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Test Dept

Test Dept


June 13 @ 6PM, firstsite, Colchester:
Followed by party at the Waiting Room
The legendary London industrial noise musicians Test Dept are presenting a special screening of their film DS30 at the firstsite on the 13 June.

Marking 30 years since the 1984-5 miners’ strike, DS30 is a political collage of sound and image. The film is set within the monumental structural lines of Dunston Staiths built on the River Tyne in 1893 to ship coal from the Durham coalfields to the world. Featuring footage of mining communities and industry along the River Tyne and of the wider mining community together with footage and sounds from Test Dept’s own archive related to the strike, DS30 reflects on the group’s nationwide Fuel to Fight Tour in support of the miners, during which they collaborated with local activists and mining communities. These included Kent miner Alan Sutcliffe, who performed as writer and guest vocalist on live and recorded material and the South Wales Striking Miners’ Choir, with whom they recorded the album ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ to raise money for the Miners’ Hardship Fund.

This screening of DS30 is accompanied by a selection of archive material of the group on film and video and will be followed by a Q & A with founding member Paul Jamrozy, who will be joined by Peter Webb (from PC Press), and Stevphen Shukaitis (from the University of Essex).

This event also celebrates the release of the book Total State Machine, a major historical document and visual representation of Test Dept, published by PC-Press. There will be a launch event following the screening.

Test Dept formed in the decaying docklands of South London in late 1981. The group made raw, visceral music out of re-purposed scrap metal and machinery scavenged from industrial waste-ground and derelict factories; a percussive sound with a political edge performed live against monumental slide and film projections in recently abandoned industrial spaces. Drilling, pounding, grinding, metal bashing – a Constructivist/Futurist-inspired soundtrack to the death throes of industrial Britain.

6:00 PM Doors Open
6:15-7:15: Film screening
7:15-8:00 Discussion with Test Department
8:00-11:00 Move to Waiting Room for drinks, DJs

Event page:

Stevphen Shukaitis

Autonomedia Editorial Collective

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Marx Memorial Library

Marx Memorial Library


The Marx Memorial Library & Workers School is holding the third of its four classes marking the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike on TUESDAY 2nd DECEMBER starting at 6.30pm held at the MML, 37a Clerkenwell Green, London, EC1R 0DU.

Joyce Sheppard, who was active in the movement of miners’ wives throughout the miners’ strike of 1984-85 in Doncaster, will lead an educational discussion on how the community was organised during the strike.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Marx Memorial Library & Workers School

37a Clerkenwell Green
Marx Memorial Library
United Kingdom

020 7253 1485


Opening Hours: Monday-Thursday 12-4pm



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New issue of ephemera on ‘The politics of worker’s inquiry’ released…

The Politics of Worker’s Inquiry
ephemera: theory & politics in organization
Volume 14, Number 3 (August 2014)
Edited by Joanna Figiel, Stevphen Shukaitis, and Abe Walker

This issue brings together a series of commentaries, interventions and projects centred on the theme of workers’ inquiry. Workers’ inquiry is a practice of knowledge production that seeks to understand the changing composition of labour and its potential for revolutionary social transformation. It is a practice of turning the tools of the social sciences into weapons of class struggle. It also seeks to map the continuing imposition of the class relation, not as a disinterested investigation, but rather to deepen and intensify social and political antagonisms.

Workers’ inquiry developed in a context marked by rapid industrialization, mass migration and the use of industrial sociology to discipline the working class. It was formulated within autonomist movements as a sort of parallel sociology based on a radical re-reading of Marx and Weber against the politics of the communist party and the unions. The process of inquiry took the contradictions of the labour process as a starting point and sought to draw out such political antagonisms into the formation of new radical subjectivities. With this issue we seek to rethink workers’ inquiry as a practice and perspective, in order to understand and catalyse emergent moments of political composition.

Including essays from Fabrizio Fasulo, Frederick H. Pitts, Christopher Wellbrook, Anna Curcio, Colectivo Situaciones, Evangelinidis Angelos, Lazaris Dimitris, Jennifer M. Murray, Michał Kozłowski, Bianca Elzenbaumer, Caterina Giuliani, Alan W. Moore, T.L. Cowan, Jasmine Rault, Jamie Woodcock, and Gigi Roggero; an interview with Jon McKenzie; and book reviews by Craig Willse, Stephen Parliament, Christian De Cock, Mathias Skrutkowski, and Orla McGarry.


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The Future PresentOUTUBRO

We would like to introduce you to the new edition of Outubro, a Marxist journal published since 1998 in Brazil.

From this edition on, Outubro will be published exclusively online with fully free access. Articles and book reviews continue to be published in Portuguese, and Abstracts in Portuguese and English. We believe that in this new format our journal will gain agility, ensure its periodicity, maintain its quality and increase its audience.

Despite the difficulties faced by Marxist journals in Brazil, October has kept over more than 16 years of existence, its financial, political and intellectual independence. It was the first Brazilian Marxist journal to publish its previous editions on the internet and the first to be indexed in several international databases.


Edition 21 (1/2014)




Material world: the myth of the immaterial economy

Ursula Huws



Marcel van der Linden


The working class: a contemporary approach under the light of historical materialism

Marcelo Badaró Mattos


The Prerevolutionary strike movement in Russia (1912-1916)

Kevin Murphy


Labor movement, industrial belts and people’s power: experience and class consciousness during the Popular Unity in Chile

Mariano Vega Jara


Slum´s evictions in the city of Rio de Janeiro: a nowadays history

Romulo Costa Mattos


Revolutionary party and its degeneration: Gramsci, critic of Michels

Renato César Ferreira Fernandes


Fetishism and phantasmagoria of capitalist modernity: Walter Benjamin reader of Marx

Fabio Mascaro Querido


Marxism, politics and religion of “a convinced and confessed Marxist”: Michael Löwy reader of Jose Carlos Mariategui

Deni Ireneu Alfaro Rublo


Book Reviews


RIDENTI, Marcelo. Brasilidade revolucionária: um século de cultura e política. São Paulo: Unesp. 2010, by Daniela Vieira dos Santos


SPIVAK, Gayatri Chakravorty. Pode o subalterno falar? Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG, 2010, by Camila Massaro de Góes


HOBSBAWM, Eric. Como mudar o mundo: Marx e o marxismo, 1840-2011. De São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2011, by Rodrigo Duarte Fernandes dos Passos e Diana Patricia Ferreira de Santana


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“Palmer’s superb micro-history of the Minneapolis General Strike provides readers with an unprecedented view of a Depression-era class struggle from the inside out. Revolutionary Teamsters offers invaluable ‘dancing lessons’ — still relevant today — for labor radicals and protest organizers.” — MIKE DAVIS, author of Ecology of Fear, Planet of Slums, and Buda’s Wagon


Minneapolis in the early 1930s was anything but a union stronghold. An employers’ association known as the Citizens’ Alliance kept labor organizations in check, at the same time as it cultivated opposition to radicalism in all forms. This all changed in 1934. The year saw three strikes, violent picket-line confrontations, and tens of thousands of workers protesting in the streets.

Bryan D. Palmer tells the compelling story of how a handful of revolutionary Trotskyists, working in the largely non-union trucking sector, led the drive to organize the unorganized, to build one large industrial union. What emerges is a compelling narrative of class struggle, a reminder of what can indeed be accomplished, even in the worst of circumstances, with a principled and far-seeing leadership.



“A stirring study worthy of the epic struggles it describes. Palmer’s account situates the creativity, seriousness, and heroism of revolutionaries and rank-and-filers in an historical moment while trusting that they speak to our moment as well.”

—David R. Roediger, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and co-author of The Production of Difference

“Revolutionary Teamsters … is not only a fresh look at a critical set of historical events in the history of both the left and the labor movement, but also an invitation to engage in a creative reconsideration of the relationship between the past and the present. Like any really good historian, Palmer reveals himself to be more interested in the future than in the past.”

—Peter Rachleff, Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota


BRYAN D. PALMER, Ph.D. (1977), SUNY-Binghamton, is Canada Research Chair in the Department of Canadian Studies, Trent University. His prize-winning monographs, edited collections, and articles on the history of labour and the Left, historiography and theory, have been translated and published in Greek, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and other languages.


ISBN: 9781608463794 / $28 / Paperback / 352 pages


For more information or to buy the book visit:

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By Seumas Milne

“The definitive account of the strike—the best book on the Thatcher era.” – Naomi Klein

“A terrifying, frightening indictment of the British establishment.” – Owen Jones



Margaret Thatcher branded the leaders of the 1984–85 miners’ strike “the enemy within.”

In this classic account, Seumas Milne reveals the astonishing lengths to which her government and its intelligence machine were prepared to go to destroy the power of Britain’s miners union. In this 30th anniversary edition new material brings the story up to date with further revelations about the secret war against organized labour and political dissent, and the devastating price paid for the Thatcher administrations onslaught by communities across Britain.

Read more:

The Enemy Within: The 30th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike in the Guardian


Seumas Milne is a columnist and Associate Editor on the Guardian and the paper’s former Comment Editor. He was previously the Guardian’s Labour Editor and a staff journalist on the Economist. He is the author of The Enemy Within and co-author of Beyond the Casino Economy.


“The most important exposé of contemporary political Britain I have read.” – John Pilger

“Riveting. It knocks spots off the usual ‘whodunnit.’” – Guardian

“An astonishing book.” – The Nation

“A tribute to detailed journalistic investigation … strips away the myths and lies.” – New Statesman

“One of the most remarkable demolition jobs ever.” – Spectator


Paperback / 472 pages / ISBN: 9781781683422 / MARCH 2014 / £12.99



To learn more about THE ENEMY WITHIN and to purchase a copy please visit


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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.


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


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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.


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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See below for Volume 3 Number 3 of the Workers of the World International Journal on Strikes and Social Conflicts.

There is a special issue, edited by Christian Devito, on global labour history, and an interview on conflicts and the archives of the labour movement in Argentina.


Workers of the World International Journal on Strikes and Social Conflict aims to be innovative. This journal aims to stimulate global studies on labour and social conflicts in an interdisciplinary, global, long term historical and non Eurocentric perspective. It intends to move away from traditional forms of methodological nationalism and conjectural studies, adopting an explicitly critical and interdisciplinary perspective. Therefore, it will publish empirical research and theoretical discussions that address strikes and social conflicts in an innovative and rigorous manner. It will also promote dialogue between scholars from different fields and different countries and disseminate analyzes on different socio-cultural realities, to give visibility and centrality to this theme.

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How are demonstrations represented in the mass media?  How do activists use new media to organise and communicate protest? What benefits do Social Media provide? 

The BSA Media Study Group and the University of Leicester are proud to announce a symposium called ‘New Communications and Demonstrations’. This event will showcase a plethora of valuable research in this field and invite discussions and comments on this topic.

A full programme for the day and online registration are now available at:


‘New Communications and Demonstrations’

Wednesday 13th July 2011, 10.30am – 4.30pm

Attenborough Building, University of Leicester



Symposium fees (Places are limited, so sign up early!)

£25 BSA members and Postgraduates

£35 for non-members


For more details about the study group please visit:

Please direct any administrative enquiries to the BSA office at and any academic enquires to Dr. Julian Matthews  


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Cambridge Scholars Publishing (CSP):

New Perspectives on Anarchism, Labour and Syndicalism: The Individual, the National and the Transnational

Editors: David Berry and Constance Bantman
Date Of Publication: Oct 2010
Isbn13: 978-1-4438-2393-7
Isbn: 1-4438-2393-7

This collection presents exciting new research on the history of anarchist movements and their relation to organised labour, notably revolutionary syndicalism. Bringing together internationally acknowledged authorities as well as younger researchers, all specialists in their field, it ranges across Europe and from the late nineteenth century to the beginnings of the Cold War. National histories are revisited through transnational perspectives—on Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Poland or Europe as a whole—evidencing a great wealth of cross-border interactions and reciprocal influences between regions and countries. Emphasis is also placed on individual activist itineraries—whether of renowned figures such as Errico Malatesta or of lesser-known yet equally fascinating characters, whose trajectories offer fresh perspectives on the complex interplay of regional and national political cultures, evolving political ideologies, activist networks and the individual.

The volume will be of interest to specialists working on the history of anarchism and/or trade unionism as well as the political or social history of the countries concerned; but it will also be useful to students and the general reader looking for discussion of the most recent thinking on the historiography of labour and anarchist movements or those wanting a comprehensive overview of the history of syndicalism. 

“This promises to become a very significant contribution to the ongoing debate. The book clearly breaks new ground by considering revolutionary syndicalism as a group of different movements (indeed, a “family”) and by discussing not only West European, but also East European experiences. All in all, this is an excellent collection.” —Marcel van der Linden, IISH, Amsterdam.

“This book is both a timely and authoritative reappraisal of anarchism and syndicalism in Europe, breaking new ground in its analysis of these movements from a transnational and comparative perspective. Through its focus on international networks and personal connections, it represents a major contribution to our understanding of labour history. New Perspectives on Anarchism, Labour and Syndicalism will be enjoyed by anyone interested in the history of working-class internationalism.” —Jeremy Jennings, Professor of Political Theory, Queen Mary, University of London


Introduction: New Perspectives on Anarchism, Labour and Syndicalism: The Individual, the National and the Transnational
Constance Bantman and David Berry

Part I. The Syndicalist Family

Chapter One
Uneasy Family: Revolutionary Syndicalism in Europe from the Charte d’Amiens to World War I
Wayne Thorpe

Part II. Militants

Chapter Two 
From Gustav Schmidt to Gus Smith: A Tale of Labour Integration (Hull, 1878-1913)
Yann Béliard

Chapter Three:  The Rooted Cosmopolitan: Errico Malatesta, Syndicalism, Transnationalism and the International Labour Movement
Carl Levy

Chapter Four 
Internationalism in the Border Triangle: Alfons Pilarski and Upper Silesian Anarcho-syndicalism during the Interwar Years
Dieter Nelles

Chapter Five 
Mission Impossible: Ángel Pestaña’s Encounter as CNT Delegate with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1920
Reiner Tosstorff

Part III. Movements

Chapter Six The 1896 London Congress: Epilogue or Prologue?
Davide Turcato

Chapter Seven
From Trade Unionism to Syndicalisme Révolutionnaire to Syndicalism: The British Origins of French Syndicalism
Constance Bantman

Chapter Eight
Polish Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism in the Twentieth Century
Rafał Chwedoruk

Chapter Nine
How and Why the French Anarchists Rallied to the CGT-FO (1947–1950)
Guillaume Davranche

Part IV. Interpretations
Chapter Ten 
Analysing Revolutionary Syndicalism: The Importance of Community
Bert Altena

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A Message from Rich Gibson

Dear Friends

The Rouge Forum Blog is updated here;

For those headed to San Francisco for the Uprising Conference next weekend, please email as to where you will be, phone contacts, etc.

Good luck to us, every one.
Rich Gibson

Report from Anon in France (10-18):

I’m exhausted.

I’ve spent the last three days going from road block to road block, together with teachers, railroad workers, truckers, nurses, etc. So far, in our sector, we’ve managed the feat of keeping the Arnages oil depot totally closed since Friday 4 AM!

As a result, all the petrol stations in a radius of 70 kms are closed, completely out of gas. I slept 4 hours on Friday night, 6 hours on Saturday, 2 on Monday … Today, we got the main Teachers’ Union to call on all striking teachers to come and help block all the remaining fuel depots. The police can’t intervene, because the truckers have established road blocks on the major roads leading to the oil depot. What is incredible is that despite the fact that there is no more oil available, and therefore that people are blocked at home, a resounding 71% of the population approves of the strike (according to today’s opinion polls).

The movement is set to last at least another week. I spent the whole of Sunday night with transport (railway and truckers) workers playing cards and drinking beer. It was quite cold (2°C) around 4 AM, but the railroad workers brought several truck-loads of “palettes” (empty wooden containers) and we lit a might bonfire.

Striking workers from the neighbouring Renault factory brought firecrackers and we spent the wee hours of the morning lighting them. Workers are determined to fight until the bitter end. Workers who chose not to go on strike are being encouraged to donate part of their salary to the workers of the most “strategic” sectors, especially the Donges refinery.

Personally, this is my 6th day of Strike. An open-ended strike that might not be the best way of going about things, the consensus now being that “revolving” strikes (15% of the workforce on strike on a given day) would enable us to hold out longer. The support from “ordinary people” is astounding. When we block a freeway, drivers often honk to support us, give us money, hand us daily newspapers, even though we are effectively blocking them.

I’ve decided to stay on strike for a further three days but to spend more time with my family, which is also what the union is advocating. Some comrades have spent 4 days without going home and the union is worried this may cause trouble with spouses, who are forced to look after the kids, which would further undermine our resolve.

All 12 French oil refineries are on strike until next Friday. Many depots are blocked. Half the trains (including major ones) are not running. Truckers have blocked the roads leading to the main production areas, and factories cannot function because they lack raw material and pieces (they don’t have any stocks of materials stored because they believe storage costs money).

Anyway, the mood is indescribable. Workers from every sector are united and determined, and for the first time, many workers can chat with people employed in other industries knowing that they share a common goal.

The only problem is, it will be hard, very hard to go back to work. But thanks to the government, people are prepared to remain on strike until next week. Then we’ll see.

It’s a general strike and a lot of ordinary workers I’ve talked to are determined not to resume work until the retirement age is brought back to 60.


‘I believe in the afterlife.

It starts tomorrow,

When I go to work’

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Human Herbs’ at: (recording) and (live)

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