Archive for the ‘Youth Fight For Jobs’ Category

Support the YFJ Jarrow March

October 1, 2011

Today marked the day 1 of the Youth Fight for Jobs Jarrow March, a campaign which follows in the footsteps of the famous 1936 crusade for jobs by Jarrow dockworkers.

Below is the post from the official march blog, read the rest and follow the marchers progress here:

October 1st 2011: Hundreds of people rallied and marched through Jarrow today ahead of setting off to London. Representatives from the PCS & RMT unions joined the marchers and spoke in support of the campaign against youth unemployment. Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror addressed the rally alongside Lizi Gray whose great-grandfather was on the original 1936 march. The march set off with the RMTs brass band and received fantastic support from local people as it passed.



London Rioting: The Tabloid Right and the Trendy Left Join Hands to Misrepresent Working People

August 10, 2011

“Only a blinkered left-winger fuelled by Marxist dogma could pretend that looting from a carpet store represents heroic blows against a racist establishment” declared Daily Express columnist Leo McKinstry to the ever dwindling number of readers his newspaper manages to either appeal or be given away to. Paltry as his readership may be he’s not entirely wrong. Even the most ardent supporter of the ultra-left would struggle to paint the pinching of some carpet as a classic revolutionary moment of proletarian struggle, without resorting to phrases such as ‘revolutionary moment of proletarian struggle.’  Yet both the ultra-left and the tabloid-right clamour to offer us the polar extremes with their interpretation of the rioting which has brought further misery to some of London’s most deprived boroughs.

Inevitably The Express and the Mail stand up for the largely mythical ‘hang ‘em, flog em’, deport ‘em – but not before cutting their benefits brigade’ while the ultras plumb the depths of the rhetoric they wheeled out for the student protests. Its ‘criminal irresponsibility’ and ‘opportunistic thievery’ here and ‘smash the police’, ‘London’s burning’ there. So familiar, so tired and so irrelevant.

Clearly the rioting was neither A nor B. There were no armed gangs waiting outside Carpet World in the off chance that a riot would grant them the opportunity to fit out their hallway, but neither was the violence a calculated or conscious rejection of capitalism in favour of a socialist alternative. Indeed it is the very lack of socialist consciousness and the very lack of that alternative as a viable option which leads to such scenes of urban violence.   

Through the damnation of the feckless represented by the tabloids and the lionisation of the mob by the ultra-left you can see the two frames through which the middle class view the working class when the mask slips.  On one hand you see the prejudice against working people which spawned the phrase ‘chav’ and the stomach churning impressions of teenage mums by millionaire ‘comedians’.  The disorder and poverty in these communities are a result of feckless irresponsibility we are told. At worst it leads to criminality and at best it leads to a life of sponging from the welfare state.

This is the interpretation which keeps a straight face when blaming rioting on individual criminals or even on Twitter. Brace yourselves, we are warned, the lower orders have the internet and they can now communicate instantly – it’s anarchy in 140 characters! No doubt, the skinny latte sipping blackberry owners feel as their ancestors once felt when the plebs got their hands on the printing press or the vote. Democracy and communication: brilliant tools for the well heeled and responsible, but a dangerous weapon in the hands of angry prols.

The worst offenders for peddling this overt prejudice against the working class are, as always, the professional bile spewers of the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, who are of course paid to flout artificial levels of conceit and malice to the least fortunate in society.  We shouldn’t be surprised when they lead the way in calling for water cannon, rubber bullets, martial law or capital punishment. It doesn’t even come as that much of a shock when these commentators start comparing rioters to animals, thereby du-humanising the disenfranchised with the sort of rhetoric reminiscent of the Victorian era.

What does come as a surprise is how quickly variations of these views are repeated by otherwise sane and rational people when events such as the riots unfold. Let’s take two examples from the world of twitter:

  • Hi, i’m British & you see those people rioting out in the streets? Yeah? Well they’re chavs, the most hated people in the UK.
  •  Good idea burning down your country to steal an Adidas tracksuit you stupid brainless chavs.

 Both have been re-tweeted multiple times, but now replace ‘chav’ with Nigger, Paki, Queer, Chink or any one of a hundred deliberately insulting words for a section of society and suddenly most of us would not only refuse to say it, we’d berate someone who would.

The demonization of the working class is truly one of the last acceptable faces of open hatred and prejudice. While such casual hatred has been elevated to the mainstream over the past few years, this lazy stereotyping has now been coupled to a very visible threat through the rioting. Suddenly it is acceptable to say you’re afraid that ‘they’ may come down from the estates and loot your house or that ‘they’ are feral or animalistic. Fall into that mindset and you fall in alongside Max Hasting and Leo McKinstry.

For the ultra and trendy left, a stereotype which also predominantly harks from the middle classes, the riots appear to be a glorious moment of theory made flesh. Smash Vodaphone! Nick from Nike! Punish the Police! To the trendy left the riots are considered some sort of conscious uprising, a raw anger of the masses kicking out against the oppression of the police.  This understanding could not be more wrong.

The rioting is not a rough and raw version of the working class self-organisation that we saw in Egypt when people spontaneously defended their neighbourhoods from the police or linked arms to protect Cairo’s antiquates museum from looters. It’s the very inverse.  Far from a glorious insurrection, rioting demonstrates the very depths that capitalism can push people to. It’s the violent, selfish and angry side of the very system we’re looking to overthrow. Rioting is the worst face of capitalism, something socialists want to abolish, not encourage.

Another justification from this section of the left is that the violence of the riots is tiny in comparison to the greater crimes of the system. “What’s the crime of looting a discount sportswear store compared to the crime of founding one?” the Facebook friends of one sect member were asked.  The other example being wheeled out is that of the bankers. The looting of Debenhams is nothing compared to the looting by the banks! Indeed that’s true, but it’s not the same. Capitalism encourages one but makes the other illegal and therein lies the point. A truly just system, which is what we are looking to build lest we forget, would deem both illegal.

This misunderstanding appears to be a world away from Leo McKinstry’s hatred, but is ignoring the reality of the violence to make it fit a delusional and glorified narrative purely for your own excitement really any better than condemning it with hateful rhetoric in order to flog a few more papers?

The underling social causes behind the violence have already been clearly presented here:

While the only way forward is spelled out here:

It is clear that just as political and social alienation can lead the politically conscious youth of Madrid and Athens to the camps of the Indignados, that same alienation, coupled with the dire social and material conditions of places like Tottenham make these communities a tinderbox. This time it’s a police shooting which started the fires, but as austerity measures kick in this will not be the last time that we see the depths people can be pushed to by capitalism.

Workers and Students Unite to Launch Portsmouth Anti-Cuts Campaign

November 19, 2010

Over 150 Trade Unionists and Community activists packed into a university lecture theatre last night to officially launch the Portsmouth Anti-Cuts Campaign. The meeting, hosted by Portsmouth Trades Council, sought to use the momentum generated by recent local anti-cuts marches and public meetings to build a community wide campaign prepared to take on every single proposed cut.

To open the discussion on the way forward the meeting was addressed by Laurie Heselden South East representative of the Trades Union Congress, who said: ‘These cuts are a massive experiment. No country has ever cut its way out of a recession. These cuts are not being made because they have to be. They are doing this because they want to do it.’

However, after Heselden proceeded to read the charge sheet of cuts which the public sector will be facing he then outlined the limited TUC strategy of training union reps and building for a national demonstration in March.

In contrast Ben Norman, speaking on behalf of ‘Youth Fight for Jobs: South’ challenged Heselden by proposing that the campaign should back the PCS call for a national trade union demonstration before Christmas, a proposal greeted by the first round of applause of the evening.

‘The 50,000 students who marched to defend education were but the tip of the Iceberg, a litmus test for the nation’s anger.” Norman said. “If we wait for four more months before taking national action any march may just become a funeral procession for the jobs which will have been lost and the futures which will have been blighted.’

The Youth Fight for Jobs speaker also called for the campaign to be committed to fighting all cuts and proposed standing Anti-cuts candidates in the upcoming local elections.

Contributions from the floor included discussion on the

The meeting also elected a steering committee including trade union reps, student’s union officers, and school students from the Portsmouth Save Our Schools campaign and delegates from the Pensioners Association.

The campaign will next meet on Monday, November 29 at 6pm at a venue to be decided.

 **More to follow **

Southsea Community Unite To Defend Mosque

November 17, 2010

Over 60 socialists, trade unionists, students and community organisers rushed to the Jami mosque in Portsmouth on Saturday evening to defend it from a rumored attack by the English Defense League. That morning the mosque has been vandalized by a small group claiming to be from the EDL and it was believed they would return later in the evening.

Before the resulting protest Socialist Party members approached a group of football fans who were waiting outside the mosque with a ‘support our troops’ banner. The group claimed that they were protesting against the extremist group who burnt poppies in London on Thursday, but said they had nothing to do with the EDL. This group were later joined by around 70 more protesters many carrying union jack flags and chanting ‘England ‘till I die.’

The EDL had sent a small number of members from London to agitate within the nearby football crowd and attack the mosque, however while fireworks, stones and glass bottles were thrown at both the mosque and the counter-demonstration the majority of the protesters refrained from any openly racist chanting, opting instead to sing the national anthem while calling to ‘support our boy’s and ‘respect the poppy.’

In contrast the counter-demonstration in defense of the mosque continued to grow throughout the evening, uniting local trade unionists, socialist party members and Unite Against Fascism activists with those who had gone to the mosque to pray that evening. While some individuals briefly aggravated the situation by chanting about ‘Nazis’ and ‘Fascists’ the majority of the counter-demonstrators remained calm, simply refusing to leave until the police arrived and dispersed the protesters.

While the protest was directed at the mosque the true nature of the protesters’ anger became apparent when Portsmouth South Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock appeared, seemingly just to be photographed by the press. As soon as the demonstrators saw Hancock the chants and the singing were immediately replaced with chants of: “You betrayed us to the Tories” and shouts of “It’s thanks to you that people like us are on the dole.”

It is clear that while the anger of Saturdays protesters was aimed towards the mosque, the real roots of their frustration lay in economic desperation and anger with those claiming to represent them, especially as Portsmouth remains an unemployment black spot.  It is clear that until a broad based ant-cuts movement, which poses a clear political alternative, is developed such scenes will continue as this anger is misdirected and vented.

The launch meeting of Portsmouth Coalition Against Cuts, which aims to be such a local movement, will take place on Thursday 18th November, at 7.30pm in Park Building.

Portsmouth Workers Vow: Not One Single Cut!

November 1, 2010

“We will not accept one single cut! We will not accept one single job loss!” That was the rallying cry in Portsmouth city centre on Saturday as over 150 trade unionists and students marched against the cuts.

The rally and march, organised by the PCS union with the support of Portsmouth trades council, brought together activists from across the labour movement, uniting them alongside campaigners from the Students’ Union and community groups including the Pensioners Association and the White Ribbon Campaign against domestic violence.

Socialist Party member Chris Picket spoke on behalf of the Tiny Tots Campaign, a group of parents who are fighting to save a local nursery school from closure.

Chris spoke about the importance of uniting local community led groups with the wider trade union movement and declared, to great applause, that this and other demonstrations around the country proved the need for a national demonstration this year.

Speaking on behalf of Youth Fight For Jobs: South, Ben Norman called for a coordinated campaign between the city’s student movement and the growing trade union led action.

“Students are facing an un-holy trinity of attacks in the form of higher fees, education cuts and rising unemployment,” he said. “Only by uniting students and young workers with their teachers, lecturers and with public sector workers can we defeat these attacks.”

Other speakers included the President of the Students’ Union as well as several local PCS and Unison members from neighbouring local government offices.

This demonstration will be followed by a public meeting to formally launch the Portsmouth anti-cuts campaign on the 18th November. The meeting will take place at 7pm, at Park Building and will be hosted by the Trades Council.

Students Challenge David Willets to Justify his Attacks on Education

November 1, 2010

A delegation of students and trade unionists representing Youth Fight for Jobs: South have lobbied Havant MP and Minister for Universities David Willets at his constituency office to challenge the minister on the findings of the Browne Report, student debt and his government’s plans for savage education cuts.

Accompanied by a journalist from the Portsmouth News the delegation, comprised of members of UNITE, and RMT trade unions, and Portsmouth and Southampton Students’ Unions, picketed Willets’ office, and succeeded in holding an hour long meeting with the minster who  infamously declared students to be ‘a burden on the taxpayer’.

Clare Blackwell, a medical student from Southampton University , challenged Willets on his projections for student debt and his assertion that higher levels of debt wouldn’t restrain working class college students from going to University.

Clare also rejected Willets’ claim that cuts in education would be sparing, revealing that technicians and support staff had already been made redundant and that under staffing in departments meant that in many overfilled lecture theatres students have to sit on the floor or on walkways.  

Andy Waterman, RMT member and former Portsmouth Student, said: “Willets claims that his plans will allow students to pay off this burden of debt when they graduate, but the point he’s ignoring is rising youth unemployment, which is higher across this region then it has been for a generation.”

When asked if he accepted that under a free market system some Universities would ‘go to the wall’ Willets agreed, saying:  ‘You could have private companies taking over universities. It is something we have to think about. There are a range of possibilities. No government has ever been able to offer an unconditional guarantee that universities would carry on under their existing management.”

Aside from publically challenging Willets and gaining valuable press coverage the event also succeeded in building links with teachers and union reps at Havant College  ensuring that Youth Fight for Jobs continues to play a key role in uniting students and workers across the region.

Youth Fight For Jobs: South

September 16, 2010