Labour movement

1 August 2022News

RMT leader calls for general strike if new PM pursues anti-union plans

There should be a general strike if Tory MP Liz Truss becomes prime minister on 5 September and pursues the harsh anti-union policies she has announced recently.

That’s the view of Mick Lynch, secretary general of the RMT rail union, who says: ‘Truss is proposing to make effective trade unionism illegal in Britain and to rob working people of a key democratic right. If these proposals become law, there will be the biggest resistance mounted by the entire trade union movement,…

1 October 2019Review

New Internationalist, 2019; £11.99; 112pp

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last 10 months, there’s a strong chance you’re aware that this year marks the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre.

On 16 August 1819, an estimated 40–50,000 people assembled peacefully on St Peter’s Field in Manchester to hear the well-known reformer Henry Hunt speak on ‘the most LEGAL and EFFECTUAL means of obtaining a reform in the Common House of Parliament’.

The crowd was attacked, first by the Manchester and…

1 June 2019News

Italian dock workers and French human rights groups take anti-war action

Saudi arms ship Bahri Yanbu was deterred from loading weapons in France and Italy in May, after taking on six containers of Belgian arms in Antwerp on 3 May. (The ship also stopped in London’s Tilbury Docks on 7 May, but it is not known what was loaded.)

Yemen is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with 12 million people on the verge of starvation. Britain sold almost a fifth of Saudi Arabia’s weapons imports between 2013–2018, while France sold four percent of them,…

1 June 2019Review

Lawrence & Wishart, 2018; 226pp; £18

In August 1976, women employed at the Grunwick photo processing plant in north west London walked out on strike. 30 years later, in 2006, women employees at Gate Gourmet, a factory that prepared in-flight meals for British Airways, also walked out.

This book describes how these two groups of women were led to take industrial action – and their subsequent betrayal by the trade unions. Their stories are set against an academic account of migrant settlement, work and family life in the…

1 August 2018Review

Accent Press, 2018; 368 pp; £15.99

Achieving 40 percent of the vote – a record-breaking 10 percent increase on its 2015 performance – Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party carried off one of the biggest political upsets ever at the 2017 general election, dealing a serious blow to the Tory government and broader neoliberal ideology.

Steve Howell, deputy director of strategy and communications in the Labour leadership team, gives a detailed and engaging insider account of the election campaign. There are no big reveals, but…

1 August 2018Review

OR Books, rev ed 2018; 388 pp; £10.99; ebook £7. Purchase online here

Alex Nunn’s engaging style makes Corbyn’s journey from jam-making backbencher to leader of the opposition seem both exciting and totally rational.

Last year, The Candidate won the Bread and Roses award for radical publishing. That first edition traced Corbyn’s rise up to the attempted coup by right-wing Labour MPs in mid-2016.

This new edition includes a 100-page(!) chapter covering last June’s snap general election and the incredible surge of support for…

1 December 2017Comment

General strike for power shift

Main goal: Prevent wage cuts
Secondary goal: Stop strikebreakers from working

In achieving specific demands: 3 out of 6 points
Survival: 1 out of 1
Growth: 3 out of 3
Overall success: 7 out of 10

The campaign achieved its secondary goal of ending the use of strikebreakers. It also prevented further governmental and military intervention into labour conflicts in Sweden. However it is not clear if the strike prevented wage cuts. For…

1 August 2017Comment

Jeff Cloves reflects on the intertwined histories of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and the US labour movement

In November 1962 – by chance and good fortune –

I heard the African-American singer/actress/songwriter/ civil-rights-activist, Odetta (1930–2008), and a new up-and-coming folk singer, Bob Dylan, sing live in London.

They appeared at the Singers Club – I was a member – which met at a Kings Cross pub, The Pindar of Wakefield. Also present was their somewhat controversial manager, Albert Grossman, and the event celebrated, I think, the club’s birthday.

It was an…

1 April 2017Comment

Class, unions and social movements

A rally of the trade union UNISON in Oxford during a strike (industrial action), 2006-03-28. Copyright © 2006 Kaihsu Tai

In May 2007, just after I started editing PN, we ran a front-page opinion piece by Dan Clawson, a US union activist and academic, on what trade unions and grassroots movements could learn from each other. He’d written a wonderful book about this, called The Next Upsurge.

Clawson gave an example of the new unionism he favoured: the…

1 April 2017Feature

Jane McAlevey's new book is a shot in the arm ... and a challenge

Jane McElevey. Photo: Verso

Has the election of Donald Trump as president of the US got you down? Are there days you just don’t believe any more that we can win, that we can change big important things?

Jane McAlevey’s Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell) is the perfect antidote to Trump-era pessimism and despondency. I’m going to buy a bunch of copies for people I know, and I think you should too.

There are books out there filled with inspiring…

1 February 2017Feature

Winning social justice for migrant workers in the US through strategic nonviolence with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

A farmworker from the fields of Florida celebrates victory on 8 March 2005 during the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ ‘Taco Bell Truth Tour’, exposing how Taco Bell had profited from farmworker poverty and exploitation. Photo: JJ Tiziou @jjtiziou

The fulcrum of the southwest Florida town of Immokalee is a dusty parking lot called by the old residents ‘The Pantry’ after the tienda (shop) located there. This is Immokalee’s labour…

1 August 2016News

Air controllers & nuclear power station workers join strikes

French workers launched a wave of strikes after the French premier, Manuel Valls, announced a decision on 10 May to relax France’s protective labour laws by decree, using a rarely-invoked article of the constitution to bypass parliament. The reforms make it easier for employers to prolong the (currently 35-hour) working week, to disregard unions and to lay off staff more cheaply.

Following the use of CRS riot police to break up blockades of fuel depots, the country’s eight oil…

1 August 2016Review

Verso, 2016; 256pp; £12.99

Published a few weeks before the EU referendum, Richard Seymour’s latest book is an important and timely intervention into Labour party – and national – politics.

Seymour, a former member of the Socialist Workers Party, is known as one of the sharpest intellects on the Left, and his sympathetic analysis of the rise of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership doesn’t disappoint.

There is a welcome recap of the heady days of summer 2015, when the unassuming MP for North…

9 June 2014News

The sun shone down on Cardiff city centre, the day made even more attractive and colourful by the trade union banners of the May Day march.

The main focus of the march was the unrelenting attacks by the Tory/Lib Dem government on the poor, disabled and pensioners.

Over 3,000 homes in South Wales, mainly one-parent families, have been caught up in the Bedroom Tax. Every benefit to the unemployed and disabled has been ruthlessly cut; and even though the financial crisis was…

17 October 2012Feature

Cameron commits £2bn to drones while chopping disability benefits

The Conservative-led government is committing billions to military spending while forcing through massive cuts in jobs and services, and reducing support for badly-needed green technologies.

The government has already spent £2bn on developing and deploying pilotless drone aircraft over the past five years, using some of them to kill an unknown number of Afghan civilians…