Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Belfast anti-fascist and trade union murals


There are so many that Belfast is possibly the world mural capital. For more information visit a great site at www.extramural.activity.com 

Break the Connection with Capitalism was unveiled on Northumberland Street on 20 April 2013. It was erected by Teach na Failte Republican Ex-Prisoners Support Group and Belfast City Council. The board shows Belfast socialists walking at Bodenstown, 1934, as part of the annual Wolfe Tone commemoration. The board states: 

In Memory of the Belfast Men who fought Against Fascism
With the XV International Brigade, Spanish Civil War 1936-39.

For more details see:- 

Many thanks to Richie Browne, Unite regional co-ordinating officer, for this photograph. 

UNITE IN OUR COMMUNITIES is UNITE’s mural on Northumberland Street, Belfast. 
Unite for jobs. Unemployment and cuts destroy our communities! The board was erected in 2013. 

Many thanks to Richie Browne, Unite regional co-ordinating officer, for this photograph.

The gable wall of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) office in Donegall Street Place, Belfast is adorned with a magnificent mural celebrating the many unions with membership in Ireland, north and south. It states: An Injury to One is an Injury to All. 
Commissioned from Belfast muralists Danny Devanny and Mark Ervine It was unveiled by ICTU President John Douglas in September 2013, the year that marked the 100th anniversary of the Dublin lock-out that ran from August 1913 to January 1914. 

Directly in front of the mural is a life-size sculpture of celebrated trade unionist Jim Larkin. This was funded by the ICTU and the Langanside Corporation and unveiled on 8 May 2006. The bronze statue was the work of Belfast artist Anto Brennan. It is close to Waring Street, where Larkin led the Belfast dockers’ strike in 1907.

For more information see: - 

Many thanks to Richie Browne, Unite regional co-ordinating officer, for this photograph.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Royal wish ought not to be granted, say Republicans

With all three major parties committed to public sector cuts the pressure group that campaigns for the monarchy’s abolition wants greater scrutiny of its cost to the British taxpayer.
Republic accuses the royal household of deliberately underestimating its costs but supporters of the royal family argue it represents good value.
Buckingham Palace’s 2013 accounts reveal that the royal household’s sovereign grant was £35.7 million, a £2 million rise on the previous figure.
“What a bargain! How the Royal Family costs you just 56p a year,” declared the Daily Express.
But Graham Smith, Republic’s chief executive, claimed: “That is a fraction of the real amount, as
once hidden costs are included the real figure is just £600,000 shy of £300 million.”
According to the organisation the massive difference in figures is because security costs, the provision of grace and favour apartments to members of the royal family, royal visit costs
to council taxpayers and lost profits from the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall are not included. Republic estimates these at £102 million,£30 million, £21.5 million and £90 million respectively.
However, Ian Roberts, vice-chairman of the British Monarchist League, accused Republic of “cooking the books in order to gain some publicity for its campaign, one that has consistently failed to garner public support from the British public as a whole”.
‘Reasonable costs’
He said: “The sovereign grant has abolished annuities to all but Prince Philip (pictured), and the Duchy of Cornwall largely funds the Prince of Wales. Spending has been cut heavily with minor royals having to rely on their own employment. The Crown Estate also earned the Treasury £211 million in 2007-08. ”
This is disputed by Republic as the Crown Estate is not the private property of the monarch.

Smith said total costs of £7 million would be more appropriate – “closer to what it costs, for example, Spain for their monarchy” – and allow the recruitment of either 14,000 newly qualified teachers or nurses.

Residents compile own report on wood dust emissions

Taken from the current edition of the Big Issue in the North magazine, please buy a copy when you see a seller. 
In a bid for tougher regulations, residents who fear wood dust emissions are harming their health have released a report condemning waste wood and recycling plants sited near them.
It has been published after residents in a number of communities hosting wood plants complained of respiratory problems.
Wood dust is classed as a carcinogen and regulations permit a lower concentration of it in the air than other damaging particles. But the Environment Agency classifies wood plants as no more than a “nuisance” to residents, not a health risk.
Campaigners fear residents have lower standards of protection from the health threats of wood dust than employees.
The report, No Proof of No Harm: a Citizen Science Investigation (CSI) assesses five affected communities: Avonmouth Docks, Mossley and Horwich in Greater Manchester, Shoreham, Frodsham in Cheshire and Kirkby in Merseyside.
It investigates the impact of the wood dust on the communities, analyses Environment Agency (EA) studies and reveals the results of independent dust exposure tests.
The report criticises an EA study in Mossley in winter 2011-12 for failing to test for a range of hazardous substances including arsenic and lead, being undertaken in cold and wet months, and for locating equipment that cannot effectively monitor smaller particles away from the prevailing wind. There are similar criticisms of studies, including those by local authorities, at other locations.
Inspired by American environmentalist Erin Brockovich’s successful fight against energy corporation PG&E over water contamination, CSI claims there is a “lack of adequate enforcement by industry regulations to mitigate waste wood emissions in communities... where fine dust particles hazardous to health can stay suspended for a considerable time, particularly overnight”.
The report wants health authorities to provide peer-reviewed evidence for their claims that health issues reported by communities are not connected to wood emissions.
It concludes that regulations for waste wood processing are “out of date, arbitrary and without medical rationale”, adding: “Without full chemical analysis and quantification of emissions there is No Proof of No Harm.” The groups involved are seeking a public inquiry,  funding for more research, and for the government to amend legislation classifying wood dust only as a nuisance to residents.
Hilda Palmer from the Manchester Hazards Centre, which supported the report along with scientists, said: “CSI shows the authorities where they are going wrong and should spur them on to carry out a proper scientific investigation, which learns from the research they have done, not the unscientific blind-eye approaches they are currently conducting.
“Sadly, we don’t have safe environmental standards. Legal limits can still make people ill. If people – workers or communities – are reporting ill health, then the authorities should discover why. And if it is related to a local source then sort it out. Why is dust containing carcinogens and allergens escaping from a workplace and contaminating people’s homes and the environment?”
An EA spokesperson said: “There are standards set by the government to ensure the quality of air we breathe is acceptable. We use our regulatory powers to ensure the dust from installations we regulate does not cause these standards to be breached.”

Jill Meara, deputy director of government body Public Health England’s centre for chemicals, said: “The main health problems associated with wood dust are linked to long- term occupational exposure in workplaces resulting in skin disorders, nasal obstruction, asthma and a rare type of nasal cancer.”

Four-hour stand off by bedroom tax protester ends in jail

Supporters say bedroom tax protester should not have been imprisoned.
Taken from current edition of the Big Issue in the North magazine, please buy a copy when youy see a seller. 
An Accrington man’s attempt to avoid being evicted after he fell into arrears following the introduction of the bedroom tax has seen him jailed for ten months.
Michael Hilton, 52, has a history of mental health problems. He is a father of four who had lived in his home in Church, near Accrington, for 33 years. Estranged from his wife, he was the sole tenant, shared the three-bedroom property with his eldest son and regularly had his other children stay over in the unoccupied bedroom.
Michael Hilton's family and supporters in protest. 
Under the bedroom tax introduced in April last year, housing benefit is reduced if the local council decides someone has “spare” bedrooms. Tenants are expected to pay any outstanding rent themselves. Unable to do so, Hilton was £900 in arrears when bailiffs arrived on 4 June this year to evict him and found he had barricaded himself inside using gas cannisters and petrol.
Two fire engines were called to the scene along with police teams that included specialist officers. After a four-hour standoff, during which time Hilton claimed to have doused himself in petrol, fire crews used a detector to determine that noxious gas levels were not explosive and police entered using full flame protective equipment and head gear. There was a strong smell of accelerant and a risk of ignition.
Hilton, who has 17 previous offences, including one spell in prison, was remanded in custody and when he appeared in Burnley Crown Court on 9 October he pleaded guilty to damaging property and criminal damage. Since his arrest four months previously, Hilton’s case had been well publicised by anti-bedroom tax campaigners and a number of them protested outside the court.
Phil Holden, defending, urged Judge Jonathan Gibson to set aside a probation service report arguing
for an adjournment while some form of mental health assessment was undertaken. “My client is keen to know his fate,” said Holden.
“His actions were born out of utter frustration over his dealings with the authorities... he got into arrears because of a change in the law that required him to pay a tax because there were too many bedrooms in his house.
“He was unable to pay it and so the process started. He accepts that it was an utterly inappropriate way of dealing with this problem. He did not intend injuring anyone and did not do so. ”
Holden said Hilton had lost his home, his liberty and all his belongings.
The judge said Hilton’s actions were similar to a “bomb hoax” and had caused substantial public expense in tying up services that could have been deployed elsewhere. Sentencing Hilton to ten months in prison, Gibson told him: “I’m not sentencing you for any form of protest but only for the criminal offences you committed.”
Having already served four months in prison the sentence means Hilton will be free very shortly.
“I am glad,” said his son Johnny. “But it won’t be easy for Dad as, like myself, he has nowhere permanently to live and yet his house of 30 years remains unoccupied. He is in poor shape and being locked up has made him very depressed and his mental health problems have intensified.
He has lost weight. Sending him to prison was inappropriate.”
Len Taylor of Bolton Against The Bedroom Tax said: “Imprisonment was unnecessary, because the expense far exceeds the amount of money that Michael Hilton owed. It is ridiculous that bankers who put the country in huge debt are now getting bonuses whilst Mr Hilton, who does not appear to have been properly advised about discretionary housing payments, has lost everything because of an unjust tax that needs scrapping, with all debts accrued written off.”
The Labour Party is committed to abolishing the bedroom tax if it forms the next government. Labour’s Graham Jones – Hilton’s MP – said: “It may be that Michael needs support from many agencies.

“I am glad Labour is committed to abolishing the bedroom tax. There is clearly a big issue with tenants in arrears and perpetuating that debt seems unreasonable as it continues the problem Labour opposes. There is also the issue of those that have paid the bedroom tax. All these need to be resolved for the best.”

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

A guide to benefit and tax credit rates from April 2014

Taken from Durham County Council booklet.

Review of Manchester United 1907-11: the first halcyon days

Taken from Rollin Reds, the magazine of MUDSA.

United fans of all ages love the tales of yesteryear and many were around to witness moments like Wembley 1968, The Treble and Moscow, and players like Best and Cantona in their prime.

When pressed on many of United’s historic moments, though, many will say ‘it was before my time’. And in the case of this book, unless you’re 115 years old it was before everybody’s time!

Manchester United — The First Hacyon Years is a real trip in the Tardis.

The author, Mark Metcalf, takes you back to the years before the First World War and brings the period alive with incredible detail and accuracy.

The book is full of big surprises and equally fascinating little facts that you’ll never know unless you read it. Who knew that United played in the first ever Charity Shield match? Not me for sure and I thought I was a fully paid-up, in-the-know Red!
Only 6,000 people paid to see the match but it was the beginning of a tradition that continues to this day.

I’d never heard of Ernest Mangnall either. Yet as manger, he led United to two league titles, two charity shields and an FA Cup. The club’s first ever league title in the 1907/8 season. 

One must-win game in that campaign stands out when United beat Sunderland 3-0 at home, in spite of Sunderland having the Peter Schmeichel of his day, Leigh Roose between the sticks. Roose was famous for saving penalties and noted for taking advantage of the rules in 07/08 that allowed a keeper to handle the ball anywhere in his own half! A rule that was changed in 1912.

The book, available on Amazon, is full of this kind of well researched detail and with Christmas around the corner,I recommend it as a very entertaining read and a great gift for any true United fan who has an interest in the club’s history — or even just history in general.

Some will remember the book’s author from the work he did for MUDSA in writing the recent publication to celebrate 10 years for the Ability Suite (above). Mark is a football historian and author of many football books.

NHS workers fightback

There was a lively atmosphere on NHS picket lines on Tyneside yesterday morning as health unions stopped work for four hours in a dispute over pay.
NHS workers wages have fallen 15 per cent in real terms since the coalition assumed power in 2010. Yet even with the economy recovering the 1% across the board income rise agreed with the independent NHS pay review board was cancelled by the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, in March. To add insult to injury the government has announced the same no pay increase approach for 2015/16. 
It was the latest kick in the teeth for NHS staff that are struggling to keep afloat what was once the nation’s flagship service against a coalition programme of enormous cuts and privatisation in which essential services are handed to private health contractors. In 2012 the Tories health and social care act removed their duty to provide comprehensive healthcare to citizens and a future Tory government will certainly see the NHS lost forever. 
The battle lines are thus clear especially as, unlike bankers bonuses and tax cuts to the rich, a pay rise to NHS employees will boost the economy through the additional spending generated.
Picket lines quickly formed on Tyneside just after 7am as staff left work and were joined by colleagues yet to begin their shifts. People were in a good mood, proud of standing up for themselves and a service that many have dedicated their lives to. UNITE NHS members have previously taken strike action alongside their colleagues in the GMB and UNISON over different issues but today was the first time in its 133 years history that the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has taken industrial action. A good many RCM members were in fine voice on the picket line at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Newcastle. 
“It’s a clear sign of just how bad things have got in the NHS when the RCM are on strike,” said David Rawlings, the equality and diversity officer for Newcastle Hospitals UNITE branch, “I’ve worked for the NHS at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle since 1979 but under the current government morale has plummeted. We can’t just sit back and allow this vital institution to be destroyed, paying a decent wage is not only fair but aids recruitment and retention of dedicated staff whose joint efforts save people’s lives.” 
Pickets were particularly out in force at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead. A Royal Mail delivery van refused to cross. Numerous passing vehicles sounded their horns and in return were drowned out by the strikers’ cheers. 
Patients praised NHS workers.  “They save people’s lives and deserve to be properly rewarded for doing so,” said Sheila Ross following her breast cancer test. 
“I am delighted our efforts in encouraging people to fight back has paid off with good numbers taking action alongside colleagues in other unions, with whom unity is vital. This government is intent on destroying NHS workers pay and the services we provide. As trade unionists we don’t intend allowing that to happen and you can see that the public backs us on this,” said Arlo Lapworth, the branch secretary for UNITE’s Gateshead Hospitals branch. 

"We have 600,000 workers in the NHS who have been denied an urgently needed pay rise. Many of these are low paid. I am convinced that Hunt's decision not to pay what was agreed by the pay review body is part of a general attack, The government wants to demoralise workers so as to prevent any resistance to their plans to privatise the NHS," said Lorraine 
Taylor from UNISON. 

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Battle of Cable Street on 4 October 1936

October 4 1936: Fascists and Police Routed - the Battle of Cable Street

This article is taken from a booklet I published some years ago called RADICAL AND REVOLTING: The English Working Class


Cable Street - October 4th 1936 - an eye witness account by the late Reg Weston, Higham resident and life-time NUJ member. (Reg was a great, truly lovely man who was full of warmth and character - Mark Metcalf) 

'I was at the Battle of Cable Street. In my early twenties, I was then secretary of the recently formed Southgate branch of the Communist Party in North London.
On that warm October Sunday afternoon, October 4 1936, we had organised a party of (now over sixty years later, I put it at) about forty, (probably it was fewer) people. They were members and sympathisers who we had mobilised in the three or four days before.

We had set out by bus and tube to oppose the proposed march of Sir Oswald Mosley and his several thousand Blackshirts through the East End of London.
As we arrived at the tube station in Aldgate we had no idea of what had been happening in the surrounding streets during the hours before.

We came to the tube entrance, together with hundreds of people who had been on the same train. There we stopped.

The pavements were packed, the whole street - Aldgate High Street - was packed solid. Crowds were everywhere as far as we could see. It was impossible to make any progress. Parked in the middle of the street, towering over the crowds was a line of tramcars - marooned and empty. They could not have moved, even if anyone had wanted to move them.

The rumour went that the first tram in the line had been deliberately driven to the point by an anti-fascist tram driver, placed there to form a barricade against the fascists.

As we stood blocked from moving on there came the sound of shattering glass. One of the big plate glass windows of the store at Gardiners Corner was smashed in. Rumour said that a policeman had been thrown through it, but it was probably just a victim to the sheer pressure of the crowds. There was not a single policeman in sight. We did not see one for hours.

The thousands of police, 10,000 according to reports, were busy down the road where they had been battling to force a way through for the Mosleyites.

As I said, I was at the Battle of Cable Street. But that was not literally true. My comrades and I never had a chance to get within a mile of Cable Street on that afternoon. In between us and Cable Street was a solid mass of people. Estimates afterwards said there was anything up to half a million people out on the streets of the East End that day. But no one could possibly have counted them.
So we stood there, packed like sardines, for an hour or so while all sorts of rumours and tales floated through the crowds. No one could say exactly what was happening. But we gathered that the first protesters had been up early in the day and had been preparing a reception for both the police and the fascists long before either had arrived.

The fascists were assembling by the Royal Mint and police started to make baton charges, both foot and mounted, to try to clear a way for them to escort a march. They did not succeed. A barricade started to go up. A lorry was overturned, furniture was piled up, paving stones and a builders yard helped to complete the barrier. The police managed to clear the first, but found a second behind it and then a third. Marbles were thrown under the hooves of the police horses; volleys of bricks met every baton charge.

At last the Metropolitan Police chief, who had been directing operations, told Sir Oswald it would be impossible for him to have his march through the East End to his proposed rally in Victoria Park. The uniformed Blackshirts formed up and marched. But they marched west not east. They went through the deserted City of London and ended up on the Embankment, where they just dispersed - defeated.
Back in Stepney and the East End there was almost unbelievable delight. We had won. The fascists had been defeated and humiliated. The police too and the authorities had been proved unable to protect them.

Hastily a victory march had been organised to follow the route from Cable Street to Victoria Park where Mosley had planned to address his army. Hundreds joined in. Thousands stood on the pavements and in the roads, clapping and cheering as we marched on. In those days we marched, often in ranks of fours, under the leadership of the ex-servicemen of the not so far away World War I. We marched and we sang.

We sang the traditional working class marching songs and anthems: the Internationale ("Arise ye starvelings from your slumbers" ); the Italian revolutionary Bandiera Rossa ("Avanti popoli, alla riscossa" , "Forward ye workers, into the struggle" , "Fling to the breezes the scarlet banner" ); the Berlin workers' song Rote Wedding ("Left, left .. the workers are marching again" ); the Polish Varshavianka, and the old Wobbly song "Solidarity Forever" , with the appropriate words: "We'll hang Oswald Mosley on a sour apple tree ... when the red revolution comes" .

Not all the bystanders clapped and cheered. At a few of the street corners in Bethnal Green and Hackney on the way - a very few - there were knots of those who jeered and spat and stretched out their right arms in salute to their leader. Mosley had his roots in the East End, not so much in the working class but in those intermediate groups, the lower, lower, middle class of costermongers, street traders, market stallmen, small shopkeepers, bookies' runners and those living by their wits - the people one sees today pictured on EastEnders - those who Marx described as the petit bourgeoisie. They jeered us and, strangely enough, no one retaliated - except with words.

Things moved too fast. We were marching to a victory assembly in - appropriately - Victoria Park. We listened to the speeches, listened to the stories of those who had been in the front line, at the barricades, and then went home.

I was at the Battle of Cable Street but not in the front line - that was to come later in North Africa and in Italy.

Two myths have grown up around the event, which of course was a milestone in the long history of working class struggle. One is that the opposition to the Mosley fascists was almost entirely Jewish. The other is that the "battle" was between the protesters and the Blackshirts. It was not - it was a battle with the police.

There was a quarter to half a million people in the East End streets that Sunday. Many of them were Jews because, as Mosley knew and had campaigned for some years and so designed his provocative action on anti-Semitic propaganda, Stepney and Whitechapel had at that time the largest Jewish community in Britain. But it was numbered in tens, not hundreds, of thousands. The packed crowds that day consisted of many thousands of non-Jewish Londoners.

As far as the religious leaders of the Jewish community were concerned, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, their top authority, made special calls the previous week opposing any physical confrontation with the Mosleyites, urging their congregation to stay indoors. They pursued the same fatal policy that the Jewish leaders in Germany had pursued only four or five years before when faced with the brownshirts of Hitler. We know where that led.

But their followers had more sense. They came out in their thousands. The opposition in the East End itself was organised largely by the grassroots Jewish organisations, the workers' circles, the furniture and garment workers' trades unions, by the shops and the workshops.

It was also organised, on almost a military scale, in the last few days by the Communists who had a great deal of influence and a vigorous membership in the area. At that time the Communist Party in Britain was a party with strong roots in the trade unions, in many workplaces and among the unemployed. A significant section of the cultural and intellectual classes also were members or sympathisers of the Party. Writers, artists, actors, musicians and scientists contributed.

Only a month before, the London District of the Party had organised a pageant march from the Embankment to Hyde Park in celebration of English radical and working class history. It was choreographed by leading actors and stage producers, with floats depicting the Peasants' Revolt and on to the Chartists and the General Strike. At the rally in the park a thousand new members were recruited to the party.

The protest at Cable Street was not just an East End event. Anti-fascists came from all over London and nearby. It should be remembered this was a time when few people had cars, or the money to travel long distances by rail or by coach. Cable Street was an all-London event. No coach parties or hired trains came from Aberdeen, Plymouth, Manchester or Birmingham.

The Mosleyites had announced their provocative rally on the Saturday so that there was almost less than a week to mobilise. There had been no details of assembly times or routes. This was also a time when few people had telephones or access to them, except by public call boxes. There was no TV. Radio was still almost a novelty.

So our communications were through knocks on doors, notes through letter boxes, the post, meetings in the street, or at work, and by word of mouth. That is what we did. That is what people did all over the capital. In those days our main source of information was the newspapers. There was not only the Daily Worker, with a circulation of some 40,000 and a readership of many more. There was also the Daily Herald, the organ of the TUC and the mouthpiece of the Labour Party, which went into a million homes, plus the radical Liberal News Chronicle with several hundreds of thousands. On Sunday there was the left wing Reynold's News, run by the Co-operative Party.

In London itself there were three evening papers, each producing four or five editions a day from early morning on. The Evening News was the stablemate of the right wing, fascist- supporting Daily Mail; the Evening Standard was linked with the chauvinist Tory Daily Express and there was also the radical Star. Each had circulations of hundreds of thousands.

The Daily Worker acted as the main organiser for the protests centrally. By midweek we were getting plenty of information and so were its thousands of readers, especially in the factories and workplaces such as the bus garages and the rail depots. This paper told us of the approaches to the Home Office by mayors of the East London boroughs, of petitions, one of around 100,000, seeking for a ban on the march or a change of route.

It also told of the ostrich-like attitude of the Jewish authorities and the same stance of the Labour Party, locally and nationally. "Keep away" had been the theme of a leading article in the Daily Herald, echoing the words of Mr George Lansbury, recently leader of the Labour Party and himself an MP for an East End constituency. The Daily Worker printed a special supplement calling for "the biggest rally against fascism that has yet been seen in Britain" .
On the Sunday morning we took this round the streets of the small, council estates in Southgate. We sold them at almost every other house. Whether we had leaflets I do not recall. I doubt it. The local branch would not have had enough cash to produce them. Our main propaganda medium then was by chalking slogans on walls and in the roads. There was much less traffic in those days. I do remember we chalked thoroughly all the entrances to the great Standard Telephones cable factory in New Southgate where 10,000 went to work everyday.

Southgate, Palmers Green, Winchmore Hill was a very middle class suburb which its council aimed to rival Ealing as the "Queen of the London Suburbs" . It even had its 'millionaires' row'. There were small areas of working class homes in Bowes Park and New Southgate but Toryism was dominant. For many years the borough shared the distinction, with Canterbury, of being the only town in England without a single Labour councillor on their council. There was a Labour Party with a few left-wingers and a 50 strong Labour League of Youth which had its own premises and with which we in the Communist Party had good relations. A bunch of them came with us to Cable Street. So did busmen from the garages at Palmers Green, Muswell Hill and Potters Bar, where we had influence and small groups. In all we managed to mobilise a respectable contingent. That kind of mobilisation was going on all over London in the handful of days before the event.

1936 had already been a year of pregnant events. The possibility, the probability, of a second world war was gathering momentum every day. Mussolini had conquered and occupied Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Hitler, with Germany firmly under his thumb, and socialists and communists and trade unionists executed or in concentration camps, had marched in the Rhineland (occupied by the British and French after the First World War) and was threatening Czechoslovakia and Poland. General Franco had begun his rebellion against the Spanish republican government. Japan was spreading its invasion and conquest of Manchuria into the rest of China. Almost the only bright spot on the horizon was, in our minds, the coming to power of the Popular Front government of socialists and liberals, supported by communists, in France.

In Britain the working class movement was still convalescing from the effects of the General Strike of 1926, and of the great economic crisis of 1929 and the thirties, which had led to the split in the Labour Party and the 'treachery' of Ramsay Macdonald and the last Labour government. Non-unionism was rife and the anti-working class actions of the National Tory government were vicious against the unemployed and their families. That was the world in which we lived, a very different one from that which faces us today. There was a feeling in the air that change was coming and some of us were arrogant enough, or naive enough, to believe we could influence that movement toward change.

So the victory at Cable Street was a great lift up. It was certainly an important signpost along the road of declining Mosleyite influence in the East End and in Britain.

The Jews in 1936 were one of the ethnic minorities in the country. Black or brown faces were hardly ever to be seen. Apart from the Irish, and the Greek Cypriots in North London, there were no large communities for the fascists to target to stir up racism.

We were given positive proof that it was possible to rouse the masses, despite the opposition and wet blanketing of the Labour Party, the 'respectable' 'liberal', authorities and organisations. It showed what organisation could do even in the most difficult of circumstances. The do-nothings, the stay-at-homes, the heads-in-the sand were quite clearly shown up to be empty windbags.
'Twas a famous history."

Reg Weston - Higham resident and life-time National Union of Journalists member

There is no middle ground in the battle against fascism. It's either 'us' or 'them.' 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Why did the late Matt Woods of Blackburn Rovers never play for England?

Sadly, footballer Matt Woods has died last week. I got to know Matt during the period when I was working on my 2010 book: THE FA CUP: FIFTY YEARS ON. Matt was part of the Blackburn Rovers side that made it through the Cup final that year and were beaten 3-0 by Stan Cullis’s Wolverhampton Wanderers side. Matt was good enough to turn up with Bryan Douglas and speak about the 1960 Cup experiences before a well informed audience at Blackburn library. It was a really good night. 
What follows are the parts of the book that Matt appeared in. Matt himself made just one representative appearance when he was part of the Football League side that beat the League of Ireland side 4-0 at Dalymount Park, Dublin on 14 September 1960. Travelling to the match he was told by an FA Council member (almost certainly Dr Andrew Stephen as Matt mentioned he was from Sheffield Wednesday) that he had not been picked for England before because they had forgotten about him on one occasion! Matt’s mate had only just dropped him off at the airport and such was his anger that Matt dashed back out to see if he could grab a lift home. However, when he discovered he had departed his teammates then persuaded him to make the flight to Ireland. Matt never did play for his country. 
Centre-half – Matt Woods helped form the dynamic halfback line with Ronnie Clayton and Mick McGrath that took Rovers out of division Two in 1958. Also signed by Johnny Carey from everton in 1956, for £6,000, he was an inspirational figure who would have been in the reckoning for international honours had it not been for the permanent presence of Billy Wright at number 5 in the England set-up. Woods made 307 appearances for Blackburn. He went on to turn out for Luton and Stockport County and also played in Australia.
Wolves captain Bill Slater: “The game was more attacking then. Nowadays they emphasise defence and at times you’ve got a single forward and three or four defenders, which as well as making the game less exciting means a defender has a much easier time.”
This view is also shared by Matt Woods, the man who was to be Slater’s counterpart in the Blackburn team at Wembley in 1960. “I feel that centre-halves have it easy these days. In my day you’d regularly end up with two forwards bearing down on goal with only yourself to try and stop them; sometimes it was three. Now they have two centre-halves even if there’s only one centre-forward. I can’t see how any centre-half can have a bad game these days.”
Woods had joined Blackburn Rovers, then in division Two, after a torrid five-year period at everton. His description of experiences at Goodison Park provides an example of why Slater settled on the side of caution when faced with choosing between a teaching job and a career as a professional footballer in the 1950s.
“At Everton I started played in the ‘B’ team and I did pretty well and so they asked me to sign amateur forms as I was only 15. When I later signed professionally it was one of the worst things I ever did as I soon discovered the manager, Cliff Britton, hated me. And I hated him. In those days they could keep you even if you wanted to move. Well, I wanted to move. I was on the list for five years. When you signed for 12 months you were like bonded for life, at the end of it, and even if you wanted to move on they could just keep you. They said I could move but then they didn’t tell me about clubs who might be interested in signing me. They did tell me no one had enquired but I know that wasn’t the case.
“By the end I was on top money and I was in the reserves. I only played about eight games for everton all the time I was there. At one point I got into the first team. We played away at Sunderland, who’d been doing really well, and we drew 0-0. We then beat Villa 2-1 at home and Huddersfield 5-1 when I scored – yet the manager dropped me for the next match at Cardiff which was lost 6-1.
“I only managed to get a move when Britton resigned. They wanted to keep me but I was glad to see the back of the place and going to Rovers was just wonderful. I never regretted it for a single second,” says Woods, who was desperate for a decent cup run after Rovers had fallen at the semi-final hurdle two years previously, losing somewhat unfortunately 2-1 to local rivals Bolton Wanderers at Maine Road.
After drawing 1-1 at Sunderland in the third round, Woods said: “There were no easy games in the FA Cup in 1960 as it was the major cup competition in England. It was every boy’s dream to play at Wembley, even those who never played professionally! The match at Sunderland was a tight, hard-fought match that I feel we should have won. Roker Park is a good ground and Sunderland had fanatical fans, still have, but by managing to get a draw I was confident we’d beat them at home.”
Blackburn scrambled a draw at home to Blackpool in the fourth round of the cup in 1960.
Matt Woods recalls the game: “We were fortunate against Blackpool at home. But they made the mistake of dropping a bit too deep to defend their lead and late in the game virtually every player was in their box and there was mud everywhere and the ball fell to Mick McGrath and he scrambled it in.”
The replay was a walkover as Blackpool were beaten 3-0 on their own patch. 
“We murdered Blackpool in the replay,” says Woods. “We totally took them apart, but we did have some good players and when it all clicked we were capable of beating any side. I was a good footballer. I feel that my strengths as a player were my heading ability and I was a good tackler. I was not the quickest but I feel I made up for this by being able to read the game well so I could anticipate where a ball might get played and react accordingly.
“I became a professional footballer after my uncle wrote to Everton when I was just out of school. Like a lot of lads I loved playing football; to be honest, there was little else to do at the time – there certainlywasn’t a television to sit in front of like today. With my mates, dozens of them, we played on the fields at Skelmersdale after school and in the holidays. The ball was different than today but it was all we knew so no one complained.
“I was playing in the Wigan Sunday League, which was an open-age league. I was 14 or 15 and played for Upholland West end – it was because of a friend of mine who I worked with at the local shoe factory. He came out of the Navy and played at Skelmersdale United. He was helping me through my apprenticeship at the shoe factory and asked me to play. I enjoyed it and was playing at wing half at the time.”
Facing favourites Spurs in the fifth round, Blackburn won 3-1 with Woods scoring the first. 
Mick McGrath:“At Spurs, Louis Bimpson got a free kick on the halfway line that I was going to take but Matt Woods said, ‘It’s very muddy so fuck off,’ and he hits this ball halfway between Derek Dougan and Norman and it slid through Brown. It was the bit of luck you need at times.
“I remember that Bobby Smith was going on about what a good side Spurs were to Matt Woods – ‘We’ve beaten you before, ’ and how they were going to win this and that – and at the end of the game Matt said to him, ‘Remind me to send you a Cup final ticket’. I am not someone who gets really excited but after the Spurs game I felt we had a real chance of at least getting to Wembley and winning the FA Cup.”
In the semi-final, Rovers beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1.
Matt Woods recalls: “I was delighted to beat Sheffield Wednesday. I remember Harry Leyland, who’s the bravest keeper I’ve seen, making one or two cracking saves. On a one-on-one Leyland was great as he’d go down bravely to grab the ball. I didn’t feel any great sympathy for Wednesday as no one had any sympathy for us when we lost. We came under a lot of pressure towards the end but there are no easy games.”
However, in the final, Rovers were easily beaten. Derek Dougan’s decision to play even though he was not fit meant victory was never likely. 
Matt Woods takes up the story: “Dougan had pulled a muscle a week previously. It was up to him to decide whether he was fit. In those days the Cup final, and playing in it, meant everything. He must have thought he could get through the match. So Dougan took his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and played – and after about ten minutes it was obvious he was only half fit.”
Yet as half-time approached the tie remained in the balance. 
With seven minutes left to half-time Horne might have given Wolves the lead when he cut in to fire a cross shot that Leyland did well to touch round the post. His opposite number had to be equally alert a minute later after Dobing’s tenacious run through the middle. But Finlayson, showing great alertness, was out swiftly to block Dobing’s shot with his legs.
Matt Woods remembers: “Peter Dobing was clean through and with his skill I thought he’d open the scoring but he smashed his shot against Finlayson’s legs and the chance was lost.”
Soon after Rovers fell behind and then lost full back Dave Whelan to a broken leg. The east Lancs side battled on and were still in with a slim chance but:-
the match was as good as settled on 67 minutes. Des Horne crossed from the byline for Deeley, who had limped back out at the restart, to sweep the ball into the net. Rovers defenders protested strongly that he was offside, claiming that Mick McGrath standing behind the goal line in the net was out of play and as such Horne was offside when he crossed the ball.
Matt Woods is still aggrieved. “I still feel the second goal was a mile offside. We used to get out quick and play offside; we all came out together. Mick McGrath was in the goal behind the line but had his hand on the post and when Deeley knocked it home the referee said that Mick was playing him on. He wasn’t and that killed us. We appealed but it had no effect.”
The final scoreline was Blackburn Rovers 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 

CRISIS AND CONTROL The militarization of protest policing by Lesley J Wood

Sociology professor Lesley J Wood examines how and why the practices and strategies of North American policing agencies have shifted in the last twenty years when policing protests.                  From the current edition of the Big Issue in the North magazine. 

  1. Why write this book and is it relevant to British readers?

Elites use the police to maintain their power, so understanding their operations seems relevant. The police have weapons and powers to control the population – especially people of colour, immigrants and poor people. As more people take to the streets in North America and the UK they face an increasingly militarised, interventionist police strategy. British police experts are promoting this strategy and its reliance on intelligence-led decision- making internationally. Mixed with the US police love of militarised toys, we’ve got a deadly combination.
2. What is the strategic incapacitation model of protest policing now routinely employed for large-scale, uncooperative protests?

One that views unpredictable protest as a threat to institutions and systems that are central to the state or capitalism, and as such must be eliminated or contained. This leads police to focus on worst-case scenarios and infiltrate, contain and militarise their response to social movements. You can see this strategy in Ferguson, Missouri with the armoured personnel carriers, riot units and less lethal weapons like flash-bang grenades and rubber bullets.Or in the attempt to control the movement of protesters through kettling or the security walls around G8 summits.
3. What impact are civilian-based oversight/investigative bodies having on handling complaints by protestors about police actions? 

Oversight bodies can’t challenge the fundamental problem. The police are operating as part of an unjust system and any armed group given legitimacy by that system is likely to end up being racist, violent and corrupt. But, crucially, they keep the pressure on by challenging the police who thus find it harder to demand massive budgets in anticipation of protests. They encourage critical discussions about what sort of tools and technologies are legitimate, so oversight bodies save lives.

4. How important are international policing conferences and networks in diffusing ‘best practice’ ideas within the global policing field?

They are key in spreading the strategic incapacitation framework. These conferences have grown rapidly and are spaces where dominant players – the NYPD’s, the RCMPs and Metropolitan Police Services of the world - offer their expertise to smaller forces. They are often sponsored by corporate sponsors from the security and defence industries. There were 750 exhibitors at the most recent International Association of Chiefs of Police conference. These conferences and their legitimacy encourages the adoption of particular technologies and further remove police decision-making from the people who will be policed.  

5) How has the widening of the definition of terrorism to include social movement activity impacted on the policing of protests? 

The UK broadened its terrorism in 2000 to include  “the use or threat of action designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public….made for the purposes of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause and involving or causes serious violence against a person, property or an electronic system.” 

Such a definition is broad enough to be used against strikes, property destruction, disruption of institutions or corporations or blocking roads. Even David Anderson QC, the official reviewer of counter-terrorism laws, has expressed fears. Following the UK’s lead other states broadened their definitions. These are being employed against G20 summit protesters, Kurdish activists in Turkey, Brazilian anti-World Cup demonstrators and Oklahoma activists who dared to hang a glitter-covered banner protesting at the Keystone XL pipeline. Such definitions help justify increased funds for police, intelligence gathering and more repression.

Health and safety watchdog denies claims it is to be more commercial

From the current edition of the Big Issue in the North magazine, please buy a copy when you see a seller. 
Britain’s safety watchdog has denied that its new head has been appointed to exploit commercial opportunities rather than improve workplace health and safety.
Hundreds of people are killed at work annually, thousands are injured and hundreds of thousands suffer from a work- related illness that each year leads to 13,000 early deaths.
Part of the Department for Work and Pensions, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently celebrated its fortieth birthday and is responsible for regulating and enforcing workplace health, safety and welfare.
Commercial streams
Chartered engineer Richard Judge will take over as HSE chief executive in November. He is currently head of the Insolvency Agency, part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. This followed a five-year period in charge at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries
and Aquaculture Science, which provides research, consultancy and training for customers worldwide and is part of another government department, DEFRA. Judge has expanded both organisations’ aim of helping government into new commercial streams.
The HSE, which under the current government has lost staff and its rights to inspect a number of workplace sectors, struggled to appoint a new head and its initial attempt last year was abandoned. When a new job advert was issued it contained no reference to improving workplace health and safety but included three mentions that the postholder would be required to make the HSE more commercial.
‘Cherry picking’
Hazards, the magazine for trade union safety representatives, argues that Judge has been “handpicked for this commercial task as he has no substantive experience in a regulatory role... but does have experience of cherry picking and selling off profitable bits of businesses”.
Steve Murphy, general secretary of the building workers union UCATT, said: “While Mr Judge cannot be blamed for the failure of the government to properly fund the HSE I hope he concentrates on its core functions of protecting workers and not on selling its services.”
However, the HSE defended its appointment. A spokesperson said: “Richard Judge brings a wide range of relevant skills and experience in senior leadership roles in both the public and private sector, including regulatory functions, operational delivery and commercialisation.
“We are seeking to develop commercial opportunities where they contribute to improved management and control of risk, but we have been clear that our dedication to promoting effective and proportionate risk management and enforcing the law will not be changing.”

TOM JONES - a fighter for freedom and working people

Read my new book - TOM JONES - a fighter for freedom and working people 
Spanish Civil War volunteer and Welsh TGWU general secretary at http://www.unitetheunion.org/growing-our-union/education/bookofthemonth/


This is the first in a series of downloadable and printed short books on great men and women who feature prominently in the history of UNITE and its predecessor unions. We hope these histories will provide fascinating reading and inspire the current and future generations of trade unionists to take up the struggle on behalf of working people as there is certainly a lot to fight for. 

Tom Jones was a remarkable man who as a miner actively participated in the 1926 General Strike before joining thousands from Britain and Ireland who bravely took up arms in the 1930s on behalf of the Spanish Republic in a battle to defend democracy and crush fascism. He remarkably survived being executed, a death sentence and years in prison before returning to Britain after a successful labour movement campaign to secure his release. 

Serious injuries prevented him taking up arms to fight fascism in the Second World War. He became active at work in the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) and was to be appointed as a regional organiser in North Wales and for parts of Merseyside. He later became the first TGWU all-Wales Regional Secretary. 

A very bright and friendly man, Tom campaigned to bring industries and work to Wales. By recruiting and organising thousands of workers he helped ensure decent pay and conditions across many industries. As a labour movement activist he sought to extend support for the unemployed and those unable to work because of ill health or old age. 

Towards the end of his working life, Tom played a prominent role in the development of the Wales Trades Union Council.