RMT demonstration in Southampton Monday 12 April over victimisation and sacking of leading bus activist.

RMT

BUS UNION RMT will be holding a demonstration over the victimisation of Southampton bus branch secretary Declan Clune who has been dismissed for reporting concerns to Network Rail around a bridge being struck by vehicles.

The protest will take place on Monday 12th April 2021 between 09:00 and 11:00 at Bargate, High Street, Southampton SO14 2DJ. The action will comply with all current Covid-19 rules and guidance.

The demonstration is part of a high-profile publicity campaign in support of Declan’s reinstatement by the employer, Bluestar. RMT is currently in dispute with the company and is balloting bus driver members for strike and other forms of industrial action.

At Declan’s appeal and Director’s review the company upheld their earlier decision of dismissal for bringing the company into disrepute. No evidence has been forthcoming to explain what the loud banging noise has been when buses have passed under the bridge in question. Bluestar have denied that they failed to adhere to their own procedure and decided that Declan, in reporting the issue to Network Rail, could have influenced their opportunities for further business. The union says that this is total nonsense.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:

“RMT will be holding a demonstration in Southampton on Monday to highlight the disgraceful victimisation and sacking of bus driver Declan Clune.

“Bluestar need to come to their senses and reverse the decision so that an industrial dispute is not needed. Declan was seeking to uphold high standards of safety to protect the travelling public. As workplace representatives selflessly come to the aid of members without a second thought it is every member’s responsibility to come to theirs when attacked. That is why we have declared a dispute with the company, are balloting for action, and holding this protest.

“Bluestar now need to reinstate Declan.

“The Southampton District Bus & Coach Branch is supported by the union nationally in the campaign for Declan’s reinstatement.”

RMT Press Office 8th April

Obituary: Ken Weller (1935-2021)

Anarchist Communist Group

Ken Weller, a former leading light in the libertarian socialist organisation Solidarity, which dissolved in 1992, has died at the age of 85 on January 25th 2021. Born in Islington on June 30th, 1935, to a working class family, Ken joined the youth wing of the Communist Party, the Young Communist League (YCL) in 1951. He was an active member in its Islington branch, the second-largest in the YCL. He was at the large demonstration in Whitehall in 1956, protesting British involvement with Israel and the USA in Egypt, the so-called Suez Crisis. He witnessed mounted police exiting Downing Street to attack the crowd without provocation.

“I saw one knocking over a middle-aged couple who clasped each other in their arms for fear, knocking them flying; and I looked in the gutter and there was a banner pole, like a broom-handle, about five feet long, and I picked it up and the same policeman on a horse came charging at me and I hit him as hard as I could with it, broke the pole, and he turned round and went back into Downing Street. I don’t know what happened to him; and then there was a battle in Whitehall which was quite nasty; the police would grab hold of someone and there would be a battle over their body; in one scuffle I ended up at the back of the crowd with a policeman’s epaulette in my hand, minus the policeman; and then there were marches through the streets with linked arms. It was an emotional event, caused by a combination of factors. At the beginning of that demonstration, some CPers turned up with banners, just a few, you almost had to respect them, and they were booed! This was the party which had dominated left-wing politics, effectively the only people who ever had demonstrations apart from the Labour Party; they turned up for the Suez demonstration and they were booed into the square. A massive change in people’s attitudes and perceptions had taken place over those few months.”

He himself was affected by the emergent rebellious atmosphere, and was involved in a dissident group in the YCL, which produced its own paper with a circulation of 800. Around 1957-58 he moved in the direction of the Club, a Trotskyist formation led by the toad-like Gerry Healy, which became the Socialist Labour League in March 1959.

“A group of us in the YCL all left together, mainly working-class kids, well, we weren’t kids, young men and women, I suppose, and we came in contact with Healy’s people. My own path was through Peter Fryer, who I’d known in the Daily Worker; I’d met him and we’d discussed, and he sort of convinced me that this was the path of the future”. He was to comment later that “the first conference of Healy’s outfit all us dissident CPers went to, I remember how shocked we all were when we saw that many of the organisational and conference methods, you know, like the panel election of conferences, were practised in that organisation as well, to a more extreme extent, because a smaller organisation is much tighter.”

As Ken was to say later, “I began to become more and more of a dissident because I felt that most of the criticisms I’d had of the Communist Party were true, in spades, with Healy.” Healy started to turn the SLL away from industrial work, towards work within the Labour Party. This resulted in an opposition emerging around the building worker Brian Behan.

Ken himself, an engineering worker and shop steward in the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (AUEW), was part of this opposition. Behan and his circle were expelled in May 1960, followed by seventy others who walked out in disgust. Ken was among those expelled.

He then took part in an attempt to set up a new group, the Workers’ Party, along with other ex-members of the SLL who had left with Behan. During the seamen’s strike of 1960, this group helped the militant seaman George Foulser produce a strike bulletin called Seaman’s Voice, two issues of which were produced. Elements of the group, including Ken, then became interested in the ideas of the French group Socialisme ou Barbarie and its founder Cornelius Castoriadis (alias Paul Cardan). The neurologist Chris Pallis and Bob Pennington, a working class militant, who had both been involved with expelling Ken, had themselves become interested in the ideas of Socialisme ou Barbarie, and when this came out in the SLL, they were both physically assaulted, Pennington in particular receiving some severe injuries. They were then both expelled. As a result, Ken united with Pallis and Pennington in a group at first called Socialism Reaffirmed, which published a journal, Agitator. After six issues both the journal and the grouping were renamed Solidarity. Pennington was soon to drift off in the direction of Pabloist Trotskyism.

Ken and other members of Solidarity became involved in the peace movement around CND and the Committee of 100 (C100). Ken and other Solidarists were on the industrial sub-committee of C100. As such he and Solidarity were involved in preparing for a demonstration of C100 in Red Square in Moscow in July 1962 and the distribution of a text, Against All Bombs, written by Ken, which called for the abolition of all nuclear weapons and denounced the Soviet regime. The Guardian described this as “the most direct challenge to official Soviet policies and ideas to have been presented to the Soviet man in the street since freedom of speech died under Stalin.”

Ken was also one of the Spies for Peace. On 16th February 1963 five members of C100 broke into a Regional Seat of Government (RSG) outside Reading. This was one of a network of nuclear bunkers reserved for the ruling elite in the event of a nuclear war. The documents discovered there were then used in a document, Danger! Official Secret, signed by the Spies for Peace. Three thousand copies of this document were handed out on the Aldermaston March organised by CND at Easter on 10th April, which were subsequently widely copied and spread further. As the demonstration passed the RSG, a section of it broke away and surrounded the RSG. All of this caused severe embarrassment to the government. None of the Spies for Peace were ever apprehended.

Ken was also involved in organising the incident at the Methodist Church in Brighton on 2nd October 1966, where Harold Wilson and George Brown spoke from the pulpit, hypocritically referring to swords being turned into ploughshares. As leading lights of a Labour Government supporting American war efforts in Vietnam, they were immediately confronted by political activists who had gained access thanks to forged admission tickets handed out by Ken. Nine demonstrators were to be arrested, among them the anarchists Nicolas Walter and Bernard Miles, and the Solidarists Heather Russell and Andy Anderson.

Ken wrote many of the pamphlets that Solidarity produced during its existence, in particular those around the theme of a particular strike, and these had an influence far beyond the limited membership of Solidarity. Among them were The BLSP Dispute – the Story of the Strike, What Next for Engineers?, Truth about Vauxhall, The Lordstown struggle and the real crisis in production , as well as a pamphlet written with Ernie Stanton, What Happened at Fords, partly based on his own experiences at Ford Dagenham in the 60s. He also wrote the important pamphlet GMWU-Scab Union, under the pseudonym Mark Fore, and contributed a historical section to the Solidarity pamphlet produced by bus workers , including the late Bob Potter, and helped distribute this around London bus garages.

As the ACG wrote in its text In the Tradition “Whatever Solidarity’s weaknesses (not least their fairly lax attitude to maintaining an international organisation and their lack of political direction after they effectively split around 1980). Solidarity was involved in important revolutionary activity and publishing for at least 20 of its 30 years, producing a wealth of literature defending a coherent vision of libertarian socialism that was unavailable elsewhere. Compared to many of the ‘class struggle’ anarchists in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s, they developed a consistent body of politics that recognised the need for working class self-organisation outside social democratic and Leninist models.” Ken Weller contributed importantly to this work.

Later on, as Solidarity staggered on to 1992, Ken wrote Don’t be a Soldier! The radical anti-war movement in north London 1914-1918, published in 1985, an important contribution to working class history in Britain. He was always open to sharing his vast knowledge of British working class history with other radical historians. Ken used to phone me regularly for chats about working class history and provided me with much information that helped me write some of my biographies of revolutionaries active in Britain, including Leonard Motler, Gertrud Guillaume-Schack, Johanna Lahr, etc. For example, I remember him sending me photocopies of correspondence by Motler, which proved most helpful. Sometimes I visited him in Lathom Road, where he drank large mugs of tea whilst talking about history and about the iniquities of Gerry Healy and the Socialist Labour League.

As an industrial militant, as a defender of libertarian socialism and as a chronicler of working class history, Ken’s life was inspiring and exemplary.

Nick Heath.

 

“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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Workplace Notes

Anarchist Communist Group

Posties Wildcat in Bridgwater

One hundred postal workers at Bridgwater Delivery Office walked out on unofficial strike on Thursday June 4th.

It was sparked by the return of a manager regarded as particularly aggressive. His behaviour has involved use of disciplinary action, harassment of militants and removal of bikes used by postal workers. He had already been removed twice from the Bridgwater Delivery Office because of previous disputes.

Workers then voted to stay out on strike on Friday after the manager continued with his aggressive behaviour.

Despite the ousting of Royal Mail boss, Rico Back, (see our previous article, Bye Bye Rico) and his replacement by Keith Williams, managers are still

Read more

The ACG’s Rebel Education Worker issue 1 is out!

ACG

As UCU takes part in 14 days of strike action, stepping up from eight days towards the end of 2019, ACG members of UCU have published the first issue of their bulletin, to be distributed on a picket line near you!

It’s A5 double sided, so just download a copy from this page, print however many you want back to back, then chop it into two flyers.

To contact ACG Rebel Education Worker, email education@anarchistcommunism.org

DOWNLOAD Rebel Education Worker 1

India: Biggest general strike in human history

Barrikade Info.

January 8, 2020 will go down in the history books as the world’s largest 24-hour general strike to date. In India, more than 250 million workers went on strike during the general strike or “Bharat Bandh”, which was joined by ten major unions as well as a number of independent associations. Associations organising bank employees, farmers and teachers, but also the student movement played a leading role. The electricity supply was also affected, with up to 1.5 million people going on strike in the power stations. The same applies to local and long-distance public transport. Across the country there were also rail blockades.

The strike had the biggest impact in the politically leftist state of Kerala, where the “communist” party CPI traditionally receives the most votes. Here, but also in many other places in India, traffic and public life were virtually at a standstill.

The strike was directed against the policy of the ruling Hindu Nationalist Party (BJP), which not only tries to split the population along ethnic and religious lines with classic nationalist policies, but also to severely restrict workers’ rights, to massively promote precarious employment and privatisation of public institutions (such as rail transport) and to provide tax breaks to large corporations.

Core demands of the unions were the creation of new jobs for the unemployed (currently 8% unemployment in India, that is 73 million people), basic workers’ rights for all workers, the increase of wages and the minimum wage, as well as a five-day week. They also called for the withdrawal of the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which makes naturalisation easier for Hindu immigrants (or Jains, Sikhs) but excludes Muslims, Tamils or Tibetans. The law had already triggered massive protests across India in 2019. In addition, their demands were also directed against the biometric registration and counting of the entire Indian population, which also has special racist regulations, which are explicitly directed against Muslim citizens, for example.

More about the protests against the CAA for example here: www.anarkismo.net/article/31703

On the one hand, the right-wing BJP government tried in vain to enforce sanctions against strikers – for example, in the state of Tamil Nadu there were mass arrests of strikers; in Delhi, BJP youth organisations attacked striking students. On the other hand, the BJP publicly played down the importance of the protests.

In vain – the organized Indian workers yesterday demonstrated their enormous strength and raised the bar for the rest of the world. However, it remains to be seen whether they can sustain a prolonged confrontation with the government at this level of strength. From an anti-authoritarian point of view, the question also arises whether the strikers will allow themselves to be hitched to the cart of the parliamentary opposition parties, which ultimately only want to use the dynamics created by the mass struggles to come to power themselves – or whether the workers will succeed in taking their cause into their own hands…

The Indian anarchosydicalist organisation “Muktivadi Ekta Morcha” (Libertarian Solidarity Front) from Bhopal is rather skeptical in this respect. In a short statement it writes: “general strikes like these are for the most part electoral political facades at cost of genuine workers grievances. Most, if not all unions affiliated with “left” parties treat their workers as infants in these demonstrations controlling them more severely than they are in their workplace. There are some independent unions that are less authoritarian but hardly any genuinely democratic workers organization. We are working to change that.” – It is of course difficult for us to judge from a distance to what extent this assessment is correct, but we generally find it important to point out contradictions and limitations of social movements with the aim of overcoming them. In any case, we wish the Indian comrades a lot of success in their cause!

Either way, the success of the mobilization alone is a symbol that the organized, oppressed and wage-dependent class has the potential to unhinge the world!

RED AND BLACK TELLY: NEW YEARS MESSAGE.

And from us a very happy and successful New Year to insurrectionists, insurgents, malcontents and troublemakers around the globe!

Posties Vote for Strike Action

Anarchist Communist Group

After a massive 97.1% vote for strike action by CWU postal workers , an ACG postie gives a bit of background.

What is the dispute about?

The new Chief Executive, Rico Back, has clearly decided that the way forward for Royal Mail is to have a cheaper more flexible workforce.

This Is why Royal Mail, under his leadership, has developed a strategy which is designed to marginalise the union (CWU) in order to create a cheaper more flexible employment model.

Royal Mail want to review, and possibly change, the legal guarantees which stopped Royal Mail from outsourcing, franchising, breaking up the company, creating a two-tier workforce as well as stopping Royal Mail from recruiting zero-hour contracts.

Royal Mail want to use PDAs (the machine people sign for their parcels on) to spy on workers and use it as a revision tool (changing duties, job cuts) even though they know PDAs do not truly reflect a postal worker’s duties.

Royal mail are not saying they will support the continuation of the USO (Universal Service Obligation) when Ofcom reviews it next year. This possibly means the USO being cut to a five day service, and resulting in the loss of 20,000 jobs.

(Note: USO – Universal Service Obligation – means royal mail is obliged to deliver and collect mail six days a week at any location in the UK . If the six days is cut to say five, that would mean that the 20 000 staff that cover other posties’ rest days could lose their jobs since all duties would be covered by the regulars. It would also mean a reduction in service for people since mail won’t be delivered six days.)

Bridport 1919: conflict and tensions in a small industrial town in West Dorset

Event from: Bristol Radical History Festival 2019 (Level 1, Studio 1)

At the start of World War One Bridport was essentially a one industry town: rope and net making. The war brought opportunities to the town but also challenged paternalist employers with a revival of trade unionism and state pressure to improve low wages. With the Armistice, the sense of a collective national interest on the home front began to ebb away revealing long-standing as well as new tensions in the town. This talk explores the origins of these tensions in the war years and the range of ways in which they were expressed in the town in 1919, including soldiers’ protests and industrial strikes as well as a range of new political organisations in the town. Bridport was hardly a ‘red’ town and even with the new electorate of 1918 continued to return a Tory to Parliament as it still does. Yet the winding down of the WW1 home front revealed fracture lines which would mark the community as it struggled to build the Peace in unpredictable and challenging times.