117 years ago, my great-great grandad, president of the Amalgamated Society of railway servants (ASRS), sat down in a meeting between the executives of ASRS and the Associated Society of locomotive engineers and firemen (ASLEF) to discuss federation. Had they succeeded in establishing unity between the rail unions back then, I might not be writing this article now. The TUC and rail management have used Victorian-era sectional craft differences to divide railway workers. I hope to explain what has happened in relation to the dispute on Southern Rail and the role of the TUC and ASLEF. I am aware that the railway runs on a level of jargon and acronym that approaches another language so please forgive the mini railway rules refresher! Continue reading →
Ten years ago President Rafael Correa was elected President in Ecuador and, as in many Latin American countries in recent years, there’s been a tremendous shift in the country. He has remained enormously popular throughout his time in office, winning his last two elections in the first round, winning the most recent vote by some 30 points. Now on February 19 the country is holding votes for a new president, the national assembly and a pioneering referendum on the scandal of tax havens.
As we go to press, the progressive candidate Lenin Moreno is leading in opinion polls, although there is great concern at the level of US intervention into the country and media misrepresentation that are no doubt seeking to bring the country back into the US’s orbit. It is incredible to think that in Ecuador’s process of progressive change (known as the citizens’ revolution) – at a time when we are constantly told about the inevitability of cuts and austerity – spending in Ecuador on healthcare and education has doubled. Continue reading →
The seisometers are registering something. Is it a tremor triggered by the usual grumbles, or are the plates storing up a major event? This is the problem when it comes to analysing the travails of the Labour leadership. With the irreconcilables tactically and temporarily reconciled to the present state of affairs, the cracks are feeling their way across the Corbynist edifice. Clive Lewis had to resign his business brief after defying the three line whip to support the triggering of Article 50. Diane Abbott’s migraines were the stuff of Westminster gossip. Owen Jones has cast doubt on whether he would vote for Jeremy Corbyn again, while doing his bit to big up our Clive. There is (unserious) speculation about another leadership challenge, and the papers recently are stuffed with grumblings – including leaked focus group findings checking out the viability of Angela Rayner and Rebecca Long-Bailey as heirs to Jeremy. Is this yet another episodic difficulty, or a sign the Corbyn era, barely 18 months old, is drawing to a close? Continue reading →
Youth politics can be miserable. The culture in NUS and Labour Students is particularly toxic and it is to blame for a generation of jaded and cynical young activists. The student movement no longer churns out leaders like Dutschke, Wilkerson, or Hayden.
It’s understandable then that socialists are reluctant to engage in youth politics. The idea that youth politics is irrelevant and indulgent is a common refrain on certain strands of the Left. It is argued that we should spend our time on different projects with more immediate returns.
But the reality is that youth politics is much more important than we think. NUS, Labour Students, and Young Labour have long been training grounds for future parliamentarians and bureaucrats. They do more than teach how to pack a room. Youth politics teaches a generation of activists what is politically possible. Continue reading →
Hoping for another sunny, balmy Saturday was too much to ask for. As Labour’s canvassing teams went door-to-door in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election last week, it was under clear skies and dry weather. Those same teams today went out in biting cold and a snow so desultory it couldn’t be arsed to leave even a light sprinkling. Still, neither work as meteorological metaphors for the reception we found on the doors.
Understandably, a lot of people want to know how it’s going. The bookies more or less have Labour and UKIP level pegging, and despite almost two years of UKIP decline at the polls there are people in the media happy to talk the purples up. Typical of this was Polly Toynbee’s latest missive, which reckoned Labour is hanging on by its finger tips. Perhaps had she done some politics rather than just write about it and joined activists door knocking she would have found a different story. Continue reading →
With the exception of Arthur Scargill, most on the Left agree that the days of fossil fuels must soon come to an end. We all know that it would be environmental catastrophe to revive the coal industry. We have to wean ourselves off coal and other fossil fuels but what will take their place?
The dream answer is renewable energy, but, as I will argue, this is no more than a dream. Jeremy Corbyn has promised 65% of electricity from renewables by 2030, rising thereafter to 85%. It is said that this will create 300,000 jobs in the renewable energy supply chain. This chimes well with the Green New Deal advocated by progressives since the financial crisis of 2008. Continue reading →
Even taking account the advantages of incumbency, the momentum, dynamism and confidence of Len McCluskey’s campaign to be re-elected General Secretary of Unite stands in sharp contrast to the lacklustre efforts of the right wing challenger, Gerard Coyne, and the amateur hour theatrics of the “grassroots” candidate, Ian Allinson.
What stands out is not only that Len can point to year on year achievement, but that his campaign is getting out and about meeting members in organized workplaces around the UK, where he is meeting a strong response. Continue reading →
A century ago, 23rd February 1917, Russian women marched out in protest from the St Petersburg factories where they worked to defy Cossacks armed with swords and took control of the city’s streets. In less than a week they had been joined by hundreds of thousands of other workers. The St Petersburg Military Garrison mutinied in their support. A rebellion led by women for people’s power had begun.
The 1917 centenary will be one of the publishing events of the year with writers from Left and Right battling in words over the legacy. The Royal Academy, the Design Museum, British Library and Tate Modern will all host major exhibitions of Revolutionary-era art. In October Philosophy Football, in association with the RMT, will present a night out at London’s Rich Mix Arts Centre ‘To Shake the World’ celebrating the culture of the Revolution. While during the day Michael Rosen and friends will host an event for families featuring the children’s books of the revolution. And there will even be a guided history walk to visit the hidden history of connections between London’s East End and 1917. Continue reading →
Local government finance isn’t the sexiest subject in politics, but it should be right up there. Councils provide the services and maintain the infrastructure all our communities, whether heavily urbanised or scattered across the countryside, depend on. And the demented cuts the government have foisted on councils have stripped services to the bone, and most noticeably precipitated an adult social care crisis that has seen the displacement of vulnerable people who should be managed by social services into hospital wards reeling under the impact of staffing and resource shortages. Continue reading →
Amidst all the wailing and tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth on the part of those who bemoan the UK’s decision to set its own course with Brexit, how many of those who regret the apparent breach with “Europe” have paused to consider the real identity of the “Europe” they seem to hold so dear?
To hear the way they tell it, the “Europe” they long for and feel such affinity with is the fons et origo of all that is good about our culture and civilisation. “Outside” this “Europe”, we will apparently be cut off from, and disqualified from enjoying, European food, art, music, literature and architecture – no more than a few lonely offshore islands, devoid of anything approaching European culture and unable to claim to have contributed anything to it.
I recall seeing during the referendum campaign a Facebook posting, from an emotional remainer, of an attractive picture of a paella, with the caption “And they say we should leave Europe!” Oh, the sophistication of the argument! No wonder mere plebs had trouble following it. Continue reading →