Nov 25 2015


Pauline Bradley (RCN and RISE) easiness the emergence of the notion of Social Justice during the Liverpool Dockers campaign and how the Tories have attempted to hijack the term.



Pauline Bradley, co-editor of 'Another World Is Possible - How the Liverpool Dockers Launched a Global Movement'

Pauline Bradley, co-editor of ‘Another World Is Possible – How the Liverpool Dockers Launched a Global Movement’


Social Justice is a concept which has been stolen from the left and distorted beyond belief. Iain Duncan Smith’s Social Justice strategy has devised many “new” schemes to attack the poor such as universal credit which abolished income support and other benefits. Cuts, bedroom tax, benefit sanctions, food banks, increased poverty, misery and despair under the guise of Social Justice have become the norm to poor, working class people. The kind of double think in George Orwell’s classic 1984 and Tracy Chapman’s song “Talkin ‘bout a Revolution;” where

“Love is hate, War is peace, No is yes and We’re all free”

are good examples of capitalism’s dualism and deceptive language. We can now add

“Social Justice is Injustice,” to that list.

However the truth is that “Social Justice” has a proud history of class struggle and the Tories have stolen our language. People can be forgiven for not knowing the origin of the words “Social Justice” because the momentous struggle which gave birth to this idea was highly censored by a Tory government who were terrified that people may give support and solidarity to the workers who were waging this struggle. These workers were 500 Liverpool Dockers who were sacked in 1995 for refusing to cross a picket line, and who fought back until March 1997 with support from Dockers and other workers right across the globe!

In Hidden Agendas, John Pilger wrote that in September 1995, Dockers working for a private subsidiary called Torside were ordered to work overtime at a disputed rate. They protested and were sacked on the spot, followed by the entire workforce of 80 men. Three days later they mounted a picket line at the gates of the parent company Mersey Dock and Harbour Co (MDHC) and all 329+ men who included fathers and uncles of the Torside men, refused to cross. They too were dismissed.

Within 24 hours their jobs were advertised in the local press, it was the end of the bloodline. Men like Jim Campbell whose dad was killed on the docks, had 40 years service. Shock waves hit more than 8,500 men, women and children. Pat Dooley said “It was like someone had died in our house.”Few doubted they’d walked into a trap. Under Thatcher’s anti union laws, MDHC claimed it was “entirely independent” of Torside, so the Dockers “secondary picketing” was deemed to be illegal.

Support groups for the 500 sacked Torside and MDHC Liverpool Dockers sprung up all over Scotland, UK and the world. I lived in London and became involved in the London support group.

The London Support group was a very diverse group of people ranging from Labour party activists, Workers International activists, Workers Liberty, Socialist Outlook, Workers Power, trade unionists from NATFHE, Unison, ASLEF, CWU, TGWU, RMT, UCATT, AUT, Turkish and Kurdish comrades from DayMer and individuals who were political refugees from Iran and Africa, Pay day men’s network, Wages for Housework Campaign, Campaign for Human Rights in Turkey who formed during the dispute with the help of the Liverpool Dockers, among others. Meetings were weekly and very heated at times! They were always most productive when one or more of the Liverpool Dockers or the women’s group Women of the Waterfront (WOW) attended.

Support groups did tasks such as organising labour movement and union meetings for Dockers to attend, organise benefit gigs, fundraising of many kinds, demonstrations, posters, mailings, buses for demonstrations in Liverpool, writing articles to get the word out to try and beat the deliberate censorship of news of the dispute by the UK media.

This censorship was due to the ruling class’s awareness of the potential power of the Dockers. Tremendous acts of international solidarity happened several times during the dispute. As Docker Micky Tighe said “Bosses can move a factory if they don’t like workers organising, but they can’t move a port.”

For example in January 1997, 105 ports across the world were involved in solidarity with 500 sacked Liverpool Dockers, which hit shipping in 13 countries. Picket lines were set up and Dockers (or Long Shore workers in the USA, Wharfies in Australia etc) refused to cross that picket line. In the USA from Los Angeles to Seattle, all Oregon ports including Portland were shut down, Long Beach, San Francisco, Oakland, Tacoma, Dutch Harbour (Alaska) too. Also in Canada, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Germany, France, Greece, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Dockers along with other workers closed their ports for a day, sometimes several days in support of the sacked Liverpool Dockers. Hundreds of thousands of pounds were lost by shipping companies when these actions happened. Support groups would organise demonstrations and events to support these international dock strikes. However little was seen in the media due to the governments “D Notice” which is sent to media editors banning them from publishing certain “sensitive” stories.

Several solidarity marches happened too, such as one in April 1997 in central London. Liverpool Dockers had requested that the London Support Group organise a march and we set about to do this. We all wanted the march to show that the Liverpool Dockers struggle was everyone’s struggle. Liverpool Dockers had a proud history of supporting other struggles and were a highly class conscious group of workers, the London Support group reflected this too. Campaigners such as Incapacity Action, Crossroads Women, Magnet Strikers, Pay day Mens Network and Homeless campaigners came to our group to link with the Liverpool Dockers and get solidarity for their own struggle. In this spirit we wanted to invoke the memory of the Chartist movement who devised a People’s Charter or list of demands in their struggle for ordinary people to have a democratic vote in 1836-1841.

We had long discussions about what to call the march e.g. “March for Justice” was discussed but thought too legalistic. Eventually, with the Dockers approval we decided that it should be “The March for Social Justice”. We set about organising the march, devising our own Charter for Social Justice written by the groups mentioned above, Dockers and London Support group. This Charter for Social Justice transformed itself into individual pendants made up by Ed Hall, with some of the demands written on them including “Victory to the Liverpool Dockers” of course, “Repeal the Anti union laws”, “Abolish the Monarchy”, “Troops out of Ireland”, ”Defend the Welfare State”, “Fight Racism”, “Save the Planet,” “The Right to Work”, “Workers of the World Unite,” along with a banner which said simply “Social Justice”.   Reclaim the Streets who had organised many occupations of roads to highlight the wasteful car culture, took part in the march in big numbers.

On the day of April 12th 1997, a long banner with “March for Social Justice “carried by Dockers led the march, The Murton Colliery band were close behind. Dockers, WOWs and their children dressed as Chartists, some wore kilts and played bagpipes. Virtually everyone who had a grievance against capitalism was there, some wore red bandanas in solidarity with Japanese workers who were on strike. There were banners from Disability Action Network, Euro marches, Magnet Strikers, Hillingdon Hospital Strikers, DayMer Turkish and Kurdish Centre, Wages for Housework, Pan African Freedom Fighters Asylum Campaign, FBU, Unison, TGWU, WOW, ASLEF, NUM, Reclaim the Streets, Edinburgh Support the Liverpool Dockers, Japanese Dockers, Seaman’s Union of Ireland, Communist Party, Socialist Party, SWP and Tony Bennarty . There were also several dragons, a wolf, people on stilts, musicians and cyclists. About 200,000 were on the march. The police were there in large numbers too.

There were many good speakers including the late Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Magnet strikers, Jimmy Nolan Mersey Side Port Shop Stewards, Doreen McNally, Chairperson of WOW, and John Bird, founder of The Big Issue. The march did get some much needed media publicity but typically this focussed on the small violent element at the end of the march.

Sadly, the Liverpool Dockers didn’t win their dispute. They held out for two and a half years, hoping that the newly elected labour government in May 1997 would use their share in MDHC to intervene. Blair’s labour government didn’t do that but sold their share back to MDHC.

So the history of the term Social Justice should be known by all working class people as a proud, unifying concept of solidarity and struggle for human rights and human dignity. We need to reclaim our history, our language, words’ solidarity and our unity! Now is the time to reclaim Social Justice for ourselves!


Hidden Agendas, John Pilger

Another World Is Possible, How the Liverpool Dockers Launched a Global Movement – Edited by Pauline Bradley and Chris Knight




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Nov 08 2015


Category: CommemorationsRCN @ 8:32 pm

walk of pride (small v)

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Nov 08 2015


The RCN has continually emphasised the significance of political developments in Northern Ireland. In contrast to England and Wales, where conservative unionism remains dominant, and Scotland where a hybrid constitutional nationalism/liberal unionism is dominant, in Northern Ireland reactionary unionism has become the predominant political force. Together the Ulster unionist parties and the loyalists been able to push back the post-1997 Good Friday Agreement component of the UK state’s ‘New Unionist’ Peace Process and Devolution-all-round settlement. UKIP intends to use this model to extend its own reactionary unionist offensive across the UK.  This article, from Socialist Democracy (Ireland)  shows how the UK state has used the Ulster unionists’ current offensive directed against Sinn Fein, to further its austerity programme, in return for more political concessions to entrench the political position of reactionary unionists and loyalists. 

Ultra-sectarian Ruth Patterson of the DUP challenges party leader, Peter Robinson. from the further Right

Ultra-sectarian Ruth Patterson of the DUP challenges party leader, Peter Robinson. from the further Right


The results of the report by a British government monitoring panel caused bemusement among observers inside and outside Ireland. Following the statement of a few truisms – the IRA still exist, the loyalist gangs are still active – the Democratic Unionist Party, who had been blocking the operation of the local Assembly by resigning their positions and re-appointing themselves in a weekly cycle, returned to their positions full-time.

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Oct 20 2015




In the aftermath of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and 2015 Westminster General Election, Allan Armstrong (RCN and RISE) critically examines the notion of ‘Britishness’ used in the British Labour Movement when arguing for the progressive nature of the post-1945 UK state and when defending it against demands for greater Scottish self-determination. Promoting different versions of ‘Britishness’, depending on the political pressures facing the British ruling class, have been central to their attempts to maintain their UK state and through this their wider imperial interests in the world.

The fundamental features of the UK’s constitutional monarchist, unionist and imperialist state were established before the social base of the British ruling class was extended in the nineteenth century to incorporate the new industrial capitalist class. The political reforms needed to achieve this still did not recognise popular sovereignty, but instead continued to rely on the open or tacit defence of the notion of the sovereignty of the Crown-in-Parliament.

Allan takes Satnam Virdee’s concept of the ‘racialised outsider’ and extends it to the changing relationship of other ‘outsiders’ towards the UK state and to ‘Britishness’. He argues that the reactionary nature of the UK state has often led it to address ‘outsiders’ in terms of toleration rather than through any recognition of democratic rights. This is related to the absence of a written constitution and to the significant role of the Crown Powers in the running of the UK state.

Allan draws parallels with Mary Davis’ analysis of the position of women in the British Labour Movement. It was as ‘gendered outsiders’ that women workers were excluded from the full benefits of the Labour’s post-war social monarchist Welfare State. He then applies the concept of ‘national outsider’ to examine how the 1945 Labour government’s conservative unionist notion of ‘Britishness’ affected attempts to assert greater national self-determination within the UK’s constituent units, especially Scotland.

In the late 1970s this deeply entrenched conservative unionism still found within  the Labour Party contributed to the sabotage of the Labour government’s liberal unionist Devolution proposals for Scotland and Wales. Labour also opted for a conservative unionist approach in the recent Scottish Independence referendum, abandoning any further development of the liberal unionist model they had developed in their post-1997 ‘New Unionist’ measures. Instead they joined with the Conservatives and Lib-Dems in the ‘Better Together’ alliance. This conservative unionism (sometimes with a leftist cover) still has a hold over Labour’s new Left leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and his allies. Meanwhile, reactionary unionism, with its strongest base in Northern Ireland, but which UKIP wants to extend to the rest of the UK, is offering its own challenge to the current ‘New Unionist’ deal.  

In conclusion, Allan argues the need for a republican and socialist politics based on the principle of ‘internationalism from below’ to counter not only conservative, but liberal and reactionary unionist attempts to uphold ‘Britishness’. Developing a new political force is also needed to counter the SNP government’s own constitutional nationalist attempts to promote an ‘Independence-Lite’ Scotland in the interests of a wannabe Scottish ruling class, now wanting to find its own niche in the existing current global corporate order.

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Oct 14 2015

19th EDINBURGH RADICAL BOOK FAIR, 28th Oct – 1st November

Category: Cultural CelebrationRCN @ 4:18 pm


Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair 2015



The 19th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair   –  the alternative international book festival – will take place from Wednesday 28th October to 1st November 2015 in Out of the Blue Drill Hall, 30-38 Dalmeny Street, Edinburgh, EH6 8RG, Scotland, UK. 


Follow us on  @WordPowerBooks

Continue reading “19th EDINBURGH RADICAL BOOK FAIR, 28th Oct – 1st November”


Oct 13 2015



Joe Hill

Joe Hill


Arthur Johnston, Eileen Penman, George Duff, Forgaitherin’ and Ray Burnett

Thu 5 Nov | 7pm (2hrs)


The Carrying Stream Festival

Scottish Storytelling Centre


Reception: 0131 556 9579

Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SR

Tickets from the Storytelling Centre: £10 (£8)

19 November 2015 marks the centenary of the murder of Joe Hill – Swedish-born American labour activist and organiser, songwriter and member of the Wobblies’ (the Industrial Workers of the World). His most famous songs include ‘The Preacher and the Slave’ (containing the new phrase ‘pie in the sky’), ‘The Tramp’, ‘There is Power in the Union’ ‘The Rebel Girl’ and ‘Casey Jones – the Union Scab’.

Hill was convicted of murder in a highly controversial trial. Following an unsuccessful appeal, and despite political debates and international calls for clemency from high-profile figures and workers’ organisations, he was executed in Salt Lake City on 19 November 1915.

After his death, he was memorialised by several folk songs, including ‘I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night’ by Alfred Hayes. His life and death have also inspired a plethora of poems and books.
Continue reading “JOE HILL – ‘THE MAN WHO NEVER DIED’”

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Oct 06 2015


We have  been covering the detention of Steve Kaczynski in Turkey since he was arrested on April 1st. We have been part of the campaign to get his release ( Steve was freed  on September 18th. This article has been written by Steve and describes his experience and the current political situation in Turkey.



Steve Kaczynski (second from left) arriving back at Heathrow Airport

Steve Kaczynski (second from left) arriving back at Heathrow Airport

I was in Istanbul, Turkey to help prepare an international symposium against imperialism due to take place in the middle of April. At the end of February I had travelled to Beirut, Lebanon where a similar symposium had been held.
Continue reading “MY IMPRISONMENT IN TURKEY – Steve Kaczynski”

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Oct 03 2015


This article by Allan Armstrong (RCN) was posted on this blog on 9.6.12, after being updated from an earlier version originally posted on 30.9.11. That article has become contaminated and so is being reposted. Although the most recent section has been superseded by the Scottish Independence Referendum, it still includes a lot of relevant historical material.

For links to more recent material see:-




i)      Why are there significant nationalist parties and a National Question in the UK in the twenty-first century?

          a)   England

          b)   Wales

          c)   Scotland

          d)   Ireland

ii)       The creation of a united British ruling class and its decision not to create a united British nation-state

 iii)     The creation and expansion of hybrid British national identities amongst the different classes in these islands and the Empire

 iv)      The appearance of independent national political organisations within the UK

 v)       The retreat of the hybrid Irish-British identity in the face of new challenges and the maintenance of hybrid British identities in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as long as British imperialism remained relatively strong

 vi)       British ruling class attempts to maintain its power through reform of the UK in the face of the imperial decline and the further retreat of hybrid British identities, especially amongst the working class

 vii)      The initial failure of liberal unionist political devolution and the entrenchment of Westminster Direct Rule by 1979

 viii)     A failed liberal unitary Britain attempt to reform politics in Northern Ireland

 ix)       The Irish Hunger Strike (1981) and the Miners Strike (1984-5) – a comparison between their long-term political impacts

 x)        The British ruling class’s ‘New Unionist’ strategy starts and stalls under the Conservatives – differing situations in Ireland and Scotland

 xi)       Welsh workers slowly learn the need to confront conservative unionist divide-and-rule tactics

 xii)      New Labour fleshes out ‘New Unionism’ with its ‘Devolution-all-round’ proposals

 xiii)     The contrasting political nature of the effects of ‘New Unionism’ in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

 xiv)     The British ruling class is determined to uphold its ‘New Unionist’ deal, the better to maintain the UK state’s imperial position in the world

 xv)      Obstacles to any SNP attempt to winning political independence in its proposed referendum

 xvi)     The wannabe Scottish ruling class and the SNP will cooperate with the British ruling class and big business to prevent any radical break-up of the UK

 xvii)    The SNP will play their part in upholding the hegemony of US/UK imperial alliance in the global corporate order


i) Why are there significant nationalist parties and a National Question in the UK in the twenty-first century?

In Scotland, the SNP is now the leading political party; in Wales, Plaid Cymru is the third (until recently, the second) placed party; whilst in Northern Ireland the top six parties identify themselves as either British unionist or Irish nationalist.  The answer to the question posed in the title of this section is to do with the nature of the UK state.


Sep 22 2015




In response to the current refugee storm a Palestinian activist remarked that, if pictures of dead children changed anything, Palestine would long have been free.

The bitterness is understandable. However it would be wrong to write off the response to the refugee crisis as light-headed liberalism. Rather it is better understood as the potential to, as Marx said, transform from quantity to quality and become a broad opposition to the crimes of imperialism.

The capitalist powers have been exhibiting an increasing barbarism. Mass penury is imposed on their own populations. The wars they direct and provoke grow increasingly bloody. As refugees flee devastation they slander and criminalise them, applying a policy called “pushing the rope” – making conditions at holding centres so hellish that new refugees will not come. It is bare months since they withdrew rescue services from the central area of the Mediterranean, leaving thousands to drown. They constantly refer to migrants, because refugees are meant to be offered refuge and dismiss “economic migrants,”  as if fleeing starvation was bad and only war can be advanced as a legitimate reason for flight.

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Sep 21 2015


It is the centenary of the publication of the Zimmerwald Manifesto. This was produced by social democratic delegates from  countries drawn into the imperialist First World War. Chris Ford of the Ukrainian Solidarity Campaign provides an introduction to this important document. He shows the relevance of the Zimmerwald Manifesto to the situation we face today, particularly Ukraine. 




One hundred years ago an International Socialist Conference of those opposed to the First World War gathered in Zimmerwald, near Bern Switzerland from 5 to 8 September 1915. At a time when the international socialist movement had shattered with many supporting the war  the conference at Zimmerwald by those who emained faithfull to the principles of the socialist international offered a beacon of hope in a Europe gripped by war and reaction.  The International socialist conference began a movement around the Manifesto which it produced.

The Manifesto and the Zimmerwald movement are relevant to the war that takes places in Europe today – in Ukraine. In 1914 Ukraine was divided between Russia and Austro-Hungary.  In the summer of 1914, the Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian imperial powers plunged their countries into a war that engulfed Europe in one of the bloodiest conflicts in history.  The war in the Eastern Front saw over three million killed and more than nine million wounded in a conflict that has had a profound impact to this day.

Ukrainians, the largest oppressed nation in Europe, found themselves facing each other across the battlefield.  The Ukrainians of Galicia, Bukovyna and Transcarpathia fought on the side of the Central Powers, whilst three million were conscripted into the army of the Russian Empire, as well as Ukrainian immigrants to North America who fought also on the side of the Entente.


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