Friday, November 30, 2012

How Shall the Meek Inherit the Rare Earth?

THE British government has anninced it is suspending aid to Rwanda because of the African state's involvment in supporting M23 rebels in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of  Congo, but critics are asking what took them so long to recognise what everyone knew, and whether this is too little too late.

Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, applied to join the British Commonwealth in 2008, and was admitted in 2010. President Paul Kagame's move was seen as a break out of the Francophone sphere, after blaming France for complicity in the 1994 genocide which ended when his rebel army took control of the country.

Though the British government welcomed the new member to the club, and the Rwandan government boasted of the economic progress they had made and hoped to make, human rights experts raised doubts about the Rwandan government's record.Professor Yashpal Ghai, a Kenyan legal expert, argued that freedom of speech had been widely suppressed, the judiciary has "serious weaknesses" and political freedom is curtailed."We believe that overwhelming evidence, conveniently ignored by leading Commonwealth states, demonstrates that the government of Rwanda is not sufficiently committed to the protection of human rights and to democracy," he wrote in a report for the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

But it is Rwanda's interference in the Congo, and that of another Commonwealth country, Uganda, that has roused wider concern. They invaded twice, in 1996 and 1998, and in 2000 fought a "six day war"between them on Congolese soil, resulting in many civilian deaths, though the object was to lay hands on diamonds in Kisangani province, north-eastern Congo.

In late March this year a rebellion broke out among Rwandan troops in the Congolese army who complained that an agreement on March 23, 2009 to integrate them into the army had not been fully implemented. This was the start of the M23 force. A prominent figure in it is Bosco Ntaganda, a Tutsi Rwandan warlord turned Congolese army general, who just happens to be wanted on an International Criminal Court for war crimes.
(Liberation magazine, November 2012, article by Victoria Dove Dimandja)
There are rich prizes to be got in the poor and war-ravaged Congo - gold, diamonds, and oil, but above all, in eastern Congo, a less familiar explanation for war and rivalry - the rare eath metals. Not as esoteric as they sound, but essential to many of the hi-tech products that have become part of life today.

As a blogger calling themself "DINGO" put it dramatically two years ago:  
DINGO on Thu Nov 18, 2010  "Could anyone imagine that cell phones are tainted with the blood of 3.2 million deaths since 1998? Also, that the same thing happens with some children's video games? And that mega-technologies contribute to forest depredation and spoliation of the rich natural resources of paradoxically impoverished peoples?

In the case of these new high techs, it is Coltan that is at stake --the minerals columbium and tantalite, or Coltan for short. Tantalite is a rare, hard and dense metal, very resistant to corrosion and high temperatures and is an excellent electricity and heat conductor. It is used in the microchips of cell phone batteries to prolong duration of the charge, making this business flourish. Provisions for 2004 foresee sales of 1,000 million units. To these properties are added that its extraction does not entail heavy costs --it is obtained by digging in the mud-- and that it is easily sold, enabling the companies involved in the business to obtain juicy dividends.

Even though Coltan is extracted in Brazil, Thailand and much of it from Australia --the prime producer of Coltan on a world level-- it is in Africa where 80% of the world reserves are to be found. Within this continent, the Democratic Republic of Congo concentrates over 80% of the deposits, where 10,000 miners toil daily in the province of Kivu (eastern Congo), a territory that has been occupied since 1998 by the armies of Rwanda and Uganda. A series of companies has been set up in the zone, associated to large transnational capital, local governments and military forces (both state and "guerrilla") in a dispute over the control of the region for the extraction of Coltan and other minerals. The United Nations has not hesitated to state that this strategic mineral is funding a war that the former United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright called "the first African world war" (and we understand by world wars, those in which the great powers share out the world), and is one of its causes.

In August 1998, the Congolese Union for Democracy (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie-RCD), launched a rebellion in the city of Goma, supported by the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA). Since then, in a struggle in which, behind the myth of ethnic rivalries, are hidden the old colonial powers that continue to ransack the wealth of post-Colonial Africa, the war has been rife between two, loosely defined parties. On the one hand the RDC and the Governments of Rwanda and Uganda, supported by the United States, relying on the military bases such as that built in Rwanda by the United States company Brown&Root, a branch of Halliburton, where Rwandese forces are trained and logistic support is provided to their troops in the DRC, together with United States combat helicopters and spy satellites. The other party is made up of the Democratic Republic of Congo (led by one of Kabila's sons, after his father was assassinated by the Rwandese), Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

However, behind these states are the companies sharing out the zone. Various joint companies have been set up for this purpose, the most important one being SOMIGL (the Great Lakes Mining Company), a joint company set up in November 2000, involving Africom, Premeco, Cogecom and Cogear, (the latter two are Belgium companies --it should be remembered that DRC, formerly the Belgium Congo, was a Belgium colony), Masingiro GmbH (a German company) and various other companies that ceased their activities in January 2002 for various reasons (a drop in Coltan prices, difficult working conditions, suspension of Coltan imports from DRC) and are waiting for better conditions: Sogem (a Belgian company), Cabot and Kemet (U.S.) the joint United States-German company Eagles Wings Resources (now with headquarters in Rwanda), among others.

The transport companies belong to close family members of the presidents of Rwanda and Uganda. In these virtually military zones, private air companies bring in arms and take out minerals. Most of the Coltan extracted is later refined by a small number of companies in Germany, the United States, Kazakhstan and the Far East. The branch of Bayer, Starck produces 50% of powdered tantalite on a world level. Dozens of companies are linked to the traffic and elaboration of this product, with participation of the major monopolizing companies in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United States. As if this were not enough, the Trade, Development and Industry Bank, created in 1996 with headquarters in the capital city of Rwanda, Kigali, acts as correspondent for the CITIBANK in the zone, and handles large amounts of money from Coltan, gold and diamond operations. Thirty-four companies import Coltan from the Congo, among these, 27 are of western origin, mainly Belgium, Dutch and German.

A UN report on Rwandan invasion of the Congo, which was supposedly in pursuit of genocidaires, war criminals who had taken refuge in the Congo, found that the Rwandan troops had not headed for the areas where these gangs were hiding out, but for the mines. Far from clearing out the genocidaires the invaders had teamed up with them to exploit those Congolese whom they had not killed and who did not flee. They enslaved local people, often children, to dig at gunpoint for the valuable rare earths.

Others were coming into Congo to get in on the act, the UN report said, "armies of business, commanded by men who carefully planned the redrawing of the regional map to redistribute wealth".
While the UN report recommended further investigation of companies including Barclays and Standard Chartered Banks, Coltam was going up in price as it was used in playstations. Former Labour MP Oona King remarked:
"Kids in Congo were being sent into mines to die so that kids in Europe and Anerica could kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms".
 (Victoria Dove Dimandja, Liberation magazine, January 2011)

. .
Some interesting recent exchanges took place in the House of Lords over Rwanda: For instance:

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead (Labour)
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the report of the involvement of the Government of Rwanda in the M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in particular of the involvement of General James Kabarebe, Minister of Defence of Rwanda.

Baroness Warsi (Conservative)
We are aware that the embargoed report by the UN Group of Experts has been leaked. It is not government policy to comment on leaked documents. However, we have consistently made it clear to the Rwandan Government, at the most senior levels, that we find the existing body of evidence for Rwandan involvement with the M23 credible and compelling. And that all such support must stop.

21 Nov 2012 : Column 1802

Lord Alton of Liverpool: Does the noble Baroness not recall that in September, in reply to a Written Question that I tabled, her noble friend Lady Northover confirmed that some £344 million is being provided in bilateral aid to Rwanda between 2011 and 2015? In that same reply, she said that Rwanda,
    "must adhere to strict partnership principles",-[Official Report, 24/9/12; col. WA284.]
and that the Secretary of State was still considering whether those expectations were being met. Given what the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, just said about the fall of Goma-there are now 80,000 displaced people and refugees in that area-and what Ban Ki-Moon has said about using aid for leverage, will the Minister say whether we are reconsidering our decision to restore aid in that vast degree to Rwanda and who is arming and paying for the arms of the M23 rebels?
Baroness Warsi: I cannot comment on the last question that the noble Lord raised but, in relation to aid, in 2012-13 we have committed £75 million, of which £29 million is general budget support. The noble Lord will be aware that in July of this year, because of certain concerns that were raised, a £16 million tranche of general budget funding was not given over until September and, at that point, £8 million was given over as general budget support but £8 million was redirected to education and food. The next tranche is due in December and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development is looking at all these matters.
Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, does the Minister have a view on how the Security Council could accept yesterday that M23 is getting external support but then perversely claim that it lacks evidence? Does she agree that it need look no further than the new, well documented evidence provided by Human Rights Watch on Rwanda's provision of, for instance, logistical support and sophisticated weaponry to M23?
Baroness Warsi: We were heavily involved in that presidential statement at the United Nations Security Council yesterday. It was important that we raised our concerns, and we raised them. As the noble Baroness will note from that report, the support given to M23 is not entirely clear. Reference was made to it by the United Nations group of experts' report via a leaked report. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on that leak, but these are matters that we continuously discuss with Rwanda.

Victoria Dove Dimandja is a Congolese woman living in London and active in the Congolese Women's Group and Campaign "It must stop". See:

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Keeping His Name Out, While Putting Your's On the List

 McALPINE'S name as employer of Irish workes inspired Dominic Behan's song.

THAT McAlpine name keeps cropping up! This time it was Cullum of that ilk, director of several companies within the Sir Robert McAlpine group, though his former associate Ian Kerr seemed reluctant to let slip his name when appearing before a House of Commons committee.

The Scottish Affairs Select Committee, investigating blacklisting, was interviewing Kerr about his work as Chief Executive of the Consulting Association, which acted as a successor to the notorious Economic League, keeping files on thousands of workers. The man who kept the lists appeared accompanied by his wife who had looked after the books and assisted in his work.

Kerr explained that the Consulting Association work was particularly relevant in the building industry, because of its "transient" nature, with workers being recruited when a site opens.  He went on to mention Skanska, Tarmac,  Robert McAlpine and Balfour Beatty as among construction companies that had sought information on potential employees,  for the Crossrail project, PFI hospitals, Wembley Stadium and major government buildings, as well as the Olympic site.

But before this the former Consulting Association chief had seemed reluctant to name names, prevaricating when asked who attended meetings and only referring to their positions, such as "the chairman", until pressed to say who this was.  

It transpired that not only were McAlpines a user of the Consulting Association's services, but Cullum McAlpine was its first chairman after providing a £10,000 loan to start it up following the closure of the Economic League in 1993. Consulting Association meetings took place at St Robert McAlpine's London headquarters.

Ian Kerr, a former Birmingham schoolteacher, joined the Economic League in 1969 - forty years before the raid on the Consulting Association's officein Droitwich which led to files being confiscated and Kerr being prosecuted under the Data Protection Act.

We now learn that Sir Robert McAlpine paid Kerr's £5,000 fine, solicitors' fees and costs, including finding £25,000 redundancy money for the four staff. All this was meant to keep McAlpine's name out of the picture.

Kerr was paid £50k per year, plus car, bonus, BUPA subscription and  life insurance. Perhaps this was an appropriate income and benefits for a man who met with company directors to impart the results of his dirty work. That included infiltrating union meetings, or hiring others to do so, so as to get information on people they were targetting.

Besides trade unionists, particularly those who had raised health and safety issues and acted as workers' representatives on the lob, the Consulting Association had begun stretching its remit to montor the activities of environmental campaigners. Files were held on some 200 of these. 

Police held regular meetings with senior members of the blacklisting operation with information flowing both ways. But it was also said that union officials provided information about their own members that ended up on the blacklist files. Ian Davidson MP described this as "the union putting the kybosh on someones employment"

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Will Barak miss Netanyahu's Tea Party?

 NUMBER 13. Miri Regev (centre) with fan club, after she called African refugees "a cancer" and before she apologised.  Rally in south Tel Aviv turned into a pogrom.

AFTER waging an onslaught on Gaza with over 100, many of them children, dead, and massive destruction, to end up with a ceasefire that was already on  offer before the attack, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has announced he is quitting politics.

Noted for deviousness rather than diplomacy, the ex-military commander under whom prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu served may be preparing some wily comeback later, though he is gettting on, or he may have taken a look at Binyamin Netanyahu's list of Likud hopefuls, as they line up for elections.  

The right-wing party, which has made a deal with Avigdor Lieberman's even more right-wing Yisrael Beitanu, held primaries on Sunday and Monday, and it has selected what even the fiercest critics of past and present governments say is the most extreme team yet to rule if, as expected, it wins.

Netanyahu remains top of the party list, but with Lieberman as number two and a third of the seats going to Yisrael Beitanu  under the deal, only the frst 20 Likud members would be likely to enter the Knesset. Those pushed towards the back of the queue include Benny Begin, son of the former prime minister, Michael Eitan and Dan Meridor.  Though their lineage goes back to the right-wing party's founders, and before that to the Irgun Zvai Leumi terrorists who were led by Menahem Begin, these three are regarded as "moderates" within Likud,

According to Israeli commentator Noam Sheizat:

"The most vocal backbenchers – those behind attacks on the left, Arabs and human rights NGOs – won the day. The Likud looks right now like the Tea Party’s dream team.

He gives examples:

#1 in the Likud primaries is Gidon Sa’ar, the current education minister and the person behind the school trips that take Israeli children to the settlement in occupied Hebron, and the effort to open a university in the settlement of Ariel. He also has a lot to do with the attempt to shut down the Department of Government and Politics at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva.

#5 Danny Danon: One of the most extreme right-wing Knesset members, who incited against asylum seekers in the rally that turned into a riot in Tel Aviv. Danon was the man who brought Glenn Beck to Israel.

#6 (Reuven Rivlin) and #12 (Tzipi Hotovely) support annexing the West Bank. To their credit, they also toy with the idea of giving full citizen rights to the Palestinian population. Hotovely once organized a Knesset hearing on “the problem” of Jewish-Arab interracial relationships.

#8 Ze’ev Elkin, the brains behind many recent anti-democratic legislative attempts – including the infamous “boycott law.”

#9 Yariv Levin: Not as high-profile as Danon, but even more active. Levin led the effort to pack the Supreme Court with conservative judges. He took part in the effort to limit the funding of human rights NGOs and in the legislation of the boycott law. Levin led the committee that drafted the law forcing a national referendum in the event of a retreat from any territory held by Israel.

#13 Miri Regev, former IDF spokesperson, who called Arab MKs “traitors” and referred to asylum seekers from Africa as a “cancer.”

#14 Moshe Feiglin, who wants the state to encourage Palestinians – he once referred to them as parasites – to leave the country. Feiglin’s claim to fame was the civil disobedience campaign he launched against the Oslo Accord. One of his latest op-eds was titled, “I am a proud homophobe.”

#18 OfirJoe McCarthy was right about everythingAkunis: The sponsor of the anti-NGO bill.
Here is the full list of the first 20 names (the final list will be a bit different due to affirmative action and other internal Likud procedures – and remember that we are still waiting for Lieberman’s men).

 Sheizat rightly says that this aggressive right-wing government in waiting is a product of the 45-year long Occupation, by which "the only democracy in the Middle East" has ruled over the Palestinians.

It also looks like a party readying for war, not just against external enemies, but against any opposition within Israel. 


Monday, November 26, 2012

Triangle Fire Again

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire in a garment factory north of Dhaka on November 24. Tuba Group, the parent company of the Tazreen Fashion factory, said on its website that the factory opened in 2009 and employed 1,630 workers making polo shirts, T-shirts and jackets

IN a  tragedy reminiscent of that which occurred in New York over 100 years ago, at least 110 people have been killed by a fire which swept a garment factory in Bangladesh. Witnesses saw desperate workers leaping to their death from upper floor windows as they tried to escape the flames.

Firefighters battled for several hours to contain the blaze, which broke out on the ground floor of the nine-storey Tazreen Fashion plant 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of the capital Dhaka late on Saturday.
The factory made clothes for international brands including the European chain C&A and the Hong Kong-based Li & Fung company.

"I smelt smoke and ran downstairs and found that the place was already full with black fumes," Rabiul Islam told AFP as he surveyed the gutted ruins of the building where many of his colleagues had died.

"With another worker, I broke open an exhaust fan in the second floor and jumped to the roof of a shed next to the factory," he said. "I broke my hand but survived somehow."

Bangladesh is a global centre for clothes manufacturing due to its cheap labour, with many popular brands using huge factories to produce items for export to Western markets. But work conditions are often basic and safety standards low.

Dhaka district commissioner Yusuf Harun told AFP the death toll was 110, including several workers who died while jumping from windows or the roof. About 100 people were injured.
"We laid the bodies out in the grounds of a nearby school and have now started handing them over to relatives," Harun said.

"The factory had three exits but since the fire was on the ground floor, workers could not come downstairs," he said, adding that most victims were women.

Kalpona Akter, director of the Bangladesh Centre for Workers Solidarity, said the blaze was the worst that the nation's garment industry had ever suffered.

The owner of the factory, Delwar Hossain, told AFP the cause of the fire was not yet known but he denied his premises were unsafe.
"It is a huge loss for my staff and my factory. This is the first time we have ever had a fire at one of my seven factories," he said,

A Li & Fung spokeswoman told AFP: "We are very distressed and saddened by the deaths of workers and wish to express our deepest condolences to the families of the victims."

The company is "matching the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association's financial assistance by pledging 100,000 Bangladeshi taka ($1,200) to each family of every victim," the spokeswoman added.

Thorsten Rolfes, C&A spokesman in Berlin, said the company had commissioned the factory to make 220,000 sweaters to be delivered to Brazil. "The victims and their families are in our thoughts and prayers," he said.

Tuba Group, the parent company of Tazreen Fashion, said on its website that the factory opened in 2009 and employed 1,630 workers making polo shirts, T-shirts and jackets. It also said its factories make clothes for Walmart, Carrefour and IKEA, and added that the Tazreen plant had 60 smoke detectors and more than 200 fire extinguishers.

Relatives of the workers made phone calls to those inside the factory as it burned, local residents told AFP, and one witness said firefighters were helpless as the blaze took hold.
"I came to the factory premises and found workers crying for help," Mohammad Ratan said. "I saw many jumping from windows."

A police investigation was under way and no cause had been identified, but fires as a result of short-circuits and shoddy electrical wiring are common in South Asian factories. A blaze in a Pakistan garment factory in September killed 289 workers and injured 110 more. Two of the owners are facing murder charges. According to the Clean Clothes Campaign, a Amsterdam-based textile rights group, at least 500 Bangladeshi garment workers have died since 2006 in factory fires.

"These brands have known for years that many of the factories they choose to work with are death traps," said spokeswoman Ineke Zeldenrust. "Their failure to take action amounts to criminal negligence."

Bangladesh has emerged as the world's second-largest clothes exporter with overseas garment sales topping $19 billion last year, or 80 percent of national exports.
The sector is the mainstay of the poverty-stricken country's economy, employing 40 percent of its industrial workforce.

It was on March 25, 1911, that a fire swept through the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York, killing 146 workers, mainly young Jewish and Italian immigrant women. This tragedy led to a massive movement to improve conditions and safety in the garment industry, with trade unions pressing legislators. But 101 years later the clothing trade remains the scene of huge profits and sweatshop exploitation internationally, with cheap labour hidden behind expensive designer labels, and blazes like that in Bangladesh.
In March this year hearing via War on Want that Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers Federation Union in Bangladesh, was coming to Britain to speak about the gap between sweatshop toilers and Olympic glitter, the Jewish Socialists' Group invited him and his colleagues to speak at a meeting at which we also commemorated the Triangle Sjirstwaist fire. The Bangladeshi brothers and sisters also spoke to trade unionists at a meeting in Congress House.They see the link with Western high street stores as giving an opportunity for friends here to put pressure on companies to see conditions are improved in Bangldesh.  But the tragic blaze this weekend highlights how urgent this is, and how much needs to be done,

History on the Triangle fire: 

Organisations working for solidarity with workers like those in Bangladesh:

Labels: , ,

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Can we revive Plebs tradition?

COULD sacked Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell yet be credited with contributing to a renewal of interest in independent working class and socialist education in Britain?

It was Mitchell's outburst after a woman police officer told him to use a side gate leaving Downing Street which eventually deprived him of his post. According to the police he called them "fucking plebs", and told them they should know their place.

The quaint put-down "plebs", from the term Plebeians, used for the lower orders in Ancient Rome, provided inspiration for numerous placards on the October 20 demonstration called by the TUC against government austerity policies, bringing a smile to the face of police as the marchers assembled. Working people and pensioners were proud to identify themselves as "Plebs" against Old Etonian David Cameron's government of "Toffs",.another old expression enjoying a revival.

Class is back. Of course it never went away, despite all the nonsense from some politicians and intellectuals, and Cameron's insistence that we "are all in this together" and must pay for the bankers' crisis put the lid on it. With thanks to Mr.Mitchell, we are all learning our place, and his.

Proudly donning the label "Plebs" bestowed upon us is not new, and this too is having a revival.  When I was a lad and first started nipping into my local library's reading room to peruse such periodicals as "Tribune", "Labour's Northern Voice" and the "Socialist Standard", perhaps the most curious was a little magazine called "Plebs", published by the National Council of Labour Colleges from Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire, in Scotland. I believe it survived until 1964.

It was back in 1908 that Noah Ablett, a miner from the Rhondda Valley in South Wales, returned from Ruskin College, Oxford, where he had been leading unofficial classes discussing Marxist political economy, and began promoting Marxist education through branches of the Independent Labour Party. In November 1908, a group of students and former students from Ruskin formed the Plebs :League, and started publishing its magazine.

The editorial in its first issue was (probably) written by George Sims, a carpenter from Bermondsey who had been secretary of the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Trades Council, and had been expelled from the supposedly "Marxist" Social Democratic Federation that year for supporting industrial unionism. This indicates the way the founders of the Plebs League were more inclined to the militant combination of Marxism and working class self-organisation associated with Daniel De Leon's Socialist Labour Party, which had also inspired the Industrial Workers of the World(IWW) in the United States, and the Irish socialist James Connolly.

Indeed the word "Plebs" was adoped from De Leon's "Two Pages from Roman History".
In the first issue of the magazine Sims concluded by saying the aim must be "industrial democracy". while Ablett, writing about Ruskin, said that if working class educatio was to prepare people for social emancipation then "its control must be in the nads of the workers".  Ablett was to become better known for his authorship of the 1912 pamphlet "The Miners' Next Step".       

In 1909 there was student unrest at Ruskin, and the students went on strike in support of the Principal, Dennis Hird, who had supported them, when he was dismissed. This led to the formation of a Central Labour College, which worked with the Plebs League. Dennis Hird became its first principal. By 1910 the Plebs League had spread its activities to Lancashire and to Scotland, where its educators included the famous John Maclean.    

 The Central Labour College received trade union backing, though not from all. Having moved to London it lasted until 1929, when the depression, and no doubt the political divisions in the labour movement took their toll. But the National Council of Labour Colleges, as the Plebs League had become, carried on as a network of workers' education classes. By 1964, when it was wound up, higher education appeared to be radically changing and becoming more open, while the trade unions had moved far from the heady days of 1912 or 1926. The old division with Ruskin had been replaced by co-operation. Mr. Wilson was announcing the "White Heat of the Technological Revolution". New battles were coming, but even the Thatcher years did not stop TUC talk of "social partnership", and union education nowadays is a far cry fom the Plebs League.

It was on the 100th anniversary of the Ruskin strike that Post-16 Educator published a paper by Colin Waugh, "'Plebs' the Lost Legacy of Independent Working-Class Education", looking in detail at how the movement evolved. But more recent developments at Ruskin, with the revelation that archives were being dumped to ease the college's move to new premises on the outskirts of Oxford, have sparked new student unrest and interest in independent wotking class education.
This fits into the broader concerns of academics and trade unionists over what the Con Dem cuts and reactionary policies are doing to society and culture. London Metropolitan University, which had already begun closing many courses when its future was endangered this year by the trumped up attack on overseas students, happens to house the TUC's archive.

Meanwhile there is a revival of rank and file militancy with a new generation coming into struggle under very different conditions from the boom years' narrow wages struggles or sixties' student militancy. Development is slow and uneven, and many workers are hesitating before the srriousness of what confronts them. But class is back, and so is Marxism. People will want to know much more than their "place" in society. We want to change society.
I can see local trades union councils, which are increasingly called on to join with and involve unemployed committees and students, being interested in a new educational and cultural initiative. Where we still have premises and clubs that would be an asset. Unions like my own which are turning to community branches could also be part of it. 
Various left-wing groups which at present run their own study classes and annual events like 'Marxism' will presumably not object to the broader labour movement taking some responsibility, and will be able to contribute personnel, contacts and experience to this work.

I have not even considered the very diffferent technological environment to a century, and how much can be done "on line".

But it is early days yet.; Things are just sprouting up in a few places. All the same I will be interested to see what comes from a conference being held at Northern College in Sheffield this weekend.


Ruskin archives row:

De Leon on class struggle in ancient Rome:

About Noah Ablett 

Interesting article from year before NCLC was wound up into TUC education.

Labels: , ,