Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Callout to Tenants and Tenant Networks

The following is a repost from the Combat the Bedroom Tax blog:

The Bedroom Tax affects nearly 700,000 people in the UK. From the 1st of April 2013, tenants of housing associations & social landlords will be hit by a possible 25% cut in their housing benefit if they under-occupy their home. This means: 1 spare room will see a 14% reduction in housing benefit; 2 spare rooms will see a 25% reduction in housing benefit. Many tenants will be expected to uproot their families, move away from their communities, their support networks and downsize to properties that simply do not exist; those who decide to stay will be constantly battling to make up the shortfall in rent. This should not be a question of move or stay; it should be about refusing to pay the tax full stop.

Yet, state and landlord ultimatums of ‘stay & pay’ or ‘move’ have disempowered tenants and landed the blame of a fictitious housing crisis at their doorsteps. Housing Associations (HAs) wasted time lobbying a political men’s club immersed in escalating the divide between the rich and the poor. Instead of flatly rejecting the Bedroom Tax in defence of tenants, HAs petitioned those in power to be ‘reasonable’ — a petition that smacked of complicity. That complicity continues as HAs now prepare to implement and collect the Bedroom Tax for their own ends and the government's.

Social Housing is being privatised; it’s written all over the faces of the ministers and chief executives who in the same turn ‘console’ tenants who are self-evicting or who will eventually be evicted. This is nothing other than contempt for tenants and we, as tenants, must make a stand against this contemptible tax and its architects.

We argue that a stand now against the Bedroom Tax, based on solidarity and direct action, will put down roots of resistance to allow us to better defend ourselves against a broader attack that extends well beyond 2013. Refusing to pay is a big step for tenants to take, but by standing together we will be stronger and can support each other. If we do nothing now, the repercussions of the Bedroom Tax will cause greater hardship & increased evictions in the run-up to the implementation of Universal Credit.

If you're combating the bedroom tax, then let us know. Working together makes us stronger.

combatbedroomtax@gmail.com

Friday, January 18, 2013

Documents Prove Liverpool Council Has Money To Spend

Council is squirrelling away tens of millions "surplus" per year (click to enlarge)
When activists from Liverpool Against The Cuts staged an occupation in the council chamber this afternoon, they released a statement rejecting "the idea that ‘there is no money’." Little did they know, documents found on tables in that room seem to prove that Liverpool council's claims that its hands are tied are nothing more than lies.

This fiction is a central part of Mayor Joe Anderson's Labour council's strategy for passing the buck - it was a key part of the agenda at today's "fair austerity" conference which Anderson held at the Convention Centre by the docks. Indeed, Kensington and Fairfield councillor Louise Baldock reacted to the sit-in by telling conflicted members of a Merseyside Labour Facebook group that:
"It [money] isn't there in the coffers to be spent. They [central government] hold the purse strings. It is not like a contract that can be negotiated. It is simply a sum of money sent to an authority to enable it to do its work. If the Government decides to send less money to an authority - or hugely less in Liverpool's case - there is nothing to be done. You can make a fuss - hence our Mayor calling a summit today with other affected cities and bishops etc, to try to embarass [sic] the government into changing its mind. That is the only kind of action available to us. So we have to work out how to cut our much smaller cake. We can demand more cake but they dont have to listen. There is no opportunity to "say no" etc."
Yet the documents show that in December 2011, the Labour executive's Finance Director Peter Timmins proposed:
"To change the Annual Investment Strategy within the Treasury Strategy 2011/2012, so that the Council can invest more of its cash surpluses [emphasis added] in Government supported banks, to improve its income and lessen its risk exposure."
He went on to recommend:
"That the Investment Limits within the Treasury Strategy 2011/12 be changed from £20 million to £40 million for both Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland Group."
In other words, Liverpool Council had at least £80 million to play with in 2012, and decided to put it in the bank rather than use it to either shore up council services or reduce council tax rates. This appears to be in addition to the reserves which councils are legally required to keep for a national emergency. For people facing huge cuts in living standards, life in 2013 is feeling like just such a national emergency. In England alone, councils hold £12.9 billion in reserves.

The axe hangs over school milk and teen pregnancy services (click to enlarge)
To add insult to injury, another document strewn on one of the benches reveals that amongst many other things, the council has been considering stopping teen pregnancy services, school uniform grants and milk provision for 5-7 year olds entirely. Though the red colouring may mean that these services have been saved for now, the total cuts proposed for 2012/13 amount to 'only' £46 million - far less than the "surplus" for the year which was put in the coffers of Lloyds and RBS. Indeed the total of all the cuts proposed over a three year period is around £200 million - less than three years of "surplus" by 2011/12 standards.

Whether the money comes from the council's "surplus", their reserves, from central government or directly from the pockets of banksters in the City of London, Liverpool Against The Cuts demand that the council do not implement the cuts. If they choose to, they can expect further resistance. We appeal to anti-cuts groups and affected workers around the country to take similar action.

What do you think about these documents? They are unclear - can you help translate bureaucrat-speak?

Liverpool Against The Cuts Occupy Town Hall Chamber

Liverpool Against The Cuts are currently occupying the town hall, to make it – if only for a short time – ‘The People’s Hall’.

The politicians are supposed to represent the people, but instead they represent the interests of the rich. By taking over what’s supposed to be our space, we’re declaring our intent to take back power in our communities.

Mayor Joe Anderson’s “fair austerity” conference - underway now - has tried to draw attention to a perceived disparity of funding for local authorities from different areas of the country.

Liverpool Against The Cuts doesn’t believe that the answer to the economic crisis is the misleading call for equality of sacrifice. Such a focus avoids the real cause behind the crisis - the actions of the super-rich - and avoids the real alternative – taking resources from those same super-rich. We therefore reject the idea that ‘there is no money’.

Liverpool Against The Cuts calls for all anti-cuts groups, service users and affected workers to unite and take action to prevent the implementation of these savage cuts, and to demand that national government provides the resources to underwrite all local services and jobs across the country.

We must highlight the role of the banks in the economic destruction, and make clear that we are not prepared to make sacrifices in order to bail out the super-rich who triggered the crisis through their greed and corruption in the first place.

DON’T TAKE THE CUTS LYING DOWN! IF WE UNITE AND FIGHT WE CAN WIN!

•       Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/247104041983404/
•       Twitter: @Lpoolanticuts
•       Email: Liverpoolagainstthecuts@gmail.com
•       Telephone: 07785265298

Liverpool Against The Cuts Protesting Mayor's "Fair Austerity" Conference

Mayor Joe Anderson’s “fair austerity” conference - underway now - has tried to draw attention to a perceived disparity of funding for local authorities from different areas of the country.

Liverpool Against The Cuts doesn’t believe that the answer to the economic crisis is the misleading call for equality of sacrifice. Such a focus avoids the real cause behind the crisis - the actions of the super-rich - and avoids the real alternative – taking resources from those same super-rich. We therefore reject the idea that ‘there is no money’.

Liverpool Against The Cuts calls for all anti-cuts groups, service users and affected workers to unite and take action to prevent the implementation of these savage cuts, and to demand that national government provides the resources to underwrite all local services and jobs across the country.

We must highlight the role of the banks in the economic destruction, and make clear that we are not prepared to make sacrifices in order to bail out the super-rich who triggered the crisis through their greed and corruption in the first place.

DON’T TAKE THE CUTS LYING DOWN! IF WE UNITE AND FIGHT WE CAN WIN!

•       Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/247104041983404/
•       Twitter: @Lpoolanticuts
•       Email: Liverpoolagainstthecuts@gmail.com
•       Telephone: 07785265298

Monday, January 14, 2013

Les Miserables (12A)

"Beyond the barricade, is there a world you long to see?"
Based on a novel by Victor Hugo
Directed by Tom Hooper 
Score by Claude-Michel Schoenberg and Alain Boublil
On general release from 11th January 2013

Okay, I'm reviewing this having already seen it twice, because once wasn't good enough. I've also read the novel three times, seen the musical, got the DVD of the musical, and heard its soundtrack on umpteen occasions. I'm quite the fan. And why? Because it has struggle, philosophy, all the different kinds of love, and barricades...what more does a story need?

It's impossible to describe all the plots and subplots here, but this epic tale is centred on the life of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), who is just finishing two decades inside for stealing bread when first we meet him. Several years later, having got religious and got rich, he is a town mayor and owner of a small factory. There he employs Fantine (Anne Hathaway), but when it is revealed that she has a secret child, the foreman dismisses her.

"The tigers come at night" for Fantine (Hathaway)
When Fantine dies of consumption shortly afterwards, Valjean vows to take care of her daughter (Isabelle Allen, later Amanda Seyfried). Through the years, Valjean and his charge are relentlessly pursued by Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), because the former broke the terms of his parole. All the characters meet their fate on those barricades, as a group of young idealists attempt to overturn all the economic and political injustice with an insurrection.

There are necessarily some huge differences of emphasis between the stage and film versions. The singing quality isn't quite there - particularly from Crowe - but of course it's far more about acting, and the turmoil of competing emotions and thoughts within each character. Hooper demonstrated he was particularly adept at capturing this in The King's Speech - indeed it was this aspect which made the thing bearable. Here this capacity is brought out in far more intriguing characters, and in the service of an infinitely more worthy narrative.

Unless you're rich enough to be well above the fray, you are likely to find yourself identifying with at least one of the protagonists. From that point onwards it is an emotional whirlwind, which concludes by celebrating all that is best within each of us, and sending its audience out with a profound hope for the possibility of a better world. Now isn't that better than the embarrassment of an aristocrat?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Angry Liverpool Bedroom Tax Meeting Vows 'Can't Pay, Won't Pay'

Around one hundred people packed the large meeting room at Liverpool's Black-E almost to capacity on Saturday, as they gathered to discuss the impact that the so-called 'Bedroom Tax' will have on people in the area, and discuss the potential for resistance.

The mood at the meeting - which was organised by the Liverpool Claimant Network - was one of militancy and determination. The majority were from outside 'the usual suspects' left circles, and this is clearly an issue which has the potential to mobilise a lot of working class people over the coming months. There was a sense that for many, standing up and fighting for their livelihoods is now seen as the easiest and most realistic option.

Things kicked off with a presentation from one of the main organisers, who gave a brief introduction to what the tax will mean. As the Solidarity Federation report summarised:
"As of April 1st this year, housing association tenants who have a spare room will be faced with a reduction in their housing benefit of between £40 and £80 a month (a reduction of up to 25%) as part of the government’s welfare reform plans. In Liverpool alone, 12,000 tenants will be affected. Nationally, the figure is around 660,000. Meanwhile, the Empty Homes Agency says there are 725,000 homes lying empty across the country, enough to house 1.8 million people."
The huge availability of 'spare' housing stock blows a massive hole in the government's claim that the measures are necessary to ensure multi-bedroomed residences are there for those who need them. As for the 'no money' argument, this should be rejected on the basis that it was bankers not working class who triggered the economic crisis - and were bailed out afterwards. Besides, if the proposals floated yesterday come to fruition, the enforcement of the tax will cost the government far more than they 'save' through making reduced benefits payments.

In the open discussion part of the afternoon, it was broadly agreed that 'solidarity networks' will be set up based on locality within the city, with all networks joining up through a central 'hub'. People will go into their communities to rally support over the coming weeks, and direct action will be taken in the run-up to April, and as the powers that be try to wring out every penny from the working class.

Comparisons were raised between the Bedroom Tax and the largely successful resistance to the Irish Household Charge. The Kirkby rent strike of 1972 was also recalled. But perhaps most iconic is the local 'can't pay, won't pay' direct action campaigns which made the Poll Tax unworkable towards the end of the Thatcher regime.

Though the end of the meeting was necessarily chaotic, I left with the distinct impression that the grapes of wrath are growing heavy for the vintage, and 2013 could be an extremely difficult year for the coalition government.

The Combat the Bedroom Tax on Merseyside Facebook group can be found here. The email list is contactable at combatbedroomtax@gmail.com. A generic Bedroom Tax leaflet will be made available and can be collected from News From Nowhere bookshop, 96 Bold St in Liverpool, from next week.

Friday, January 11, 2013

2012 in Music - Disappointment and Promise

2012 came and went, and I can't say there was much of an improvement in the quality of music released. In fact my two paragraph description of the processes underway in 2011 will more or less serve to cover last year too. Hoping for a radical musical upsurge in 2013, to go with a political one.

1. Panopticon - Kentucky
Tonight, the dis-harmonic symphony of the cicadas plague my ears/Drifting off to the mind numbing hum of grinding gears/Families starving in the eerie silence of the hills/Lie exposed to the elements so fierce/Hold out just one more day…say the same tomorrow…say the same tomorrow
Highlights: Bodies Under The Falls, Black Soot and Red Blood, Killing The Giants As They Sleep

One man band and absolute phenomenon Austin Lunn here invokes the a decades-old coal mine struggle in his native Kentucky, combining bluegrass with none-more-black metal, to devastating effect. Combining the past and the current (e.g. there are Occupy audio samples), he seeks to prepare a new generation for the tumultuous battles to come in the class war. Album of the year, and easily album of the decade so far.

2. Moonspell - Alpha Noir/Omega White
I am thinking vultures ripping the flesh, smashing the bone/I am thinking hailstones shot to the head, making the giant fall
Highlights: Grand Stand, Opera Carne, Whiteomega

A stunning surprise from a band who have clearly reinvented themselves in response to the global situation. More known for their focus on the ‘supernatural’, Fernando Ribeiro has brought them back down to the realities of life to create a work that celebrates the fighting, struggling, desiring animal spirit in us all.

3. Corrosion Of Conformity - Corrosion Of Conformity
That's right, the moneychangers/Thrown out of the temple, you know it didn't last a day/Now returned in the clothes of the pious, back to their old ways
Highlights: Psychic Vampires, The Moneychangers, Time of Trials

This is Corrosion of Conformity alright, but it's a lineup which hadn't recorded together since Animosity came out in 1985, when I was four. Grizzled veterans they may well be, but they all still know how to craft great deep southern rock, and the lyrical themes show they are far more in touch with everyday concerns than almost all of the kids promoted by the labels.

4. Richard Hawley - Standing at the Sky’s Edge
She was standing at the sky's edge/And out there, who knows what she's thinking?/She was sliding down the sky's razors edge/And watched her life slowly sinking away, away, away
Highlights: Standing at the Sky’s Edge, Don’t Stare at the Sun, The Wood Collier’s Grave

Another one who has made a real change - from the lonely melancholia of working class towns to savage but poetic anger at the elite and invitations to gather ye rosebuds while ye may. I love his others, but this is far and away his best stuff yet, and well worth all the praise it has received.

5. Mark Lanegan Band - Blues Funeral
They’re singing, they’re singing/Away up on the hill/They’re building, they’re building/A mystical union, beautiful and still/But down here in the dirt they’ll say it doesn’t hurt
Highlights: Bleeding Muddy Water, Ode to Sad Disco, Phantasmagoria Blues

Perhaps the best work Lanegan has ever done. It’s blues of course - the album and song titles testify to that. But blues brought up to date in amazingly experimental new ways, and his voice has never sounded more burdened and sonorous.

6. Fear Factory - The Industrialist
Automatic slaves kill the will to live/Losing hope to save yourself/Siphoning the soul from humanity/Suffering and apathy/All of this must end
Highlights: Recharger, God Eater, Dissassemble

Amazing that every successive FF release sounds more urgently ‘now’ than the last, amazing that they continue to innovate, and amazing that Burton still gives a damn after all these years. New themes are needed though - they’ve done machines to beyond death.

7. The Coup - Sorry To Bother You
They got the TV, we got the truth/They own the judges and we got the proof/We got hella people, they got helicopters/They got the bombs and we got the guillotine
Highlights: The Guillotine, Violet, You Are Not A Riot (An RSVP From David Siquiros to Andy Warhol)

It’s been a while since Boots Riley last came at us with The Coup - he’s been busy with Street Sweeper Social Club and the everyday grind of being an Oakland revolutionary. This is the most experimental thing they’ve done, and a joy, never mind a bother.

8. Muse - The 2nd Law
You don't have long/I am on to you/The time, it has come to destroy/Your supremacy
Highlights: Animals, Explorers, Supremacy
So it doesn’t quite hit the heights of The Resistance, and they still somehow manage to sound like Queen even when they’re doing dubstep, but they try to innovate and keep it real despite their millions goddamnit. They sure as hell do that much.

9. Killing Joke - MMXII
And did we overcome the shadow - confront the inner rage?/Will all our deeds be sung of - remembered with loving praise?/And did we fight with courage and make the world a better place?/And will we till the soil and plant the forest for the human race?
Highlights: Glitch, In Cythera, Primobile

The world didn’t end in 2012, but this album is chock full of ways it can end and perhaps is already ending. This world anyway. As always with Killing Joke, there’s still time for hope, struggle, and camaraderie.  

10. Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas
He will speak these words of wisdom/Like a sage, a man of vision/Though he knows he's really nothing/But the brief elaboration of a tune
Highlights: Anyhow, Different Sides, Lullaby

Listening to Leonard Cohen croon is like having your emotions eloquently explained to you by someone who has seen and done it all, and his vocals sound deeper and richer than ever. He was there for me many a time through 2012, and there should be more grandparent music!

What I listened to most in 2012...
11. Kreator - Phantom Antichrist
Just when I think Kreator can’t still have yet another quality CD in them, they surprise me. They are still eighties thrash at heart, but have evolved with every album, and Mille Petrozza has managed to root his lyrics in the real world for a generation now. This is how Metallica and Slayer ‘could have’ been in 2012.
12. Sabbath Assembly - Ye Are Gods
Christianity and New Age hippydom shouldn’t be a good combination for me. But here, it really is. Clearly the Old Age cannot continue, and this is an exciting invocation of a new world yet to be born. If William Blake were alive today and writing prog-folk-metal...
13. Metric - Synthetica
Every Metric record seems to take the pulse of a desolate global society, yet blatantly yearn for something much better. It is an amazing talent to both curse the darkness and light a candle in this way.
14. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - Lawless
A sparkling and surprising return to form for these veterans. Full of vivid if dreary feeling, it begins with a great prose piece about unexpected love. A beautiful countrified blues soundtrack to one of the year's best films.
15. Tindersticks - The Something Rain
A sparkling and surprising return to form for these veterans. Full of vivid if dreary feeling, it begins with a great prose piece about unexpected love.
16. Testament - The Dark Roots Of Earth
Sparkling, innovative and fiercely political thrash from a band that have been around forever, but sound different with every release.
17. Rome - Hell Money
Yet another excellent piece of martial folk from this prolific revolutionary poet.
18. Aesop Rock - Skelethon
Trying to understand Aesop Rock is like trying to catch hold of a Big Bang-type explosion of poetry. It can’t be done, but who fucking cares when it sounds this good?
19. Dead Can Dance - Anastasis
A little light on the (as ever, brilliantly poetic) lyrics, but this is the sweeping, lush sound that rewards fans for their generation-long wait.
20. Black Magician - Nature Is The Devil’s Church
An excellent debut from an intriguing Liverpool band who show great promise. Especially with that keyboardist, cos what he contributes sets them apart from all the other Cathedral wannabes. Oops!

And the rest...


Antimatter - Fear Of A Unique Identity
Serj Tankian - Harakiri
Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction
Lupe Fiasco - Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album
Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud
My Dying Bride - A Map Of All Our Failures
Soulfly - Enslaved
The King Blues - Long Live The Struggle
Dinosaur Jnr - I Bet On Sky
Ulver - Childhood's End
Yosh - Fled The Flock
Enslaved - Riitiir
The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet
Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion
Yoshi Riot - From Russia With Love
Swans - The Seer
Napalm Death - Utilitarian
Peter Dolving - Thieves and Liars
Rolo Tomassi - Astraea
Laibach - Iron Sky
Dirty Three - Toward The Low Sun
Tiamat - The Scarred People
Katatonia - Dead End Kings
I Like Trains - The Shallows
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Americana
Garbage - Not Your Kind Of People
Anathema - Weather Systems
Saint Vitus - Lillie: F-65
Soundgarden - King Animal
Deftones - Koi No Yokan
Sherman Austin - Gunz Up
Skunk Anansie - Black Traffic
Clinic - Free Reign
Cradle Of Filth - Midnight In The Labyrinth
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - Lost Songs
Willy Mason - Carry On
Abandoned Pools - Sublime Currency
Stone Sour - House of Gold and Bones - Part 1
Dead Prez - Information Age
Candlemass - Psalms For The Dead
Graham Coxon - A + E
Green Day - ¡Uno!/¡Dos!/ ¡Tre!
Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill
The Hives - Lex Hives
Paradise Lost -  Tragic Idol
Ministry - Relapse
Cradle Of Filth - The Manticore & Other Horrors
Marilyn Manson - Born Villain

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Non-Stop Inertia

Ivor Southwood

I hope Ivor Southwood doesn't take me the wrong way when I say that even though Non-Stop Inertia is brilliantly written, I don't quite see what the point of it is. Certainly, over the space of a hundred pages he makes a strong case for saying that life amongst the ultra-casualised 'precariat' workforce is a living nightmare. But just who is that message aimed at? And what can anyone do about it?

As he takes us from bleak "non-place" to job centre and back again, this is very much Ivor's story, and he very much knows of what he speaks. He also invests it with the passion of something like catharsis, combined with philosophical insights by way of Marx, Habermas, the sociologist Stuart Hall, and definitely not Alain de Botton.

All in all then, a clearer picture of the profound alienation facing the new breed of precarious worker could not be asked for - we know the social causes, we know the day to day routines (or lack thereof), and we know the intellectual descriptions.

But there's something missing here. If you know this life for yourself, you might nod and raise a for once genuine smile every now and then, but overall the effect is profoundly depressing, and that's something you definitely don't need. If everything about this way of living is new to you - perhaps you are in a steady 'middle class' or relatively safe public sector job to the extent that there is such a thing in 2013 - then it's all very interesting but...so what? What exactly are you supposed to do with this information? You might as well have read a novel.

The crunch comes in the final section ('Ways Out'). Despite the title, Southwood can't offer one. That's not his fault - everything about this existence is deliberately designed to preclude any way out. Even the marginal utility of unionisation is pretty much out, unless you are going to join a syndicalist organisation anyway. Southwood offers the example of one de facto overtime strike he took part in:
"On one occasion a particularly stupid management decision meant that part of this overtime was set aside for us to perform menial tasks for the senior staff. We were indignant at this, and in response a few of us agreed to decline that hour’s “optional” overtime on the day before, once this work had already been factored into the schedule. By declining this offer at short notice we made a collective statement which we had no means of articulating in formal terms, and which we therefore had no obligation to explain (although pressure was put on some of us to do so); we just happened to each decide to take an hour off on the same day."
All well and good. But throughout the rest of Non-Stop Inertia, Southwood has been hammering home that - such is the individualistic, dog-eat-dog nature of temping - 'deep acting' had been constantly required not to betray even the slightest hint of discontent, lest a bad reference result. Surely this would have happened to the strikers, and scattered to the career winds they would have had no chance of further resistance.

I don't wish this review itself to be pessimistic, and I believe it must be possible to organise the precariat. But likely it will be near enough impossible til large sections of the more regular workforce have provided a lead. In the meantime, Southwood finds himself arguing for individuals to adopt "camp" gestures - another potential bringer of bad reference if bosses cottoned on.

There are no easy answers, so I can't blame Southwood for not providing some. That said, I found the read a thoroughly dispiriting one.

Friday, January 04, 2013

"Tory Scum" Cameron Crashes and Burns in Liverpool

The scene inside the kettle just before Cameron arrived
Tory cutmeister David Cameron paid an Afghanistan-style 'surprise' flying visit to Liverpool yesterday for a conference with Liverpool's 'rebellious' mayor Joe Anderson. Despite giving us only four hours' notice, he faced opposition from around one hundred activists, and was only able to go on his nasty way thanks to assistance from the police. To cap it all, a demonstrator was arrested after being hit by a limo in the swinish PM's motorcade.

The meeting appeared to make a vile political sense for both leaders. For £66,000 per year Anderson, it was the perfect opportunity to continue his pathetic attempt at shifting the blame for the massive cuts he's implementing, while showcasing Liverpool as a 'business-friendly' (i.e. highly exploitative) city. For Cameron, it was a chance to publicly rebuke the mayor for his anti-cuts pose, whilst pretending the economy is on the up amidst modern-looking surroundings. In reality, both figures offer exactly the same poison from slightly different bottles.

But such is the seething hatred held for Tories throughout most of Merseyside that Cameron's visit was kept top secret until just four hours before it took place, when it was leaked by a Public and Commercial Services union member. From there, word spread like wildfire over texts, Facebook and Twitter. By the 15:00 arrival time floated in the local media, around one hundred activists had assembled outside the Museum of Liverpool front entrance next to the Pier Head.

At this point, it became obvious that cops were forming a cordon, with the intention of hemming us in against the museum wall. Several demonstrators took the hint and broke through before the line had stabilised, moving closer to the road which Cameron's car would have to use. For half an hour, something of a stand-off (or sit-down in the case of one person) ensued, with the police apparently under orders to clear the area near the road, but avoid arrests (and therefore negative publicity for Cameron and Anderson). Eventually, this hardcore were threatened with arrest under Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986, and retreated, with the exception of one man who was arrested. Cameron's vehicle swept to the back entrance moments later, and those cordoned were reduced to a maximum of five seconds booing at a blur. Nevertheless, the politicians had been denied the "money shot" handshake photo-op that Liverpool Echo journalists had been overheard salivating over.

Cops announcing draconian restrictions on freedom of assembly
But while the large majority of the crowd went home at that point, it wasn't even nearly enough for a contingent of around thirty. Some swept through partially-blocked museum doors to get to the back - missing Cameron's entourage by a whisker. Others congregated along the promenade, and aimed to get close to the back door the PM had sneaked through. Cops quickly reorganised their forces to that side, and so bewildered tourists and cyclists were treated to the sight of dozens being violently pushed down a path more often associated with gentle strolls.

The kettle moved frequently over the next hour, with police losing control time and time again. But demonstrators spent a large portion of that period hurling abuse at the "Tory scum" and "class traitors" talking in the museum. Tweets from meeting insiders confirm that this was very much audible. One particularly inventive individual yelled that the First Lord of the Treasury was a "rancid syphilitic Tory chode", and received many complaints from police that her language was "disgusting". That you must use disgusting language to accurately describe the disgusting had apparently not occurred to them.

The far from great and not very good eventually emerged to even more of an ear-bashing. Labourite Anderson initially seemed confused to be informed that he was also "Tory scum", but he began to grin broadly as the cops descended, and the self-confessed killer gave a thankful thumbs up to his de facto bodyguards as he hauled himself into a waiting car.

By this time though, a prime ministerial limousine had made contact with a Liverpudlian on precisely the road which the law had been so keen on protecting. While it's not thought that Cameron was in this particular car, the chauffeurs were clearly told to step on it, because the convoy sped off at such a pace that smoke was seen coming from the wheels. It's difficult to think of a better symbolic representation of both the contempt in which the political class hold all but the ultra-rich, and the utter fear of the mob which is that contempt's necessary flipside.

Thankfully the comrade was uninjured, but he was nicked and may require solidarity in the months ahead. Meanwhile, if we're going to stop the killer cuts, we all have to block that metaphorical road.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

One Resolution - Revolution!

We've made it through another revolution around the sun, so with a weary inevitability it's time for people to make resolutions about the next one. There's a couple of problems with doing that though. Number one, only the date really changes at midnight. And number two, they are normally so individualistic that they turn to dust when they clash with the reality of the world outside.

That's not to say we shouldn't aim for improvement - that would defeat the whole purpose of this blog. And self-improvement certainly isn't a bad thing. But it's when we come together that we can make the biggest changes.

Every year now for decades, 'they' - the bosses, politicians, and bankers behind them - make life harder for almost everyone reading these words. They make us do far more, to receive far less. The hit we take from this ruling class onslaught dwarves any gains we can make on our own, through weight loss, quitting smoking, whatever it is.

Over the past couple of years, we have seen that this offensive has reached or is quickly reaching a kind of limit - bosses are taking so much from so many areas of life that we can literally no longer allow them to get away with it. Once we take control of our own struggles from the grasping hands of would-be (sell-out) mediators, we can fight the elites back. By doing so in our own lives, we automatically build for revolution - not in the far away distant future, but here and now.

So my one, simple new year's resolution is to dedicate even more time and energy to the pursuit of my own individual happiness the only way I believe I can achieve it - through collective direct action. But I can't do it on my own. I hope to see meet many of you along the way.

Start from where you are. Work with what you've got. Do what you can. Together we can conquer the giant.

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