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(en) Britain, Anarchist Federation bulletin - Resistance 86 - July/August 2006

Date Tue, 11 Jul 2006 15:23:18 +0300


In the July/August Resistance (back to monthly in September!):
* THE UNION FOREVER? - problems with trade union strikes
* BASTARD OF THE MONTH - John Reid, Labour's new Home Secretary
* G8 PROTESTS IN A POLICE STATE - call for solidarity from Russian anarchists
* ON THE FRONTLINE - Resistance's regular workplace column looks
at current industrial action in ASDA's distribution depots.
* LATIN LEFTIES - the rise of left-wing governments in South America -
a good thing?
* 'WANNABE COP' TV - be your own detective in East London,
from the comfort of your armchair
* SEND OUT THE LIONS - loving advice from the bible
complements ‘Jerry Springer the Opera’ Christian protests
* TIME BOMB - Resistance's regular history column relives the
General Strike of 1926
* SUBVERT - July & August diary dates

THE UNION FOREVER?

The strikes by public sector workers, by university workers, by the
women at Gate Gourmet have all made people begin to wonder
whether the unions are finally beginning to fight for us again. As
anarchist communists we believe that the reasons the unions give for
calling strikes aren’t always what they seem.

Sadly, the many years of industrial defeat have meant the union story
that they are fighting for their members has been swallowed far too
easily. Now though, with the great pension’s sell-out, millions
will be feeling disappointed in their unions once again. How can we
explain what they have done?

The union bosses want to be ‘social partners’, they want to
go back to the good old days of regular talks with industry, of beer
and sandwiches with the Prime Minister. But partners have to do
deals, to scratch each others’ backs. In the real world they end
up helping the bosses impose the changes they feel are necessary.
They help impose job cuts, like at Gate Gourmet, they help speed up
production, and they help make us produce more for less –
calling this productivity.

Unions traditionally did two things. First they managed the sale of
our labour power and struggles for limited working class gains. But
as their very existence relies on capitalism’s existence, they
have to support that too. They cannot be revolutionary.

Offensive action that threatens to pose any wider questions beyond
the immediate economic horizon will be fought as being dangerous
to the continued existence of the union itself.

The past thirty years have seen the unions ignored. They could not
operate effectively because of new labour legislation, intimidation
and defeat after defeat of strikes. The most they could hope for was a
quiet word in the ear of Labour politicians in the hope that
they’d listen. Now the union leaders use strikes to make
themselves important, not to benefit their members. Unions exist for
the bureaucrats, not for the members.

This has been highlighted recently by the pensions strike farce. The
seven unions involved used the mass walkouts get themselves into
the management of the proposed changes. They agreed to effectively
drop the demands to keep the “rule of 85” as soon as they
were became part of the institutional process.

Another example is in France during the protests against the new
young people’s employment laws (the CPE). The unions used
these to bolster their own position as ‘social partners’ with
the French state. They now plan to administer almost the exact
same proposals that were defeated but now given a new name and
broken up into different schemes.

This job of imposing capital’s demands is one that unions are
playing across the European Union, through the European Trade
Union Confederation (headed by John Monks) who supported the
‘Lisbon Strategy’. This is to help European capital compete
with the US and Asia by raising productivity, lowering wages,
slashing social budgets and imposing ‘flexibility’...

Five years after the plan was first introduced, and after millions of
jobs have been lost, after conditions have worsened from millions
they issued a joint statement affirming their support and urging that
the elements that have yet to be put into place are done as soon as
possible. The unions now openly back Capital.

How can this be squared with the reams of left-wing sounding talk
from the unions each time there’s a strike? It can’t. What
can be clearly seen though is the unions’ use of struggles to
cement their own positions. We can see the absolute impossibility of
either ‘re-claiming’ or radicalising the unions from within
via rank-and-file organising. This is dead - as dead as the conditions
which originally gave rise to those strategies. We now have to ask
the question of what collective work-place activity can be taken that
is able to confront these problems. This is something we all have to
work out together.

BASTARD OF THE MONTH: John Reid

When Tony Blair needs a bit of muscle, there’s always John
Reid there to intimidate rebels, and provide spin in the media with
his inimitable thuggish bluster.

As Secretary for Northern Ireland, he carried on the good old
tradition of whitewashing the use of plastic bullets, the employment
of which often has serious consequences.

When hundreds of thousands took to the streets to mark the third
anniversary of the war in Iraq, Wee Johnny Boy, then Defence
Secretary, said that they were siding with “terrorists”.

“When people go on the streets of London today, I do wish just
occasionally they would go out in support of the United Nations, the
Iraqi people and the Iraqi democrats, and condemn terrorists,”
he said. He went on to say that civil war was neither “imminent
nor inevitable,” when it is obvious that that is exactly what is
now happening in Iraq.

He spluttered that tabloid papers would not dictate government
policy, then after tabloid uproar over a paedophile sentence,
pandered to the gutter press and clashed with the Attorney

Now in a new post as Home Secretary, he lost no time in blaming
his predecessor Charles Clarke, when he got into trouble over
asylum seekers, when it was patently obvious that he was as much
to blame for his lack of grasp of the situation.

“Attack Dog” Reid then fancied himself as someone from
out of the Sweeney or Starsky and Hutch, joining police on 5am
dawn raids in London. He forgot that Home Secretaries are not
supposed to be present at any such police actions, and that that
could seriously jeopardise any case.

But to finish with, let’s cast our minds back to January, when he
was still Defence Secretary. He was just then sending troops into a
notoriously Taliban-ridden part of Afghanistan. He expressed the
opinion that British troops would leave Afghanistan without firing a
single shot. Now five British soldiers are dead and others injured (not
to mention how many Afghans killed and maimed in their villages).
Britain is now bogged down in both Iraq and Afghanistan and lives
are being needlessly wasted. John Reid, bastard? Yep!

G8 PROTESTS IN A POLICE STATE: call for solidarity

Russian anarchists struggle to organise anti-summit protests under
an authoritarian regime. According to a statement from a group of
anarchists in St. Petersburg (Piter), ‘The main difficulties of
holding actions in Piter during the summit are connected with the
police regime, which has been strengthened by the authorities before
the summit. The city is stuffed with police, who constantly check
documents. There are video cameras in the central streets. The
police received special armoured vehicles to disperse street
demonstrations’.

Like in neighbouring Belarus, well-known for its dictatorship,
protests are automatically illegal if not sanctioned by the authorities.
Anarchists have had to meet in secret, sometimes in nearby forests,
in order to discuss plans for the G8. Additional problems are caused
by limited resources to accommodate people travelling to Russia.
The Second Russian Social Forum has organised a stadium on an
island for people to stay but most will not be keen to put themselves
into what is an obvious trap for police attacks. Despite such serious
obstacles to anarchist activity, people are still planning a variety of
events, though they stress that the kind of street actions that have
been organised in other places will not be encouraged, due to the
enormous forces waged against the small anarchist movement.
Though it will be impractical in terms of money and logistics for
many people to go to Piter, we can still organise actions in our own
countries to support those protesting in Russia. There is a call for a
Global Day of Action on July the 14th. In addition, we must be
prepared to organise solidarity actions against the repression, doing
what we can to show our support for those who are struggling to
build an anarchist movement in such difficult circumstances. For
more information contact the Network against the G8 which can be
found on http://www.nadir.org or http://ru.indymedia.org.
See also, International anarchist statement of solidarity with G8
protesters: http://www.iaf-ifa.org/News/G8/solidarity.htm

ON THE FRONTLINE - Resistance's regular workplace column

This month we’ll take a closer look at the dispute at the Asda
distribution depots and offer some wider points about the way in
which unions are operating in this county. The dispute over union
recognition had escalated to the verge of a national strike but was
called off by the GMB union hours before it was due to start. The
GMB have painted this as a historic victory, as the first time
Wal-Mart the notorious anti-worker owners of Asda have been
forced into recognising a collective bargaining agreement (not a
single one of their million employees in the US is in a union). A
closer look though reveals that all the agreement has done is give the
union itself a place at the negotiating table and actually removes
responsibility away from the workers themselves upwards to those
appointed by the union – it effectively carries on what seems to
be the main role of unions today - getting their feet under the table at
any cost, even of sweeping the workers demands under the carpet.



Asda workers have been under attack from the management for
some time now. Secret plans to increase their workload by 45%
added to plans to remove rights to breaks, as well as being caught
and fined for attempting to bribe workers to leave the union led to a
very militant attitude towards this dispute with many wanting to
push for all of these things to be addressed right now - instead the
union has told them to shut up, let us deal with it and we’ll
eventually (maybe) get around to it. A virtual kick in the teeth for
those workers who were prepared to put their livelihood on the line
over this - as well as a refusal to strike when the iron was hot in a
sector in which competition is leading to direct assaults on current
conditions right across the board, a real victory here would have
boosted the morale and will to fight of other workers in this sector -
the other large union in the field is USDAW which is even worse
then the GMB and is practically in bed with Tesco management,
suggesting and implementing plans to get rid of workers sick days
etc. It’s clear that the official unions are going to have to be
bypassed if the attacks are to be halted - that means workers
organising directly with other workers and the local communities
and fighting on their own interests not those of the union tops.



LATIN LEFTIES



There’s been a lot of changes in the Latin American political
landscape in the last few years. From Brazil a few years ago to
Bolivia and Chile most recently, many Labour style governments
have been given office. There’s also some more long standing
ones, like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela who is still proving to be
controversial, after some years in power. Many of them have won
elections after big social movements ousted previous conservative
governments, like Evo Morales in Bolivia. Others like Lula´s PT in
Brazil had been running unsuccessfully for decades.



Regardless of how they were appointed they all share one
characteristic. Huge social movements have been simmering in
Latin America for the last decade or so, and it is on the wings of
these peasants, workers, students, etc. that they have been projected
to the top job. These social movements usually involved bitter
struggles, brutally repressed by conservative and neo-liberal
governments, with anti-riot police killing dozens of people. In certain
cases they brought the country to the brink of a civil war, like in
Bolivia, or came close to a revolutionary insurrection, as in
Argentina. Usually these movements originate in the misery brought
to big swathes of the population by neo-liberal policies dictated from
Western business centres, and implemented by subservient
governments. People already poor have been deprived of basic
services, like clean water, so the price of shares would rise in
Western markets. Probably the big bosses are the only ones
surprised that it blew up.



But it is a sorry price for these movements to have just replaced one
government for another. As Evo Morales said: “Vote for me.
I’m the only person who can stop a revolution in Bolivia.”
And he was probably right. Having Labour style governments in
power is the best way to deter a dissatisfied people. By giving them
false hopes of reform they distract them from achieving the more
profound changes that are required to end poverty in Latin America.
But in reality these governments provide close to nothing, apart from
a fiery anti-US rhetoric. Brazil’s Workers Party government has
been tainted by corruption allegations, and has heavily repressed
movements like the Sem Terra, of landless peasants. Hugo Chavez
has opened natural reserves, protected before, to exploitation by
multinationals. On the other hand he has undertaken a massive
rearming programme, and he is likely to resort to war and
nationalism if his populist rhetoric runs out of steam. Evo Morales
has “nationalised” Bolivia´s gas reserves in a way that the
big corporations have lost just a 3% of their shares, and still own a
49% of the national resources.



Certainly, that is still better than the horrible repression that was the
norm at the time of the fascist dictatorships. But the peoples in Latin
America (and indeed everywhere else) deserve better.



'WANNABE COP' TV



A digital TV channel in East London has launched a proposal with
the slogan “combat crime from your couch”. For £15 a
month Shoreditch TV offers the chance to plug in to 400
surveillance cameras in the neighbourhood. If you see someone who
you think is dodgy, you can send an anonymous message to the
police, thanks to a wireless keyboard supplied with the subscription.
The first 3 months are free. The scheme was thought up by the
Labour controlled council and is partly financed by the European
Union and the government to the tune of £12 million.



Video surveillance is an attack on civil and individual liberties. It is a
supplementary instrument of social control. As well as being a useful
election promise for demagogues, it attacks the consequences and
not the causes of poverty, allowing for State surveillance of society.
Dangerous today, tomorrow it can be the instrument of totalitarian
power. Power divides in order to rule. If people act as cops and spy
on each other, power can sleep easily. Tell ShoreditchTV what you
think: www.digitalbridge.org.uk/sdtv/crimechannel.php



SEND OUT THE LIONS



We wonder if Christians who criticize ‘Jerry Springer the
Opera’ being shown at various venues around the country have
actually read the Bible? We are puzzled (well not really) how the ever
smiling, happy-clappy, Jesus-loves-you brigade can hold up this
‘Holy’ book as a source of “morality” when it
contains not only idiocy but pure malice.



For example ‘God’ (sic) states in Deuteronomy 28:53:
“And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy
sons and of thy daughters, which the LORD thy GOD hath given
thee.” Also: “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy
little ones against the stones…” (Psalm 137:9)



It seems cannibalism and infanticide is OK!



Maybe before trying to ban people’s enjoyment of a lighthearted
opera, Christians should discover what the mythical, man-made
“God” and “Jesus” actually said!



TIME BOMB - General Strike 1926



The 1926 General Strike was the climax of increasing class struggle
in Britain since World War 1. During the war, the miners, dockers
and railway workers formed the Triple Alliance which united almost
one million workers! In 1919 an all out showdown was averted only
by union and government deceit. 1920 actually saw a General Strike
threatened to stop British attacks on Russia. 1921 saw another
confrontation after government announcements of selling off the
mines and coal owners instantly introducing wage cuts. The coal
bosses were the first to announce wage cuts. The TUC said
they’d place themselves “unreservedly at the disposal of the
Miners’ Federation.” It was clear to all that something big
was going to happen. Baldwin introduced a 9 month subsidy to
maintain the mines while an inquiry into the mining industry was set
up. The Tories were not interested in reports. It was a ploy to buy
time for the preparation of all out class warfare. Even the unions
knew this. Arthur James Cook, ex-Communist Party member and
union leader said that “we [the unions] shall be faced with the
greatest struggle… ever known and we are preparing for it.”



Union leaders were shitting themselves at the possibility of a General
Strike. JR Cleynes of the General and Municipal Workers union said
clearly “I am not in fear of the capitalist class. The only class I
fear is our own.” Lloyd George had set up the Emergency Supply
and Transport Committee in 1919 and beefed it up good and proper
for Black Friday in 1921. It was built up and joined by the
Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies. The OMS were a
nasty bunch of right-wing strike breakers including, amongst others,
Fascists as members.



Three days before the showdown was to begin, the TUC General
Council met for the first time. The TUC asked to speak to the PM,
desperate to find some way out of this conflict. The TUC did nothing
to organise the workers for battle, so the workers organised
themselves.



On May 1, one million miners were locked out and the TUC took
over the dispute. The miners’ leaders came to the table and
rejected the ridiculous sell-out negotiated by the TUC. As a
‘compromise’ was drawn up, the state pulled out of talks
after Daily Mail workers had staged an unofficial walk-out. The
TUC, true to form, condemned the walk-out. The compromise was
put to the miners’ leaders who rejected it 12–6. The TUC
General Council, however, was ready to accept it but found that by
now the government wasn’t listening.



A State of Emergency was called. Resources were stockpiled.
Regional Civil Commissioners were given dictatorial powers and
were ready to go into action. Army and Navy leave was cancelled
and reinforcements were sent to Scotland, South Wales, London and
Lancashire. Warships docked all over Britain. The OMS handed its
services to the government.



By now there were 4 million workers out on strike who were willing
to fight. Transport was crippled with London being solid. Nothing
moved unless the workers said it could move. Churchill started
printing the British Gazette whose sole aim was to print lies about
the strike. In response the TUC produced The British Worker. All it
did was try to keep control of the millions of men and women
involved in the strike. Jimmy Thomas of the TUC admitted to the
Commons on May 13 that “If by any chance it should have got
out of the hands of those who would be able to exercise some
control, every sane man knows what would have happened...that fear
was always in our minds”.



But locally, the workers were very well organised. Councils of Action
were set up organising transport, picketing, entertainment and
financial assistance for those in need. East Fife set up a workers
defence militia which had a membership of 700 and had regular
clashes with state forces. In many areas, workers produced
high-quality strike bulletins. All this, however, was condemned by
the TUC.Control of roads, transport and distribution was in the
hands of the Councils of Action. However, their main failing was in
not co-ordinating nationally.



Russia gave the British Communist Party their lead, saying “this
is not a revolutionary movement. It is a simple wage dispute.” A
General Strike, Councils of Action and dual power in parts of the
country?!!. It may have been over miners’ pay but everyday it
was increasing the confidence of the working class. The TUC called
for workers to “Be loyal to instructions and trust your
leaders.” Those leaders who all the while were looking for a way
out. Once they realised the ruling class wasn’t budging, they
saw only one option, all out surrender. Excuses like people drifting
back to work (when workers were coming out everyday) were used
to justify the sell-out. There was no guarantee that strikers would be
protected from victimisation, or of further negotiations and an end to
the lock-out. On May 11, just one week into a strike growing in
confidence, the TUC called off the strike. Union leaders claimed
“assurances had been given”. After the strike, over 3,000
people were prosecuted and wages were slashed. The working class
had been betrayed and the bosses took their advantage.



SUBVERT - July & August diary dates



When going on demonstrations stay sober, don’t talk to the
police and if you’re arrested give only your name and address
then say ‘no comment’ to any other questions. For more
info visit: http://www.ldmg.org.uk



JULY



10th - Big Aldermaston Blockade. Resist Britain's WMD
programme - Stop the next generation of nuclear weapons!
Corporate war profiteers and their military masters are building new
nuclear weapons facilities at Britain's nuclear bomb factory at
Aldermaston in Berkshire. Come and join us for a big and
practical/active NVDA blockade of the Atomic Weapons
Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston and block the builders working
on the new facilities. Visit:
http://www.blockthebuilders.org.uk/action





14-16th - Hazards 2006 - gathering for trade union safety reps and
activists discussing safety in the workplace. Organised by National
Hazards Campaign and Greater Manchester Hazards Centre, at
University Of Manchester. For details tel: 0161 636 7558 email:
hazconf@gmhazards.co.uk vist: http://www.gmhazards.org.uk



15th - Day school on young people and asylum. Hackney Refugee
and Migrant Support Group is holding a day school on young people
and asylum, with workshops on laws, social & health needs,
detention and other issues which affect young asylum
seekers.10am-4.30pm, free entrance, at The Old Fire Station, 61
Leswin Road, Stoke Newington, London N16 7NY. Email:
pierre@hclc.org.uk



19th - The Horror of War Demo with creative ways of showing
bomb component manufacturers EDO MBM the true horror of war.
4-6pm, Outside EDO, Home Farm Road, Brighton. Visit:
http://www.smashedo.org.uk



29 July-12th August - Trident Ploughshares - International
Disarmament Camp, Coulport, Scotland. 15 days of direct
disarmament actions at Faslane and Coulport naval bases. At the
Peaton Glen Wood campsite, half a mile from the Coulport base, by
the shores of Loch Long. Visit:
http://www.tridentploughshares.org/article983



AUGUST



16-20th - Earth First! Summer Gathering in West Wales. For
anyone interested in direct action for people and planet. This is not a
festival but a chance to meet, discuss and plan. Food provided by
Anarchist Teapot - 3 vegan meals for £4 a day. £15 to pay for
running costs. There will be talks, stalls, workshops, kids space,
teens space, camping areas. No dogs. If you would like to help with
the gathering, give workshops, etc contact soon. See web site for
more details, posters, leaflets etc - actual location will be published
on website one month before. Visit:
http://www.earthfirstgathering.org.uk Email efgathering@aktivix.org
Tel: 0845 223 5254







---

Anarchist Federation,

BM ANARFED, London,

WC1N 3XX, England.

Email: info@afed.org.uk

Also visit: http://www.afed.org.uk and http://www.iaf-ifa.org

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You can subscribe to resistance by email for free, or

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