What’s Wrong with Modern Work? Jamie Woodcock on the Taylor Review

Low-paid, precarious zero hours contracts and an enforced dearth of union organisation is the bind that unites much of the post-industrial service economy. The failure of the Woodcock T03174Tory-backed Taylor Review to advocate in favour of workers suggests that a solution will only come from struggle within the ‘gig economy’. Jamie Woodcock, author of Working the Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centressuggests we turn to Engels’ report on the conditions of workers in nineteenth-century Manchester, which could offer a glimpse into what a counter-offensive against atomised precarity could look like.

————————-

The government has become increasingly concerned about the rise of the so-called “gig economy” and other forms of precarious work like zero-hours contracts. A range of scandals, from those at Sports Direct to Parcelforce,[i] have given a glimpse of the exploitation and regular breaches of employment rights that are rife in this kind of work.

The recent publication of Good work: the Taylor review of modern working practices[ii] was meant to provide the government with evidence and recommendations in this area. However, it has been met with widespread derision from workers and trade unions. In a particular, Jason Moyer-Lee (the general secretary of the IWGB – the Independent Workers union of Great Britain) has argued that ‘when one looks at the actual recommendations, it is full of vacuous fluff and light on substantive proposals.’[iii]

The report focuses on the idea of “quality work”, not recognising that the degradation of flog and dropthe modern workplace – from call centres, delivery, transport, and care – is not some kind of aberration, but central to the business models of these companies. However, this is no surprise given the constitution of the panel for the review. For example, one was a corporate lawyer who represented businesses in industrial relations disputes, while another had actually invested in Deliveroo! There were no workers’ voices included, nor was the IWGB consulted, despite it successfully organising workers in this sector.

In my ongoing collaborative research project with Deliveroo workers, a very different picture of modern work is emerging.[iv] We put together an evidence submission for the Parliamentary inquiry on ‘The Future World of Work.’ In the survey we organised, the overwhelming majority felt their current employment status did not accurately reflect the nature of their work, that the independent contractor classification was used to treat them unfairly (even that it was used deliberately to take advantage of them), and were in favour of greater employment rights.[v]

Yet instead of addressing these issues, the Taylor review failed on multiple counts. There are no serious suggestions for enforcement, with no measures to address breaches or remove the obstructive fees for employment tribunals. More worryingly, the review even goes on to suggest the introduction of piece rate legislation that would undermine the minimum wage:

platforms would be able to compensate workers based on their output (i.e. number of tasks performed), provided they are able to demonstrate through the data that they have available that an average individual, working averagely hard, successfully clears the National Minimum Wage with a 20% margin of error.[vi]

Part of the problem with this is that the companies involved in the gig economy have a history of obscuring the data. For example, Uber have used the ‘Greyball’ tool to provide false information to enforcement officials.[vii] So there is little chance of accurate information being used in these calculations. In addition to these issues, the IWGB has prepared a very detailed response to the entire review.[viii]

I want to take a different approach to thinking about the impact of the review. Just over a week after the report was released, a statue of Engels was unveiled as part of the Manchester International Festival. As part of the ceremony, I argued that the statue should be a call to action on work.[ix] However, it is particularly important to reflect on the legacy of Engels in the light of the Taylor Review. Engels came from a bourgeois background – coming to Manchester to oversee the running of his father’s factory – yet opened his eyes to the conditions of workers across the city. In The Conditions of the Working Class in England, Engels investigated how the new form of factory work was effecting workers in Manchester.[x]

If Engels were to arrive in London today and explore its neighbourhoods, what would he engelsmake of the working conditions? The rights that workers have fought for – and won – since then are increasingly being eroded by companies, whether through wage theft, misclassification of employment status, or masquerading as platforms rather than employers. Yet, Engels did not see these kinds of deleterious effects as an anomaly, but rather a result of the antagonism between workers and capital.

Marx later took a similar approach when writing chapter ten on the working day in Capital.[xi] He drew on the data collected by factory inspectors for government reports. Later in his life, Marx would then argue for a workers’ inquiry to understanding the experiences of workers.[xii] It is this approach that guides my own research, from call centres to Deliveroo, that does not see research on work as an end in itself.[xiii] To paraphrase Marx: there is no one better placed than workers themselves to describe work, and the exploitation they face can only be overcome through their collective actions.

Taylor claimed at the start of the process he would ‘tell Theresa May what’s wrong with modern work’[xiv], yet after the response to the publication, he is now arguing that the ‘report on work’ is, in fact, ‘brilliant’ – it is just that ‘people don’t get it.’[xv] This is a long way from the reports of the factory inspectors in Marx’s time. Unlike Leonard Horner, whose ‘services to the English working class will never be forgotten,’[xvi] Taylor’s review deserves to not even be remembered. It has clearly failed to deliver results for workers in the gig economy, but given its approach, this is hardly a surprise. Instead what is needed is to listen to those workers who already understand the problems – but also to understand that the solutions can only come from the struggles that are emerging in the gig economy and beyond.

————————-

Jamie Woodcock completed his PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is currently a fellow at LSE. His research interests include: digital labour, technology, management, critical theory, and the sociology of work. He is the author of Working the Phones (Pluto, 2016).

————————-

Working the Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centres is available from Pluto Press.

————————-

[i] Rob Davies, (2017) DPD and Parcelforce face MPs’ questions over working conditions, The Guardian.

[ii] Good work: the Taylor review of modern working practices (2017)

[iii] Jason Moyer-Lee, (2017) Wishy-washy and full of fluff – the Taylor review offers little, The Guardian.

[iv] Jamie Woodcock, (2017) Automate this! Delivering Resistance in the Gig Economy, Mute.

[v] Written evidence from IWGB Couriers & Logistics Branch (WOW 99), (2017), The Future World of Work.

[vi] Taylor review, (2017), p38.

[vii] Mike Isaac, (2017) How Uber Deceives the Authorities Worldwide, New York Times, available at:

[viii] IWGB (2017) Dead on Arrival, the IWGB’s reply to the Taylor review on Modern Employment Practices.

[ix] Jamie Woodcock, (2017) All work and no play.

[x] Frederick Engels, (2017) The Condition of the Working Class in England.

[xi] Karl Marx, (1867) Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume I.

[xii] Karl Marx, (1880) A Workers’ Inquiry.

[xiii] See, for example: Jamie Woodcock (2017) Working the Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centres, London: Pluto.

[xiv] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/01/i-tell-theresa-may-working-lives-review-modern-employment-zero-hours-flexibility

[xv] Rowland Manthorpe and Kelly Fiveash, (2017) ‘Matthew Taylor: My report on work was brilliant – but people don’t get it’, Wired.

[xvi] Karl Marx, (1867) Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume I.

Terrorism and Belonging in Europe by Umut Bozkurt

‘Belonging’ is both a fundamental human emotion and a political project that affects millions. Since its foundation in 1957, the European Union has encouraged people across its member states to feel a sense of belonging to one united community, with mixed results. Under current LermanFfractious conditions, it has become increasingly important to ask: Is there a European identity? Who determines who belongs? Is a single sense of belonging in Europe dangerous?

In this blog, Umut Bozkurt – a contributor to Do I Belong?, a collection of essays that seek to understand Europe in its current formation – examines the spate of terror attacks in Western Europe and asks how these horrific incidents reflect the economy, legitimacy, democracy, citizenship and multiculturalism of Europe’s ‘imagined community’.

———————–

The murderous attacks in Paris in January and November 2015 tell us a lot about the multidimensional set of crises unfolding in Europe.

On Wednesday 7 January, two masked gunmen, dressed in black and armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, attacked the building of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve people and injured eleven others. After leaving, they killed a police officer outside the building. It was later revealed that the gunmen were two brothers: Chérif and Saïd Kouachi identified themselves as belonging to the Yemen branch of the Islamist terrorist group Al-Qaeda, which took responsibility for the attack.

The brothers were later shot dead by police, following a hostage drama in the north of Paris. On the same day another terrorist, Amédy Coulibaly, having already killed a policewoman on the eighth, killed four hostages at a kosher supermarket in east Paris and was then killed by police when they stormed the building. On 13 November, Paris witnessed a series of coordinated terrorist attacks that killed 130 people. The attacks included suicide bombings near the Stade de France and suicide bombings and mass shootings at cafés, restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying that they were in retaliation for the French airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq. Seven attackers were killed at the time and two more five days later. Continue reading

Grenfell Tower: A photo diary from Activestills

The fire at Grenfell tower is an example of the classist and racist structures that organise Britain. The victims belong to a long list of austerity’s casualties, to quote Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian last week, ‘spectacular examples of social violence, such as Grenfell…usually occur out of public sight. This decade of austerity has been a decade of social violence.’ From austerity-induced suicides attempts numbering 30-40,000, to 15,000 people dying in fuel poverty, and over 10,000 deaths of people declared ‘fit for work’, it is manifest that in order to protect their wealth and power, the politics of the ruling elite have been deeply injurious for the underprivileged.

Maimon T03132

Oren Ziv visited Grenfell in the days after the fire, creating this photo diary that shows the resilience, anger and grieving in the city; starkly revealing the injustices inflicted upon that community. Ziv is a member of the Activestills collective, whose photographs seek to capture the politics implicit in everyday situations and have been vital in documenting the struggle against Israeli occupation. Activestills: Photography as Protest in Palestine/Israel, collects many of these images.

As a cover-up of the number of victims seems likely, the transmission, circulation and dissemination of images of the charred building, of the protests and of the community, will gain political currency and act as a demand for rights. Activestills’ activist photography was conceived in opposition to the liberal sentiments of documentary photography, their images are agents for transformation, demanding social reform by exposing the economic, social, and political structures and conditions that enabled inequality in the first place.

For those lucky enough to not realise it before, Grenfell has revealed the deep injustices at play in austerity Britain, beyond that it should also signal the need for a sea-change and a new government that values the lives of all of its people.

———————–

001

001 Neighbours look at photos of missing residents following the Grenfell tower fire, June 16, 2017.

002

002 Local residents, including family members of missing people, protest together with activists outside the Kensington Town Hall, to demand justice for the Grenfell tower victims, June 16, 2017. Continue reading

For the Many, Not the Few: Jeremy Corbyn and Percy Bysshe Shelley

This weekend, as he had throughout his election campaign, Jeremy Corbyn invoked the words of Percy Bysshe Shelley, this time to a crowd of thousands at Glastonbury festival. Here, Jacqueline Mulhallen, author of Percy Bysshe Shelley: Poet and Revolutionarylooks at the radical political history of The Mask of Anarchy, the poem Corbyn quotes, and examines the dialogue between Corbyn and Shelley’s activism.

—————————-

At the end of the election campaign on June 7, 2017, Jeremy Corbyn gave a speech in Islington which ended with his quoting the following stanza:

Rise like lions after slumber

In unfathomable number

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep have fallen on you –

Ye are many, they are few.

Some of the enormous crowd listening joined in with the last line. ‘You should never be afraid of saying you like poetry’, Mr. Corbyn said.  And certainly not this poem. It was Shelley’s The Mask of Anarchy, the most famous and popular political poem in English. The Labour party had been using a modified form of the last line as their election slogan, ‘For the many, not the few’.

In the early 1990s, the Poll Tax campaigners used the line ‘We are many, they are few’ as their slogan.  The poem was recited in 1989 by the students occupying Tiananmen Square, and in 2011 by those in Tahrir Square.  It gave the title to Amir Amirani’s great film of the Stop the War demonstration in 2003. Further back, it was chanted by the garment workers of New York in 1909, mostly young immigrant women, striking for better pay and conditions (they won), and shortly afterwards, during World War I, Olive Waterman, a young member of Sylvia Pankhurst’s East London Federation of Suffragettes, used to draw crowds in Victoria Park by reciting Shelley.  It has long been a part of working class consciousness.  Shelley’s Queen Mab was known as the ‘Chartist’s Bible’ and Engels told Eleanor Marx that they all knew Shelley by heart back then’.   It may well have been The Mask of Anarchy that they knew at the very least.

Shelley wrote the poem in 1819.  Although he was living in Italy at the time and had given up political activism for poetry, he kept in touch with leftwing political thought in England by reading Cobbett’s Register and The Examiner, edited by his friend, Leigh Hunt.  A perfectly legal and peaceful meeting of Manchester workers, gathered in St Peter’s Fields to hear Henry Hunt (no relation to Leigh) talk about his ideas for reform of Parliament, was attacked by a troop of militia men, not professional soldiers, who slashed at these men women and children, killing and wounding.  Shelley’s friend Thomas Love Peacock, sent him all the papers with accounts of what became known as the ‘Peterloo Massacre’.  The Mask of Anarchy was Shelley’s response.

It is a long poem in ballad form and it tells of a dream.  A long procession of masked politicians led by the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor (the names are blank and we can fill in their modern equivalents).  They are followed by ‘Anarchy’, for Shelley the capitalist system, but Anarchy is brought to a standstill by an amazing event.  A young woman throws herself in front of the horses. Her name is Hope.  Anarchy and his crew are defeated.

The central part of The Mask of Anarchy explains that ‘freedom’ is in fact the freedom of having sufficient to live on, education, comfort – all these questions were addressed in Labour’s manifesto.  Shelley then goes on to suggest another demonstration

Let a vast assembly be

And with great solemnity

Declare with measured words are ye

Are, as God has made ye, free

At around the same time, Shelley wrote a number of other poems inspired by Peterloo and the essay A Philosophical View of Reform, in which he pointed out that the reform of Parliament sought by Hunt and others would not be sufficient to improve the conditions of the workers, who, he says, are ‘ill-fed, ill-clothed and ill-educated’.   It is capitalism that Shelley is criticising, and this at a time when the industrial revolution was just beginning and the working class was not yet ‘made’. The parallels with today could not be clearer. Workers are so ill-fed that some resort to food banks.  They are housed in tower blocks with no protection against fire.  Education cuts, constant examinations (the SATS) and the introduction of university fees have destroyed the education system. Yet he could see that the workers had the solution in their hands. Many people have said that Jeremy Corbyn has given them Hope.corbyn for the many

The publishers to whom Shelley sent his poems did not dare to publish them, although in 1832, when the movement for the reform of Parliament looked like succeeding, Leigh Hunt at last published The Mask of Anarchy.  Since then, it has been part of the consciousness of the working class movement, both on the streets and among revolutionary intellectuals like Marx and Engels, and The Mask of Anarchy has provided the key slogan of many campaigns.  Paul Foot, the great journalist and campaigner and author of Red Shelley, talked about him at the annual Marxism events in London in the 1980s and 1990s.

In February 2003 a ‘great assembly’ took place – the huge anti-war demo in Hyde Park which echoed around the world in the first global protest.  Jeremy Corbyn was one of the speakers on that occasion, and it is only fitting that he should turn to Shelley to give a voice to his campaign.

————————

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Poet and Revolutionary by Jacqueline Mulhallen is available from Pluto Press.

————————

Jacqueline Mulhallen wrote and performed in the plays Sylvia and Rebels and Friends. Her ground-breaking book The Theatre of Shelley (Open Book Publishers, 2010) has been internationally acclaimed. She contributed a chapter on Shelley to The Oxford Handbook to Georgian Theatre (OUP, 2014) shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize 2015.

General Election 2017: Who are the DUP?

Theresa May’s proposed ‘Conservative – Unionist’ coalition with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists is set to face Parliament. Concern across the UK has hinged on the anti-abortion and homophobic nature of the DUP, concern for Northern Ireland’s power sharing government and the likelihood of a hard Brexit. In light of this, Maev McDaid and Brian Christopher seek to answer the important questions: What are the historical circumstances from which the DUP were formed? What will this coalition mean for Tory policy? What does it mean for power-sharing in Northern Ireland? How will the UK’s only EU border fare?

————————–

Background:

The cold reality of modern British imperialism was exposed by the recent Brexit vote, which had no inbuilt safeguards for Ireland. Britain partitioned the island in 1922 to suit its interests and risks doing so again. The EU border will now run along the British imposed border around the six counties still claimed by Westminster.

Ireland once represented a weak ‘back door’ to England’s enemies and was a security obsession. Today it’s often an afterthought. But when Theresa May announced her government today she included the word “unionist” in the name of the Conservative Party. Suddenly, England had remembered its quaint back garden. There it found ten Unionist MPs, fresh from a surge that has arisen from the latest phase of polarisation in the North of Ireland.

Who they are:

The BBC’s lowdown on the DUP tells us they are Eurosceptic, concerned with terrorism and looking for some low tax economic policies – a hugely sanitised version of who they really are. The DUP grew out of the virulently anti-Catholic congregation of Ian Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church.  Many of its leaders have been associated with ian paisleyterrorism. And not just paramilitary loyalist terrorism, but also state-sponsored targeting of innocent Catholic civilians, and the assassination of lawyers and other civilian leaders.  Its former leader Peter Robinson was arrested and convicted of leading a loyalist mob across the Irish border and attacking an unarmed Garda station in 1986.

Moreover, the DUPs early leadership took anti-Catholic prejudice to heights unseen by the traditional Protestant establishment – borrowing far right anti-trade unionist tactics to destroy class struggle.

Stance today:

To really grasp who the DUP are requires a brief glance at their social policies. The party claims it is protecting ‘family values’ by opposing the extension of equal marriage to Northern Ireland. More than that they claim homosexuality is an abomination, but can nonetheless be cured.

Sammy Wilson, a senior figure, called climate change a “con”, on the basis that it was an inconvenient obstacle to agriculture. The DUP also promote the teaching of creationism and that the world is flat. Anti-abortion, too, has been a consistent policy of the DUP – mostly: ‘don’t have them’ or ‘die’ or ‘go to prison trying’.

One could easily group the DUP with UKIP or the BNP or Donald Trump. They are not new to us – Irish people have had to put up with their prejudice and corruption for years. They deny that the Irish language is anything more than a set of IRA code words. They practically bankrupted the Northern Irish assembly with a renewable heat energy scandal that benefited their own families and donors.

peter robinsonThe DUP rhetoric on political violence is pure deflection. Only days before they joined government with Martin McGuinness, they were using the term “Sinn Fein – IRA” and have always condemned terrorism, as the party leader Arlene Foster made clear in her speech. On the other hand, the party is linked closely to the UDA, which is widely seen as it’s preferred paramilitary. As recently as last year the party was channelling £5 million of public money to a UDA slush fund. If you can imagine rural Tories with a soft spot for Combat 18 you might start getting the right idea.

Why are they popular?

The Good Friday Agreement of 1997 was a landmark in challenging the deeply unfair setup in the six counties. Years of unionist domination, British military occupation, draconian anti-terror laws, overbearing security apparatus and state-sanctioned discrimination could finally be challenged and eliminated. In simple terms, it’s a three way compromise. Unionists got a commitment from nationalists that reunification of Ireland would be consensual; Irish nationalists got a more regulated relationships with British institutions, but also cross border co-operation, with both sides agreeing to disarm and share power.

In reality, this has meant the entrenchment of sectarianism in government. The need for “cross-community” consensus in both the executive and legislative assembly means members have to designate themselves as “unionist” or “nationalist”, enshrining the artificial rivalries that the British state created into constitutional law. The ‘zero-sum’ game of politics therefore continued and, without the need for the compromising skills of the SDLP or Ulster Unionists, the electorate was easily tempted by more sectarianism. Socialist class politics were squeezed out in the slow-burning carnival of nationalist reaction that followed.

Worst of all, the DUP’s eagerness for a hard Brexit and a far-right British government means it now finds itself as the powerbroker at the heart of Westminster. But this comes at a time when devolution has shifted devolved power from Belfast to de-facto “direct rule” from London. That puts the party in an unforeseen juncture where it may benefit the unionists to squander the opportunity to restore power sharing in favour of back-room dealings with Theresa May.

What it means for you:

This minority government is therefore intolerable to the electorate in Britain who cannot hold the DUP accountable and an affront to the people of Ireland whose fragile constitutional settlement has now been infiltrated by an explosive Trojan horse.  It is ian paisley arlene fosclear that the DUP are ready to give backing to Theresa May on a confidence agreement basis, if not a formal coalition. The Tories and their Ulster mutation share enough common ground to allow for a fairly easy relationship to exist. This means we should not rest any hope on the irreconcilability of one reactionary party with another. But neither should we underestimate the rigidity of the DUP – Paisley was famous for saying “No” and “Never” to every UK Prime Minister he met. One sticky issue could be a weakness the left could exploit. And the DUP’s dominance mean that they are charged with representing every unionist in Northern Ireland – a large working class base that will suffer disproportionately from austerity and the Tory attacks. Massive pressure needs to be placed on this weak and wobbly coalition.

There is also a strange reversal of fortunes now. Loyalism and Orangeism in Ireland were created to divide and rule the Irish working class. Now, the orange elite are lending their mandates to Tories to attack the working people in Britain. This is a strange and vulnerable situation for both coalition partners as it will lead to people raising questions about how the United Kingdom fails as a constitutional project to reflect the needs of ordinary people, whilst giving endless flexibility to our exploiters. These are questions we must raise as we hit the streets demanding a government that represents us all.

————————-

Brian Christopher is a teacher in London and Maev McDaid is a PhD student in Sheffield, both are originally from Derry.

‘Voting for Closure’ Potent Whisper reflects on the election

The championing of ‘third way’ neoliberal policies under Blair, the invasion of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan marked, among other things, a turn against the Labour party for many people in the UK. Protest votes and abstention have long been a practice of the British Left, but Jeremy Corbyn looks set to change that. This blog, by rapper, Spoken Word artist and activist Potent Whisper, narrates this sea-change; describing his longstanding activism against the structural violence enacted by Labour and Tory governments and the hope for a progressive future that Corbyn’s leadership offers.

Watch Potent Whisper’s Rhyming Guide to Voting below.

————————–

My name is Potent Whisper. I co-lead the ‘Save Brixton Arches’ campaign and foundedPotent Whisper Press Shot (New Radical) the anti-gentrification community group ‘Our Brixton’ which fuses art with direct action to support local housing campaigns. I have spent the past two years doing what I can to try and defend my community against the violence that Lambeth Council – a Labour council – inflicts relentlessly on its residents and those who work in the area. I have fought not only on estates, in the streets and at council meetings but I have witnessed also the suffering of friends and neighbours behind closed doors, in their most vulnerable moments.

So when it came time to inform a friend that I would plan to vote for the Party that is threatening to make her homeless under the guise of “estate regeneration” I could not do so without feeling some degree of shame. Not only could this decision potentially compromise my place in my community, but also my place in the hearts of people I love and respect. Making this decision to vote and campaign for Labour has been extremely difficult and one that I have not taken lightly.

I’d like to share my reasons for making this decision, and the thought process that led me here. Before I do though, I want to say – very clearly – that none of what I am about to write seeks to deny any of the violence that Labour councils have been carrying out, or the suffering that has come about because of them. To deny this would be to deny the truth and everything I have been campaigning against for years. Further, I want to make it clear that I will continue to campaign against Lambeth Council for the entirety of the election period – Labour or not.

In recent years it has seemed increasingly apparent to me that we need true political revolution in this country. For decades the British public have been sold dreams by politicians, only to be betrayed and abandoned by the people who were supposed to represent them. I can not think of one Party leader in recent decades who has represented the people before their own personal interests. For this reason, millions of people have sought change and their approach has typically been to attempt to use the system, to beat the system. They invest their time and energy into “playing the game” i.e. engaging with mainstream politics, joining a Party or attempting to get elected themselves; in the hope that they may – one day – get into a position of power and make the change we need. My view is that this approach is ineffective – at least to the degree that we require. The tragic truth is that the political system in itself seems designed – on all levels – to prevent any real change or true democracy from taking place.

On a national scale, this is evidenced when looking the voting system, disproportionate representation, the power held by unelected officials, or one of the thousand other examples I could give. Then on a local level, the virtual impossibility of making change by way of “proper”/ systematic process is evidenced every day, not least on housing estates across London. Look at estate regeneration/ estate demolition:

To start with, the official process of community consultation will be carried out after the decision to demolish an estate. When finally consulted, residents will vote overwhelmingly not to demolish. They will attend an official council meeting where only two residents will be given the opportunity to speak, for two minutes each. This is compared to the five minutes each, allowed for every councillor. The residents’ opposition to the demolition goes completely ignored by the council, and so they pursue a judicial review. The judge rightly rules in favour of residents, but the council challenges the decision – with their expensive legal team – and wins. Residents continue to organise, in a desperate attempt to save their homes, only to then be demonised by the council – who use their friends at the press to paint their victims as aggressors. This is just one of a hundred examples I could give of the system fighting those it should be working for.

Any attempt to achieve change within the current system seems simply futile. This is the reason I have only voted once before in my life, and the reason I have always opted to put my energies into direct action and organising in my community. Despite this, I have always had a voice at the back of my mind, almost tormenting me, asking me whether I am definitely taking the right approach to what I believe will be a lifetime of struggle.

Now, however, it seems that I have the opportunity to determine – once and for all – whether meaningful change can or cannot be achieved within this current system. This General Election, and Jeremy Corbyn, surely offers us the ultimate opportunity to determine whether controlled/ systematic methods of resistance can ever work, whether you can “play the game” and win, or whether we in fact need a revolution and nothing but a revolution.

Though Corbyn may not be a revolutionary, his “new kind of politics” is certainly radical in this political climate. He is proposing truly socialist policies/ ideas that serve the common person and completely oppose Tory/ New Labour ideology. If put into practice, they are policies that would directly better the everyday lives of millions of people across the UK. It has been noted that historically, Corbyn’s words have – more often that not – been accompanied by action. Despite the criticisms that some may have of him, the fact remains that he has dedicated his life to bettering the lives of those in his community and has knowingly risked his own personal liberty in the process.

I do not believe that we have ever had a British politician with such progressive views, who has been this close to getting into power. I don’t imagine that we ever will. Surely then this is the ideal opportunity to put the age old argument between “outright revolution” and “internal systemic reform” to the ultimate test. If Corbyn is successful in delivering what he promises as prime minister, then the majority of us will enjoy a better quality of life. If he fails, we will know once and for all that the system can’t be beaten. Surely?

It would not matter how Corbyn may fail; whether he loses the election outright or whether he wins and is then overthrown by New Labour MP’s. It would not matter that “the media was biased” or that “May didn’t give him enough notice before the election” or that “the whole establishment was against him”. If he were to fail, we would know then that this system – and all of its arms – does not/ can never work for ordinary people.

If Corbyn were to fail – despite the fact that he’s won every election he ever stood in – perhaps it would not be the end of the Left, but the beginning of real effective resistance. Perhaps it would bring new possibilities and spark an interest in exploring new/ more effective/ direct approaches to making change. Perhaps then I would be able to move forward with the certain knowledge that I am acting as effectively and efficiently as possible, based on what I would then know does not work – the current system.

Corbyn is the best chance at change that we have/ will have – within this system. I’m voting for Corbyn’s Labour because I want to know whether he can/ will deliver his promises as Prime Minister, to get some closure, to find out whether this system could have ever worked, or whether the majority of the Left have been betting on a horse that was born without legs.

My approach to this is quite simple: I will do whatever I can to help Corbyn get into power. If he wins and is successful in bringing the change he speaks of, then we will all be one big step closer to achieving a compassionate and prosperous society that – as he says – works for everyone. But of course we still won’t be there yet, and I will remain active. If on the other hand he loses, or if he wins but fails to implement his proposed policies for any reason, then I will again continue to remain active. Either way, the power is always with me/ us. Nobody represents me. I have no masters. I just have a vote, a bit of hope and a chance to get some fucking closure.

————————–

Potent Whisper is a London based rapper, Spoken Word artist and community organiser. Visit his website: http://www.potentwhisper.com/

————————–

This blog was submitted to Pluto, if you wish to send in a submission please email: florencesw@plutobooks.com

 

They cut, we bleed: Women of Colour’s Anti-Austerity Activism by Akwugo Emejulu and Leah Bassel

The Violence of Austerity collects the voices of campaigners and academics to show that rather than stimulating economic growth, austerity policies have dismantled the social COOPER T03205systems that operated as a buffer against economic hardship, exposing austerity to be a form of systematic violence.

This article, by Akwugo Emejulu and Leah Bassel, highlights the political action undertaken by women of colour who, in spite of their adverse suffering at the hands of the Conservative government, have organised and fought against austerity policies.

In our 2017 General Election all of our books are on sale, Violence of Austerity can be yours for 50% off. Now £8.49!

————————–

Sisters Uncut, the feminist collective fighting against budget cuts to domestic and sexual violence organisations and services in Britain, succinctly and powerfully captures the violence that austerity wreaks on women of colour with protest slogans like ‘Austerity is state violence against women’ and ‘They cut, we bleed’. Here we discuss how austerity, as both a political frame for this time of economic uncertainty and as a programme of asymmetrical and devastating cuts to social welfare provision, represents a form of epistemic violence that women of colour activists are compelled to confront and resist. By ‘epistemic violence’ we follow Kristie Dotson and refer to the ‘persistent epistemic exclusion that hinders one’s contribution to knowledge production’. We argue that this exclusion from knowledge production is a kind of violence that renders the Other, and in our case, women of colour and their experiences, invisible and inaudible to both policy-makers and ostensible social movement ‘allies’. We argue that there is little attention paid or action to combat women of colour’s poverty and inequality because there is a widespread assumption that poverty is an endemic feature of the experience of the racialised Other and can thus be ignored. Rather than treating austerity as a ‘new’ phenomenon, we argue that the concept of austerity is but the latest example of violently erasing women of colour’s persistent, institutionalised but unremarkable economic and social inequalities. What is ‘new’ under Britain’s austerity regime is the further undermining of women of colour’s economic security through the unprecedented roll back of the welfare state and its social protections. Thus, the epistemic violence of austerity represents both a discursive and material challenge to the agency and dignity of women of colour.

Continue reading