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Tony Benn: an appreciation

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Shiraz hits  (Sean Matgamna)  the right  note,

The first thing that should be said and remembered about Tony Benn, who died on Friday 14 March, is that for over four decades he backed, defended, and championed workers in conflict with their bosses or with the “boss of bosses”, the government.

That put him decidedly in our camp. The political ideas which he too often linked with those bedrock working-class battles detract from the great merit of Tony Benn, but do not cancel it out or render it irrelevant.

And then  this,

He shifted radically halfway through his life – back to the Radical seam in British political history….

Benn was a socialist. But first and foremost a British radical.

But not the socialist, in the European Marxist sense.

A wonderful type, I have no words to go on about this.

But not really “one of us.”

Written by Andrew Coates

March 20, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Suffolk People’s Assembly: Defend Our Unions Public Meeting.

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On Tuesday up to 60 people came to Ipswich Library Lecture room to the Suffolk People’s Assembly meeting, “Defend our Unions and Right to Resist Austerity.”

Speakers represented many different aspects of the Trade union and anti-cuts movement.

Dave Smith, a Founder Member of Blacklist Support Group, spoke on employers who witch-hunted activists out of jobs. Drawing on his experience in the building trade he outlined the long-standing campaign against the practice, and the recent actions against Crossrail and private contractors for public services.

Donna Guthrie of Joint Chair Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) talked of their grass-roots campaigning in London’s East End. In Newham they had struck deep roots in the community, from many different ethnic backgrounds. They were campaigning against cuts in social housing, and issues such as the abuse of police powers.

Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary, National Union of Teachers, said,

I’m Proud that NUT was in at the beginning of People’s Assembly and to share this platform today.

Why is the NUT is involved?

Well firstly because Teachers can’t separate themselves from the rest of working people. But perhaps more importantly because many of the children we teach see the worst effects of the austerity agenda. And it is the most vulnerable hit hardest.

Kevin described the attacks on the education system, spearheaded by Michael Gove.

How do we offer an alternative?

Kevin stated,

The Peoples Assembly shows the characteristics we need for the fight back – unity, broad base, looking for activity, something for everyone to do and contribute to And we do see very successful mobilisations all over the country – against cuts and closures in the health service, against the bedroom tax and evictions, against schools being forced into academy status.

Bill Bowring, the International Secretary of Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, and Colchester based, congratulated Suffolk People’s Assembly on its work. He listed more reasons to offer an alternative to the Liberal-Conservative government’s policies. He said that reducing legal aid, a pillar of the post-war settlement, was part of the same weakening of social rights as attacks on the NHS and education.

Roy Humphries FBU Secretary Suffolk Fire Brigades Union, spoke on the government’s plans to reduce their pension rights and raise the age of retirement to an unsustainable limit.

He described how their battles were far from over and thanked members of the local labour movement, in particular Ipswich Trades Council, who had supported their protests.

Jim Kelly, Chair of London & Eastern Region Unite the Union, spoke on  his union’s base in the private sector. He outlined the decline in collective bargaining agreements – the UK is now apparently on a par with only one country, Lithuania, for its low level of these agreements. Jim cited how UNITE had successfully fought back against employers and had, for example,  won bonus for London Bus drivers, and had defended their members. UNITE were beginning to tackle the problems created by the anti-union Gateway port employers.  What was needed were changes to the anti-trade union laws that prevented workers form organising and only a Labour government, he suggested, could do that.

On the Grangemouth dispute Jim pointed out that it was the local membership who had decided on an agreement with a ruthless employers.

In the discussion that followed a member of the SWP attacked the Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey.

Others saw the trade unions in a positive light, as reaching out to people to defend social rights and as advocates of a better society.

The People’s Assembly was mentioned as a way people  draw campaigns and unions together. The previous week Suffolk activists had supported the Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) protest against ATOS. A campaign extending our work on the Living Wage, will be launched for  Fast-Food workers.

At the People’s Assembly National Conference (15 March) Suffolk will be presenting two motions. One opposes  the government’s  policies against migrant workers. The other calls for a national campaign against Workfare and for Charities, social sector and local authorities to have nothing to do with forced labour.

Ipswich Postal workers mentioned their fight to defend their conditions, and the effects of the closure of the local sorting office.

In the pub afterwards activists considered that the meeting had been a success and a help in our efforts to campaign for progressive politics.

Sisters, Brothers! There’s a place for you – in the People’s Assembly!

Ban ‘Father Ted’ says Ipswich MP.

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Dapper gent Ben Gummer  (MP Ipswich) and special adviser to Michel Gove) says,

“Father Ted is unpatriotic and Catholicphobic’ .

I do not say this out of party interest.

On my annual pilgrimage  to Lady Lane I have heard the taunts of guttersnipes against Our Blessed Lady.

Craggy, so-called Island, is clearly Ipswich in disguise.

Father Jack Hackett is an unwelcome caricature of respected local liberal  Andrew Cann.

A ban is called for, forthwith! 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 5, 2014 at 12:37 pm

The Shadow over Ipswich, Part Two

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Shed no Light during SWP Shadow.

The Shadow over Ipswich, Part Two.

“No sluggish tide congenial to the glooms –

This, as it frothed by, might have been a bath

For the fiend’s glowing hoof to see the wrath

Of its black eddy bespate with flakes and spumes.”

Childe Roland

During the winter of 2013-14 officials of the Eastern Region Soviet made a hidden investigation of certain incidents in the ancient Suffolk seaport, Ipswich. The public have yet to learn of what transpired when a series of raids by the People’s Militia, were followed by the demolition of a vast meeting room of the “Order of the C’l’ff” in Fore Street, near the town’s waterfront.

Attentive followers of Facebook and Twitter wondered at the prodigious number of resignations from the ‘Order of C’l’ff’ and its charitable wing, the Soc’l’st W’rk’rs P’r’t’y. There were allegations about obnoxious behaviour and a ‘cult’ of the Old Ones. One Blog, known for its willingness to repeat slanders, hinted at worse to come. That the ‘Order’ issued repeated attacks on (unnamed) “slurs of the Internet” only heightened people’s curiosity.

But they really knew very little, for wide salt marshes, forty kilometres wide, and crossable only via an irregular causeway, keep Ipswich isolated from the rest of the world.

It was I who fled frantically out of Ipswich in the early morning hours of December the 2nd 2013. It was my frightened appeals that brought the Eastern Region Soviet to act. It is time now to tell of those few dreadful  hours in that ill-rumoured and evilly shadowed seaport of death and blasphemous abnormality, and the doings of the Order of C’l’ff.


I had often heard of Ipswich, as I live there. Down by Fore Street lie buildings of departed grandeur. As an amateur antiquarian I would often stroll down there, on the way to Poseidon Quay. Many of the habitations are abandoned; others house 99p shops and pay-day loan offices. But towards the road’s end is (or was) a huge building, resembling a Masonic Hall. A faded legend, ‘Esoteric Order of C’l’ff’ was written on its front.

There had been rumours of strange goings on inside this Temple. One day I saw an old man lingering in the street, plainly destitute. He asked me for a sub. I gave him a two-litre bottle of white cider and a tin of Carlsberg Special.

After a few healthy sips he began to talk, and the Order seemed to be his favourite subject.


“That’s whar it all begun – the cursed place of all wickedness, war the deep waters comes up in thar cellars.”

“Never was nobody like Cde Curtis. Heh heh! I kin mind him a-tellen bout furren ideologies, an’ callin’ all the folks stupid for goin’ to Trades Council meetin’, an’ backin’ UNITE. He git a better leader, Hicks war his name. Sed his boi would lick McClusky. Shew us thar Sunday Times and Hicks war all ‘ver her pages. Sed if we worshiped C’l’ff we’d get rewards like that.”

Here the old man faltered, mumbled, and lapsed into a moody and apprehensive silence.

I rushed to the Eagle Street grog shop and bought some more tinnies of Special Brew.

I handed them over and he gurgled one swiftly down.

“There were 23 of ‘em as joined. Well, bor, you’d as seed them in her purple robes all outsider the Temple. One, we calls it Sideshow, had harr as red as blood. Then a’night we hars the sounds within…”

Iä! Iä! C’l’ff fhtagn! C’ll’n’c’s fhtagan! K’m’r fhtagan! Ph’nglui mglw’naf h C’l’ff! R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn…”

“Oi went to library and looked to a-readin’ the mad Arabist Al-Harmoon’s Necronomicon. They sed that Cde Curtis war only folks as looked at her befor’.”

He shuddered and pulled at the lager.

“The Order grewed and grewed. Central Committee moved to Ipswich and I seed C’ll’c’s and K’m’b’r all a lordly and strutin’. They selled the Soc’l’st W’rk’r every day on the Corn Hill and ain’t anybody who durst not buy a copy. The replaced Trades Council with Unite the ‘R’s’st’nc’, and all the old officers just vanished.”

“People o’ the Order as begun to change. Some sed they seed them a’swimin’ in the old harbour, going ‘wards the Orwell Island.”

“Seems like these Old Ones are some kinda gods, and they’s needs more than a-worshipin’. The haowlin’ night arter night from the Temple…them as had doubts bout Central Committee had ‘accidents’ jumping off Orwell Bridge…. there was violations….then some ordinary folks disappeared and they reckoned you could har the eldritch screams from Fore Street….but I ain’t telled you the wust!”

“Cde Curtis, can’t shet his eyes no more, an’ is all aout o’shape. I seed him bare-foot and his had nine webbed toes!

The chap halted, glanced furtively around, and shambled off.


I informed the Eastern Region Soviet and the events recounted above took place.

But I was once a student sympathiser of the Soc’l’st W’rk’rs P’r’t’y.

At night I have frightful dreams. I met the Old One, C’l’ff under the sea. He lives in a phosphorescent palace of multiple terraces, surrounded by leprous corals. Cde. Curtis is at his right side, and looks at me sternly. C’l’ff tells me that I have to come for a “little talk”.

I took my slughorn….

I shall swim out to that brooding island in the River Orwell and dive down through black abysses to Cyclopean and many-columned Clifton, where in the Deep the Old Ones of the Soc’l’st W’rk’rs P’r’t’y dwell amidst wonder and glory.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Bonfire of Austerity. Ipswich, Suffolk People’s Assembly.

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Comrade Ratty Comes to Ipswich in Anti-Austerity Protest.

Yesterday there were protests across the country, organised by the People’s Assembly.

In Ipswich the day began at 7.00 at Ipswich Station.

Around 7 people gave out leaflets by Action for Rail - to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Rail Privatisation and support public ownership of rail. The rain was heavy but they got a good reception from rail users.

At 11.30 am  Silent Street, Ipswich there was a vigil outside ATOS and Job Centre.

This was the first demonstration in the town against the hated ATOS and Liberal-Tory Workfare plans

Around thirty people came, in the drizzle.

They heard an impassioned speech by a representative of Suffolk Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).

We demand the Coalition Government:

·         Scraps the Work Capability Assessment

·         Scraps the wasteful and punitive Work Programme which also pays millions to private companies.

·         Stops unpaid work for benefit claimants – if work needs doing, people should be paid for doing it.  Unpaid work takes away work from workers and undermines wages.

·         Stops unjustified, deliberate sanctioning of benefit claimants.

·         Stops further cuts in benefits.

·         Benefit claimants did not cause the financial crisis or the public spending deficit.

Radio Suffolk interviewed Martin.

It was intensely moving.

We then moved off, at around 1.00 pm, to near Boots in Tavern St, behind the proud banner of DPAC, to begin the Living Wage Activity.

Leaflets were given out by our large crowd to the public on the Suffolk Living Wage campaign.

As we had decided, ““The first aim of the Suffolk People’s Assembly will be to make Ipswich a ‘living wage’ zone where all employers pay the ‘living wage’ which is currently £7.45 an hour outside London, compared with the national minimum wage of £6.19.”

We had a very good reaction from passers by.

One  young woman remarked, “I don’t get as much as that!”

At 6.30 pm  there was the  Bonfire of Austerity, at Felaw Maltings”Consign Austerity to the Bonfire on the Green”.

Over 60 people came, in the cold damp evening, assembling around a brazier.

Comrade Ratty was at the corner of the Green.

Votes were taken as to which effigy, of David Cameron, George Osborne, Michael Gove, and a picture of Ian Duncan Smith would be flung on the flames.

Gove won.

There were simple, but to the point, speeches, on our fight for social justice against the Liberal-Tory Coalition.

 A speaker from the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) explained why they were on strike that day.

We then went to the pub where hot dogs (veggie or meat) and soup were on offer.

Thanks Val.

It was a real people’s Assembly.

Disabled Campaigners, Trade Unionists, School students, Feminists,  Labour Party activists, Socialists from various parties, Greens, Anarchists, and simply the ordinary people of Ipswich took part,

On the same day, the Guardian reports,

Protesters gather around the world for Million Mask March.

“In Parliament Square, protesters burned energy bills to oppose the rising cost of fuel and there were minor clashes with police in riot gear as protesters also gathered near Buckingham Palace, where a fire was started yards away from its gates. No arrests took place, according to the Metropolitan police.

The numbers of those protesting in central London were swelled by a gathering on Westminster Bridge organised by the People’s Assembly, an anti-cuts umbrella group whose “Bonfire of Austerity” was addressed by the Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Jon McDonnell.”

Sisters! Brothers! There’s a place for you, in the People’s Assembly!