Mar 21 2018



I have just returned from the UCU picket lines at Edinburgh University. Today was the last day of this round of strike action in defence of our pensions. As I walked across the central campus earlier this morning it was really heartening to see the number of pickets at various entrances with lots of really witty placards and posters. We had earlier agreed to stop picketing at 12.30 and gather outside George Square lecture theatre which is currently being occupied by students in solidarity with our action and against the marketisation of education.

Here we gathered to sing songs. These included a broad selection of updated versions of pop, Trade Union and Socialist songs from way back such as;

Which Side are You On ,

…Speak out and tell the bosses

The folk at UUK

We won’t accept your pension cuts

And we’ll end your fat cat pay

Down By the Riverside

I’m gonna turn off my powerpoint slides

Until I get my rights

How about that for contemporary?

And my personal favourite a version of Abbas Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (a man after midnight)


Gimme, gimme, gimme a pension to live on,

Pensions are my right and they are part of my pay,

Gimme, gimme, gimme a pension to live on

We will never let you take our pensions away


Your deficit is shit,

We don’t believe in it, oh no!

The songs and banners are just a small example of the creativity and anger released by this strike. UCU is not the most left wing of unions and Edinburgh University is not famous for its student radicalism. But that was yesterday. Something has changed. The last branch meeting, called at a few hours notice to discuss the latest offer from the employer, had over 300 members in attendance. Apparently 500 people have joined the union locally since the dispute began.

The strike has become a vehicle to express anger and concern about a whole number of concerns from Brexit, discrimination due to gender, precarious employment, the commodification of education, students loans and immigration policy. These and a whole spectrum of other issues and activities (Grundrisse reading group anybody?) have been explored through the ‘teach outs’.

Perhaps the most pleasing aspect has been the level of student solidarity and political awareness. I think they have seen the future that the UK state is planning for them and they are not going to simply accept it. This has rightly put the fear into our employers.

As Bill Chesters writes in his letter to Weekly Worker reproduced below;

This strike is not simply a run-of-the-mill trade union dispute but appears to be assuming a strategic importance in the battle for the soul of higher education.

Bob Goupillot, UCU Edinburgh (personal capacity)





I thought I would offer readers of the Weekly Worker some impressions from my involvement in the dispute between the shadowy body which goes by the name of Universities UK and the Universities and College Union. As Kevin Bean has pointed out (‘Wave of radicalism’, March 1), the levels of militancy, determination and creativity seen in this strike are simply unprecedented in terms of the history of the UCU.

There have been some tremendous scenes from up and down the country – colourful and vibrant picket lines, mass branch meetings, demonstrations, student occupations, teach-ins, sit-ins and a plethora of witty placards and hastily assembled banners (“Foucault off UUK”, “On your Marx to defend pensions” and so on). Thousands have joined the UCU within the past few weeks and the confidence of the pickets is unmistakeable.

While the proposals to slash pensions are certainly draconian, my impression from talking to fellow strikers is that this issue was merely the catalyst for the current explosion, which flows from far more deep-seated concerns about workloads exceeding contracted hours (or at least for that ‘lucky’ half of teaching staff who actually have a contract); an utter lack of control over the running of the workplace; an increasingly precarious, casually employed workforce; insufficient time for genuine research and a burgeoning, extremely well remunerated management layer, which is entirely divorced from any teaching or research and which relies on bafflingly Kafkaesque shenanigans in order to pursue the neoliberal dream of ‘competitiveness’ and attaining a good score in the university league tables. This anger at the gradual marketisation of academia and its logic-defying consequences has been brewing for years. And tremendous solidarity is coming from the students too.

This is particularly significant. UUK probably wagered that, in these times when the student-lecturer relationship is being redesigned to resemble that between a ‘service provider’ and a ‘consumer’, the students would put enormous pressure on their lecturers for lost teaching time (after all, two semesters of teaching are costing a home student upward of nine grand a year!). But instead the students’ anger – whether in the form of letters to the vice-chancellor or in the occupation of university finance departments – has been directed towards management itself. At a time when the pampered, jet-setting lifestyles of university tops are coming under increasing media scrutiny (as evidenced in the recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme), students are beginning to see that the extortionate fees they are charged are simply not finding reflection in the quality of teaching conditions and resources. After all, for every shiny new, multi-million pound building and ‘Porn Star Martini’ ordered by a vice-chancellor in 5-star hotels in Asia, there is an underresourced library, a terribly overstretched workforce and ‘efficiency savings’ (cuts in finances to particular departments, passed off as new and exciting cross-departmental, initiatives with multidisciplinary approaches). In this sense, the majority of students appear to realise that the struggle of their lecturers is part of the same agenda that has seen tuition fees soar.

Perhaps having got a little too used to the good old days before this landmark dispute, management at several universities initially tried to dock the pay of teaching staff taking “action short of a strike” (ie, working only to contract), on the grounds that this would – quite logically – mean refusing to reschedule classes which had been cancelled on strike days. But, in the face of the pressure from students and alumni donors, management soon rowed back on this – now a whole host of university VCs have been forced to agree to spread wage deductions across four months, to spend the money not paid in wages on important student-welfare initiatives and so on. Indeed, with several VCs beginning to query the entire approach of UUK in this stand-off, the question of who this body actually represents in the current negotiations becomes increasingly pertinent.

Despite these and other such victorious skirmishes with the employer, the evening of Tuesday March 13 led to a rather bizarre and worrying situation for UCU members. As we geared up for another picket on the Wednesday morning, news came through of a ‘landmark deal’ between UUK and the UCU under the mediation of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas). My reaction when this news came through was naively positive – I expected that, in light of the strike’s success, the pensions onslaught had been avoided, that the dodgy mathematics of UUK on pensions had been undermined and we could return to teaching with a victory under our belt.

But a cursory glance soon dispelled this view: the deal being offered was an utter joke – pensions were now to fall by an estimated 35% (instead of the 40% cut originally proposed), we were still being asked to pay more for less, and management would ‘encourage’ those who had been on strike to … reschedule classes, despite many university bosses conceding that this was unacceptable! On social media and on the picket lines the following morning, colleagues were simply baffled by the fact that the UCU negotiators could go along with this – let alone pass it off as an ‘agreement’ before even consulting the members. Was it some kind of clever bargaining trick deployed in the dark arts of industrial negotiations? Or a way of testing the resolve of the members in the face of an intransigent employer?

Well, it seems that UCU president Sally Hunt really was of the view that reducing a 40% cut to our pensions by 5% was a good deal. She said: “We felt we had reached a point where the employers had gone as far as they were prepared to go. We wanted members to see the progress and branches to make a decision.”

Emergency UCU branch meetings took place straight away and motions were passed rejecting the deal. The hashtag #nocapitulation quickly made it onto the top 10 most popular topics worldwide on Twitter. At my university over 350 members turned up to the meeting to reject the deal unanimously. We then poured onto the university concourse for an impromptu demo in an eerily empty campus, chanting, “What deal? No deal!”

At a meeting of the UCU’s higher education committee on the same day, not a single delegate from the 60 striking branches voted in favour of the proposed agreement – all of them told Sally Hunt in detail what their members thought of this rotten offer, and it was soundly rejected. I am far from an expert in industrial relations, but it would seem to me that it is quite some time since the actions of a union leadership which is in the process of selling out its members have been so speedily defeated by rank-and-file members. Yet another sign that what we are witnessing is certainly not ‘business as usual’.

In an action that continues to throw up surprises and confound expectations, it is difficult to say what will come next. Most universities are now only a week away from the Easter holidays, and UUK will certainly be hoping that the break will serve to demobilise the strike, with the annual ritual of essay marking, examinations and huge backloads of pastoral and support work looming ever larger on the horizon. More action is planned (including the possibility of refusing to mark exams and so on) and it is vital that the union continues to recruit and organise for a tough battle ahead.

Contrary to the expectations of UUK, university management and perhaps even the odd leftwing lecturer, one thing has certainly become clear: this strike is not simply a run-of-the-mill trade union dispute, but appears to be assuming a strategic importance in the battle for the soul of higher education in this country.

Bill Chesters, Sheffield

This was first posted at:-


also see:-

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Mar 17 2018


On  Saturday,  17th March, the organisers of Scottish Stand Up to Racism (SUTR) are organising a march in Glasgow in which the racist Confederation of Friends of Israel, displaying Israeli flags will be allowed to participate. Not  surprisingly this has aroused considerable opposition, not least amongst Palestinians who are victims of Israeli state racist oppression. Tony Greenstein  who lives in Brighton, and is a longstanding Jewish campaigner against all forms of racism, including Zionism, has written The Apartheid Flag of Israel as an introduction to the Statement from Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Organisation. This is followed by a Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign Statement on Stand Up To Racism.




Putting Anti-racism and Anti-imperialism in Separate Compartments

The SWP’s popular frontism in action

Below is a statement which has been issued by the Secretary of Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign.  We, like many Palestinian supporters have been dismayed at the stance of the Scottish SUTR to allow supporters of Israel, the Confederation of Friends of Israel, to take part in Saturday’s anti-racist march in Glasgow, along with the flag of Israel. Continue reading “SCOTTISH STAND UP TO RACISM BOWS TO ZIONIST PRESSURE”

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Mar 07 2018


Below is a leaflet from the ad-hoc Committee of Campaign for a European Republican Socialist Party being distributed at the Radical Independence Campaign’s Spring Conference in Edinburgh on March 10th.

Location of Dalmeny Declaration – Out of the Blue Centre, Dalmeny Street, Leith



The Scottish Ratification Referendum Act 2018 empowers the Scottish Government to hold a referendum on Thursday 6 February 2019 for all Scottish and EU citizens living in Scotland over sixteen years old. The people of Scotland will be asked:

Do you support the agreement between Her Majesty’s Government and the European Union?

Do you reject the agreement between Her Majesty’s Government and the European Union?

Why should Scotland have the right to vote on Tory Brexit? Continue reading “SCOTLAND’S RATIFICATION REFERENDUM”

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Mar 05 2018




National Spring Conference

City of Edinburgh Methodist Church, 25 Nicolson Square

Edinburgh, EH8 9BX

 Saturday, March 10th

Doors are open at 11.00am and the event starts promptly at 11.30pm.


Session 1: 11.30 – 12.30

The effect of Brexit on Scottish independence –

Maggie Chapman (Scottish Greens) and Neil Davidson (RS21)

 Lunch: 12.30 – 13.15

There is a cafe in the venue and several excellent places for lunch close by.

 Session 2: 13.15 – 14.15

What now after the Scottish Independence Convention Conference

Lesley Riddoch and Jonathon Shafi 

 Session 3: 14.15 – 15.30

The effect of Corbynism and the election of Richard Leonard as Scottish Labour leader on Scottish politics

Cat Boyd (RIC), Rory Scorthorne (Labour Party), Tommy Sheppard (SNP)

 Session 4: 15.30 – 16.30

International connections Catalunya and Ireland

George Kerevan (SNP,  Gerry Carroll (People before Profit MLA for West Belfast)

 Winding Up: 16.30 – 17.00

(All the speakers are speaking in a personal capacity)

 Everyone is welcome. There is no upfront ticket charge but we ask for £10/£5 on the door.


Sign up to secure a place:

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Feb 25 2018


Gerry Cairns has published a new book,  The Red and the Green: A Portrait of John Maclean. This makes use of new material relating to Maclean’s relationship with the struggle in Ireland. Stevie Coyle posted the following review on Facebook, and there is an edited version in February’s  Irish Voice. Hopefully this informative review will be just  the first review to address the issues that Gerry has raised.


Members of the Irish community were among those present at the launch of Gerard Cairn’s biography of John Maclean titled The Red and the Green: A Portrait of John Maclean.

The event – organised by Glasgow’s radical bookshop Calton Books and held in McChuills Bar – saw the author demonstrate a passion for his subject and gave an intriguing insight into Maclean the man and the revolutionary, which he interspersed with humour. Continue reading “THE RED AND THE GREEN: A PORTRAIT OF JOHN MACLEAN”

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Feb 25 2018


Dave Douglass reviews Steve McGrail and Vicky Patterson’s Cowie miners, Polmaise colliery and the 1984-85 miners’ strike. 



Great Strike of 1984-85: an unequal battle

Polmaise was at the epicentre of the Scottish miners’ action in 1984. Like Cortonwood it was among ‘the first of the first’ to be threatened and pick up the gauntlet – the ‘single sparks’ that lit that prairie fire.

The struggle at Polmaise had started in February 84, and for those men and their families it ended 13 months later. The new, ‘get tough’ management style introduced into the Scottish and other coalfields prior to the Great Strike was a deliberate policy to prematurely kick-start the all-out action and break our long-term overtime ban strategy, which was relentlessly reducing stocks of coal at pitheads and power stations. There had been controversial closures in 1982 and 83, and half of Scottish mines were already engaged in forms of action around various disputes by February 84. Polmaise itself was out over the threatened closure of the pit. Continue reading “COWIE MINERS, POLMAISE COLLIERY AND THE 1984-85 MINERS’ STRIKE”

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Feb 22 2018


In a follow up to an earlier posting, we are pleased to be able to report a victory for Ukrainian miners. This article was first posted at the Ukriainian Solidarity Campaign website at:-




The Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine  has secured a major victory for the 94 miner facing court proceedings.   The miners at the uranium mine “Ingulska” were facing court after protesting for months of unpaid wages. Continue reading “MAJOR VICTORY FOR THE 94 UKRAINIAN MINERS FACING COURT FOR PROTESTING”

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Dec 10 2017


Bombardier is a Canadian owned aircraft company which employs 4000 people in Belfast. At the moment these workers’ jobs, pay and conditions  are threatened as an outcome  of growing American protectionism, reflected through the Northern Irish political set-up, which hamstrings any effective trade union response. This consequences of this are explained in this article from Socialist Democracy (Ireland) 




Bombardier aerospace factory Belfast


The ongoing dispute between aerospace companies Bombardier and Boeing – which has raised fears over future of production at Bombardier’s Belfast facility – has served to highlight the highly integrated nature of modern capitalism and the exposure of the Northern Ireland economy to global upheavals. Continue reading “BOMBARDIER-BOEING DISPUTE THREATENS WORKERS IN THE NORTH”

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Nov 22 2017


In line with the RCN becoming a forum where the principles of communism, republicanism and internationalism from below can be discussed and debated, the RCN meeting, held in Glasgow on November 18th, agreed to this simplified our Comradely Conduct Policy.


Anyone attending an RCN meeting or event is expected to act in a comradely manner toward each other. We encourage robust  discussion but any personal or discriminatory remarks will not be  tolerated.

It is the responsibility of everyone to raise, and if they feel able  challenge, any uncomradely behaviour. This should not be left to those on the receiving end.

Any concerns at or outwith a meeting should be brought to the attention of the chair, or another office holder if appropriate (for example , where the chair is involved).

The chair will then attempt to resolve the issue with these comrades and place the dispute on the agenda for the next meeting.  If still unresolved, the meeting will hear from those involved and agree a way forward.”


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Nov 13 2017

Review: Struggle or Starve: Working Class Unity in Belfast’s Outdoor Relief Riots

Tommy McKearney reviews Struggle or Starve: Working Class Unity in Belfast’s Outdoor Relief Riots

by Sean Mitchell.




Struggle or Starve by Séan Mitchell is an important book that deserves the widest readership among those interested in promoting progressive politics in the North of Ireland. The author provides the reader with a detailed, and even inspirational, account of a rare period in Belfast’s history when the working class was united around a campaign to address matters of immediate need. More than that, through, his analysisraises questions about events of that period which still have relevance today. How possible is it to overcome sectarianism through shared struggle and can this be done within the context of a political unit as fundamentally flawed as Northern Ireland? Continue reading “Review: Struggle or Starve: Working Class Unity in Belfast’s Outdoor Relief Riots”

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