Saturday, 27 November 2010

My Heart and Soul Still March Against Injustice

Alas, my days of actively demonstrating are coming to an end. But, don’t take this as me surrendering to the vagaries of age; nor an admission that being disabled in some way means I need wrapping-up and protecting; as this isn’t the case.

While it should be the inalienable right for all of us to get out and demonstrate it isn’t always practicable for some disabled people to always take part in such events. An example that comes to mind is the Wapping Dispute back in 1986-87. Though back then I wasn’t affiliated to any political party or group, another floating Leftie in a sea of Thatcher’s misery, trade union and movement campaigns excited my interest.

After visiting the picket line several times I quickly realised that this dispute, like the Miners Strike a couple of years before, was a defining moment in the history of my class. Though only at the periphery of the action I believed, as I still do, that solidarity and support for such action is the fuel that keeps the engine ticking over.

Back then, in my late 20s, my disabilities were nowhere near as incapacitating as they became; and, though I had weakness down my left side and walked with a pronounced limp, I got around relatively easily. A major inconvenience was that I couldn’t run – oh, and I still felt conscious and in some ways vulnerable about the plate in my head.

On my way to a march one day back in ’86 I met up with some NGA and Sogat mates; one of them pulled me to one side and warned me something ‘heavy’ could go down and because of my situation it could be dangerous for me to be take part in that day’s action.

He conveyed this to me in such a way that I agreed; took part in the beginning of the march and then split away and went for a drink. Back in Stockwell later that night I was having a drink in a pub watching TV news coverage of vicious mounted police attacks on trade unionists at Wapping – my mate was correct.

Had I been present there is a strong likelihood I’d have been attacked by the police as my safety mechanism is broken (I can’t run); and, with a weakened skull blows from a baton or truncheon could have proved fatal.

Coming back to today’s demonstrations; I’m still at a disadvantage. Again I still can’t run; and, though now in a wheelchair I can’t even push that at any appreciable speed. Given that I need to use a toilet with great frequency, every 40-60 minutes; I’d be really disadvantaged in a kettling situation – I’m sure Lily Law wouldn’t take my particular needs into consideration.

So, what do I do? How can I exercise my right to demonstrate against the tyrannies that are being heaped upon us today? That is, how can I peacefully participate without fear of being confined in one area by the police for maybe 8-hours without access to basic facilities such as toilets? Within a couple of hours I’d pee myself without proper amenities.

Much as I want to personally engage in actions against this vicious crew of a coalition, these wreckers of our Welfare State; am I selfish in also wish to preserve my dignity and health.

Therefore, students, trade unionists, public service workers, HNS employees, teachers, fire fighters et al; though, I may not be visible on these marches; please, rest assured that my heart and soul march to the beat of your revolutionary drums.

In the struggle

Seán McGovern

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Behave Ken - 2

This a quote from the BBC website from Ken Livingstone’s Radio 4 Today Programme interview on 9th November, 2010.

"It doesn't do poor and unemployed people any favours to leave them out of work,"
"If you get people into the habit of getting out of bed, doing something, having a sense of worth and if that involves getting people who are currently unemployed helping out with the elderly or clearing up an area or things like that, I think it's worth doing."

Our members currently carry out jobs such as care assistants of disabled and elderly people; these are real jobs, not community work or charity. Council estate cleaners, road sweepers and refuse collectors will be found on the books of Unite as members; they all carry out the vital work that affords us a healthier way of life – basically, all jobs are necessary and should be valued thus.

The present climate is one of high unemployment with, if government policy goes ahead, the real threat of a double-dip recession occurring. Such a situation would plunge the country into far greater difficulties; unemployment would ratchet-up, most likely, to levels unseen since Thatcher’s massive industry culls of the 80s and early 90s.

Given this scenario it isn’t helpful when we hear progressive politicians such as Ken Livingstone attacking unemployed people as though they’re in some way feckless drones.

Did the scores of thousands of finance workers now out of work design their own downfall? Are the line workers in the car plants responsible for their redundancies? And, what about the hundreds of thousands of public sector workers losing and about to lose their jobs; are they to blame for a Tory political ideology that aims to sell of the welfare state.

If we take Ken’s suggestion to its logical (or should that be illogical) conclusion we would end up with the following scenario:

Up and down the country local authorities are, and will be, making massive cuts in their adult care programmes. As a result scores of thousands of disabled and elderly people will lose vital, in many cases life depending, care packages; throwing tens of thousands of care assistants out of work. Many of these will become the ‘feckless’ jobless.

But, there’s a solution this; why not compel them to carry out ‘community work’; you know, like looking after elderly people who because of an ideologically based policy, not one based on their care needs, can no longer dress or bathe themselves, or shop or cook, or even clean themselves after using the toilet.

Yes, they can become voluntary care assistants. Problem solved. Except, how will care assistants in employment be able to compete with these battalions of ‘free’ labour? The answer is, they won’t be able to compete; and, the result will be an acceleration in the race for the bottom with T&Cs being further eroded.

As our council estates (how much longer will they be around?) become dirtier; our streets and roads cluttered with rubbish; and, the rats multiply getting fatter and fatter on a fare of uncollected rubbish, what to do?

Again, there will be a plethora of semi-skilled labour to choose from as the unemployed ranks swell with jobless estate cleaners, road sweepers and refuse collectors. Why not redeploy them on unpaid community projects; far cheaper than paying wages.

If our progressive politicians are speaking in this kind of language it’s small wonder that the ConDem coalition is riding roughshod over our public services and its workers. Come on Ken, you’re better than that. Lumping the unemployed together as some lumpen mass of feckless scroungers is the language of the morally dispossessed, the Sun and Daily Heil; of the craven capitalist who’d have the jobless starving rather than surrender a penny-piece of their taxes (actually, our taxes, as the capitalist class tend not to involve themselves in such tawdry duties as paying their share) in welfare benefits.

We must fight to save the jobs of care assistants, estate cleaners, road sweepers, refuse collectors; these are vital services carried out in order that we may live in a better society. Not devise ways of forcing unemployed people to work for their benefits; thus helping to drive down the wages and working conditions of those in employment.

Behave Ken!

“If you get people into the habit of getting out of bed, doing something, having a sense of worth and if that involves getting people who are currently unemployed helping out with the elderly or clearing up an area or things like that, I think it’s worth doing.” Ken Livingstone said.

How timely. All those disabled and elderly people who are at any time now going to lose their local authority care packages will be able to call upon an army of unwilling, possibly even disgruntled, unemployed people to take over from the personal assistants they get rid of. Hurrah!

Similarly, we can sack our estate cleaners, road sweepers and refuse collectors and replace them with the legions of feckless unemployed.

Here’s another idea. All those unemployed personal assistants and cleaners and refuse collectors could then help the elderly or clear up areas or things like that.

It’s great when you can see an idea taking shape...

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Banning Bayliss

Calling for Bayliss to be struck off the ballot papers is a simplistic reaction. Does anyone suppose for a minute if Bayliss was disqualified he’d just shrug his shoulders and say ‘it’s a fair cop, guv’?

Nobody on this site, I’d imagine and hope, has any time for Bayliss. However, just because we dislike his politics and method of operating shouldn’t cloud our sense of doing the right thing.

Like anyone else Bayliss would have the right to appeal any decision Simon Hearn, the Returning Officer, made against him; after all if one of my members is sacked I would demand an appeal. Unlike my member Bayliss would be straight onto a top barrister; and, the whole process would be tied-up in litigation for months, if not years.

Does anyone here believe for a minute Derek Simpson would then retire in December?

Of course, if you go to Bayliss’ site you’ll find his supporters making counter claims against McCluskey. I’ve had inappropriate e/mailings from Bayliss’ camp; but then, I’ve also received unsolicited material Jerry’s side.

If Bayliss wins it won’t be because he’s managed to slide his propaganda under the wire and get away with it. No, it will be because Jerry Hicks failed to accept that he couldn’t win the support of the United Left within Unite; and so, he walked away and split the vote.