(en) Extracts from FREEDOM 22nd March 1997

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Sat, 22 Mar 1997 23.10 GMT


LIVERPOOL LOCK-OUT AND EVERYDAY REALITY Sender: a-infos-request@tao.ca Precedence: list Reply-To: a-infos-d@tao.ca

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A huge meeting of over 150 packed Manchester Town Hall last week to discuss the Liverpool lock-out of up to 500 dockers, and the lack of media coverage.

Speakers included Ken Loach, director of Land and Freedom and last December's film on the dockers' dispute; Bill Hunter, working class historian; a dockers' leader and a woman from Women on the Waterfront.

There was a call for a co-ordination of struggles both industrial and social, like the Reclaim the Streets and the anti-JSA campaign. Ken Loach spoke against sectarianism on the left. But the main point of his speech was of the top-heavy content of mainstream media coverage. Forever obsessed with life at Westminster and in the City of London, forever focused upon the witterings of the 'great and the good', and utterly divorced from the everyday existences of most of us at work and in the dole queue.

It is as if there are two rival realities. One documented meticulously in the media, covering the ups and downs of power politics, the other concerned with the seen but unnoticed, and mostly unreported, ordinariness of everyday survival in English society today.

Bill Hunter claimed that New Labour would come to power in a couple of months in a society full of sceptical, angry and disgruntled people. There could be little expectation of social harmony in this. At the end of the meeting there was a contribution from a Groundswell speaker who informed the meeting about the CPSA victimisation of Lee Rock for daring to call for unity between claimants and dole staff.

Ken Loach received a copy of The Raven with a critique of his film Land and Freedom. Jim Allen, the film' s screenwriter, has already said of this critique: "Though I disagree with some of the politics expressed, that critique 'Rendering Reality on Film' is excellent".

Freedom Reporter

BILLY MORRIS: WIMP

Bill Morris, the general secretary of the Transport & General Workers' Union, delivered a whining address to his members this month in T&G Record about his union's stand on the Liverpool lock-out of up to 500 dockers. Last year journalist John Pilger in The Guardian challenged "the timidity of the union barons".

He is clearly wounded by Mr Pilger' s claim that there is an "unspoken sweetheart agreement" between the T&G union and the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. Bill Morris insists he is working tirelessly in his member's interests.

Mr Morris says "of the 1,000 T&G members employed by the Merseyside Docks and Harbour Company, 328 were dismissed; 80 others were employed by a separate company, Torside". Er, does this mean the 600-odd still on the company payroll are something we used to call scabs? Is the union trying to use these scabs as an excuse for not supporting the victimised men and their families?

Morris refused to be interviewed by Pilger. He refers to his offer, through the union's press officer, for Pilger to "submit written questions". Can anybody answer a straight question these days? Why does he need time to think?

Bill Morris claims his reluctance to be interviewed by the left-wing journalist is "more than justified by the anti-T&G bile which suffuses from his article". He suggests that unscripted answers, in which the slow- witted Morris may have been tripped up, could have been 'twisted' to fit Pilger's own "pre-determined thesis".

The general secretary denies the allegation put by Pilger that he called on the dockers' leader to abandon their struggle. He is outraged by Pilger's assertion that "for much of its history the TGWU ... has served the aims of the British establishment". He says that the Mersey Port Shop Stewards argument "that there is no difference between the positions of the employer and the T&G in the Liverpool docks" is a counsel of despair.

This all adds up to a spineless piece of writing by a trade union boss of one of Britain's biggest unions. No wonder the continentals call us a nation of wimps. Mr Morris moans on about not being able to do anything because of the "anti-union legislation passed over the last seventeen years, a fact many of the T&G's critics simply ignore". The union boss writes: "Our survival owes nothing to the advice of John Pilger and his like".

He points out that Pilger' s "ultra-left politics so often end up in the same place as the policies of the right - attacking the organisations of the labour movement".

Mr Morris concludes that "the T&G leadership has discharged its obligation to the union as a whole, in protecting our assets from sequestration .

In the end the union bosses want to maintain their own way of life and protect their own salaries in the union organisation.

Trade Unionist

NAN CONFERENCE

On 8th-9th March anarchists in Liverpool hosted a weekend conference of the Northern Anarchist Network. Fewer groups than usual attended, and this was blamed on communication hiccups and the fact that individual groups are very busy at the moment. As usual, discussions were stimulating; and informative and justified the need for such networking to lead to greater understanding and to help co-ordinate the revolutionary struggle. Here are some items from the agenda: group reports, the anti-JSA campaign, the anti-election alliance, gender imbalance in anarchism, self-defence, the Manchester Runway campaign.

On JSA, focus is shifting to Project Work, the work for benefits scam. Organisations expecting to profit from this kind of exploitation will be targeted. On 2nd April there is a national day of action against 'providers', and names such as Grand Metropolitan (Burger King, etc.) and Oxfam were mentioned.

On the anti-election front, Leeds Anarchists in conjunction with Leeds Class War are distributing three thousand copies of their hard-hitting paper the Yorkshire Evening Pest. There will be five days of Anarchy in Bradford from 1st May, being organised by the 1 in 12 Club. All agreed on the need to propagate anarchist ideas amongst activists in the ecology and animal rights movements: anarchists should assist in such campaigns as, for example, the Manchester Runway.

Other events coming up: anarchists and ex-Black Panther Lorenzo Komboa Ervin is coming to the UK in May and needs places to speak, food, lodgings and help with travelling. Contact the IWW in Swindon on 01793 411980. On 22nd March in Liverpool there will be a march for the dockers assembling at Myrtle Parade at 12.30. Then on 12th April the venue is London for the March for Social Justice, again in aid of the dockers. On 14th June the European March Against Unemployment is in Amsterdam to coincide with the European leaders' summit, and many syndicalists and anarchists are travelling there to make their voices heard (see last issue of Freedom, page 7).

Talking about making our voices heard, when was the last time that anarchists spoke on the same platform as parliamentarians? We need the chance to get our views over. This was the subject of a lively session at the conference. It is intended to ask the dockers to give us room on their platform on 22nd March when MPs Benn and Corbyn are due to address the rally in Liverpool. The dockers know that their dispute goes beyond the issue of jobs, to the basic question of how we organise our lives. They know we can do without bosses. So help us get the message across!

The next NAN Conference will be on Sunday 8th June at the Red & Black Centre in Sheffield. On the Saturday there is a day school organised by the Manchester group Subversion and the Anarchist Communist Federation. Items for the NAN Conference agenda to: Sheffield Anarchists Group, PO Box 446, Sheffield S1 lNY.

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