoming Capitalism.

Kim Moody’s writings on “the Rank and File Strategy” have gained a broad hearing within a variety of socialist groups, such as Democratic Socialists of America and smaller socialist groupings. His original pamphlet from 2000 talks about the strategy in terms of both rebuilding socialist influence in the labor movement and as a way to build a more worker-based socialist movement in the USA.

Recently Moody encapsulates the point to building rank-and-file worker organizations in the context of the unions this way:

“Building rank and file power to fight for the independence of unions from capitalist influence, in part transmitted by the bureaucracy, is an important task in building a class-conscious workers’ movement—something without which socialism remains only a set of ideas.”

Why is worker control of the union organization important? Here I think it is important to look at the process of class formation — the more or less protracted process through which

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Statement demanding that no more babies die in prison

End the imprisonment of pregnant people and the avoidable deaths of babies in prison

Prisoner Solidarity Network (IWOC)

We are prisoners, ex-prisoners, academics, health workers, local councillors and social justice groups who were outraged and broken-hearted to hear the news that two babies have needlessly died in prison in the last year. We call on the Ministry of Justice to release all pregnant people immediately and to put measures in place in the courts to end the imprisonment of those who are pregnant.

One baby died at HMP Bronzefield a year ago in September 2019 and another at HMP Styal in June 2020. In both cases the mother gave birth in a prison cell rather than at hospital. The prisons and the Ministry of Justice have refused to release information publicly about why the mothers were not taken to hospital, despite being in labour. These deaths, and the resulting trauma for the families of the babies, could have been prevented with appropriate support and access to health care.

It is well known that access to healthcare is routinely denied to people in prison and the specific health needs of pregnant people are often ignored. In 2018, the Care Quality Commission found that prisoners had died due to prison staff failing to respond properly to medical emergencies. A more recent report from the Nuffield Trust found that prisoners miss 40% of hospital appointments and that prisoners had been admitted to hospital with life-threatening conditions caused by lack of treatment for diabetes. Research into conditions for pregnant people in prison found that they

do not have access to extra or additional pregnancy specific nutrition, they do not always have easy access to a midwife, to pregnancy guidance or support, to maternity wear, heartburn tablets and.. not even a comfortable bed or breast pads’ (Abbott and Baldwin 2020).

An audit by the Nuffield Trust shows that in 2017-18 six births took place outside of hospital, presumably in cells or ambulances, accounting for about one in 10 births to prisoners recorded by the NHS in that year. While the Ministry of Justice does not publish statistics on this, research by Dr Laura Abbott found that midwifery care was often denied to people who felt they were in labour and that several prisoners and staff members had experience of births happening in prison cells.

The prison system manages people within it based on models of security and risk, which are incompatible with care for and protection of human life. Prison is not an appropriate environment for pregnant people; it is not conducive to either the mother’s or the unborn baby’s health (Abbott and Baldwin 2020). Organisations supporting pregnant people in prison have repeatedly informed the Ministry of Justice over several years of the poor conditions and lack of access to healthcare in prisons, as well as the serious risk of mothers and/or babies dying as a result. The Ministry of Justice has failed to take action.

This issue is now even more urgent due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Pregnant people have been included on the government’s list of those clinically vulnerable to COVID-19. In addition to this, prisons have responded to the pandemic by keeping prisoners locked in cells for 22 – 24 hours per day, increasing the risk of pregnant people going into labour in cells or being unable to access maternity care. The government acknowledged this with a promise in March 2020 to release pregnant women and women with babies in prison Mother and Baby Units, in order to allow them to safely self-isolate in the community. Despite this promise, pregnant people are still languishing in prison. We call on the Ministry of Justice to act immediately on this promise and release all pregnant people and mothers with babies in Mother and Baby Units, in order to prevent further harm and deaths.

Throughout pregnancy, people should be provided with care and support towards optimal well-being, safety, and dignity for themselves and their infant. Prison cannot and will not ever be able to provide this.

The government needs to act immediately and we demand that all pregnant prisoners and mothers with babies in Mother and Baby Units are released from prison by the 1st of November with adequate housing and support. If this is not done we will continue to campaign until this demand is met.

Signatories and Cymraeg

Resources

Baby dies in UK prison after inmate ‘gives birth alone in cell’

Revealed: concerns over string of incidents at UK prison where baby died

Two babies have died in a prison cell as women in jail are refused basic medical care

Why Do We Still Imprison Pregnant Women?

Why Has Another Baby Died In Prison?

Pregnancy and childbirth in English prisons

Mayday 2020 in Dorset.

Why we celebrate May Day

The Factories, The Fields, and the Firearms to Defend Them

Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee

“The working class is able, once it so desires, to take control of industry and thus establish a much more efficient and satisfactory society .”

(from the pamphlet: “One Big Union,“ by The Industrial Workers of the World)

You, me and our entire class of society’s underprivileged who produces everything with very little or nothing at all to show for it have – once effectively organized – the potential within us to free ourselves from the stresses that come with the struggle for survival of material needs.

While the study below is based on research conducted in 2020, the final analysis will be found to resonate up to the hour the bell of the social revolution is sounded. It’s of the deepest importance for the masses – the have-nots who’ve been no strangers to struggling since we were born – to firmly grasp the magnificence of our Worth, and our potential and power. Our potential for freeing ourselves from being taken advantage of by the government system is overwhelmingly greater than that of the government system taking advantage of us all!

This has been a very fortunate truth for the less-fortunate of the world ever since societies have allowed governments to exist, and our social contract with the State has proven to be nothing less than a taxing, hostile machine worth defying and reducing to irreparable ashes.

The more the righteous seeds of becoming free from social & economic oppression be planted richly in the minds of the poor and oppressed who are governed, the greater the potential becomes to overthrowing the government with overwhelming resistance; especially when the rational alternative of governing ourselves (exercising autonomy) is given the necessary attention it deserves deep in the roots of our ethical nature.

“The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people, and the few, who make up the employing class have all the good things in life.”

– From the Preamble to The IWW Constitution.

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Racism and Close Supervision Centres, by Kevan Thakrar.

Over the past decade the levels of racism in society have drastically increased with the use of discriminatory language becoming acceptable to the extent that the country’s Prime Minister has felt safe to deploy such abuse. With this becoming common in the mainstream media, as well as demonisation of Muslims through the prejudicial policy known as ‘Prevent’, it is of no surprise that prisoners have suffered as a result.

So many prisoners lack a basic education, that enables them to be easily influenced by the propaganda sprouted by the likes of the BBC. For those illegal regimes of practically 24 hour lockdown, the television can quickly become their only source of comfort. Day-after-day of minority groups being negatively portrayed whilst living under conditions recognised worldwide as torture, is a recipe for brainwashing with devastating effects.

The rise of racist gangs, especially within high security prisons holding men who can be serving up to a whole life sentence, coupled with the tendencies to resort to drug taking to pass the time which has meant in recent years the mind altering ‘spice’, has spiralled out of control. Unsurprisingly, it is within the most oppressed, desperate and disturbed of the population that this phenomenon can best be identified.

The Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system was originally designed by the sadistic Michael Spurr back in 1996, long before his unfortunate rise to leader of the entire prisons and probation service. Its intended purpose from the beginning has been to brutalise these prisoners labelled as posing too much of a control problem on a wholly arbitrary basis. Since the day it opened in 1998, racist scum have occupied its units both as staff and those detained within. The repressive slide of wider society’s models and values, coupled with the ideologically driven swingeing cuts to the legal aid and prisons budgets causing even harsher conditions, have left around one third of CSC detainees seeing racism as correct.

The majority of the CSC prisoners who are racist have sought refuge within the CSC, preferring blatant and ridiculous behaviours to be designated as too much of a risk to be managed on main location. Many of them have already tried to seek safety within a Vulnerable Prisoner (VP) wing first, or believing that by not officially becoming a VP makes then somehow not be seen as the cowards that they are. It is with this background that their behaviour within the CSC can be understood, as unlike anyone with any sense, they actually want to forever be CSC prisoners both for their own protection through their isolation from mainstream prisoners, and the foolish belief that it is somehow a badge of honour to be labelled as a CSC prisoner.

Officially, the CSC holds only the most dangerous prisoners, which currently is around 50 men. The racist element within this population is unlike the rest, they crave the dangerous reputation in the hope that this will be enough to protect them and cause their otherwise disgusting pasts, which tend to be of a sexual nature, to be overlooked or forgotten. They stand out and they know it. With many of them having banded together seeking safety in numbers in the racist extremist gang calling themselves ‘Death Before Dishonour’ (DBD), or their ‘secret’ codename 4-2-4 signalling the position of the letters in the alphabet, one would imagine it would be easy to separate this insidious group.

Screwboy is a term used throughout the prison system for a prisoner who does the bidding of the prison officers or ‘screws’. It should be unimaginable for someone within the CSC to appropriately be referred to as a screwboy, yet about every single racist there displays the behaviour that would lead them to be an outcast at best within the mainstream population. Here is where the most significant difficulty arises, the racist scumbags in the CSC are effectively working for the screws against the minorities they live alongside for power partly, but also to remain within the CSC. This includes providing false information to legitimise someone being stitched up, harassing minorities with constant abuse shouted out of windows etc for all to hear, and even attacking minorities usually with weapons from behind. When these behaviours are rewarded rather than punished, they become more and more attractive to others suffering the CSC regime, who will often join in with it.

The CSC Operational Manager is responsible for the placement of CSC prisoners throughout the 6 units currently in existence, and throughout the segregation units of high security prisons. The man holding this title at present is Stephen Waldron, formerly in-charge of the now abolished Managing Challenging Behaviour Strategy (MCBS) and before then a junior governor of HMP Durham. During his tenure at MCBS, a significantly smaller role, a Ukranian racist extremist who was in prison for the murder of a Muslim prisoner for ‘praying too loudly’ during his previous prison sentence, was made to associate with Muslim prisoners at HMP Woodhills MCBS Unit. Ignoring the fact this scumbag was only not on the CSC because HMPPS support racist attacks, as the centrally managed MCBS unit contained as few as eight prisoners maximum it could not have been difficult to foresee the conflict inevitable by his presence. The final outcome being that the other prisoners had, had enough of him, and killed him. With a history like that, you would expect Waldron to be especially sensitive to the placement of racists alongside minority prisoners.

Waldron has been reported to have told officers who have been complaining that since he took over the CSC, their job has been made significantly more difficult due to him allocating prisoners to the same unit who cannot mix, generally due to racist beliefs and minority characteristics, that they should be careful what they wish for––as, if he placed together only those who got along, they would attack officers as soon as the cell doors opened instead of each other. A calculated policy therefore appears to be in operation, which can easily be seen by the increasing frequency of racist attacks occurring since his appointment.

It is within this environment, under these circumstances, surrounded by more and more scumbags, where I have been living for the last ten years. Emboldened by the support of their masters, ignorant of the consequences of their actions and decisions due to being in a constant state of intoxication through prescription medication and/or spice, these racists have made it impossible to tolerate their existence any longer. Having arrived at HMP Full Sutton in September, within three months I have twice been attacked with a weapon by a racist as I have sought to avoid conflict to enable me to progress out of this oppressive system.

The first attack came from the certified VP, John Mansfield. He tried to hit me with a metal flask he had just filled with boiling water. Fortunately, I managed to block it, and being in full view of CCTV and four officers preventing anything further, I assumed it would be dealt with. Following his guilty plea at adjudication of the charge of assault, Mansfield was given a suspended sentence to go on top of his multiple other suspended sentences. As also expressed a fear to ever be unlocked with me again, my regime time has been cut to around forty percent of what others get, to allow him to be out without me.

The last time Mansfield had conflict with another prisoner on this unit, he paid his mate Kevin McCarthy to try to stab the other guy. It was not difficult for him to do this, as Mansfield wears dentures––having none of his own teeth remaining––meaning when being administered controlled prescription drugs, he can easily hide the tablets behind the dentures. McCarthy accepted the tablets out of his friends dirty mouth, before engaging in the attack, which resulted in him being knocked out, as the intended victim saw it coming.

Then there is the fact that only two years ago, McCarthy cut the throat of a prisoner, who at the time was disabled and using a walking stick. Whilst at the servery of the HMP Whitemoor CSC Unit, McCarthy waited for his victim to begin receiving his meal so his hands were full before cutting him from behind with a razor, then running back to his cell. His motive? Well earlier that day, another prisoner had reprimanded him over his ongoing failure to do the job he was paid for and clean the prisoners’ facilities, leaving others to have to do it for him. As that prisoner was Muslim, McCarthy thought attacking a disabled, defenceless Muslim in retaliation was acceptable, despite him having nothing to do with it.

Why McCarthy was ever allowed to mix at all so soon after his previous violence cannot legitimately be explained, but it was through the support of the HMPPS psychologist he shares with Mansfield, Louise Coughlin, that this was signed off. As the CSC management were fully aware of McCarthy’s history and loyalty to Mansfield, to place him in the cell directly opposite the servery, and to unlock him as I collected my meal, so he could sneak up behind me without being searched goes beyond negligence. He strolled past two officers, weapon in hand, then in full view of five officers who made no attempt to alert me, sound the alarm, or restrain him, McCarthy began stabbing me in the back using two hands in attempt to plunge it through me. I was not aware what was happening, could just feel the banging in my back and hear him growling, ‘die,’ behind me. As I turned around, confused by the lack of action, McCarthy back beyond the officers who duly protected him, so much so that he was allowed to walk back to his cell with the weapon as the officers focused on me as if I was the threat.

Despite McCarthy’s intent, his weak physical prowess limited my injuries. Most of what he did left scratches as the only blemish, with only a few strikes actually breaking the skin with the deepest wound around 1 cm. Had he been armed with something requiring less strength than a ten-year-old child to operate, my life would have been in serious danger. The governing Governor of this prison, Gareth Sands, visited this unit a couple of days later but made sure I was locked away before coming on to the landing. This dishonest weasel went around writing everyone, including McCarthy and Mansfield, ‘Merry Christmas’ whilst not saying a word to me or doing his job to check on my welfare. With that level of attention from senior management, how could anyone conclude anything other than that HMPPS do not care whatsoever about those they are paid to look after.

Within seven days of the attack, and before any attempt to search or secure evidence had occurred, McCarthy was allowed to pack all of his belongings to be taken to the main segregation unit with him the following week where he had requested to be moved to. Until the move occurred, he was held in the end cell on this unit where he was supplied with his game console and radio, as well as prison issue TV to make his stay easier. Mansfield remains one of five prisoners sharing this unit with me, making sly comments as he’s allowed to freely pass my cell as I remain locked-in for his benefit.

In 1997, Amnesty International (AI) condemned this unit causing it to be shut down and its then name of Special Security Unit (SSU) to be abandoned. Functioning as a CSC, with so many seriously mentally ill and/or racist prisoners now being allocated to what AI said was torture, is significantly worse. My experience of this unit is that it should never have been reopened, and the safety of anyone held here will always be at risk.

Kevan Thakrar A4907AE Close Supervision Centre
HMP Full Sutton
Stamford Bridge
York
YO41 1PS

www.justiceforkevan.org

Contactable via emailaprisoner.com

The Case for Building New Unions

Ideas and Action

By Tom Wetzel

The British writer R. H. Tawney once described capitalist management of the workplace as “autocracy checked by insurgency.” And, indeed, a kind of insurgency takes place when workers band together to form unions. Worker unions are a key working class organization because of the potential power workers gain from collective resistance but also because of the potential role of unions in social transformation. However, unionism in the private sector in the USA has been on a long decline — from roughly one third of workers in the early 1950s to only 6.2 percent today. To build unionism into a larger, more effective and worker controlled movement, I think we need to build new unions, independent of the bureaucratized AFL-CIO-type unions.

Two Episodes of New Unionism

History is instructive here. Unionism in USA has not grown in a gradual way but in cycles that are tied to working class insurgency. The two greatest periods of union growth came in large strike waves — in the World War 1 era and again in the early 1930s. From 1909 to 1921 union membership doubled through a vast insurgency that saw thousands of strikes every year. Nearly a million workers organized themselves into industrial unions outside the AFL. The hardest edge of the new unionism was the Industrial Workers of the World. But the IWW was just the tip of the iceberg.

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Libertarian Communism 2019 Women Organising at Work

Anarchist Communist Group

The following is a summary of the talks and discussion on women organising in the workplace at the ACG dayschool in October.

Libertarian Communism 2019 Women Organising at Work

The session was led by two women, both very experienced in organising at work.

Meena from the Angry Workers

The Angry Workers is interested in promoting collective organization in west London. The strategy includes getting jobs in the bigger workplaces, building solidarity networks in local areas and producing a newspaper (2000 copies).

Meena works in a ready-meal factory, with up to 4000 workers across four sites in Park Royal, west London. She started three and a half years ago working on the assembly line but then managed to get a skilled job as a forklift driver, one that is normally done by men. She is now ‘permanent’ and a GMB rep. The workforce consists of 60% women with a wage grading system that sees women largely occupying the ‘unskilled’ grade. E.g. all the women work on the assembly line which is actually the hardest job.

Jenny from the ACG

Jenny has been a union activist since the early 1970s. She was in NUPE which then was the union for public sector employees, now Unison. One of their first jobs was as a school auxiliary worker. These jobs were all women. There was a dispute and all the women came out (Jeremy Corbyn was then the full-time official!). Then she worked in the parks department and got involved in the GMB which had no particular structures for women.

The session focused on three main questions. Each speaker addressed the questions.

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