James Alwyn was one of several volunteers from Bolton that traveled to Spain to take up the fight for democracy against fascism. This short film shows how the people of Bolton honour the memory of James, and the many others like him.
The Unite podcast series that was started in March 2021 was to a large degree inspired by my ideas, which came from working on the Unite oral history project. It appears to be the first such project within a major trade union and I believe it has the potential to not only involve Unite members, especially some of the younger ones, but also to take the trade union message out to the millions that remain unorganised at work and in their communities.
Amongst some of the early highlights are
- an interview with Josh, who successfully organised zero hours contract workers at Sheffield University
- Frank speaking about the 1980 truckers’ strike – that was so successful in raising pay levels that Margaret Thatcher brought forward anti-union legislation to restrict flying pickets
- Allyson on the struggle against the Poll Tax
- Richard recalling his time as miner during the 1984/5 strike and what it was like to be at Orgreave
There are also short pieces on what it is to be a shop steward and safety rep and these will be suitable to use on education courses as well.
Interview with Martin McMulkin
Lifelong trade unionist and socialist Martin McMulkin was, until he retired, the Unite convenor at Jost in Bolton for many years.
In 2019 he became a Labour councillor in Bolton but he was unwilling to simply facilitate cuts in local services.
Really interesting interview with Martin McMulkin .. mirrors pretty much what is happening in Sunderland .. only worse here. Most Sundays I get a home cooked dinner delivered from a big ex mining family who held out during the strike .. and are still bitter against scabs .. yet such is their disillusionment with the town’s Labour group they and former militant shipyard/industrial workers will be voting Tory/anyone but Labour, in May .. desperate situation.
But all is not lost; I agree with Martin McMulkin … fighting progressive Independent councillors can reconnect with the disillusioned and left behind and outwit corrupt government.
Mark, individual martyrs are people with courage, principle and
commitment. In 1972 “WE” (me in CP) got a Labour Conf policy condemning
the Housing Finance Act. Clay Cross and London Borough of Camden with partial
support from one or two other Councils interpreted the policy of non
implementation. A strong mass movement had proceeded the actions, with
communities in the respective areas supporting their Council’s (note:
not individual Cllrs) actions in refusing to put up rents.
Though the national Labour Party refused to support or endorse the two Councils’ actions –
which was disgraceful – nevertheless it was mass action; it was not
putting responsibility on an individual. For us to gain change, it’s not
for as many individuals to stand up, but rather collective Party and
mass action. This has to be worked for, note the Anti Poll Tax campaign.
Yes, then individuals did stand up, with jailing’s, but then we had
mass support for those individuals and the campaign throughout the
country. Those individuals actions complementing the protest movement
outside the jails caused and created change.
In 72 the CP from the East Midlands mobilised for the election in Clay Cross to give maximum support. The five Skinner Bros (David – I did an interview with, for
the CP) paid a very heavy price, all councillors surcharged, bankrupt, unable
to stand for councillor again, etc. I note you want our councillors to stand up and
refuse implementing the Tory Cuts. Of course, this should be our aim and
Before asking Cllrs to individually take the stand, we must
first mobilise the movement, so their subsequent action is meaningful.
Of course where individuals with personal principles, do take action
now, to not implement the cuts, we need to support their individual
action. But I would strongly argue that just as important, at the same
time, is the need for the mass campaign. History teaches us that though
its full of individuals, where real socialist change occurs, it comes
from heightened workers consciousness which gives rise to mass movements.
Bittersweet Brexit: the Future of Food, Farming, Land and Labour
Charlie Clutterbuck explains how and why we should grow more food locally whilst also outlining how switching public funds away from land owners towards labour would create tens of thousands of rural jobs, thus reviving rural communities
In this half hour audio interview, Charlie Clutterbuck – author of the 2017 book Bitterwseet Brexit: the future of food, farming, land and labour – seeks to examine how his predictions in it are working out following Britain’s exit from the EU.
The labour and trade movement activist explains the massive forthcoming changes in farming that will put out of business many small farmers, recalls why the EU sought to develop farming policies that ended European countries dependence on US food imports, touches on the massive imbalance in land ownership at home and how the pouring into the UK of a lot of cheaper, poorly produced food will further raise obesity levels and put further pressure on the NHS and social services.
Clutterbuck notes that it is a US company, Tate and Lyle, that was the first to benefit from the Government’s removal of tariffs on imports, literally handing millions from British taxpayers to American shareholders. Money that could have been used to subsidise better-paid jobs in land-based food producing occupations that would boost incomes in rural communities.
As a soil scientist, Clutterbuck investigates the Government’s plans for those that work on the land and finds a total absence of any detail. How ideas for greening the land in which big grants may be used to lever in private finance for projects that might possibly provide an initial job creation boost through rewilding and tree planting projects are not going to revive rural communities.
The interview ends with Clutterbuck exploring how to create a direct link using food credits between producers of high-quality food and the poorest in society.
The interview was conducted by Mark Metcalf
Betty Gallacher – Standing up for all workers
Based on a booklet commissioned by Unite Education on the union’s heroes past and present.
Betty Gallacher, who was an elected Transport and General Workers Union (T&G)/Unite bus workers’ representative for decades, has throughout her life played a massive part in the ongoing struggle for working people, equality, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights.
The successful work of Unite rep Luke Agnew from Wallasey for a new headstone to Edward McHugh, an inspirational dockworkers organiser, has been captured in a short film.
Irishman Edward McHugh, co-founder of the National Union of Dock Labourers led long, bitter, successful strikes in Glasgow and Liverpool in 1889 and 1890 respectively. Earlier he led a Land League mission to the Scottish Highlands where he helped direct the nascent crofters’ agitation. McHugh later settled down in Birkenhead but in the 1890s he spent time in New York City where he organised the American Longshoreman’s Union and preached Henry George’s gospel that the unequal distribution of land lay behind all social ills.
Peterloo 1819: Halifax 1842
Most people know of Peterloo 1819 when eighteen people died after cavalry charged into a crowd of around 60,000 people who had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation.
Far fewer know of similar tragic events in Halifax in August 1842.
This was when, at the very least, five local people were slaughtered and dozens badly injured – by the military and special constables – whilst they were participating in a nationwide general strike that combined demands for better pay with an extension to those allowed to vote.
Halifax born actress and author Catherine Howe on the fateful day of 16 August 1842 when the military and special constables brutally attacked local people that were seeking more democracy and an end to poverty.
Disabled people and benefits, access to services, the Equality Act and hate crime are all examined by Tim McSharry of the Access Committee for Leeds, an unfunded long-standing disabled led volunteer organisation.