Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The English Revolution and East London

Somewhat later than than what I would have liked but here is my second look at the Radical History of East London's past.

This week we take a little peep at The English Revolution which usually is described for its constitutional struggles between the King and Parliament, but the truth is that it also fetched to the surface important economic class struggles and religious battles for freedom of worship, and from that arose new  religious, political and social ideas.

Take the Levellers

As Parliament fought the King in the interests of the rising bourgeoisie and progressive landowners, new political programmes arose; but the basic argument of the Levellers was that no Parliament had no right to make laws to direct people’s behaviour unless all those people had a free say in choosing that Parliament.  

The Levellers grew from the grassroots Parliamentary army and purtan activists like John Lilburne; and demanding a broader form of franchise and “arresting sovereignty as coming from the people not the King” (though still excluding most of the poor and of course all the women. D’oh!) and religious freedom. Their popularity meant for a while that army grandees like Cromwell had to work with them, but later Leveller leaders were jailed; and army supporters mutinied three times in 1647-1649, but were put down with summary (conducted without the customary legal formalities of the day) executions. The Levellers were eventually defeated by government repression.

Leveller ideas gained them support in poor areas like Spitalfields and Wapping. In Stepney in 1674, Katherine Chidley, writer, Leveller leader and woman preacher, (a novelty, almost a heresy) attacked local independant preachers for using old Anglican churches, saying they should move out from these corrupt buildings.

Levellers held mass meetings in East London; Well yard’, Wapping, in January 1648, leaders John Lilburne and John Wildman addressed a crowd: the next day they were nicked for ‘treasonable and seditious practices’. The militia was ordered to break up Leveller meetings in the City and Tower Hamlets.

Wapping was also the birthplace and home of Colonel Thomas Rainsborough, an army radical and agitator, who was murdered by loyalists in 1648.

Just going to pause for a moment and look at what Paul Foot said about Rainsborough and the Levellers in his book The Vote: Rainsborough’s basic point was: “that no government is legitimate or can command the loyalty of the governed unless it has been freely elected by all the governed.” However Foot say’s: that the Levellers were not sure about universal male suffrage, he also informs the reader that the Levellers were not drawn from the ranks of the very poor. they were mainly the ‘middling sort of people’ who had a little property of their own. They stood up for the rights of the poor, and often belaboured the rich; but that was not the same thing as expropriating the rich says Foot.

Foot gives us an example that seems to have become repetitive down the years to the present day of leaders, that have had access to a relatively better upbringing than most in terms of education and a degree of wealth but fall far short of the mark because they also either own property or have a vested interest in part; in some of the status quo and existing state of affairs.

But lets not take away what the Levellers contributed; they ran underground printing presses, producing numerous radical pamphlets and manifestos. In March 1646 a Levellers press in a farmhouse in Goodman’s Fields (around Leman Street, Whitechapel) was raided by the the authorities; the printers escaped from an upstairs window, but lost the press. But another was soon up and running.

As for Colonel Thomas Rainsborough who was and as I have already said murdered by loyalists; his coffin was followed by 1000s to Wapping’s St Johns Church and then after the service anti-royalist rioting followed.

Then take the Ranters

Later in the 1640s, more extreme groups like the Diggers and the Ranters emerged, these groups taking the Levelling program from the political into the social and economic sphere. The Ranters best described as mystical anarchists, in the late 1640/early 50s. Many like the Levellers were ex-army; some were ex-Levellers disillusioned with its political activity. They held that God dwelt in all, religious perfection came from within and no saviour was needed to redeem men. Many went on to reject the idea of sin, law and property, claiming all acts were holy, and to question religion itself. Some inferred that drunkenness, promiscuity and swearing became not only not sinful but holy themselves.

Ranters were accused of every kind of debauched behaviour: to the ruling Puritans their ideas were heretical, their behaviour deeply immoral. Ranter writings were burned, many were arrested and forced to recant.

Ranters met in Whitechapel in 1650;  possibly in Rood Lane where or near Ranter Lawrence Clarkson lodged at the time at one such meeting they were surprised and all arrested. William Rainsborough ( brother of the Leveller Colonel) and other Ranters also held meetings in Ilford; interestingly this was where John Saltmarsh lived, widely respected preacher to the New Model Army, a rebel against puritanism and influential Leveller sympathiser, had lived his last few months and died in 1647. His doctrine of ‘free grace’, that all would be forgiven their sins, foreshadowed many Ranter ideas.

Then take the Fifth Monarchists

Fifth Monarchists, another offshoot of the Revolutionary years, were active in Stepney, Mile End, Aldgate and Shoreditch. A strange mix of strict biblical adherence and insurrectionary violence, they  believed there had been throughout history four great oppressive earthly Monarchies; the Fifth Monarchy would be the 1000-year reign of King Jesus. Some advocated Old Testament values, others denounced all man-made hierarchies and tried to bring in the Millennium by an armed uprising in 1657 (they had gathered on Mile End Fields, where they were arrested and their arms and manifestoes seized) and another in 1661, which was quickly defeated. Obstinate Fifth Monarchists were involved in plotting against King Charles for decades. 

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

striking US Fast Food workers for a living wage

Thousands of Fast Food workers went on strike in cities across the US on Monday as part of a campaign for better wages which of course I blogged about on Sunday, an update to this story is that the workers bravely took their fight out onto the streets of America, winning the support of the public and at the same time building confidence in their own ability to stand firm against some of the big names in Fast Food, in fact lets get it right big multinationals such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC.

Thinking about it, it's ironic then, that on the one hand, these companies make billions from serving up without a second thought the most unhealthy food ever invented by man, and what about the poisoning of a nation and all I have read and heard about obesity, and on the other hand they think nothing of starving their own workers who are living in grinding poverty, and as   Jonathan Westin, director of Fast Food Forward said in the Guardian: “not being able to afford to put food on the table or take the train to work “.

Can you believe that this is going on?

It is indeed an indictment on American Capitalism, and if ever we need evidence of how rotten this system is then... simply this is it!”

And I say that as god is my witness’ and of course as a socialist.
The driving force or co-ordinating vessel and now proven not to be a hollow container, has been  Fast Food Forward’ began as a New York-specific campaign which has spread across the country as workers campaign for better pay. Walkouts have been held or are to be held in Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, St Louis, Kansas City, and Flint, Michigan, as well as New York City.

Is there possibly something we can learn from our comrades in the US, in "mobilising workers" for say the NSSN and their call for a 24 hour general strike?”

Anyhow lets just congratulate these workers well done!”

Monday, 29 July 2013

Work till you drop whether you want to or not and do zero hour contracts

The UK has an ageing population and an ageing workforce. Throughout the 1990s, fewer than 8% of men over 65 and women over 60 were in work. By 2006, this had increased to 10% of men and 12% of women of state pension age (SPA). And the number of workers aged 65 and over who are still in work has doubled in the past decade. In addition, the over-50s now form more than a quarter (27%) of the UK workforce and by 2020 it is estimated that they will make up almost a third of workers.

So it’s work till you drop whether you want to or not.

The government has now increased the SPA to 66 for both men and women between 2018 and 2020. It also announced that it will change the law again to increase the SPA to 67 between 2026 and 2028. And although the SPA is already scheduled to rise to 68 by 2046, this target will now be subject to five-yearly reviews, as announced in January 2013. And the government’s changes to public sector pensions, which provoked co-ordinated strike action by unions, will certainly mean that public service workers will have to pay more, work longer and receive lower pensions in future.

By nailing workers down to the floorboards in such a way will have serious consequences for generations to come and may lead to social unrest as working people and their families struggle to retain and sustain regular full-time employment, especially in light of employers and the Bosses now opting to exploit and using part-time workers. We can see already the impact that low pay is having on the low paid worker finding it hard to pay bill and using food banks to survive.

Yesterday the Guardian ran a story about Sports Direct’s entire 20,000 part-time workforce being employed on zero-hour contracts, you can read the full story here.

My understanding of zero hours is (and please correct me if I am wrong) a zero hours worker is someone who agrees that the employer does not have to provide work but if there is work to do then, the worker is obliged to accept it. The contract is for a worker who has no fixed working hours and agrees (mistakenly) to work on a day to day or week by week basis. The contract can be used for for temporary or permanent workers.

More than 150 staff at the House of Commons are employed on the controversial zero hours contracts, despite growing calls by MPs for tougher rules to prevent workers being exploited by them. And now it has emerged that the NHS are using almost 70,000 staff on zero hour contracts. The only official estimate of the number of employees on such contracts was a 200,000 figure by the Office for National Statistics; and whilst I see no attempt will be made in this parliament to bring in any legislation to outlaw the practice its set to continue and expand and despite what Labour may say in opposition we all know by experience they act differently when in office.

A quarter of all workers are now part-time, for most this is not by choice I will argue; and one of the many drawbacks is that they cannot get promoted unless their hours are increased, so is it any wonder that many feel trapped?  The world of work is undergoing a fundamental shift a shift in the wrong direction for us all and the generation that comes after us; it is true that the vast majority of the population of this planet live in want to one degree or another whether they be industrial workers now a disappearing breed in Britain or the North American trying to make ends meet, or beggars on the streets of Britain, India and in the great USA. Yet still they seem to blindly accept that this is the inevitable consequence of things - and in the particular context of capitalism they are right. Various degrees of want will always exist in a private-property based society where all production is with a view to making a profit and where the majority sell their labour-power in return for a part only (now shrinking) wage, of what they produce.

But all is not lost, workers are now tentatively beginning to wake-up they see now more than ever that the years of tinkering with these problems by politicians, of all parties, well-meaning or not, has achieved nothing if anything matters have got worse. There is only one solution; which is the worlds workers must examine the contradictions of capitalism and then organise politically for a society where poverty, hunger, unemployment, pollution, waste, planned obsolescence of workers, war and a host of other things not mentioned in this post will be a thing of the past.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Recovery what recovery

New research has found that almost 1.5 million more British families are under financial pressure than a year ago, despite signs of an economic boom.

The research commissioned by Which? concluded that one-third of households (34 percent) in the UK, equal to 9 million families, are now feeling financially squeezed, up from an estimated 7.5 million households last July.

The research also found that families are continuing to come under pressure from inflation, which surged to a 14-month high in June.

Which? said that rises to costs such as food prices and energy bills mean that people are relying more on credit to get by, with an estimated 6.1 million households dipping into their savings each month on average over the last year to get by.

Millions more households are facing a prolonged squeeze on their finances.

Low pay in the USA

America's low paid and low-wage workers have been deploying what the New York Times describes an unusual weapon — one-day strikes — to make their message heard: they’re sick and tired of earning just over £5 hour.

Their anger has been stoked by what they see as a glaring disconnect: their wages have flat-lined, while median pay for chief executives at the nation’s top corporations jumped 16 percent last year, averaging a princely £9.8157 million.

In recent weeks, workers from McDonald’s, Taco Bell and other fast-food restaurants — many of them part-time employees — have staged one-day walkouts in New York, Chicago, Detroit and Seattle to protest about their earnings, typically just £227 a week, often too little to support themselves and their families. More walkouts are expected at fast-food restaurants in seven cities tomorrow on Monday. Earlier this month hundreds of low-wage employees working for federal contractors in Washington walked out and picketed along Pennsylvania Avenue to urge President Obama to press their employers to raise wages.

The bottom 20 percent of American workers by income — 28 million workers — earn less than £6 an hour, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group. That translates to £13,371  a year for a full-time employee. Their income fell 5 percent between 2006 and 2012.

Corporate America has embraced many strategies to slice labour costs. Many Walmart stores — as part of a new strategy to save on wages and benefits — are hiring only temps to fill job openings. Scores of companies are relying increasingly on part-timers, who typically get paid several dollars less per hour than full-timers.

Caterpillar has pioneered a two-tier wage systems, in which workers hired after a certain date are consigned to a significantly lower wage scale than others, and it recently pressed its longer-term employees into accepting a six-year wage freeze. Many Caterpillar workers ask why the company insisted on a pay freeze when it reported repeated record profits.

A Seattle-based entrepreneur whose company produces comforters and pillows, said: “Employers pay their workforce as much as they are forced to and no more. There’s no compelling reason to give raises” with the unemployment rate as high as it is.

Four out of five US adults struggle with joblessness, near  poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives according to Associated Press.

“It’s time that America comes to understand that many of the nation’s biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position,”  said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor who specialises in race and poverty.  

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Egypt a dictatorship of 11,000 years

The police and allegedly armed civilians opened fire on Saturday (this morning) on protesters against Egypt’s new military government, so witnesses have said and expressed in as many words to the international press.

Killing scores of people as hopes fade that the Egyptian military would or even could reach any political accommodation with the Muslim Brotherhood and its ousted president, Mohamed Morsi.

What this means is that Egypt is now a very divided country, and tells us a lot about the ruling class led in this case by the military and General Abdel Fattah al Sisi, who is also Defence Minister and played a central role in the overthrow of Muris.

It was Sisi, who called for Egyptians to rally on Friday to give him a mandate to tackle “violence and terrorism; just note the using of the words ‘violence and terrorism’. And yet it seems that the violence is emanating from the fireplace of the General coated with labeling of the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists.

The regime is not a personal dictatorship if it survived the removal of Mubarak or any other specific figure, it is then a military oligarchy that has the support of the US and of course Britain.

The military regime has its origins in the Free Officers’ Movement, which overthrew the British colonial puppet king Farouk in 1952. Before regaining independence, Egypt was ruled by a succession of empires, before that it endured the despotism of pharaohs. Mubarak too was popularly known as “the Pharaoh” and so Egypt has been if you like a kind of dictatorship one way or the other for the last 11,000 years.

The latest burst of violence came after a vast state-orchestrated display of military power on Friday, with army helicopters hovering over a huge throng of flag-waving, pro-military demonstrators in Tahrir Square and soldiers deployed in armored personnel carriers across the capital Cairo.

The mass gathering was another blow to the Arab world’s most feared and prominent Islamist group, which until recently was the major political force in government, having repeatedly won elections after country’s uprising two years ago. Well over 100 people have been killed in clashes between supporters and opponents of the Brotherhood in the last month.

Al Jazeera reports the Pro-military rallies as being larger and free of violence but the main pro-army protests have taken place in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square which if anything is a very clever but provocative move by the army playing the Egyptian people off against each-other as in the old divide and rule weapon now used in Egypt

Friday, 26 July 2013

Another Good Reason to Make Capitalism History


Richest Global 1% Hide Trillions $ in Tax Havens

Using data from the BIS, IMF, World Bank, and governments, former Chief Economist at McKinsey, James Henry, reports the global 1% have deposited $21 trillion to $32 trillion in tax havens to evade taxes. The Federal Reserve reports the US top seven banks have over $10 trillion in assets recorded in over 14,000 created “subsidiaries” to avoid taxes. The 1% hide more than total annual economic output of the US and Japan combined. This hidden wealth is also 7 to 32 times the $1 to $3 trillion estimated to end global poverty.  The 1% in US government have reneged on their promise to end poverty since the 1990 World Summit for Children, and even rejects full support of microcredit to end poverty through small business loans to poor self-employed people. Global poverty kills a million children every month. Since the top seven US banks have created at least 10,000 tax havens since 1991, more human beings have died from preventable poverty than from all wars, murders, and violent deaths of any kind in all human history.

Project Censored's Freedom International

Crazy system makes for crazy world.

Friday, 12 July 2013

US bankrolls Egypt and it's crackdown

Over the last couple of weeks I have found the whole terrible situation in Egypt occupying my interest in this daily developing situation. So as the crisis deepens and unrest spreads my mind and almost everyday thoughts are with the people and this very difficult time.  I even talk about it to almost anyone that may show some interest, so far with the ousting of Mohamed Morsi, there remains little international consensus on the fast-moving developments in the country.

While the good intentions of peace and cooperation are celebrated in the Muslim world at this time of the year, Egypt is struggling with those very concepts during this the holy month of Ramadan.

The public euphoria and the days of jubilation following the ousting of Morsi, and lets not forget the country’s first elected president, has taken a turn for the worse, best to say it has withered away amid mounting concerns about the future?   

It’s 2,200 miles away, that’s how far the grapes you buy in the shops have to travel; and yet speaking personally I feel that what is unfolding in this lovely country will impact on me sooner or latter, and the struggle of the Egyptian people is also my struggle, every time I see or read a report about the violence that has been unleashed I die a little, in the last two years hundreds have been killed, the most  terrible, dreadful and appalling violence is going on whilst the west and its leaders play with their jaws and vertebrates.

The Obama administration has announced it will go ahead with the shipment of four F-16 fighter planes to the Egyptian military, signaling its intention to ignore US laws requiring a cutoff of aid to countries that have suffered military coups. This announcement confirms to me the dangerous game Obama is playing, its like thumbs up to the military who they the US sling money at like it was confetti. Now we have the ruling junta cynically justifying its orders to arrest leading figures in the Muslim Brotherhood by claiming that they bear responsibility for the army’s July 8 massacre of at least 55 demonstrators who had marched on Cairo’s Republican Guard compound, where Mursi was believed to be held prisoner.  

In no way could I say that I support the Muslim Brotherhood, but I support the will of the people to rid themselves of tyrants, dictators and fanatics extreme religious or otherwise, what I ask myself and all the time now; what is this democracy that the west keeps going on about is it an illusion or a trick of a magician's cunning and skillful act?

Oil-rich Persian Gulf monarchies that fear the Muslim Brotherhood rewarded the takeover with financial support. Kuwait pledged $4 billion on Wednesday, adding to the $8 billion in grants, loans and fuel promised the day before by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In the week since the military forced Mr. Morsi from power, angry Islamists have warned that shutting them out of the democratic process will turn more of them toward terrorism and violence. Islamist leaders have urged followers not to leave sit-ins until Mr. Morsi is released or they are killed as “martyrs.” A few have gone further, with one suggesting that recent attacks on military and police forces in Sinai were retaliation for Mr. Morsi’s outing.
President Barack Obama recently stated the United States was not taking sides as Egypt's crisis came to a head with the military overthrow of the democratically elected president.

Documents obtained by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley show the US channeled funding through a State Department programme to promote democracy in the Middle East region. This programme vigorously supported activists and politicians who have fomented unrest in Egypt, after autocratic president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising in February 2011.

Activists bankrolled by the programme include an exiled Egyptian police officer who plotted the violent overthrow of the Morsi government, an anti-Islamist politician who advocated closing mosques and dragging preachers out by force, as well as a coterie of opposition politicians who pushed for the outing of the country's first democratically elected leader, government documents show.

Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, interviews, and public records reveal Washington's "democracy assistance" may have violated Egyptian law, which prohibits foreign political funding.
It may also have broken US government regulations that ban the use of taxpayers' money to fund foreign politicians, or finance subversive activities that target democratically elected governments.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


As everyone will know following weeks of mass protests, Egyptian power was taken back (last Wednesday week) and is in the hands of the military once-more.
There can be no mistake or misunderstanding this situation; the military is only committed to the economic interests of the country's ruling class and the regional aims of America.
Yesterday the Gulf states showered Cairo with $8 Billion in aid, thus showing their support for the army's move to push the Muslim Brotherhood from the reins of power, and a day after troops massacred and wounded hundreds of that movement's supporters.
Yes, the hated and despised regime when removed by the army was greeted with much jubilation on streets and squares of cities and towns throughout Egypt by millions, still the army not the masses are in charge.
I very much doubt if any of the demands that motivated the mass protesters will be met in any shape or form – for decent employment, a liveable wage, adequate social services, and above all else democratic rights.
I was originally planning to write something about Egypt before last week's protests, but trouble with my computer put a stop to that, however I did not think that things would have turned out the way they have.
And as this is a short post for now I just want it put on my blog that the Obama US administration are playing a very dangerous game.
More to come soon – peace!”

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