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Britain Needs a Pay Rise 18th October: on the impact of demonstrations

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2014 by kmflett

Britain Needs A Pay Rise, 18th October: on the impact of demonstrations

Articles appear regularly in the Financial Times noting that while the number of people in employment has risen- albeit these are often part time or self employed workers-wage levels mostly have not.

There are several results of this. One is that the economy has not recovered as quickly as might be thought. Many don’t have the extra cash to spend that would boost it. Another is that tax revenues are below forecast levels. That is partly because Government cut taxes for big business and a number of well-known Companies pay little or no tax anyway. It is also because if your wages aren’t going up then neither is the amount of tax you pay- adjustments by the Chancellor notwithstanding.

So the Britain Needs a Pay Rise demonstrations organised by the TUC in Belfast, London and Glasgow were well timed.

How big were they? I have no accurate idea. I was on the London demonstration. I arrived at Embankment a little after 11am- the advertised assembly time. By 1pm the section of the march we were in [by no means the back] had got has far as Embankment tube station. For those unfamiliar with the geography of central London that is a few hundred yards.

By getting on for 2pm [the march by then was passing through Trafalgar Square, the head had been in Hyde Park a while] I needed a toilet, wi-fi and coffee break.

Heading back on to the march disaster struck. Like the letter writer in EP Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class, my spectacles broke. Unlike him, but like John Hegley, I had a spare pair. In the process I got diverted into the Maille mustard shop on Piccadilly.

Anyway, the police have officially given up estimating numbers on marches [apparently]. The TUC have claimed 80-90,000 in London and some on social media suggested 150,000.

The point is, it was a large march about an important issue- truly representative of a lot of grassroots feeling up and down the country, to make an impact. Meanwhile guess what the Twitter feed of that well known alleged representative of the dispossessed, UKIP, had to say about the march. You’re right of course. Absolutely nothing.

There are reasons why it is so hard to assess what the numbers are like on large marches. You can guesstimate how many it takes to fill a certain space, or how long a march takes to pass a certain spot. But on such large and slow moving marches those on it ebb and flow all the time.

I spent a fair time on the march talking to a senior officer of my union about internal union affairs. A slow moving march is an ideal time for such a conversation.

When I dipped out for a pee I saw, as is always the case, numbers of marchers walking around, perhaps also going to the toilet, having a coffee or just meeting up with friends.

The point I’m making is that large marches are of course political occasions but social ones too where what is now called ‘networking’ takes place.

The impact of the march was enough anyway to get mainstream media coverage. It wasn’t just the size but the timing and the subject that drove that. Well done then to all those that organised the marches on 18th October. Hard work paid off.

If however anyone imagines that holding a march will be enough to sort out the problem of a lack of wage increases they will be sadly disappointed. Going on marches is not enough in days like these.

Articles

Moeen Ali, Leonard Cohen, Tim Howard & Roy Keane. Vote for Beard of Autumn

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2014 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

Press Release 18th October Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

 

Roy Keane on Beard of Autumn Shortlist despite shaving

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that Roy Keane of Aston Villa FC has secured his place on the Beard of Autumn shortlist despite his decision to shave his beard ahead of Ireland’s European Championship game against Gibraltar last Saturday.

Keane has a history of suddenly shaving his beard but the campaigners say that the four seasonal awards run each year are designed to capture in particular those who have noteworthy but transient beards.

Keene will face England cricket Moeen Ali, veteran singer Leonard Cohen and Everton goal keeper Tim Howard after they topped an on-line poll to determine the shortlist

The Award is the final one of four seasonal Awards before the announcement of the coveted Beard of the Year Award at the end of December.

The Quarterly Awards focus on beards who have made an impact in the public eye during the three month period.

The winner will be proclaimed on 24th October after a poll of BLF supporters and a public vote via social media

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said Keane’s beard may be gone but its Beard Power is clearly still a significant presence on the Beard of Autumn poll

 

Beard of Autumn Shortlist

Votes for the Shortlist are open until 6pm on Thursday 23rd October. The winner will be announced on Friday 24th October

Moeen Ali, Top performing England cricketer

Leonard Cohen, Performer

Tim Howard, Everton goalkeeper

Roy Keane, Aston Villa FC manager

Articles

Beard of the Dead at Tottenham Ploughman’s Day of the Dead

In Uncategorized on October 17, 2014 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front
press release 17th October
Contact keith flett 07803 167266
_____________________________________________________
BEARD OF THE DEAD AT TOTTENHAM PLOUGHMAN’S DAY OF THE DEAD

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that it plans a competition for the Beard of the Dead at the Tottenham Ploughman’s Day of the Dead event to be held at Downhills Community Café in Tottenham on Sunday November 2nd.

The hirsute campaigners say while the flesh may be weak, the beard often has an afterlife along with the skull and zombies with beards appear to be plentiful.

However on November 2nd the competition will focus on the connection between the beard and the head and how dialectically in balance the two are.

For example people with long faces may find that a beard softens their features. People with shorter faces such as Antony Worrall Thompson might take the hint that a beard doesn’t help

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said it’s a new departure for us and we should emphasise that it is not a modern attempt at phrenology. The competition is purely about how the beard is balanced with the rest of the head not what size the head is

Articles

1860s & 1870s: wage cuts in Victorian Britain and how we responded

In Uncategorized on October 17, 2014 by kmflett

1860s and 1870s: wage cuts in Victorian Britain & how we responded

It would be unfair to say that the British Trades Union Congress is unaware of labour and trade union history. Aside from the annual Tolpuddle Festival and the Durham Miners Gala it also has a library at London Met University and from time to time marks significant labour movement related historical events.

Even so labour history is not something that features that often in the day to day utterances of union leaders.

Full marks then to the research that has been done ahead of the Britain Needs A Pay Rise demonstration in London on October 18th looking at the history of capitalist crisis and falls in wage levels since Victorian times

http://www.tuc.org.uk/economic-issues/labour-market-and-economic-reports/economic-analysis/britain-needs-pay-rise/uk

The conclusion is that the current period of recession and reductions in wage levels is the deepest since the early capitalist crisis of 1865-67 which lasted only two years and the longest since that of 1874-8 which lasted 3 years less than the current fall in real wage levels.

As Eric Hobsbawm’s timeline in Age of Capital underlines, the first great depression started from 1873, when he begins his Age of Empire volume and went on into the 1890s. The deepest impact was in the first few years.
The point of the crisis from the early 1870s was not only that it was a worldwide crisis but that it shook the confidence of the ruling class that their system was built to last.

What is presented in the TUC research however is economic history and there is more to history than economics.

The context of the 1865-7 crisis is an interesting one.

It was immediately before the foundation of the TUC itself, and it started just after the formation of the International Workingmen’s Association in 1864 which successfully raised the horizon of some English trade union leaders beyond a largely parochial level.

Karl Marx who had been drafted in to write the opening address of the International, in 1865 published a pamphlet, Wages, Prices and Profit.

If you haven’t read it, it remains freely available on the interweb and contains important arguments which relate directly to the TUC march on October 18th.

Marx had taken issue with a socialist follower of Robert Owen on the International, Weston, who had argued that trade unions could not have any impact on the level of wages and that even an attempt to do so was harmful. Weston had little support for his points but even so Marx took them and showed the importance of trade union agitation.

Weston thought, like Jeremy Hunt on the current NHS wages bill, that the amount of wages available in society was a fixed amount. Marx demonstrated that this was not so. Hence pay rises in real terms were a perfectly achievable aim within the existing system.

The pamphlet was no doubt a distraction from what Marx was meant to be doing in 1865 which was finishing Capital Volume One. This eventually appeared in 1867 and demonstrated, amongst other things, that the crisis of 1865-7 was not a one off event but something that was endemic to the structure of capitalism itself.
The crisis had a political impact too. Trade union organisation and agitation had revived in the years before 1865-7 and the wage falls of that period provided a focus on the need to change the world as it was. The First International was part of that as was the Reform League, a campaigning body of trade unionists and middle class radicals pushing for an extension of the vote and Parliamentary representation.

That led to the 1867 Reform Act which did indeed extend the Suffrage- a bit- but extended labour representation in Parliament hardly at all.

Despite the depression of the 1870s the growth of trade union organisation continued- though it was no doubt often a very hard slog indeed the impetus to organise was there and the pressure of that was felt. A new Factory Act in 1878 consolidated previous measures and restrictions on child labour in particular.

The wider context of the 1865-7 crisis, the 1874-8 depression and the fall in wages that accompanied them is perhaps something worth discussing over a beverage after the TUC demonstration on October 18th.

Historically wage cuts have been tough for those in employment but they have sparked both political responses and increased union organisation. Maybe 18th October will do the same.

Articles

Haringey trade unionists say drop in jobless not matched by rise in wages

In Uncategorized on October 15, 2014 by kmflett

Haringey Trades Council

Press Release 15th October

c/o Union Office, St Ann ’s Hospital, St Ann ’s Rd, Tottenham N15

 

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266; keith.flett@btinternet.com

_____________________________________________________________________________

Trade Unionists say drop in jobless not matched by rise in wages

Haringey TUC, the local wing of the TUC in North London, has welcomed the news that the jobless total in Tottenham fell further in September. Figures released on Wednesday showed that 100 more people were in work compared to August meaning the total unemployed figure stood at 4,088 its lowest since 2008.

 

However at 4.4% the total still remains easily the highest in London and twice the national average.

 

The trade unionists say that while the increase in employment in Tottenham is welcome, there is little evidence that it has been matched by an increase in wage levels.

 

In the private sector in the Borough pay at or around the minimum wage is common, two pounds an hour short of the London Living Wage of £8.81

 

Haringey TUC Secretary Keith Flett said The TUC has called a Britain Needs a Pay Rise demonstration in central London on Saturday October 18th and we expect a large turn-out from Haringey. More people in work is good but if their pay is so low they have to rely on benefits to make ends meet- which numbers do- the boost to the local economy that more people in work should bring does not take place

 

Britain Needs a Pay Rise assembles at Blackfriars Embankment at 11am on Saturday October 18th and marches to a rally in Hyde Park

 

 

Articles

A Change is Gonna Come? Labour’s October 1964 & 1974 Election Victories

In Uncategorized on October 15, 2014 by kmflett

Labour Election victories 1964 & 1974:A World of Which We Have No Conception?

It is the 50th anniversary of the Labour Election on 10th October 1964 and the 40th anniversary of the victory on 15th October 1974. In both cases Harold Wilson became Labour Prime Minister.

Both Election victories and the context they took place in are fast moving from living memory into labour history.

In both cases the Labour majority was slim-an overall majority in single figures in both 1964 and in October 1974. Indeed so small was the margin 40 years ago that Labour spent some of the time up to the 1979 Election in a Lib-Lab Pact which itself may seem rather odd to those more familiar with the events of the past 5 years.

In 1964 Labour was expected to win well.

After their 1959 Election victory the Tories had suffered a number of crisis not least the Profumo sex scandal that in effect saw Tory Premier Macmillan bow out of politics. His replacement, Alec Douglas Home, an old Etonian who looked and sounded as if he was from a by-gone age, and very probably was, was widely satirised.

Labour stood on the need to ‘modernise’ Britain and move firmly into the 1960s based on scientific and technological advance. Part of that was aimed at restrictive practices in industry but there was also criticism of trade union protections.

That is worth remembering as in recent times there has been a trend to see ‘Old Labour’ as fundamentally different from what came afterwards.

The narrowness of the Election victory was a surprise, not least to some of the left.

New Left Review urged Wilson to push on with change as the only way to keep Labour in Office. Whether that was his record can be debated by historians- left activists from that period would certainly say not I think- but in 1966, when an early Election was called Labour was returned with a 100 seat majority.

NLR also pondered why Labour’s margin of victory in 1964 was so small. It reflected that a mood for change which was to be found in the media and in public discourse was not yet fully in tune with the feelings at the grassroots of society.

Indeed as David Renton’s recent review of Ford and Goodwin on UKIP reminds us historically sections of the working class voted Tory and did not automatically and sometimes at all support Labour. In 1964 seats in cities like Sunderland and Liverpool were won by the Tories.

This was after all the period of the long post-1945 boom and whatever the specific economic problems of the moment, many in work were feeling better off. The crisis was more one of politics and the future of Britain rather than the economy.

October 1974 was very different. Britain faced an energy crisis and Labour had been returned to Office in February 1974 on the back of a miners strike. Tory Premier Heath had called a ‘Who Governs Britain’ Election and the voters had determined it wasn’t him.

It was a period of significant class struggle in the UK which was at best only partially reflected within the Labour Party itself. Moreover 1974 was also the year of the Portugese Revolution and much of the left was taken up, quite rightly, with events in that country.

Tony Benn’s Diary records the October 1974 Election as one where ‘red scare’ tactics were used against the left. Harold Wilson on the advice of the Security Services determined not to appoint the left-winger Judith Hart as a Minister because she had Communist connections. She did indeed. She had telephoned a meeting organiser to say she could not speak at a meeting because a Communist was on the platform. Wilson backed down.

Perhaps the wider historical point to ponder here is that while Labour was in Office for 11 of the 15 years from 1964 to 1979 and again for 13 years from 1997 to 2010, and while some changes for the better were made, the chance to re-shape the system in the way that Thatcher did, let alone to bring about any fundamental change was passed by.

In that sense the New Left Review comment of November 1964 that Labour needed to push on with change to secure support was both correct and over optimistic in thinking it would

Articles

1865-7: a History of Wage Cuts & How to fight them

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2014 by kmflett

1865-7: A history of wage cuts & how to fight them

It would be unfair to say that the British Trades Union Congress is unaware of labour and trade union history. Aside from the annual Tolpuddle Festival and the Durham Miners Gala it also has a library at London Met University and from time to time marks significant labour movement related historical events.

Even so labour history is not something that features that often in the day to day utterances of union leaders.

Full marks then to the research that has been done ahead of the Britain Needs A Pay Rise demonstration in London on October 18th looking at the history of capitalist crisis and falls in wage levels since Victorian times

http://www.tuc.org.uk/economic-issues/labour-market-and-economic-reports/economic-analysis/britain-needs-pay-rise/uk

The conclusion is that the current period of recession and reductions in wage levels is the longest since the early capitalist crisis of 1865-67 and even that lasted only two years. Admittedly it was followed, as Eric Hobsbawm’s timeline in Age of Capital underlines, by the first great depression from 1873 onwards.

That said what is presented here is economic history and there is more to history than economics.

The context of the 1865-7 crisis is an interesting one.

It was immediately before the foundation of the TUC itself, and it started just after the formation of the International Workingmen’s Association in 1864 which successfully raised the horizon of some English trade union leaders beyond a largely parochial level.

Karl Marx who had been drafted in to write the opening address of the International, in 1865 published a pamphlet, Wages, Prices and Profit.

If you haven’t read it, it remains freely available on the interweb and contains important arguments which relate directly to the TUC march on October 18th.

Marx had taken issue with a socialist follower of Robert Owen on the International, Weston, who had argued that trade unions could not have any impact on the level of wages and that even an attempt to do so was harmful. Weston had little support for his points but even so Marx took them and showed the importance of trade union agitation.

Weston thought, like Jeremy Hunt on the current NHS wages bill, that the amount of wages available in society was a fixed amount. Marx demonstrated that this was not so. Hence pay rises in real terms were a perfectly achievable aim within the existing system.

The pamphlet was no doubt a distraction from what Marx was meant to be doing in 1865 which was finishing Capital Volume One. This eventually appeared in 1867 and demonstrated, amongst other things, that the crisis of 1865-7 was not a one off event but something that was endemic to the structure of capitalism itself.

The crisis had a political impact too. Trade union organisation and agitation had revived in the years before 1865-7 and the wage falls of that period provided a focus on the need to change the world as it was. The First International was part of that as was the Reform League, a campaigning body of trade unionists and middle class radicals pushing for an extension of the vote and Parliamentary representation.

That led to the 1867 Reform Act which did indeed extend the Suffrage- a bit- but extended labour representation in Parliament hardly at all.

Even so the wider context of the 1865-7 crisis and the fall in wages that accompanied it is perhaps something worth discussing over a beverage after the TUC demonstration on October 18th

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