Home | 4th October 1996 | Issue 93

WAKE UP! WAKE UP! IT'S YER FERRY ACROSS THE MERSY...

SchNEWS
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DOCKS AND DREADLOCKS
COME TOGETHER

"It was an excellent day for us, the best day of the strike so far. You lot coming up here has meant so much to all the dockers and their families. We've grown in strength through this and our morale is really high again." - Striking Liverpool docker

Last weekend hundreds of direct action activists headed for Liverpool for 3 days of protests, parties, pickets and solidarity to mark the anniversary of the start of the Liverpool dockers' strike. And what a weekend! Flags flew from the roof of the dock offices taken before dawn; climbers cheered from the lop of the giant gantries as they lay idle; Turkish communists and Kurds arrived with their circle dancers to show support; and on the picket line dockers and road protesters, trade unionists and direct action veterans showed the scab lorry drivers what they thought of them.

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

The weekend kicked off with a march through Liverpool's city centre. Striking dockers and their families mingled with Kurdish dragons, trade unionists, flags, drums and sound systems. Neil Fox, the young son of one of the striking dockers, told the rally, "Friendship is a precious gift that cannot be bought or sold. It is worth more than a mountain of gold". Speaker after speaker, all involved in different strugg1e, came to say they were involved in the same struggle - and were there to support the dockers.

That night hundreds of activists squatted a disused customs building by the dockside. Police nastiness was in evidence, with riot police at the rally blocking off roads, and vehicles carrying sound systems finding their tyres mysteriously slashed. Sunday was for organising, discussing where we were going and meeting dockers.

Monday 6am and everyone in the squat gets an early morning call. By 6.30am the docks are invaded, the gantries and the office roof are taken and hundreds arrive at the picket line. The tugs strike for the day in solidarity and no ships come in.

HERE COMES THE SCUM

Dozens of vans with dogs, horses and the leather clad S&M freaks of the Operational Support Division arrive to intimidate the picket and assault and arrest people at random. There were 47 arrests, almost as many as throughout the whole year of the strike. Minibuses of trade unionists were stopped under the CJA (they got through in the end!), one picket got a broken collarbone, someone else was held for 48 hours and another was remanded to Lancaster Prison. All day dockers and their families provided food and drink for their supporters and people discussed this new found unity. 15 people stayed up cranes for nine hours. Ten flew a red black and green flag from the top of the docks offices all day and, icing on the cake, the docks offices in town were occupied by protesters.

As protesters walked from the picket to the squat 10 riot vans drove up, cops sprung out and nicked people for that dreadful crime of 'walking along a street'. A UNISON rep was nicked and beaten up in a van (having his hand burnt with a cigarette lighter and getting hospitalised). The filth smiled. One family who came out their house to cheer the crowd got a police car screeching to a halt in front of them. We arrived at the squat and walked though lines of police trying to intimidate us and just waiting to have a go. The dockers and their families and friends were there in force to make sure we were alright, cheering and clapping. Solidarity is a two way street.

That night there was a kicking party (does everyone in Liverpool know all the words to every Beatles song or what?) with speeches, drinks and food laid on by the strikers. The forces of law and order, thoroughly pissed off by now, resorted to slashing the tyre of a van parked outside where we were staying and asking the driver if he "needed any help". Not good losers.

"Single issue politics is well and truly dead now. The scumbags who these dockers have been on strike against for a year are the same people who make millions out of polluting the planet and want to force us all into shitty jobs so they can make even more money. Us and the dockers have got a lot more in common than a lot of people think. This unity is going to grow and grow, I'm telling you ".
- Rent-a-mob outside agitator on her way to Liverpool

The dispute was provoked when a docker, who had already worked a 12 hour shift was told to do overtime. He refused, and was sacked on the spot. The strike then ensued, with 500 men staying solid behind the principle of resisting the erosion of their working rights. Some of the men had been working for 35 years or more and have refused to take the 25,000 redundancy offer from the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company. Not one has yet gone back to work.

Liverpool dockers have had enormous international support throughout the dispute. Mersey Docks profits have fallen 17% in the last year and on the action day their share price dropped l4 points. On Monday Swedish and Danish dockers organised a 24 hour blockade of main ports in support of their Liverpool comrades. Loads of other dockers throughout the world continue to give support - more than they've got from the 'Labour movement', and their own union.

Nothing could illustrate the difference between those who want to defend basic rights and our children's future and the cynical, power-seeking manipulation of the 'official opposition' better than this week's events in Liverpool and Blackpool. In Liverpool people stood shoulder to shoulder against scabs and the police. In Blackpool the most right-wing Labour Conference ever supported Tony Bleurgh on every vote, even refusing to support index-linking for pensions.

Funnily enough, Bill Morris, head of the dockers' union (the Transport and General Workers) was in Blackpool with his middle class friends rather than on the picket line with his members. This didn't stop him denouncing the weekend's events and calling on the dockers to 'disassociate' themselves from the groups that actually got to Liverpool to show their support. He might as well have whistled in the wind - the dockers immediately put out a statement praising "the principled courageous and peaceful support given over many weeks by the Advance Party, Reclaim the Streets and other grassroots environmental groups. This unique unity between Trade Unionists and environmental groups will continue to be developed in the future."

**Merseyside Port of Shop Stewards, c/o TGWU, Transport House, Islington, Liverpool, L3 5EQ. Tel: 0151 207 3388 Fax: 0151 207 0696.

** The dockers are going to Manchester RTS on Oct 19.

** Anyone who witnessed arrests or police misconduct over the weekend, especially if you have photos or video footage, should ring Kevin Robinson on 0151 207 3388.

** Argos have been using Liverpool Docks and if you want to take actions against Argos for doing this we can't stop you!

** London Dockers Support Group public meeting 7:30pm, 16th October, Conway Hall Red Lion Square, to plan future actions.

** The dockers and everyone else will be together again at the Direct Action conference in Brighton on 23rd November (01273 685913 for details). There's also a Unite the Struggles' conference that day in London (11-5, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, 7/1).

CRAP ARRESTS OF THE (EIGHT DAYS A) WEEK

* For slicing a peach. Obviously a vicious flesh wound! The 'criminal' water severely beaten in his cell.

* For being 'in an enclosed space'. So they put him in a cell!

A DAY! A-DAY!

Six months behind schedule, the JobSeekers Allowance finally replaces Income Support and Unemployment Benefit on Monday. Under the JSA, JobCentres will have more power to direct claimants to be more 'employable' - the 'wrong' attitude. 'wrong' haircut' or insufficient evidence that you have been 'actively seeking work' could mean penalties. The new computer system in Job Centres allows 'client advisers' to match claimants to vacancies each time you sign on - you could be offered a job at 2.50 an hour on the spot, and, again, a refusal will mean penalties. Worse, the penalty increases from 40% of benefit being deducted to 100%.

If JobCentres force claimants to work no matter how low the pay, then employers have no incentive to offer decent wages. This creates a bosses market; existing workers will have to price themselves down and work harder just to hold on to their jobs. The JSA reveals our shared interest: by refusing low-paid jobs, claimants maintain the bargaining power of those in work.

The bosses in the Employment Service have been frightened so much by actions by claimants' groups over the past few months that they are now trying to divide dole workers from claimants by suggesting that claimants' groups are organising physical attacks on staff. A recent leaked internal document to district managers advises them to call the cops at the merest hint of any kind of demo, and discusses 'compensation' should staff be attacked or have personal property damaged by campaigning claimants. While planning to sack around 10,000 of their staff, put the rest on short term contracts and pay them peanuts, the ES bosses now try to present themselves as their protectors!

Meanwhile, a leaked letter from one of the bosses in the Benefits Agency admits that the JSA will be in complete chaos this Monday! Not only are they in trouble with their new computer systems, but BA staff have been decidedly uncooperative. BA workers will be on strike for the first two days of the JSA. At the same time claimants groups across the country will be taking action, occupying and picketing ES and BA offices. The only way we are going to make the JSA unworkable for everyone, not just the most individually resourceful, is through collective action - this is what really frightens the state. Actions against the JSA this Monday 7th October - London: Westminster Central Hall, 1pm / Brighton: Churchill Square, 12 midday. Be there!!

THE BATTLE OF CABLE STREET- 60 YEARS ON

4th October marks the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, a commemoration of the thousands of people who used direct action to stop a mass fascist demonstration in the East End.

Sir Oswald Mosley led the Blackshirts and the British Union of Fascists (BUF) intending to seize upon the despair and insecurity of mass unemployment to incite hatred and violence. When Mosley announced he would be holding a "provocative march" in October 1936, the people of London were in uproar.

"Four local mayors pleaded with the Tory Home Secretary for the march to be banned - but to no avail. The Jewish Peoples Council against Fascism collected a petition of 100,000 signatures calling, unsuccessfully, for the march to be banned."

On 4th October 1936 , 3,000 fascists assembled at Royal Mint Street, protected by 6,000 police. What the BUF and police were not expecting was the extent of the resistance they were to face. 25,000 anti fascist demonstrators presented a mass battle of resistance, white-washing the route of the march.

Children's marbles were used to keep the mounted police at bay. Elderly residents threw bags of soot and milk bottles from buildings. An anti-fascist tram driver abandoned his vehicle, blocking the way to Commercial Road, while a lorry was overturned, donated for the cause.

After hours of fighting, "Counter demonstrators against the fascists were so great that the narrow thoroughfares...were completely impassable."

The anti fascist demonstrators were victorious. Mosley left with his tail between his legs, whinging "...the British government has openly surrendered to Red Terror."

Friday October 4th should be remembered as a milestone in anti-fascist history and for the effectiveness of resistance and direct action. Fascist and Far Right organisations are still prevalent, but as those who fought in The Battle of Cable Street cried, "THEY SHALL NOT PASS!!" Hats off to all a quarter of a million of you !!!

** Anti Fascist Action (AFA) have set up The Cable Street Fund for AFA prisoners and defendant welfare. Please send any donations to: The Cable Street Fund do AFA, BM 1734, London WC1N 3XX

**Recommended reading 'The Battle of Cable Street' by the Cable Street Group. Available at 2.99 from 178 Whitechapel Road, London, E1 1BJ.

EXODUS MAN CLEARED

On Monday, Luton Crown Court cleared Exodus Peace Steward Paul Taylor (Biggs) of two counts of GBH and one of ABH. He was originally framed on a trumped up murder charge, which was dropped on the day the case came to court, due to insufficient evidence (see SchNEWS 54). The next battle the dedicated party and housing collective face is a threat to Long Meadow Community Farm, which has been verbally sold to persons unknown.., despite them putting In an offer for the property. SchNEWS has been assured they will put up a fight for their rights.

OPEN CAST VICTORY

Plans for an open cast mine at Sharlston, near Wakefield, have been rejected by the Dept of the Environment this week. The town's deep mining colliery was closed down four years ago as part of Hesseltine's declination of 'unprofitable' pits. Within weeks H.J. Banks, the company responsible for open cast mines in Yorkshie and Wales, hhad announced plans to extract 30,000 tonnes of coal from the site over the next two years. Banks, who have been targeted before by Earth First! told us that they remain undaunted by the recent stream of refusals for their open cast mine site. A spokesman described planning procedures as a "lottery" and claimed that developers needed to work on persuading communities, instead of focusing on environmental concerns. In future they intend to work closely with road builders, extracting coal and minerals to provide a suitable surface for road construction.

And finally...

Are you a 'lentil snorter'? Named yourself after a character from the Legend of King Arthur, The Hobbit or Alice in Wonderland? Well you better watch out! A founding statement from AHA (Anti-Hippy Action) proclaims the direct action movement "is being sabotaged by a shadowy group of soap dodging troublemakers. In a word - hippies.And if they reckon you've got 'soya bean curd for brains' AHA are gonna get you - with a campaign of sustained pisstaking to humiliate and demoralise, boasting: "We intend to have trained squads of activists at all demonstrations ready to reduce any hippie element to tears in the hope of making them either go home or cut their hair." So be warned, there will be no platforms for hippies at AHA. And certainly no sandals.

disclaimer

The SchNEWS advises all readers to Let It Be. All you need is love. Just remember even if you decide to take direct action you will receive No Reply from your MP. In My Lifetime there will be a Revolution. Think For Yourself in these terms and don't be the Fool on the Hill worshipping Penny Lane. Then you will be content. Oh, and why don't we do it in the road? Er, honest.

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Massive respect to all our new friends in Liverpool - especially the Lark Lane posse (u know who u are)

 


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