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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.
The police spend little of their time making arrests, and most crimes are not solved, writes Alex Vitale – their real purpose is social control
Many important things happened on conference floor, reports Alex Nunns – but you wouldn’t know it from reading the newspapers
Radhika Desai says Capital by Karl Marx is still an essential read on the 150th anniversary of its publication
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes
Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference
Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going