Powerful play thoroughly debunking racist myths theatre

Posted on: August 8th, 2022 by Sam No Comments
As British as a Watermelon

Zimbabwean writer and performer Mandla Rae confronts racism, homophobia, trauma and asylum.

Boris Johnson’s racist remark about black Africans having watermelon smiles epitomises the ideology of Britain and empire, then and now.

So a glimpse into the mind of a refugee makes for a powerful piece of theatre, debunking racist myths. We’re told, “My name is Mandla. It means power. I gave it to myself.” 

Over the next hour racism, homophobia and murder are a few of the themes explored in a riveting solo performance. Mandla Rae is a gay Zimbabwean writer and actor, using the pronouns they/them.

A three page set of notes of “house rules” for watching is given to audience members to read beforehand. A shadowy square space with white lights defines the stage. The edge of a frame represents a door. In the middle is a table, with various tools, a stool and several watermelons scattered around the space.

Mandla mumbles a prayer and admits to being “a little bit psychic” and “risen from the dead.” And maybe a bit of a liar.

As the stories unfold the watermelons are smashed or cut to pieces with tools and bare hands, sometimes the juice rubbed into the face. The audience is drawn in with clever word play and funny moments. But the loud banging on the door off stage betrays deep fears of what we only can imagine as the “hostile environment” towards those seeking asylum.

There are more questions than answers. How do you know that you’re gay? Why stay in a country where you have suffered so much or why love the English language?

Chopping up melons becomes a metaphor for pent up anger at a world of hurt and lies. Mandla provides a clear message of compassion and humanity. 


A fierce tale against British oppressors

The Telugu language action film RRR is unashamedly revolutionary, the title is an acronym for Raama, Roudra, Rushitam (Rise, Roar, Revolt).

It’s very loosely based on the lives of the real life revolutionaries Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem. Raju and Bheem led uprisings for independence against the British Raj in the 1920s. 

The story opens in 1920 in a village of the Gond people in Adiabad. While the monstrous British administrator Sir Scott Buxton amuses himself slaughtering wildlife, his sadistic wife Catherine takes a shine to young child Malli.

Buxton abducts the child, imprisoning her in his imperial fortress where she must entertain the British occupiers. But Malli’s brother, Komaram Bheem, is the protector of the Gond, and he vows to rescue her.

The British send their undercover agent Raju to take him out. In one scene Raju beats a crowd of hundreds.

The scene where Bheem attacks the Viceroy’s garden party with a menagerie of wild beasts is worth the price of admission alone. The film’s depiction of the British Raj as the work of heartless, racist monsters warmed my anti-imperialist heart.

The credits are played out to a brilliant song and dance routine celebrating and calling for revolution in which the whole cast and the director take part. While they dance, pictures of heroes of the anti-British colonial struggle come up behind them.

One was the socialist revolutionary and anti-colonialist Bhagat Singh. You don’t get that in Marvel post-credit sequences.

Sasha Simic

  • RRR directed by S. S. Rajamouli, on Netflix and in selected cinemas now

Letters—Fresh mood of resistance infuses recent picket lines

Posted on: August 8th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments
UCU strike picket lines

UCU strikers at King’s college London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

My union, UCU, has been on strike several times in the last four years. I’ve been on picket duty in Milton Keynes and Cardiff and, despite some gestures of real support from other groups of workers, it’s been hard work. 

It’s a sign of the historically low level of class struggle that before this last two months I hadn’t visited any other picket lines in six years. That picket line was about 20 people who were desperately resisting the closure of the small factory at which they worked. 

They were, on the whole, grim and pessimistic. And they lost. These last few weeks have felt like living on another planet. The picket lines are very public, they are very confident and they are also prepared for a long fight. 

They want to talk politics. Again and again people talk about having so much in common with other groups of workers.  The attitude to the present leadership of the Labour Party is somewhere between disillusion and contempt.

What is also very noticeable is the level of public support. We organised some support and solidarity leafletting in Exeter city centre on 30 June.  We gave out hundreds of leaflets and had just one negative response. And it’s not just good wishes. It’s not just toots on the car horn and waves while driving past. 

So we’ve started to organise a network of trade union activists across the city.  This is so that each future strike gets quick practical support from other working people.

We are building the start of a serious resistance. We are now planning a rally, both to celebrate the activity so far and also to organise for the autumn. Because when we say we’re all in this together, we mean it. Not like the bosses and the millionaire Tories.

Richard Bradbury

Exeter


Justice for Noah

There was widespread outrage across Northern Ireland after new Tory Secretary of State Shailesh Vara signed off a Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate.  The PII is a block to the release of vital information at the inquest into the death of 14 year old Belfast schoolboy Noah Donohoe. 

Noah went missing two years ago and his naked body was discovered six days later in a storm drain. Noah’s family have consistently claimed that the police did not take the search for him seriously.

PII certificates were widely used to protect information about police informers, especially among paramilitary groups, during the Troubles. But this is now being used in a case of a missing schoolboy. 

There have been claims in the media, including an account from a former prisoner, that a cellmate had confessed to being involved in Noah’s murder.  The cellmate also said he was helped in disposing of his body by others in a predominantly Loyalist area of North Belfast. 

Police collusion with Loyalist gangs had been repeatedly exposed in investigations in the North. Now Vara, like all his predecessors, has colluded in the police cover-up. 

Hundreds have attended demonstrations outside police stations across Northern Ireland to protest against the decision. 

You can support the Donohue family by signing the petition – bit.ly/NDonohoe

Colm Bryce

Glasgow


Socialists shouldn’t call people bastards

In the Socialist Workers Party pre-conference documents, it was stressed that we should avoid using comments like “I am mad” or “I feel stupid”. This is because this language can cause distress to some people.

A comrade has raised with me their concerns about the cartoon in edition 2815 (Socialist Worker, 27 July) with the description of the Tory party candidates as “bastards”.

Using this term in this way did cause distress and I fear that Socialist Worker fell short of its high standards. I hope some form of apology will be printed.

Ralph Tebbutt

Kent

Does Socialist Worker have to resort to language of the gutter press when talking about the Tories? 

When you call them “bastards” you’re debasing our cause and sound like The Sun.

Marie Agathi

By email


Solidarity—put money where mouth is

The rail and telecoms strikes have been an inspiring example of workers fighting back. They’ve been a revelation for thousands of people who haven’t felt sure about how to fight.

But CWU and RMT union members don’t get strike pay. That means every day of action they take, strikers are losing money against the backdrop of the cost of living crisis. 

We need these strikes to win because their victory will give confidence to all working class people. And that means we need a serious campaign of collections and solidarity in Britain. 

If your union branch donates to the local strike fund, that’s fantastic. It’s not enough on its own. We need to see solidarity actions with workers and trade unionists and socialists going out into the communities to shake buckets and raise money for the strikes. 

We’ve seen the way that the arguments of the CWU and the RMT have resonated across the working class. Now we have to drive those arguments deeper into working class communities to ensure strikers can take the kind of action that can win. 

Tom Kay

Sheffield


A thought on Taiwan 

Although claimed as part of China, any reunification would crush Taiwan democracy. The slow strangulation of Hong Kong’s truncated democracy would no doubt be repeated. 

Taiwanese independence would give way to a huge militarisation of the island by US imperialism. Short of a proletarian revolution in China, perhaps the maintenance of the status quo would be the least worst option?

John Curtis

Ipswich


Unbelievable price gouging

The people who run the energy industry in this country are criminals. Companies are raising prices to astronomical levels. 

And now the Ofgem regulatory body is saying prices will be updated quarterly, rather than every six months.

Now firms have more chance to squeeze us. 

Janet Dyer

East London


Pass football to the girls

Whatever your position on the England win at the Euros is, I’m sure everyone agrees that girls should be given the same opportunities as boys to play sport. 

Yet only 44 percent of secondary schools provide equal football lessons for both boys and girls. This disagreful statistic is the collision of sexism and years of cuts to education. 

Sadie Green

Newport


Netflix and…mortgage?

I notice that some 800,000 people have cancelled their subscriptions to Netflix and Amazon, as the cost of living crisis begins to take hold. 

I wonder if all those people will now be able to afford to buy houses? The right wing myth suggests it was buying frivolous items such as streaming services that was stopping them.

Bridget Alderton

By email

Indian liberation was won through ferment of revolt

Posted on: August 8th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
Ghandi on a march along side muslim protestors in a non violent fight for indian independance

Indian independence was fought and won by the people of India

Indian independence is often trumpeted as one of the great achievements of the 1945-51 Labour government, up there alongside the creation of the NHS.  

Indeed, prime minister Clement Attlee is often celebrated as the man who liberated India. Yet the Labour government that came to power in 1945 was absolutely committed to maintaining both the Empire and Britain’s position as a world power.  Keeping control of India and its resources was vital if this was to be achieved. 

Attlee and his government intended to create a weak federal regime that would undermine the Congress movement for independence, and one which British could still dominate. A problem for Attlee was that hostility to continued British rule dramatically increased in the post-war period, fuelled in part by serious economic crisis. 

During the war, some 20,000 Indian prisoners-of-war had been recruited by the Japanese into the Indian National Army (INA), to fight the British for Indian independence. As far as the British were concerned, these men were traitors. But as far as a growing number of Indians were concerned they were heroes. The British proposed to put the leaders of the INA on trial, provoking fierce protests. 

On 21 November 1945, there were student protests against the trials in Calcutta. The police opened fire, killing two protesters. 

The response was a city-wide general strike which saw barricades going up. “Order” was only restored after two days of fighting and after another 33 people had been killed. There were militant protests in many other towns and cities. There were more protests in Calcutta the following February, culminating in another general strike, and half a million people marching through the streets.

What was decisive, however, was the mutiny of Indian sailors that began in Bombay harbour on 18 February 1946 with the mutineers taking control of 22 warships. They demanded an end to the trials, withdrawal of Indian troops from Indonesia and the same pay and conditions as British sailors. 

A general strike was called in their support, with some 300,000 workers walking out and barricades going up. The mutiny spread to other ports and there was considerable unrest in the army and air force as well. 

Strikes also a played a key role. In 1946 there were 1,629 strikes involving some 2 million workers and in a number of cities the police walked out on strike as well.

While the Labour government was still determined to keep India subordinate, the military commanders advised them that this was no longer possible. The level of unrest was rising and the naval mutiny had shown that the Indian military could not be relied upon. As far as the generals were concerned the only choice the British had was to leave peacefully now or be driven out violently.

Foreign secretary Ernest Bevin said Britain should keep control of India for another 15 years if necessary until a reliable puppet government could be installed. But the decision was taken to pull out of India as soon as possible. Lord Mountbatten was charged with this and he plunged the country into horrific communal violence that left over a million people dead. 

The consequences for Britain were soon felt. 

When the Labour government sent soldiers to Korea to fight in the US’s war in 1950, the newly independent Indian government absolutely refused to send troops. From this time on, the British ruling class was forced to reluctantly accept that it could only protect its interests by subordinating itself to the US. 

Attlee and the Labour government did not liberate India. The Indian people liberated themselves.

‘We’re turning our backs on Labour—after Labour turned its back on us’

Posted on: August 7th, 2022 by Nick No Comments
Hundreds of Coventry council HGV2 bin workers behind a banner reading "Labour councillors, stop union busting".

Coventry HGV2 drivers, betrayed by Labour, on strike earlier this year (Picture: Unite West Midlands)

As Keir Starmer responds to a rising tide of strikes by accelerating his shift to the right, trade unionists and even party members are increasingly turning their back on him too.

For workers and union activists, Starmer’s demands that leading MPs stay away from picket lines—and his refusal to back above inflation pay rises—is a betrayal. Meanwhile, many Labour members, and those who have recently left, question what the party is even for.

For HGV2 drivers in Coventry, their eight month strike against the Labour council was a sign of things to come. While they fought for—and eventually won—a pay rise, the Labour council, backed by Starmer, set out to break them.

 “We had the door slammed squarely in our face by the council who made up lies, suspended our rep and provided scab labour,” Unite union convenor Haydn Jones told Socialist Worker. “The intention was to intimidate and bully us to show they have the capability to make other strikers fall in line.

“Labour needs to hang its head in shame—it’s a party of despair for workers and it will never be united. Anybody that says Labour is there to represent working people is absolutely delusional.”

Haydn ripped his Labour ­membership up on the picket line. None of the 73 strikers were members by the end of the dispute. He thinks Starmer wants to prove that Labour is not a party that represents workers or unions.

“I’ll never forget eight months of being sneered at by Starmer,” he said—pointing to how Starmer laughed at the idea that Unite could cut its ­funding for the party over the dispute.

Labour MPs were cautious about joining Coventry’s picket line, including the left wing Zarah Sultana. “She chose to be a Labour MP rather than standing up for our rights,” Haydn said.

“They don’t stand by their convictions. For me there’s little or no hope for the Labour Party. That’s been demonstrated by the vicious barrage of lies and attacks on us.”

Haydn added that Starmer is “forgetting how Labour was set up through subs and donations of workers.” “It takes millions from hard working people through union affiliation fees,” he said.

“Unite must disaffiliate from Labour and there’s a strong urge for this. No more payments should go to Labour.”

Labour activists are also starting to question whether the party deserves their money and support. Alex joined the Labour Party just before the 2017 general election, encouraged by previous leader Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to abolish student debt.

“I joined because it was not just about being against the Tories, it felt like something I could actually get behind,” he told Socialist Worker. Yet Alex’s enthusiasm started to dip as the Labour right attacked and defeated Corbyn’s leadership in the run up to the 2019 general election.

When Starmer replaced Corbyn and the pandemic hit, Alex let his membership expire. “Going into the Covid lockdowns Starmer backed up the Tories,” he said. “Meanwhile capitalism collapsed in on itself and couldn’t cope without being backed up by workers—that radicalised me.”

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP John McDonnell shake hands with RMT assistant secretary Eddy Dempsey on a picket line

Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell joined picket lines last week—but can they lead an alternative? (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Is an alternative possible—and what would it have to do to be different?

For the thousands—or tens of thousands—who’ve left Labour under Starmer, the big question is what fills the gap, and where to place their activity. Many feel that an alternative party to Labour—one that matches what they hoped for under Jeremy Corbyn—would be a step forward.

Haydn has called on Labour’s left MPs to quit the party and join a new parliamentary organisation representing workers. “We need a new party that believes in socialism to make things fair and equal for all,” he said. “We need to gather around people such as Corbyn.

“And we need a majority within parliament to change rules. I think a socialist government could run the country quite successfully, and they would have to make people pay their fair share.”

With the funding pulled from Labour, Haydn says this should go towards sponsoring Unite members and socialist councillors. “Starmer has changed the rules so much that it’d be impossible to get anyone that resembles Corbyn in,” he said.

“But we have two years to do something.” He added, “We need a process—that I hope isn’t too slow—of getting socialist councillors elected then supporting them as MPs.”

Yet even a new party would face the same difficulties as Labour under Corbyn. His MPs didn’t rebel against him simply because they were right wing. It was because they hated that his leadership didn’t look like what they call a “responsible party of government.”

That’s a party that promises to manage the economy and the British state in a way that ensures bosses’ profits. So Labour MPs pushed Corbyn into compromise.

The experience dispirited many activists such as Alex. “There was such fundamental contrast in the party that meant Corbyn couldn’t put his platform forward,” Alex said.

“It showed me even if he was in power, Corbyn would’ve had to compromise. Not even because of public pressure, but because his own party would’ve imploded.”

Constant compromise isn’t just the great failure of Labour—it’s the nature of parliamentary politics to fall into the demands of the right and big business. A new party would have to face up to that challenge, as well as the pressure to fall in behind Labour in parliament against the Tories.

Any alternative mustn’t simply try to repeat the Corbyn project—but build a new one that puts the power of struggle and resistance, not parliament, at its heart.

New film raises questions about legacy of Holocaust

Posted on: August 7th, 2022 by Sam No Comments
A still from the animated film 'Where is Anne frank' views two girls sitting on a bed facing each other. The girl on the left is wearing a green jumpsuit and has red hair, the girl on the right has dark black hair and is wearing a red shirt and brown skirt with a diary in hand

Where Is Anne Frank animated film directed by Ari Folman

Where is Anne Frank imaginatively retells the well-known story of the teenage girl who wrote a diary while in hiding from the Nazis in occupied Amsterdam from 1942-44. 

Anne Frank’s diary, published in 1947, and the story of her and her family, humanised the immense human cost of the HolocaustIt was a period that saw six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. 

Anne and her family hid for two years in the attic of Otto Frank’s office. They were eventually discovered and taken to Auschwitz and then Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. There Anne, her mother and her sister were killed. 

Where is Anne Frank retells Anne’s story through the eyes of Kitty, her imaginary friend who she often addresses in her diary. Kitty is reanimated in contemporary Amsterdam and finds herself in the Anne Frank House museum as ­tourists and security guards poke through it. 

She begins a search for Anne through the streets of Amsterdam. Through flashbacks of Anne ­speaking with Kitty we relive the creeping persecution faced by Jewish people following the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

We see the effect this had on Anne, a popular and social young girl, as her family were forced out of most parts of public life until they were hidden completely. 

The film is pitched for children and young adults with elegant animation and simple dialogue which enables the depiction of Anne’s lively character to shine through. Anne’s world in the attic is shaped by her imagination, her relationships and the increasingly scary news of Nazi-occupied Europe and extermination camps. 

The petty grievances and conflicts with those that she shares close quarters with while in hiding give dimension to the stuffiness and tragedy of her captivity. 

Anne’s interest in film and popular culture form her imagination. There’s a memorable dream sequence where an army of Greek gods and film stars—including Clark Gable—go into battle with Nazi armies.

Kitty’s journey through the ­contemporary world attempts to draw similarities between the ­persecutions faced by Jews in Nazi Germany and the persecution being faced by refugees in Europe today. 

Dutch police round up shivering families of refugees on the snowy streets outside the museum and bundle them into the back of border patrol trucks. The friends that Kitty makes while searching for Anne are poor youths who’ve been repeatedly arrested for stealing food and other means of subsistence. 

The film powerfully asks if Anne’s memory and lessons of the Holocaust has changed the world for the better when racism, poverty and injustice are still so much a feature of contemporary Europe. 

Bus workers won’t stop pay battle

Posted on: August 7th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments
bus strike strike picket

Workers on picket lines (Picture: Unite North West)

Bus workers’ all out and indefinite strike across north west England is a symbol of the new readiness to fight over pay. And it’s another sign that more and more workers either have to fight back or accept being pushed into poverty.

Around 1,800 bus workers employed by Arriva began their third week of a walkout this week and they are even more determined to win than they were when they began on 19 July. Workers at the 11 depots are furious that Arriva’s parent company Deutsche Bahn has made billions in profit while workers struggle to afford energy bills, petrol and food.

“Some people think we get paid mega money, but that’s just not true,” said Chris Jones, the Unite union rep and bus worker in Birkenhead. “The truth is a lot of us here are struggling. We worked throughout the pandemic, most of us got Covid, and two of our lads died. Any money we had saved has now gone. 

“All we got was a box of chocolates—that I delivered—and a three minute thank you video.” The workers struck after they voted 96 percent in favour of strikes. They have remained out with not one worker crossing picket lines after rejecting an 8.5 percent pay offer. 

This offer was no improvement on the original proposal—and wasn’t even put to a vote. Dave Roberts, the Unite regional officer for the north west, told Socialist Worker, “The company asked for a meeting last Monday, suggesting an improved offer would be tabled, only to turn up and offer the same percent. 

“It is an insult to our members and just caused confusion to the public who were under the impression we would get an improved offer.” Pickets are happy this was rejected, with a large number explaining how they need an above inflation pay rise. 

Others think that forcing the bosses to concede a double-digits rise will be hard. But this won’t stop workers fighting for one. Dave, a bus worker also at Birkenhead, told Socialist Worker, “Morale is high, public support is good. Even the food on the picket line is great.

“We’ve been pushed into a corner and have to fight back to defend our rights.” The north west Arriva workers’ battle could set a benchmark for bus workers everywhere. “The issue is that if Merseyside ­workers get, say, 10 percent it would be a benchmark for the other Arriva ­workers balloting to get more. Bosses don’t want that to happen,” says Dave.

Chris explained how the issues facing workers are about more than just pay. “The buses aren’t a public service anymore,” he said. They’re run for profit, not people, and the public knows that. “All the ­workers here have seen is cuts. There’s been pretty much no investment, but we are saying that you have to invest in staff.

“Buses used to go as far as Chester but now they just run around this area. Around 80 buses in Merseyside were lost in the past year and more will be cut in September.”

The mood on the picket lines is buoyant. Unite union flags and posters cover the walls near the depot entrance as the pickets receive support from passing cars and pedestrians.

The pickets talked about how all workers are going through massive hardships. Dave hopes their strike “will inspire other workers to walkout—there’s no better time to strike.”

Chris added, “We went to the BT picket line, and I took seven drivers to the RMT picket line.” Striker Alan added, “This could end up in a general strike. The posties might walk out, and there are three other strike ballots among Arriva bus workers.

“The situation is so bad it’s ­something we should be thinking about—striking together.” Dave Roberts said, strikes “are important now, especially with the corporate greed crisis we all find ourselves in”. 

John who works at the Bootle depot told Socialist Worker, “We’re fighting for pay but we’re also telling the government that people working full time don’t deserve to be poor.

Like the workers in Birkenhead, John hopes the strikes will spread and be an inspiration to other Arriva bus ­workers and rail workers. “I believe we are at the closest to a general strike we’ve ever been.

“No wonder the government talks about limiting strikes. Trade unionists really need to think about the situation we’re in and how we can make sure the bosses don’t cut our pay or conditions anymore.”

  • Tweet solidarity to Unite North West @Unite_NorthWest GMB North West @GMBShoutNW 

*Alan and John are pseudonyms


Unite a bus-t up with the bosses 

Arriva bosses are struggling to maintain a wave of discontent and strikes among bus workers in Britain. Strike ballots are underway at Arriva depots in Essex, Kent, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and north London which could see a further 3,100 workers walk out.

These ballots and the action currently being taken by Arriva North West workers follows strikes by 1,000 Arriva bus workers in south London and 650 in Yorkshire. As the struggle among workers grows, there are lessons to be learnt. 

Deutsche Bahn, the parent company of Arriva is the biggest and one of the most profitable public transport companies in the world. In just ten years the firm raked in a profit of £5.9 billion with the majority of the cash—£4.3 billion—paid out in dividends.

The firm is sitting on piles of cash whilst workers stare down poverty during the cost of living crisis. For the 1,800 Arriva North West workers they have a monumental task to hit back at the multi-billion pound company. Unity and continuous action are the strikers’ strongest weapons. South London Arriva workers struck first in May and were forced to vote on an improved offer. 

They narrowly accepted a 3.5 percent “pay rise” and a £250 lump sum—far below the 11.1 percent RPI rate of inflation recorded in April. They rejected previous offers of 3 percent and a £300 lump sum. 

But unfortunately the workers’ isolated action and desperate financial situations of many meant a narrow majority lost hope. Arriva workers in Yorkshire fared somewhat better. Unlike the south London bus workers they took continuous action for four weeks.

The escalated action won an average pay increase of 9 percent. The strikers accepted this after rejecting a 4.1 percent offer—but 9 percent is still far below inflation, making it a real terms pay cut. More militant, escalated action has potential to win bigger pay offers to combat the cost of living crisis and smash inflation.

If the strike ballots taking place across Essex, Kent, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and north London pass, united action will hit bosses harder than the two completed strikes. And some 1,600 London United bus workers in Fulwell, Hounslow, Hounslow Heath, Park Royal, Shepherd’s Bush, Stamford Brook, and Tolworth depots are set to strike on Friday 19 and Saturday 20 August.

The first of those days is during a Tube strike, the second during a rail strike. Bus strikes alongside rail strikes would be powerful. Strike coordination and joint marches and rallies are the way forward. Bus workers in the North West remain optimistic they will win a significant offer. 

They look to other Arriva fights but also the Merseyside bus drivers employed by Stagecoach who voted to strike and before walking out won an above inflation pay rise. They also won the agreement that their wages will rise alongside the RPI level of inflation or by 2 percent—whichever is higher—from March next year.

Deutsche Bahn bosses are sitting on piles of money that was taken from the backs of workers. It’s time Arriva bus workers stood up in unison against the bosses and grabbed it back.


Fight to save London buses

Bus workers and passengers in London last week stormed the Transport for London (TfL) headquarters, demanding the firm doesn’t cut 16 bus routes and change 78 more to save money.

After gathering in Waterloo, central London, the protesters organised by the Unite union marched to the headquarters on Blackfriars Road, south London. They held banners reading, “Stop the London bus cuts,” and “Save our London buses, stop making Londoners pay for the Pandemic.”

Chants of “Save our buses,” echoed around the building as the workers waved flags and placards. Unite regional officer John Murphy said, “The people of London depend on a good properly funded and supported transport network, especially with the escalating cost of fuel. These people and the bus workers, who we all applauded through Covid, need to be given proper consideration, rather than used as a political football.”

TfL is looking to attack workers and passengers as it scrambles to make £730 million savings after taking subsidies from the government during the Covid pandemic. These bus cuts would save just £35 million.

Axing routes would see bus drivers and depot workers lose overtime working—which many are relying on during the cost of living crisis. It would also force passengers to turn to more expensive and environmentally damaging modes of transport. 

The danger is immediate with the first routes being axed by the end of the year and the remainder going by the end of next year. 

Rage against the Tories at Eastbourne leadership hustings

Posted on: August 6th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
Tory hustings protest in Eastbourne with protestors holding placards which read never truss a tory, and defy tory rule

Eastbourne protests at the hustings united different groups and individuals (Picture: John Hesse)

Over 200 protesters confronted the Rishi Sunak-Liz Truss hustings roadshow on Friday in the Sussex coastal town of Eastbourne.

Speaking to camera outside the venue a bemused-sounding BBC journalist struggled to be heard above chants of “Tories out” and “Refugees welcome here”.  “It seems that every protester in East Sussex is here,” he said.

Meanwhile inside the event half a dozen young people from Green New Deal Rising and Just Stop Oil had blagged their way into the Centre to successfully disrupt the event to call for climate action.  Typically rather than address the climate emergency Liz Truss vowed to crack down on protests and strikes.

Local protesters had gathered at Eastbourne station to welcome groups arriving from Hastings, Lewes, Brighton, Newhaven and Seaford. Then they marched to the hustings venue behind the East Sussex RMT Coastway union banner.

Eastbourne Trades Council and Eastbourne Stand up to Racism (SUTR) initiated the protest. Organiser Louise Walton from SUTR said, “Once we called the protest we immediately reached out to environmental groups and refugee support groups across East Sussex including Extinction Rebellion (XR) groups and the local Bespoke campaign which fights for improved cycle facilities in the town.

“We didn’t wait until the venue was known before putting the call out.”

Rachael from the local XR group said “Some good connections were made with different groups. Working together is how we win!”

Chelsea heard about the protest from a friend. She said “I went straight to the Welcome Centre, the hustings venue. There was just me and small groups of right-wing people. I felt very alone but then I heard the protest coming round the corner. What a wonderful sight. I wasn’t on my own anymore.”

When the march arrived at the centre protesters took over the concourse which was the entry point to the hustings. They drowned out and sidelined small numbers of conspiracy theorists and UKIP supporters.

Tories attending the event had no choice but to make their way past the protest while the crowd chanted “Welcome every refugee, throw the Tories in the sea”, “Sunak, Truss hear us say—tax the rich and make them pay” and “What do we want? Climate justice.”

At one point a visibly shaken Caroline Ansell, the local Tory MP, emerged to remonstrate with police saying “this is unacceptable”.

After an hour or so of chanting, protesters held a short rally. Keith Mitchell from the RMT received a rousing reception and warned of Tory plans to outlaw effective strike action. Other speakers condemned the government’s Rwanda deportation policy and the support of both candidates for fracking.

  • Future Tory hustings are: Tue 9 August Darlington, Thu 11 August Cheltenham, Tue 16 August Perth, Fri 19 August Manchester, Tue 23 August Birmingham, Thu 25 August Norwich, Wed 31 August London

‘Pay was the tip of the iceberg’—Amazon striker writes

Posted on: August 6th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
Amazon striker in an organge high visibility vest with a placard demanding pay rise

Amazon workers fight back in a series of wildcat strikes (Picture: twitter/@walkout20201)

I am one of the workers that walked out on Thursday at BHX4 in Coventry. The pay is only the tip of the iceberg of the issues we face at our fulfilment centre, and discontent has been brewing for a while. 

We worked through the entire Covid pandemic, including the lockdowns, with little to no thanks for doing a dangerous job.

All we wanted was the £2 more than they paid us in the first lockdown. We get told that we are breaking records with how fast we work, but we don’t get any thanks.

The day they announced the pay rise, we were told to buy tickets for a summer party for which Amazon had hired an event centre. Of course, they didn’t ask us if that was what we actually wanted. 

Managers are constantly watching us for drops in productivity or idle time. If anyone is caught using a phone, even if it’s an emergency or for a medical reason, we are automatically put into investigation meetings. 

This is especially frustrating as we see management using their phones and laptops while walking around machinery with no punishment whatsoever.

When we walked out on Thursday, we did so peacefully and with a valid reason. The site manager came into the canteen area with a megaphone and told us we had 30 minutes to come up with the reasoning and send someone to him. We refused to do this as we were standing united. 

He returned later, and we told him that the pay was our main issue. We were then told he would “take it away and try to get an answer” and “other sites have the same issue but can’t tell us when we are getting any answer back”. 

After that we heard that if we refused to go back to work, we would be clocked out and would not be paid for the time we didn’t work. 

On Friday morning about 100 associates walked out and protested outside. All of these associates have been told they will be sacked for this action.

Amazon made over £20 billion in profit in the last year while our bills continue to increase. In the four years I have been at BHX4, my pay has only gone up by £1 in total.

All we want is fair pay for our work, and the sooner Amazon management realises it, the better. Amazon uses the principle of “have backbone, disagree and commit.” Well, Amazon has tried to break our backbone, we disagree with the pay rise and commit to being heard. 

  • On Friday the GMB union said Amazon workers’ protests where workers slow down their work to one package an hour were taking place at Tilbury, Dartford, Belvedere, Hemel Hempstead and Chesterfield. This is in addition to walkouts and stoppages at sites including Tilbury, Coventry, Bristol and Rugeley.
  • Dave is a pseudonym