Bob Crow

Quick update on stuff

Quick bulletin on what’s been going on:

  • How is the ‘new politics’ working out for you? If you voted liberal, we hope this new way of doing politics that Clegg banged on about is pretty much what you feel you signed up to. We were told we were old fashioned during the election, and that what everyone wanted was a new way of doing things, beyond the old labels and battle lines. It now seems we’re cutting edge, and class war is back in fashion. Didn’t take long. So: are you part of the problem or part of the solution? And which do you perceive Clegg and his gang to be? There’s a clue here, where a Liberal MP decides to lay into a constituent for no apparent reason. Apparently questioning the Royal Wedding being part-funded from the public purse is an inappropriate thing to take up with a government MP. Arrogance of power kicks into action quickly, doesn’t it.
  • Did you see the interview with Comrade Bob Crow in the Guardian? It’s solid gold. Best bit? The interviewer sneering at Crow’s definition of class: Crow calls himself a Marxist, and as such is typically maddening. A lot of what he says makes sense – but then he goes and spoils it by saying something that bears almost no resemblance to reality. His commitment to the working class is passionate, but when I ask him to define the working class, he says, “Those who have to go to work and sell their labour to their employer,” which would apply to practically everyone, including multi-millionaire bankers. Why can’t liberal see beyond the narrow confines of liberalism? It’s boring, and much of the space given to the Crow interview is wasted on bourgeois concerns that are of no interest to Crow, or us. You need to read it, though. The interviewer, the always awful Decca Aitkenhead, seems to be labouring under the impression that Crow ought to have some kind of responsibility to TfL’s customers. Again, weird liberal preoccupations that bear no resemblence to the real world. Aitkenhead is now very firmly on Thee Faction’s list.
  • You might also have missed the news that Britain is now ‘more Thatcherite than in the 80s’. It’s a crap headline, and entirely false. The survey they refer to actually shows that we have no faith in capitalism’s flagship institutions – the banks – and have higher faith than ever in trade unions. But the bourgeois press report it their way, as you might expect.

Antidotes to the above:

  • Come and watch us sing and play. Saturday 18th December we’re playing at the Garage. It’s an Uncle Bob’s Wedding Reception reunion. Should be brilliant. We’ll be playing new songs – the sountrack to the fightback. Come along, listen, and dance. £6 in advance, £8 on the night. Wear your best clothes, as always. Scruffiness is bourgeois.

 

  • Buy our record. At Ebbw Vale is still available. £8.50 gets you a CD, a free slab of 12″ vinyl, and a badge. If things are getting you down. this record is going to make you feel a whole lot better.

 

  • Seek out a book called GDH Cole and Socialist Democracy by AW Wright. It’s great stuff. As you know, we can’t get enough of GDH Cole – the sensible extremist, as he tagged himself – and this book is amongst the best we’ve found on him. Might be tough to find, but we got ours from our very favourite left-wing second-hand bookseller: Left on the Shelf. We’ve been buying books from the comrades at Left on the Shelf since it was just an occasional, mailed-out, photocopied list of books. But now they’re online and full of treasures. Check out the ephemera section – if anyone wants to know what to get members of Thee Faction for xmas, we would all love some of those old posters and badges. But we digress – the point is the AW Wright book on GDH Cole. It’s great stuff, and you need to read it.

 

  • Spend the xmas period gathering together a huge gang of people to bring to our new club: the DDR of RnB at the Half Moon in Putney on 21st January. Treat it as a massive gathering of the clans. Imagine a room full of socialists, all dancing and drinking and celebrating, with Thee Faction on stage, and DJs of the calibre of Billy Reeves on the turntables. An unmissable treat.

That should do you for the moment. See you all on Saturday at the Garage. It’s going to be fantastic.

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If you nodded approvingly at this headline last week, stop moaning about today’s RMT strike and support the strikers

 

 

I suspect many of those who nodded approvingly at this headline when sitting on the bus and tube last week will have conveniently forgotten that these heroes are probably the same RMT members who they are today accusing of being workshy, greedy and anachronistic relics of a bygone age.

Safety requires investment. It requires staff. It requires people who will step up and look after the rest of us when things go wrong underground. Phone TfL and find out how many times recently they have had to ask tube staff to walk literally hundreds of passengers down tunnels because management has not been investing and corners have been cut. Talk to the hundreds of people who were walked down tunnels last week when the Victoria Line went needlessly wrong, and when a transgendered passenger went under a train at Kings Cross. Ask them who led them through the tunnels.

Yes, everyone is feeling the pinch. But that is no reason to criticise Bob Crow, the RMT or its membership for standing up against unnecessary and dangerous cuts. “I’m facing redundancy myself” is not a reason to attack the strikers. Quite the opposite. This is exactly the moment for us all to hold together. Cos, as we saw with the NUM in the 80s, they will take on the most radical unions first. These days that’s the RMT and the FBU. Once they’ve fallen, they can pick the rest of us off in seconds. If you’re facing redundancy, if you’re about to fall victim to the Coalition’s cuts, or if you have had to accept pay cuts or reductions in hours to stay in work, you can be sure that the comrades in the RMT are on your side. It used to be called solidarity. It has to cut both ways, or it’s meaningless. The RMT’s struggle is your struggle. If you’re a Londoner, this is quite literally true. They’re fighting for your safety.

TfL bosses must have panicked when they saw the Metro headline above. Because at that moment the mass of London’s workers might have put two and two together and come to what used to be a commonplace conclusion, but now seems bizarrely radical. We are all in this together. But they are not.

But they needn’t have worried. The ideological reprogramming of the last three decades is pretty much complete. It’s not your fault, brothers and sisters. But we desperately, desperately need leadership. We’re getting none. We’ve been divided up into tiny atomic particles, we’ve been told that class is dead, that we’re all in this together, rich and poor alike. And we’ve believed it, because there’s no one reminding us of the truth.

Most conversation I’ve heard this morning in London has been about how ‘we’ have ‘beaten Bob Crowe and the RMT’ by making it into work. No. We haven’t. ‘We’ have played into the hands of that mop-topped loony of a Mayor, and TfL management. ‘We’ are delivering victory to them. ‘We’ are making sure that management of other organisations feel that little bit more confident that they can get away with laying people off to increase profits and line their own, and their shareholders’, pockets. If bosses see that the prevailing mood is anti-strikers and pro-bosses, they will take advantage of it. Every time. ‘We’ are practically handing them our consent to further bashing of working people.

So if you felt last week that those 7/7 tube workers were heroes, go and find them on a picket line today and explain to them that, although they used to be heroes,  now they are workshy, greedy troublemakers, and that passenger and staff safety is just a smokescreen which covers their selfishness. Or, open your eyes to what’s really going on, don’t donate your consent to the exploitation of working people, and join a widespread fightback, within which the firefighters and the tube workers are just two small parts. It used to be called solidarity. it’s what glued comrades and their interests together. Let’s resurrect it.

Blame the workers. Obviously.

 

 

This poster,  outside East Putney tube station, gathered quite a crowd the other day. There was a broad mix of tutting and moaning, with a smattering of wailing and gnashing of teeth. The consensus? It’s all that Bob Crow’s fault. Yes, brother and sisters, the lack of investment by management that the RMT repeatedly and continuously highlight is, in fact, the fault of the rail workers and their union.

In next week’s instalment we will learn how the spotty youth behind the counter in your local branch of HSBC is responsible for the global economic crisis. We’ll then give you a report on how the archeology PhD candidate working the nightshift in the Texaco service station round the corner is responsible for global warming. Finally, expect a full-length package explaining how the students protesting the extension to the retirement age in France only have themselves to blame.

Tired of capital. Bored of its hegemony. Frustrated with the prevailing ideology.

Marx wrote the German Ideology (one of my favourites…) in 1845. Not much has changed, comrades:

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch.”

‘Nuff said, brothers and sisters. But do make an effort to resist this nonsense.

Class War

And so it begins. Can you hear the sound of battle lines being drawn? David Cameron has decided he and his class need to fight back against ‘vested interests’ in  the public sector. Those are, from what we can work out, the people interested in hanging on to their jobs, being able to pay their rent or mortgage, and feeding and clothing their kids. Meanwhile, Bob Crow, quite reasonably, couldn’t be bothered to listen to the head honcho at the Bank of England explaining to the TUC why everyone needs to tighten their belts. He told the BBC:

Whose side are you on?

“I’m not going to listen to Mervyn King at our congress. I’m all in favour of listening to Mervyn King after we finished but I believe it is to decide our own policy, our own platform and this is our opportunity to listen to workers.

“I want to hear what workers are going to say about how they are going to resist these cutbacks that are going to take place from the government’s austerity measures.”

Cameron and co, on the other hand, are going to challenge such ‘inflammatory arguments’ about the cuts. So arrogant are they that they’re even happy to accuse the Police Federation of being amongst these public sector vested interests! The Tories might have forgotten how much they’re going to have to rely on the police in the next few months and years. Expect apologies, pay rises, and a return to limitless overtime for the coppers as soon as the bosses turn up the heat in the class war, comrades.

Nostalgia of the Future, in this week’s podcast interview, asked why Thee Faction had chosen to come back now. It’s painfully bleedin’ obvious isn’t it, brothers and sisters? Nothing’s changed. It’s the early 80s all over again. A return to Class War, as declared by the ruling class. Time to knock us back in line.

Except this time we’re going to win. Let’s get organised. And let’s have a good time doing it.

See you on Saturday.

UNION!

There’s been much talk here in trendy London about the forthcoming tube strike. How dare those rotters and that herbert Bob Crow make our lives a misery?!

Boris Johnson. Dangerous clown.

Mayor Boris Johnson has confirmed that nine out of ten Tube stations face severe restrictions or total closure of ticket offices in direct contradiction of electoral promises he gave Londoners. A deliberate policy of not filling vacancies is already compromising YOUR safety with the latest alleged-scandal exposed by RMT on the Metropolitan Line where an incident report appears to confirm that stations are being left unstaffed contrary to safety protocols. In addition, the latest cuts imposed on Transport for London by the government as part of the ConDem ‘austerity’ agenda have yet to bite and the union has warned that many more Tube staff jobs could be axed with the London Tory group demanding that all 3,500 drivers and operators be fired and the Tube moved over to driverless operation. That’s DRIVERLESS OPERATION on a network that was built in the 19th century and is falling apart in places.

Bob Crow - he's on your side

Bob Crow from the RMT has said “This disregard for safe working practices will have dire consequences in the event of a major incident and RMT will not sit back and wait for a tragedy to hit the network before we act”. Scaremongering? According to Crow Tube bosses have also admitted that services are running on dangerous and rotten infrastructure as the government lines up further attacks on the budget and the tube upgrade programme. TfL have gone on the record to warn of the dangers of allowing trains to continue to run on signalling and equipment dating back to the 1920s. There is worse to come with the massive backlogs in maintenance and upgrade works.

Conservative GLA members staged a walkout in the London Assembly to prevent a vote on a motion calling on Boris Johnson to review plans to axe jobs and to close or slash the opening times of ticket offices. The motion called on Johnson to “reaffirm reasonable and safe staffing levels right across the London Underground”.

Then there’s the issue of diminished pensions. All of the BBC’s current three pension schemes are contracted to pay pensions which relate basic salary to retirement income. In June 2010 management revealed plans to limit increases to 1% a year. This tears up the BBC’s contract with staff by destroying the realtionship between basic income and earnings in reirement, effectively making them worthless. This is because the pension fund by its very nature was gambled on the markets and has a massive shortfall: the money’s gone. Should BBC staff accept this?

The fortunate who have a job are scared witless of losing it, particularly since unemployment is now so often a prelude to losing one’s home. From the Government’s and the Capitalist’s point of view, this is unadulterated good news.

Yet people are still willing to walk out and risk everything, if they can find a path through the legal labyrinth to do it. Why? It’s not the money. For a low-paid hospital worker, the difference between a 1 per cent rise and 3 per cent may be worth having, but it is surely not enough to put your job at hazard and lose a good deal more income while doing it….?

Strikes are very rarely about pay anyway. It’s often really about bad industrial relations or bloody-minded management or low morale.

Strikes are a good thing. They are an index of freedom in advanced industrial societies. Strikes can shake the world, or nations at any rate, and often for the better.

This is not a fashionable view of the world, certainly not nowadays. Because it is also true that strikes can be divisive, humiliating and, in material terms, extremely damaging to those who take part in them.

But people still want to do it, or at least want to have the right to do it.

Is this the reversal, or a slowing down of recent trends? The UK strike rate used to be well ahead of the average for industrialised nations, but in the last two decades it has fallen sharply; well behind the likes of Canada, Australia, Spain, and Denmark. Our strike rate has been consistently below the European Union average for 10 years. In some years, even the Germans strike more often. The Greeks are the most strike-happy.

The Tory Employment Secretaries of the ’80s and ’90s tried to knacker YOUR RIGHTS at work. There were eight trade union acts between 1980 and 1992 – each narrowing further the scope of trade union powers and making it harder and harder to mount a lawful industrial stoppage.

Jack Jones, the sexy Transport Union leader and post-war colossus of the labour movement, once warned that dullard Edward Heath’s ill-fated 1971 Industrial Relations Act would “bring a swarm of black-coated lawyers into industrial relations”. His prediction has come true. It only takes one member not to get a ballot paper, or one non-member to get a ballot paper, and the employer can get an injunction. By a thousand and one such Lilliputian legal strands is the strength of organised labour held down. It matters not that the RMT had voted overwhelmingly for a strike in a secret postal ballot, LU still injuncted them.

Thee Faction deplores recent court cases against trade unionists that have voted overwhelmingly for action to defend safety, jobs and conditions only for the courts to rule out strikes on stupid little technicalities. This wave of litigation by the employers is part of a new push from the bosses to get the new government to ban strike action even further. With public spending cuts set to intensify this autumn there is no doubt that the government and the employers will see the anti-union laws as a weapon to choke off resistance to cuts in jobs and services. Now is the perfect time for folk to rally round and defend the basic right to defend jobs, standards of living and public services.

Thee Faction support MP John McDonnell’s Private Members Bill which seeks to eliminate attempts to sabotage strike ballots in the Courts.

Thee Faction believe the picket line should not be crossed: this is a fundamental social contract akin to getting your round in.

Because.. almost all the rights we enjoy at work and as part of our current ‘democracy’ have been won by union campaigning and the Labour movement as a whole. The union makes us strong and gets things done. What force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one?

Every day unions help thousands of people at work. Last year unions won a record £330 million compensation for their members. They won £1 million in equal pay claims – an average of £15,000 per member. And of course unions help negotiate better pay and conditions. Ask yourself “where we would be without the Trades Union Movement?”

Unions are not just there when something goes wrong. Unionised workplaces are safer, and more likely to help employees get on with better training and development programmes. And in the best workplaces employers and unions have put behind them outdated ideas of confrontation and work together in partnership.

Partnership employers recognise that staff morale and commitment are improved when they are treated well, have their views taken into account and enjoy job security. And in return staff take more pride in their work and are more ready to embrace the changes modern firms often need to compete. Unions take on the bad employers, and work with the good to make them better.

Visit www.worksmart.org. Unions are about people working together, so it ALWAYS makes sense to JOIN A UNION.