Alice Mahon quits Labour

A former MP and Labour Party member for half a century, she just couldn’t take it anymore:

Alice Mahon, a Halifax MP for 18 years and a party member for more than 50 years, has resigned her membership of the party saying she can no longer stomach how it operates.

In her letter to the Halifax Constituency Labour Party she criticises the Prime Minister saying he has shown zero contrition over privatising public services and failed to tackle the excesses of the bankers.

And she heaps scorn on the Welfare Reform Bill saying: “This Labour Government should hang its head in shame for inflicting this on the British public just as we face the most severe recession any of us have experienced in a lifetime.”

Mrs Mahon, 71, a trenchant critic of Tony Blair’s government, says she had hoped that under Mr Brown’s stewardship “we might go back to being a really progressive and caring party” but “in the event I could not have been more wrong”.

And she says the recent scandal over emails sent by Mr Brown’s special adviser, Damian McBride, proposing a blogging site smearing top Tories left her feeling “sickened”.

She told the Yorkshire Post: “My stepdaughter Rachel said to me: ‘How could they do that to people like David Cameron and his wife Samantha when they had recently lost their son Ivan? What kind of people think it would be a good idea to smear them?’

“I was sickened by that – that is not the Labour Party that I joined all those years ago.”

In the letter she said: “This has been a difficult decision to take as I feel I was almost born into the Labour Party. However, I can no longer be a member of a party that at the leadership level has betrayed many of the values and principles that inspired me as a teenager to join.”

Other targets include the Government’s alleged co-operation with the George Bush regime.

And she adds: “Our ministers shame us in front of the world when they give their support to the Israeli Government as they commit war crimes in Palestine and Lebanon.

“Brown has just announced plans to send another 900 troops to Afghanistan, billions to be spent on an unwinnable war and pensioners dare not turn on their heating because this Government will not tackle the energy fat cats.”

She also fulminates against the “despicable” treatment of Janet Oosthuysen, a mother-of-three who won a close contest to stand as a prospective Parliamentary candidate in Calder Valley last year only to be deselected by the National Executive Committee, over a police caution after her former partner’s car was damaged. She contrasted the NEC’s actions with its silence over the Home Secretary’s expenses row.

She said: “My final reason for leaving the party is because it is no longer democratic. The personally vindictive, dishonest, campaign played out on the pages of the tabloids by certain Labour Party members to deselect Janet Oosthuysen was despicable…

“Quite simply I have had it with New Labour.”

Workers at Visteon refuse to be insulted!

Sadie Robinson at Socialist Worker gives the details:

Senior management from Visteon in the US flew to London to meet with Unite union officials on Wednesday. They offered workers just 90 days pay each – in place of the 90 days notice that they should have given the workers in the first place.

This is about one thirtieth of what some workers would receive if their contracts were honoured.

The workers, at sites in Belfast, Basildon in Essex and Enfield, north London, were sacked with just minutes notice at the end of last month. They were given no redundancy pay and some were not paid for their last week’s work, after Visteon claimed it had no money to pay them. Pensions that some had paid into for 40 years now hang in the balance.

Kevin Nolan, Unite convenor at the Enfield plant, was at the talks on Wednesday. “They offered us pay in lieu of our notice but the union is trying to get that anyway – that’s what they owe us,” he told Socialist Worker.

“We were in shock. I could understand it if the whole company had gone bankrupt but it hasn’t. I told Dorothy Stephenson [senior vice president of human resources at Visteon] that I should have brought my daughters to the meeting so she could explain how she was going to feed them.

“People feel let down though they have come to expect such things from the company. But we’re determined not to give up.”

Workers in Belfast are continuing their occupation of their plant, which has now entered its third week. Those in Enfield and Basildon are holding 24-hour pickets of their sites to stop the administrator KPMG from removing any of the equipment.

The workers are demanding that their contracts are honoured and want assurances about their pensions.

Raymond Dixon is a shop steward for Unite at the Enfield plant. “The offer is disgraceful and we will stay until we get something better,” he told Socialist Worker. “It can be hard sometimes but people are determined.

“It helps when other people come up to the pickets or when we go and speak to meetings because having conversations with other workers helps keep our morale up.

“The bosses’ strategy is to try and wear us down. It’s very important that we keep going.”

The offer of just 90 days’ pay is an insult. But it is a testament to the action that workers have taken that bosses were forced back to the negotiating table and that anything was forced out of them at all.

Visteon workers are taking their fight to others, particularly at Ford. Ford employed the Visteon workers before the company was sold off in 2000, and many remain on Ford contracts.

Pickets of Ford dealerships have been held across the country and Enfield workers have visited Ford’s Dagenham plant to make links with workers there.

Roger Madison, a Unite official, said this week, “It may well be that our fight has to move on to Ford.”

Kevin Nolan agrees. “We want Ford to come to the table,” he told Socialist Worker. “We will be organising pickets of Ford garages up and down the country to get our message across, and we’re asking all our supporters to join us.”

Conned by John Lewis?

This story was first brought to my attention by a commenter on my recent post on the Partnership:

Conned by John Lewis

Unite convenor Rob Williams makes the point that the Visteon workers’ struggle is important for all workers. This is clearly shown by the example of ex-John Lewis partnership workers who have just been made redundant on minimal terms, by the company which took them over two years ago. Alan McDermott, one of the workers from the plant in Carlisle told The Socialist:

“Our textiles and dyeing firm, Stead McAlpin, was sold by the John Lewis Partnership in September 2007 to a newly set up company called Apex textiles. We were told by John Lewis managing director Andy Street, that all John Lewis benefits, including enhanced redundancy payments would be honoured by Apex for two years from the date of the sale.

But on 1 April, we endured the sickest April fool of all. We were asked to the works dining room, split into two groups and told that over 60 of us were redundant. We were given a form to fill in and send off to claim statutory redundancy.

We had 15 minutes to empty our lockers. After over 25 years service, all that many of us had was a carrier bag, some boots and a paper to post off, along with friends we had worked with all our lives.

We are in the unenviable position of facing the loss of our homes.

We are planning a protest on 8 April. A 24-hour vigil at the gates of Stead McAlpin in Carlisle, where our families will also support us.

We are also planning a walk from the plant in Carlisle to John Lewis head office in London to register our disgust at their failure to help us, after being part of John Lewis since 1965. Let’s face it we have nothing else to do!

We were conned by John Lewis.”

Visteon workers fight Ford liars

An inspiring response to economic destruction:

Occupy! Fighting for jobs at Visteon plants

The leader of the attempted occupation of the Visteon plant at Basildon (component supplier to Ford) speaks to Socialist Appeal. After the ending of the occupation, the workers have maintained a twenty-four hour picket on the factory. Belfast and Enfield remain occupied.
I was the former deputy convenor at Basildon up to 2003. I am affected personally by the threatened closure. I, like other pension holders, find my pension is in receivership with the government. It was our duty to come here in solidarity with the present workforce and with the former workers and pension holders.  We arrived here at 10am on the day after closure was announced. There was divided opinion as to whether to occupy. The advice from the union (Unite) was that occupation would be illegal.
We then took a vote on whether to ignore that advice. Two dozen of us voted to ignore the advice and occupy. I led the occupation through a back gate. We got in completely unhindered. We occupied the plant from 10 onwards, conducting radio interviews and generating publicity for the occupation.  When we were discussing at the gates at 10am against the argument that occupation would be illegal, I argued that if the Chartists hadn’t committed illegal acts we wouldn’t have universal suffrage; that if the Tolpuddle Martyrs hadn’t broken the law and been transported, then we wouldn’t have a trade union movement; and if the suffragettes hadn’t fought the law, women wouldn’t have the vote.  It is better to break the law than break the poor, as the slogan from Poplar Council in the 1920s reminds us.
With the smallness of our numbers, there was a build up of police during the course of the day. There were about 120 police in riot gear, with police dogs barking and a lot of intimidation. They were walking through the factory and peering into the board room, which we had occupied. A police negotiator turned up and told us we’d all be arrested. Five of the 24 decided to go up on the roof, as had happened at Enfield, where they had 80 on the roof. The roof here was unsafe and that didn’t give us confidence, and what with the smallness of our numbers and concern about being arrested, we voted to end the occupation. So we walked out in a dignified manner to tremendous applause.
Although the occupation didn’t succeed, it gave our cause tremendous publicity. We were having discussions throughout the day with the workers while we were occupying. We were discussing the reasons for the collapse and the question of the whole capitalist system, which has caused the crisis.  Waterford
In Belfast the police hadn’t been near the plant. The factory is in the Falls Road and they’d made no attempt to interfere. At Enfield they got a court order, an injunction, against the occupation. However the injunction had a technical mistake in it, so the occupation continued. The whole question of the occupation was inspired by the occupation of Waterford Glass in the South of Ireland. There have been massive demonstrations in Dublin, and movement in unprecedented numbers throughout Ireland. The idea of occupation spread to Belfast and from there to Enfield and to Basildon, where we have had a partial success. The occupations have been an inspiration to all workers.
The whole idea of occupation came from tactics used by the labour movement in France and also in the USA. General Motors at Flint, Michigan was occupied in the 1930s. There were sit-down protests to establish trade unions at Flint. Workers draw inspiration from other movements. This could be repeated on a large scale. The lessons have been carried from Waterford to Belfast and then to Enfield and Basildon. The tradition of occupation has started in Britain and will  be firmly established.
The closure is not just because of the crisis but because of management taking advantage of the crisis. They are doing what they are doing to make a profit. They have deliberately run the company into the ground, and moved jobs to Slovakia where the wage differential with British wages is 7:1. This is a prime example of capitalists squeezing workers and trying to squeeze, cajole and drive down conditions.
A document has been retrieved from Companies House by the local MP. Visteon management set up a new company on January 28th.They have the deliberate aim to bankrupt us and then reopen as Visteon Automative Products, as a new company with the same machinery and a new workforce with lower wages and conditions. This is the ugly face of capitalism. There is only one way to end this profiteering. We have to occupy and take production of goods into our own hands. The solution is nationalisation under workers’ control and management. There must be production for need, not profit. In other words get rid of the capitalist system, which is rotten to the core.

Ford Liars!

Documents leaked to the Belfast Telegraph reveal that Ford made cast iron guarantees to Visteon workers that they would not lose out when the new components supplier was spun off in 2000.
“Accrued seniority and all existing terms and conditions, in particular pension entitlements, will be transferred to the new employment contracts,” the documents state.
“For the duration of their employment, terms and conditions will mirror Ford conditions (including discretionary pension in payment increases) in the respective countries (lifetime protection).”
The agreement also noted that before the full spinoff Ford employees working in Visteon activities were eligible to volunteer to be reassigned to Ford and that all collective agreements, including investment and employment security agreements, would be fully adopted by the new company.
Davy McMurray from Unite said the documents are proof Ford has ongoing responsibilities for its former employees.
“How they can say there were no guarantees is beyond me,” he said.
Ford asserts it is under no “legal or moral” obligation to help Visteon UK employees.

Bobbies on the beat – G20 style

“No thanks, we’re not covering this, we see it as just a London story.”

That’s what the BBC said when offered footage of a policeman beating a man to the ground – a man who died of a heart attack shortly after.

This happened at the G20 protests last week -Mr Tomlinson was just walking home from work and was not a demonstrator.

Paul Feldman‘s is the best analysis I’ve seen:

Once again the police have blood on their hands and a cover-up is already well under way. That’s the only conclusion you can draw from the video of the gratuitous police attack on bystander Ian Tomlinson during last week’s G20 protests in the City of London, soon after which he collapsed and died.

The police had the area covered from every angle by CCTV and by their own photographers and must have known what happened. Yet the first official statement said that Tomlinson just happened to be found in a side street and that the Met’s brave police were attacked when they went to his assistance!

Sounds familiar? Jean Charles de Menezes, you will recall, was alleged to have leapt over a Tube ticket barrier and was wearing a bulky jacket, clearly trying to evade the police. None of this, naturally enough, turned out to be true. Yet no one was prosecuted for the execution of the Brazilian electrician while he sat reading his newspaper. And you can bet that the same will apply in the case of Tomlinson.

Why? Because the police are always only “doing their duty” in “difficult circumstances”. And what is this higher “duty” that allows them to behave with impunity and do things that ordinary citizens would end up in jail for? The duty in question conferred on the police by the state is to protect the status quo of capitalist society by whatever means are necessary, lawful and otherwise.

The first professional police force in the world was set up first in London in the 1830s and then throughout the rest of the country at a time of major social and political unrest. Workers had demanded and been refused the vote, trade unionists were deported from Dorset for illegally combining and riots were breaking out against the introduction of the workhouse for the unemployed.

The Royal Commission on the Police 1839 reported that the creation of a force throughout the country was a way in which “the constitutional authority of the supreme executive is thus emphatically asserted”. What the commission was talking about was the authority of the state as a whole in relation to maintaining and developing capitalism in terms of private property, as our book Unmasking the State – a rough guide to real democracy elaborates in more detail.

And that’s how the boys in blue have behaved ever since, with the notable exception of the London police strike after World War One when demands for an independent union were ruthlessly crushed. The high command of the state in the shape of senior officers sets the tone with wild statements about a “summer of rage” on the streets and then the unthinking plods are sent into action to do their worst, which they gleefully do. That’s what happened at the Climate Camp in Kent last year and is routine for just about any protest or action that is not some orderly march from point A to point B.

As the economic slump develops, more and more people will act to defend their jobs and their livelihoods. The police are being prepared for this by the sinister and secret Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). This is the organisation that did the Thatcher’s government’s bidding during the miners’ strike, which began 25 years ago. In the course of that dispute, a total of 11,000 miners were arrested, 7,000 injured, eleven people died, and 1,000 men were sacked. More than 100 were jailed.

The present capitalist state is clearly an alienating power that is undemocratic and more or less the plaything of the corporations and banks. The police, together with the army and the spy agencies, are this state’s enforcers and nothing will change their historic role. This should add to the urgency of developing a strategy for creating a new kind of political democracy. This would be founded on co-ownership and control of resources and require the replacement of institutions like the police with new forms of community control.