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Daily Archives: October 25th, 2013

Knowledge

Knowledge

THE ELECTRIC TAGORE: A VARIORUM WEBSITE

Sukanta Chaudhuri, Professor Emeritus at Jadavpur University and currently Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, will be giving a guest lecture on Weds 20 November, 5.30pm, room G31, Foster Court, UCL.

All are welcome and refreshments will be available after the talk.

Sukanta Chaudhuri, ‘The Electronic Tagore: a Variorum Website’

This talk will offer a guided tour of Bichitra, a variorum website of the works of Rabindranath Tagore in Bengali and English. The site was created at the School of Cultural Texts and Records, Jadavpur University, India, and launched in May. It is by far the biggest literary database to date, with over 140,000 pages of primary material. There is also a full electronic bibliography, a search engine that functions as a hyperconcordance, and an innovative three-tier collation program, Prabhed.

Sukanta Chaudhuri, the principal co-ordinator of the project, will take the audience through the various features of Bichitra, in particular the new collation program and other text-processing software. He will also weave in the human story of the making of this giant website.

Kind regards,

Sarah Davenport

Centre Co-ordinator

Centre for Digital Humanities

Department of Information Studies

UniversityCollegeLondon

Gower Street, WC1E 6BT

tel: 020 7679 7204 | email: s.davenport@ucl.ac.uk

web: www.ucl.ac.uk/dh | blog: www.ucl.ac.uk/dh-blog | twitter: @UCLDH

Digitisation Perspectives - Ruth Rikowski

Digitisation Perspectives – Ruth Rikowski

**END**

 

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Stagnant’ at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkP_Mi5ideo

‘Cheerful Sin’ – a song by Victor Rikowski: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIbX5aKUjO8

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

Rikowski Point: http://rikowskipoint.blogspot.com

Volumizer: http://glennrikowski.blogspot.com

Glenn Rikowski on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/glenn.rikowski

Online Publications at: http://www.flowideas.co.uk/?page=pub&sub=Online%20Publications%20Glenn%20Rikowski

Teaching Marx

Teaching Marx

BRUNEL SOCIAL AND POLITICAL THOUGHT RESEARCH GROUP SEMINAR SERIES – 2013/2014

Re/Dis/Order

Following successful seminar series and international conferences in the last years, the Brunel Social and Political Thought research group will organise another seminar series in 2013/14: ‘Re/Dis/Order’. This seminar series aims to explore the different ways in which the constitution, transformation and negation of political order have been understood by some of the key theorists of modern political thought, from the early modern period to contemporary social and political theory. Seminars are open to all.

Term 1

Wednesday 30th October 2013, 4:00pm, Gaskell Building Room 239

State and Capital

Andrea Bardin (Brunel University) ‘Mechanising the Organic: Hobbes and the Epistemological Revolution in Civil Science’

Matthijs Krul (Brunel University) ‘Neoliberal Visions of Order: Theories of the State in the New Institutional Economic History’

Wednesday 13th November 2013, 1:00pm, Gaskell Building Room 239

Fabio Raimondi (University of Salerno) ‘Althusser, Machiavelli and the Problem of Political Power’

Wednesday 27th November 2013, 1:00pm, Gaskell Building Room 239

Sara R. Farris (Goldsmiths, University of London) ‘From the Jewish Question to the Muslim Question’

Wednesday 11th December 2013, 1:00pm, Gaskell Building Room 239

Fillippo del Lucchese (Brunel University) ‘Machiavelli and Constituent Power’

Term 2

Wednesday 8th January 2014, 1:00pm, Gaskell Building Room 239

Peter D. Thomas (Brunel University) ‘“We Good Subalterns”: Gramsci’s Theory of Political Modernity’

Wednesday 29th January 2014, 1:00pm, Gaskell Building Room 210

Banu Bargu (SOAS) ‘Sovereignty as Erasure’

Wednesday 5th February 2014, 1:00pm, Gaskell Building Room 239

Nathaniel Boyd (Brunel University) ‘Organising the Body Politic: Hegel’s Corporate Theory of State’

Wednesday 19th February 2014, 1:00pm, Gaskell Building Room 239

Jamie Pitman (BrunelUniversity) ‘Castor and Pollux? The Marx-Engels Relationship’

Ebubekir Dursun (Brunel University) ‘“Stubborn, Insociable, Froward, Intractable”: the History of the Excluded in Hobbes’s Leviathan’

Wednesday 5th March 2014, 1:00pm, Gaskell Building Room 239

John Roberts (Brunel University) ‘Beyond Flows, Fluids and Networks: Social Theory and the Fetishism of the Global Informational Economy’

Wednesday 26th March 2014, 1:00pm, Gaskell Building Room 239

Mark Neocleous (Brunel University)

Book Launch: ‘War Power, Police Power’ (Edinburgh University Press, 2014)

All seminars take place at Brunel University. Directions to the campus can be found here:
http://www.brunel.ac.uk/about/campus/directions

For further information, please contact:

Peter Thomas at PeterD.Thomas@brunel.ac.uk

Visit the Brunel SPT Research Group webpages:

http://www.brunel.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/modern-political-thought-violence-and-revolution-ma
http://www.brunel.ac.uk/sss/politics/research-groups-and-centres/social-and-political-thought
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brunel-University-Modern-Political-Thought/205393026150272?sk=wall

 

Other Brunel SPT Activities in 2013/14

Film Screening Series
(Organised in Collaboration with the Isambard Centre for Historical Research)

Paths of Shame: WWI in Cinema

1st October: S. Kubrick, Paths of Glory (1957)

15th October: R. Bernard, Wooden Crosses (1932)

29th October: J. Losey, King and Country (1964)

12th November: J. Renoir, La Grande Illusion (1939)

26th November: F. Rosi, Many Wars Ago (1970)

10th December: D. Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun (1971)

All screenings in Gaskell Building Room 239 @ 5:30pm

Organised by Alison Carrol and Filippo del Lucchese

For more information, contact:
Alison Carrol <Alison.Carrol@brunel.ac.uk>
Filippo Dellucchese <Filippo.Dellucchese@brunel.ac.uk>

 

Identity, Alterity, Monstrosity: Figures of the Multitude (I)

The process of construction of identity, both individual and collective, and the genesis of political subjectivity, are largely grounded on concurrent ideological mechanisms that define otherness: subjectivity, alterity and identity are the complex outcomes of one intellectual and cultural process, historically produced by the encounter with the Other, whether real or imagined.
Notwithstanding the effort in conceptualising this encounter in the global and multicultural context of contemporary societies, its historical genealogy is often underestimated: a genealogy that is rooted in the theoretical definition of the concepts of normality, abnormality, and monstrosity. Developed in the early modern age, these concepts have produced and keep producing their cultural, social, and political effects.
The main objective of this seminar is to reconstruct the genealogy of the modern problem of identity, subjectivity, and otherness through an historical analysis of the idea of monstrosity within scientific, philosophical, and literary discourses of early modernity.
During the first semester of this seminar we will focus on the radical alterity represented since the 17th century by the theoretical figure of the multitude. Hobbes, for example, develops the idea of the Leviathan’s sovereign body through the homogeneous unity of the people. By definition, the people is opposed to the conflictual multiplicity of the multitude in the state of nature. In contrast, Spinoza grounds the idea of a free State on the multitude’s conatus – its drive to actualize its own nature – and its right of resistance against the sovereign. This right is irreducible and monstrous, thus introducing the natural dimension into the State rather than excluding it from society.
While Hobbes confined the multitude to the edges of the political map, with Spinoza it takes centre-stage, becoming the beating and conflictual heart of political life. Starting with the indirect dialogue between these two authors, we will focus this year on radical and monstrous alterity – the sense of otherness and how that is defined – in early modern and contemporary thought.

Organised by Filippo Del Lucchese (BrunelUniversity, London and Collège International de Philosophie) and Caroline Williams (Queen Mary, University of London). For more information, contact:

Filippo Dellucchese <Filippo.Dellucchese@brunel.ac.uk>
Caroline Williams <c.a.williams@qmul.ac.uk>

Location: QMUL, ARTS TWO (room TPC) 5:00pm

Dates: 26th February, 26th March, 14th May, 11th June

 

First Published in http://www.historicalmaterialism.org/news/distributed/brunel-social-and-political-thought-research-group-seminar-series-2013-14-re-dis-order.-starts-30-october

 

**END**

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Stagnant’ at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkP_Mi5ideo  

‘Cheerful Sin’ – a song by Victor Rikowski: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIbX5aKUjO8

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

Rikowski Point: http://rikowskipoint.blogspot.com

Volumizer: http://glennrikowski.blogspot.com

Glenn Rikowski on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/glenn.rikowski

Online Publications at: http://www.flowideas.co.uk/?page=pub&sub=Online%20Publications%20Glenn%20Rikowski

Books

Books

NARCOLAND: THE MEXICAN DRUG LORDS AND THEIR GODFATHERS

By Anabel Hernández

Foreword by Roberto Saviano

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AVAILABLE NOW – http://www.versobooks.com/books/1410-narcoland

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“The most remarkable feature of Anabel Hernández’s brave and invaluable account of Mexico’s blood-drenched drug wars is that she survived long enough to write it… There could be no greater shame for Mexico should such a fearless and dedicated reporter come to any harm” – The Sunday Times

“Narcoland, with its explosive descriptions of decades of corruption permeating the upper echelons of government, leaves an extremely bad taste in the reader’s mouth about the state of Mexico’s perennially corrupt institutions… a searing indictment of a war on drugs she believes was a sham from the start” — Financial Times

The product of five years’ investigative reporting, the subject of intense national controversy, and the source of death threats that forced the National Human Rights Commission to assign two full-time bodyguards to its author, Anabel Hernández, Narcoland has been a publishing and political sensation in Mexico. 

The definitive history of the drug cartels, Narcoland takes readers to the front lines of the “war on drugs,” which has so far cost more than 60,000 lives in just six years. Hernández explains in riveting detail how Mexico became a base for the mega-cartels of Latin America and one of the most violent places on the planet. At every turn, Hernández names names — not just the narcos, but also the politicians, functionaries, judges and entrepreneurs who have collaborated with them. In doing so, she reveals the mind-boggling depth of corruption in Mexico’s government and business elite. 

In awarding Hernández the 2012 Golden Pen of Freedom, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers noted, “Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, with violence and impunity remaining major challenges in terms of press freedom. In making this award, we recognize the strong stance Ms. Hernández has taken, at great personal risk, against drug cartels.”

‘Mexico’s war on drugs is one big lie’ – read Ed Vulliamy’s feature on Narcoland in the Observer here: http://bit.ly/130bg1T

Listen to Anabel Hernández on BBC Radio 4 Today programme: http://bbc.in/16UkBKE

Watch Anabel Hernández on Democracy Now!

http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/1405-video-the-mexican-war-on-drugs-is-just-a-sham-anabel-hernandez-on-democracy-now

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Anabel Hernández is one of Mexico’s leading investigative journalists. She has worked on national dailies including Reforma, Milenio, El Universal and its investigative supplement La Revista. Her previous books include La familia presidencial, Fin de fiesta en los pinos, and Los cómplices del presidente.

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“Narcoland describes a disastrous ‘war on drugs’ that has led to more than 80,000 deaths in half a dozen years. This is a book that exposes how everything in Mexico is implicated in the ‘narco system.’”– Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah

“Jaw-dropping reading” – The Independent

“An ambitious and daring sketch of the political nexus that ensures the Mexican system of narcotics delivery to the U.S.”– Los Angeles Times

“While many Mexican politicians and officials merely pretend to fight the drugs producers, Anabel Hernández has taken a genuine stand in favour of the rule of law and decency in her society. [Narcoland] is in itself an important statement. She deserves our respect and admiration for making it.” – The Spectator

“Hernández’s investigation into corruption … traces the collusion of government, law enforcement, and military figures with the narcos back at least to the 1970s … Her book has sold over 170,000 copies in Mexico and she now lives protected by bodyguards.”– Enrique Krauze, The New York Review of Books

“Anabel Hernández exposes the most murderous drug organization in Mexico, the Mexican government. Of course, this level of corruption is only possible thanks to the moral and financial support of the leaders in Washington. Here’s the story the media never has the time to tell you.”– Charles Bowden, author of Murder City: Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields

“An in-depth, unforgiving look at the deep-rooted corruption that has allowed the cartels to flourish… [A] thought-provoking portrait of the crime and corruption that dominates our southerly neighbor.” – Publishers Weekly

“Rigorous, disturbing narrative of how drug cartels infiltrated Mexican society’s highest levels … Essential reading for a serious understanding of how the war on drugs is destroying the social fabric of South American nations.” – Kirkus Reviews

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Hardback Original / ISBN: 9781781680735  / $26.95 / £16.99 / $31.00CAN / 304 pages

For more information on NARCOLAND: THE MEXICAN DRUG LORDS AND THEIR GODFATHERS or to buy the book visit: http://www.versobooks.com/books/1410-narcoland

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Visit Verso’s website for information on our upcoming events, new reviews and publications and special offers: http://www.versobooks.com

Sign up for the Verso mailing list: https://www.versobooks.com/users/sign_up

Become a fan of Verso on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VersoBks

And get updates on Twitter too! http://twitter.com/VersoBooks

 

**END**

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Stagnant’ at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkP_Mi5ideo  

‘Cheerful Sin’ – a song by Victor Rikowski: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIbX5aKUjO8

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

Rikowski Point: http://rikowskipoint.blogspot.com

Volumizer: http://glennrikowski.blogspot.com

Glenn Rikowski on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/glenn.rikowski

Online Publications at: http://www.flowideas.co.uk/?page=pub&sub=Online%20Publications%20Glenn%20Rikowski

IWGB

IWGB

LONDON LIVING WAGE VICTORY AT CORPORATION OF CITY OF LONDON

The Independent Workers Union (IWGB) has secured a major victory at the Corporation of City of London winning the London Living Wage for all cleaners. The IWGB has waged a campaign for over two years with strike action by cleaners at Guildhall and the Barbican Centre.

This a real victory for the solidarity of low paid migrant workers.

See: http://www.demotix.com/news/1893200/cleaners-strike-barbican-calls-increase-wages

City of London Corporation introduces London Living Wage for cleaners and caterers

The City of London Corporation has today (25 September) agreed to supplement ten existing corporate cleaning and catering services contracts to bring them in line with the London Living Wage (LLW). The changes to the five revised cleaning contracts will come into effect immediately after elected members decided to adopt the LLW ahead of the scheduled renewal date in August 2014. The extra annual cost of implementing the LLW across them is in the order of £812,000. The three companies operating the cleaning contracts are Sodexo, MITIE and ISS – covering sites including the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, City of London Police, Guildhall and schools.

Separately, five catering contracts will be revised in line with the LLW and backdated to 1 September 2013 – the date they originally commenced. This will come at an additional cost of £117,700 per annum. The suppliers of these contracts are Sodexo, ISS, Aramark, Holroydhowe and Brookwood – covering sites including the Central Criminal Court, Guildhall, City of London Police and schools.

Mark Boleat, Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation, said:
“As a Best Value Authority, we are continuously striving to improve the way we procure goods or services. The City of London Corporation is committed to paying the LLW to staff and promoting it for contractors while delivering quality services across the Square Mile. We recognise that social value – as well as finance – should be a consideration when it comes to such arrangements and supplementing both these cleaning and catering contracts is a positive step forward.”

The City of London Corporation pays all staff in line with LLW, while taking account – like other organisations adopting the LLW – of the legal, financial and operational circumstances that apply when
considering contracts on a case-by-case basis. The LLW hourly rate currently stands at £8.55, compared to the current minimum wage of £6.19.

For more details visit http://www.livingwage.org.uk/

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

IWGB

IWGB

THE CASE FOR THE INDEPENDENT WORKERS UNION 

OUR RIGHT TO ORGANISE

The Independent Workers Union (IWGB), in our activities organising mostly migrant cleaning workers, has gained wide recognition and respect.  Professor of industrial relations Gregor Gall, recently wrote that:

“The IWGB is attempting to show in practice parts of the rest of the union movement that not only can what are commonly described as ‘difficult to organise’ be unionised but that they can be unionised in such a way where they play a greater than usual role in their own organising. But, of course, this takes guts and determination as well as a long-term orientation to do so.” (Frontline, an independent Marxist journal from Scotland, June 2013).

Gregor recognises it is true some union branches have organised cleaners:  “But what the IWGB shows is that so much can be done with so little in terms of resources. If the same method of using their greater resources was applied to their work in the sector by the established unions then, presumably, so much more could be achieved.”   

Our activity has raised important questions regarding present day trade unionism and how we organise in the workplace.  Including the very need for the IWGB at all, we welcome a serious debate on these issues.  The case against us was argued recently in Socialist Review by Sandy Nicoll – “Are ‘Pop-Up’ unions the way forward?”.  The IWGB recently debated these issues at a seminar hosted by the Independent Workers Union (Ireland) in Belfast.  It was a fraternal and mature discussion – a lesson for some of the ‘comrades’ in England on how to conduct themselves.   For it is clear that rather than engage in a discussion on these matters some people would rather engage in abuse, spread untruths and blacken the name of the IWGB.   We have sought to abstain from responding to abuse disguised as criticism and instead concentrate our efforts on the fight with the employers, to develop a culture of comradeship and spirit of solidarity. 

However the recent article by Max Watson ‘IWGB: Two small unions?’, and the stance taken by some associated with him cannot go unanswered.  It is not that Watson has articulated a view on important questions better than others or that he is a very important person due to his post on the UNISON NEC.  We are responding because Watson has openly belittled and maligned the struggle and achievements of cleaners themselves – directing his venom at the John Lewis cleaners and the locked-out NTT cleaners.  To read this from someone who describes themselves as a “Socialist & trade union activist” is beyond disappointing. 

Fabrications that seek to divide us

Before addressing the issues within and surrounding Watson’s article let us make clear in summary that contrary to his fabrications:

·         It is a lie that IWGB has a strategy “focused on recruiting members of other unions” or of “poaching”,

·         It is a lie that IWGB accused Max Watson and the London Metropolitan University Branch of UNISON of racism,

·         It is a lie that IWGB “attacked” Max Watson at the same time he was under attack by his employer, the government and officialdom,

Indeed until recently the IWGB has never issued a single word of criticism or correction of Max Watson’s statements even though we would certainly be within our rights to take action in pursuant of the Defamation Act 1996.   

It is the case that much of Watson’s tirades against IWGB arises from the fact a cleaner sent a private text message to another cleaner which included criticism of him.  In addition to his at times irrational and arrogant demands for an apology from this migrant worker, there is a more disturbing agenda at work.  Watson and friends are seeking to discredit the IWGB and to drive a wedge between us and other members of the Labour Movement, especially those unions who cooperate with the IWGB.   The decision of the UNISON United Left influenced by Watson not to support the 3 Cosas campaign for equal sick pay, holiday’s and pensions for University of London cleaners, who are poised to ballot for strike action, is testimony of the divisiveness of such methods.

Buried within Watson’s article which is peppered with personal abuse, is the more significant question of forming news unions – that is does the IWGB have a right to exist at all.  We are provided with an opportunity to address this before presenting the truth about the slanders against us.  

New unionism – renegades or renewal

The IWGB is criticised by Watson for not being affiliated to the TUC, that our “view is basically: UNISON is a Labour-affiliated, sell-out union full of right wing officials so there is no way we should join them.”  Facts show otherwise, for example Alberto Durango IWGB Organiser was until his victimisation also a UNISON Shop-Steward in the NHS.  We continue to have members who are also active in other unions including UNITE, UCU, PCS, RMT and UNISON to name but a few.

Watson is disingenuous in his modesty declaring “All of this stuff may be important to those thinking about the wider issues of red unionism or whatever. I’m no historian, and I’m not a dialectical materialist who likes to hypothesize with my pen all night and day.” This is after writing over 3000 words attacking the IWGB and posting on the internet he holds a Master of Research, Labour & Trade Union Studies supervised by the historian Mary Davies, and a BA: Politics and Modern History. Watson has publically attacked the IWGB for “Red Unionism”.  

History is indeed relevant though not his warped view of the old Red International of Labour Unions.  Watson’s problem is not lack of knowledge but his dogmatic view of historical development.  For Watson the current organisational form of the trade unions is fixed rigid, it should not be altered as to attempt to do otherwise would result in a creating a “sectarian personality cult”. But history shows otherwise.

Life does not stand still, and the development of our movement did not begin or end with the forming of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in 1867 or the General Federation of Trade unions (GFTU) in 1899. Our own time has some similarity to conditions which gave rise to the ‘new unionism’ before the upsurge of the years 1888-1914.  The “old unions” were elitist, there was bigotry towards migrant workers, unskilled workers and woman were neglected. Millions were unorganised.  The workers desire for change gave birth to new unions – the General Railway Workers’ Union (now the  RMT), Matchmakers’ Union, the Amalgamated Society of Gasworkers, Brickmakers and General Labourers,  National Federation of Labour, the Dockers Union, the National Sailors’,  Firemen’s Union, and the Industrial Workers of Great Britain to name but a few.

The view of the old unions’ leaders was the same as that of Watson and his co-thinkers – hostility.  TUC leader Henry Broadhurst denounced the new unionism as causing “disruption” and to “hound these creatures from our midst.”   The organising of the new unions was assisted by militants of the then radical socialist organisations, despite their own sectarianism.  A lesson important for today.

Many who pioneered or were influenced by the new unionism played a leading role in building the rank and file shop-stewards movements from 1915-1926, taking action within and when necessary independent of the established unions.  By taking a tunnel vision view of our history many of today’s activists, some calling themselves Marxists (poor Marx!) have come to view activity within established unions as the only acceptable option – completely ignoring the whole experience of new unionism and the Great Unrest.   

The case for a new unionism is relevant now

It was certainly true in the post-war period where the trade union movement expanded to 13.5 million members by 1980 covering 55% of the entire workforce, that there was little scope or justification for creating new independent unions.  Then rank and file/shop-stewards movements played a pivotal role.   But thirty-three years later the situation in the UK is dramatically different.

The number of union members as a proportion of the total 29 million in work, has fell to 26.0% in 2011. In the private sector the number in unions fell to 14.1 in 2011, in the public sector 56.5%.  The number of overall workers covered by collective bargaining between unions and employers stands fell to 31.2% in 2011.  The new organising campaigns like Justice for Cleaners that began in the 1990’s, was meant to start organising the ocean of unorganised workplaces.  Today only the RMT has continued with a sustained campaign of organising cleaners on the railways.  Elsewhere it has been at the initiative of local branches whether cleaners and outsourced workers are organised.   Amidst the deepening crisis of capitalism key unions such as UNISON and UNITE opted for a siege mentality of holding on where they were already organised in ‘brownfield’ areas as opposed to ‘greenfield’ initiatives.

This hold onto what we’ve got mentality has not halted the membership decline even in the strongholds of union organisation.  Indeed with 61% of all union members in the public sector, as outsourcing intensified from the 1990’s many of those previously unionised workers, such as cleaners found themselves virtually abandoned as unions sought to hold onto their stronghold amongst the “core” workforce.

Today union organisation hardly exists in the hotel, restaurant, fast-food and leisure sectors. The service sector, especially retail which has three million workers is similarly poorly organised; the union presence stands at 11% of workers.  At a time when 47% of union members are in professional occupations whilst the movement is failing to expand amongst three million of the lowest paid, “vulnerable” workers of the economy then the similarity to the situation faced by new unionism in the past is obvious.

The IWGB considers that there is an urgent need to organise the 70% of workers not organised and neglected by the old guard of the labour movement.  That does not mean abandoning all existing unions, we have never argued that. But it does mean recognising that the scope for new unions such as IWGB has arisen again.  This can be seen not in the more recent struggle of cleaners in London but the North Sea oil workers.

After the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988 the workers formed the rank and file Offshore Industry Liaison Committee (OILC) frustrated with the failures of the smaller established unions.  In 1991 they established themselves as an independent union.  They were denounced by the Labour Party, the AEU, EETPU and GMB and many on the left. Today they continue as OILC- RMT Offshore Energy Branch.  

This past and recent experience shows clearly it is false to put a barrier between the established movement and new initiatives from below by workers organising themselves.  It is equally wrong to consider the emergence of independent unions as counter-posed to a rank-and-file shop stewards movement to transform the labour movement.  

Solidarity or Slanders: Watson’s Fiction Pulped

Max Watson has an obsessive disagreement with the IWGB because a cleaner criticised him in a private text message.  This condition has grown worse following the decision of the vast majority of outsourced workers and others at the University of London to join the IWGB. The IWGB did not call on anyone to leave UNISON; this decision was an exercise of the workers own right to choose how they organise.  We defend their right just as we would a member of TSSA joining RMT.  We completely reject a mentality that views “the members” as a kind of property, one which sees sovereignty in a union not with the workers themselves but with the union as an institution.    

The decision of the workers at the University of London has been ably explained and defended in articles by Jason Moyer-Lee and Daniel Cooper.   Since the IWGB branch was formed there has been an electrification of the cleaners struggle at the University, coupled by a hysterical scare-campaign by certain Full-timers, alongside efforts by university bosses to ban protests and use the Police to suppress dissent.

The IWGB branch is engaged in a struggle with the University and Balfour Beatty bosses.  Our members are now prepared for a campaign of industrial action.  The UNISON United Left which Watson is a leading member stands for “Solidarity with UNISON members and other workers in struggle.” Yet the attacks by Watson on the IWGB cleaners facing banns and arrests of their student supporters, is in contradiction with these professed principles.  We appeal for the UNISON members to continue to cooperate with their fellow workers in the spirit of solidarity.  

Instead of solidarity Watson engages in slanders.  To strengthen his disagreement over the events at University of London he has fabricated a story of what were in fact very minor events at London Metropolitan University.  This includes contemptible attacks on cleaners who have stood up to their bosses.

LET US SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT. 

The IWGB is not engaged in a strategy of “Poaching”.  In the vast majority of workplaces we have organised there are no other unions, in some places the sub-contracted cleaners were not organised by unions representing ‘in-house’ workers; an example is the Barbican where we have sought fraternal relations with other unions and the GMB has shown solidarity with our recent strike.  It is true at St George’s, University of London in Tooting we had a disagreement with UNISON.  All the cleaners joined IWGB in a successful struggle against cuts and for the London Living Wage. One person joined UNISON; the employer behind our backs signed a recognition deal with UNISON and tried without success to break our union.  This was an exception.  

The fact is the 1939 TUC Bridlington Agreement against poaching between unions has long been unfit for purpose and regularly ignored.  What is needed is a solidarity agreement, not crossing each other’s picket lines and supporting fellow workers in struggle.

The IWGB did not attack Watson when he was being victimised.  This is simply a work of fiction. Watson’s obsessive disagreements pre-date his own recent suspension by the London Metropolitan University bosses.   

The NTT Cleaners Fight was a Victory

The IWGB in its past or present form has not set out to undermine UNISON at LondonMetropolitanUniversity. How did it come about that we have cleaner members at the University?  Watson denigrates these cleaners and their achievements as having been in “collusion” with the employer, mocking, that they ‘got themselves transferred’ and were wrong to claim a victory in their fight.    

In February 2012 the cleaners at NTT Communications, employed by Dynamiq protested – in response the entire workforce was locked out by NTT and told they would be made redundant.  The unity of our members stopped the dismissals, forced Dynamiq to agree the workers would stay together in alternative jobs, be put on the London Living Wage and relocated on TUPE conditions.   In the end all the workers were transferred to the Moorgate and North Campus site of London Metropolitan University where Dynamiq had the contract.

Watson claims this was ‘behind our backs, so in effect in collusion with the employer’ – is he seriously saying workers, who had never even heard of Mr Max Watson and not in UNISON, should have asked his permission to save their own jobs? Is he saying forcing an employer who wants to sack everyone to find them jobs with a pay rise is class collaboration?   Sorry, are you mad, Max?

The Patriarch of London Met

At Moorgate site there was no UNISON presence amongst cleaners, the other cleaners were very impressed by the new workers accounts.  But there was no decision to go on a ‘permanent recruitment drive’ as claimed.   

Our union did set out to work with Watson organising cleaners at London Metropolitan.  We had no plans to organise there at all.  It is no doubt true UNISON did organise cleaners in the past, it was also the case many cleaners informed us activity had lapsed.  The cleaners already at Moorgate certainly had no engagement with UNISON.  This is not a criticism just how things were felt by cleaners. 

Watson first contacted the IWGB and spoke at a cleaners protest at Reuters in Aldgate.  He offered cooperation – he also raised working together and “no poaching” – it was never on our minds.  At a meeting of all cleaners, Alberto Durango emphasised that there was already a union organised and they should be part of it – that is UNISON!   A meeting of cleaners was held which elected reps to represent all cleaners, regardless of their union membership.  One of our cleaners’ branch activists was one of them.  She is a political refugee with a respected history of activity in Colombia.  Someone who has seen close family members languish in prison and her own life under threat. 

Why then did Watson become so upset with us?  From the start we made clear to him it is important in working together that we do so as equals and with mutual respect. Instead we and our members were treated condescendingly.  Watson became incensed because:

1.      A joint union leaflet was not produced to meet his deadline,

2.      Alberto Durango attended a meeting with the cleaning contractor, and Watson did not know in advance he was coming,

3.      Some leaflets informing people who our union was had been distributed in the UNISON office – he was there it was hardly a secret,

All because of these minor things Watson was angry, telephoning Chris Ford arrogantly damming our whole union as “unreliable” and engaged in some-kind of campaign to undermine UNISON.  It was an over the top paranoia coupled with a control freak mentality.  

Watson writes that he emailed Chris Ford IWGB Secretary ‘to try to resolve our conflict at London Met’.  This is not the case.  Watson sent long emails which bore the hallmarks of an obsession with a text in Spanish by the women activist mentioned above – to another cleaner’s rep.  She also felt Watson took advantage of her poor English.  That was entirely her prerogative.  She certainly did not make the assertions in his wild claims

Watson persisted in arrogantly demanding this cleaner issue an apology.  We had no intention of engaging in a ridiculous hounding of this worker all because she was critical of the UNISON Branch Chair.  Indeed she was a member of the UNISON Branch at the time.  Does Watson hound other members of UNISON to apologise for being critical of him?  

Watson notes we were too busy with the John Lewis cleaners strike to answer him.  Firstly all our activists are volunteers who do not get paid time off work to engage in union activities and the strike at John Lewis was more important.  Secondly contrary to his paranoid fantasies we were not engaged in an organising drive at LondonMetropolitanUniversity so it was not on our list priorities. 

Watson embellishes his fable about London Met with a slander Chris Ford played ‘no positive role’ in the London Living Wage campaign whilst a lecturer at that University.  In fact he had only just started working there and was a member of UCU not UNISON. However even though Chris was a part-time PhD student who worked a mere couple of hours per week as an Hourly Paid Lecturer he was the only HPL in his Department taking strike action and encouraging others to join UCU. He was sacked and represented by UCU who considered he was victimised, losing his job and his student position. These facts Watson is aware of but chooses to ignore.

It is bizarre indeed that Watson should cite some anarchists associated with the IWW approvingly to attack us.  During a brief period the old Latin American Workers Association and Justice for Cleaners joined the IWW.  The people Watson cites against us engaged in constant attacks on us for amongst other things they thought we wanted to become like “just another TUC union”, we were denounced for having legal strike action, and “getting into bed with Labour MPs”, meaning our friendship with John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn.  And Watson thinks we are “laughable”.

Contemptuous Attack on John Lewis Cleaners

From his high office Watson not only belittles the NTT cleaners and an insubordinate woman who criticised him – but contemptibly attacks the John Lewis cleaners struggle.   In order to justify branding their achievements as “hyper-bollocks” he simply lies about the campaign of the John Lewis cleaners.

The cleaners of John Lewis in Oxford Street are 100% migrant workers from Latin America and Africa employed by the contractor ICM.  From December 2011 until August 2012 they struggled with the employers to stop compulsory cuts of a third of the staff and cuts in their hours.  They added to their campaign the demand for the London Living Wage. 

Having kept the bosses at bay for months, without a penny in strike pay, the cleaners took two days of strike action in August 2012, the first at John Lewis since 1920.  The militant strikes were accompanied by protests and direct action.  Poised to take a third strike the employers agreed to a settlement which saw, no job cuts, no cuts in hours, reinstatement of two workers, re-organisation of excessive shift-hours and a 9% pay increase.  This was followed by the same pay rise for hundreds of cleaners in John Lewis across stores in London.    At this time there were job cuts and austerity measures across the country, including many at LondonMetropolitanUniversity. Against this background IWGB Secretary Chris Ford was right to state the cleaners “achievements are not minor – they are almost unheard of in the current period of austerity.” 

For the cleaners this was a ceasefire, the campaign has continued for the full Living Wage and is escalating towards new strike action.  Instead Watson belittles the statement as “laughable” and even worse condemning the cleaners as giving in when they should have won writing that “others had been winning the Living Wage elsewhere and to be quite honest, with an employer like John Lewis? Talk about open goal missed.”  

By any decent trade unionists standards Watson’s statement is contemptible – Max Watson writes that of the John Lewis dispute: “If that is not hyper-bollocks then my name is Jim Larkin.”  No your not – perhaps a word from the Mad Max of the big screen: “Look, any longer out on that road and I’m one of them, a terminal psychotic, except that I’ve got this bronze badge that says that I’m one of the good guys.” Indeed.

Our movement is at a crossroads, we urgently need a new unionism which meets the challenges of the 21st Century, the seeds of that new unionism are germinating in the struggles of today – the IWGB is a part of this process and we urge genuine trade unionists to support and assist the Independent Workers Union.

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Posted here by Glenn Rikowski