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From the growth in food banks to the Bedroom Tax, 2013 was in many ways and for many people in the UK a year to forget. There are, however, many moments from the last twelve months worth remembering for all the right reasons. So, to celebrate the end of the year Red Pepper has picked out a few of its favourite campaigns and victories of the last year.
On July 31 the High Court ruled that the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, had acted unlawfully in attempting to cut services and close departments at Lewisham Hospital. Three months later, on October 29, Hunt’s appeal against the decision was rejected and the original judgement upheld.
The court ruling represented a major victory for all those involved in the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign—a coalition of community campaigners, hospital workers and supporting organisations—which has for over a year been holding regular meetings, demonstrations, days of actions, vigils and engaging in a number of creative stunts (The hunt for Hunt) to protest against service reductions at a hospital that is not in financial difficulty and is considered high achieving.
The largest demonstration was held in Lewisham on January 26, attracting over 25,000, a remarkable number for a local issue campaign and the largest local demonstration in defence of the NHS in British history. The success of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, which is wholly against the privatisation and marketisation of the NHS, is a testament to the power of community organising in the face of austerity and a rare highlight in a year that has witnessed the acceleration of cuts to public services across the country.
One of the most widely reported on and exciting industrial campaigns in the UK of the last few years, the 3Cosas campaign was launched over a year ago to fight for sick pay, holidays and pensions for outsourced cleaners at the University of London (UoL) and has displayed a consistent and unwavering militancy, a remarkable feat considering that not only are the outsourced cleaners at the UoL highly precarious but almost all are immigrants, few of whom speak English.
Following a two-day strike on November 27 and 28 the employer of outsourced cleaners at the UoL, Balfour Beatty Workplace, announced concessions over sick pay and holiday pay. Although not in line with those received by directly employed staff these improved terms represent a major victory for a campaign that, although appearing as an overnight success, is a product of exhaustive organising and confidence building.
Impressively, despite its recent success, the 3Cosas campaign has recently announced a three-day strike for the 27, 28 and 29 January 2014, beginning what will they hope will be a year as successful as the one that preceded it. The demands for the January strike are not only the third ‘cosa’, pensions, but also union recognition for the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain—the syndicalist union which represents the majority of outsourced cleaners at the UoL—and guarantees of job security for workers at the Garden Halls accommodation, which the University is closing for refurbishment.
Militant, creative and technologically savvy, the 3Cosas campaign, it has been suggested, provides a vision for the labour movement that moves beyond the conservative approach it is today overwhelmingly associated with.
Below is Novara Media’s report from a 3Cosas demonstration held at Senate House on October 24, followed by the video appeal to donate to the online strike fund that made financially possible the recent victorious November strike.
Blacklisting hit headlines in 2009 following a raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office on the offices of the shadowy Consulting Association, who, it turned out, were being paid by companies for ‘intelligence’ on workers who were later denied work for demanding adequate health and safety standards on site and general union activity.
Frank Morris found himself in precisely this situation when in September 2012, after raising concerns about health and safety on site, he was sacked from his job on Crossrail by his employer, the Bam, Ferrovial and Kier (BFK) consortium.
Yet as Ewa Jasiewicz explained: ‘taking the fight to the gate, often on his own, he spent six months protesting before Unite’s organisation and leverage department began an anti-blacklisting campaign to get his job back and union access onto all Crossrail sites’.
A combination of lobbying and participation in government select committees by Unite alongside rank and file direct action involving the blocking of roads in London and Manchester cost BFK not only its reputation but over £1 billion in lost work. Better still, in September of this year Frank Morris was reinstated.
The fight against blacklisting, however, is far from over. Formed in the aftermath of the raid on the offices of the Consulting Association and organised and led by blacklisted workers, The Blacklist Support Group is now leading the charge against those companies that engage in this systematic practice of disciplining and exclusion.
Much has been written on the decline of the student movement following the explosion of activity that followed the Government’s announcement in 2010 of plans to raise the cap on tuition fees to £9,000. Despite mass mobilisation, fees were raised and the student movement lost. Or so the story goes.
Although the last two years have been a relatively quiet period for student activism in the UK the closing months of 2013 suggest that something may be brewing once more.
At the beginning of December over ten universities, from Birmingham to Liverpool and beyond, were simultaneously occupied by students. Students at the University of Ulster are still in occupation, despite University management cutting of power and water.
The spate of occupations, although at an organisational level unrelated, appear to share a common set of demands that transcend any immediate single issue. The overriding focus, however, is undoubtedly on the privatisation and marketisation of universities and its corrosive effect on campus community life and academic integrity.
As befitting a more comprehensive vision for the future of higher education students across the country are increasingly supporting workers’ struggles. In contrast to 2010, links between students and campus workers are becoming increasingly visible, perhaps nowhere more so than at Sussex University, where for over a year students under the rubric of ‘Sussex Against Privatisation‘ and the infamous Occupy Sussex have been campaigning against the outsourcing of hundreds of campus jobs, even assisting in the creation of a campus-wide ‘pop up union‘. More recently, the occupation of Senate House by students at the University of London (UoL) was launched off the back of the 3Cosas strike victory and had as its first demand that the UoL and Balfour Beatty Workplace provide all outsourced cleaners with pensions, sick pay and holiday pay in line with that of in-house staff. ‘Workers and students, unite and fight’ is increasingly finding form in more than mere rhetoric.
Informal, horizontal, flexible and non-dogmatic are words so far used to describe the networks of student activists that are increasingly asserting themselves on campuses across the country. Although activity has largely been localised the #march25 national demonstration against outsourcing and privatisation at Sussex University, the recent #copsoffcampus demonstration at the UoL and simultaneous demonstrations held in solidarity in Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield, amongst other universities, hints at the capacity of these networks to coordinate on a national scale.
Although concrete victories for the student movement have been sparse in recent years, and 2013 was admittedly no exception, the wave of occupations and protests that have swamped university campuses in the UK of late, and more importantly the resurgent networks that organised them, are reason enough to hope that 2014 will be different.
Below is a video from the #march25 national demonstration at Sussex University followed by You and I Films‘ video report from the #copsoffcampus demonstration held at UoL on December 11.
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook
‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali
Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.
Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent
Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art
Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite