Archives For The Alts

By Ruth Holtom

Image: 3.bp.blogspot.com

Image: 3.bp.blogspot.com

A VILLAGE FIGHTS BACK

Andalusia has long been one of Spain’s poorest regions, suffering decades of oppression and neglect under Franco and remaining economically deprived since his death. In the 1980s, fed up with the government’s disregard for the country’s southern rural communities, one Andalusian village decided to fight back. Led by its charismatic mayor Sánchez Gordillo, Marinaleda embarked on ‘la lucha’, the struggle, and after many demonstrations and protests, including a ‘hunger strike against hunger’, the village succeeded in taking power into its own hands. Now, 30 years on, the town is still well and truly in the hands of the people. Gordillo remains the elected mayor, and his vision of a socialist community based on equality and co-operation has meant that the town is governed unlike any other.

MARINALEDA’S CO-OPERATIVE SPIRIT

The village’s decisions do not rest solely on Gordillos’ shoulders; on the contrary, the community holds regular non-hierarchical general assemblies where key decisions are made by all residents. Many marinaleños work at El Humoso, Marinaleda’s own olive producing workers co-operative, which has helped to keep unemployment at 5% whilst surrounding villages can suffer up to 50% unemployment. In Gordillo’s own words, ‘our aim with the co-operative was not to create profit, but to create jobs.’ What’s more, whilst Marinaleda’s governance and work ethic is based on autonomy and self-sustainability, its residents are constantly demonstrating in solidarity for citizens across Andalucia and Spain.

It was with this inspirational story in my head that I arrived in Marinaleda on a sleepy Saturday morning. The first thing that struck me was how clean and well-kept the village was: not a spot of litter; clean white walls; beautiful flowers and trees lining the main street ‘La Avenida de Libertad’. We noticed some interesting street signs – ‘Calle Ernesto Che Guevara’ and ‘Calle Salvador Allende’, and several beautiful political murals. Large white letters above a car park read ‘Otro Mundo es Posible’ – another world is possible – and the village’s flag, green for its rural utopian ideal, red for the workers’ struggle and white for peace, was hanging from several open windows.

Of course, Marinaleda is not perfect. The town has its problems just like any other, not to mention widespread opposition and critics who claim it is under ‘messianic leadership’, where Gordillo ‘intimidates’ anyone who is not on his side. And you can’t help but doubt whether the village’s democratic, co-operative model could really be transferred to larger cities or countries. But I have to say, I find hope in Marinaleda’s inspirational story of how co-operative values can be put into practice for the benefit of an entire community, and especially that this community can stand the test of time and remain true to the values on which it was founded.

To find out more about Marinaleda, read ‘The Village Against the Word’ by Dan Hancox.

First published on 26th September 2014 on The Co-operative College

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Thomas Barlow – @tbarls

Image: Grow Heathrow

Image: Grow Heathrow

Last week we talked about Dual Power…

Yates McKee describes a dual power approach as “forging alliances and supporting demands on existing institutions — elected officials, public agencies, universities, workplaces, banks, corporations, museums — while at the same time developing self-organized counter-institutions.”

This week we look at one specific aspect of that – counter power.  Building the new in the shell of the old.

Below we have a list of organisations that are doing everything from simple basics, like where you put your money and what you buy, to creating whole new ways of eating, building and providing energy.  We don’t want to just be pointing out the flaws in this disastrous system we live in, we want to help find the solutions and get involved.

We hope that in the coming times when people say to you ‘nice idea but it wouldn’t work’  you can point to this list and say ‘but it already is…’.

Please take a little time a click on the links – there is a lot of amazing information here.

  1. MONEY 

    From moving your money, to creating a new system of making money…

  1. HOUSING 

    Building houses, co-owning, squatting -there are ways for us to have a house

LILAC Image: Construction 21

LILAC Image: Construction 21

  1. FOOD 

    Buying locally?  Or growing your own?

  1. ENERGY

    Build your own, or take your cash away from the big 6

  1. MEDIA

    Our new campaign!  And some of the great channels out there:

  1. EDUCATION 

    This is something that is more developed in other countries, but it is only a matter of time before we see an alternative education system develop fully here

Image: Brandalism

Image: Brandalism

  1. CULTURE  

    Just some examples of radical art, music, and think tanks – there needs to be more!

  1. WORK 

    How we can manage our own work places, for better pay, more satisfaction and less hours

  1. TRANSPORT + URBAN PLANNING

  1. HEALTH CARE + EMERGENCY SERVICES

    We have no plan how to provide these- nationalisation and de-privatisation are the best options here

  1. TECHNOLOGY

    This is something that can liberate and us and can be seen all around in the modern world.  There are so many different kinds of movements we haven’t listed them here, but check out any open source projects if you are into using your skills for good!

  • Internet

  • 3D printing

  • Open Source

  • Automation

Image: threedeeprinting

Image: threedeeprinting

There was a sense of unrepentant triumphalism from the proponents of neoliberalism as the Berlin Wall came down. Capitalism had won, Communism was dead – and it was the particularly rapacious Capitalism of Thatcher and Reagan ‘wot won it’.

Francis Fukuyama – political historian and establishment toady – pronounced ‘The End of History’.  The future had arrived, and it was one world, united, in the pursuit of profit.

Unfortunately for Thatcher – and the entire establishment – trouble was brewing on the home front.  Trouble that would eventually see the ugly demise of the most notorious Prime Minister of the post war era.

Image: scotlandaf.wordpress.com

Image: scotlandaf.wordpress.com

This Is Just The Beginning

The Anti Poll Tax campaign started in 1987, from the very humble beginnings of a few people sitting in a room.  By 1992 it had toppled the most notorious post war Prime Minister, organised the largest demonstration ever seen, and ultimately reversed the hated law.

There were riots, imprisonment and a lot of organising along the way.  Yet when it started no one could have seen it coming…


When the first meetings were held in Scotland in ‘87, in preparation for the roll out of the tax in ‘89 , people immediately moved the discussion onto non-payment.

“We didn’t vote for them in ’87. We wiped them out. How dare they impose this unwanted policy on us first?”

This is the sentiment expressed by Tommy Sheridan, which seemed to be widely held amongst Scots.

The fact it was an ‘unfair, unjust and immoral’ tax, the most common description at the time, was compounded by the decision to introduce it in Scotland a year before England and Wales.”

The Poll Tax (or Community charge as Thatcher dubbed it) was an attempt by the Tory government to impose an equal rate of council tax for all people everywhere.

‘Why should a Duke pay more than a dustman, was the poorly thought out slogan for the policy. This immediately stirred the ire of the majority of the populace, as the logic was surely self evident.

The left as it had been was not up to the task of stopping it though.  The collapse of the Unions after the miner’s strike (and the Wapping press worker’s strike), three terms of Thatcher and failure of the Soviet system had put the left in a sort of malaise.

When the Scotland campaign for non-payment took off the Labour Party and the TUC opposed it, and any action that broke the law.

There were active groups in the UK, however, ready to start organising around the Poll Tax and boy, did they get a reception.

Paying no heed to the Labour Party or TUC, Scots formed barricades and chased bailiffs off estates. The Militant (later the ‘Socialist Party’- a party of trotskyist Socialists who entered the Labour party, only to later be kicked out by Blair and Co) supported the formation of the Federation of Poll Tax Unions in 1988.

This federation was democratically organised from the bottom up, with the members in total control.  The decision to trial the hated tax in Scotland, was not only a cruel thing to do, but was also incredibly stupid.

“By the end of 1989 the non-payment army approached the one million mark. Marches and rallies involved tens of thousands. Council chambers were occupied. Sheriff officers were barred entry to non-payers’ homes and often returned to find their own offices under siege. The Tax was fatally wounded and when we spread the campaign to England and Wales the 13 million new recruits to the non-payment army rendered the poll tax a dead duck.”

Socialist World

Haringey was one such place where people had been organising to make links with Scottish campaigners and prepare for the coming of the Poll Tax.

A few local independent groups organised for it, including the Direct Action Movement (later Solidarity Federation, who had a key role supporting the federation across the UK), before the Labour Party, Communist Party and Trades Council organised a public debate in 1988.

“In 1988, few people were aware of the impending Poll Tax”.  (They) told us how bad it was going to be and then told us there was nothing we could do about it”.

The idea of non-payment was far too popular though – and after the Scots had shown the way, the rest of the UK quickly followed suit.

“We were chasing down bailiffs the road naked, throwing piss at them – stopping bailiffs together. 50,000 people in Haringey alone would refuse to pay”

At first communities tried to fill up courts, making it impossible to try cases because of the sheer volume of people.  This did lead to some sentences though, and soon the Poll Tax Federation realised that it was easier and more effective to simply not show up to court.

It was impossible to get people to attend court, as communities organised watches for bailiffs and either chased them off, or hid from them.  In the end, bailiffs gave up the ghost, there was too few of them, and too many people who didn’t want them there.

The Labour party cravenly tried to enforce these cuts, with a few notable exceptions.  In Liverpool – a Militant dominated council, the local MP and Militant activist Terry Fields refused to pay and spent sixty days in prison.

Outside of these exceptions, it was ordinary working people mostly, who organised themselves into the Poll Tax Federation.

By the beginning of 1990 the Federation decided to call a demonstration. It was clear that the campaign was winning, but the chance to come together and feel the power of the united movement was seen as important.

As with many days that got out of hand, the police made several statements about being ‘up for it.’

Class War – the Anarchist insurrectionists famous for such stunts as ‘Bash the Rich’ where they famously they beat up the rich denizens of the Henley regatta and other such stunts – managed to take control of the front of the march.

250,000 people had turned out.  There had never been a demonstration so large in England.  Local demonstrations went on in almost every locality in the UK.  As the march paraded around London, council buildings, town halls and other symbols of power were being occupied and attacked all round the country.

Class War managed to lead the march in a different direction than expected, and as it split in two, one part of the demonstration began to rally in Trafalgar Square.

With no provocation, and for no seeming reason (other than maybe feeling overwhelmed by the size of the demonstration) the police charged the families and working people in Trafalgar Square.

The footage of them driving cars and horses into the, originally peaceful, demonstration, quashed any claims of Anarchists and trouble makers being to blame for what happened next.

The crowd reacted to the horses charging by defending themselves with whatever was available. A nearby building site was ransacked, and as the Police broke in panic, the City of London, and central London in general, became a target for the demonstrators ire. 

In the aftermath, Class War was blamed for inciting a riot.  Whilst it did not claim responsibility, it was clearly the police’s fault, a member of Class War called everyone on the march ‘working class heroes’, including the rioters.

This made them scapegoats, as the rest of the movement – including the Militant, the Labour Party, and the TUC – turned on the rioters across the country for their lawlessness.

As it turned out, all the arrests for violence got overturned thanks to the new technology of hand held video cameras catching the true culprits – the police.  Undoubtedly though, there was huge amounts of property damage, and not just in London, but across the country. In some places the damage continued for days.

Here is some grainy footage from Class War’s own documentary on the subject:

 

The campaign became even stronger from this point, and more popular.  The attempts to divide people had failed, and the Militant’s Tommy Sheridan even retracted his condemnation of the demonstrators. 

Activity was now focused on prisoner and court support, as the Conservative Party realised it was rapidly losing complete control of the country.  Very few people (less than 100) nationwide went to jail for non payment, or for the Trafalgar Square riots.  What sentences there were, were mostly short – though a small number of people went to prison for over a year.

In October another 50,000 person demonstration escalated into a riot, the lower turn out mostly explainable by the fact that it was clear that the campaign was being won. The Tory party was on the brink of caving, and the local Poll Tax Federations were stronger than ever. 

In November, several Tories challenged Thatcher for leadership of the party. She didn’t even make it through the first round of voting.

John Major was elected.  He continued to try and enforce the policy until the Spring of 1991 when he finally capitulated, reversing the policy, though attempts were made to collect the unpaid taxes to date.

They are still waiting for hundreds of millions back – including at least £15 million from Liverpool.

The incredible thing about the whole campaign was it showed that when people just decided not to pay their tax, en masse, there was simply no way for the state to collect it.  The government had to write off millions in lost revenues. 

Taxes are fundamental to the functioning of the modern state (by which I mean the repressive elements of the state – the police, the army, the government). If people suggested a campaign of non-payment of tax now, you may be looked at as in insane.

But it was only 1990 when the British people last decided to withhold their money, and look what happened. 

Was this the End Of History?  No, it was just the Beginning.

Thomas Barlow

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

The Universal Basic Income (or Basic Income, or Unconditional Basic Income) is a great way of debasing some of the pressures on inequality that are repeatedly exploited in a wayward economy, and will be a positive step forward in the redistribution of wealth which is the greatest divide of our times.

When we mentioned the UBI before a commentator took great offence that people should receive something for nothing, at the idea that there is this much money for people and a worry that we will descend into a feckless, workshy populus. Such faith.

These comments speak highly of the fear we have come to feel of our own capability and independence in a world where we are barraged with the constant alienation and villification of each other, the idea that everyone is out to get what’s yours, where the economy isn’t so much controlled by us as ‘happens to us’, where the fetishisation of work has penetrated consciences as a virtue in and of itself no matter how low the pay, and the idea that there must be this degree of suffering in falling working conditions and treatment as it is the crappy badge of honour we must all share to keep this tragic system going.

It is a fear of a world where people might decide more for themselves, than be governed. It is a fear that if we don’t continue doing as we’re told we might do something crazy, like live a more fulfilling life. This system is one that makes us think that taking steps to give ourselves more time and resources to live as we please is ‘radical’ and somehow undeserved, yet we bear witness to the growing army of food bank users, growing inequality, a growing number of people in poverty – many of these in work, growing debt and growing mental health issues. What system of work is being protected here exactly?

So to alay some of these fears that probably cross all of our minds in some way when the notion of the Universal Basic Income comes up, this article will walk us through the concept.

How much and from where? 

The Swiss surfaced the idea of the Universal Basic Income a few months back with a referendum and a suggested allowance of £1750 a month. This is quite a lot, and while the suggestions for UK rates are lower, the Swiss are an example of what might be achieved.

Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader, backs the idea of the Universal Basic Income and has noted that around £7000 a year could be allocated to every UK citizen through the removal of the over-complicated benefits system and staff. The Citizens Income Trust estimate that £10,000 for everyone could be achieved through these measures and adjustments elsewhere.

The idea of getting money for nothing

George Osbourne has repeatedly been banging the drum to end the ‘something for nothing’ culture, as if it were a notion no sane human being would walk within yards of, temporarily forgetting his birthplace got him something for nothing, the interest on the bank accounts of those with money get them something for nothing, the housing crisis the same Chancellor is driving is giving homeowners something for nothing as house prices increase far beyond comprehension and the means of everyday people, and of course, a bailout with no conditions for banks is indeed, a whole lotta something for less than nothing, a deficit in fact.

Getting ‘something for nothing’ is common in our economy, but it seems it is only distasteful and linked to ‘fecklessness’ when the lower classes benefit from it.

We are also kidding ourselves with the idea that this economy fairly gives someone what they are owed. And I say this while there are hundreds of thousands of food bank users who are in work, while 93% of new housing benefit claimants are in work, while nurses are seeing blocks to pay rises of even 1% while bankers pay themselves millions in bonuses for abject failures. We hear time and time again about abolishing the something for nothing culture, and yet hardly a peep that there are plenty out there getting ‘nothing for something.’

And thus, in a such a clearly unequal and unforgiving economy, shouldn’t we be worrying less about getting something for nothing and concentrate more on giving everyone some basic subsistence to live?

Image: Inequality briefing

Image: Inequality briefing

Perhaps we need to focus on why we think giving everybody some money to live seems a reckless idea. Could it be to do with the blanket coverage of benefit cheats, immigrants, the unemployed, the disabled and the young who have taken centre stage in the austerity villification games. These people, with nothing, are bleeding the system dry. But we never hear, during this harsh austerity when ‘every penny counts’, that the FAILED (thankfully) student loan-book sell off cost £12bn which could have paid each student £5100, or that the work programme is costing us tens of thousands of pounds per person in work, or that the the Universal Credit system has wasted so much money that IDS uses even more of our money to fight the case for releasing the failures of his almighty UC in a report. We’re paying to not be told the truth. We’re paying for crooked ministers to cover their arses. So why on Earth is it radical to take some of this money back into our own hands?

Our system is maintaining and growing the insane Wealth Gap…

We can’t rely on this broken economy, engineered so well that 99% of us are fighting over 6% of the world’s wealth, to suddenly choke out some better results. But in agreeing that every person deserves the amenities to live, we can move towards better wealth distribution and equality.

Image: Wear Red

Image: Wear Red

UBI is a real step towards equality, demolishing the too handy and too oft turned to political tactic of scapegoating. Like the lie that if repeated comes to be believed, the government have repeatedly set about filling the public airwaves and newspapers with blame on the country’s poorest for a situation caused by the country’s richest.  The hardest hit are always the already hardest hit. Single mothers, the disabled, the young, the unemployed, immigrants. All of these people are the ones who then have to jump through the expensive and bureaucratic hoops because their vilification in the media and on the street is not enough. I wonder what the papers will fill their pages with if the constant hate-spew upon the money these groups receive were no longer applicable. The UBI will at least restore some dignity for those the government have preyed on throughout austerity, to make their claims more difficult and longer to process, to prod and mock them for being ill, just to prise some more money, time and self-worth from the most in need.

Jobs 

The Universal Basic Income is a policy which moves us forward with the technological advances taking place. Checkouts are being replaced up and down the country, removing jobs from people who, in our current system, are then punished for not having a job. The takeover of technology is going to become more commonplace, and we need to move with it. Technological advances can, will and should free us from the tedious and mundane.

Yes, people’s attitudes to work may change, but the UK needs more flexibility as we are currently seeing one section of society work so much they are driven to poor health, and another section who cannot find work and are driven to poverty. John Ashton, a leading UK scientist remarked on this earlier last month:

“When you look at the way we lead our lives, the stress that people are under, the pressure on time and sickness absence, [work-related] mental health is clearly a major issue. We should be moving towards a four-day week because the problem we have in the world of work is you’ve got a proportion of the population who are working too hard and a proportion that haven’t got jobs”, Ashton said.

“We’ve got a maldistribution of work. The lunch-hour has gone; people just have a sandwich at their desk and carry on working,” added the leader of the UK’s 3,300 public-health experts working in the NHS, local government and academia.”

Perhaps a deeper focus on the jobs we have will happen. But is this not what we need? We have all bore witness to the things a profit motive drives alone. It is the reason Cameron and predecessors like to arm the conflicts around the world. It is the reason our care industries have become so neglected, while we instead hold up occupations such as bankers and stock market brokers as achievements and success with more than ample payment and respect despite the amassing of money and risk-taking providing no social good.

Also, how many call centres do we need? How many jobs are aimed at catching us out, or annoying us, in the hope that because of our busy lives we will just say yes to be done with it? How many of these would we honestly miss?

The UBI won’t remove any healthy competition but it will redress some balance of profit with human need and quality of life.

“If people are working because the economic system forces them to, and pays them below what they feel they deserve but they are forced to accept it to even barely scrape by, then our economic system isn’t functioning for the population, it’s functioning for itself. Basic Income is an economic systemic equaliser.”

Jamie Klinger, Joatu

If….

If the UBI were to come into being, there would need to be some work done and decisions made around some housing benefit claims which the proposed UBI amount may not cover. But again, the escalating housing and rent prices are something that need tackling, as our current government have simply resolved to do nothing about the rising prices, instead punishing claimants by capping their housing benefit which could push them into arrears. We have spoken before about why the government doesn’t want to solve the housing crisis or help control prices as it contributes to growth, but housing policies need to be a huge part of any future plan for Britain, so we welcome some focus on the need to provide affordable housing and rents.

The other issue would be any backlash formed from granting the UBI to the rich too. Personally, I say, they would have got it anyway, through tax breaks or some other scheme, so if the majority are finally getting something out of this, and it is truly universal and unconditional, then that is positive.

——————————

It’s time we stopped trying to diminish the true qualities of life – time, friends, family, freedom, creativity. The books we want to read, the people we want to see, the new advances and ideas that could propel us even further forward in our evolution have no time live in the minds of those spending every waking moment trying to scrape by.

The government aren’t going to encourage these things. But when was the last time you heard them say they were doing something for your personal freedom? To give you more time to be, well, a human being and not a workhorse. When did you last hear Cameron or Clegg speak about your quality of life as they do about our need to be hardworking citizens in a system of low pay?

That’s why it’s up to us to make the UBI a demand.

Find out more here.

Read the others in this series:

6 Ways of Progress: Government Conditionality – How Do We Get Rid Of You?

6 Ways of Progress: End Short Term Politics

Image: Basic Income UK

Image: Basic Income UK

Reclaim Our Energy

kamsandhu —  August 5, 2014 — Leave a comment

We know that if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change we need to leave 80% of Fossil Fuels in the ground.

 

Image: Climate Revolution

Image: Climate Revolution

 

We also know that if we meet our climate change targets we will be 62% less dependent on foreign oil and gas.

Finally we know that the ‘Big 6’ energy companies have a basic monopoly over our gas and electricity bills and that they are rising them year on year despite falling energy costs for them.

Yet our government is determined to continue the dash for gas – building more gas power stations and bribing/forcing communities into having fracking on their doorstep. 

Why? So these six companies can keep making enormous profits and destroying the planet?

We need to reclaim our energy.

We can create jobs, save money on our fuel bills and make sure that our communities have a safe, clean source of energy for a long, long time.

Our governments and large corporations should be supporting and investing in energy efficiency, house insulation and renewable energy. But as they have vested interests to do the opposite, to maintain profit and power for themselves, we must look to ourselves.

We can follow energy projects like the carbon coop and create renewable power for our community that keeps us off the grid and saves us money.

We can invest in retrofitting our houses, and creating energy efficiency.

All of this creates jobs, and brings communities together. We can do this now. We don’t need to be told what our energy future is, we can create it ourselves.

We can reclaim our energy.

Thomas Barlow

AltGen, a new co-operative dedicated to showing young people alternative ways of work as an option out of the unstable, unforgiving and broken jobs market, are re-invigorating the necessities of not just valued work, but social justice and equality.

IMG_0595

On Tuesday 22nd July, AltGen put on their first event – ‘Create Your Own Work.’ Places sold out, and rightly so, as AltGen position themselves at the beginning of a new movement of alternatives for the under-served young people of the UK. Their website reads:

“AltGen supports 18-29 year olds to set up workers co-operatives as a way of
reclaiming control over our work and creating a more equal and sustainable future.

“We are told time and time again we are the generation without a future.
For the first time ever we are inheriting an economic reality worse than our parents.

“Well every crisis creates opportunity and its time we turned this situation around!

“Lets stop competing and start collaborating. Lets come together and start creating an alternative future.
One where we are in control of our work, get paid to do what we love and have a positive social impact.”

‘Create Your Own Work’ allowed a space to discuss the problems of the current system and the desires we would have of a new one. Further than that, AltGen demonstrated their commitment to inspiring and motivating people’s ideas by bringing in experienced and valued speakers from co-operatives that have had a long and successful journey, to ones just starting out. With their help, audience members began to visualize and logically think about the steps needed to begin their own projects and co-operatives, turning ideas into attainable tasks.

AltGen are an inspiring and much needed idea, which offers young people the ability to regain their independence from a negligent economy and also allows them to fill their work with the moral guidelines the current system is so bereft of. Using the crisis of youth unemployment as an opportunity to build a better, collective alternative is a solid way out of the lonely, competitive rat race which has pulled society further apart.

IMG_0609

Be sure to keep up to date with AltGen’s work by visiting their site and signing up to their newsletter, or liking them on Facebook here.

Below we quote some of the sage advice offered up by one of the speakers, Siôn Whellans from Calverts, which gives us a glimpse into the working conditions and attitude to work there could be for more of us.

“We’re graphic designers and printers. My worker’s co-op was founded in 1977 at the beginning of the last big wave of new worker’s co-ops in this country. The people who set it up, I’m not a founding member – all the founding members have gone now, and they set it up because they were working for an arts organization which decided to close them down and they decided to set up a worker’s co-op, because they thought they could earn a living and do some good stuff.

“A lot of them were involved in political and social activity – the anti-apartheid movement, food, all sorts of things. But in those days the Internet was print and poster design and typesetting. But they set it up in a small way, none of them had any money, all of them were about 23/24. They borrowed a little bit of money, they semi-squatted a place until they could get a landlord to make an agreement with them. They started off with some desktop duplicators and [basic equipment] doing community newsletters and poster making and stuff like that. At the beginning, a lot of them were on the dole and they made the commitment that, as there were 7 of them, if half of them couldn’t get off the dole on some kind of wage after six months they’d stop, and then after a year everyone would stop.

IMG_0593

“They traded, they made a bit of money, they bought better equipment. It was always about getting better at what they did. And then they went out, took a deep breath and borrowed money from some capitalists and bought a printing press and really that’s the way the co-op started and it’s the way it’s always gone. We’ve moved three times, started off in Farringdon, did 15 years in Shoreditch to 12 years in Bethnal Green.

“At the moment we have 12 working members. We’re designing and producing website and print. We have decent wages. We have a 35 hour working week – you’re on time and a half after that. Our basic hourly rate is £17.65 an hour. We have six weeks holiday. We have paid sick leave. We have very good conditions.

“Our co—op is also hyper-equal, everybody gets the same rate if they’re in a full time qualified job at the co-op. We don’t have any bosses or line managers. We have no external shareholders. We’re a common ownership co-op – all the assets in the co-op are owned in common. When you come, you come with nothing. When you leave, you leave with nothing. It gets left in there and built up over the years, that’s the idea. It’s a great place to work.

“Part of why I’m here is because it’s important for a grown up co-op like ours to reconnect with it’s roots, we want to make bonds with the new generation but we also want to pass on what we’ve learned about how to do it well and get the things we want which I express as decent work, and there’s an International Labour Market definition of what decent work is, a culture of equality at work – absolute equality. Everyone is equal. The opportunity to develop ourselves, our skills, our capacity as human beings as well as workers and the opportunity to self-manage our working lives which is what we’ve done.”

Image: AltGen

Image: AltGen

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

Reclaim Our Future

kamsandhu —  July 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

They say nationalism grows when people start to think that their past is better than their future.

It is not hard to see why we romanticise a mythical past in this country right now – and why we have seen a rise in reactionary nationalism.

The millennial generation (roughly those born after 1982) are going to be the first generation we can think of that will be worse off than their parents.

The robbery of all our wealth by the bankers and politicians has left us divided and angry, blaming immigrants and poor people for joblessness, poverty, declining real wages, longer hours, insecure work and the many other trials that blight our daily lives now.

Our education is being privatised, sold off to religious groups and corporations through free schools. University is an expense that can never be paid back. It is no longer a place for learning, but a place to turn yourself into the ultimate economic unit.

The NHS, pensions and Welfare as we know it will probably not exist within a decade.

No one seems to be offering solutions, politicians are barely even lying any longer – they all say we face even worse times ahead.

But another future is possible!

Across the UK and the world people are living the change we want to see. Housing, energy, food, arts and all the other good things are being created in cooperatives and localities all over.

These are owned by the people who use them and created for the benefit of all, not just for the profit of a few. They help people provide more of what we need and work less.

There is hope through 3D printing, the internet, and other technology that if we keep it free and usable for all we can create another world directly, without any interference from above.

Resistance is occurring globally – from the slums of Rio, to the cities of China, from the streets of the UK, to the squares of Egypt. Too many places and too many people to count and standing up are saying ‘No More’.

For the first time in human history we can create a truly global change, no longer looking to just solving problems within our own borders. These are borders created in the mind, and used by the powerful to keep us divided.

We know any truly liberatory change will have to come for all us, or not at all.

If we work together, learn from the failures of the past, be prepared to make new mistakes, then we can imagine a better world and strive to make it happen.

We can reclaim our future.

Thomas Barlow

 

Following the guest post from Maddy Evans about the upcoming event The Spark!, we take a look at another video from the Economic Justice Project which features interviews with people on the front lines of major movements, protests and strikes in the last 50 years.

The videos give fascinating insight into the tactics and mindsets of people who fought back, as well as some handy advice for future generations. This video talks about the Poll Tax rebellion in the early nineties.

 

It was Tony Benn’s 5th and most important question for the powerful, and likely a huge factor in voting apathy – How do we get rid of government? 

With a record of 70 broken pledges and counting, including increasing transparency, tackling youth unemployment, greener energy (Vote Blue, Go Less Green), the coalition have shown that governments are currently free to run roughshod over promises and proceed with any plan they wish.

But, if governments are not accountable to the public, we are not living in a democracy.

Image: London 24

Image: London 24

 

Some may bemoan the non-voters in Thursday’s 33.8% turnout, but when you note that the government we have (you know, the one that no one voted for) have reneged on all but a sorry handful of their election promises and yet are allowed to continue with impunity, I can’t blame them.

There should be ways to rid ourselves of a government. A system of accountability that keeps the political party in power in fear of exploiting votes that got them in.

If politicians thought they would be pulled from power when reversing on election promises, perhaps we’d see less flamboyant, but more honest pledges. Perhaps the PR machine would be less well adjusted to maintain the pantomime. I’m sure at least, we’d see more votes.

Not that politicians are interested in all that. There seems to be an enjoyment taken from the disaffected, under-served majority. Have you heard the new plans the government are undertaking to engage some of that whopping 66%? No, neither have I. Even for those that do vote, there’s a purgatory of mind-boggling strategic voting that no one knows the rules to. Pushing us to opt for a party you think might win rather than the one you want, frantically making compromises on our basic values before we’ve reached the ballot box. Democracy, circa 2014.

RFM - Government Transparency?

Creating conditions as opposed to unabashed free reign would be a restoration in the power of the collective public, undermining Westminster egos, ulterior motives and hidden agendas. If we want a government that works for us, this is a huge part of getting it.

It would also take some power from corporations, who at present gift change from bottomless bank balances, lobby and stuff influence-buying backhanders into the pockets of our decision makers. You need only type the words ‘white collar crime’ into Google to see the rollicking, sordid bed shared by politicians and millionaires.

Indeed, political impunity seems to extend to the fact that cabinets and MPs don’t even have to come close to representing us. I mean, what can we really expect when our government is vastly staffed with the same 1% of people that have continued siphoning wealth and resources whilst austerity rings out across the rest of us.

Perhaps if there was a conditionality to being in power, some of these people wouldn’t be our candidates.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

Citizens UK are an important and growing community organisation that aims to “reweave the fabric of society” by empowering, training and providing advice to local groups and campaigns on taking their demands to politicians and achieving change. 

Their website says: 

“Community Organising is based on the principal that when people work together they have the power to change their neighbourhoods, cities, and ultimately the country for the better. We work with people who want to transform the world, from what it is to what they believe it should be. To do this we listen to our members, asking them about their concerns and developing strategies to improve our communities. We ensure that civil society is at the negotiating table alongside the market and state, so that our communities are included in the decisions that affect them.”

Citizens UK provide an alternative way of achieving the needs of society and takes back the debate in favour of what local groups want and need.

Watch their video “The Road To 2015” below. Visit their website here.