On Thursday the 28th of April, about 50 people packed into a small lecture room for the first open meeting of Southampton Momentum at the local university. Apparently attendance would have been higher if there was not a scheduling conflict with a debate on the EU referendum. I went along with some other new activists from a near-by local borough and it was good to see some other left-wing activists in the party.
On the top table were Lisa and Rick Fricker, Alan Fraser (a GMB equalities officer), and University of Southampton students Yasmin and Phillipe.
After Lisa had outlined the core aims of Momentum, Rick (who introduced himself as a local shop steward) highlighted the 4 main positions of Jeremy Corbyn that he saw as most important; bringing democracy to the party (e.g. by allowing party conference to make policy), strengthening links to the trade unions (achieved recently with the FBU), winning elections, and bringing ‘socialist’ policies to the manifesto (such as the nationalisation of utilities and a council house building programme). Rick also made the correct point of how significant it is that Corbyn chose to use his first speech to speak at a pro-refugee rally.
At this point there was a quick break for questions. In response to a question about Momentum activists’ relationship with the local Labour Party, the answer was ‘we persuade, not threaten.’ I took this opportunity to say that I thought Momentum should be campaigning for mandatory re-selection and for workers’ MPs on a workers’ wage (something which Dave Nellist and Terry Fields did as Labour MPs until 1992). Although Rick agreed with the demand for mandatory reselection, he said it was something that Momentum would have to make a decision on. Jennie Formby (Unite representative on the Labour Party NEC) spoke from the floor and said she thought the current trigger ballot system was adequate – there was no response to the idea of representatives of the working class receiving the same wage as those that they represent.
There was also a strange moment when nobody on the panel seemed to be able to answer a question about what had been done in order to encourage young people to register to vote. Although Yasmin made a good point about not necessarily patronising young people as they have lots of the same concerns of older people, ‘Democracy SOS’ was the first national campaign of Momentum and I thought that a simple answer about flyering, etc would have helped to answer the question.
Phillipe was next to speak and was keen to put things into an international context. He spoke about 1.2 million people on strike in France against labour reforms and forming assemblies, the ‘Panama Papers’, introduction of negative interest rates, and global inequality. In response to this, he said, governments only have small room to manoeuvre – Francis Hollande tried to tax the rich in France and there was capital flight, ‘the rich can move their money around the world’, there has been a similar situation in Greece and he wondered if a similar situation could be imposed on us in Britain.
Rhetorically he asked, ‘I this due to corruption? Mismanagement? No – it is a structural problem’.
In response to all this we have seen Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, Podemos and the ‘remarkable’ Bernie Sanders campaign in America – Phillipe stressed that the Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon should be seen as part of this ‘anti-austerity wave’ and ended by continuing a theme of the meeting that everyone should join the Labour Party.
Yasmin is a first year student and bemoaned that the current generation is the first to be facing a worse situation than that of their parents, massive tuition fees, no home ownership, privatisation of the remaining public utilities, endless austerity, low paid zero-hours contracts during university and then unemployment and debt afterwards, forced academisation, junior doctors on strike – all whilst we face a housing crisis with many empty buildings ‘irrationality in the system’. Despite this, Yasmin says that the youth are only apathetic in face of establishment politics – pointing to the ULU rent strike and ‘Kent cut the rent’. Students must link with workers by attending picket lines. The Syria vote in parliament shows the ‘disconnect’ with MPs and the party membership and that we must fight for recall of representatives.
From the floor someone spoke of the hypocrisy of the government using the argument of keeping jobs to defend Trident whilst refusing to support steel workers at Tata and an interesting point was also made about how some of the guys manning the subs are facing a 3 grand annual pay cut in real terms and that many of them are thinking of leaving.
I raised the point of the Southampton Councillors Against Cuts group who were suspended from the Labour council group in 2012 for voting against cuts and since left the party and asked if anything had been done to have them readmitted them. They appear to be close to the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition but unlike other TUCS candidates they have both successfully defended their seats (they defended their seats for a second time since this meeting was held and even added a third member to their council group). I went further and said that Momentum should be calling for Labour councils to refuse to implement the Tories’ cuts. Whilst the government would sent a CFO to make his own budget, socialist councillors should try to help spark a generalised anti-cuts movement. I appealed to something which Yasmin had said before, that we want ‘a Labour Party not just in name, but in nature’. It may be a risk to stand against cuts, but is this a bigger risk than implementing them??
The response to this ranged from that we should wait until the general election in 2020 (not the actual words used), to laughing at the ‘rebel’ councillors for printing items about recycling bins in their local literature (because this is not something that Labour councillors do around the country?!) and that a CFO would implement austerity in a worse way.
On the trip home from the meeting someone pointed out to me that a member of the audience asked what Momentum’s position would be towards the EU referendum and that there was no reply.
“French unions have condemned a commando-style raid carried out by Brittany Ferries management to ‘liberate’ a ferry that had been occupied by dock workers in a pay dispute last month.
They are demanding an inquiry after the company’s chairman, Jean-Marc Roue, led a night time operation by 20 ‘shareholders’ to regain control of the Mont St Michel ferry to break a five-day strike by dock workers in the port of Ouistreham.
The vessel – which operates on Brittany’s Caen/Ouistreham-Portsmouth service – had been blocked by dockers working for a company controlled by the ferry firm in support of a 5% pay claim.
Brittany Ferries defended the action because the ship had been ‘held hostage due to the blackmail of a minority and the stoppage was causing ‘colossal’ losses. It described the pay claim as ‘unacceptable, given the very serious financial crisis the company has just been through’.
But dockers’ leader Michel Le Cavorzin said there should be an immediate investigation into the incident, claiming it could amount to an act of piracy. The management actions raised important questions – including potential breaches of port security and how the vessel had sailed to the port of Roscoff in the absence of most of the crew. The West France branch of the CGT maritime union has also expressed concern and has written to the transport and interior ministries demanding an explanation for the ‘unorthodox actions’ of the company.”
From the Nautilus Telegraph.
Taken from The Telegraph. This is great, would be good if they could be supported somehow.
Mandy-Laura Cool, 29, Charlotte Devaney, 34, Rachel Goodchild, 24, and Stephanie Pye, 30, are alleged to have enlisted the help of two male friends to recoup £42,000 owed to them by Curtis Woodman.
The women were hired to work as dancers in a room at the Embassy Club in Cheltenham during the four-day National Hunt horse racing festival in March last year.
It is understood that Mr Woodman, who runs a car sales business, had hired the room for use during the Festival.
But police raided the venue and closed it down, leaving Mr Woodman, 33, of Cheltenham, unable to pay the women the money they were owed, Gloucester crown court heard.
Six months later, on September 3, Mr Woodman was kidnapped, threatened and “subjected to various forms of violence” it is alleged. It is also said that he had a £4,650 Breitling watch and £60 stolen.
Prosecutor Martin Steen said: “There was, during race week of 2012, a premises in Cheltenham being used as a lap dancing club and some of the defendants were involved in the running of those premises.
“Unfortunately those premises came to close half way through the Festival.
“Some of the defendants were owed money by the victim. We say he was kidnapped and subjected to various forms of violence and threats. Items were taken from him in a robbery. It is not disputed by the Crown that the ladies in question were owed money by the victim.”
Cool, of Southampton, Devaney, of London, and Goodchild, of Southampton all pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnap, along with brothers Robert Morris, 26, and Alexander Morris, 22, of Southampton.
In addition, the Morris brothers denied robbing Mr Woodman of a Breitling watch and £60 in cash.
Alexander Morris also denied having a Stanley knife, in a public place – the Northway Trading Estate at Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire, where Mr Woodman worked.
No charges were put to Stephanie Pye, of Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. She was said to be taking legal action to recover the money owed and is asking for the case against her to be dropped.
Audrey Archer, representing Goodchild, said that she was also taking civil action against Mr Woodman to recover the money owed. The other women were already taking similar action, she added.
All six were granted bail. The case has been adjourned to Bristol Crown Court on a date to be fixed.
Afterwards, Devaney, a DJ, actress and model who apeared in the British film How to Lose Friends & Alienate People with Simon Pegg, released a statement.
She said: “On behalf of myself and the other girls involved in this case, I would like to state categorically that we are not guilty of this charge.
“In actual fact, we have been the wronged party and are confident the truth will come out.
“We are looking forward to going to court later this year to prove our innocence.”
There is a new communist project in London, check it out! You should also be able to read their new paper by clicking on the picture.
Angry Workers of the World – Circular #1 – May 2013
Esteemed Sisters and Brothers,
after a long and lost struggle with indesign cs6, we finally managed to print 2,000 copies of issue #1 of ‘Angry Workers of the World’ – you can find a .pdf-file here: AWW1_final
For the moment, given our modest capacities, we will try to develop a more or less regular presence of distribution and on the spot debates at following locations:
/// Warehouse/Industrial Area near Wembley (Tesco, TNT, UK Mail, plus warehouse where a friend of us works)
/// Stratford Commuter Hub
/// Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel (where a friend of us works)
/// Ocean Estate, Stepney (where a friend of us works)
This includes housing estates, big workplaces and urban commuter hubs, we hope that after a while we will find out how the differences between theses places of ‘proletarian concentration’ impact on distribution and organisational steps – it’s all trial and error. We will debate about the paper and about the why and how of distribution at the following meeting – come along for chat and pick up copies of of AWW #1:
Wednesday, 15th of May, 6 pm onwards, Larc, 62 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel
If you cannot make it to the meeting, but would like to come to the distribution or if you want to pick up copies , just drop us a mail and we hook up.
Later in May or early June we will have some more meetings.
a) Meeting to discuss the second issue, focus on work in the ‘health sector’. We have written up a longer conversation with a hospital cleaner and will gather other reports and general material on changes and struggle in the sector. We will send out a first draft soon. If you work in the health sector or if you know friends who would be interested in a discussion, get in touch.
b) Meeting with friend from Liverpool, who will report about the current stage of anti-bedroom-tax struggle.
c) Discussion meeting on concept of ‘workers’ inquiry’ – reading material will be announced, suggestions welcome.
For date and time of meetings please check out this webblog or send us an email.
Around 100 members of the Unite union took part in a 24 hour strike last week, walking out from 06.00 on Friday 3 May until 06.00 on Saturday 4 May.
From Manchester Evening News.
Unite says staff are angry at MITIE’s plans to slash their hourly paid lunch break to half an hour, amounting to a cut of £69.50 a month. They are also fighting proposals to chop their £20-a-month attendance bonus and are urging MITIE bosses to meet union leaders over their concerns. Staff will join picket lines outside terminals one, two, and three.
Dave Kennedy, Unite regional officer, said: “Low-paid cleaners, who work so hard to keep Manchester Airport clean for the travelling public, certainly cannot afford to lose almost £70 a month.
“Unite has remained committed to resolving this dispute, yet despite Acas’ involvement the company is still not willing to take the concerns of its loyal workforce seriously.
“Strike action is always a measure of last resort but our members have had enough – they are determined to stop this attack on their livelihoods.