Solidarity 453, 8 November 2017

Madrid tries to bludgeon Catalonia

Submitted by Matthew on 8 November, 2017 - 1:22 Author: Martin Thomas
Protest

The people of Catalonia are caught up in a macabre game of bluff and who-blinks-first.

The democratic way out is for the people of Catalonia to be able to vote in a fair referendum on independence. Previous polls have indicated no majority for secession, and many on the left in Catalonia (for good reasons, we think) oppose creating a new border; but if there is now a majority for separation, then Madrid, and the EU, should respect it.

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Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 8 November, 2017 - 12:56 Author: Charlotte Zalens, Gemma Short, Dale Street and Peggy Carter

Picturehouse workers at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton, and East Dulwich, Crouch End, Hackney and Central Picturehouses struck on Sunday 5 and Monday 6 November for the start of Living wage week.

On 6 November the new Living Wage was announced, and in London it rose from £9.75 an hour to £10.20 an hour.

Striking on the day of this announcement meant the strike gained national press coverage, including on ITV news, as the press covered the raise in the Living Wage.

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Democracy review details emerge

Submitted by Matthew on 8 November, 2017 - 12:28

Labour has officially launched a democracy review. Jeremy Corbyn says he wants the party to become a “movement” and to boost the involvement of previously marginalised groups.

The first deadline of the review is 12 January. At this point it will consider the roles of BAME Labour, Young Labour, and the National Women’s conference.

The second phase covers the governance of Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs), the role of socialist societies, improving diversity and gender representation, strengthening participation, recruitment and social media.

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Why the 70s shop stewards lost

Submitted by Matthew on 8 November, 2017 - 11:00 Author: Jim Denham

For a brief period in the 1970s, Derek Robinson (who has died, aged 90) was widely regarded as the most powerful trade unionist in Britain.

The so-called “Red Robbo” wasn’t a full-time official. He was a shop steward (albeit a senior steward, allowed time off by management, to devote himself full-time, to union duties).

Comments

Submitted by Janet on Sun, 11/19/2017 - 03:32

I'm guessing that this from Jim Denham "Edwardes must have realised that the majority of senior stewards in British Leyland were severely out of touch with their members. He dispensed with the soft-soap Ryder approach, drove a coach and horses through participation" is what the Economist obituary tells like this : "Mr Robinson’s forte was haranguing mass meetings on windswept playing fields, with strike votes taken instantly by an intimidating show of hands. But in 1979 British Leyland’s new boss, Michael Edwardes, balloted the workers directly (and secretly) on modernisation plans, gaining a seven-to-one majority for drastic job cuts in exchange for investment."
I'm also interested in this story for its similarities (though many differences) with the way Australian manufacturing unions promoted and enforced a national Prices and Incomes Accord, essentially out of fear of growing unemployment. Promises of investment, leading to jobs, weigh very persuasively to workers generally and union leaders in particular. There is nothing beneficial to employees in their employer going bust. It's not so hard to come up with general demands against unemployment - shorter hours, nationalisation, decent unemployment benefits - but in the maelstrom of uncertainty about being able to earn a living - there's a profusion of cases of unions submitting to capital. What efforts if any, were made through the 1970s, from an independent working class perspective, to anticipate and avert job losses from the coming demise of car manufacturing?

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Gramsci and unpleasant truths

Submitted by Matthew on 8 November, 2017 - 10:51 Author: Martin Thomas

“During the lifetime of great revolutionaries”, wrote Lenin at the start of his pamphlet State and Revolution, “the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander.

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No straight line from Balfour to today

Submitted by Matthew on 8 November, 2017 - 10:43 Author: Paul Hampton
Balfour

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration, the promise made by the British government to support a Jewish “homeland” in Palestine. Paul Hampton argues there was never an inexorable, linear development from the Balfour declaration to the creation of Israel, or indeed, to the current injustice towards the Palestinians.


On 2 November 1917, British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour sent a letter to Lord Rothschild, one of the leaders of the British Jews, which stated:

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An alternative to the Bolsheviks?

Submitted by Matthew on 8 November, 2017 - 10:38 Author: Paul Vernadsky

Paul Vernadsky reviews The Experiment: Georgia’s Forgotten Revolution 1918-21 by Eric Lee.


Eric Lee’s mischievous new book, argues that the Georgian Menshevik republic was an alternative to the Bolshevik-led workers’ government, which came to power in October 1917.

This is absolute fantasy, which confuses discussion of working-class politics at the time and the importance of the Russian revolution for today’s class struggles.

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Unions must fight for robust rules

Submitted by Matthew on 8 November, 2017 - 9:31
Unions must fight for robust rules

Editorial from Solidarity 453

The public scandal which has erupted in the wake of reports of historical and current sexual assaults in Hollywood, and now the UK Parliament, has brought to light a day-to-day reality. The #metoo campaign was “successful” because it touched on a truth. Almost every woman has experienced some form of sexual assault or harassment.

The public conversation in wake of the reports and allegations is welcome and important.

Comments

Submitted by martin on Wed, 11/08/2017 - 18:39

We called for "robust codes of conduct, reporting policies, and sanctions" which "would also institutionalise due-process protections for those facing charges".

The need for that has been highlighted by the case of Carl Sergeant, a minister in the Welsh Labour government, who committed suicide on 7 November.

It seems clear now that Sergeant was sacked from his ministerial job without even being told in detail what the allegations against him were, let alone having the right to a fair hearing.

Presumably the Welsh Labour Party leadership panicked, and thought throwing Sergeant overboard to appear to be responsive more important than basic due process.

In any case, there must be due process. The cases of women (sometimes women bosses) using exaggerated or invented accusations of harassment against men are surely fewer than those of women being denied any road to redress after harassment by male bosses, but they exist.

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