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Sunday, 23 March 2014

Million March in Spain for Dignity & Respect #22M - Police Fire on Crowds

Over a Million Marched through Spain, culminating in Madrid demanding Dignity & Respect 22M; Government of Spain Answers with Riot Police & Violence.

The day began with tons of energy as the Dignity Marches prepared to take Madrid. But it didn’t take long to realize the Spanish government wasn’t going to make this easy, as reports started coming in of buses travelling to the marches being stopped, searched and the people inside identified by the Civil Guard on the outskirts of Madrid.

The 22M organisation put out a press release saying that around 100 buses were being detained in this manner, and that they wouldn’t take any responsibility for delays caused by this cheap tactic.

FULL report available > link here
Selection of pictures > link here

Col√≥n square started to fill up, but there were still many people who hadn’t even left Atocha yet! That was when people started calling it the Million March. A precise count is impossible, but estimates point to between one and two million people on the streets.

As the speeches of the people who had participated in the columns began, news arrived via the newspaper that police had given the deadline of 21:30 for the organizers to disperse the protest. Afterwards, the protest would be considered illegal.

Abruptly, while the organisers were still speaking at the stage, the police started firing rubber bullets into the crowd, beating people up and detaining them.

Many accuse them of using agents provocateurs in order to get pretext for this, which isn’t unusual in Spain. The organizers asked for the police to leave the square because they were conducting a perfectly legal and legitimate protest, but it was useless – police just kept escalating. The time was around 20:30, one hour before the deadline.

22M Marchas de la Dignidad
FULL report available > link here including VIDEOS
Selection of pictures >> link here

Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants sent solidarity greetings to the Spanish unemployed on the “March of Dignity” - solidarity greetings to the million marching demanding 'Dignity & Respect' from politicians. We support the demands raised by the organisers, most of them marching share our concerns in the UK:  we reject social cuts, we reject governments that carry out the policies of the Troika; we demand bread, work and social protection for all.

READ our message of support here >> link here

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Friday, 21 March 2014

Solidarity & Respect to those on the “March of Dignity” in Spain

Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants sends solidarity greetings to the thousands of Spanish unemployed on the “March of Dignity” that runs through Spain culminating in Madrid tomorrow March 22nd.

Social and political collectives have called in Spain the “March of the Dignity” that will come together in Madrid on the 22nd March after walking thousands of kilometers throughout Spain. 
Eight columns of workers, unemployed, precarious workers, homeless, young people, students are walking towards Madrid. The march is convened against unemployment, precariousness, cuts and repression.
The Party of the European Left (EL) supports the March of the Dignity and will participate with its Secretariat in the demonstration in Madrid on Saturday 22nd of March. The EL supports the demands raised by the organizers, most of them matching the EL’s proposals for Europe: the rejection to the social cuts, the sanctions of the governments which carry out the policies of the Troika; the demand for bread, work and social minima for all.
- See more at:
Unemployed campaigners & trade unions have organised the “March of the Dignity” that will come together in Madrid on the 22nd March after walking thousands of miles throughout Spain.

Eight columns of workers, unemployed, low paid insecure workers, homeless, young people, students are walking towards Madrid. The march is against unemployment, governmental cuts and repression of benefit claimants.

Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants sends solidarity greetings to the thousands marching demanding 'Dignity & Respect' from politicians. We support the demands raised by the organisers, most of them marching share our concerns in the UK:  we reject social cuts, we reject governments that carry out the policies of the Troika; we demand bread, work and social protection for all.

In Spain there are hundreds of thousands who have lost their homes, don’t receive benefits. There are more than 6 million without paid work and unemployed. There are more than a million living below the poverty line – meanwhile the “Popular Party” continues with its cuts agenda, destroying and robbing the health system, education, culture, pensions, closing down local television stations that are essential to the survival of minority languages and other public services. The government continues to privatise state assets in return giving tax benefits to the rich.

Fines and criminal penalties are imposed for exercising the right of freedom of speech or the right to disobey unjust laws, but the corrupt elite never go to prison and never have to pay for the damage they caused. Meanwhile the Government continues to hand out cash to building firms, to the energy companies, to bankers. They’re leaving the people of Spain with no work, no home, no health care, no pensions, no university grants, no schools, no education, no future: in a word no life.

Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants is in solidarity with Spanish society that suffers from the effects of the economic crisis & austerity as in the rest of Europe. Today millions are without employment, without homes, without basic resources for survival, while in the meantime the employers and governments implement new austerity measures that impoverish and increase insecurity – creating – an even worse cost of living crisis for the population of the EU.

Governments both here in the UK and Europe are exploiting the economic crisis to implement austerity policies and to attack human rights, those policies are causing real suffering, poverty, hunger and even death. Meanwhile the banking elite and economic powers continue to make massive profits at our expense !

The March for Dignity calls for an end to the patriarchal system, that drags us back into the 'dark ages. The 'March' is a strong mobilisation against the policies that violate human rights and social justice. Tomorrow the people of Spain will be marching to demand 'basic human rights':  to demand to right to put food on the table, to demand employment, social protection while unemployed, to demand a roof over their heads, to demand decent health provision, decent education, and finally to demand 'Dignity & Respect'.

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supports the “March of Dignity” that runs along Spain and it will come together in Madrid on March 22nd - See more at:
supports the “March of Dignity” that runs along Spain and it will come together in Madrid on March 22nd - See more at:
supports the “March of Dignity” that runs along Spain and it will come together in Madrid on March 22nd - See more at:

Monday, 17 March 2014

Edinburgh & London - Give ATOS - The Battle Continues !

The government has taken a highly cynical approach, mistakenly seeing the disabled as an easy touch for cuts, thinking they would be unable to defend themselves. But nothing has proved further from the truth, with disabled activists at the vanguard of protests against benefit cuts and in particular the bedroom tax. These cuts have put a totally unfair burden on disabled people, and they have responded with fury and purpose. Many of those who spoke at demonstrations below or sat listening in wheelchairs were those who become politicised into direct action, acquiring the skills in blocking roads, picketing Atos, occupying the DWP and much more.

The film below is about the Edinburgh demonstration against ATOS that took place on Feb 19th 2014. These are the stories and experiences of the people affected by ATOS.

Please Give ATOS 

This isn't an average type of film. The title is borrowed from (what was thought ) a clever pun seen on a protest Facebook page a while back and which I feel sums up the sentiment needed entirely.

Below is a video 'Human Cost documents ‘10,000 Cuts & Counting’ a ceremony of remembrance that took place in London at the end of 2013. It was a show of solidarity for those who have had their lives devastated by David Cameron’s austerity programme.

The public spending watchdog is investigating the award of a £184 million disability assessment contract to Atos Healthcare.

Currently, ATOS is being investigated by the National Audit Office (NAO) in a in a a major “value for money study”. Meanwhile, since the inception of the Work Capability Assessment WCA, 10,600 people have died within six weeks of being deemed ‘fit for work’ by ATOS healthcare professionals.

Human Cost 10,000 Cuts #Atos 

Disabled activists and supporters came to Parliament Square for '10,000 Cuts & Counting', a ceremony of remembrance and solidarity for over 10,000 who died shortly after the degrading Work Capability Assessments run for the government by Atos.

As well as the many testimonies, there was a 2 minutes of silent remembrance for those who have suffered and died and then four prayers facing the four sides of the square: towards Westminster Abbey for the families of those who have suffered and disabled people still suffering or despairing; facing the Supreme Court calling for justice and compassion for those without resources and power and for an end to discrimination and violence against the disabled; towards the Treasury calling on those in national and local government who decide on the use of resources to take into account the effect on people of what they do; and finally towards Parliament, calling for a new deal for disabled people and to put right the evident wrongs in the current system.

Not content with cutting benefit, the government wants to make a strict benefit regime even stricter.

The British benefits system is 'unfit for purpose' - a future Labour government must hold a Public Inquiry:

Respect For the Unemployed &; Benefit Claimants sets out the following as a program to replace the discredited Department for Work and Pensions on the  return of a Labour government.

*  A Public Inquiry needs to held within the first year in office regarding the systematic abuse of benefit claimants in regard to workfare, benefit sanctions & sanction targets. The remit of this public inquiry must look into the way disabled benefit claimants have been treated by the state & by the contractor ATOS. The  remit must also look into the benefit rates for claimants - described as '
manifestly inadequate' by the Council of Europe.
UnemployedNet and Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants responded to the 'Independent Review of Sanctions' - Both organisations issued a call to unemployed & benefit claimants after the Oakley review was announced. Comments gathered via Facebook, email and other sources, and the responses form the basis of our document.

Stop workfare in its tracks – Take action 29 March – 6 April :  Wherever you are, however you can contribute, take action on 29 March-6 April.

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Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Labour Party & the General Election: Future of the Welfare State

In 1996, the Conservative government introduced the jobseeker's allowance that cut benefits to the young and 18 to 24-year-olds automatically got 20% less, the new allowance was designed to replace unemployment benefit and income support.

It’s the unemployed who are the forgotten victims - who seem to be demonised, patronised & blamed for unemployment within the wider media. In 1995 Labour shadow ministers just like now in 2014 promised to be fair and to respect benefit claimants. In 1995 Labour gave clear indications, if elected, they would tackle some of the worse parts of JSA. They gave assurances & intention to make “speedy and far reaching reforms to eliminate the worse excesses” Not scrapping the "Job Seekers Allowance" was Labours’ Betrayal!

Labour's proposal if elected in 2015 is to strip claimants of benefits if they refuse to take the jobs offered under its Compulsory Jobs Guarantee is a dismal extension of  that betrayal and a reinforcement of Tory "scrounger" propaganda .

Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants Respect Petition calling for a Public Inquiry

The disinformation peddled by Daily Mail columnists, Con-Dem Cabinet ministers and - appallingly - their Labour counterparts, most jobless people do not choose not to work because they fancy "a life on benefits," a phrase Chancellor George Osborne preachers at Tory conferences that was tellingly echoed this week by Ed Balls.

Ed Balls was correct about the ....  "shocking number of young people stuck on the dole for more than a year has doubled under David Cameron."

Long-term joblessness is rising under the coalition because it is an anti-jobs government. Hundreds of thousands of secure, skilled jobs have been axed - are still being axed - across the public sector. A survey by trade union GMB found 631,000 public-sector roles had been given the chop by autumn last year, a figure the government's own projections suggest will exceed a million by the next election.

Stopping workfare in its tracks

From workfare - which effectively provides forced below-minimum-wage labour to private firms at taxpayers' cost - to ever increasing sanctions on jobseekers who can't jump through a constantly changing set of hoops, people who are out of work have been exploited, punished and demonised by the Department for Work and Pensions and its sanctimonious henchmen Iain Duncan Smith. Indeed, last year the Chancellor decided to introduce a waiting period between losing your job and being eligible for jobseeker's allowance, presumably as an extra kick in the teeth for the 631,000 people his government has chucked on the scrapheap.

Unite Community members remember Bob and Tony. The Fight goes on !
Labour should be highlighting the rank hypocrisy of a regime that sacks people en masse and then blames them for it. Instead it seems content to follow in its footsteps.

The ConDems must be replaced by a Labour government committed to scrapping the jobseeker's allowance & replacing it with Social Security - Unemployment Benefit. A future Labour government must introduce the kind of policies that will benefit the vast majority of the people of Britain, which means taking on the powerful, vested interests of big business and the ruling elite. It must, therefore, be a Labour government of a new type - kept on course by a militant mass movement around an alternative economic and political strategy.
Wal Hannington NUWM

Can such a government be achieved, especially when the right wing leaderships of the Labour Party and TUC are striving to abandon left-wing policies and socialist principles and are rushing to embrace the European Union and social partnership with big business? History indicates that the balance of forces within the labour movement can be changed through debate and struggle. Agitate, educate, organise is still the slogan which, if put into practice, can create the conditions for defeating the present Tory led government. But it should not be replaced by a Labour government as was done in 1997 under Tony Blair which appeased big business, fails to democratise the state and ends up attacking the low-paid and poorest sections of society, as happened in 1978-79 and today under David Cameron.

Mark Twain famously said: "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme." and George Santayana said ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’

The late Bob Crow gives his opinion on what kind of society we should strive for & the priorities for a future Labour government

What kind of Labour government is Ed Miliband striving for - is he about to repeat history ? A right wing labour party would simply pave the way for an even more right-wing Tory government.

There is no shortage of serious options for tackling mass unemployment. Britain is crying out for a huge programme of council-house building. Our NHS needs more midwives, more nurses and far more resources dedicated to treating mental health issues. We face a teacher recruitment crisis. And rebalancing the British economy away from an overheated and reckless financial sector and towards a future based on quality manufacturing could create hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs.

A generation has grown up with the impression that counting the unemployed in the millions is normal - a legacy of Thatcher, who created the mass unemployment we've lived with ever since. But it doesn't have to be. Full employment has existed before and it can again. If we want to see a Britain where everyone can be assured of decent, well-paid work - a Britain where everybody counts - we need to get rid of the neoliberal gang who have hijacked this country and start putting people before profit.

Fairness & Respect:

Every day, certain sections of the press and television voice concerns over the apparent lawlessness of young people. This has led to calls for even more repressive measures against young offenders and for army-type discipline. Yet the link between increased property crime and depressed economic activity is well established.

There is also a relationship between unemployment and crime, something that this Tory led government denies. This is, of course, not surprising as the admission of such a link makes the government directly culpable for the subsequent expansion in crime.

People see a government persuing policies which stop them getting jobs and the same government withdrawing their entitlement to benefit. We should blame the cause, not the effects.

Once again, political parties across the board put the blame at the door of the individual, saying: "It's your fault you are unemployed. You don't want jobs." But when there are very few real jobs out there, it is meaningless. The government and the capitalist class which it serves have created unemployment, but blame the unemployed who have no control over their lives when they are thrown out of a job and thrown onto the scrap-heap, lives ruined.

Not content with cutting benefit, the government wants to make a strict benefit regime even stricter.
The British benefits system is 'unfit for purpose' - a future Labour government must hold a Public Inquiry:

Respect For the Unemployed &; Benefit Claimants sets out the following as a program to replace the discredited Department for Work and Pensions on the  return of a Labour government.

*  A Public Inquiry needs to held within the first year in office regarding the systematic abuse of benefit claimants in regard to workfare, benefit sanctions & sanction targets. The remit of this public inquiry must look into the way disabled benefit claimants have been treated by the state & by the contractor ATOS. The  remit must also look into the benefit rates for claimants - described as '
manifestly inadequate' by the Council of Europe.
UnemployedNet and Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants responded to the 'Independent Review of Sanctions' - Both organisations issued a call to unemployed & benefit claimants after the Oakley review was announced. Comments gathered via Facebook, email and other sources, and the responses form the basis of our document.

Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants Respect Petition calling for a Public Inquiry

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Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Bob Crow friend & champion of the unemployed has died

It's with great sadness that a friend & champion of the unemployed .... Bob Crow died early this morning.

RAIL, Maritime and Transport
union leader Bob Crow died from a suspected heart attack.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union made the announcement with the deepest regret.

A brief statement said: “It is with the deepest regret that RMT has to confirm that our general secretary Bob Crow sadly passed away in the early hours of this morning.

“RMT would request that all media respect the privacy of the friends and family of Bob Crow at this distressing time.”

All of us at Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants will miss his contribution to the debate on what kind of Britain we want & demand - a fitting tribute to Bob has to be
educate, agitate, organise - we need to explain the importance of joining a trade union to those who have limited hope on the dole.

"The message to the unemployed has to be this ..... as soon as you gain employment, join a trade union - the fight against workfare, zero hours, poverty wages, & working conditions can only be improved & won if we stand together in unity - belonging to a trade union - NOW that would be a fitting tribute to our friend Bob Crow".   

A book of condolences for anyone wishing to leave a message has been arranged by the RMT Union.
The book will be kept open at Unity House for anyone wishing to sign, alternatively, please leave a message by visiting the website.

Rest in Peace comrade we'll miss you :'(

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“This is shocking news. Bob was an outstanding trade unionist, who tirelessly fought for his members, his industry and the wider trade union movement.

Bob Crow,  out for a morning jog with his dog Castro
“He was always a good friend and comrade to me. We will miss him, and our thoughts are with his family and the RMT at this difficult time.”

Commenting on the news, TSSA's General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, said "Bob Crow was admired by his members and feared by employers which is exactly how he liked it.

"It was a privilege to campaign and fight alongside him because he never gave an inch.

"He was often underestimated by politicians, employers and the media because he stayed true to his working class roots. He was more than happy to be underestimated as long as he got the right results for his members.

"The news of his death is truly shocking and our thoughts and prayers today are with his partner Nicky and his familiy."

Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) Statement

Brendan Barber (former TUC General Secretary), now Chair of ACAS, said:
"I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear of Bob Crow's untimely death. He was one of trade unionism's larger than life characters, always battling with passion and energy for his members. His bluff exterior masked a shrewd and intelligent negotiator who actually won high respect from employers as well as deep loyalty and support from his members. My thoughts are with his family at this difficult time."

Bob Crow's final BBC interview

In an interview with Becky Milligan for BBC Radio 4's PM programme, broadcast on Monday, the late Bob Crow discusses his early life and sometimes stormy relationship with rightwing press - DOWNLOAD mp3 file here

Bob Crow: A life of commitment

The TUC and the British working class has lost one of our outstanding leaders, Bob Crow, the General Secretary of rail and maritime union RMT, who died this morning.

Bob was committed. Whether it was the internationalism he showed through the International Transport... Read full blog

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Monday, 10 March 2014

David Cameron's government seeks to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse

Wealthy David Cameron Buys Facebook 'Likes' to distort his popularity &  policies in a distortion of democracy. Meanwhile Trade Unions are gagged.

The Conservatives in coalition government are seeking to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse.

Unlike the unelected so-called millionaire prime minister - 'Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants' is NOT in a position to BUY facebook 'LIKES' - Dont let his FACEBOOK page fool you - Nobody likes a Tory.

Our page has nearly 25,000 likes - that is down to the HARD work of group members sharing, liking & commenting on our posts - which in turn allows 'news items' we post - to be shown in their 'NewsFeed'.

WE hereby ask readers do the following on facebook > visit  David Cameron click the button near his 'page LIKE' & report his page - tick 'I Just Don't Like It' section.

Politics & democacy is deception in Britain - in the run up to the General Election of 2015 - political parties will be buying "sponsorship' on FACEBOOK (filling up your newsfeed) - meaning 'posts' like ours will be seen less & less - THIS IS WRONG.

Pathetic David Cameron pays out for Facebook fans and manages to double his social media following in a month. The Conservative Party have spent thousands on advertisements on Facebook to encourage users to 'like' the page.

Just over a month ago, he was almost 20,000 'likes' behind Nick Clegg's 80,000 - but now he has 127,000 - Facebook would not reveal details, but say the campaign would have cost about £7,500 of party funds - Facebook are charging about 50p per ‘like’.
Do you want solid proof that paid government shills are targeting websites, blogs, forums and social media accounts like Facebook & Twitter?  For years, many have suspected that government trolls have been systematically causing havoc all over the Internet, but proving it has been difficult.

But now thanks to documents leaked by Edward Snowden and revealed by Glenn Greenwald, we finally have hard evidence that western governments have been doing this.  As you will see from the following link, a UK intelligence outfit known as the Government Communications Headquarters, through a previously secret unit known as the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group, has been systematically attempting “to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse”.

This should be deeply disturbing to anyone that values free speech on the Internet.

It isn’t just that the British government is trying to influence what people are thinking.  The reality is that this is far bigger than a mere propaganda campaign.  As Greenwald recently noted on his new website, the “integrity of the Internet itself” is at stake…

David Cameron is simply trying to distort his popularity - the Conservatives & his posh friends are trying to buy the next ELECTION - Meanwhile trade unions in Britain are gagged.

Despite a massive campaign of resistance, the Tories managed to pass what has become commonly known as "the gagging bill". The mainstream corporate press have played along with the government by continually referring to it as the "lobbying bill", despite the fact that the majority of the lobbying industry will remain entirely unaffected by it. Essentially the bill protects in-house corporate lobbying operations from any kind of official scrutiny, meaning that a cloak of secrecy will still shroud their influence upon our politicians.

The fact that the so-called "lobbying bill" does so little to regulate the activities of corporate lobbyists isn't even the worst of it. The truly appalling part is the extensive second section of the bill which is clearly designed to silence critics of the government such as charities, voluntary organisations, protest groups, trade unions and religions ((which despite the bile from the obnoxious anti-theist ranter brigade, have done much good work in promoting social justice).
The intention to use this new legislation in order to revoke the freedom of speech of organisations that criticise government policy was made absolutely clear by the language used by Iain Duncan Smith in his tirade against the Trussell Trust food bank group earlier in January.

        In America the US State Department spent $690,000 to 'buy' Facebook 'likes'
The campaign to spend taxpayers money to try to get more Facebook 'likes' on its sites prompted workers to complain to a watchdog.

The US State Department, which has the slogan "Diplomacy in Action, spent $690,000  412.370) to try and "buy fans" in social media, the agency's Inspector General (IG) said in a report.

The State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs spent the money to increase its "likes" count from 2011 to March 2013, the Washington Examiner reported.

American trade unionists criticise the advertising campaigns as 'buying fans' who may have once clicked on an ad or 'liked' a photo but have no real interest in the topic and have never engaged further. The State Department's Facebook page likes increased during the spending from 100,000 to more than 2 million and to 450,000 on Facebook's foreign-language pages.

David Cameron & the Conservatives are trying to buy your votes - they are trying to buy the next General Election - the Tories have closed down free speech, they have gagged the trade unions & campaging bodies.

We need a 'level playing field - 'Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants' seek DONATIONS to be able to combat the 'propaganda war' being waged against the unemployed & benefit claimants (please click on the DONATE button within this web page)

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Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The unemployed struggles of the 1920s & the lessons for the 21st century

We will not starve in Silence - Learn from History or Repeat

In March 1921 some 93 years ago an event took place in Britain that was of great significant for the unemployed, the founding of the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement (NUWM). Wal Hannington, was the founder of the NUWM. Now, ninty three on, with over two million on the dole, that fight has to be taken up again.

At the end of the first world war, those who had survived the carnage were confronted with a crisis-wracked world. Hundreds of thousands of the recently demobbed and those from the armaments industry who were no longer needed, found that the “land fit for heroes” that they had been promised was, in reality, a land of no work and little or no maintenance.

The revolution in Russia, the five years of upheaval in Germany and the militancy of the masses in France and Britain had sent shivers down the spines of the European bourgeoisie. They knew that their very survival depended on smashing down working class resistance to their attempts to impose wage cuts and permanent mass unemployment.

The Twenties and Thirties were years of continuous struggle. True, there were periods of downturn, between 1920-24 and against 1926-28 for example, but they did not contradict the general trend of revolutionary crises and social upheavals that characterised the two decades. The 1926 General Strike was a high point in the British class struggle, but its aftermath was not all gloom and retreat. By 1929, sections of workers, the Durham miners, for example, were again locked in bitter strikes against the employers. While 1926 was a serious defeat, it did not extinguish the fighting spirit of the working class by any means. The events in France and Spain in the Thirties, the mass strikes and civil war, found a less noisy but not insignificant echo in the struggles of the unemployed in Britain.

The courage and determination of the NUWM was an example to the employed and unemployed alike. It constantly fought against attempts to divide the working class and against the treachery of the leaders of the working class. In 1931 Ramsey MacDonald led a defection to the Tories which led to the formation of the National Government. In the same period the policy of the TUC leaders was ‘Mondism’  which aimed at the integration of the unions into the State, thus crippling them as fighting organs of the class.

Against this the NUWM took to the streets, mobilised thousands, fought with the police and helped to smash the Mosleyite Fascists.

We learn from such struggles by re-examining the programme, strategy and tactics that Hannington, and others developed in their struggles, learn from their experience, their triumphs and failures and see how revolutionaries can apply these lessons today.

In 1920, thousands of militants previously active in the rank and file movements of, for example, the Clyde Workers’  committee and the National Shop Stewards and Workers’ Committee movement, found themselves victimised and among the unemployed.

The first organisation formed by the unemployed & adopted in post war period was that of the local Ex-Servicemen’s Association. These bodies were primarily concerned with wondering the streets begging for charity. It was not uncommon to see rival demonstrations actually competing for the pennies of the rich in Oxford Street. The likes of Wal Hannington soon put a stop to that. He and others had gone through communist training within the rank and file movement and they began the struggle to transform these local organisations into a fighting national organisation.

In October 1920, the London District Council (LDC) of the unemployed was formed, helped by a particularly vicious attack by the police on a demonstration in support of a deputation of London mayors, led by George Lansbury. They were demanding an interview with Lloyd George over unemployment. As Hannington puts it, “The Whitehall baton charge .. had the effect of sharply awakening masses of the unemployed to a clearer understand of their class position and making them realise that they would receive no redress for their plight as unemployed by quietly looking to a capitalist government for sympathy.”

A delegate conference was held and within a few weeks the LDC was meeting twice weekly with representatives from thirty one London boroughs. By February of 1921 the LDC had decided to press for a national organisation, bringing together all the local groups throughout the country which had been formed in the struggles against the Boards of Guardians, in order to co-ordinate and lead these struggles.

The basis of the NUWM was laid down at the first national conference which met on 15th April, 1921. Fifteen months later there were 300 local committees with a combined membership of 100,000, linked up by the NUWM and its fortnightly newspaper ‘Out of Work’”. As a result a permanent, well organised mass unemployed movement was established, with enrolled members and accountable leaders.

In the following years the NUWM developed and refined its tactics considerably. The main plank of its platform was to be the slogan, “Work or Full Maintenance at Trade Union Rates of Wages”.

Later, at the second national conference, the full programme was agreed upon as:-
* Work or Full Pay
* Abolition of Task Work
* Relief for Unemployment to be Charged to the National Exchequer administered by the Trade Unions
* Abolition of Overtime

These points were supplemented by additional demands such as, “No distraint for rent and rates on the goods of an unemployed person” – important demands in the context of the eviction struggles.

However, key elements of a full action programme for the unemployed were missing. The call for work sharing was posed, later, (in the “Unemployed Workers’ Charter”) as a cut in hours to be determined by “the requirements of the industry”. This formulation lets the employers off the hook. A clearer basis to fight on would have been to call for workers’ control of the sharing out of work. Similar criticisms have to be made on the absence of the slogan, “trade union control of hiring, firing and productivity”.

However, as well as the one penny weekly subscription, NUWM members did have to swear an oath, “to never cease from active strife against this system until this system is abolished”. The many thousands mobilised on this basis showed the real revolutionary potential that the struggles against unemployment had.

In fighting for its programme, the NUWM carried out three basic types of activity on a local and national scale. It organised the unemployed locally to fight for their rights and entitlements – the fight to actually get benefit or against eviction. McShane was involved in a number of these, his own included, “We lived on toast, my wife said her stomach was all scratched from toast with nothing on it. There were many others in just the same situation. I had always said that the unemployed should feed their families and not pay the rent, and that is what I finally did.”

Then there were the raids and occupations – both for meeting places and as a means of putting pressure on the local authorities. One such occupation, if it can be called that, was of Wandsworth workhouse.

Under the 1834 Poor Law, still in operation, the Boards of Guardians were obliged to give either outdoor relief or accommodation and work.

Barbarous as this ‘workhouse’ system was, the NUWM worked out a way to exploit its previsions to the full. One day 700 people turned up to the Wandsworth workhouse and demanded accommodation until the local Board of Guardians granted outdoor relief. On the second night, a massive demonstration expressed its solidarity. Despite a large police presence, “from the hall of the workhouse speeches were delivered to the demonstrators outside. Then, to the amazement and jubilation of the demonstrators, about 9 o’clock just as it was getting dusk, we saw the red flag run up on a flag mast over the workhouse.”

The factory raid was also an important aspect of local NUWM work. From the very beginning, the unemployed saw the need for the employed to come to their aid, just as they were pledged to “assist in every possible way workers who may come out on strike or who are locked out.” Thus, raids would usually be carried out on a factory where systematic overtime was being worked or where wages were being paid below union rates. At a given signal, a disciplined squad of unemployed workers would rush the gates, guard the exists and phones, until the police came, and a speech would be made explaining the need to ban overtime, to fight for the going rate and on the need for the employed and unemployed to unite. Major successes were achieved with these tactics in stopping regular overtime and getting workers taken on. However, the demands and tactics were never developed further towards actually agitating for workers’ control of the hours.

In 1922 the NUWM was in the vanguard of the struggle against the national lock out of the engineers. Scab factories were raided and pickets were reinforced. The unemployed and locked out engineers demonstrated together for the right to “outdoor relief” for the engineers – a magnificent example of the solidarity and class spirit of the unemployed.

However, perhaps the best remembered activities of the NUWM locally as well as nationally were the hunger marches and demonstrations. Hannington explains their elementary purpose as the refusal to starve in silence. They certainly broke the wall of silence behind which the bosses’ press tried to imprison the unemployed.

The first hunger marches set off from Glasgow in October 1922. After trying the total news blackout, the press lots its nerve and began to shake with indignation as they neared London. Supposedly led by criminals bearing arms, and replete with Bolshevik gold, these 2,000 men were said to be plotting murder and mayhem on their arrival. In fact their declared aim was to present their demands face to face with the Prime Minister, Bonar law – hardly an insurrectionary act. Nor was the decision to attempt to deliver a petition to George V. Buckingham Palace and Number Ten were barred to them – by thousands of police – but 70,000 people demonstrated with them when they arrived in London. They also received a tremendous reception en route, not of course, from the authorities but from the working class districts through which they passed. As far as the authorities were concerned it is difficult to decide who gave whom the harder time of it. One of the aims of the marches was always to force the local guardians to provide food and accommodation. Local benefit offices and other municipal buildings were therefore, often the target for the marchers.

A feature of the marches that impressed everyone was their discipline. “The discipline of the march was self-discipline imposed by the men themselves, in everybody’s interests,” The value of such discipline was illustrated in Glasgow. On September 23rd 1931, an unemployed march was savagely attacked by the police. The next day a 50,000 strong protest demonstration was staged. This time it was protected by a disciplined corps of 500 unemployed workers, armed with heavy sticks – the police kept their distance this time. Alas, such workers’ defence corps did not become a general feature in other cities and the unemployed often paid the price for this with serious injuries at the hands of the police.

Enormous demonstrations were staged in support of the hunger marches when they arrived at their destinations and often these to turned into savage battles when the police attacked. The early Thirties saw many street fights between unemployed workers and a brutally repressive state. In Birkenhead, the park railings were ripped up by workers as they defended themselves against unproved police attacks. A few nights later the police took their revenge throughout the working class districts, dragging men, women and children from their beds and beating them mercilessly. A report from Mrs. Davin to the international Labout Defence inquiry revealed the extent of police violence, “My husband got out of bed without waiting to put his trousers on and unlocked the door. As he did so, 12 police rushed into the room, knocking him to the floor, his poor head being split open, kicking him as he lay … I tried to prevent them hitting my husband. They then commenced to baton me all over the arms and body. As they hit me and my Jim, the children and I were screaming and the police shouted ‘Shut up, you parish-fed bastards’.”

The workers in Belfast faced even more savagery. There, the police force was heavily armed and barricades were thrown up when the police opened fire. Several workers were killed and Protestant workers, who believed the Six Counties was, ‘their’  state found out to whom the RUC really belonged.

When such bitter class battles were taking place, one might ask, what were the official representatives of the class doing? Where were the TUC and Labour Party leaders? Then, as now, they were holding conferences.

A delegate conference on unemployment was convened by the TUC and the Labour Party in 1921.

Hannington’s report of it may sound familiar to today’s militants. “Many of the delegates had come prepared to vote for 24 hour strike action to compel the government to face up to the question of unemployed. The platform refused to allow the delegates to discuss anything other than the official resolution which they had put forward. This resolution contained no proposals for action, it simply condemned the failure of the government on unemployed and referred to the five parliamentary by-elections which were in progress, urging that the best way in which the workers could express their opposition to the Lloyd George government on its failure in respect to unemployed was to work for the return of the Labour candidates in these by-elections.”

However, in 1922, the TUC General Council decided to organise a national, “day of action”. Powerful demonstrations were to be held … on a Sunday! It must be said the main aim of these “Unemployed Sundays” was to kept employed workers out of the direct action struggle against unemployment at the same time, allowed the TUC to present itself as, “doing something” on behalf of the jobless.

The TUC consistently refused the NUWM affiliation and equally rejected its called for a “24 hour general strike against the government in regard to unemployment”. In the aftermath of the 1926 General Strike the TUC, in line with its “peace in industry”  policy, severed its connections with the NUWM completely and broke up the Joint Advisory Council which had been set up in 1923. From then on the TUC did its best to sabotage and betray the NUWM’s work.

The 1927 miners’ march was denounced as a “Communist stunt” which did not have the support of the official trade union movement. This signalled, as Hannington points out, “an outburst of violent abuse and excitement from the capitalist press, who called for the government to ban the march and for the police to, ‘show no mercy for the political incendiaries who were organising it against the wishes of the respectable elements of the Labour movement”. The police duly obliged by stepping up their campaign of harassment and intimidation.

Walter, later Lord, Citrine went so far as to specifically instruct Trades Councils not to render any assistance to the march.

The marches set out with grim determination nonetheless. The first day’s march was to end in Newport, “Our reception in Newport surpassed all expectations. Men and women of the Newport labour movement overwhelmed us with their eagerness to serve food and provide every possible comfort. Here was the real heart of the labour movement, beating to greet us! Here were the typical men and women, example of the great mass of hard-working folk who really constitute the life and vitality of the movement.”

This support, that ordinary workers gave unstintingly, contrasts dramatically with the actions of the contemptible Citrine and his cronies. Between 1927 and 1933, the TUC repeatedly tried to set up bureaucratically straitjacketed unemployed committees which did nothing for the unemployed. However, the general secretaries were unable to organise in a sphere that was “non-negotiable” with the bosses. This ensured that even these feeble efforts came to nought. For his services as a saboteur of the struggle against unemployment, Citrine, the TUC leader, was made a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. As the Daily Telegraph noted at the time, this was a, “generous admission that those also serve who oppose the government of the day.” The bosses have always been glad of the service of men like Citrine whose opposition to them is gentlemanly bluff – but whose opposition to workers defending themselves is real indeed.

The betrayals of the reformist leadership reached their culmination, however, with the Labour government which came to power in 1929. It was this Labour government which refused to abolish task work, which refused to cancel the relief debts of the boards of guardians and which presided over a vast increase in the ranks of the unemployed. These measures were justified then, as now, as “economies”  that were necessary to save the pound etc.

The 1930 hunger march was the first to include a detachment of women marches. Ironically the first woman Minister of Labour, Margaret Bondfield, was personally responsible for the unceremonious ejection of a deputation of the marches from the Ministry of Labour. She had a long history as an enemy of the unemployed. A signatory of the Blanesburgh Report (1927) which proposed a severe cut in benefits that the Tories had not dared to carry through, she and her ministerial colleagues succeeded where Baldwin and Co. had failed. They did this via the Anomalies Act and the introduction of the infamous Means Test, which deprived the unemployed of £30 million in benefits.

It was an attempt to carry through a further cut that finally split the Cabinet and made even the TUC jib and led to MacDonald’s defection (with Margaret Bondfield) and the creation of a National Government. At the same time, Citrine blocked a delegation of unemployed Welsh miners from addressing the TUC at Bristol. When they were baton-charged outside the Congress by the police, Citrine attacked the marchers and praised the police.

As the dole queues grew, so did the determination of the TUC and Labour leaders to defuse the extensive wave of militancy and to preserve the capitalist system that guaranteed them priviliges.

The legendary ‘Jarrow Crusade’, a classic example how the reformists neutered the struggles of the unemployed. It is no accident that this march is one that is kept alive by the reformists’ and the bosses’ propaganda, as the symbol of the Thirties. It  was one of the smallest marches ever to go to London from the unemployed blackspots. It was organised by Jarrow Labour MP, Ellen Wilkinson who ensured from the outset that it would be a law-abiding, passive, pleading demonstration. It was a far cry from the NUWM marches of the Twenties and early Thirties which set out fully aware that the only official reception they would get was from police truncheons. The non-political nature of the Jarrow march was guaranteed by a grotesque form of class collaboration. Two agents were appointed to arrange the eating and sleeping arrangements – one from the Labour Party and the other from the Tories!

On the other hand, as a result of Special Branch intervention, a CP member was expelled from the march. Fears were expressed that the NUWM might take advantage of the crusade but Wilkinson reassured the authorities by refusing to have anything to do with an NUWM march from the North-East taking place at the same time. The Home office rewarded this respect for the rule of law by organising a tea for the Jarrow marchers in the House of Commons as a “good way of encouraging and placating them.” (From the Special Branch report on the Jarrow March, 1936).

The Jarrow March, despite the undoubted sincerity of the marchers and many who supported them, was a typical example of the TUC and Labour Party attitude to the unemployed. It was class collaborationist to the core and reduced the unemployed to pitiful objects of charity. Its aim was to provide these leaders with cover for their own inaction.

By the end of 1936, Clement Attlee felt compelled to share a platform at a London rally welcoming the march of that year. Indeed, such an approach undercut the very existence of an independent, rank and file based unemployed organisation.

The 1936 march was the last major unemployed demonstration of the 1930’s.

Wal Hannington’s books vividly evoke the atmohpere of the class struggle in the Twenties and Thirties, the poverty and degradation that capitalist crises visit upon the unemployed and their families. They also show the militancy and courage, the pride and dignity that sprang from resistance and organisation. On that basis alone they are worth reading. But there are also lessons to be learnt, and problems to be addressed.

One problem with which the NUWM had to grapple, and which is still with us today, is how to unite the unemployed and the employed. The NUWM, correctly, never ignored the official movement despite its sorry record. They continued to demand that the TUC do what it claimed to do – serve the interests of the working class.

The NUWM consistently fought for the right of the unemployed to take their place inside the official labour movement, in Trades Councils, and at the TUC itself. It fought for the unionisation of the unemployed and against the betrayals of Citrine and Co., who were eager to forget the plight of their ex-members.

The life blood of the NUWM was its local organisations, born out of the struggle against Boards of Guardians. They provided the solid foundation for the hunger march mobilisations, the organised resistance to police brutality in Birkenhead, Belfast, Glasgow and elsewhere. They ensured that the unemployed were mobilised against capitalism – and not against their employed fellow workers.

Such local committees need to be established today. They need to be built in every town to organise the unemployed, especially the youth, on a permanent basis, bringing them into militant action against the bosses. Such local roots will provide the best basis for national initiatives, marches etc.

A national organisation of the unemployed must be built around a clear programme, clear political answers to the crisis that the unemployed and the employed face together. For they do face it together, and if unity is not welded in action the working class faces serious dangers. There is no doubt that deep frustration and growing despair could develop within the ever increasing army of the unemployed, particularly so in regard to the youth. If that frustration and despair, that anger, is not directed against its class enemy, there is a real prospect of it turning in upon itself in the cancerous form of fascism. Not only the fascists could benefit from a leaderless army of unemployed. The spectre of a chronically weakened Trade Union movement lies before us in the shape of a divided and demoralised working class lacking the strength to even defend, let alone improve, wages, conditions and social services.

Such a prospect need never become a reality provided, at every level of the labour movement, in every town, every plant, every Trades Council, the question of the fight against unemployment is taken up. A mass national unemployed movement, based on uncompromising hostility to the capitalist system and linked to the employed workers, the trade unions can, and must, build in the months ahead.

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