Monday, 21 August 2017

Birmingham Bin Strike: Council Back Down!

BIN collections in Birmingham are to resume after weeks of mounting rubbish caused misery for the city's residents.  Industrial action has been suspended as progress was made in a long-running dispute involving refuse collection workers, conciliation service Acas said.

Before the latest development the Unite union had warned that the dispute could last until Christmas, with workers campaigning against plans to cut more than 100 waste collection jobs.

What we know so far says the Birmingham Mail:  The bin strike which has crippled Birmingham for almost two months has been suspended.
The breakthrough came after the city council and the Unite union held talks via the Acas conciliation service.
The news means the mountains of rubbish left festering on the city's streets since the dispute began in June will finally be cleared, although there was no immediate timescale for the clean-up.
The resolution will bring joy to residents who have had to cope with packed bin bags piled high, while flies, maggots and rats were widely reported.
Acas has said in a statement:
'Birmingham City Council and Unite the Union have today made sufficient progress in their talks for the Shop Stewards to pause industrial action.
'Birmingham City Council cabinet members have agreed in principle that the grade 3 posts will be maintained.
'Consequently there are no redundancy steps in place.
'In addition the parties will now look to discuss, through ACAS, how the service can be improved, with the intention of improving efficiencies in performance of the bin collection service generally, including what savings can be made, and specifically how best the current Grade 3 roles can now be maintained and developed so that they take forward the ambition to deliver cleaner streets and align to wider Total Place principles.
 'Unite have also agreed in principle to recommend to their members work pattern changes, including consideration of a five-day working week.
'Both parties agree the working week should be designed to maximise service delivery.
'To assist in the resolution of outstanding issues both parties will go to ACAS.
'These discussions will be with the intention of incorporating any agreement as an amendment to the Waste Management Service Cabinet Report in September 2017.
'Both parties are pleased to be recommencing industrial relations and pleased that the bin collection can resume without disruption.'
Acas said the parties had made 'sufficient' progress in their talks for industrial action to be paused, with council cabinet members agreeing in principle that Grade 3 posts will be maintained, and consequently there are no redundancy steps in place.
Unite has also agreed in principle to recommend to its members work pattern changes, including consideration of a five-day working week, Acas said, with both parties agreeing that the working week should be designed to maximise service delivery.
Discussions are set to continue on how the service can be improved, with the intention of improving efficiencies in performance of the bin collection service generally, including what savings can be made.
To assist in the resolution of outstanding issues both parties will go to Acas.
Unite said the Grade 3 jobs are responsible for the safety at the rear of the refuse vehicles.
There are now expectation that similar conflicts will occur across the country, and Doncaster has been mentioned as an area of conflict in the near future.

War on the Home Front (part two)

 by Christopher Draper

PART one of this story explained that 13 anarchists in the North-West region were active conscientious objectors to WWI.  As soon as conscription was introduced in February 1916 two comrades, Arthur Helsby and William Greaves, applied for absolute exemption but to no avail.  A third anarchist, Walter Barlow was arrested for ignoring the draft and fined before disappearing for the duration of hostilities.  Herbert Holt, William Hopkins, William Jackson and Charles Warwick were nabbed as “absentees” at Stockport anarchist club, along with Helsby (again!).  The police then rounded up and arrested a further 4 Stockport Anarcho-Conchies (A-C’s) and by the end of the year all but 2 of our 13 (one was still under age and the other elusive) had been collared but that didn’t end their protests.

Happy Christmas Conchies!
Christmas 1916 found 10 of our 13 anarchist conchies in captivity, 7 incarcerated in Wormwood Scrubs, 1 in Leeds Prison and 2 (Greaves and Holt) teetering on the edge of imprisonment. William Greaves hadn’t yet exhausted his escalating appeals for absolute exemption after he’d been automatically enlisted in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers whilst Herbert Holt initially accepted alternative work on a Wakefield “Home Office Scheme” (HOS). Soon both attracted the wrath of the authorities and they were reunited with their imprisoned comrades.

Predictably Pointless Appeals
Herbert Holt was the man who’d argued in court for return of the pamphlets the police seized on their first raid on the Stockport anarchist club only to be arrested as an absentee on their second visit. Holt’s appeal ended with “alternative work” at a new HOS at Platt Hall Fields, Manchester. The scheme aimed to cultivate unused land to increase home food production. Twenty-five or so conchies were billeted in Platt Hall whilst they worked the adjacent fields. As usual, the authorities started taking liberties and when Herbert was ordered to maintain Manchester’s other parks and cemeteries he objected and spent the rest of the war in Strangeways. William Greaves’ sequence of appeals concluded with a court-martial at Oswestry followed by serial imprisonment; Shrewsbury, Wormwood Scrubs and finally Walton.

'Lion Taming'
Arrested at the Stockport 'Workers’ Freedom Group' (WFG) Club both William Jackson and William Hopkins were compulsorily enlisted in the Third Cheshire Regiment and posted to Birkenhead Barracks whose infamous unofficial motto was 'We tame lions here!'  The regiment systematically brutalised and humiliated conchies at their Birkenhead HQ but Jackson and Hopkins remained resolute even after the shit hit the fan.  Slapped, kicked and thrown over eight foot high walls in full public view at Birkenhead Park, along with 3 fellow conchies they were then court-martialled for non-compliance.  Their case became a cause celebre after the national press learned of their outrageous mistreatment.  Despite the officers’ brutality it was the conchies who were subsequently sentenced to two years imprisonment (with Hard Labour) in Wormwood Scrubs.

Protest & Survive
Anarchist club comrades Robert Seaton and Charles Bradlaugh Warwick adopted a contrasting approach to conscientious objection. Seaton confronted conscription head-on whereas Warwick preferred ducking and diving. Initially arrested as an absentee and compulsorily enlisted in the Yorkshire Regiment, Charles Warwick refused to sign his army papers and immediately went AWOL. Posted as a deserter in the Police Gazette he was eventually captured, court-martialled at Blackpool and imprisoned. Subsequently sent to Dartmoor Work Camp he escaped and was again proscribed by the authorities. Arrested inSalford on 24 October 1917 Warwick was charged with forgery, having 'creatively amended' his call-up papers to facilitate his freedom.  Pronounced guilty he was sent back to prison.
Robert Seaton’s straightforward approach was to simply say no to everything, no conscription, no tribunal, no alternative work.  He was the absolutist’s absolutist.  Consequently Seaton is amongst the conchie elite (anarchists form a solid chunk of this group) who endured three courts-martial and three consequent prison sentences; in Wandsworth, Walton and Carlisle.  In July 1917, whilst imprisoned at Walton, Seaton engaged in a mass hunger strike along with around 20 other conchies and Irish Republicans in a solidarity protest against force feeding.  Subsequently transferred to Carlisle Prison, he was incarcerated long after the war ended.  On one occasion, when the authorities feared he might die in gaol, he was “temporarily” allowed out for 28 days under the 'cat and mouse act' but it wasn’t until August 1919 that Robert and the last of Britain’s imprisoned conchies were finally and officially released.
The conchie career of Samuel Brooks, another Stockport comrade, was remarkably similar to Seaton’s.  On occasions they even were court-martialled together and Samuel starved alongside Robert in the 1917 Walton mass hunger strike.
Stockport cotton piercer Alfred Toft endured an extra level of suffering when he went on hunger strike at Lincoln Prison August 1917 in protest against enduring arbitrary punishment.  Twice force-fed through a tube shoved down his throat into his stomach he spent the rest of the war inside Lincoln gaol.
In the inimitable words of Monty Python, 'he was lucky!' - Stockport iron moulder Robert Stuart Williams was force fed more than fifty times in Preston Prison.   Arrested as an absentee in 1916, routinely conscripted into a fighting unit, Robert refused to obey orders and so initiated the usual absurdist cycle of courts-martial, prison, disobedience and then round again.  After joining the A-C elite with 3 CM’s, 3 prison sentences and over 2 years inside to his credit he decided to hunger strike against his continued imprisonment after the 1918 armistice.  As the prison authorities recorded, he was systematically force fed 'to finish or release him'.

Knutsford Welcomes Burnley’s Bakunin
Arthur Riley was a Burnley cotton weaver living at home and supporting his crippled brother and aged mother, who was afflicted with chronic rheumatism. Arthur’s father was already dead, as were four of Arthur’s siblings. It was an impoverished family and the local tribunal initially cut him some slack but in 1917 they demanded his enlistment so Arthur tried to avoid them by sleeping at different addresses. Riley’s opinions on the war were already well known around town as he was an activist who, the previous year, had a long letter published in the local paper defending conchies.  Arrested and tried in September 1917 Arthur informed the court, 'Politically he was an anarchist absolutely and he was an atheist in religious matters. He believed it was morally wrong to take human life or assist in doing so.'  After a spell of imprisonment in Preston Gaol, just before Xmas 1917 Riley was sent to Knutsford Work Camp where, along with 800 other conchies he was housed in the disused prison.  As if that wasn’t bad enough the good townsfolk of Knutsford conducted an unrelenting campaign of violent hostility to the conchies billeted on their doorstep.  An endless stream of stories published in the local press stoked up resentment; 'Milk for Objectors but Not Enough for Babies', 'Proposed Exclusion from Library', 'Freeholders Ban Conchies from Playing Football on Heath' and the cruellest blow of all, 'The Ladies tennis club at Knutsford have decided that any member who associates with a Conchie must resign at once!'
From 7am until 5.30pm Arthur and his comrades were set to work repairing the dilapidated prison building but were then allowed into town as long as they returned by 9pm.  This wasn’t as attractive as it might appear as townsfolk generally refused to serve the conchies in shops and even the local medic, Dr Fennell, boasted, 'He hated them and would like to drown every last one of them…  One was brought to his surgery and he had shown him the door.'   Most nights a hostile reception committee was gathered at the gates awaiting any conchie brave enough to leave the camp.  Violence erupted on numerous occasions and whilst Arthur was at Knutsford one attack was so outrageous that the local authorities were obliged to intervene and prosecute 10 local jingoes.
In Court Superintendant Sutherland explained, 'The attack on the conchies began in Canute Place and ended in front of the prison in something which approached a riot.” Despite damning evidence the culprits were merely bound over and the magistrates expressed their hope that their victims (the conchies) would be removed from the town as soon as possible, and so they were. In the New Year (1918) Arthur and the rest of the Knutsford conchies were transferred to Dartmoor Work camp and as the local paper reported, “There were great rejoicings in the town on their leaving.'

Cheeky Boy!
Conscription continued into 1918 and in March, as the Manchester papers reported, 'An impudent and very empty appeal was made by an 18-year-old conscientious objector at the Salford Appeals Tribunal…the youth said in his application that the British war aims were all wrong.  He did not believe in war'.  The Tribunal merely expressed amusement when the young man, 'admitted he was an anarchist' and most reasonably argued, 'that he did not think it was right that Mesopotamia when captured by the British should go to Lever Bros. the soap manufacturers, as one Cabinet Minister had intimated in a recent speech.'  Our anonymous comrade was ordered to report when called upon but appears to have evaded conscription.

Aftermath
As our comrades claimed, this was no war to end wars, on the contrary. Sadly the war’s deadly toll included the British anarchist movement which never regained its pre-war working class vitality. None of our 13 North-Western anarcho-conchies were anything above skilled workers.  Lithographer Arthur Helsby was probably the most elevated and none typified the middle class intellectuals that now characterise our vestigial movement.  Many of the most politically active workers that survived the war fell under the spell of Bolshevism and joined the Communist Party. Burnley’s Arthur Riley was a founder member but now Communism’s also collapsed.  The lessons of history aren’t obvious but our local anarcho-conchies were motivated by an anarchism that hadn’t yet grown world weary, cynical and sectarian.  Their stories are an inspiration.
(Llandudno, August 2017

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Justice for Grenfell

Public Meeting:

Justice for Grenfell
We need answers!

WE DEMAND SAFE, SECURE HOMES

6 pm on Tuesday 22nd of August
Salford Arts Theatre, Kemsing Walk (off Liverpool St), Salford M5 4BS.

Speakers from:
Justice4Grenfell Campaign
Mark Rowe, FBU North West Regional Secretary
Hilda Palmer, GM Hazards Campaign
Salford City Unison

All Welcome

For more information contact Salford City Unison Branch Office on 0161794 7425 or got to http://salfordcityunison.org.uk/justice-4-grenfell/

Monday, 14 August 2017

Comrade Corbyn in Southport on Friday.

Comrade Corbyn

Labour Party leader, comrade Jeremy Corbyn, has been on a tour of marginal constituencies trying to whip up support for Labour. This Friday, 18th August, he will be holding a rally on the beach in Southport and he's calling on Labour Party supporters, to bring friends and family to support him.

Labour came close to winning Southport at the last election and hopes to win this marginal at the next election. Organisers are asking people to arrive at 5.15pm for a 6.00pm start. The rally is a 20 minute walk from the train station.

Since losing the last election, Labour have acted like a prospective government in waiting. Although an exuberant Corbyn, told revellers at this years Glastonbury Festival, that he expected to be in Downing Street by Christmas and would scrap the Trident nuclear deterrent, this now seems unlikely.

Conservative reactionaries and the Ulster Orangemen of the Democratic Unionists Party(DUP) have rallied round the hapless lame-duck prime minister Theresa May, shit scared at the prospects of a Corbyn government and spurred on by a £1 billion bung to the DWP, picked from the magic money tree.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Homeless Squat Eviction in Bristol

by Kevin 'B'
AT 2.30pm today (Friday 11th, August 2017),. I was on my way to Bristol Central Library and noticed a large crowd of people watching an Eviction.
The Police where there in Riot  Gear and lots of private Bailiffs with battering rams, night goggles to examine dark areas of the building etc..
'The Music Shop' on College Green closed a good while ago and has been discretely squatted.
The crowd which was mainly young students did not protest they just passively watched from the other side of the road.
I said to one group of students that don't you think its wrong to treat evicting homeless people as a public spectacle?
Homelessness is getting worse in Bristol because accommodation is expensive to rent. Social Housing is scarce.
Its not unusual for me to see 3 or 4 people sleeping on College Green during the daytime as its safer for them to do so. Safer than rough sleeping at night. 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Bill Christopher: A radical born on Bastille Day

From South Africa to West Yorkshire

Brian Bamford peruses the politics of the 1960s, 

as he talks to Joan Christopher about her husband, Bill

THE early 1960s was a time of great expectations in radical left-wing politics.  There had just been the Campaign to Boycott South African Goods, called by the Anti-Apartheid Movement.  The boycott attracted widespread support from students, trade unions and the Labour, Liberal and the then Communist Party.  The Anti-Apartheid Movement had begun as the Boycott Movement, set up in 1959 to persuade shoppers to boycott apartheid goods.

The Campaign to Boycott South African Goods had been preceded by another single issue social movement the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which was founded in 1957 in the wake of widespread fear of nuclear conflict and the effects of nuclear tests.  In the early 1950s, Britain had become the third atomic power, after the USA and the USSR had recently tested an H-bomb.

 Joan and Bill Christopher on holiday in France
Politically this was the atmosphere of the early 1960s, especially in London where Bill and Joan Christopher were to be activist members of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) for most of their adult lives.  However, there were unofficial strikes and industrial struggles going on at that time, and in 1960 Bill had left the I.L.P. to join the Worker's Party [1] formed by Brian Behan [2], when Brian and others had broken away from the Trotskyist Socialist Labour League in 1960.  The Worker’s Party later merged with the Syndicalist Worker’s Federation (SWF).

Later together with the Freedom Press anarcho-syndicalist carpenter Peter Turner, Bill Christopher was to become joint-secretary of the Industrial Sub-committee of Committee of 100 [3], that was a time of great conflict and activity during the national campaign against nuclear weapons and the Bomb.  It was to be out of this Committee of 100 London Industrial Sub-Committee that the industrially based National Rank & File Movement (N.R&F.M)[4], an organisation of militant trade unionists and shop-floor syndicalists, developed and was founded at a conference in London in January 1961.

An article in Freedom newspaper covering this National Rank & File founding conference, of which Bill Christopher was an active member,announced:
 
'This week-end there is to be held in London the first Conference of the newly-formed Rank and File Movement.  Much work has been put into the preparation of this conference by liaison committees; discussion meetings have been going on in London, resolutions and amendments have been drawn up, and it may well be that this event will be a significant one for militants among the industrial workers at least.' 
(FREEDOM: January 28, 1961)


Joan Christopher speaking to N.V. in Todmorden, West Yorkshire

  Introduction to the interview by Brian Bamford

These were the days before Spies for Peace and before my own trip to Spain in February 1963 on behalf of the young libertarians of F.I.J.L in France, before the arrest of Stuart Christie in Madrid in 1964, well before the student sit-ins at the L.S.E. in 1967 and before the French events in 1968 and the 'Donovan Report' into the trade unions .  Back then I and my then compañera, Joan Matthews, who were staying with the S.W.F. national secretary Ken Hawkes at his home on Parliament Hill, attended this London national rank and file conference of perhaps 200 workers and activists; we were both employed at that time at the same engineering firm in the North West. At this conference we were sat in front of the Freedom Press anarchists Colin Ward, Philip Sanson and his compañera.  It was the first time that I’d met people like

Bill Christopher, Brian Behan, Ken Weller of Solidarity, and Peter Turner of Freedom Press, with whom I became a close friend for the rest of his life.  

In a pamphlet authored by Bill Christopher entitled 'SMASH THE WAGE FREEZE!' (1960s), and published by the Syndicalist Worker's Federation, Bill wrote:

'It is obvious that today only a Labour Government would dare to implement a wage-freeze policy and arm it with heavy penalties for non-implementation...  The opening attack on workers' wages and conditions came with George Brown's Joint Statement of Intent on Productivity, Prices and Incomes.... shop stewards wishing to improve wages and / or conditions in their plant, are subject to the penalties of the Act.  The officials of their respective unions can also be penalised.'
 
The intention of the then Labour government here would be to discourage unofficial strikes, that is strikes not supported and financed by the trade unions: in the 1950s and early 1960s unofficial strikes represented about 90% of all the industrial action taking place.  Historically shop stewards were intended to be simply 'union card checkers', in the 1896 rule book of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, that later became A.U.E.W., this was stated to be the sole role of the steward.  Yet, after the Second World War the shop steward had become a key figure on the shop-floor.  Bill Christopher during his involvement with the S.W.F. and in his writings as an industrial editor on Freedom, was anxious to extend the responsibilities of the shop stewards as was the rest of us involved in the National Rank & File Movement.

*******

Political Journey - wartime South Africa to West Yorkshire



Bill Christopher in the North of England

Bill Christopher was born on Bastille Day in July 1924, and died in January 1993.

Brian Bamford's Joan Christopher interview on Bill Christopher:
Began April 2015 and was finally completed in July 2017.

Brian Bamford: When did you and Bill first move up to Todmorden?

Joan Christopher: We came here in July 1986. I was born an Essex girl in a town called Woodford in 1928, but my family moved to Walthamstow from around 1930.

Brian:  How did you find living up here?

Joan:  We didn't know how things were going to work out. Of course, we had been up to visit Aileen and Bob (daughter and son in-law) several times. But I soon learned to drive after coming up and I began to go to college to do A-level art. Some dear friends of ours Eric and Joan Preston (in the Independent Labour Party) lived in Leeds

Brian:  Has Todmorden changed much since you came?

Joan:  There has not been a great deal of change. There is more of a hint of tourism – a bit like (nearby) Hebden Bridge, and it's more gentrified now. We use to meet people who had not been out of Todmorden all their lives.

Brian:  How does life up here compare with London?

Joan:  Bill use to reminisce about about London. He didn't seem to settle down as much as me. For me I’ve liked living up here and I find ‘Tod.’ people very friendly – I like somewhere a bit rural and countryfied.

Brian:  How did you meet Bill?

Joan:  I use to work with Bill's sister, Jean; sewing. I started working when I was 14-years-old at a dress-making factory cutting, finishing and re-drawing from the pattern book on Hudson Street, Walthamstow for about 4 months.   I then worked at Cannels Ltd dress-making. It was through his sister Jean that I met Bill and we first went out at Xmas 1942. Jean use to say Bill only liked me because I liked playing monopoly.  He had asked me to go to the pictures a week before he went into the RAF.   Bill was a volunteer and didn’t wait to be called-up, nor was he influenced by his mates at the time into his decision to join up.   At that time he was at first doing air-training in St. Johns Wood.
Later he was based in South Africa training to be a navigator, and didn't come home until 1944. After that he was in the Army in India until 1947.
While he was in India during the troubles there; that is during the Bombay riots, I remember him saying that he shot into the air,.rather risk hitting anyone.
He didn't talk much about South Africa! It was the war that influenced his later political views as well as his later (post war) experience in India (in the Army).  When he went to the war he had been a Christian and as a boy he wanted to be a missionary in the Church of England. My Mum too had been a strong believer before she met my Dad.
After he left the Army, Bill (Christopher) went back to working in the print (industry) in the 1940s up to the 1970s.  He was an Imperial Father of Chapel (Works Convenor) at the Daily Mail in NATSOPA and Sogat. After he left school he worked flat-bed printing on 'The Queen' magazine, which was a glossy.  He was doing White Chapel preparation though his grandfather had been a copy-taker.   He left the Daily Mail, went on to Teacher’s Training College, and later began teaching in the early 1970s.  He taught at Leyton County High School for Boys.  Bill was a member of the NUT (National Union of Teachers).   Bill came into teaching as a mature student and ended up teaching sociology as part of his teacher’s training certificate.

Brian:  Why did you both come up North?

Joan:   In July 1985, he decided to retire, because Bill didn't have a degree and he assumed that he wouldn't get a job in a 6th form College or High School. He was 61 (Bill was born in July 1924). We already had a daughter living in Cornholme in Todmorden. Our daughter, Aileen, has lived in the North longer than down in London. She originally lived in Cornholme, Todmorden, but is now over the border in Burnley.
When we got here Bill studied for a Master's degree (entitled) 'The women's role in the factories in World War II'. An oral history involving (research) doing interviews with workers (who had) worked in the mills and factories in the Tod(morden) area (in the War). It was a dissertation for his MA (Master's Degree), and I typed it up for him on a Word. Processor. He started studying for a Phd shortly before he died.

Brian:  What do you reckon of today's politicians?

Joan:  You can see that I am a Labour supporter (a Labour Party poster is in the window). Both me and Bill voted Labour in the 1945 and 1951 general elections: although I haven't got a lot of faith in any of them. Because they make promises and then can't deliver. I look on Labour as being the lesser evil. I always vote, because people died to get the vote. The trouble is that big business has more control, although you do get the odd MP who does a good job.

Brian:  But you were both in the Independent Labour Party (ILP)?


Joan:  (The I.L.P. merged with the Labour Party in 1975) when the I.L.P. stopped being the Independent Labour Party and became the 'Independent Labour Publications'.
Bob Galliers (Bill's son-in-law) intervene here to say that Bill had always been a syndicalist or anarcho-syndicalist, and that they (Bill and Joan) had been raided by the police in 1963 after the revelations in the Spies for Peace documents.
Joan Christopher then continued:
In the mid-1960s Bill wrote and edited industrial and labour reports for the Freedom newspaper with Peter Turner, who was a carpenter in the building trade.
I wrote for Freedom (the anarchist weekly newspaper) a piece about that raid after the 'Spies for Peace' [5] incident at Aldermaston at Easter in 1964. (At that time this 'subversive' document was being widely circulated by anarchists, independent socialists and pacifists and) at a Conference of the I.L.P. in Yorkshire [probably Scarborough] everyone were asked to reproduce the 'Spies for Peace' leaflet.  (At that time) Eric Preston, Bill’s friend in the I.L.P., was being followed by the police as he moved 'Spies for Peace' leaflets and other materials from Leeds to London, but when he his copies in the Left Luggage, the police moved in and took them. The organisation 'Solidarity'* (nothing to do with the current Solidarity Federation) started the 'Spies for Peace' campaign. (Bob then intervened to say the journalist Natasha Walter published a book on the 'Spies for Peace'): (her father was, Nicolas Walter the well-known anarchist writer, and the only member of the 'Spies for Peace' to go public on this matter).
We also duplicated a rank and file newsletter the ‘Seaman’s Voice’ in Cumberland Road, and as I recall one of the seamen ended-up stapling his own finger, but he was still enough of a gentleman to avoid swearing in front of a woman, although I’m sure that he wanted to.
Bill unsuccessfully fought the Walthamstow parliamentary seat (at different times) for both the ILP and CND.. He was a member of the (anarcho-syndicalist) Syndicalist Worker's Federation (SWF) and produced both 'Worker's Voice' (then the paper of the Worker's Party) and 'World Labour News'. Earlier in 1959, we were both involved in the 'Worker's Party'* with Brian Behan* (the brother of the play-write Brendan Behan and musician Dominic), but Brian was very mercurial.
Bill rejoined the I.L.P. around 1980ish, and the 'Friends of the ILP' are now part of the Labour Party.

Brian:  What did you do in the Miner’s Strike?

Joan:  We supported the miners! 
We had an ‘I.L.P. Miner’s Support Group’ through which we channelled our support. We were awarded a Miner’s Lamp for our efforts. I’ve still got that lamp here at the bottom of the stairs.

Brian:   I believe that William Morris was born in Walthamstow?

Joan.:  Yes, in the 1930s the house were he was born was turned into a clinic, and when I was a kid, I attended the clinic for treatment in about 1935.

Brian:  Many of those anarchists and syndicalists in London in the 1960s, I remember as having a wide variety of other interests as well as politics. Over the years from the 1960s I often stayed in London on the Peabody Estate behind Chelsea Town Hall on Kings Road with Bill’s old mate, the joiner Peter Turner and his then wife Gladys, and we often would talk about you and Bill. Peter loved cinema, the arts and above all music. As I recall from talking to Peter, he Bill and Jack Stevenson were all very enthusiastic about Jazz – I think Jack and Bill had disputes over their tastes in Jazz?

Joan:  Yes, we all had a passion for Jazz! But at first I was into the Classics, and Bill was into Jazz. When we were living on Cumberland Road we made it open-plan, and, on Jack Stevenson’s advice bought a Pye Black Box. We liked Bruck, Mendelssohn, Mahler, and Oscar Peterson. But it was through Jack Stevenson we came to know the track by Jack Teagarden ‘Tribute to Sydney Bechet’ (Joan at this point started to hum the tune). ‘I want that played at my funeral’, she said.

Brian:  Did you know many other people at Freedom besides Pete Turner? People like Vernon Richards, Colin Ward and Philip Sanson?

Joan:    Indeed, we were close to quite a few people at Freedom Press, and would go over for lunch on the odd Sunday to Philip Sansom and his partner’s house. We knew Tom Cowan and his Italian wife Gabrella. He was in the building trade. We were also close to Ken Hawkes, a sports journalist on the Reynolds News and the anacho-syndicalist editor of World Labour News – the journal of the Syndicalist Worker’s Federation (SWF) in the 1960s. Brian Behan, the brother of the play-write Brendan Behan, was another good friend who we knew Brian was a bit eccentric, he lived in a pre-fab with his wife and use to wear bicycle clips, and we asked him about this he turned his pockets out and showed us the holes. The bike-clips were there to catch the coins in.  His wife later went into teaching.  Brian was a carpenter in the building trade who was blacklisted and ended-up at university. I’m still in touch with Dave Picket who took over the S.W.F., when Ken Hawkes, who lived on Parliament Hill in Hampstead, left to go to work for the BBC.


Brian:  Thank you for that Joan, and please express my thanks to Aileen and Bob for all their help in producing this short rendering of the life of Bill Christopher.
******

[1] The Worker's Party was a breakaway from the Socialist Labour League in summer 1960.

[2] Brian Behan, the brother of the Irish play-write Brendan Behan, founded a short-lived 'Workers Party', which published Worker's Voice and was active in support of the Seaman's Strike.
In 1964, Behan wrote his first piece on his family life, With Breast Expanded. Forced to give up building work due to an arm injury, he moved to live on a boat in Shoreham-by-Sea and studied history and English at Sussex University. He then studied teaching, before in 1973 becoming a lecturer in media studies at the London College of Printing.[3] In 1972, he contested in a swearing match at the British Museum, to mark the republication of Robert Graves' Lars Porsena.[2]
[3] The Committee of 100 was set up after a difference in CND about the use of civil disobedience as a political weapon between Canon Collins and the philosopher Bertrand Russell,

[4] The National Rank & File Movement. Affiliates of SWF; the Worker’s Party; the ILP; Commonwealth; London Anarchists; Socialism Re-affirmed (publication Agitator - later Solidarity).
[5] The ‘Spies for Peace’ was a clandestine group of individuals including we now know the Freedom Press anarchist, Nicolas Walter, later admitted involvement: His Wikipeadia entry states: ‘Walter was a member of Spies for Peace, the only member to be publicly identified, only after his death. In March 1963, it broke into Regional Seat of Government No. 6
(RSG-6), copied documents relating to the Government's plans in the event of nuclear war and distributed 3,000 leaflets revealing their contents.’
In his book ‘Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow’ the historian David Goodway wrote:
The Spies for Peace were essentially this group (Solidarity), locating and entering the Regional Seat of Government (RSG) at Warren Pow, Berkshire, and circulating the pamphlet, Danger! Official Secret: RSG-6.
[6] ‘Solidarity' publication of the Socialism Re-affirmed Group edited by Christopher Pallis and Ken Weller, was originally entitled the 'The Agitator' until 1961.


War on the Home Front (part one)


by Chris Draper
WHILST British workers concentrated on killing German workers at Passchendaele back home loyal servants of the State used every trick in the book to frighten and torture 16,000 conscientious objectors into uniform. The Church of England assisted as recruiting sergeant and despite their hallowed reputation, a third of Quakers signed up to exterminate their fellow man.

The organised labour movement colluded with the killing but rebel socialists and anarchists refused to bang the jingo drum and here in the North West thirteen brave anarchists confronted the rabid State and refused to bear arms.

Atheists go to Hell Conscription started in 1916 and the only individuals the State considered fit for ‘conscientious objection' (CO) were pacifists obeying orders from GOD. Political objections were derided and dismissed so anarchists were on a hiding to nothing appealing to the authorities.  Once conscription began everyone was deemed to have enlisted so if you didn’t turn yourself in you would be arrested, fined and handed over to the military.  Any refusal to follow orders then led to court martial and imprisonment with hard labour, usually for 112 days for a first offence.

On completion of this sentence you were handed back to the military and the whole cycle recommenced with subsequent sentences extended up to two years and continuing even after hostilities Workers’ Playtime Thirteen anarchists from the North -West of England defied the draft and refused to fight. This was a pretty good contribution, comprising more than a third of the total AC’s (Anarcho-Conchies) from the whole of England. This comparative strength
derived from the influence of the Stockport Workers Freedom Group (WFG)
.
The group started up in 1913 and the following February opened their own clubrooms at 18 Park Street, Hazel Grove, with funds provided by millionaire anarchist and Kodak director, George Davison.  WFG proved a powerhouse of anarchist propaganda and in September 1913 under the auspices of the group, Guy Aldred delivered a series of eight open-air lectures in Stockport’s ‘Armoury & Mersey Squares” on revolutionary topics from, ‘Capitalism and the Child’ to ‘Direct Action, Legislation and the Social War’ .

Once conscription started Aldred was himself imprisoned as a conchie but the Stockport comrades were ready primed to resist
.
Gone Fishing

Legislation enacting Conscription received Royal Assent on 27 January 1916 In Stockport magistrates Court, ‘Inspector Billinge said that on February 1 the Chief Constable took out a warrant under the Defence of the Realm Act to search the premises, 18 Park Street occupied by the Workers Freedom Group or Anarchist Club’. The police failed to arrest anyone on that occasion but seized, ‘a number of documents and pamphlets, many of which were of a revolutionary nature and, no doubt, cry prejudicial to recruiting’
.
The Chief Constable wanted to destroy everything but Herbert Holt , a leading member of WFG, argued their literature should be returned. Although magistrates agreed Holt could retain a few titles for some inexplicable reason they incinerated:  ‘Down With Conscription’, ‘The International Anarchist Manifesto on the War’ and ‘Apes and Patriotism!’ Patriotic Apes.

Hazel Grove police had already removed thousands of similar pamphlets from Langley Cottage, the Hazel Street home of another WFG club member, commercial traveller WilliamJackson. Jackson was grassed up by patriotic member of the local community, John James Warren after William gave him a publication entitled, ‘Unite Against the British Prussians’. Warren testified that in January he’d been a passenger on a train from Manchester to Hazel Grove when Jackson was handing out these pamphlets to passengers. Warren claimed he’d previously seen him giving them out in London Road, Hazel Grove. As a God-fearing jingo he obeyed his patriotic duty and took a copy down to Hazel Grove police station who’d responded with a raid on Jackson’s home. In court, William argued for return of the haul removedfrom his house, which included, “2,000 pamphlets headed, Unite Against the British Prussians–500 pamphlets headed, Fight Against Conscription–100 pamphlets headed, ‘An Appeal to Socialists–and 36 pamphlets headed, A General Strike’.

Unfortunately magistrates ordered the destruction of all these classics but on the plus side, they
did return, ‘Tariff Reform Monthly Notes’!

Hard Won Lessons
Anyone intending to claim “Conscientious Objection” was permitted until 24 June 1916 to appeal to a local ‘Military Service Tribunal (MST)’ but ten of our conchies just ignored their call-up papers and waited to be arrested as “absentees”. Of the remaining three, one lad was yet under-age and the two that applied to have their conscience adjudged by MST soon found their trust was misplaced.

Twenty-six year old lithographer Arthur Helsby applied to St Helen’s MST as soon as conscription began, requesting exemption but offering to serve in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). Instead he was conscripted into the army’s ‘Non-Combat Corps (NCC)’ and on 25, March 1916carted off to Kinmel army camp in North Wales for military training.

Helsby soon learned ‘non-combatant’ didn’t exempt him from the war machine. The NCC were obliged to wear khaki, obey military orders, dig trenches, load munitions– ‘soldiers without guns' constantly the butt of insults and abuse from regular troops.  When Arthur objected, on Monday 29 May 1916 he was covertly ‘rendered’ over to the killing fields of France for the army’s cunning plan was to transport CO’s over to the battlefield and terrify them into submission..

Refusing orders under fire would then invite court -martial and death by firing squad . Thirty-four of Arthur’s fellow CO’s in France were formally condemned to death be fore their sentences were commuted to 10 years imprisonment after details of this army deception became public.  So Helsby wasn’t shot but for refusing to go on parade was subjected to 28 days of the notorious 'Field Punishment Number One', which involved being spread -eagled and chained to a field gun wheel, or fixed posts, and was routinely described as 'crucifixion'.

On 10 June Arthur was court martialled at Calais and sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour, Initially incarcerated in a military prison at Rouen, on 4 July 1916 Helsby was conveyed, in irons, back to England to serve his time at Winchester civil prison. Public outcry over the army’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ prompted the authorities to commute Arthur’s sentence and he was released from Winchester on the 29 August 1916, having served barely two months of a two year sentence. He was bloodied but unbowed Manchester MST.

Thirty-two year old shipping clerk William Greaves made his application for absolute exemption to Manchester MST on 20 September 1916. Like Helsby, he was nevertheless conscripted into the NCC.  He avoided being sent to France but didn’t accept this NCC role and pressed his absolutist claim through both County and Central Tribunals to no good effect. Formally consigned to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers he was first court-martialled at Oswestry and sentenced to serve 6 months in Shrewsbury Prison.   On his release from Shrewsbury he was returned to Oswestry, court-martialled again and then sentenced to a two-year stretch at Liverpool’s Walton Gaol.

I am an Anarchist!’

Oldham-born Walter Barlow, a twenty-one year old “hat leather cutter”, of 2 Stream Terrace, Victoria Road, Stockport put his call-up papers in the bin and was arrested as an absentee. 
 
Unintimidated, on Tuesday 13 June 1916 he told magistrates, ‘I am an anarchist and do not believe in the government of men by men’. Walter went on to expose the cynical function of MST’s in dividing and defusing the peace movement, explaining ‘tribunals were used to smash opposition to the Military Services Act’. Predictably, the magistrates were unpersuaded, fined him 40s. and decreed he be handed over to the military but the military never got their man.

For the duration of WWI Walter Barlow went AWOL.

Collar the Lot

With gaping holes apparent in the conscription net and the last opportunity past to appeal for exemption, the Stockport authorities planned a return to 18 Park Street and this time seize more than just pamphlets.

Anarchist Club Raid–Capture of Absentees at Stockport’ yelled the Manchester Evening News of 22 September 1916’.
Herbert Holt, William Hopkins, William Jackson and Charles Warwick arrested for dodging the draft.
These four were hauled up before magistrates along with a character the authorities couldn’t then identify but we already know as our recently returned hero from France and Winchester comrade Arthur Helsby!

The Stockport constabulary informed the press that this mysterious character was ‘evidently a man of foreign extraction’, which seems a harsh judgement on a man born in Liverpool.
During ongoing enquiries the other four anarchists were each fined 40s. and handed on to the military.
Once the police resolved Arthur’s identity he was carted of to Leeds Prison before being restored to the farcical conscription treadmill and returned to “his regiment” at Kinmel Camp. Four further anarchists were rapidly rounded up in raids in and in and around the WFG clubrooms but I’ll identify them (a long with the two further AC’s) and unravel the rest of this fascinating tale in part two (coming soon on the NV website).
Peace & Love
Christopher Draper

Grenfell Towers: Consequences for Manchester

 excerpt from analysis by Eimear McCartan and Sam Blewitt, Campaign Volunteers at the 
Greater Manchester Law Centre
REACTIONS of grief and anger have been voiced by not only the affected community, but also by the wider community as residents in similarly constructed housing all around Britain justifiably raise concerns about their safety.
Lucy Powell, Labour’s MP for Manchester Central has expressed concerns about housing safety in Manchester and has called for tighter safety regulations in an interview with the Manchester Evening News. She amongst others, have raised concerns that all high-rise buildings should be reviewed, and not just council flats.
“We shouldn’t just be focusing on former council blocks, because in Manchester – particularly in the city centre – we have had a huge increase in the number of high rise blocks,” she said. [2]
However, steps have already been taken in Greater Manchester to assuage the community’s unrest. Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has set up a scheme headed by Paul Dennett (Mayor of Salford) in which every high-rise building above 6 stories will be reviewed, providing residents reassurance about fire safety standards.
On 23rd June, the Mayor of Salford also announced that cladding used on nine different high-rise blocks in Salford that were a similar material to the ones used to insulate Grenfell Tower would be removed.

For more:   http://www.gmlaw.org.uk/were-grenfell-tower-residents-denied-access-to-justice/

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Anti Fracking Action:

 Report from its front line

by Martin S. Gilbert

PLEASE will you actively support the anti-fracking action at Little Plumpton, 
 
Preston New Road, near Blackpool Lancs. This action began in January this year. I was there recently with friends from our local Green Party.  A hundred or so were present that day from different parts of Britain.  But at night the numbers are much less sometimes. All ages were present.  I chatted with protesters from many political perspectives.  Some wore Anarchist symbols.

Basic organization is impressive.  You arrive at a neat encampment with easy parking, to be welcomed with tea or coffee.  A separate tent is available for the media. The actual protest site is half a mile away, transport no problem if you cannot walk that far.  

Large professional signage shows what we are doing and why. 

All this helped the cheerful atmosphere like a big family gathering. 

Who says that protests cannot be fun?  But this one is a matter that should concern us all.

Hydraulic fracturing or Fracking pollutes fresh water, contaminates ground water and can release methane a powerful green house gas. Toxic chemicals are used to extract  natural gas. 

Storage of that gas could be very dangerous.  So far, two American states have banned Fracking.

Lancashire County Council voted with a big majority to refuse Caudrilla, the company concerned planning permission for that drilling. Westminster over ruled that Council’s decision.  Meaning that Fracking can now take place anywhere: your back garden or ours!! Among the many arrests was a woman who is a member of Lancs County Council. There is no bad feeling between those who plan to get arrested and those who only want to convey our messages to the public legally.  Lancashire Daily T.V. news 2
thoroughly covers this story, giving time to the Police who claim to be neutral, 
Caudrilla and the protesters.   Our active support is needed here.  I have not seen anything as inpirational as this for a long time.

Life-spans both North & South

MORE than one million extra people have died 'early' in the North of England than the South in the last 50 years, research shows.
An investigation of death records has revealed that people in the North are 20% more likely to die under the age of 75, with researchers describing their study as a "tale of two Englands".
The study, led by the University of Manchester, found there were 1.2 million more premature deaths in the North from 1965 to 2015 - and 14,333 more in 2015 alone.
Their figures also reveal there were 49% more deaths among 35 to 44-year-olds in the North than the South in 2015, and 29% more among 25 to 34-year-olds.
Lead researcher Professor Iain Buchan said: 'Five decades of death records tell a tale of two Englands, North and South.
'They are divided by resources and life expectancy - a profound inequality resistant to the public health interventions of successive governments.
'A new approach is required, one that must address the economic and social factors that underpin early deaths.'
The researchers defined the North of England as the North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands and West Midlands.
Meanwhile, the South comprised the East, South West, London and South East.
The study used data from the Office for National Statistics on the whole English population from 1965 to 2015.
The full results will be published in the BMJ's Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
A Government spokeswoman said: "This Government is committed to creating a society where everybody gets the opportunity to make a success of their hard work - regardless of where they are from."

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Challenging Tourismophobia in Barcelona!

 by Brian Bamford
ACTIVISTS in Barcelona have recently targeted tourists as part of a campaign against overcrowding, rising rents and house prices.  Responsibility for a recent attack on a sightseeing bus near the Nou Camp football stadium was claimed by Arran Jovent, a group linked to the anti-capitalist, Catalan pro-independence party, Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP).  

There is a precedent for the current anti-tourist sentiment that is now flourishing in parts of Spain that has a long history that goes back at least to 1963, when I was first there. 

 'The representative of financial institutions told us that the Spanish legislation was great.  He says this when people are taking their own lives because of this criminal law, I assure you—I assure you that I haven't thrown a shoe at this man, because I believed it was important to be here now to tell you what I’m telling you. But this man is a criminal and should be treated like one.'
  These words came from the anti-eviction activist Ada Colau 
in the Chamber of Deputies of Spain in February 2013.

In February 2013, Ada Colau who has since become the mayor of Barcelona, was giving a evidence to a Spanish parliamentary hearing.  Colau had helped to set up a grassroots organisation, the Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH), which championed the rights of citizens unable to pay their mortgages or threatened with eviction. Founded in 2009, the PAH quickly became a model for other activists, and a nationwide network of leaderless local groups emerged.  

At that time people across Spain were joining together to campaign against mortgage lenders, occupy banks and physically block bailiffs from carrying out evictions. 

Ada Colau was there to discuss the housing crisis that had devastated Spain.  Since the financial crisis began, 400,000 homes had been foreclosed and a further 3.4m properties lay empty.  In response, Colau had helped to set up a grassroots organisation, the Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH), which championed the rights of citizens unable to pay their mortgages or threatened with eviction. Founded in 2009, the PAH quickly became a model for other activists, and a nationwide network of leaderless local groups emerged. Soon, people across Spain were campaigning against mortgage lenders, occupying banks and physically blocking bailiffs from carrying out evictions.

Others believe Ada Colau and her supporters will have difficulties in transforming the two-party democracy that has ruled Spain since the days of General Franco.  

'I don’t think the ideas of a city can be based on what a citizen’s assembly wants – it’s absurd,' said Francesc de Carreras, a constitutional law professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. 'Democracy doesn’t mean that everyone expresses their desires and they come true by some miracle.
'It’s not a good idea to have citizens participate in these things. We’re not the ones who have skills in these areas,' he said. 'I don’t go into a restaurant and tell them how to cook.'

'The Barcelona model is in decline,' said journalist Marta Monedero, referring to the ideas that guided the city’s growth in the late 1980s and early 1990s and helped put Barcelona on the world map.  'The model was a way to understand the city and bring it closer to the people – there wasn’t a lot of money so they came up with things like having lots of squares and intensifying the social fabric of the city through organisations.'

Monedero recently co-edited a book called The Dream of Barcelona: A City in Which to Live or to See?, in which she and journalist Núria Cuadrado asked residents from various sectors of society about the issues facing the city.  What they found was that the model that had once been so successful in guiding the city was now deeply out of sync with everyday reality.  Unlike in the late 1980s, today around 17% of the city’s population is foreign born.  Housing activists say that some 15 residents a day were evicted from their homes in 2014.  Until recently like other cities across Spain, unemployment remains stubbornly in double digits, while the young and educated continue to leave the city in hopes of finding work abroad.
Image result for Eduard Masjuan Bracons
Eduard Masjuan*
In 2006, the anarcho-syndicalist Spanish CGT trade union federation in Barcelona at the request of Tameside Trade Union Council in Greater Manchester, sent an expert on urban housing, Eduard Masjuan Bracons, to speak at Manchester Friends Meeting House about the problems of urban living, housing, planning and design.  The then active Manchester Social Forum was also party to the invite of Eduard Masjuan from the Universitat de Barcelona (Historia Economica), and the Manchester electricians in the then EPIU branch 1400/07, who later were famously in the forefront in exposing the blacklist in the British building trade, were present at the presentation fresh from fighting a case at the Manchester Employment Tribunal. 

The Manchester electrician, Steve Acheson, told the meeting about the problems of health and safety and conditions on the building sites, and what at that time were perceived as being victimisation against trade unionists and safety representatives on the local building sites.  The Calalan academic, Señor Masjuan addressed the urban problems in the city of Barcelona:  the shifting of local residents out from the central barrios to the peripheral suburban areas; and the corruption that was evident in the politics of all parties in the city. 

The predicament of the residents of Barcelona and the electricians on the British building sites were not so dissimilar in 2006.  The young people of Barcelona could not afford the rising prices of appartments in the Catalan capital, and in the same way even today we learn that many of the construction workers who work on building sites can't afford to buy the buildings they are errecting.  

In 2013, when Ada Colau addressed the parliamentary committee, ten minutes into Colau’s 40-minute testimony she broke from the script.  Her voice cracking with emotion, she turned her attention to the previous speaker, Javier Rodriguez Pellitero, the deputy general secretary of the Spanish Banking Association:   
'This man is a criminal, and should be treated as such.  He is not an expert.  The representatives of financial institutions have caused this problem; they are the same people who have caused the problem that has ruined the entire economy of this country – and you keep calling them experts.'

When she had finished, the white-haired chair of the parliament’s economic committee turned to Colau and asked her to withdraw her “very serious offences” in slandering Pellitero.  She shook her head and quietly declined.

The 'criminal' video became a media sensation, earning Colau condemnation in some quarters and heroine status in others.  A poll for the Spanish newspaper El País a few weeks later revealed that 90% of the country’s population approved of the PAH.  The group’s work continued.  In July 2013, Colau was photographed in Barcelona being dragged away by riot police from a protest against a bank that had refused to negotiate with an evicted family.


*  Books by Eduard Masjuan:
    • E. Masjuan, H.M. Elena & D. Saurí, "Conflicts and struggles over urban water cycles: The case de Barcelona",
    • E. Masjuan, "La cultura de la naturaleza en el anarquismo ibérico y cubano", Signos históricos, 15 (2006), p. 98-122.
    • E. Masjuan, "El pensamiento demográfico anarquista: fecundidad y emigración a América Latina (1900-1914)", Revista de demografía histórica, (2004), p. 153-180.
    • E. Masjuan, "Medis obrers, conflictivitat social i innovació cultural a Sabadell (1877-1914)", Recerques, 47-48 (2004), p. 131-155.
    • E. Masjuan, "Procreación consciente y discurso ambientalista: anarquismo y neomalthusianismo en España e Italia, 1900-1936", Ayer, 46 (2002), pp. 63-92.
  • Altres publicacions:
    • E. Masjuan, Un héroe trágico del anarquismo español. Mateo Morral, 1879-1906, Barcelona: Icaria editorial, 2009.
    • E. Masjuan, "Élisée Reclus (1830-1905) i la nova cultura de la naturalesa en els medis obrers de 1900-1936", a Ciència i compromís social. Élisée Reclus (1830-1905) i la geografia de la llibertat, Barcelona: Residència d'Investigadors CSIC-Generalitat de Catalunya, s2007.
    • E. Masjuan, Medis obrers i innovació cultural a Sabadell, (1900-1939), Bellaterra: Servei de Publicacions de la UAB, 2006.
    • E. Masjuan, La Ecología humana en el anarquismo ibérico. Urbanismo orgánico u ecológico, neomalthusianismo y naturismo social, Barcelona: Icaria editorial, 2000.
    • E. Masjuan, "El urbanismo ecológico de Patrick Geddes y Cebrià de Montoliu", a Arturo Soria y el urbanismo europeo de su tiempo, 1894-1994, Madrid: Fundación Cultural del Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Madrid, 1996, pp. 51-65.