Friday, 31 December 2010




This post which is started on the eve of New Year, will we hope, appear and materialise on the blog in the first moments in which time passes from the old to the new, when millions around the world welcome in those first symbolic chimes of bells and gongs, which mark the worlds transition and the passage from one year to the next.

We don’t have a custom established to mark this momentous occasion and aren’t proposing to establish one ether. But would like to pause and acknowledge the fact that we enter the New Year as we left the old, put plainly, capitalism is in deep crises, and is fighting as an economic system for its very survival.

The crises of capitalism is not confined to one country alone, it is global and it’s answer the world over is that working people will be made to pay the full price for it’s many failings, unemployment, homeliness and hunger now stalk the world.

The banks and the bankers have been bailed out; done with money earmarked for those services that we all fought for to improve the quality of life, a health and welfare service, an education system to provide opportunity and skill on an even playing field now shot full of holes by a government that has no mandate.

The Con-Dem coalition government is stripping away all the advances made by working people over the last hundred years. But there is resistance; and thanks be to the new movement, the new movement that has sprung-up throughout the land, a movement without leaders, and the government begins now to look shaky and divided, despite its precarious alliance made in hell.  

If there is one thing of goodness that comes out of last year, then it is the birth of the new movement, and it must be the work of that new movement in the New Year to take the fight forward and resist every attack on public services and every grab by private profiteers.

If there is one thing we must all insist on, and then let it be that people should come before profit in all things!”

Happy New Year and see you on the Streets!”

Jim Lawrie and Brian Hopper

Save the Children and feed the World

In 2008, riots broke out in at least a dozen countries as food prices hit record highs.

The price of traded food staples such as wheat, corn and rice soared 26 percent from June to November, nearing the peaks reached during the global food crisis of 2008, according to the Food Price Index kept by the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization.

The new surges in prices promises to unleash even greater hunger and deprivation, and more widespread social unrest in the coming New Year, as hundreds of millions of people around the world contend with the impact of the ongoing recession and government austerity measures.

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, 925 million people worldwide suffered from hunger in 2010, an increase of about 150 million since 1995-97. One third of children in the so-called developing world are malnourished.

On the global commodity markets, wheat and corn have increased almost 50 percent over last year. Wheat prices soared to their highest level in over two years this week. US soybean futures have been rising rapidly since August, and corn ends the year at a 29-month high.

This blog from its very conception has always been concerned with the impact of poverty amongst our children here in the UK.  A report commissioned by the charity Save the Children earlier this year documented a sharp rise in the number of children living in “severe poverty” between 2004 and 2008. According to the report by the New Policy Institute, “Measuring Severe Child Poverty in the UK,” more than 1.7 million British children were living in conditions of “severe poverty” and fully 4 million are living in poverty.

Since the publication of that report the guard on Downing Street has changed, out with the old and in with the old. The poverty and hardship imposed by the British government’s austerity package begin to bite into already meagre budgets, thousands of British families and individuals are increasingly reliant upon charitable food parcels. Such is the degree of chronic need emerging across the UK, the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition are to reinstate the issuing of food vouchers that the previous Labour government had stopped in 2008.

Chris Mould, for the Trussell Trust, told the Independent on Sunday, “It is a scandal that hundreds of thousands of Britons every year hit crisis and are forced to go hungry. These are not homeless people on the street. These are people struggling on low incomes. This is largely a hidden problem and there is still a taboo about people getting this type of help”.

The number of people requiring emergency food assistance, according to the Trussell Trust, has increased by 50 percent since 2009. The charity has 70 food banks which are working full-time to feed thousands of needy people. Job Centre staff will return to handing out the vouchers to those deemed the neediest. Others will be referred to the food bank by health visitors and social workers and receive food vouchers to exchange for food parcels.

The number of those who require emergency food boxes, which contain three days essential supplies of tinned meat and fish, fruit, pasta, tea, milk and sugar, has grown in two years from 25,000 to an astonishing 60,000 today. Of these, one-third—some 20,000—are children. A three-day emergency food box for a family of four has a value of just £28.
The Trussell Trust estimates that on current trends these numbers could swell the number of food banks needed to meet requirements to 10 times the current number, up to 700, to feed an expected half a million people by 2015.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

A Christmas spent in bed

This post is somewhat of a miracle really; and when I think, that my entire Christmas was spent in bed suffering from the man-made influenza known as swine flu; well then, I think that very much brings into perspective a modern life in an ever pocket-size world, where man’s actions of development in the pursuit of profits has developed illnesses to match his greed.    

Figures released last week showed the number of people in intensive care in England with confirmed or suspected flu had risen to 460, up from 182 the week before.
So far this season, 27 people have died from flu - 24 of those from swine flu.
Despite criticism, the Government decided not to vaccinate under fives, or run an annual flu jab advertising campaign, claiming neither would be effective.
Officials also claimed the flu outbreak is no worse than expected during winter.

But I can’t help thinking about the 41-year-old Worcester lorry driver fighting for his life in hospital after catching swine flu.
Gary Prodger is critically ill on a life support machine in London after being transferred from the Worcestershire Royal Hospital. And if that’s not bad enough, then please spare a thought for all the young children who have fought and lost out to this acute febrile and highly contagious viral disease, and no amount of money should be spared or held back in the treatment of our sick, including our children, its bad enough that there are children with scurvy in Islington [north London], that’s a disease that should only exist in 18th century stories.”    

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

America’s ruling elite, doing well from recession

Three years since the onslaught of the recession in December 2007, the majority of the US population is facing staggering levels of unemployment, home foreclosures, hunger and poverty. For millions of working-class families, buying gifts this year required scraping together scarce dollars, borrowing from friends and relatives or adding more debt to their already overloaded credit cards.

At the other pole of society, America’s ruling elite, which has presided over this economic catastrophe, is celebrating its good fortune. The recent deal by President Obama and the Congressional Republicans to extend tax cuts to the richest two percent of the population tops off a year of record corporate profits and an 85 percent surge on the S&P 500 stock index.

2010 is expected to be the second most profitable year for Wall Street investment firms on record. The biggest five banks—JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup—have put aside at least $90 billion for year-end bonuses that could top last year’s payouts.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Scorched-earth social policy defended by the police

Was the kettling of students on recent demonstrations a look, a glimpse (coup d'oeil) into the future of a time to come or has it arrived.

Is modern policing about fighting crime, or is it about holding in place the economic and political system under which we all live.

These are simple and not complicated questions that must be rattling around in the recesses of many a mind.

We should all take note and stock of this now over-familiar and overuse of the police, and of recent facts, that peaceful protesters were subjected to, horrific violence, including: horse-charges, beatings with truncheons, by police dressed and wearing balaclavas and personal identity numbers covered; in addition they were ‘kettled’ by the police, and detained against their will, some until very late at night causing difficulty travelling home safely.  

A student from Middlesex University, Alfie Meadows, had to undergo brain surgery after being hit with a police truncheon, and another student, Tahmeena Bax, was beaten unconscious. Both are sill looking for witnesses. The documented abuse of a journalist, Jody Macintyre, who was dragged by riot police from his wheelchair, is sidestepped and unexplained by both police and politicians alike.  

I believe that this violent overreaction and excessive use of force by the Metropolitan Police is an affront to our democratic right to protest. And worryingly, there will be many more protests and demonstrations in the months to come in opposition to the cuts, and therefore we should all be mindful of their capacity and capability.

This month in South Yorkshire and would you believe in middle of what were the South Yorkshire coalfields before its wilful and deliberate destruction by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher 25 years ago, a new £7 million police training centre has opened in Manvers. The state-of-the-art complex now has unrivalled critical incident and public order training facilities, and according to Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes:

“Built in the mining communities at the heart of our county, it demonstrates our resilience and our ability to meet the challenges we face in the future. It comes at a time when there is increasing demand for training and sharing good practice.”  

Hughes’ words are brazenly misanthropical. It was police, on horseback and wielding shields and batons, who were used against the miners in the 1984-1985 strike. Miners were jailed, villages raided at night and families intimidated.
After the strike ended entire communities were left decimated. The miners at Manvers Main were among the most militant in Yorkshire. A massive police operation was mobilised to ensure that the colliery’s sole scab could make it past the picket.
The decision to build the police complex on this site has a definite element of spite attached to it.

The police will be tasked with suppressing rising opposition to government cuts that will wipe out every social gain made since the end of the Second World War.
The ruling elite is only too aware that by imposing this type of scorched-earth social policy on families already suffering major hardships it will provoke mass unrest. Even before the full effects of the cuts to social services are felt, the continuous rise in utility bills and food and petrol prices is making it virtually impossible for millions to keep their heads above water.

It is for this reason that an expensive retraining of the police in public order operations is required. The government is cutting back on police numbers, causing disquiet in some quarters. It is trying to encourage wardens and unpaid volunteers to do some of the more mundane work, allowing officers to concentrate on training in the latest weapons handling and covert methods of policing, with the aid of advanced technology.

Don’t be surprised in the New Year if the class struggle takes a turn for the worst because of the deployment of a police force that will use valence to defend a rotten system.

Monday, 20 December 2010

"Xmas was 'tray bon'

When you fined yourself standing in the eye of a storm, as we seem to be in the renewed class war, you will obviously wonder where on earth does one go from here.

That’s where we are at this very present moment of Christmases fast falling calm; silents falls upon the trenches and dugouts of the front lines, memento mori; remembering that famous moment during the First World War "The Christmas Truce" -  the impromptu, Dec. 25 laying down of arms by German and Allied soldiers during the First World War.

The best known Christmas truce from the First World War took place in 1914, when German and Allied soldiers are said to have sung Christmas carols together and otherwise fraternized in a brief moment of peace amid the killing fields of the Western Front.

I always think about it at this time of the year, an all too brief truce with marvelling feelings of wonderment, at just how fantastic a display of momentary defence by ordinary working class solders, and how it must have unset the officer class.

"It is thought possible that the enemy may be contemplating an attack during Xmasm or New Year. Special vigilance will be maintained during these periods." 
From General Headquarters at St. Omer- to all units
24th December, 1914.

That particular Christmas demonstrates and in illuminance for me, that which is wrong about the whole class system then and as now. I am imagining these wolfs, forcing lions to fight their extraordinarily pathetic war. The domination of one small class over another has much to answer for, and here is an example of a brutalizing and ever faster spinning cycle of violence that griped the world back then and really has never left it.

We often hear from others that wars are fought and won so we are able to enjoy the freedoms we have today. Such lies fed like bait, and anything that serves as an enticement and holds us in place.

One young solder wrote home to his family the following:

"Here we are again as the song says," he wrote. "I had quite a good Xmas considering I was in the front line. Xmas eve was pretty stiff, sentry-go up to the hips in mud of course. ... We had a truce on Xmas Day and our German friends were quite friendly. They came over to see us and we traded bully beef for cigars."

The passage ends, "Xmas was 'tray bon,' which means very good."

That young solder 23-year-old Pte. Ronald MacKinnon - was killed in the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917

Friday, 17 December 2010

Bangladeshi garment workers support the boycott

                                                            Bangladesh Factory Fire 

There are two facts that come to mind whilst composing this post, first the world is a much smaller place in the 21 century, and secondly, much more can be done to support workers in struggle wherever they are in the world.

Bangladesh has about 4,000 garment factories that export more than $10 billion worth of products a year, mainly to the United States and Europe. Customers include Wal-Mart, Tesco, H&M, Zara, Carrefour, Gap, Metro, JCPenney, Marks & Spencer, Kohl's, Levi Strauss and Tommy Hilfiger.

More than two million garment workers, mostly female, in Bangladesh are among the lowest paid in the world. Protests started in the summer when workers were locked out at three Outright Group garment factories in the Ashulia district after agitating for a wage increase. Within an hour, the protest swelled, underscoring a growing militancy among workers. When the police attacked, workers tried to defend themselves by throwing stones and overturning vehicles. A local newspaper reported that this turned “the entire area into a virtual battlefield”.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) closed down all 250 factories in the district, fearing that the struggle would spread to other factories. BGMEA president Abdus Salam Murshedy expressed concern that “violent protests could jeopardise the industry’s future” and claimed that “troublemakers are aiming to destabilise the state”. Factories were reopened on June 23 after the government assured the BGMEA of a crackdown on workers.

Under the impact of the international recession, both the government and the employers are desperate to retain low wages. On June 22, labour minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain announced that garment factories would be divided into three zones—Ashulia, Naryanganj and Gazipur—where committees of police and local government politicians would supervise security measures to re-open factories. The next day, police filed cases against a large number of unidentified workers on charges of assaulting police and ransacking factories.

Many young garment workers, most 16-30 years of age, are not even paid the minimum wage.

Workers cannot cope with basic expenses, including food, shelter, health care, transport and education for their children. The cost of living has been rising by 10-15 percent annually. According to an International Labour Organisation survey in 2007, 89 percent of workers work more than 8 hours a day. Recent surveys show that 90 percent share beds to sleep.

And so tensions remain high in the Bangladeshi garment industry; on Sunday last a bloody crackdown by the Awami League government, in which police fatally shot four striking workers, followed two days latter and over 30 people were killed after a devastating blaze raced through a garment factory that supplies major multinationals such as Gap and JCPenney near Bangladesh's capital. Many of the dead included trapped workers who jumped from the smoldering building engulfed by flames. Workers' safety in the rapidly growing textile industry is a major concern; and workers rights groups say safety standards are still inadequate in many factories.
In February, a fire at a sweater factory just outside Dhaka killed 21 people and injured dozens. The recent protests by low-paid garment workers have gripped the country. Workers demanding the implementation of a new minimum wage clashed with police at an industrial zone in southeastern Bangladesh leaving people dead and hurt.

Garment workers in Bangladesh are among the lowest-paid in the world, according to the International Trade Union Confederation. In the first increase since 2006, the government in July raised the official minimum wage to 3,000 takas ($45) a month from 1,662 takas ($25). The new pay structure took effect in November, but workers say many factories haven't implemented it yet.

In closing this post I would like to appeal for solidarity and support, you may think, what can I do? Well there is a lot which can be done such as talk to others about this disgusting situation and dispute that Bangladeshi workers find themselves in, and think about some of the very well known and recognized shops that are a party to the exploitation and victimisation of these very poor workers the worst paid in the world. I’m asking people to boycott a list of shops which will follow the end of this post, but whatever you do remember truth hurts, get the word out use the internet and stand by people not profit, thank you.

Boycott: Wal-Mart, Tesco, H&M, Zara, Carrefour, Gap, Metro, JCPenney, Marks & Spencer, Kohl's, Levi Strauss and Tommy Hilfiger.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

We still live in a society that if you don’t have the ability to pay you ‘goes’ without

Here is an article which I wrote about this time last year for a socialist publication, its about the scandal which for some obscene reason becomes part of the festival of Christmas; and as we sit-down and get stuck-in to our festive lunch TV news will no doubt bring us the tidings of how the homeless are coping with their lives on this special day, along with how the troops were mentioned in the Queens annual address to the nation. In a short but quick introduction I would just like to say, that a society which fails to make available to its citizens the opportunity of a home of a quality commensurate with the wealth of that society, has no right whatsoever to expect those people whom it fails to fulfil their obligations and responsibilities as citizens!" 

Paying fuel bills can be hard at the best of times but you are twice as likely to fall into fuel poverty if you’ve recently been treated for cancer, according to new research from Macmillan Cancer Support. Following diagnosis, three-quarters of cancer patients in active treatment need to use their heating more, yet those under 60 do not qualify for any help to pay for it. Fuel poverty – having to spend more than 10 percent of your income on heating – is a relatively new phenomenon that is beginning to grip Britain faster than the spread of swine flu and serves as the cold reminder that we still live in a society that if you don’t have the ability to pay you go without.

The true extent of such hardship and poverty in Britain and its impact is conveniently bypassed and generally ignored by mainstream politicians who have more to peevishly whinge about when it comes to their own expenses. As we come to almost the end of this the first decade of the 21st centaury it’s as if the hands on the clock of time have been turned backwards. If it wasn’t for the constant sight of all manner of technology’s advancement from transport to the smallest iPods, cyberspace and the internet you would not be wrong to conclude that some things change but much, very much just stays the same, as I’m constantly reminded when I visit and spend time with my many friends who live their lives out and on the streets of London, the capital city in this the fifth richest nation in the world.


The people that I speak of are the visible homeless that no one seems to see. Their numbers are hard to place a finger on, they live in hostels, squats and a growing number sleep rough on our streets. Keeping warm in winter is a battle waged every year by the rough sleeper in his or her skip, but truth is every season brings its problems when you’re forced to share the outdoor life with the birds, urban foxes and city rats.

A great many of my friends on the street live and rely solely upon street handouts and day centres for food, laundry and bathing facilities. Many refuse to claim entitled benefits, preferring not to be a part of a welfare system that incessantly strong-arms the unemployed into taking low paid employment with the use of sanctions and penalties. This is in complete contrast to what Richard Bacon, a Tory MP on the committee which acts as a watchdog over public spending, said:

"The Department for Work and Pensions does not know how many people are out of work by choice, rather than by chance. Properly targeted help must be put in place for those who want to work. Only then will the Government be able to flush out the shirkers who are sticking up two fingers at hard-working families and treating the benefit system like a cash machine."(Daily Mail)

How can anyone not be moved by the spectacle and lines of men and women who gather every night in London’s Lincoln Inn Felids for a meal provided by the Hari Khrisnas or a Jamaican Christian Church. On some occasions I’ve counted up to three hundred people who arrive hours in advance with all their worldly possessions rammed into rucksacks and carrier bags, sleeping bags and their wind-up radio. This is no easy life. The streets are fraught with danger for many homeless people; over the last few years people living on the streets have become more vulnerable to violence and attack; this threat can be from other street users and from those who are intoxicated through alcohol and/or drugs.

Rough sleepers are 13 times more likely to experience crime and 47 times likely to be the victim of theft. Crime, and the perception of crime, can play a major role in the decisions of rough sleepers in not only where they sleep but also where they take part in daytime activities. Many rough sleepers avoid danger and stay clear of violence by using the London night bus service to get some rest, as one friend told me: “You take the longest route say to Heathrow Airport and back that kills 4 hours and before you know it it’s morning.” Female rough sleepers are particularly vulnerable to physical attack and abuse, and to protect themselves they tend to be amongst the most hidden.

Rough sleepers are met with a mixture of emotions from the general public ranging from pity and support to anger and distrust. But one thing almost goes unasked and that’s why are people, fellow human beings living, existing on our rich streets; streets that are not paved with gold.

London has seen a big increase in the number of migrant workers left homeless and destitute in the city, without access to benefits or housing help. The effects of the economic downturn, as well as a legal block preventing migrants from certain countries claiming benefits, has meant increased numbers of rough sleepers in the city from eastern European countries.

Every year an official head count of rough sleepers within Westminster is carried out and recorded for official purposes. In recent years allegations of tactics designed to reduce the figure have been made. The Simon Community, an organisation that works and lives with the homeless on the streets, undertook its own street head count at the end of October, and found 247 people sleeping rough in the City of Westminster, almost 100 more than official figures now state. The Simon Community along with some rough sleepers have claimed that diversionary tactics were put in place days before the street count took place. A number of known rough sleepers were offered travel warrants by Police and community officers, in an attempt to transfer them out of the area. In a BBC report on the issue of travel warrants being handed out, the Metropolitan Police denied the allegation that they were shifting people out of the area, saying that they regularly issue travel warrants for homeless people, particularly during the winter months. Allegations have also been made that local authorities exerted harsh measures against homeless people, according to the Simon Community. They received information about a group of homeless people being physically moved out of the Victoria Street area by Police. Similarly, there are accusations of doorways used to bed down in were hosed by cleaners to make them unusable.

There are claims that charities were also instructed to make beds available in their hostels ahead of the count, and emergency accommodation was opened up on the week the count took place.

Reality entertainment

During the summer the BBC screened a very different type of reality television; this involved celebrities who were asked to partake in the programme ‘Famous, Rich & Homeless’. This TV documentary, described as thought-provoking, recruited five famous volunteers who were asked to experience the life of a homeless person on the streets of London for a few days (ten) during the winter of 2008. When I say famous, what I mean by that is household names drawn from the entertainment and media industry. The Marquess of Blandford, the One Show’s Hardeep Singh Kholi, journalist Rosie Boycott, former Coronation Street actor Bruce Jones and tennis commentator Annabel Croft all swapped their lavish privileged lifestyles, their fame and fortune for a time; for a world of soup runs and hostels.

They were helped and manoeuvred throughout by Big Issue founder John A Bird and Craig Last, a former youth worker for the charity Centrepoint. Having watched the show myself; I came away thinking that this type of reality entertainment achieves nothing more than accepting and approving that the daily struggle for life’s existence at the bottom of the pile is a normal part of the structure of society. But the best response to the show came from a homeless person writing in the letters page of Pavement the free monthly magazine produced for London's homeless; they said:

“I found it quite ironic that ‘Famous, Rich and Homeless’ was shown on the BBC. I spent seven months living rough on London's streets, often at All Souls' Church in Portland Place. Having crashed there for several months, rough sleeping with the full knowledge and permission of the church authorities, I was woken one night and "moved on" by a couple of Westminster police officers. When I enquired about the incident at the church reception the following morning, I was informed by a staffer that the alleged complaint had not been lodged by the church authorities but by BBC security staff at Broadcasting House, directly across the road, no doubt because they were irritated by having to constantly step over cardboard boxes whilst filming fearless, hard-hitting documentaries about the plight of London's homeless.”

About the same time as these programmes were broadcast, The Wall Street Journal (15 July) reported; that in the London Borough of Westminster, where Mayfair is located, homes can cost up to £50 million. Yet Westminster is fifth among London's 33 boroughs in the number of unoccupied properties. In 2008, 1,737 homes had been vacant for six months or more, the third highest number among all London boroughs, according to the Empty Homes Agency, a non-profit group that seeks to put empty homes back into use.

Westminster Council have placed according to its website (at the time of writing) 3.000 homeless families into temporary accommodation. Many have been exported to the poorer boroughs of East London because they claim there are not enough temporary in Westminster.

The high concentration of rundown, empty homes is striking for a posh Mayfair, with its ornately gated manses. The hub of aristocratic society before World War II, Mayfair's modern-day image is demonstrated by its prominent place on the British Monopoly board.

Mayfair's homeowners aren't down on their luck, far from it. Rather, there properties serve as investments for owners who pay the bills to keep them empty – something the neighbours and council object to when the homes fall into disrepair. Many owners decline to rent the homes due to local council tax rules, with tax on properties at a lower rate if they are empty and unfurnished, which is a loophole that helps the filthy rich. As the number of homes now priced at more than £1m has fallen by a third during the past two years the problems surrounding the abandonment of posh homes may get worse.

The whole business of empty homes came to light last winter when a group of young squatters occupied two £20 million homes on Park Lane overlooking Hyde Park. Before the squatters settled in, the homes had been empty for seven years. During that time, the Council had tried three times to contact their British Virgin Islands-based property owners: Red Line Ltd. and Perfectil Ltd. Following two years of silence, the property owners surfaced once newspaper reports outed the squatters. The result of such media reports has meant that wealthy homeowners have turned to private security firms to protect their empty London properties from squatters at a cost of up £2,600 a week while according to the Empty Homes Agency there are more than 80,000 empty properties in London (Evening Standard, 11 November). In the recession this is one business that may prove to be very lucrative as a growing number of homes are bought by foreign investors who want a secure asset but continue to live elsewhere.

In our daily press we read much about the housing problem, about lost homes repossessed by the banks and the so-called housing shortage, with thousands stranded and languishing for years on the council housing waiting list or simply held hostage to the private landlord, the cry goes out for more affordable homes or a proposed programme of public works that embraces house building as the desired solution, peddled by those who still offer the dried-out old fig leaf of failed reform. Over a hundred years ago Frederick Engels wrote in the Housing Question: “This shortage is not something peculiar to the present; it is not even one of the sufferings peculiar to the modern proletariat in contradistinction to all earlier oppressed classes. On the contrary, all oppressed classes in all periods suffered more or less uniformly from it.”

And then Engels gave an answer to this age old problem. He said, and I repeat, to end the housing shortage there is only one means: to abolish altogether the exploitation and oppression of the working class by the ruling class.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Workers of the World Unite!

Here in Britain we have seen and read quite a lot about the police and their deployment in the students fight for higher education and against the raising of tuition fees, the brutality of the police has been appalling and supported by our cat's-tail of a coalition government. The truth is that the notoriety of the metropolitan police now finds unfavourable discomfort, that's why they use the media to blacken and bully the students. Sir Paul Stephenson its commissioner, talks about banning future marches which are a very desperate attempt to win back public terrain as eyes open now in distrust.

However, as that may be, please spare a thought if you will for the striking and picketing garment workers of Bangladesh. The garment workers, fighting against poverty-level wages, have come up against the Bangladeshi police who have killed four garment workers and injured at least 150 after opening fire with live bullets and tear gas shells on the workers last Sunday.

                                Greece Today

These shootings highlight the growing violence and repression being unleashed and handed out against workers and students globally. Only today as I write this we are learning that a general strike in Greece has seen workers clashing with riot police during the latest round of protests against the government's economic austerity plans.

Riot police fired tear gas cylinders to disperse crowds as thousands marched in downtown Athens.

The nationwide strike has shut schools, grounded flights and brought public transport almost to a halt.  With journalists joining the strike the seventh this year - there was no morning news on television and radio stations.

Yesterday in Italy riots erupted on the streets of Rome as protesters failed to come to terms with the fact that Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi 74, had scraped through by just three votes in a vote of confidence. Inside the parliamentary chamber, ushers of the legislative chamber had to pull apart brawling MPs. Outside on the streets armed police throw up ring of steel round parliament. The press reported on angry mobs smashing shop windows, setting cars on fire and hurling firecrackers, eggs and paint.

Following the disturbances 40 people were treated for minor injuries - three of them police - at one point an officer who was being attacked was seen to draw his gun as he was beaten to the ground by a mob.

As this year pulls to a close one thing is becoming clear, 2011 is facing rising austerity protests of that I am in no doubt. So far, social unrest over the financial crisis has varied from country to country. In some of the worst affected nations such as Ireland and Latvia, acceptance and even apathy has prevailed, while Greece has seen fatalities and street clashes.

Increasingly, there are signs of rising social pressures. Many Western European countries are only just embarking on multi-year deficit-reduction packages, a hard sell in states where expectations have risen for generations. But what is of significance here, is that throughout the world as in Bangladesh, workers are rising as a new confidence catches hold, and for those of us who support change this should not only be welcomed but supported as a step on the way towards a world for workers!”

                                Italy Yesterday

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

My Take on 9/12 and the 'Brutes' of the TSG

Last week’s demonstration of students and their supports outside the House’s of Parliament against the raising of tuition fees has left a profound and perturbing effect on me, which I’ve had real difficulty shifting from my mind. To tell the truth I have never been or was ever so frightened in my life and I’ve seen some big confrontations that involved dissenters, pickets and protesters over the last three decades but never anything like this.

What I am considering, and what we should all be looking at is the role and function of the police in demonstrations and disputes, what their purpose is, why they are used, and why they are retained by the state?” If anyone thinks that they exist to prevent crime in the community, and I am talking miner crime, then  I would argue they are very much mistaken.

There is crime, of course there is crime in the community, that I will not dispute, and some of it is really terrible such as murder or crimes of a sexual nature. But still the police do not exist solely to prevent or solve these problems and these crimes in particular. The police have been portrayed as a rational solution to obvious problems of rising crime and increasing disorder. The implicit argument is that they were created, and steadily developed to protect the law-abiding citizen from the criminal and disorderly element which preys upon society. But the truth is they exist to protect private property and the system (capitalism) which includes its laws and its interpretative of what it considers to be order. Without such a body, an army to enforce and ensure observance of laws and rules, capitalism would not be able to exist as a system anywhere in the world. I was reminded of that most vividly last week in Parliament Square as our so-called seat of government was protected by hundreds of tolled-up riot coppers, not your ordinary policeman or women on the beat type you do understand, but the elite group known as the Territorial Support Group (TSG or CO20).

The police operation and its preparation must have cost the tax payers thousands when I recall what I saw on Thursday December 9. However before I get on to that let me just say a few things about the TSG. These are officers who we now know to be nothing more than thugs and strong-armours of the state, and without question.

So who are the TSG?”

Well apparently they are a uniformed unit of the Metropolitan Police Specials (MPS) that replaced the polemical Special Patrol Group in 1987. TSG units patrol the streets of the capital in marked police vans; officers can be identified as TSG from the distinctive 'U' in their shoulder numbers. Equipped with Speedcuffs, Monadnock fixed batons and CS/PAVA Incapacitated Sprays they are selected on merit and much emphasis is placed upon their personal policing ability, motivation, resilience, good communication skills fitness and stamina seen as essential attributes of TSG personnel.

More of a fuller account and description about the TSG can be found on WikipediA, but here is a paragraph from that site which I could not resist reproducing, just shows you what we are up against.  

One ex-Metropolitan Police officer suggested that TSG members "spend (their) days waiting for action, and far too many officers join seeking excitement and physical confrontation." Some officers are ex-military personnel and these are "the worst bullies" as "the laws of the battlefield are not appropriate to the streets of our capital."  

It is obvious that we have psychopaths and sick persons sorry to say employed as law enforcers and I would suggest deliberately so, and with the complete knowledge of both Labour and Conservative administrations, which says a lot about the last Labour government, and Labour members you should please take note.

On the day

On the day of the demonstration, I joined the march on the Strand walking towards Trafalgar Square where groups of students had been arriving from versus colleges and universities from throughout London and indeed from other parts of the country, every time a group arrived or were spotted with their banners and placards marching and making their way down the road a huge roar of jubilation and joy was thrown up, but most of all what was striking was that many had taken the time to make their own banners and placards which gave the feeling of organic and spontaneous action with passion. I looked in wonderment into the fresh faces of these kids all old enough to be my own children, yes I felt old and a wee bit of jealousy creeping in, but excuse me I was still part of the movement this was the second demonstration in support of students I had turned up to, and that’s what mattered.

Within no time at all there was thousands and not just students, many like me had turned-out to show their solidarity a word reborn and used on Twitter by an explosion of organised activism on the Internet.

The body of the march by now a beating hart of determination moved off and down the Mall through Admiralty Arch turning and passing Horse Guards Parade, people were looking out of office windows of government buildings as the march made its way to Parliament Square, looking back now and again all I could see was an overflowing dam of people. There were so many people that when we arrived in the Square   nothing looked familiar, over the years I had become well acquainted with the village green passing through from time to time, but this time it looked very different with all these people flooding in, and climbing onto a wall I sat next to a hod-carrier who said he was from Croydon, he had come along because he had two young children, it mattered he said; “that they should have an education, and going to university if that’s what they wanted.”
We talked while the crowd poured in, and then the fencing surrounding the Square was removed by the protesters and we all surged forward I found myself at the front facing rows of police guarding the Commons, the road was full of TSG vans and a new type of barrier structure had been set-up as a roadblock preventing us from crossing the road to the Commons but in front of that was the TSG cops dressed in full riot jump suits and helmets battens long hanging and dangling from their waists. They had two types of shields the round and the long body length blocks first used in 1977 at the battle of Lewisham which I happened to be at when the then National Front tried to march through the area only to be met by the Anti Nazi League.The far-right National Front (NF) intended to march from New Cross to Lewisham in southeast London this led to a counter-demonstrations and violent clashes. The day has been seen since as a turning point in the fortunes of the National Front and the 1970s anti-fascist movement as well as in policing -  as riot shields were used for the first time in England.

I have no idea why but the cops started hitting people with their battens, I was hit three times once on the head and twice on the shoulder and it fucking hurts. I am still black, blue and yellow. So after a while I pulled away from the front and moved back to the side of Westminster Abby which was full of cops, the devil was standing in the church yard I thought to myself. By this time the fencing around the Square was being used by those still at the front to protect themselves from batten blows which I could see were still raining down on protesters. I moved further back towards Victoria where things were beginning to hot up, here the protester pushed the police back then they sent the horses in and cavalry charging into people like it was the finishing home run of the Grand National. There is no doubt the police, this special force that trains with the British Army were pushed back and lost control of Parliament Square, and they lost control because of the numbers of protesters present, they were lucky on this occasion, for it was only the vans the horses that saved them on the day, oh and of course their violence and the kettling. Last night video footage emerged of a man being pulled out of his wheelchair and dragged across the road by an officer during Thursday's demonstration, this is in addition to the near murder of young Alfie Meadows who had to undergo hours of very delicate life saving surgery which I wrote about in my last post. And when we put it into real perspective, it really specks volumes when you consider that 43 protesters and six police officers were taken to hospital for injuries. Tomorrow I will consider what has been gained and as promised post my thoughts of where do we go from here.           

Saturday, 11 December 2010

The animals of the metropolitan police...

I have been unable to fined words in recent days; words to describe the appalling brutal and unrelenting police operation carried out on Thursday of this week, the day our elected representatives’ voted to increase the cost of higher education to students in this country as a consequence of austerity designed and contrived  to save the backside of capitalism as the dominating and ruling economic system under which we all have to live.

Alfie Meadows, 20, a student at Middlesex University, suffered bleeding to the brain after being batoned by police during the tuition fees protest in London that day.

Alfie was hit on the head as he tried to leave the Westminster Abbey area after being “kettled” there by police along with thousands of others including yours truly. Kettling the police tactic of surrounding and penning in protesters in small areas for hours on end without access to food, drink or toilet facilities, amounts to the forced imprisonment of demonstrators in a human cage without due process.   “The surface wound that I have been unable to fined words in recent days; words to describe the appalling Alfie sustained wasn't very big, but three hours after the blow he suffered bleeding to the brain,” Alfie’s’ mother told the BBC. “Basically, he had a stroke last night. He couldn't speak or move his hand.”  

When I think about it this young man who is as old as my own son, and have to say I am absolutely appalled that a potentially life threatening injury is not being treated as attempted murder, well no surprises there then!”

And I agree with Michael Chessum, a co-founder of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, when he said the violence in Thursday's protests "overwhelmingly came from the police".

Then there is the media hysteria wiped up in regard to the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall (former mistress) on their way to the Royal Variety Performance and being caught up in the student protests. This incidents miner in comparison was more impotent to the media than Alfie Meadows who had to undergo hours of very delicate life saving surgery. The details of the incident are going to be investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. But I would not hope for much from them if recent form is anything to go on.

A total of 43 protesters and six police officers were taken to hospital for injuries sustained which specks volumes. The police are out of control or are being allowed to beat up indiscriminately young peaceful protesters, shame on them!”

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Which Side Are You On?

Thursday 9 December 2010 just one question we must all ask ourselves?"    

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Student Avant-Garde

There can be no apology for writing another post in support of the magnificent and brilliant campaign waged by students against the trebling of university student fees and proposed cuts to our children’s education in this country. This is a campaign that in three busy weeks has passed all expectations and won support in every nook, cranny, corner of these islands and mainland mass of Britain and far beyond.

Last week Greek students in a protest and show of solidarity with their comrades in Britain were attacked and set about by the riot police who fired teargas into them; in the clashes at least three demonstrators were injured. The example of one thousand Greek students who marched to the British embassy in Athens in solidarity with British students was indeed an outstanding occurrence of internatalism and a lesson of solidarity and unity in action that students’ have not only just been talking about but unlocked and raised to the surface as an effective weapon that should and must be employed and expanded upon at home and abroad.   

Just to deviate for a moment it’s important to highlight that in Europe workers are in flux the density of which can be appreciated by taking in to account some of the major recent and forthcoming protests in European countries:


May 4-5 - Public-sector workers staged a 48-hour nationwide strike. On May 5, a 50,000-strong protest in Athens led to violence in which demonstrators fought police and three people were killed in a petrol bomb attack on a bank.

June 29 - Police fired tear gas at rioters shouting "burn parliament" in Athens. About 12,000 people joined marches during a strike against raising the retirement age to 65 for all.

July 8 - About 12,000 people marched against pension reform in the unions' sixth 24-hour strike against austerity measures.

Nov. 22 - Greek private sector union GSEE called for a pan-European strike in 2011 to take joint action against austerity measures.

Dec. 2 - Police fired teargas in clashes with over 1,000 students who tried to break through a police cordon to march to the British embassy in Athens, in solidarity with British students who oppose plans to increase tuition fees, and against austerity and education reforms in Greece.

-- More protest rallies are planned on Dec. 6 to mark the anniversary of the police killing of a teenager, which triggered the country's worst riot in decades in 2008, and on Dec. 15 during a nationwide anti-austerity strike.


Nov. 8 - The main Czech labour union called a one-day strike of public sector workers for Dec. 8 to protest the government's planned wage cuts and layoffs. Such strikes are rare in the central European country, whose centre-right government has pledged to balance its budget by 2016.


Oct. 16 - Thousands of Italians marched in Rome in a rally organised by the FIOM metalworkers union and backed by the CGIL, Italy's biggest union with 6 million members, to protest the bleak outlook for jobs and demand more rights for workers.

Nov. 30 - Thousands of students streamed through Rome towards parliament, chanting and waving banners with slogans such as 'education is on its knees'. Students, who on Nov. 25 occupied key tourist sites including the leaning tower of Pisa and the Colosseum, vowed to block proposed changes by Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini.


Nov. 27 - Thousands of Irish took to the streets of Dublin to protest against the looming bailout. The EU approved an 85 billion euro ($115 billion) rescue for Ireland, a day later.


Nov. 24 - Portugal's biggest unions, the CGTP and the UGT, disrupted transport and halted services from healthcare to banking in protest against wage cuts and rising unemployment in the first joint general strike by the top two unions since 1988.


Sept 29 - Spain's first general strike in eight years, called to oppose spending cuts, disrupted transport and factories.


-- The pension reform was signed into law by President Nicolas Sarkozy on Nov. 9. The reform raised the minimum retirement age to 62 from 60 and the full retirement age to 67 from 65 to balance the loss-ridden pension system by 2018.

Fierce opposition by trade unions and the French public, who staged a sustained wave of protests over austerity measures, turned the reform into the biggest battle of Sarkozy's presidency. Unions mobilised nationwide street protests eight times since early September and rolling strikes at oil refineries caused serious fuel shortages at one stage, but the strikes are over and the turnout for protests slumped, for the time being.


Oct 3 - A 24-hour strike by workers on London's underground rail system disrupted much of the network. The strike forced millions of commuters to struggle to work in their third walkout since September in a dispute over 800 planned job cuts. Another 24-hour strike took place on Nov. 28.

Oct. 19 - Britain's trade unions took protests over spending cuts to parliament, promising to fight to protect public services.

Nov. 10 - About 55,000 students took part in a demonstration in London against the government plans to triple university tuition fees up to 9,000 pounds ($14,000). A small group took part in protests at Millbank Tower, home to the Conservative Party headquarters, which saw windows smashed and missiles hurled at police. Around 66 people were arrested.

Nov. 24 - Thousands of students staged walkouts and marches across Britain against planned rises in tuition fees.

Nov. 30 - More than 150 demonstrators in London were arrested during a student protest against planned rises in university tuition fees. Thousands of students and school pupils protested across Britain against the planned increases, disrupting central London and putting strains on the coalition government. -- Students and teenage school pupils are expected to hold further protests to coincide with a parliamentary vote on Dec. 9 on plans to raise tuition fees for university students.

I think that if we consider all of the above carefully we then must appreciate that our students at this moment in time are in the forefront if not leading the opposition to the austerity agenda of this Con Dem coalition government. This week with a vote due on Thursday in the House of Commons this may in its turn lead us to a new crossroads, what next and just where do we go from here?” 

That comrades will be under consideration in my next post!”

In the meantime and because they have had so much of a positive impact on many of us older comrades I thought it a good idea to post this wonderful video of the UCL occupation, and I have to say that when I first viewed it I was moved to tears, they are so inspiring, amazing and awesome!” 

The Socialist Way

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