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Posts Tagged ‘Trade Unions

General Strike In Nicaragua. Left Condemns Ortega who “Puts Down Protests Violently”.

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General Strike in NIcaragua: Demonstrator in Burnt-out Bus in Tipitapa.

Nicaragua protesters stage national strike as clashes persist.

A 24-hour general strike has brought much of Nicaragua to a standstill, as anti-government campaigners demand the resignation of President Daniel Ortega.

Streets have been deserted and businesses closed in the capital, Managua, but violent protests have broken out in other cities.

Reports say at least three people died on Thursday, bringing the total killed in eight weeks of clashes to about 160.

Fresh talks aimed at ending the stand-off are due to take place on Friday.

The protests began on 19 April after the government imposed cuts to pension and social security programmes.

The cuts were later scrapped but the protests evolved into a rejection of the Ortega government and thousands of people have since taken to the streets.

Nicaragua se paraliza mientras Ortega mantiene la represión

El País

A detailed report on the strike, which has already resulted in deaths,  has just appeared:

Paro total y varios muertos: la huelga general en Nicaragua pone aún más contra las cuerdas a Daniel Ortega

Nicaragua paralysed as Ortega continues the repression.

Despite the report in the Sun today on British apologists for the repression (“Top Corbyn allies ‘help spread propaganda for murderous dictator who’s killed dozens of protesters in Nicaragua”)  there have been strong left criticisms of the Ortega regime from the left.

A massive violation of human rights” Mike Phipps

From the latest Labour Briefing.

In late April, civil unrest swept across Nicaragua. Over 40 people were killed, ostensibly over social security reforms proposed by Daniel Ortega‘s government. Many more were injured at the hands of the police who used live rounds, or in beatings by pro-government groups, western media reported.

One local blogger reported: “Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista government proposed a rise in employer contributions, a smaller one in employee contributions and a 5% cut in pensions (offset by stronger health care entitlements). The employers’ federation, which is opposed to paying more and would prefer more drastic cuts, called for protests. University students obliged. The government dispatched anti-riot police who – having never done so before – fired live rounds.”

Pitched battles followed in several cities and the army was deployed amid widespread looting. Independent media were censored and Nicaraguan state news outlets blamed the protesters. The unpopular social security overhaul was suspended and the violence subsided.

For some. President Ortega continues to enjoy huge legitimacy as a  key figure in the 1979 popular revolution that overthrew the decades-long Somoza dictatorship. Through the 1980s, Nicaragua pursued policies popular with most ordinary Nicaraguans – in the teeth of armed subversion by the USA. The Sandinistas lost power in 1990, but bounced back in 2007, with Nicaragua receiving economic help from Venezuela, but facing renewed pressure from the US.

Last year, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act, which would cut the loans Nicaragua receives from international financial institutions. This legislation is currently stalled in the Senate. Nicaragua’s uncharacteristic violence comes at a convenient time for US policymakers seeking to tighten the screws on the country.

Additionally, the US National Endowment for Democracy has been channelling money – over a million dollars last year – to student and civil society groups opposed to the Nicaraguan government. For some, the recent violence resembles unrest in Venezuela, both in its choice of weapons – homemade mortars and rockets – and in the prominent role played by students, who are not directly affected by the social security reform.

But for others, the involvement of many young people, often from Sandinista families, underlines their anger at the corruption of revolutionary values by the Ortegas. Ortega’s latest term in office has seen power centralised, with presidential term limits scrapped and the unpopular first lady, Rosario Murillo, made vice president – potentially the successor.

The Ortegas dominate Nicaragua’s Congress and judiciary. Their children run the family’s considerable business empire and the government’s radicalism has been superseded by an alliance with conservative sections of the catholic church, exemplified by harsh anti-abortion legislation. The government’s latest target appears to be social media and the internet.

The Economist accuses Ortega of “establishing a family dynasty reminiscent of the dictatorship he overthrew in 1979,” comparing him to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, “re-elected last year in a vote widely believed to have been fraudulent.” This is cynical obfuscation: Honduras, remember, saw its elected government overthrown in a US-backed coup in 2009. It quickly became one of the most dangerous countries in the world for political activists and its current president is a US placeman.

But this longstanding hostility in the mainstream media  to Nicaragua’s government makes the left wary of criticising it. Activists in Nicaragua allege violence on both sides, saying some protesters had highly hostile political agendas. One reported significant vandalism, for example of mobile health clinics. A Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign statement confirms this analysis with considerable detail.

But other reliable local sources alarmingly report that the Ortegas now hire thugs from the poorest neighbourhoods to put down protests violently. Videos show goon squads in pickup trucks, driving up and beating protesters with pipes and clubs despite the presence of the police. A leading member of the country’s Human Rights Commission was herself injured in such an attack while observing a peaceful protest.

The Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights, whose director is Vilma Núñez, a woman of great stature who was imprisoned and tortured under Somoza and served on Nicaragua’s Supreme Court following the 1979 Revolution, has produced a scathing report. It lays the blame for the “massive violation of human rights” that it documents squarely on the Ortegas. As for the Truth Commission set up to investigate the bloodshed, the Report concludes, “ Nicaraguans can in no way accept the manoeuvre of setting up a Truth Commission by the President of the National Assembly, who has not the moral authority or credibility to initiate something of this nature.”

This view is widely shared: critics see a whitewash in preparation. Ortega’s time in office may well have been shortened by recent events, but what follows is uncertain – especially as violence flared up again in mid-May.

There is from Paul Canning.

For Sandinistas, who aren’t Danielistas, it’s Time to Serve your Country.

The hour for our nation has come, for a new republic, with new thinking that has been incubating in the new generation of Nicaraguans.

The civic struggle, headed by the university students, stands out for their refusal to use the methods of war to confront the State repression against Nicaraguan society. The densely populated citizen marches and the roadblocks are their principal instruments of struggle. The civic struggle has reached the heart of the people and shown itself to be an effective tool for awakening political conscience. The organized repression of the National Police, the paramilitaries and the so-called “Sandinista mobs,” all respond to political orders from a unified command.

Everything seems to indicate that the capability of the Police to order and repress was outflanked in the first days of the civic insurrection. Ortega’s paramilitary bodies, the mobs who identify themselves as Sandinista Youth, and the incorporation of the so-called nostalgic Sandinista combatants and retired military officers into reserve squadrons, became, and continue to be, the reconstructed forces for repression.  It’s this new conglomerate that the masses of people have been facing, and they’ll continue doing so peacefully and civically with a great cost in lives. Meanwhile, the Nicaraguan Army maintains its political commitment to remain in their barracks.

The massacre of young people from all social classes and religious creeds, students and workers from all trades, is a wound that won’t close nor should it ever close in our people’s memory.

More than anyone else, it was Sandino who taught us the importance of national sovereignty in constructing the foundation for a republic. Sandino pointed us to the specific import of this fundamental value.

The confiscations permitted under Law #840 (the canal law), have offered up our national sovereignty to a Chinese magnate in exchange for the promise to construct an inter-oceanic canal across our national territory. Where does that situate Ortega’s government and those who organized this so-called public-private model? We should recall that the leadership of Danielismo, plus the Private Enterprise Council (COSEP) and its spokespeople greeted the handing over of our National Sovereignty as an inevitable trade-off for Nicaragua’s economic and social progress.

How far did that model get us? What should we recognize as good and what should we censure and correct in it? The rural residents who have fought against Law #840 in favor of sovereignty and against the canal are now part of the current struggle against the tyrant and his dictatorship. How do the spokespeople of large capital see them and weigh their actions?

Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, his wife, fed on that stew of our political history. They abandoned the ideas inherited from the peoples’ revolutionary struggles against colonialism, imperialism, capitalism and those of our own history as exemplified by Sandino. They abandoned the patriotic education of their early political days for the unholy practice of forging pacts with the lowest elements if such alliances brought them closer to the political power they desired.

As architects of evil, they elaborated a mixture of strange and hybrid ideas that allowed them to pact with large capital, preach a socialism with no genuine substance and a Christianity with esoteric practices of dolls and pins. Daniel and Rosario filled the vacuum left by the ideological emptying of Sandino’s thought, and skillfully embraced cynicism, the art of deceit, “banditry” as cunning and practice.  Internationalists abandoned him for his empty praises, false discourses and undisclosed agreements.

The activists who hold Sandino in their hearts but are naïve enough to maintain that in Nicaragua Danielism is developing a new stage of the FSLN’s revolutionary project are either fools or acting the fool for convenience.  On the other hand, those citizens who are FSLN militants but who consider themselves Sandinistas but not Danielistas, are called upon to reflect profoundly about their political militancy in this dark hour. Because the hour has come to defend our nation, and we should only see light emerging from it. To act the fool or ignore the murderous repression that Ortega and Murillo are leading is to become an accomplice of the entire tragedy we’re living through.

Justice and democratic institutions are the themes of the dialogue that simultaneously opened and closed the people’s expectations. From the guts of the youth who head the civic rebellion, the slogan was born: “Ortega Out!” The couple have equaled Somoza in many things and they’ve outdone him in others, because as they say out there, history repeats itself either as a comedy or a tragedy. Nicaraguans today are going back through the tragedy of yesterday. The popular struggle comes at an opportune moment, and opens a historic window on a new Nicaragua, with clear rules for democratic coexistence, the legal Rule of Law, with transparency and accountability before the eyes of Nicaraguans of all territorial and social sectors.

The condition that the young students and representatives of the farmers’ movement have imposed for continuing the Dialogue is correct and healthy for assuring a response and stopping the tyrant from spilling so much young blood. With the pair of dictators out of the national territory, other architects the public knows and believes in will be able to create the new figure of the Republic that we’ve dreamed about.

Students and farmers are the crucible of our struggle: the different strata of our society are headed towards developing a potent force capable of finishing off the resistance of the tyrant and his woman.

There are many indications that Ortega is militarily shoring up his residence in El Carmen. He’s equipping himself to resist and improve his negotiating position – not before the kids and the anti-canal farmers, but with large capitalists. “If they want to screw just me, well then we’ll all get screwed.” He doesn’t care about the political verdict on his proven murders, just as he cares little about the conclusive preliminary report of the IACHR.  Or about the upcoming documenting of the experts from the IACHR, because in his desperate clutching to sick, brute force, he prefers to think that like Hitler, he’ll die in his bunker before he’ll be made accountable for his crimes.

The figureheads of large capital, in particular Pellas, have proposed Ortega’s exit by the institutional route, that is, by moving up the date for elections. Some of his spokespeople have called that initiative “the soft landing.” This isn’t a possible solution. Force is what can and will move Ortega. The Ortega Murillo family and those close to them also understand the interests of large capital. There will come a moment in the people’s fight in which his family members and close circle reflect on the exit from power. It will involve an arrangement, and in such an arrangement the young people and the rural residents can’t be erased.  Large capital has a part in this scenario. Pontius Pilate has nowhere to wash his hands in this game; and Judas shouldn’t be at the table either.

If we need to count on strength and the Constitution, the elections should take place in October at the latest, with the necessary structures in place, even if they’re transitory ones to be perfected later. The Episcopal Conference should continue facilitating the solution, but good faith isn’t enough in this commotion.  The Catholic temples like the University halls should be ready for the final battle. The National Army must be pressured; there shouldn’t be any room for conjecturing whether the snipers, an active contingent in the savage repression of the protesting masses of citizens, are coming from their ranks. The presence of Dragonov weapons has been uncovered, and this type of rifle is principally the property of the National Army. The communiques from the National Army urge the citizenry to believe hook line and sinker in their declarations, but the proof in these situations can be deceiving.

Ortega Out! Murillo Out! Long live the April Mothers! Eternal memory for the immolated youth!

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Written by Andrew Coates

June 15, 2018 at 12:49 pm

Hired. Six Months Undercover in Low-wage Britain. James Bloodworth. The Must-Read of the Year.

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Image result for hired bloodworth

 

Hired. Six Months Undercover in Low-wage Britain. James Bloodworth. Atlantic Books. 2018.

Over the weekend it was reported that last year there were just 79 strikes, the lowest number since 1893. Union membership continues to decline.

The GMB, meanwhile, stated that ambulances had been called to Amazon warehouses at least 600 times in the last 3 years. On half of these occasions patients had to be taken at hospital. The union put some of the blame on the severe working conditions that company enforces on its employees.

James Bloodworth begins Hired in an Amazon warehouse – the size of ten football pitches – in Rugeley, “a place with the atmosphere of what I imagined a prison would be like”. Feel-good slogans were plastered on the walls saying that everybody was having a wonderful time. The workers, mostly Eastern European, were brought there by agencies, who hammered home that they could be sacked the instant they made any trouble. The work as “pickers” – in hard shifts – meant, “dashing around”. There was no real contract and no there were no real rights. People were under a full-time “cloud of suspicion”. Wages – for the author £227 a week but regularly underpaid, or involving tax shambles – barely kept up with ordinary expenses. Not to mention the rent to rapacious landlords.

Bloodworth got to know some of the migrants, from Romania. Life in their country was “bullshit”. If they were slaves in the UK, they still had money. These “anonymous foreign drudges” were like H.G.Wells’ Morlocks, while the customers dwelt, like the Eloi, enjoying cheap products.

Hired  is about  a world in which very few people are real Eloi. In Blackpool working for a company supplying care workers as council services have crumbled over the years, Carewatch, Bloodworth comes across the homeless. He sees an old man “buried under a pile of corrugated cardboard and bin liners”. In Blackpool’s main library there are people “who had been sent like badly behaved children to ‘job club’. There were the down-and-outs there too, “holding filthy carrier bags”, some falling asleep to be thrown back onto the streets. At moments like this you realise that only a comparison with George Orwell’s best writing will do.

The home caring job with the elderly came with heart-rending incidents. A colleague who told of having to deal with a client “with basically her bowels hanging out”. Payments, as with Amazon, were again a problem. Some migrant workers employed found the English needed for the job near impossible.

South Wales.

Bloodworth explores the Welsh Valley based Call Centre Admiral in cafés and drinking in Ebbw Vale Wetherspoons he hears the rancour of people left behind by the closure of the mines. As in Rugeley there is fear of migrants, and the targeting of Europe for the “pain inflicted over recent decades.”

Hired comes across many Leave voters. But “taking back control”, was not just a product of resentment at migration, unemployment, precarious jobs, and minimum wages. It was, we could note, promoted by the Sovereigntists of the left, and those who considered it a “transitional demand” to install the chaos that would lead to a left Brexit (Brexit). This was not just against the interest of the South Wales communities, whose remaining social projects were funded by the EU. For many workers, and all the major unions, this disruption would snarl up the supply, production and distribution chains that keep what is left of the country’s industry going. The present state of Brexit proves the case for Remain. The right-wing nationalists, who were its real promoters, have drowned any Lexit  (Left Brexit) voice out.

The book concludes with first-hand experience with the ‘gig economy’ of Uber and others in London. Here the workers, in the shape of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) were fighting back, establishing a collective bargaining agreement with Deliveroo.

Trade Unions.

A major theme in Hired is the contrast between the strength of the trade unions before Thatcher and today’s deregulated (that is, regulated by the managers of companies) labour market. Perhaps the example of former mining communities is too strong tot transport to London. My friends in 1970s London worked for cleaning agencies where conditions were not too far off today’s poorly paid posts under heavy surveillance. And the gig economy is not that new. I myself spent a Christmas period as an (illegal) stallholder flogging puzzle rings in Oxford Street., paid cash in hand. Nor were unions that powerful. A shop-steward friend of my parents got sacked from a big engineering company in the Lee Valley for union militancy. The AEU did not get his position back.

The book is the first I have read about modern Britain that talks about the world I live in. It speaks about people I know working in warehouses, to those catching what they can in short term jobs, the experiences of care-workers, the treatment of the out-of-work, to the lives of migrants.  There are cheap stores, like B & M, both where people work for another group of grinders and where we often shop. Bloodworth maps up the incomes and costs of how people get by, the constant worries and the little hopes and pleasures that keep them going. If he is perceived as an outsider, he has clearly touched ground. To those who might question how Bloodworth knows the details of their difficulties one can only say: this is what people talk about.

In low-wage Britain problems do not comes from an “ill educated working class” – terms that, given the intelligence of my mates, would make them laugh. Increased social mobility, meritocracy, is not the answer. The heart of the inequalities generated by the economy has to be tackled. They are fostered by deliberate political choice. The first response lies in exactly the daily grind of trade union politics, for rights, for good conditions, and, above all, for solidarity between diverse groups in their common interest. A Labour government would have to begin by strengthening union power. 

I expected Hired to be good. 

It exceeds that.

It is the essential read of the year.

Every trade unionist and socialist should get hold of it.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 4, 2018 at 11:29 am

Amidst “misogynist attacks on Jennie Formby” Jon Lansman withdraws from race for Labour General Secretary.

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Background:

Contest for job of general secretary widens rift between Unite and Momentum.  . Observer.

“Senior backers of Jennie Formby, the Unite union’s former political director and the frontrunner to become Labour’s new general secretary, are trying to reassure party staff that there are no planned overhauls should she secure the job.

It comes as senior party and union figures try to find a last-minute “compromise candidate” to take on Formby, with several sources warning she has had run-ins with some of the other major Labour-affiliated unions that have left them seriously concerned about her appointment.”

“The split between Lansman and Formby supporters has also spilled into an online battle, with tensions among a group of leftwing blogs and news sites that emerged to support Corbyn’s leadership. The Skwawkbox, which is seen as having strong links with the leader’s office, has been pushing for Formby’s appointment and has questioned Lansman’s decision to run, while Novara Media, another Corbyn-supporting outlet, has backed both the opening of the contest and a member-elected general secretary. The internal tension has also seen the arrival of the Red Roar, a more centrist blog that details the fights raging within the ranks.

Some moderate Labour MPs now believe the forces that brought Corbyn to power are dividing. The split has even been criticised by the Labour Party Marxists group, which said it was “at best, ludicrous and, at worst, irresponsible”.

Now since these, if obviously mischief making, are clearly not misogynistic attacks what could Lansman be referring t?

Look no further in the Observer:

Don’t look to Len McCluskey and his sorry ilk to defend workers’ interests. 

Apart from the ill-thought and condescending content, the tone of the last sentence sounds like a crib from Hancock’s Half Hour…. the Brave Hungarian Girl Magna Carta….

Cohen’s article also contains some words for this pair,

The Scottish aristocrat Andrew Murray (he’s descended from the earls of Perth and the kings of Navarre on his father’s side and the dukes of Norfolk on his mother’s) not only offers apologies for Lenin but Stalin too. He’s moved from Unite and the Communist Party of Britain to join Seumas Milne, another apologist for Uncle Joe, in Jeremy Corbyn’s office.

I did not notice Murray, the son of the  Slains Pursuivant  educated at a Benedictine independent boarding school in Sussex complaining about his coverage in the New Statesman recently  which cut out this aspect of his biography, and referred only to him leaving school at 16 with 4 ‘O’ Levels. Nor this – accurate – description ” Mr Corbyn’s most senior aide, Seumas Milne, was a Soviet Union sympathiser. Andrew Murray, the chief of staff of Unite and a consultant to the Labour leader, was a member of the Stalinist Communist Party of Britain until 2016 and expressed solidarity with North Korea in 2003. They hail from an authoritarian leftist tradition.”

This Blog is more concerned with Cohen’s attacks on UNITE. Apparently they and UNISON are “stale bureaucracies” with little interest in their membership’s day-to-day needs.

Against these  “old far-left-dominated unions.” Cohen advocates USDAW (whose new General Secretary Amy Murphy is a supporter of the ‘far-left’ Socialist Party), the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (BECTU), a section from the far-from-unbureaucratic Prospect union, and a small Independent Workers Union, whose origins lie in the (respected) far-left anarcho-syndicalist tradition of the  Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or the “Wobblies” which they left to form their own union, the  IWGB.

It is questionable if the “consensus” method of reaching decisions admired in the article, and made a rule in the Occupy movement,  and prevalent amongst those influenced by certain strains of “alter-globalisation” activism and anarchists, is an answer to authoritarianism. Critics point to the imposition of a consensus by the loudest voices and the unsuitability of this model for union activity which, however we wish to put it, involves controversy and strong differences of opinion – normally resolved by voting contests between opposed stands.

Cohen completely neglects the role of UNITE in organising the unorganised, and, above all, its ‘Community branches’ which campaign for the rights of those receiving benefits, for the disabled, and in coordination with those acting  against the injustice inflicted on women through changes in the state pension scheme (WASPI – Women Against State Pension Inequality) The union is at the forefront of protests for such ‘far-left’ issues as defending the NHS.

/campaigning/stop--fix-universal-credit/

UNITE also works for the day-to-day interests of workers across a range of sectors, areas perhaps not striking enough to attract the journalist’s attention.

The Lansman announcement was greeted with joy by Skwakbox, “We applaud Mr Lansman’s decision. ”

That alone, given Skwakbox’s involvement in fake news (from Greenfell ‘D’ notices, to the claim that all the disabled would receive a ‘sanction’ if they did not get a job within 2 years) is cause for concern.

But there is more, the ‘anti-Zionists’ of Labour Against the Witchhunt states,

LAW welcomes Jon Lansman’s decision to withdraw

We believe that Unite’s Jennie Formby would be the best choice for general secretary. As a supporter of the rights of the Palestinians people we think her election would send a powerful political signal. We hope that her tenure would mark the beginning of the end of the witch-hunt.

Steering Committee

But,

Labour General Secretary election to play for as many NEC members hold out for third candidate. Red Roar.

Analysis by The Red Roar shows that while Unite’s Jennie Formby has over three times as much support as her rival Jon Lansman in the race to become Labour’s general secretary, an equal number of NEC members remain undecided.

No one can claim to know how NEC members will vote, of course. This is not an exercise in mind-reading but an honest attempt to give as clear a picture as possible as to how the two main candidates for the job are likely to fare.

Backing Formby: 17
Backing Lansman: 5
Undecided: 17
Total: 39

More to follow……

Behind the Shawcroft Row: The Labour Party as Social Movement and Political Trade Unionism.

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Image result for labour momentum a social movement

 

The Labour Party as Social Movement and Political Trade Unionism.

In one of his lesser-known works, L’Éternité par les astres (1872) the 19th century socialist insurrectionist Louis-Auguste Blanqui announced that there were millions of stars and worlds like our own. In each of them lived our personal doppelgänger. Those who have reflected on this discovery would deduce that our alter egos would each have minor differences, slightly different points of our view, that would end in distinct narratives about our existence.

Recent events in the Labour Party have brought similar differences about what has happened during a number of events, from goings-on at the National Policy Forum, to the National Executive Committee (NEC). The same meeting the same people, but very different takes on what took place.

The most recent, and, politically, the most important, is the latest NEC meeting. Christine Shawcroft’s dissatisfaction with a decision to submit allegations of anti-semitism to further disciplinary procedure has tumbled over into disagreement about the role of trade union representatives on Labour’s ruling body. She is reported to have expressed the view, amongst other things, that union delegates are unreliable allies of the left. Shawcroft suggested on social media that the Labour-union link should be re-examined. Those hostile to her intervention, and no doubt Momentum, in which the long-standing NEC member is a leading figure, have claimed that she called for a break with the organised working class. Since then everybody has united on keeping the union link (Labour unites behind trade union affiliation).

The row in the wake of these comments takes place against the backdrop of a contest for Labour’s General Secretary. This, a post, unlike, in other European parties (such as the French Parti Socialiste’s similar sounding position) has organisational and not directly political responsibility. The Secretary is appointed by the Party’s upper structure and is therefore, in principle, not an issue that involves the wider membership. But the different candidates, above all Jon Lansman, on the NEC but best known as a founder of Momentum, and Jennie Formby  from the union UNITE, have increasingly been seen in a political light. It is known that Lansman was not happy with a union ‘shoe in’ into the position. What is clear now is that UNITE’s leadership is unhappy with any questioning of their political weight in the party. These, and other issues about the candidacies, have been echoed amongst those Labour activists interested in the future direction of the party.

Momentum: Labour as social movement.

It should be clear that while there are no real differences about the primary need to campaign to get a Labour government elected, and to work out policies to achieve this, the dispute could be seen in the light of some important differences. For some Momentum is not just a pressure group to build support for Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn. It is, grandly, a project designed for Labour to gain a “collective transformative” capacity. It may be seen, as Hilary Wainwright put it “having a creative capacity and transformative power” “distinct from (not opposed to) electoral politics”. As such as, “a party as a means of experimenting and prefiguring in the represent” “the relations we envisage in the future”. Less inclined to an extra-terrestrial discovery to rival Blanqui’s, Momentum is seen “grassroots politics” with activists, many of them youthful, pouring energy and enthusiasm into Labour’s campaigns. In this capacity – that is a means to help bolder the party’s capacity to root change in the wider society, – the group is highly welcome. (1)

Momentum’s own difficulties include an ‘on-line’ democracy that critics allege does not function, conferences and decision-making process which resemble the centralised aspect of the equally ‘social media’ and Web hub based La France insoumise (LFI) of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. In its defence it could be said that Momentum is not LFI, out to ‘federate the people’ by means of a virtual political party, but has become an auxiliary of one with the goal of helping Labour get elected. It has avoided becoming embroiled in the worst aspects of left in fighting and sectarian recruitment politics. Momentum, unless one reads Shawcroft’s NEC intervention in the most hostile possible way, has shown no inclination to indulge the – ultra-minority – strain of Judophobia that has become an issue in left politics.

These positive achievements do not prevent another set of concerns at the place of such a body in drawing up lists in local Labour Parties with the sole aim of getting approved candidates elected to internal positions and councillor selections. In some case, Haringey stands out, this is part of a justified and broader effort to change very wong council policies. But in others this polarising practice, right up to clashes over the most minor positions, many complain, overrides debate of policy issues.

Political Trade Unionism.

What has also come to light is that the trade unions have a distinct idea about their role in the Labour Party. The TUC and affiliated unions have always seen the party as a means to get legislation passed in their favour, most recently by some who give priority to restoring collective bargaining in negotiations. Apart from these classical demands some, above all UNITE, have their own ideas about “political unions”.

Andrew Murray, a key figure in Len McClusky’s circle, and a consultant to Jeremy Corbyn, argued in 2014, for rebuilding the left around the People’s Assembly. This national campaign against austerity, Murray noted, drew the unions, ant-cuts activists and left-wingers from Labour and a variety of small left parties, with the objective of creating “rooted movements for change” “re-establishing the basis for mass socialist politics”. Behind this, based on the working class movement, was a strategy to “reclaim Labour” for the left – a prospect Murray saw – in 2014 – that could be thwarted by the “Blairite undead”. (2)

Murray may have his own eccentric ideas about ‘anti-imperialism’, and the positive side of the Soviet past. But, Labour has been largely (not entirely) been wrenched from the Blair/Brown legacy. In this the importance of initiatives such as the People’s Assembly stands out. It was one of the factors that prepared the ground for Corbyn’s election. The alternative strategy, which his article thoroughly took to pieces, of various left electoral challenges, from Left Unity, to the (continuing) Trades Union and Socialist Alliance (TUSC) faded into oblivion.

The problem now is whether the trade union movement, dedicated to achieving goals through electoral power, can sustain a relation with those who see ‘Labour as a social movement’. This is not a just a matter of ‘control’, which unions do not have over Momentum. A central policy issue equally divides the left. Some still see the future in terms of a “People’s Brexit’. Some decades later, on another planet, Tony Benn’s call for “genuine national sovereignty” – is proposed by the Morning Star, and, in a souped up form, by the ‘revolutionary’ remnants of the People’s Assembly reduced to the mouthpiece of the groupuscule Counterfire (The why and what of a People’s Brexit). But it is unlikely that inside the party, in Momentum or anywhere else, apart from the far from dynamic minority of ‘patriotic Labour’ is attracted to this prospect. Many remain strongly opposed to Leave. A few respond to the demand for a new referendum. The compromise over the Customs Union is a stop-gap a more detailed set of policies on Europe remains to be settled.

The differences between Labour-as-a-social-movement and Political Trade Unionism are far from irresolvable. Those, like this writer, who rejoined Labour, are intensely conscious that for Labour to be elected compromises and a great deal of respect is due for those activists, councillors and MPs who have kept membership over the years. Their concerns focus on issues such as the funding for local government, housing, welfare reform and …Europe. It would be better if disputes took place over policy, in a collaborative fashion, and not over jostling for internal positions in the party.

*******

(1) Radicalising the party-movement relationship: from Ralph Miliband to Jeremy Corbyn and beyond. Hilary Wainwright. Socialist Register. 2017. Merlin Press. Beyond the Boundary, Momentum’s role in the #GE2017 Campaign, Puru Miah. Chartist. 277. July/August 2017.

(2) Left Unity or Class Unity? Working class politics in Britain. Andrew Murray. Socialist Register 2014. Merlin Press.

(3) On this aspect of Tony Benn’s politics see: Chapter 6 A Party with Socialists in it. A History of the Labour Left. Simon Hannah. Pluto Press. 2018

Us lot In International Solidarity in Norwich.

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In the spirit of international solidarity us lot from Ipswich went to Norwich yesterday to back the Smash the Pay Cap demo.

After our internationalist duty was done, ending up, as you do, in the Queen of Iceni pub – and ignoring the chants of some tasty geezers shouting from the bridge while going to the Canary match, “We hate Ipswich, We Hate Ipswich, We are the Ipswich Haters” (this is not made up) – we resolved to visit Norwich more often.

There is some type, I believe he has something to do with Norwich, Clive is his name, with his arm round my shoulders.

Allez Les Clive Lewis!

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Written by Andrew Coates

October 15, 2017 at 10:45 am

French Union Protests Make a Good Start Against Macron’s Labour ‘reforms’.

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Protests took place yesterday  in cities across France against changes to the country’s labour laws.

Libération today carries extensive reports on the 12th of September day of action against the new wave of labour code ‘reforms’, which will weaken workers’ bargaining ability and rights, including their compensation from Employment Tribunals. (Loi travail : de Lille à Marseille en passant par Grenoble, la rue gronde).

La mobilisation syndicale presque au niveau des débuts de la fronde anti-loi El Kohmri

Le Monde notes that at 5000,00 people across France (230,000 according to the police) the level of people taking part was nearly at the same level as those against the previous Labour ‘reform’, the El Khomri law – despite the fact that this time around two union federations, the CFDT and FO did not take nationally take part. There were some welcome local exceptions of total union unity (Front syndical uni : des manifestations rares, mais qui mobilisent).

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The first anti-El Khomri marches on the 9th of March 2016  gathered  450 000 et 500 000 ( 224 000 police figures).

The main organiser, the CGT, joined by the small left union grouping, the Solidaires, education and student unions, the FSU and UNEF announced that the day had been a success. The government has aid it remains “serine” faced with the protests. (Réforme du code du travail : l’exécutif affiche sa sérénité face aux manifestants.)

The left daily, l’Humanité, called it a promising springboard for future action (400 000 contre la loi travail XXL, un beau tremplin pour la suite).

On the 23rd of September Mélenchon’s rally,  La France insoumise  has organised its own event, the  “marche contre le coup d’Etat social”.

This has been criticised, some noting Mélenchon’s claim to be effecting the “replacement” ( remplacement) of both the Parti Socialiste and the rest of the left, and, some accuse him,  trade unions, by his own movement.

The CGT and the Parti communiste français (PCF) are participating in Peace marches on that day (Le Mouvement pour la Paix appelle à une grande journée de mobilisation partout en France le 23 septembre).

However, former Socialist Presidential candidate ( 6,36 %), Benoît Hamon who has left the PS and founded  the Mouvement du 1er juillet, is going to join Jean-Luc Mélenchon (19.58% in the same first round of this year’s election) on the 23rd (Contre toute attente, Mélenchon et Hamon s’allient)

The CGT has its own next moblisation on the 21st of September (Journée d’actions, de mobilisations et de grèves).

This is the report in France 24.

Tens of thousands of hard-left trade unionists marched through French cities on Tuesday to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s labour law reforms, although turnout appeared lower than at demonstrations in previous years.

France 24 puts this story under the headline, no doubt for the benefit of its transatlantic readership under the heading, “Hardliners protest French labour reform as Macron chides ‘slackers’.

Translation, “Militant Trade Unions Protest Against French Labour Reform as Macron condemns ‘lazy’ workers.

The word used against workers was ” fainéant”, literally, “do-nothings”.

 

Hitting back at Macron‘s pledge to give no ground to “slackers”, some in Paris carried placards reading: “Slacker on Strike” while in Bordeaux demonstrators chanted: “Macron you’re screwed, the slackers are in the streets.”

The Paris prefecture said 24,000 protesters turned out in the capital, where riot police clashed with hooded youths in isolated skirmishes on the fringe of the march led by the Communist Party-linked CGT union.

That was under the 28,000 estimated by police during March 2016’s demonstration.

Labour unions have scuppered previous attempts to weaken France’s labour code, but this time there was comfort for Macron as two other unions, including the largest, the CFDT, declined to join the protests.

“We’ve been passing laws which take apart the labour code for 20 years. The answer (to unemployment) doesn’t lie in rolling it back further,” said Maxime Durand, a train driver on strike.

After weeks of negotiation, the government last month set out measures including a cap on payouts for dismissals judged unfair and greater freedom for companies to hire and fire.

The reform makes no direct reference to the 35-hour week, a totem of the labour code, though it hands firms more flexibility to set pay and working conditions. The government plans to adopt the new measures, being implemented by decree, on Sept. 22.

During a trip to Athens on Friday, Macron told the local French community: “I am fully determined and I won’t cede any ground, not to slackers, nor cynics, nor hardliners.”

He said the “slackers” comment was aimed at those who had failed to push through reforms in the past, although political opponents and some unions took it as an attack on the unemployed or on workers making the most of job protection.

“We will make Macron back down,” far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has become Macron’s most vocal opponent in parliament, said on the sidelines of a protest in Marseille.

Cherished rights

French workers have long cherished the rights enshrined in the labour code, but companies complain it has deterred investment and job creation and stymied economic growth.

Unemployment has been above 9 percent for nearly a decade.

Macron’s reforms are being followed in Germany as a test of his resolve to reshape the euro zone’s second-biggest economy, a must if he is to win Berlin’s backing for broader reforms to the currency union.

The CGT is France’s second-biggest union, though its influence has been waning. Its leader Philippe Martinez said Tuesday’s nationwide protests were the “first phase” and more would follow. He called Macron’s reference to “slackers” an insult to workers.

“The president should listen to the people, understand them, rather than cause divisions,” Martinez told France 2 television.

CGT workers from the rail, oil and power sectors heeded the strike call but by the afternoon there was no apparent impact on power and refining production, spokespeople for utility EDF and oil major Total said.

Just over 11 percent of the workforce at EDF, which operates France’s fleet of 48 nuclear reactors, took part in the strike, a spokeswoman for the state-owned utility said.

The demos saw people with handmade placards with slogans that strongly suggest, dare I say it, something very similar to a British or Irish sense of humour,

Macron: a Good for Nothing is Worth Two of You Mate! Lazy-bones of the World Unite!

Here: Lazy. Cynical and Extreme!

Too idle to Find a Slogan!

Macron’s Government Launches New Labour ‘Reforms’, Protests Already Planned.

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First Demo Against Macron’s ‘Reforms’, 12th of September.

Macron’s government unveils controversial labour reforms.

France 24.

After meeting with trade unions on Thursday, the French government unveiled President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial labour reforms, vowing to “free up the energy of the workforce” by making it easier for employers to hire and fire.

French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and Labour Minister Muriel Pénicaud met with trade unionists on Thursday before publicly unveiling the labour reform measures, which are detailed on some 200 pages.

The highly anticipated and controversial labour reforms, a centerpiece of Macron’s election pledge, are aimed at creating jobs.

The changes will be implemented via executive order, allowing Macron to avoid a lengthy parliamentary debate. The overhaul will be adopted by the government in September and must then be ratified by parliament, where the president’s La République en Marche (Republic on the Move) party has a large majority.

..

Criticism from trade unions

Right after the announcement of the reforms, some unions voiced criticism, denouncing measures that they perceive to be more favourable to companies than to employees.

Philippe Martinez, secretary-general of the CGT trade union, lashed out Thursday, saying, “All our fears have been confirmed and the additional fear is obvious and has been written: It’s the end of the working contract.” He qualified the reform as “old recipes which will not change the lot of the people.”

The communist-backed CGT has opposed the changes outright and is set to mobilise its supporters on September 12 for a street protest. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left leader of France Insoumise (Unbowed France) and a fierce opponent to Macron, is organising another protest on September 23.

France’s biggest private sector union, the CFDT, declared itself “disappointed” but said it would not be calling its members to join the CGT’s planned street protest on September 12.

Nevertheless, the CFDT is unhappy with the level at which dismissal awards in France’s labour courts will be capped, and unhappy with a section of the reforms in which employers will be allowed to negotiate directly with staff in companies with fewer than 20 workers.

The boss of the hard-left Force Ouvrière (FO) union, Jean-Claude Mailly, said he disagreed with some of the changes, but like Berger suggested he would not recommend his members join street protests.

Meanwhile, François Asselin, president of France’s confederation of small and medium-sized companies, the CPME, has praised the reform for being “particularly pragmatic”.

The CGT wants their Day of Action and Strikes  to be the occasion to begin a serious moblisation against Macron’s ‘reforms’. (La CGT veut faire du 12 septembre la journée « contre la réforme du code du travail »)

To the lack of support from the two other main union federations  there is also  this.

La France insoumise (LFI), 17 deputies strong, to repeat, is organising its own demonstration on the 23rd of September, without the unions and any other group on the leftJean-Luc Mélenchon appelle à un “rassemblement populaire” contre la réforme du travail le 23 septembre à Paris.

Macron has already seized on this to declare that Mélenchon   is claiming not just to be the only real opposition to the President but also to be a “rival to the trade unions”. (Mélenchon à la tête de l’opposition ? Une chance, selon Macron.  Le président de la République estime que le leader de la France insoumise se pose en “rival des syndicats” sur la réforme du Code du travail. RTL)

Whether this division exists, or whether the LFI march will have any impact, is not at all sure.

A few days ago the Parti communiste français PCF, which has 11 MPs, and close ties to the CGT,  expressed reservations about this division amongst left parties. Their  leader Pierre Laurent contented himself with noting a “lack of respect” (manque de respect) in the way LFI operates (le Monde. 26.8.17). A young member added, ” that for LFI “everything is built around his personality and his inner circle (tout est construit autour de sa personne et de sa garde rapprochée – literally his “bodyguard”).

One thing is clear: the serious campaign will be launched by the Unions.

By contrast LFI declares that they are leading the movement, ” «Nous proclamons en septembre la mobilisation générale contre le coup d’Etat social»” – we declare in September that there will be a mobilisation in September against the social coup d’Etat by Macron.. La France insoumise suggests that Mélenchon may soon be called for government if Macron is defeated, and they are ready to govern is need be. ” Jean-Luc Mélenchon affirmait ainsi : «Nous sommes prêts à gouverner demain s’il le faut” (Des «élections anticipées», nouveau credo de La France insoumise. Libération).

The wags are already laughing at this one:

 

In the meantime…

For the best analysis of these reforms seems Gérard Filoche:  Leurs mensonges sont énormes, Ils font le pire, ils ont passé le code du travail à l’acide