Monday 14 January 2013

A Farewell to Mick Williams

I was sorry to hear about the passing of Stoke labour movement stalwart, Mick Williams. He died in hospital last Thursday after a short illness.

I never worked closely with Mick, but he was one of those larger-than-life figures whose reputation always preceded him. I therefore recommend readers have a look at the obituary by his friend and comrade Adam Colclough.

I first encountered Mick four or five years ago when I represented Keele UCU on the local trades council along with my erstwhile blogging comrade, Brother S. Despite his slight stature and frail appearance, he had this ability to be able to hold the attention of a room, whether he was making a hard-hitting political point or moving a point of order.

While Mick latterly fell out of the Labour Party following a protracted faction fight, and finally resigned surrounding the controversial selection of Tristram Hunt in 2010, I am sure friend and foe alike would recognise the contribution he made to Labour and the trade union movement over his 50+ years involvement in working class politics. Speaking as the secretary of Stoke-on-Trent Central Labour Party – his old party division - and on behalf of the many members who knew and respected him, our thoughts are with his family, friends and comrades.


Paul said...

Good tribute, Phil

There should be more recognition of people like Mick.

Phil said...

Mick's funeral is at Carmountside, Leek Road, Stoke-on-Trent on the 22nd at 2pm. I will be there as will many others.

Anonymous said...

God rest his soul.

A long while back I was hitching, and an elderly chap gave me a lift - he was a native of Redditch, and delighted to find that I had childhood memories of his town before its 70s New Town destruction - when it was a small Worcestershire market town, not what it is now.

"My wife died before it was finished", he said, "It would break her heart if she could see Redditch now".

When I think what's happened to the English working class under the last Labour government, what's happening to them now, and what's going to happen to them over the next ten or fifteen years - no matter who wins the next election - maybe it's just as well he won't be around to see it.


Phil said...

I have more hope for our people - the working class - than you do Laban, but it is incumbent on getting as many people involved in our movement as possible. Without it I can guarantee things will be grim.

Anonymous said...

But Phil, I don't think we mean the same thing when we talk about "our people". When I speak of the English working class, I don't mean anyone who happens to be in this country. I have no hate for Anna from Stettin, on the Lidl till - a charming girl, but she's not one of my people - and she's keeping one of my people on the dole.

I don't know if you listened to Victoria Derbyshire's wafflings on R5 recently - exploring the life narratives of a sample (not random) of boomers and of "children of the internet". One of those was Dave from Dudley - 24, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and unemployed since leaving school six years ago. My heart went out to him - and yours would too.

Now as long as our borders are effectively open, poor Dave's never going to have a job - because there'll always be some brighter chap from Cracow ahead of him in the queue. The left side of the Bell Curve have been completely abandoned by Labour, who seem to prefer the kind of working class person who has an Oxford place and a Guardian byline.


Phil said...

The phrase 'our people' in the Labour Party vernacular are those working class voters who consistently support our party. I have therefore no hesitation to describe Poles, Bangladeshis and whoever as such.

Furthermore I think you're buying into divide and rule. The British establishment are past masters at sowing division along lines of nationality and ethnicity. The problem of migrant workers undercutting resident workers is best addressed around issues of workplace rights, collective wage agreements and such. Blaming other workers or giving credence to such arguments only benefits those for whom the labour movement is anathema.

Laban said...

That's fine. We understand each other. To you the working class is anyone who can afford the fare here - not an ignoble ideal, if a little harsh on the poor sods already here.

And you're presumably OK with the continuing "Breaking Of The English Working Class" - after all, you're not the one on a zero-hour contract.

Dave will still be unemployed this time next year, when Bulgaria and Romania join. But if you're looking towards one world proletariat, united in their suffering under global capital, you're certainly going the right way about it.

"Furthermore I think you're buying into divide and rule."

Tu quoque. I think you should read this, by a libertarian economics professor.

"Diversity undermines solidarity. People don't mind paying high taxes to support people "like them." But free money for "the other" leads to resentment and political pushback."

That's exactly what we're seeing in the UK, and why Osborne and Shapps can get away politically with a real-terms benefits cut. They noted the outrage among working people in 2011 when benefits rose by 5% at a time of static wages. You should have heard the phone-ins.

"If you're a social democrat, this implies a tragic trade-off between social justice for natives and social justice for potential immigrants. But if you're a libertarian, the opposite is true. The welfare state doesn't make open borders impossible. It's open borders that makes the eventual abolition of the welfare state imaginable."

Anonymous said...

One other point :

"The problem of migrant workers undercutting resident workers is best addressed around issues of workplace rights, collective wage agreements and such."

But "the problem" of undercutting isn't a problem for employers, only for workers. How exactly are you going to make employers agree to a collective wage agreement (which presumably will reduce their profits) in a time of massive unemployment and underemployment ? It just isn't going to happen as long as there's an oversupply of workers.

What's actually happening is going in the opposite direction, as council employees are outsourced. They don't know what's going to hit then - the TUPE rules are being walked over all the time. Listen to Chris Mullin's R4 programme on outsourcing last week.

Think about it. The total triumph of the 60s 'left' agenda (Cameron supporting Hope not Hate and homosexual marriage for example) has coincided with the total defeat of the left economic agenda. I don't think it's coincidence.

"The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class."

Why do the post-60s "left" dominate education if the modern left are a threat to the ruling elite? Because they aren't a threat - in fact they're facilitating the social atomisation (visible in things like the decline in community organisations and political party membership, voting etc) that makes it possible for the elite to amass enormous wealth.


Phil said...

As it happens I'm not in favour of open borders as such. Migration has to be planned for, which this and the previous government singly failed to do.

But the fact remains the interests of working people are fundamentally the same, despite the fact that workers from overseas are vilified and ascribed all kinds of undesirable traits. It's also worth noting Bulgarians and Romanians won't necessarily come here in large numbers as there are several countries between here and there who have more economic opportunities available.

The second point is after all of your flagging up the divisions between nationalities, what do you actually advocate doing about it? At least I favour a positive programme aimed at overcoming division where it seems you're interested in fostering it.

Re: your points about the left and neoliberalism, this is hardly an original observation. The fact that the economy has restructured to a position that demeans us as 'rational choice' actors competing in the labour market, and flatters us as consumers. The bits that are inimical to that hegemonic form of subjectivity - on the left socialist and social democratic policies, on the right unreconstructed nationalism and bigotry - are out of favour (though, of course, one should not write out the role various movements have played in arriving at this position - it's also the fact that capitalism is quite adept at co-opting change as an accumulation opportunity).

Lastly, I would suggest taking this elsewhere. Mick Williams was a proud internationalist and had no truck with the line you're peddling.