Thursday, 28 August 2008

On Parks, Museums and Other Things

A few days ago I visited Parc Glynllifon, which is on the other side of Caenarfon from Bangor. It was essentially a feudal manor and grounds that was eventually sold to the local council in the late 1940’s and now, in addition to grounds which people can walk in, it houses an FE College.
The point I wish to muse upon was the entrance fee. It cost £4 each to enter the park! Given there are plenty of other places I’ve visited before that are similar to this that have been free (only charging for something like going inside a manor on the grounds or a petting zoo or for parking a car) such charging seems a little daft. Surely we’d want to be encouraging people to go walking in places like this or for family days out etc.
Which brings me onto the rest of my thoughts. In Gwynedd at the moment there seems to be a scheme of the council cutting funding for things for people to do. For example, the threats to pull funding to Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery in Bangor. A few years ago the local cinema was closed and demolished to make for yet another privately owned block of student accommodation. It is very easy to get bored here when your possibilities for entertainment are so limited.
Obviously as Socialists we are opposed to cuts of public services, but we should be for the expansion of cultural facilities and public ownership of historic monuments (off all kinds) and parks so they can be opened up to everyone’s enjoyment. Alongside this these facilities should be made as cheap as possible to use (or free if possible) to promote accesibility. As Trotsky concludes his ‘testament’, “Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression, and violence and enjoy it to the full.”

Monday, 25 August 2008

Coming Soon

This blog has been a little neglected over the last week or so, but it's becuase I've just been too busy at the moment. Anyways, I'm trying to do something about it.
So over the next week or two expect posts on student debt, a review of a book about Huddersfield during WW1, parks and museums, economics and crime, a post about castleford. And if I get around to it I'll even do a post that I've been planning for over half a year on an chapter National Deviancy Conference documents book by Bob Fine.

I also think I might try and introduce some sort of regular features to the blog - one I've being toying with in 'Brunstrom watch', looking at North Wakes' outspoken police chief. I'm not sure what else I could do though (any thoughts?)

And if I haven't plugged it already, I'd urge readers of this blog to visit The Bent Society Blog. Although it isn't written from a Marxist perspective like this blog, I'm sure that anyone who reads this blog will find what is commented on there of interest.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Credit crunch bites Cardiff Bay

From the Socialist Party Wales website

Another building development in Cardiff Bay has been frozen as the credit crunch bites. The Bay is peppered with half-finished apartment blocks, newly-built relics of boom and bust, semi-permanent eyesores that remind us of the inability of capitalism to solve basic human needs.

by Dave Reid

There are plenty of homeless people, unemployed building workers and piles of unused building materials and yet there is no profit in construction workers building homes for the people who need them. So they remain unbuilt.Thousands of people need somewhere to live in Cardiff. Young workers forced to sleep on friends sofas because they cannot afford the bond and rent for a place of their own. Young families cramped in small flats because they cannot get even close to affording a mortgage even as house prices fall. The council stopped building houses decades ago, widening the gap for the private developers to step into. For those with a tidy wage there are the “luxury apartments” down the Bay - small, smart flats in modern wooden-clad tower blocks with spiky shrubs in uniform, neat gardens.

Never ending boom?

A year ago it looked like the boom would never end with a new luxury tower springing up every month. Even the housing associations got in on the act, building luxury apartments to rent for profit down the Bay, forgetting about the social housing desperately needed by the low paid and by families.But the credit crunch has put an end to all that and as the developers discover holes in their balance sheets they walk away from their half-built sites, leaving unfinished blocks scarring the landscape and blocking the pavements.The sites remain. Breeze blocks are piled up ready to use, the construction workers who were ready to cement them laid off. Wheelbarrows are strewn around the sites, abandoned by the retreating developers.

Thatcherite promise

Cardiff Bay itself is the symbol of the Thatcherite promise of the post-industrial age. Thatcher and the Tories wiped out industry in Cardiff and the rest of Wales with only two minor steelworks remaining after thousands of jobs were destroyed. But no matter, they said, the future is in services - financial services and the leisure industry.So Lord Edwards, the Tory Welsh secretary, formed the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation (CBDC), another unaccountable Tory quango, to redevelop Cardiff docks. They promised that this would be the hub of a new Wales founded on finance and tourism. And the Labour politicians, on the way to becoming New Labour, bought into the idea as well, accepting highly-paid part-time jobs on the quango. The Tories did the deals while the Labour leaders did the PR, loudly shouting “Jobs!” every time anyone queried the project.While hospitals were sold off and the council was refused cash to build council homes hundreds of millions were poured into the bay development. A £200 million barrage was built across the bay to create a huge lake in front of the development and cover the low tide mud.Restaurants and bars sprung up as well as public sector developments like the Assembly, the Millennium Arts Centre and the council itself. The old docks, that used to make up one of the greatest exporting ports in the world, were scrubbed clean and landscaped ready for jet skis and windsurfers.But even as the modern new buildings sprung up questions were asked. People living down the Docks were pushed aside. The famous Tiger Bay, the Butetown community, was effectively privatised by the CBDC with promises of jobs. The Butetown Carnival created by the community and famous around the country, was taken over by the CBDC, run “professionally” and then quietly closed down.

Jobs mirage

The jobs promised by the men in suits to the local community proved to be illusions. Most of the construction jobs went to outsiders. And what remained after were minimum wage jobs serving in the restaurants and pubs. Industry sold up and left the area taking with them the better paid jobs. Caradons that had taken over the old Currans steel plant, based in the area for over 100 years, decided it could make more money by closing the factory and selling the land for a luxury apartment development, so it shifted production to Stoke, taking with it 400 better paid jobs.

Cheap labour was driving out proper jobs. Harry Ramsdens instead of Currans. One developer was reported to ask whether the Castle steelworks lying to the east of the newly developed Roath Dock could be removed because it was a bit of an eyesore.

Developers cash in- then walk away

No one will ever know how much money was made by the privatisers and developers in Cardiff Bay. The privatisation of British docks into Associated British Ports (ABP) was said to be Thatcher’s favourite privatisation. Billions have subsequently been made from the sale of dock land. And Cardiff was one of the most profitable, second only to the London dockland developments. According to The Guardian, Lord Edwards later joined the ABP board and the Welsh office minister behind the scheme joined its property arm.And while the developers made money hand over fist working people in Cardiff did not. The CBDC and its Labour hangers on promised 30,000 new jobs, but a maximum of 20,000 have been created and 15,000 jobs were lost when industry pulled out. Instead of tens of thousands of new jobs being created we saw a frenzy of speculation as the developers stampeded into the Bay to build luxury apartment blocks in the property boom upon which the sun would never set.Now, Russell Goodway, one of the Labour creators of the project, bemoans the jungle of apartment buildings that has sprung up. He wanted more business blocks. But what did he expect when he sold the Bay to a market that chases the quickest buck? Of course everyone likes going down the Bay for a bit of a promenade down the front and to have an ice cream and a pint. But the jet skis and windsurfers are banned because the docks and the Bay have been poisoned by algae, like the financial system that has been poisoned by bad debt. And talking of debt we still have to pay £4 million a year for the upkeep of the barrage.

Still as we sit licking our ice creams on the aluminium chairs in the cafés on the waterfront we can still dream on what the billions could have been spent on - rebuilding public services and valley communities perhaps, hospitals and new council housing.And maybe Barry Island could have been given a lick of paint.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Showing Off

Having being tagged by Phil BC from A Very Public Sociologist with a meme (see and being stuck for ideas a bit, I'm gonna do it, basically posting my favourite ten posts that I have written myself from this blog (in order of preference by the way).

1. Crime in Revolutionary Russia

2. Whats Wrong With Psychology?

3. Plaid and Crime

4. Principles of a Marxist Approach to Criminology (Second Draft)

5. A Manifesto for Wargamers

6. Prisons: Lumbering Into Further Crisis

7. Open Letter from Bangor University Socialist Students

8. Crime in the Soviet Union

9. A Brief Look at the Origins and History of Police Unionism in Britain – Pt2

10. The Question of Human Rights

(btw. if I was allowed to include posts within the last month I would have included Nid oes bradwr yn y ty hwn (No traitor in this house) - The Great North Wales Quarry Strikes failry high up on this list)

Monday, 18 August 2008

The Olympics, big business and dictatorship

This is an article taken from China Worker which I based a recent leadoff mostly on (bits came from elsewhere). I think it is a rather excelent article about the olympics and corruption and I may investigate it further maybe at some point.

Rather than the Olympic movement’s self-professed ideals of ‘internationalism’ and ‘fair play’, the Games are about two at first sight contradictory forces: nationalistic flag-waving and capitalist“Beijing win is big business,” ran a BBC headline in July 2001. China had just been awarded the 2008 Olympic Games. The Olympics is not just the world’s most prestigious sporting event; it is also one of the most successful marketing empires in the history of capitalism. The Olympic symbol – five connected rings representing the five continents – is one of the world’s most recognisable and closely guarded corporate logos. The small, secretive, unelected group that controls the Olympics, the 110-member International Olympic Committee (IOC), commands huge financial resources and is feted by governments and business leaders the world over. Former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch insisted on being addressed as ‘Your Excellency’. His megalomania earned him the nickname ‘Lord of the Rings’.The Beijing Olympics is expected to bring in $2.5 billion from television broadcasting alone. This is set to rise to $3 billion for the period up to and including the London Olympics in 2012. The last time the Games were held in London, in 1948, the BBC reportedly agreed to pay just $3,000 to televise the event. But the British Olympic Committee never cashed the cheque, out of consideration for the BBC’s delicate financial situation!All this was before the Olympics and other major sporting events became big business. The corporate makeover of the Olympics took place under Samaranch, who was IOC president from 1980-2001. The first Olympiad to be staged under Samaranch’s ultra-commercial regime were the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, and from this point onwards the pricetag for television broadcasting rights soared “faster, stronger, higher,” in the words of the official Olympic motto. The revenue from television rights in Beijing is almost ten times the $287 million paid in Los Angeles.Unsurprisingly, with billions of dollars at stake, the IOC has acquired a reputation for corruption. A major scandal shook the Olympic movement in 1999 over the coming Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Several investigations, including one by the US Department of Justice, led to the expulsion of ten IOC members who had been “caught elbow-deep in the goody bag” according to The New York Times. They had accepted bribes ranging from real estate deals, paid holidays, plastic surgery and college tuition payments for their children. The scandal cost the mayor of Salt Lake City her job, but IOC boss Samaranch survived, narrowly.This scandal prompted intense speculation about the future of the Olympics, the total lack of transparency and democratic accountability of its governing body, and its shady connections with big business. A debate raged over whether the IOC could ‘reform itself’ – echoing discussions over the future of China’s ruling ‘communist’ party (CCP). Corruption and vote-buying scandals however continue to shroud the Olympic movement long after the departure of Samaranch. In 2006, the Japanese city of Nagano was found to have provided millions of dollars in an “illegitimate and excessive level of hospitality” to IOC members. Nagano spent more than $4.4 million to entertain IOC members during the bidding process, which works out at $46,500 per head.China’s government, the IOC, and its big business partners have a lot in common. They’re all undemocratic, elitist, and mostly corrupt organisations. The IOC, nicknamed ‘The Club’, is not an elected body – existing IOC members select new members, under a system not unlike that of the CCP’s ruling bodies. Hence, the notion that the Olympics, controlled by a dictatorial regime, could be an agent for democratic change in China is ludicrous. The IOC brooks no dissent. In the run up to the 1936 Berlin Games, hosted by the Nazi regime, Ernest Lee Jahncke, an American IOC representative, spoke out publicly for a boycott. This led to his expulsion from the IOC in 1935, the only expulsion in the organisation’s history until the Salt Lake City corruption scandal half a century later.

‘Rushi’ – ‘joining the world’

Hard-headed business calculations but also geo-political considerations lay behind the IOC’s decision in July 2001 to award the 2008 Games to Beijing. The corporate sponsors of the Olympics – including Coca Cola, Adidas and McDonald’s – were delirious over the opportunities this presented for ‘product positioning’ in a potential market of 1.3 billion people. A powerful multinational business lobby had thrown its weight behind Beijing, with US companies reportedly contributing two-thirds of the funds for the Chinese bid, which totalled $40 million. The Chinese regime had failed eight years earlier in its bid for the 2000 Olympics. That decision went to Sydney, with the relatively fresh memory of the 1989 Beijing massacre weighing against the Chinese bid.In 2001, however, Samaranch was accused of “pulling strings behind the scenes to ensure that Beijing won the Games”. Admittedly, it was Canada’s IOC member who made this claim and he backed the other main candidate, Toronto. The Olympics would open “a new era for China,” said Samaranch. Henry Kissinger, who is an auxiliary (non-voting) member of the IOC, but also a key link between US capitalism and the Chinese leaders, called the Olympic decision: “a very important step in the evolution of China’s relation with the world. I think it will have a major impact in China, and on the whole, a positive impact, in the sense of giving them a high incentive for moderate conduct both internationally and domestically in the years ahead.”The IOC decision coincided with the final negotiations for China’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), on tough terms that cost it more in market-opening concessions than any other ‘developing country’ member. The details of these negotiations and the concessions made by the Chinese side are still a ‘state secret’ inside China – journalists risk imprisonment for digging too deeply in this area. Joining the WTO meant the removal of “the last barriers between China and the forces of globalisation,” commented The Guardian’s veteran China correspondent, John Gittings. These two landmark decisions shared a similar strategic purpose – to tie China as a ‘stakeholder’ more firmly into the global capitalist system.For China’s leaders, both decisions were seen as important pillars for the continuation of their increasingly neo-liberal ‘reform and opening’ policy. As C. Fred Bergsten points out in Foreign Affairs (July 2008): ”Beijing not only endured lengthy negotiations and an ever-expanding set of requirements in order to join the WTO but also used the pro-market rules of that institution to overcome resistance among die-hards inside China itself.”This policy, including the privatisation and downsizing of former state-owned companies, and ‘marketisation’ of public services such as education and healthcare, was by this time running into increasing working class resistance. The news that Beijing would host the Olympics provided a welcome public distraction for the regime, helping to ‘sugar the pill’ of further neo-liberal globalisation. Huge celebrations were organised once the IOC’s decision became public, with possibly 200,000 – mostly from the middle classes – thronging Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. A wave of nationalistic pride mixed with expectation was thus engineered by the government on the theme that China was ‘rejoining the world’ – ‘rushi’ – and reclaiming its rightful place as an economic superpower. Beijing Olympic official, Wang Wei, called this “another milestone in China’s rising international status and a historical event in the great renaissance of the Chinese nation.”As with almost everything the CCP regime does, its main focus is on the situation at home. As The Economist explained it is “more concerned with its own internal problems than with trying to influence faraway countries”. For an authoritarian ruling party struggling to keep control of a complex and fractious society and hold its own forces together, the Olympic Games are a powerful weapon – the equivalent of ‘nationalism on steroids’. The additional likelihood that China will displace the USA as top medal winner will be used to project an image of all-round economic and social progress under the stewardship of the current dictatorship.


The paradox of a nominally ‘communist’ regime that enjoys huge, almost sycophantic support from the world’s top business leaders is epitomised in these Olympics. A select group of twelve giant multinationals, which include Adidas, Coca Cola, Samsung and General Electric, have paid an average of $72 million each to the IOC to become so-called ‘top-tier’ sponsors of the Beijing Games.For such companies Olympic sponsorship and advertising can play a decisive role. As the People’s Daily commented, “The Olympic Games is more than a sports arena, but also a battlefield for multinationals.” Kodak of the US used its sponsorship of the 1998 Nagano Winter Games as a lever to prize open the Japanese photographic film market, previously monopolised by Fuji. Visa International’s sponsorship of every Olympics since 1986 has helped it to displace American Express as the leading credit card company in the United States. Under Olympic rules, only one company from each corporate sector is accepted as a ‘top-tier’ sponsor. This explains why Pepsi Co. has always been shut out – Coca Cola has been associated with every Olympic Games since 1928. This exclusive arrangement extends to advertising and sales at all Olympic facilities, where Coke has a monopoly. Visa’s advertising campaign at the time of the Calgary Games read: ”At the 1988 Winter Olympics, they will honour speed, stamina and skill. But not American Express.”This battle has shifted to Chinese soil, where it completely overshadows the Games themselves. “The global Olympic sponsors have huge budgets for marketing in China,” said a Hong Kong advertising chief. “When the torch relay is in China, every city which the torch passes through will be full of sponsorship logos,” he said. This is one important reason why the Chinese planners opted for the longest torch-relay in the history of the Olympics, covering 137,000 kilometres, or three and a half times the earth’s circumference. This ‘Journey of Harmony’, as the Chinese regime called it, turned into a heavily guarded farce, leading some Olympic spokespeople to conclude that the torch-relay may have passed its ‘sell-by’ date. Historically, before it became an advertising bonanza, the torch-relay began life in 1936 as a symbol of Nazi triumphalism. This ritual has nothing whatsoever to do with internationalism. On the contrary, it is a clue to the strong historical connection between the Olympic movement and fascist and authoritarian regimes.“The idea of lighting the torch at the ancient Olympian site in Greece and then running it through different countries has much darker origins. It was invented in its modern form by the organisers of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. And it was planned with immense care by the Nazi leadership to project the image of the Third Reich as a modern, economically dynamic state with growing international influence.” [BBC, 5 April 2008]In China, the government has been whipping up ‘Olympic fever’ in an attempt to cut across rising discontent that poses an increasingly serious threat to its rule. Additionally, the regime hopes the Olympics will help trigger a consumer boom, to act as a ‘shock absorber’ for declining external demand as the global economy slows. China suffers from an abnormally low level of consumption – even Indians consume more as a share of gross domestic product (GDP). This is because wage levels have nowhere near kept pace with the overall growth of the economy. As a share of GDP, wages have fallen from 53 percent in 1998 to 41 percent in 2007, one of the sharpest declines in the world (and this during the period of preparation for the Beijing Games). In addition to massive sales campaigns by the multinational Olympic sponsors, more than 5,000 products have been dumped on the market with the Beijing Olympics logo. This includes apparel, mascot dolls, key-chains and even commemorative chopsticks. A number of these official Olympic products have been made at factories using child labour or violating other laws.Every one of the ‘TOP’ (The Olympic Partner Programme) companies has a huge stake in China, and expects their Beijing Olympic investments to be rewarded with increased market share. Coca Cola dominates the Chinese soft drinks market and was the first American company to set up in China back in 1979, when Deng Xiaoping reopened the country to foreign business. Coca Cola has 30,000 employees in China, which is its fourth largest – and most profitable – market. General Electric, another ‘TOP’ company, is providing power and lighting systems for the Beijing Games. It also has an ownership stake in NBC Universal, which holds exclusive Olympic TV broadcasting rights in the United States, for which it paid nearly $900 million. GE’s sales in China grew fourfold in 2001-06.


Adidas, another long-term ‘TOP’ sponsor, saw its China sales grow by 45 percent in 2007, compared to five percent growth in Europe. Adidas aims for a sales turnover of one billion euros in China by 2010. The German sportswear giant also contracts most of its production from China, but here we are discussing an entirely different segment of the Chinese population. The low-paid migrant factory workers that make Adidas sneakers under inhuman conditions, might as well inhabit another planet to that thin layer of brand conscious middle-class Chinese shoppers that Adidas pitches its marketing towards.Adidas sources more than half its global production from countries where trade unions are banned, principally China. The terrible conditions at the company’s Chinese subcontractors were highlighted in an article in The Sunday Times (UK), which reported from three “long-established partner factories” of Adidas in Fuzhou, southern China. Workers complained of forced overtime and wages below the legal minimum. They earned just 570 yuan ($83) per month in 2007 – barely enough to buy a pair of Adidas sneakers. This report also showed that China’s state-controlled trade union, the ACFTU, “was widely accused of doing nothing”. When workers staged a strike in 2006 they were all summarily dismissed.Adidas is not exceptional. The ‘top-tier’ Olympic sponsors form a rogues gallery of union-busters. Electronics giant Samsung is another infamous example. The company has been fined in South Korea for a range of illegal activities involving blackmail and bribes to get trade union activists to quit. This most powerful of the country’s ‘chaebol’ conglomerates was for a long time a pillar of South Korea’s former military regime. An editorial in Hyankoreh said of Samsung: “In a democratic republic you have a world leader in advanced technology using primitive anti-union tactics from the development dictatorship years”.Likewise, Coca Cola has been accused of union-busting activities in Colombia, Pakistan, Turkey, Guatemala and Nicaragua. A law suit was filed against the company by Colombian trade unions in 2001 on the grounds that Coke bottlers had “contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilised extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced trade union leaders.” Coca Cola’s lobbying clout with Olympic officials was demonstrated when Atlanta, where the company is headquartered, got to hold the 1996 Olympics. This was just twelve years after another US city, Los Angeles, held the Games. Yet another top-tier Olympic sponsor, McDonald’s, is the archetypal union-busting company. An international seminar on labour practises at McDonald’s, organised by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in 2002, concluded that: “McDonald’s tends to use minimum standards or minimum legal requirements in setting wages, health and safety practices, has a propensity to use anti-union measures including isolating, harassing and dismissing employees who are union members or supporters.”

“Sport, not politics”

In China too, McDonald’s was at the centre of a major scandal, when it was found to be paying young workers 40 percent below already low minimum wage rates. Several provincial governments were compelled by massive adverse publicity to investigate the fast-food giant. But while they confirmed that McDonald’s had violated China’s labour code in several areas, they refused to find it guilty of violating minimum wage rules. This affair (reported on – China’s ‘McScandal’ shows the need for real trade unions, 22 May 2007) resulted in the puppet ACFTU negotiating its first ever union recognition deals with McDonald’s, but of course with management representatives appointed to lead its union branches. This is normal ACFTU practise. It is called, “trade unionism with Chinese characteristics”!The anti-union, anti-working class bias of these Olympic sponsors conforms to a long tradition at the IOC of support for reactionary and anti-working class causes and regimes. To claim, as do the IOC, the sponsors and the Chinese regime, that the Olympics is only about sport, not politics, is utterly false and ignores the highly political history of the Games. The Chinese regime’s decision to route the torch-relay through the restive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang cannot be described as ‘non-political’. As the torch was whizzed through the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in June, with most Tibetans under curfew and unable to see it, Tibet’s Communist Party chief Zhang Qingli delivered a speech in which he called for opponents of the Olympic Games – and the CCP – to be “smashed”. An embarrassed IOC was compelled to deliver a rare rebuke to the Chinese government, reiterating that it must “separate sport and politics.”In fact, most Olympiads have been surrounded by political controversy: Berlin 1936, Munich 1972, Mexico City 1968, Moscow 1980, Los Angeles 1984; the list is long. Just weeks before the Olympic Games opened in Mexico City, students occupied their universities demanding an end to one-party rule. This led to the ‘Tlatelolco Massacre’ in which dozens of young demonstrators were shot and killed by the military, determined to restore ‘order’ for the start of the Games. Once again, Olympic officials hid behind their “separate sport and politics” mantra: Mexico’s president Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, the blood barely dry on his hands, presided over the Olympic opening ceremony with the invited foreign dignitaries. Yet when the Afro-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos famously gave their black-gloved, anti-racist salute from the medals podium in Mexico City, they were expelled from the Games on the orders of the IOC president Avery Brundage.The IOC and its supporters want it both ways. When they deal with dictators, they justify this with arguments that the Olympics can help to advance democracy and human rights. In other words, they claim an explicitly political rationale. But when this is shown to be untrue, as in China today, they reply that the Olympics is a sporting, not a political organisation. Jacques Rogge, the current IOC president, has made the absurd claim that the 1988 Seoul Olympics helped turn South Korea, then another dictatorship, into “a vibrant democracy”. According to Rogge, “The Games played a key role, again by the presence of media people.” [Financial Times, 26 April 2008]In real life, the South Korean military regime was forced from power by a wave of mass strikes and demonstrations that erupted in June 1987 (a full year before the Olympics) and continued despite huge repression for the next three years. This is an important lesson for China, showing the decisive role of mass workers’ struggle in the battle against dictatorship. When it comes to the struggle for democratic rights, the Olympics is part of the problem rather than the solution. In a recent report, Amnesty International warns, “Hosting the Olympic Games has become a thinly veiled excuse to crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly.” [What human rights legacy for the Beijing Olympics? Amnesty International, 1 April 2008]With an estimated 150 people killed by security forces in Tibetan areas, 2008 is already the worst year for state repression in China since 1989. Annihilating the arguments of the IOC and its apologists, Amnesty’s report states “much of the current wave of repression against activists and journalists is occurring not in spite of, but actually because of the Olympics.”Neither is the Chinese state acting alone as it uses the Olympics to crack down on potential opposition. Interpol has agreed to cooperate with Chinese authorities, opening its database to “help China ensure that mischief-makers do not enter”. Ostensibly such measures are aimed at ‘terrorists’ from Xinjiang and Tibet (despite the lack of evidence that such terrorist threats exist). As prominent dissident Hu Jia commented: “The greatest threats aren’t necessarily terrorists or crime, the greatest threats are those who reveal China’s social problems and protest the government.”The IOC has a tradition of racism, anti-communism and support for authoritarian regimes stretching back to its origins. That China’s leaders embrace this organisation speaks volumes about where they stand today. The founder of the modern Olympic movement in 1896 was the French aristocrat Pierre de Coubertin. His vision was not of a popular sporting movement for the masses, but one almost exclusively for the idle rich and the military officer caste. In the view of noblemen like de Coubertin, the ‘lower classes’ were unable to grasp the concept of ‘fair play’. Women, meanwhile, were deemed completely unsuited to the world of sport – a view that hardly changed until after the Second World War. Even at the London Olympics of 1948, women athletes were outnumbered ten to one by men. More Afro-American athletes actually competed in the 1936 Berlin Games than in Los Angeles four years earlier, due to institutionalised racism in the USA, which kept most sports segregated until the 1950s, and inspired the 1968 ‘silent protest’ by Smith and Carlos.Baron de Coubertin was a ‘great French patriot’ who nevertheless became a staunch admirer of the Nazi regime in Germany. On his death in 1937, he bequeathed his lifetime literary collection to Hitler’s government. In a bizarre footnote, six months after his death, de Coubertin’s corpse was dug up in Lausanne, Switzerland, and his heart was cut out and transported to Olympia in Greece. There, it was reburied in a ceremony attended by his long-time friend, the Nazi official and organiser of the 1936 Berlin Games, Carl Diem.

Authoritarian tradition

The IOC awarded the 1936 Games to Berlin two years before Hitler came to power in January 1933. Rather than displaying regret, however, IOC leaders subsequently – and vehemently – defended the Nazis’ right to hold the Games. As news emerged of Nazi terror directed against trade unionists, communists, socialists and Jews, the call for a boycott of the Berlin Games grew, especially in the US, Britain, France, Sweden, Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands. A 1934 opinion poll showed that 42 percent of Americans supported an Olympic boycott. Facing a crisis, the US Olympic Committee sent its president, Avery Brundage, to Germany to assess if the Games could be held in accordance with ‘Olympic principles’. In reality, Brundage’s mission was a conscious manoeuvre to derail the boycott campaign, which Brundage blamed on “the Jews and the communists”. During his visit to Germany in September 1934, he met with Jewish athletes in the presence of three senior Nazi party leaders, one in full SS uniform with pistol. The Jewish athletes feared for their lives and dared not utter any criticism of the Nazi regime at this interview. Brundage returned to the US giving the Berlin Games his strong endorsement.Brundage, who later became IOC president (1952-72), was also an admirer of Hitler and an open anti-semite. He cited Main Kampf as his “spiritual inspiration”. His friend, the leading Swedish capitalist Sigfrid Edström, who also later became IOC president (1946-52), was yet another fascist sympathiser. In 1934, as the boycott issue raged, Edström had written to Brundage: “The Nazi opposition to the influence of the Jews can only be understood if you live over in Germany. In some of the more important trades the Jews govern the majority and stop all others from coming in … Many of these Jews are of Polish or Russian origin with minds entirely different from the western mind. An alteration of these conditions is absolutely necessary if Germany should remain a ‘white’ nation.” [Letter from Edström to Brundage, 8 February 1934, from The National Archives of Sweden]After the Berlin Olympics, Edström, then vice-president of the IOC, attended a Nazi party rally in Nuremberg and later declared: “It was one of the greatest shows I have ever seen … He [Hitler] is probably one of the most powerful and strongly supported individuals that the world’s history has ever known. 60 million people I am sure are willing to die for him and do whatever he requests.” Indicating that Berlin was no aberration, the IOC decided one year later to award the 1940 Olympics to Japan. That Olympiad never took place due to the war. The IOC’s decision to promote yet another militaristic and rabidly anti-communist regime, had been taken in the full knowledge of Japan’s atrocities in China, which its armies had occupied in 1931.There was a sizeable layer of industrialists and capitalist politicians internationally who looked favourably upon Germany, Japan and other authoritarian or fascist regimes seeing them as bulwarks against the spread of ‘communism’. Only when the imperialist ambitions of Hitler and the Japanese Emperor clashed with their own, did the capitalist ‘democracies’ resort to ‘anti-Nazi’ rhetoric and eventually war. The parallel with China today, is that a large segment of the capitalists internationally see the current communist-in-name-only regime as their best hope to keep China ‘open’ for global capitalism and to hold down its huge, increasingly restive working class. This is why they enthusiastically support the Chinese dictatorship’s hosting of the Olympics.After the Second World War, both Edström and Brundage used their IOC positions to try to secure the release of convicted Nazi war criminals. Most famously, they campaigned for the release from a Russian prison of Karl Ritter von Halt, who was Germany’s IOC member up until the end of the war, as well as a leading figure in Hitler’s regime. Ritter von Halt was released from prison in 1951 as part of the deal that saw the Soviet Union admitted to the Olympic movement for the first time.Brundage continued to defend right-wing causes throughout his term as IOC president. He was a keen supporter of Senator McCarthy’s anti-communist witch-hunts in the 1950s and criticised president Eisenhower for halting the war in Korea, which Brundage called “a shameful act for all the whites in Asia”. The call for Brundage’s resignation as head of the Olympic movement was one of the demands raised by Tommy Smith and John Carlos in their 1968 protest (they also demanded that Muhammad Ali’s world heavyweight boxing title be restored).In 1980, Juan Antonio Samaranch, arguably the most powerful of IOC presidents, took the helm. He described himself as “100 percent Francoist” – a reference to Spain’s fascist dictator. The official biography of Samaranch, published by the IOC, does not say a word about his long political career – that he was a fascist deputy in the Cortes and then Minister of Sport in Franco’s dictatorship. It was during this period that Samaranch developed strong contacts with Horst Dassler, heir to the Adidas empire, and a key behind-the-scenes figure in the Olympic movement. In the 1960s, Adidas’ distinctive black and white footballs were made by prisoners in Spanish jails, under a contract negotiated with the help of Samaranch. This use of forced prison labour was a prototype – on a much smaller scale – of today’s globalised sweatshop production chain.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Morrisons Pay Insult

This piece first appeared on the Activist a few weeks ago. As a shop worker myself I would urge any member sof USDAW who visit this site to vote for Robbie in the union General Secretary Election that is happening at the moment.

Last week staff at Morrisons were voting over whether to accept a pay deal negotiated by the union. That is if they knew about the ballot at all. Okay so we had a poster in store saying there was a pay ballot, but if you have only started at the company within the last year (like majority of the staff, at least 5% of the staff are replenished each month) and you don’t know that much about unions you probably won’t realise you are of the people who has a vote. Even for someone who is slightly more clued up like myself, I had to wait until the day after to vote as the personnel office where the ballot box is was closed.

A Morrisons worker

The terms of the deal are even harder to find out. A conversation with our union rep led to me finding out that the deal would probably mean an increase of £5 a week in our pay with our wage going up to £6 an hour in February next year. Considering that most workers at Morrisons earn 4p above minimum wage, there perhaps is a sense of at least this is going in the right direction a bit.
Later I found out more about the offer, but not from the union website which I looked at first and found absolutely nothing about the offer. Rather it was from an unofficial staff forum that I finally found out that with the deal pay will go up to £5.86 in October (when the minimum wage goes up to £5.73) and then £6 in February.Whilst this increase means that we will be an extra 20p an hour above the minimum wage in February next year it still means our pay will be very low, far below the European Decency threshold which stands at £8 an hour.
Furthermore, with inflation soaring this increase is likely to be swept away very quickly. Given the £612 million pre-tax profits Morrisons made last year, the surely much more could have been fought for?The lacklustre approach of the union leadership in relation to this is indicative of a great number of other problems Morrisons workers face and the union fails to take action over.
One of the biggest problems is understaffing which means that workers effectively have to do the jobs of two or more people, unsurprisingly this leads to accidents and taking short-cuts with health and safety. My department alone has at least one accident a day if not more!
John Hannett (USDAW General Secretary) gets £100,000 a year salary plus a free Jaguar – I wonder how closely he feels the pains that the members he is supposed to represent have to endure. What we need is a leadership prepared to fight, if they took the pitifully low wage we have to accept then their might be a fight for a minimum wage of £8 for all retail workers. Such a demand is in Robbie Segal’s programme as she stands against Hannett in the General Secreatry elections, which is why I shall be building her campaign in my store.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Review – Comrade Criminal by Stephen Handelman (1994)

This is a useful book written by a western journalist who was based in Russia in the years either side of the collapse of Stalinism. The books main focus is on the spiralling crime that engulfed Russia and the rest of the CIS with the restoration of capitalism.

Handelman begins by tracing two main criminal groups in the Soviet Union. Firstly there were the bureaucrats who engaged in corruption and were subject to regular purges by other bureaucrats eager to maintain their positions. Secondly there was the Vor, the Theives Guild in effect the Russian Mafia to be, who at this time were concentrated in more small scale crime.

But it is the collapse of Stalinism that led to the creation of the ‘Comrade Criminals’ that the book is named after. He uses this to describe the former party and state bureaucrats who used their connections to plunder Russia’s resources and then maintain their position. He also describes how the Vor expanded their influence into smuggling all sorts of items, from people, to stolen raw materials and ancient artefacts. Indeed as Handelman goes on to note there becomes a convergence of the two as time goes on.

Handelman also discusses how investigations into organised crime are both commenced and curtailed as part of the battle between rival bureaucrats. He discusses how this frustration feeded into support for the political right for more draconian measures to tackle crime. Of course, the political right were led by just another set of ex-bureaucrats too, which Handleman picks up on when he discusses how the organised criminals saw themselves as the defenders of law and order.

One thread that runs though Handelman’s book, however, is that capitalist restoration was ‘derailed’ from the course it was supposed to take. If only the West had stepped in or the economic ‘entrepreneurs’ had seen the danger from the former state bureaucrats, he laments. Of course, despite the economic problems of the Soviet Union, it needed a section of the bureaucracy to lead it back to capitalism which had a stake in that capitalist future – hence China’s slow authoritarian march to capitalism and why sections of the Cuban bureaucracy are struggling in that direction given the existence of exiles who wish to stake their claim to such positions. Although his exposition of recent times in the Soviet Union is quite good, historically it is appalling equating Stalin with Lenin for example. It is to these mystic roots that he equates many of the problems, which I think is the fundamental weakness of this book which provides a lot of information about organised crime in the present.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

On Arbitrary Laws and Punishments

Please note, this post was written about two weeks ago but I forgot to publish it then.

Today the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph have reported that the Department of Transport are planning on fining people £70 for parking too far way from the kerb. That was the specific piece of information that got me thinking once more about the raft of penalties, punishments and new laws that have been passed by the current New Labour government. Indeed the current government has made over 1000 new offences in its period of office. Generally the net effect has been to criminalise things that weren’t criminal or weren’t recorded as criminal in the past as well as increasing the penalty for offences.

It is not, however, that something does not need to be done about the problems they aim to tackle. It is a question of what strategy will lead to the eventual reduction and, hopefully, elimination of such actions. A good example is of littering, I doubt there is anyone in favour of littering, yet it happens all the time. So to tackle this we have powers for £75 on the spot fines going up to a possible £2500 fine if taken to magistrates court (by the way this is from sections 87 and 88 of the 1990 Environmental Protection Act – so it’s not just New Labour who are guilty of passing such laws) Indeed, we now have spot fines for an array of things including littering, anti-social behaviour (a very vague category!), shop lifting, begging, swearing and probably plenty of other stuff to boot.

The amount of stupid things that these get given for is outrageous. There are stories of things like a goth been fined £80 for saying that a weapons detecting machine was a “piece of shit that wouldn’t stop anything”. Did you also know that under the 1824 Vagrancy Act beggars can be fined a £1000 (and how are they supposed to pay that?). Indeed, there is a compilation of the ten most ridiculous fines of all time here .

And obviously this hasn’t done all that much about it crime, despite claims that crime as measured by official figures is down (for a debunking of Home Office crime figures see, it is also worth nothing that how much crime is up or down depends on which year you use as a baseline). Indeed, its worth noting that crime was rising according to most of these figures whilst these were operative too and even if they had some impact other factors will play an influence. (ie. we could just be in a ‘natural’ low crime patch).

The other part of this is not just increasing what you can be punished for, but increasing the punishments themselves. Such measures as indeterminate sentences, mandatory minimum sentences and three strikes and you’re out policies create this alongside simply encourage sentencers to be more harsh. Average sentence length is increasing and has been for a while.

Of course the argument goes that the current level of sentencing isn’t having an effect so it needs to be increased. But then that’s because the police simply don’t catch the majority of offenders, the deterrent effect of sentencing is minimal. But if people call for more police it is worth pointing out that the police only manage to solve a tiny proportion of crime at the moment and to punish every single offence would require more police than is financially feasible ever! (and that’s assuming that they would remain at the same level of effectiveness and a whole load of other factors)

Okay so I’ve outlined what I think is problematic. What is the general trend of these things then? Well in my opinion it is one towards arbitraryness and bureaucratism where it produces easily digested ‘tough’ policies for media consumption. It is a much neater headline saying “Prison for all knife carriers” than a more nuanced approach. Furthermore it is completely undemocratic in my mind. It is our criminal justice system, shouldn’t we have a say rather than the back and forth banter between the government and media that seems to create these policies.

I’ve posted before about the fact that so much power over our criminal justice system which affects us on a very local basis is concentrated so high up in the state structures (ie. with the Home Secretary)

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Nid oes bradwr yn y ty hwn (No traitor in this house) - The Great North Wales Quarry Strikes

When people think of centres of working class militancy in Britain, Gwynedd in North Wales would probably not feature at the top of the list. Yet it was the scene for one of the most bitter disputes in the history of working class struggles in Britain, with a series of strikes and lock-outs at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, culminating in a three year long strike as hard fought and vicious as any in working class history.
In the area, the main employment was to be found in slate quarrying and mining – indeed not only was it the area’s major employer, but it during the 19th century it produced about 90% of British slate
To give an example of the conditions that workers had to endure, in Bleanau Ffestiniog in 1875 the average life expectancy of someone who worked in the slate mine was just over 37 years whereas it was just over 67 years for those who didn’t! But quarry mining was quite a skilful occupation, taking many years to learn, a position that gave the men a large say in how they worked in the quarry.

Workers' Organisation

The organisation of the workers engaged in this struggle, the North Wales Quarrymen’s Union, had been established in 1874 and came immediately under attack from the bosses, with workers at one mine after another given the choice between repudiating the union or losing their jobs. This culminated in lock-outs at the two biggest quarries, Dinorwic and Bethesda owned by the landlord-capitalists Assheton-Smith and Lord Penrhyn – one becoming rich off the back of the Lancashire cotton trade and the other off the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The two quarries employed about 2000 workers each (to give an indication of the relative weight, the total membership of the union at their first conference the following year was 7,196). In Dinorwic the lockout lasted five weeks, but the dispute was most fierce at Bethesda where after being threatened the men drew up their own demands and won – seeing an increase in wages and the quarry management being replaced. Boosted by this triumphant emergence, the union won wage increases and decreases in hours over the next few years.However, the union faced its first major test in 1878/9 when an economic downturn affecting quarry production was expected. The union leadership was not made up of workers, but rather mostly other locals who supported the union and were able to help finance it. Their concept of the union was of an organised pressure group, and they were tied to the Liberal party, whose main local figurehead, David Lloyd George was at that time a leader of the radical nationalist group Cymru Fydd (Future Wales) who attempted to unite all Welsh people regardless of class distinctions against English. (After the collapse of this movement, Lloyd George moved into the mainstream of English politics, ending up as Prime Minister in World War I) The version of the union these well-meaning middle class men aspired to was one that was based on ‘strict adherence to the rules of a market economy’. Such strict adherence saw them advocating acceptance of wage cuts expecting that these would be reversed when the short downturn they expected was over. Instead the downturn turned into a depression and the wages were not increased back, a warning to those union professing the greatness of ‘partnership’ today.This union leadership group however, stayed in control of the union for about twenty years after this when several defeats led to a clamouring for quarrymen to be in the leadership of their own union. The first of these was the 1885-86 Dinorwic Lockout where a further management onslaught in the wake of the depression that had hit the industry at the end of the last decade was leading to wage cuts and redundancies, with management locking out the workforce until they accepted the new conditions. Even after trying re-open the quarry several times without one of the locked-out men returning, management still managed to win a victory after the union ran out of funds and had to stop paying lock-out pay , but the defeat left the impression that the leadership had been far from sympathetic, misleading the men into a bad deal.Second was a planned pay rise claim in 1892 across all the Gwynedd quarries of 5s a day. The strike ballot was won 5,781 to 1,534, but the leadership blundered and lost the moment and the men’s confidence in them and support dwindled. But the final straw was the first Penrhyn lock-out in 1896-97. The union lodge here had been one of the main proponents of a united wage claim earlier in the decade, but had been restrained by the leadership.

First Lockout

The actual dispute occurred over the men wanting leave to attend a Gwyl Lafur (Labour Day) demonstration in Bleanau Ffestiniog. After they were refused leave, over 2,500 stayed away from work and were subsequently suspended for two days. After this attack on their conditions (men expected to be able to take the day off whenever it suited them) they drew up demands including this and a wage increase, which was rejected by management with the agreement of Lord Penrhyn. Although the quarry workers agreed to take strike action in March (when the quarry industry would pick up more and alternative employment on farms was available), but management provoked them to strike in November by sacking 74 of the most militant union members. The men’s response was to call a mass meeting of 3000 where they burned pro-Penrhyn newspapers and declared a strike. Funds were a priority after Dinorwic and collections were carried out at other quarries, during public meetings and at concerts. The biggest contributors were trade unions across Britain. Even despite this, over a thousand former workers at the quarry were soon to be found working in other quarries, coal mines, docks and brickworks throughout Wales and North-West England. Like Dinorwic, there were several occasions when management tried to re-open the quarry, and again no workers went back. However, behind the backs of the workers committee, the union leadership negotiated a sell-out deal that effectively meant the de-recognition of the workers committee as the voice of the workers at that quarry.Although the quarry management used this deal to further attack working conditions at the quarry, the main leaders of the quarry workers committee squarely put the blame on the non-worker union leadership and took over the union leadership at a special conference.The union membership at Bethesda was at an all time low, but a ban on collecting dues led to union membership doubling at the quarry. Such an increase in membership gave the union the opportunity to try and claw back some of their working conditions, but a tit-for-tat battle between the union and management led eventually to a court case after several supervisors (newly brought in to dictate to workers what stone they were to cut, previously workers had worked in a manner that reduced waste, but now management wanted speedier production) were assaulted and thrown out of the quarry. When the men marched into Bangor in November 1900 in support of the men on trial, they were suspended for a fortnight.

The Second Lockout

With this incident the second Penrhyn Lockout from 1900-03 began, with a conscious plan of the quarry management to smash the union and reduce the workforce. Penrhyn tried to re-open the quarry in July 1901, which saw a mere 500 return. However, this saw the beginning of the lock-out becoming very bitter, attacks were made against blacklegs (scabs) and they became socially ostracised. So bitter was the divide, in Bethesda today the houses of the scabs are worth less money simply because of this. By June the following year, despite a trickle back to work, only 700 were back and 2000 were still out of work. The dispute however, came to a head when in September 1903 the General Federation of Trade Unions stopped paying strike pay to the men (after the previous problems at Dinorwic they had signed up to a joint fund with other unions), and a mass meeting decided by a small majority to return to work. But Penrhyn was determined not let any men back who were too ‘disloyal’ and four years after the end of the dispute the quarry was only half full.The dispute had however, wrecked the Welsh slate industry. Because most of Penrhyn’s income came from rent from land and property in North Wales, with the quarry as an extra he could afford for it to be relatively idle for all those years. It was not until 1908 that a newly formed ILP branch in Bethesda raised the slogan of the nationalisation of the land that could have been used to unite the tenant farmers around the workers and given the potential to break Penrhyn’s stranglehold. Penrhyn also had the full weight of the state behind him, not only with the original trail but also with the hundreds of police and troops moved into the area, some of whom to escort the scabs to work. Finally one lesson that was made perfectly clear by the strike was to not put the support in radical Liberalism, but a need for an independent voice of the working class – which was reinforced when Keir Hardie spoke to 4000 at a mass meeting in the area.
Looking back on these strikes, the sheer determination and bravery of these workers has to be admired. But this is often unfortunately not enough to win. Bold and far sighted leadership is needed. The quarrymen’s defeat was due to a great extent to the half heartedness of the union leadership.
Today, the quarry workers’ battles are seen by the ‘official’ historians of the labour movement as the last stand of workers in an industry that was doomed to die. On the hundredth anniversary of the final Bethesda strike there were commemoration events with the bigwigs of the major parties in Wales attending.
A much better way of remembering these struggles would be to carry on the fight they begun for a fairer society, where workers have control of their lives, the socialist society that the Socialist Party fights for today.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Left Student Blogging?

This is my contribution which hopefully will be included in the forthcoming Carnival of Socialism on the left and blogging.

So whats so special about students that it is worth blogging about? Well I am one, albeit part-time, so I suppose 'student politics' matters to me, especially when we have an NUS that seems to be tied to the Labour government on most things that matter to students.

Anyway, the thing that bothers me is the lack of representation that these blogs cover. I mean, what have we got a handful of Respect, AWL, Communist Students bloggers - and they usually spend most of the time arguing with each other again and again(of course, this doesn't mean that all these arguements are not important). And we've got a few green student bloggers too I suspect, although the only one I've come across is Aled Dilwyn Fisher, who's blog seems to have gone cold - nwhich is disappointing seeing as he is currently LSE SU General Secretary. And then representing the Socialist Party there's me, Nation of Duncan and AVPS, but we're both postgrads! (Plus AVPS generally doesn't ever, ever blog about student stuff, but he's doinga PhD so its quite peripheral really)

Anyway, the point is that you generally can't find out anything all that much about what students are doing on the ground. I mean, it seems to me that most student bloggers I've come across are from Manchester or Oxford, which is great if you want to know the positions of the various left groups at that University, but not if you want to hear about any actual campaigning that affects ordinary students, although the silence seemed to be broken for a while around the Reclaim the Uni thing.

On this blog, I've chronicled the struggle against a Student Union leadership that was one of the biggest supporters of the NUS governance review. Now given that apart from a small People and Planet group we're the only active political society at this uni, that may be why I don't get bogged down so much in those arguments, but i'd like to think that I'd spend some of the time discussing the day to day stuff too.

Of course, this may just be my own limited knowledge of the student left blog-o-sphere, but I'd like to hear more about eroding the support for the local Student Union bureacracies that prop-up the current NUS leadership than yet another re-hash of the same debates all the time.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

A Brief Look at the History of the POA

This piece is work in progress, but it looks at the history of the POA and how it has changed over time, particularly moving to the left in recent years. I've written more recent things about prisons elsewhere on the blog.

Just like the Police Federation, the Prison Officers Association was created as a result of the defeat of NUPPO – although it was in the form of a representative board until 1939 when the POA was formally recognised.
The first coming to prominence of the POA was in the 1970’s. This was in the aftermath of several high profile escapes from prison in the 60’s which led to the imposition of a security culture. The most important part of this was the creation of long-term dispersal prisons for the highest security classification of prisoners.
This led to the creation of the Prisoners Rights Organisation (PROP – Preservation of the Rights of Prisoners) being created by ex-long term prisoners on the outside and finding considerable support from long term prisoners still inside. PROP organised and at least inspired several prisoners strikes, including a national one. Despite PROP’s support only being about 25% or less of the whole prison population it eventually won concessions after riots eventually broke out in some prisons – with violence perpetrated by both prisoners and prison officers.
There is no question that these protests influenced the POA – however, initially this was in the direction of demanding a tougher prison regime. Given the understaffing and overstretching of the prison estate – with overcrowding common as it is now – prison officers were frustrated with the Home Office and even more frustrated when prisoners started disobeying them too.
But the POA had a weapon in its hands, the prison system effectively relied on compulsory overtime. By using what effectively was a work-to-rule policy, local POA branches could extract concessions out of prison management, but this was often at the expense of prisoners themselves. Needless to say the POA and PROP were very hostile to each other.
However, in the aftermath of the concessions in the prison regime granted by the Home Office, PROP withered away. The POA discovered a new tactic too. In a dispute over payments for loss of breakfast breaks, the local branch at HMP Walton refused to accept prisoners over the Certified Normal Accomodation (CNA) level. This was one of the tactics used by prison officers to deal with rising overcrowding in prisons in the 90’s (which of course means staff are stretched even further).
In 1993, the POA balloted over action short of strike in response to crowded prisons whilst suffering from staff shortages. However, the then Home Secretary, Michael Howard took out an injunction against the POA taking industrial action on the basis that whilst working they had the status of a police constable. The right to strike was re-instated by New Labour (but not in private prisons or in Northern Ireland) after the POA signed up to a voluntary no-strike agreement, but after the POA decided to leave the agreement and take unofficial strike action in August 2007 have seen legislation fairly quickly passed to ban strike action again.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Top 100 Books Meme

This meme seems to be about a bit at the moment as seeing as i've only just got back from holiday, I won't do a proper post til tomorrow. Anyway the blurb and stuff is below. As you can see I've read more than 6 (I don't think it's that hard really, my little brother has read more than 6 too - okay, quite a few are more aimed at children though) I have to say though - a lot of these wouldn't be in my top 100 books

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed.
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you love.
4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated. (LWC - I've starred them at the end instead)
5) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve only read 6 and force books upon them

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott ***
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres ***
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell ***
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling

25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl

75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer ***
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie