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Class war on the streets of London

March 27, 2011

On March 26th, London saw people assemble to protest and take direct action against the government. Most of the people there were marching quite simply because their jobs, their services, and their livelihoods are under attack. This included those of us in anarchist blocs, though we also argued for a much broader perspective and recognition that capitalism itself was the issue, not just the current “ConDem cuts.”

Arriving in London, members of the Liverpool Solidarity Federation headed to Kennington Park. We met up with other SolFed members, as well as members of the Anarchist Federation and other class struggle anarchists to form the Radical Workers Bloc on the South London feeder march.

After we set off, the march passed largely without incident until the police tried to direct us away from the route which would take us over Westminister Bridge and allow us to feed in to the main march. There were several moments of confusion, until a group decisively broke through and brought the rest of the march along with us. This led to a rather proud moment where a line of police blocking the bridge stepped aside for a mass of several hundred people, the Liverpool Solidarity Federation’s banner at its head.

Crossing the bridge, we could see the TUC-organised “march for the alternative” snaking far ahead and far behind the point that we entered it. It was enormous, and densely packed, yet we couldn’t see either the front or the back. The TUC states that they stopped counting at 250,000 people, and the media’s most generous estimate is 500,000, but there had to be at least a million people protesting in London that day. If not more.

The result of this was that the march moved extremely slowly. It was so densely populated that holding a banner aloft was difficult at best.

We shuffled past the fortress that Westminister had become, lines of police staring stone-faced at us from behind crash barricades. The pace picked up as we went beyond Downing Street, where protesters engaged in pantomime by hurling a chorus of boos at the abode of a Prime Minister who was very far away from the protests against his government.

As we travelled down the route, we kept seeing the green bibs of Liberty, operating under the pretence of “legal observers.” All had their backs to the police, watching the protesters. Later reports from other comrades suggest that they were pointing out people to the intelligence gatherers of FIT, and even taking photographs themselves. None of them handed out bust cards, as the genuinely independent legal observers of the Green and Black Cross were doing. They were part of the police operation and not there for our protection.

At Trafalgar Square, up to a hundred people were congregating around the base of Nelson’s column, with a couple sitting on the backs of the lion statues. Further back, a huge banner had been unfurled that stated: “we demand regime change!” The occupation of the square was due to begin at 5pm.

When the Radical Workers’ Bloc reached the square, its participants stepped out of the march. Copies of the booklet No Comment: The defendant’s guide to arrest (PDF) were handed out. The bloc then reassembled itself to march through Trafalgar Square, separate to the main march, and on towards Oxford Street.

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On the university picket lines

March 24, 2011

Today, Liverpool Solidarity Federation visited the UCU picket lines in Liverpool City Centre to show our support for those coming out on strike.

Whereas Tuesday’s strike had been over attacks on pensions, today’s was in protest at the threats to members’ jobs. An 80% cut in teaching budgets from the government means that 40,000 jobs are at risk. This represents not only an attack on jobs but also on the education sector as a whole, as pickets were keen to stress when they handed leaflets to students urging them not to attend lectures.

One picket on Brownlow Hill told us that the area was a lot quieter than it would normally be first thing in the morning. There had been good support from UCU members, however by the same token the density of non-union members amongst the staff meant that there were still people going in to teach.

There was almost a disappointed resignation to this fact, and to the broader number of students not respecting picket lines, in some places. Combined with the sheer volume of university entrances, this meant that there were a lot of tiny picket lines spread across a large area, with individual strikers handing out leaflets – one aimed at staff, one aimed at students. At some entrances it was students from the Merseyside Network Against Fees and Cuts who were the picket line.

When 10 o’clock arrived, we found ourselves by a lecture theatre that had no picket line in front of it. With students due to attend lectures at this time, we put practical solidarity into action and formed the picket ourselves. This allowed us to engage with the students and to ask them to show support by refusing to attend lectures. We were able to turn several small groups and individuals away, though far more people crossed when in large masses. Nonetheless, it brought home the message that this was not a normal day and hopefully has encouraged people to think hard about the attacks we’re facing as a class at present and the need to stand together.

Liverpool SF's ad hoc lecture hall picket

Particularly gratifying was seeing one large number who refused to honour the picket line have to walk back out again because their lecturer was on strike anyway.

After this, we visited several other picket lines to express our support and offer solidarity, before heading to the rally at University Square. There, the message was the same – we are facing attacks as a class, and workers from all sectors and students need to stand together against them. There were no calls for militant direct action, but there is certainly a growing realisation amongst rank-and-file workers that we need to make the cuts the more expensive option if we want the government to back down.

Liverpool Solidarity Federation will continue to support workers in struggle on the streets, in occupations, and on the picket lines. To defeat the attacks by the government, we need working class unity and the will to make the cuts impossible to implement.

Catalyst #26 (March 2011) Out Now!

March 21, 2011

The latest edition of Catalyst, the Solidarity Federation’s free newspaper, has now been published.

Click here to download the issue as a PDF file(2.25 MB). You can also get in touch with us to get paper copies : catalyst@solfed.org.uk.

In this issue

Winning the argument or winning the fight: where next after March 26?

Austerity Britain: centrefold feature on austerity and the resistance.

Levenshulme Baths saved: 20-day campaign gets results.

North African revolts: calls for ‘bread and freedom’ spread.

Know your rights: basic rights at work.

Comment: crisis in care.

Solidarity with striking lecturers and teachers!

March 19, 2011

On Tuesday March 22nd and Thursday March 24th, the University & Colleges Union (UCU) are going out on strike over pay, job security and pensions.

There will be strikes and picket lines at Knowsley Community College, St Helen’s College, Hugh Baird College (Bootle), Southport College, Wirral Met, Liverpool Community College, Edgehill University, John Moores University, Hope University, and the University of Liverpool.

Liverpool Solidarity Federation expresses its solidarity with the strike and urges students to support it by joining and refusing to cross picket lines.

The attack on lecturers and teachers is part of the broader attack on the education sector as a whole. Universities and Colleges are facing huge shortfalls in funding as a result of government cuts, and that is being passed onto staff and students. They are also, like all public sector workers, having their pensions devalued and attacked.

The struggles of students and workers are linked. It is only by uniting as a class and refusing to back down that we can defeat the government’s attacks.

Honour the picket line! An injury to one is an injury to all!

International Women’s Day centenary march report

March 13, 2011

Liverpool Solidarity Federation members attended yesterday’s International Women’s Day centenary march organised by Merseyside Women’s Movement.

A lively crowd of several hundred people met on St George’s Plateau to listen to a range of female speakers share their thoughts on the struggles women continue to face on a daily basis.

A young doctor spoke movingly about treating an Iranian woman who had been beaten by her husband and kept like as a modern-day slave. Another speaker insisted that a more feminine ruling class is nothing worth fighting for, while our real objective should be total equality between women and men. Meanwhile, an anti-cuts campaigner highlighted the fact that services primarily used by women are among the hardest hit by the current slash-and-burn agenda of the political elite (for instance, the Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre has had funding for sexual violence survivors completely withdrawn by Liverpool City Council).

Following the speeches, the assembled crowd took to the streets of the city, stopping at symbolic points along the way to remember that the struggle for equality between the sexes is far from won. In fact, it is just one battle in the wider fight for complete working-class self-liberation.

As anarcho-syndicalists, we are the sworn enemies of misogyny, sexism and patriarchy. We also believe that the class struggle and the fight for women’s emancipation must go hand in hand!

After the march we went to support a picket line in Bootle. In this photo, the young daughter of a comrade is flying the flag for anarcho-syndicalism.

Radical Workers’ Bloc on the March For the Alternative

March 10, 2011

On Saturday 26th March the Trades Union Congress has called for a march against the cuts, and there is going to be a South London feeder march starting at Kennington Park which we will be joining. South London is one of the areas to be hardest hit by the cuts and has seen some of the most inspiring resistance to their implementation with the storming and occupying of town halls, the occupying of libraries and university buildings along with large demonstrations and regular small actions.

Anarchists have played a key role in these struggles arguing that we fight the cuts based on the principles of solidarity, direct action, and self-organisation. We are calling on anarchists, libertarian communists and militant workers from across the country who agree with these principles to join us on the demonstration to provide a visible presence and a revolutionary alternative to the reformism of the TUC.

With sufficient rank-and-file anger, the trade unions may be pushed into calling a general strike – only the second in British history. However, it’s us, not the union bosses who can stop the cuts. All reformist unions can offer us is sellouts like Aaron Porter from the NUS. We can’t put our faith in anything other than our own solidarity and ability to organise. We must take a lead in organising action ourselves rather than waiting on the TUC or anyone else to do it for us.

We also intend to argue that it is capitalism that has caused the crisis that has led to these cuts and that in response to their class war we need to reciprocate: meeting cuts with direct action – strikes, occupations and civil disobedience – whilst fighting for a different world which puts human needs first.

Bring red and black flags, banners and propaganda. The workers movement needs anarchist ideas and methods more than ever if we’re to beat the cuts.

Meet at 11am Kennington Park, South London.

Called by South London Solidarity Federation and the Anarchist Federation

Posters [1],[2]

Working-class history: Anarcho-syndicalism on Merseyside

March 6, 2011

We are very grateful to a comrade from Manchester Solidarity Federation for lending us a book entitled ‘Building the Union: Studies on the growth of the workers’ movement: Merseyside, 1756-1967′. Below we publish several extracts from the book specifically about anarcho-syndicalism locally in the early part of the 20th century. The essay is by Bob Holton.

The development of Merseyside as a seaport led […] to the migration and settlement of many different nationalities and ethnic groups in the area, bringing with them experience of revolutionary movements elsewhere. Economic expansion not only meant the construction of dock and railway installations, but also the provision of commercial facilities to cope with expanding trade. These needs attracted manual and professional labour to the area to supplement the indigenous workforce. The Irish, Chinese and West Africans were involved in manual labour as dockers and seamen, while small settlements of Europeans with commercial skills also appeared. Merseyside was also an area of Jewish settlement, including many who were refugees from political repression in Eastern Europe.
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