Manchester is a city with one cathedral; two serious socialist parties – the Socialist Workers’ Party and the Socialist Party; three universities – Manchester, Manchester Met. and Salford University; a handful of veteran anarchist adherents to the Sol. Fed., the Anarchist Fed. and the Northern Anarchist Network; not to mention umpteen local anarcho-climate activists. So many worthy, well meaning people, it is the ideal spot to stage a Right to Work rally like that held last weekend on Oldham Street, Manchester.
Some 600 folk gathered in ‘resistance & solidarity’ to protect us from all manner of wickedness in this world. A Rag-Bag Rally of remarkable pretension and proportions endeavouring to gee-up those of us who’re still either very young, ideologically drunk or incurably naive. A Conference ‘of Resistance & Solidarity’: proclaiming ‘The Only Solution is Revolution’ with minor celebrities on the platform and undergraduates in the audience all loaded with more than a little vain expectations.
Jerry Hicks, unemployed since he was sacked 4 years ago, ran a workshop labelled ‘Stopping the Jobs Massacre’ which might help him advance his campaign for the General Secretary’s job in our biggest trade union: Unite the Union. Will he get it? If he does will he change the union or will the union change him? We must wait and see. In the meantime Jerry offers us a few syndicalist amendments to the status quo: ‘all union officers must be elected’; ‘the union must serve the members not the other way round’; ‘union leaders must lead from the front, as I did on the Staythorpe power station picket last year, when the police broke my leg’ or ‘the solution is workers’ control and revolution’. Stirring stuff delivered in a strained, strangled, shouting bellow to a roomful of about 30. Colin Trousdale, a Manchester electrician and typical English syndicalist, spoke about the blacklist in the building trade and the way the Unite union bosses were dragging their feet rather than fight the victimisation’s.
The SWP bosses, who were running the rally, don’t much like Jerry Hicks since he left their party – hence this workshop was in the equivalent of outer-Mongolia at the Mechanics Institute, well away from the main conference venue on Oldham Street. Because of this I missed the 7 minute speech delivered by Dave Chapple, who alongside Dave Douglass, is probably the most important revolutionary syndicalist in the country. Dave Chapple who was on the platform as President of the National Shop Stewards’ Network and according to reports hammered home an attacked on ballot box politics referring to Wobblies of the American IWW like Bill Heywood, and dismissing the left-wing giddiness associated with the coming General Election; telling the Conference that these days he only bothered to vote in unions elections. Oddly, Ray Morrell of the SWP and NSSN, later told the rally he agreed with what Dave Chapple had said.
The rally produced a ‘wish-list’ and voted to set up a ‘Rank & File’ movement, which will stand in contrast to the NSSN that is based in the existing unions. In the end it is likely that the ‘rank & file’ project will render itself to be little more than a fart in a bottle. The SWP organisers are good at rallies but not so clever when it comes to following through: soon the novelty will wear off and they will be off on some other campaign or venture. We should note the headline in the current Socialist Worker: ‘Be Part of the New Wave of Resistance’. Well it’s part of the DNA of the British left to be always ‘in resistance’ and never to make serious practical proposals for change. The Government and the bosses set the agenda and the trade unions and the left react to it as best they can. This more than anything displays the primitive and immature [if not feeble-minded] state we are in as a political movement.
Taken from Northern Voices
March and Rally 10 April 2010
The pensioner, trade union and other welfare movements are planning a major demonstration in central London next April, in defence of the welfare state and public services.
The National Pensioners Convention is leading the event and the TUC is giving its full support, along with ASLEF, BECTU, CWU, FBU, GMB, NUJ, NUT, PCS, POA, RMT, TSSA, UCATT, UCU, UNISON, UNITE and USDAW. In addition the BMA, RADAR and the Carers Poverty Alliance are also taking part.
In the New Year we will have a special website advertising the event at www.10410demo.com along with a flyer (attached) which you can order for distribution and a petition.
This will be a major event either just before or just after the general election. Either way it will put down a marker to the next government that the welfare state and public services are important to all of us and must not become a casualty of the economic crisis. Every effort must therefore be used to maximise attendance.
On 12 November, it became legal to force unemployed people to work for their benefits – to do 40-hour-weeks for under a third of the minimum wage. The Government’s Welfare Reform Act introduced ‘Work for your Benefit’ pilot schemes, which once completed can be rolled out without any further debate. It also attacked single parents – who face sanctions if they fail to prepare for work outside the home as soon as their child turns three – and people with impairments, disabilities or severe and enduring illnesses.
Two days later, members of twenty-three different groups from around the UK met to share information and plan resistance to these pernicious attacks, which will take their toll on working-class and low-income communities.
Groups present included Unemployed Workers Unions from six cities across the UK, the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network, Southwark Mind, WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities), Single Mothers’ Self-Defence (part of Global Women’s Strike) and members of the union in the Department of Work and Pensions – PCS. They were joined by feminist and other groups (all listed below).
The strength to be gained from meeting in solidarity with each other was immense and created a real sense that a movement is building: a movement which will not only fight the immediate attacks of the Welfare Abolition Act, but draw out the connections between our struggles and together challenge the ideology driving them.
The Act seeks to make our worth dependent on work; work defined in the really narrow terms of waged work for someone else’s profit. By making us compete with those in waged work for non-existent jobs, it helps drive down wages and conditions. We all take the brunt as the rich make even more money out of us.
We want solidarity with and from people in low-income, temporary and insecure work. These are the jobs that ‘work-for-your-benefit’ would replace.
We want caring to be recognised as important work in society. Single parents are already working and benefits are their entitlement to a social wage.
We want justice for people with severe or enduring illnesses. The drive to get people off incapacity benefits and Employment and Support Allowance and into work is making people more ill with stress. Only we know what we are capable of and it is wrong for conditions and sanctions to be imposed on us to force us into unsuitable work, unwanted “work-related activity” or “motivation sessions” which press us into their programmes of treatment for addictions and other conditions.
We want the right not to work. People not in waged work contribute loads to their communities. We do not want to be forced into mind-numbing, insecure work that leaves us no better off, or worse off than on benefits and definitely not at £1.27 an hour!
We want free, high-quality, public services to support older people and people with impairments/disabilities. People should not have to become employers managing ‘individual budgets’ in order to access the care they need.
We want to stand in solidarity with migrant workers. Just as unemployed people are pitted against people in work, so migrant workers are pitted against us. We believe that we must stand together and demand all of our rights together.
We want to fight privatisation of the Department for Work and Pensions. Attacks on DWP and Jobcentre Plus workers are attacks on our rights to access welfare. We will support the PCS’ fight against cuts.
We want an end to the apartheid system of benefits, healthcare and housing for asylum seekers. UK Border Agency support should be scrapped — where people are forced to survive on incomes far below benefit levels – which are already set at subsistence level. No slum housing and dangerous and dirty hostels, dispersal, or vouchers.
After a day of info-sharing, outrage and scheming, we formed a few working groups. If you’re able to help out with any of the projects, please email email@example.com
1.Media working group – monitor and respond to hostile articles in the media.
2.Our propaganda – creating posters, newsletters etc to get our messages out
3.Website – put together a website as a space to share resources, feedback and comment, get the word out about our campaign and publicise local and national action.
4.Our welfare rights – compiling information to help us access our rights now and creating ‘Know your rights’ leaflets.
5.Defeating the Work for your Benefits pilots – research to support the network to take action against the pilots.
If you want to stay in touch, please join our discussion list here:
If you agree with our demands above and would like to take part in our campaign, please ask your group to sign up to this statement and email
And put the next national meeting in your diary now…. 17 April in Manchester!
The meeting had people in attendance from: South Manchester Community Union, London Anarcha-Feminist Kolektiv, London Coalition Against Poverty, Feminist Action, Defend Welfare Newcastle, Manchester Unemployed Workers Union, Cambridge Unemployed Workers’ Union, PCS, Hackney Unemployed Workers, Single Mothers’ Self Defence, Winvisible, Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Disabled People’s Direct Action Network, Southwark Mind, Women’s Office Manchester Student Union, Riveters feminist group in Manchester, Feminist Fightback, Industrial Workers of the World, No Borders, Stop Deportations, Anarchist Federation, Communist Students, Salford Unemployed Workers’ Union.