Sectarianism

Sectarianism

This article is a review of Anatomy of the Micro-Sect, by Hal Draper, dated 1973. It thus refers to political sectarianism. I was particularly taken by this quote,

What characterizes the classic sect was best defined by Marx himself: it counterposes its sect criterion of programmatic points against the real movement of the workers in the class struggle, which may not measure up to its high demands. The touchstone of support (the “point d’honneur,” in Marx’s words) is conformity with the sect’s current shibboleths – whatever they may be, including programmatic points good in themselves. The approach pointed by Marx was different: without giving up or concealing one’s own programmatic politics in the slightest degree, the real Marxist looks to the lines of struggle calculated to move decisive sectors of the class into action – into movement against the established powers of the system (state and bourgeoisie and their agents, including their labor lieutenants inside the workers’ movement). And for Marx, it is this reality of social (class) collision which will work to elevate the class’s consciousness to the level of the socialist movement’s program.

There’s more below/overleaf, including a commentary on the featured image. … …

Class Wargames, a review

Class Wargames, a review

I read Richard Barbrook’s “Class Wargames” having played his referendum game. I was unprepared for two chapters on the history of the Situationist International. The book has been inspired by Guy Debord’s Game of War; I had assumed that Richard was fascinated by games for the same reason that managements are, that one learns quicker by doing than by listening but his enthusim and praxis comes from the tactics of the Situationist Intentional. He categorises the tactics as provocation, détournement, urbanism & participatory creativity and while it’s a bit difficult to see how war games is a tactic of urbanism, it’s clear to me how the others fit in by challenging the states monopoly of military knowledge and strategy, the revisiting of military history and the liberation effects of personal participation. Anyway everyone, or nearly everyone enjoys a good board or table top game.

The “Game of War” is simple, some might argue overly so and would seem a bit too like chess although Debord argued that it was good enough, or better than that.  …

Class Struggle 1939-1945, & Elbe Day

I was pointed at this review of, Chris Bambery’s book The Second World War: A Marxist History (2014) which takes a different from normal view of the politics & the history of politics of the second world war; the story where the people’s of the last democracies in Europe united with the United States to fight its fascist blight. I wrote a little review of the review and posted it on my wiki, in an article called “Class Struggle 1939 – 1945”. The wiki article looks at the US financial contribution to the Allied war effort, the Tory Party, even Churchill’s, ambivalence in fighting fascism, and US Capitalism’s contribution to the fascist victory in Spain. The review is more comprehensive and the book would seem to be even more so.

While looking for pictures to decorate the wiki article, I looked at my David Low cartoon book to see if there was one cartoon that would work to be used to decorate my article and my review but Low was contemporaneous with the events and reproducing pages for the book is hard to do with quality of my lockdown IT. In the book, Low draws a cartoon to mark the meeting of the US & Soviet forces on the Elbe on 25th April 1945. Low’s cartoon is typical of his portrayal of allied solidiers but on looking I found this image, published in an article about the 70th anniversary of Elbe Day which I assume from the article is still celebrated in Russia.

 

 

While I think this is a fabulous picture illustrating the penultimate phase of the war against Nazi Germany in Europe, and the, at least, short lived solidarity between the US and Soviet soldiery I wanted to find something closer to Low’s cartoon with a bit more of a personal voice.

 

 …

Automating the professionals

Automating the professionals

I attended a seminar the other day which raised some questions in my mind about the next and prior waves of automation, the location of value creation and the legal/social barriers to adoption. Much is spoken of the use of artificial intelligence to augment or replace professional workers and this note briefly looks at this. It examines the nature of decisions and the need to transparently serve a human rights agenda, the question of regulation and assessment by one’s peers, and why it’s so hard to organise Trade Unions amongst the software authors. …

Labour and the knife, fork & spoon

While younger,  the Labour Party used a symbol of a pen & shovel and the torch of liberty, that when stylised became known as the knife, the fork and spoon. You can work it out.

And since I am doing this, Clause IV group of Labour students used the PSOE’s Rose & Fist, which became more widely adopted including by IUSY. It was also adopted by the UK’s Labour and pro-EEC campaigners much to the probable chagrin of the Clause IV leadership who were mostly campaigners for leaving the EEC.

 …

Safe and Equal

A comrade writes,

I think the demand to raise SSP is very weak. the only way of maximising the chance workers will selfisolate when they have signs of Coronavirus infection is to ensure they can take leave on full pay. the demand for all outsourced NHS workers to get full pay if they need to selfisolate (contained in this letter) was implemented by NHS bosses in early march and has existed for substantive staff before then so that bit doesn’t make sense. agency workers in nhs still dont get full pay to selfisolate which is a problem and there is an issue of whether outsourced workers know about this provision. but the big problem on sick pay is in the care sector where almost half a million care workers have no occupational sick pay and are working with people most likely to die if they get the virus. It’s also a big problem in supermarkets, logistics and delivery sectors and manufacturing, including food manufacturing. the government is very vulnerable on this issue but labour and the unions (apart from a few exceptions pcs, rmt, unison north west region) are very weak. more on this here: www.safeandequal.org

I am of the view that SSP must become a state benefit (and increased) but the writing above addresses the short term issues about UK public health and the adverse impact that low wages has on the decisions to self-isolate and co-operate with the lockdown. ( The quote refers to a letter that I do not have.) …

A note on redundancy

There’s redundancies coming! I wrote a short piece on our Union branch web site, emphasising the need for speed; the consultation period is only 45 days now. I briefly touch on the issue of economic viability; for redundancies to be legal and fair, the work must have gone or about to go. It will be harder to argue that jobs under threat are viable while CV19 is looking over the economy like a black rain cloud. I also discuss the need for transparency and fairness in selecting people for redundancy in cases where judgement is required. (Some business units may be reducing in size and so there remains the opportunity stay in employment for some, in these cases the decision must be fair, impersonal and transparent. …

Politics matters, even against a disease

Politics matters, even against a disease

It would be odd not to comment on the CV19 pandemic. For various reasons I have been looking back at my blog and remember at one stage it was a semi-public diary. Because it’s my blog, this is quite abstract and very political, I hope that my readers are keeping safe with their families.

It would seem that the worst of it may be over in the UK, provided that there isn’t a second wave. The best, most understandable charts are held at the FT and I have posted a screen grab of the their chart as at 19th April 2020. These charts and the Govt. numbers underestimate the deaths cased by CV-19 because they only count those that died in hospital; those who dies in care homes or at home are not counted.

The figures are probably double the official ones.

 

Within the Labour Party the fight for the tone of Starmer’s Party continues with some, including, it seems, him saying that we need to be a responsible opposition, which it seems to mean is not to oppose. The role of Labour in Parliament must be to act in the interests of people’s lives and safety; the Govt’s response to the COVID19 outbreak must be held to account, and where wrong opposed. The lack of preparedness, the lack of speed, the lack of PPE, the failure to test, all in breach of WHO guidance, the stupid exceptionalism in refusing to co-operate with EU & WHO are all failures, and the constant lying are things that as an opposition we should be challenging and where it makes a difference seeking to get changed.

The lack of tests and lack of hospital staff PPE is a continuing disgrace, to which there are simple answers. NHS Staff are dying. At least the Tories have postponed their Immigration Bill, but the current Brexit transition laws on immigration and citizenship are driving EU citizens back home, which is critically effecting the NHS ability to operate.

Much of the so-called economic security measures are problematic. Firstly, for the wage subsidy there is too much discretion left to the employers, whether to declare work essential and whether to apply for furlough subsidy. Firms can only get the subsidy if the workers are not working; instead of furlough, some people are having their hours & money reduced which is causing real hardship. People, even vulnerable people, have no say in whether they have to work i.e. if their work is essential. This is all compounded by the shit level of statutory sick pay, which the companies often avoid by using bogus personal service contracts. Some companies fear that the lockdown and consequent slump will cause their companies to fail and have started redundancy programmes, where again the statutory minimum is unsatisfactory for the low paid, often being less than their notice entitlements, and certainly less than their bosses’s. (The notice period for consultation was reduced from 90 days to 45 by the Tories).  The support for the self employed/personal service companies is weak and the paperwork requirements onerous as is the furlough scheme. Not the least of its half arsed provisions is that this is only available to companies with a three year trading record and it only protects the average profit over that period; so it’s a bit amusing for those that have been hiding their income in a bloated expense budget, but less so for those with marginal profitability or companies started more recently.

Other factors increasing the misery is that Universal Credit is appallingly low, and there is a five week waiting period for it. This is a problem well known to anti-poverty campaigners, the only upside is that a bunch of people who have never considered themselves as possible benefit claimants are now learning what hostile environment means as they have to put themselves through the degrading application process.

Another under considered fact is that the Courts are hard to keep safe, they’re old and under cleaned and they have reduced their capacity s a response to CV19. This means that those unfairly dismissed will have difficulty getting justice as their representatives and the courts struggle to adjust with the extra work and reduced capacity caused by lockdown. The Tribunal notification deadlines should be extended.

Another group of workers who will suffer are those with less than two years service who will be denied any redundancy payments or any protection against unfair dismissal and will thus be more likely to succumb to threats to make them comply with reduction of hours or made to work in unsafe environments. Since the lockdown is to isolate the disease, these failures risk everyone’s health.

In the long term, we should be looking to see,

  1. Sick pay & Redundancy increased and made state payed
  2. The two year service requirement for unfair dismissal to be abolished.
  3. Universal Credit’s waiting period to be abolished, actually this should be scrapped and rebuilt from scratch

The final piece of the jigsaw, is aggregate demand. It’s one of the reasons we should be subsidising wages during the crisis, the economy will not recover if people aren’t spending, and the poor spend more of their next £1 than the rich. The government is doing this through monetary quantitative easing (QE) i.e. giving money to the banks; they have rejected a universal basic income as in Spain, increasing Universal Credit payments or even a people’s QE. …

Employee self-defence

Employee self-defence

I have been meaning to write an “employee self defence” manual for a while now, and something came across my desk today to remind me of this ambition. Here’s mine off the top of my head.

  • Always reply to management in writing and in good time.
  • Know where your contract is, make a good .pdf copy of it and keep a copy of any variations particularly if you work for a business unit that has been subject to a TUPE agreement, you’d be surprised how careless some managements can be in keeping good records. If you opt out of the working time directive or refuse to, keep a record.
  • While contracts can be varied unilaterally i.e. imposed, it depends on the wording of the original contract, if you object to the changes, let management know in writing, it can’t stop it but it may be relevant for future grievances or disciplinary processes.
  • Keep a contemporaneous diary and keep it off your employer’s IT; they can deny it to you when you need it or worse, amend the record.
  • See your Doctor when needed and take their advice, don’t make them look a fool. If signed off sick, make sure your appropriate management know and they have the appropriate documentation.
  • Tell your management if you are disabled or chronically sick, they won’t make reasonable adjustments unless they do.
  • Know your grievance and whistle blowing policy so you know who to talk to when you need it.
  • If you think it’s a grievance, lodge it, the least that will happen is that your case is in writing, actually shit managements might retaliate but your case is in writing and if they’re bad, it’ll only get worse anyway.
  • Know the IT use and record management policy of your employer; don’t break them and complain if others try and get you to do so too, by for instance, using personal phones or emails and whatsapp or twitter to discuss work matters. If an employee, don’t use your own phone for any work business; they have a duty to provide one if you need it for work.

That’s it for the moment but I know there’s more. …

The problem of the bureaucracy

The problem of the bureaucracy

Sky News and Rowena Mason, in the Guardian, have both run stories about a Labour Party document “The work of the Labour Party’s Governance & Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism 2014-2019”. This would seem to catalogue a conspiracy to subvert the party’s disciplinary process and even the 2017 election campaign to the detriment of the elected party leadership and the aspirations of its membership. There’s probably a lot to say, which I will wait to say, but I prepared this rule change last year as I had observed massive factional manipulation throughout the Labour Party and while this wouldn’t stop it, it would give the membership another avenue to hold Labour’s staff accountable to the values of the party. The document shows it’s needed at the highest levels; it’s a shame that no-one is thinking of those whose lives have been marred by the casual bullying covered up by more junior staff. I think the supporting statement needs to be strengthened. If the CLPD can get it’s act together I’ll ask them to support it, but you don’t need their permission.

Member’s Rights and the Nolan Principles

The Labour Party Rule Book 2019 Chapter 2 Membership rules, Clause II Charter of Members Rights, Section 7 (pg 14) reads as follows:

‘Members have the right to dignity and respect, and to be treated fairly by the Labour Party. Party officers at every level shall exercise their powers in good faith and use their best endeavours to ensure procedural fairness for members.’

Amendment

After Party officers, insert ‘, staff and volunteer role holders’

After ‘good faith’, insert ‘in accordance with the Nolan Principles of conduct in public life’

Replace ‘endeavours’ with ‘efforts’.

Supporting argument

All Party Officers, staff and volunteer role holders are to be held to the Nolan Principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty & leadership.

ooOOOoo

Image Credit: Comes from a telegraph article on McNicol’s ‘moving on from the position of GS of the Labour Party. (I would link to it if WordPress allowed featured images to be linked, I have cropped it fit into the blog, i.e. I have not made this image available.) …