IS RUSSELL BRAND RIGHT? DO WE NEED A REVOLUTION?

by Jack Brindelli.

Naïve. Egotistic. Hypocritical. Russell Brand has been labelled many things since his infamous interview with Jeremy Paxman one year ago – by detractors on the ‘left’ and ‘right’ of the established political spectrum. Predominantly the key focus of the ‘discussion’ on Brand has been guided, not so subtly, toward scrutinising a single assertion in that initial interview (despite Brand offering a plethora of other views in that interview and since – to the extent he wrote a book); the assertion that voting has become irrelevant to the bulk of society, as the mainstream political parties lurch uniformly rightward.

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A GREEN RE-INVIGORATION OF WELFARE IN BRITAIN: VIEWS OF NORWICH NORTH CANDIDATE ADRIAN HOLMES #1

by Adrian Holmes, Green Party Norwich North candidate.

Following the economic slump in 2009, the incoming coalition government announced an austerity program to tackle the budget deficit. Since 2010 the main thrust of these austerity measures has been to cut public spending and, in particular, to reduce the welfare budget. People on benefits including the disabled and those with chronic illness, are being targeted by the government in an attempt to get them into work and off the benefits system.

The Work Capability assessment (WCA) was introduced by the last Labour government, creating a new bureaucracy to test the right of welfare recipients to continue receiving benefits. The assessments, carried out by private contractors, have placed stress on people with disabilities to justify their right to help. The cost in wasted resources in holding the assessors to account is also high; with an increasing number of appeals being found against the companies used to carry out the assessment.

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GRASSROOTS UNIONS: NORWICH BARTENDERS’ AND HOSPITALITY UNION

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by Ella Gilbert and Francis Bell

Bartenders, waiters, baristas and other hospitality workers have one thing above all else in common: we are over-worked, under-paid and misrepresented. We are both bartenders, and we deal with drunken idiots, entitled twats, and aggressive yobs on a daily basis. Woman bartenders also have to deal with unwanted sexual advances and harassment, comments about our clothing choice, and implicit assertions about who we are and what we’re doing there. Despite all of this, we value our work, and we want to do it well – for those that actually appreciate what we’re doing, and for those that are well-behaved and fun to spend time with.

All of these things were important at the inception of the Norwich Bartenders’ and Hospitality Union. Norwich has a pub for every night of the year, as well as its fair share of cafés, restaurants, hotels and other service industry employers. We are committed to a multi-faceted approach to the hospitality industry: we want to improve our members’ skills and create a pool of people who are committed to, and good at, their jobs. We also want to challenge the daily issues faced by workers in the sector – discrimination, low pay, difficult customers, demanding management and limited employment rights. On top of that, we want to educate people in the sector on their rights and represent them in any employment disputes or grievances that arise with their employers. In that regard, we’re committed to forming positive relationships with management, rather than antagonising them, and demonstrating that the NBHU is a collection of workers who really care, and are the kind of employees you want, and need, to run a business in Norwich.

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STANDING UP TO UKIP IN YARMOUTH

by Nick O’Brien

We are Norwich is a broad anti-racist coalition formed to resist the visit of the English Defence League to Norwich in November 2011. We were supported back then actively by over twenty different local trade union branches, religious organisations, and community groups.  We also received support from the Union of UEA Students.  Since then we have kept active, holding a carnival in support of immigration in the centre of Norwich, and putting on cultural evenings with musicians and poets such as Hollie McNish.

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NORWICH CLAIMANTS UNION

by Norwich Claimants Union (NCU)

The Norwich Claimants Union represents the coming together of claimants, workers, union representatives and city councillors to oppose and intervene in government policy regarding the deliberate and calculated erosion of the welfare state. To achieve this, the government supported by the mainstream has demonised claimants. They have become the scapegoat for our failing economy and societal degradation.

Since the recession of 2008 this campaign against claimants has gathered momentum. However it is worth remembering that the recession, bank bailouts and austerity programs was the result of the miss selling of financial products, namely derivatives. The effect was to transfer wealth away from our financial system and into the hands of a relatively small number of ruling capitalist elite.Continue Reading

CAN BUSINESS BE RADICAL?

by Matilda Carter.

Business seems to be the very opposite of a radical political strategy. Businesses are, after all, the primary unit of the way capitalists view the world and are, by virtue of their definition, intrinsically linked into the capitalist system. When left-wing radicals talk about how goods and services would be distributed in a post-capitalist world, they focus on need rather than profit, and social good rather than endless innovation. In the long-term, businesses as we know them are terrible for our livelihoods, our understanding of each other as people and for the majority of the human race. However, given the distinction between short-term and long-term strategies I laid out in my last article, the question remains: can business be part of a short-term radical political movement?Continue Reading

LIVING WAGE: ‘WHAT’S GOING ON?’

by Mark Hughes

‘What’s going on’? Was a questioned asked by Marvin Gaye in 1971, when his same titled album was released. It was a question that Gaye raised in his own mind after coming to the conclusion that American society after the Vietnam war had descended into a catalogue of civil right abuses, injustice, and inequality.

In today’s Britain it will not be surprising if the same rhetorical question as once asked by Gaye is still not prevalent amongst the workers of Gt Britain. Standing dazed and blinking as they witness a wave of attacks upon their living standards, pension rights, housing costs, and a whole raft of government measures designed to remove the security of the welfare state. The working people of Gt Britain cannot be blamed for asking the same question, ‘what is going on’?Continue Reading

IMAGINING THE POOR: NOTES ON POVERTY AND WELFARE

by Steffan Smith

Who are the poor? Why are they poor? And what keeps them so? These three simple questions are central to the way in which we as a society approach the welfare needs of our poorest people.

To sift society’s answers, of which there are many variants, quickly reveals that there are two major and contradictory ways of understanding the source of poverty. The first way of thinking puts the individual at the centre of the picture, seeing affluence and destitution as straightforwardly reflective of individual worth; this is a central tenet of the right wing worldview. By contrast, the second way sees the individual as a small part of a larger system that they cannot dictate, pawns of varying levels of power cutting a path within set bounds; this is fundamental to the left wing worldview.Continue Reading

WHY I DIDN’T SHAKE EDWARD ACTON’S HAND

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by Ella Gilbert

Originally published at Concrete.

The grad season is upon us: the time for sweaty palms, nervous, tipsy grins and synthetic wizard robes. Thousands of third year students graduated this week amidst cheers and storms of applause celebrating three years of (mostly) hard graft. Like the rest, I was pleased that it was all over and happy that I could finally get my hands on a tangible recognition of all that work. There was one small hurdle though: the small matter of a certain pompous ceremony. I’m not sure there are many people who relish standing in a billowing Harry Potter gown in front of 800 people, but looking like a prat was lower on my agenda than it might otherwise have been. Sure, I was worried that I might stack it up the stairs or walk off the stage by the wrong exit, but more than anything I was rehearsing what I was going to say to the man I would have to refuse to shake hands with before collecting my certificate. Unfortunately for me, my ceremony was presided over by Edward Acton, the outgoing Vice Chancellor of UEA who will be replaced by David Richardson this coming September. In the run-up to this day, I’d gladly, and perhaps misguidedly, trilled that I would refuse to shake the hand of a man who had overseen such a shocking and deplorable track record of management during the course of my university career. Now, I had to stick to my guns and actually do it.

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NORFOLK PEOPLE’S ASSEMBLY SUPPORTS THE 10TH JULY STRIKE

by Dan Swain

Norfolk People’s Assembly will join hundreds of others at a march and rally in support of the July 10th strikes for fair pay in the public sector. Nearly 1.5 million workers across the country will be on strike across 8 different trade unions. In Norwich, workers and supporters will meet at 12 noon in Chapelfield Gardens for a mass march and rally. People’s Assembly supporters will also be visiting picket lines across Norwich, beginning with the Unison picket outside the City Library.

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