We gave honours to Mussolini. Why would we be surprised Iain Duncan Smith has been given one too?

When you think of the word Knight, most of our brains conjure up the image of a brave warrior from our childhood stories, clad in armour, ready to defend a vulnerable maiden from a hungry dragon.

We wouldn’t immediately think of Iain Duncan Smith, a man who looks like he accelerates while laughing through puddles when he sees elderly people walking on the pavement, exuding all the charm and desirability of wet pleurisy.

So the news this morning that he is to be knighted has been met with considerable anger from the public, and for good reason. When he was the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Duncan Smith was culpable for the implementation of Universal Credit, bedroom tax and welfare reform that has been said to be responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of poor, sick and disabled citizens. His policies were the jewel in the crown of the systematic, institutional cruelty that the Conservative Party has forced onto the head of the British public over the last nine years.

But we shouldn’t been surprised. Knighthoods are not the symbols of nobility told to us in fairytales. When you think about it, they’ve always been given to those who were really good at killing people on behalf of the monarchy or state, so who would be a better candidate than he? Even if we are doing ourselves a disservice by not forcing him into a suit of armour and making him fight Brienne of Tarth for the title.

He’s just one in a long line of over privileged sociopaths we have rewarded for their complete absence of decency or empathy, including topsy turvy fascist overlord Benito Mussolini, who was given the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1923. It was revoked again in 1940 as declaring war on Britain was considered too big a misdemeanour to overlook.

Then there was the time Robert Mugabe was given honours in the hope it might chill him the fuck out a bit. Because bestowing more dubious privileged titles to a man with full blown dictator syndrome that already feels entitled to murder and torture his own people is known to have a very soothing effect.

The honours have always been a symbol of privilege, empire and colonialism, which is why they have been refused by a small number of well known figures such as Ken Loach and Benjamin Zephaniah. While some titles are given to extraordinarily decent members of our society for the work they do in our communities, it’s a token gesture only and does not give true recognition for the things they achieve.

Why don’t we just drop the façade and dish them out to every complete bastard we can think of? Sir Tekashi69 and Dame Woman who hoyed Lola the cat in the bin in 2010.

Hopefully we can do away with this aristocratic backslapping for good one day. For now I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that a 93 year old woman with a sword that close to Duncan-Smith’s head couldn’t possibly have that much of a steady hand.

Your heart is the resistance

Well.

That was a bit of a clusterfuck, wasn’t it? Oh Britain, seriously. What did you just do? Are we so determined to be miserable that we would commit such a mass co-ordinated act of self harm by begging for at least five more years of active abuse by a government that hates us with Boris Joffrey Johnson at the helm?

I can’t make sense of it if I’m honest. Even if it had been a minority win I might have just been able to get my head around it, but not this. A landslide victory really is the most apt way to describe it, as we broke away entirely and crashed neatly into the abyss.

I mean after such a tremendous win, you would have expected the delighted hoards in the streets, celebrating the pulling down of the next Berlin Wall before it even got built, right? There should have been street parties. David Hasselhoff. Mass singalongs to the Winds Of Change as they stopped Corbyn in his tracks before he forced us all to work less and join the IRA.

But there was nothing, bar the delighted shrieks of a couple of well known Far Right shitposters. And that’s because deep down everyone knows that they were played and they voted purely from a place of fear.

The Tories used nothing but the dirtiest of tricks during this election, and the worst thing about it, is that it worked. It’s a cliche to call these things Orwellian, I know. I don’t even like Orwell if I’m perfectly honest. When I read Homage To Catalonia, I didn’t understand how the POUM didn’t shoot him on the spot when he swanned in and demanded to be able to drink wine from a glass instead of a porrón in the middle of a fucking war.

But he understood a few things. Who knew how eerily spot on he would be about the effectiveness of Doublespeak? That a man with a history of apalling racism would have the gall to stand up and call a man with a demonstrable history of committed anti racism, who has stood against the oppression of all minorities including Jewish people anti Semitic- and people lapped it up. Because it isn’t the Labour Party that the likes of Katie Hopkins, Tommy Robinson and now Britain First have flocked to now, is it?

So what now? We need to give ourselves time to reflect, for sure. Understand what happened. Address the part mainstream media played in some of the most horrifically bias reporting we have seen in our lifetime, and how we can counteract that in our work.

But we also need to think about where we went wrong as well and hold ourselves accountable to that. For me, I feel that while a lot of people stepped up when the election was called and were really out there trying to engage people and doing an amazing job, we must ask ourselves where we were before that? We cannot complain that people voted for a broken right wing party prepared to lie right to their face when the left are just as fractured and have not been a visible, positive presence in their communities for a long time. Only being available at elections makes us politicians and our communities deserve better than that.

We need to admit we have a problem with classism in our own movements. Stop being a smug lefty prick. Stop correcting spelling and calling people you don’t even know fascists, because you sound like Rick from The Young Ones and it isn’t a good look in real life. Being working class yourself still doesn’t make it okay to do these things. Make allies everywhere, particularly those they are going to come for first: Travellers, the disabled, prisoners. Those who usually find there is no one to defend them.

Be ready to defend the most marginalised, some of who will be the people who you took a lot of shit from during the election. You talk about being a champion of the most ostracised in our society, but do you ever talk to them? This isn’t finding your best ragged trousered philanthropist to save. A pet waif to validate your goodness. These are the people you secretly remark should be made to take an IQ test before they are allowed to vote. These are people who don’t trust you because they have good reason not to trust anyone. Who need true solidarity and recognition of how strong they are, rather than pity or condescension.

As our government will turn things up a notch, so should we. Learn to sabotage diggers on fracking sites and computer systems. Break the fucking law. Strike without permission and make our unions radge again. Down tools. March down the streets that the police said you couldn’t. Stop doing as you are told. Don’t cross picket lines. You were not put on this planet to pay bills and die.

Let people know who you are, wear your heart on your fucking sleeve. Don’t be frightened to talk about politics with each other, but for fucks sake change the way you do so.

Form close, small conspiratal circles of beautiful friendships where you cry laugh at the daring, ludicrous ideas you conjure up to resist the system while drinking well into the witching hours.

Make your anger talk in a French accent.

Do not let these bastards kill your ability to dream of a better life every single day. That would be subscribing to the politics of despair that got us into this mess.

Remember every shitty regime has been brought down eventually no matter how oppressive. Every single one. Remember that every time you see flowers growing through concrete and that with enough roots and just a small ray of light you can rip down a building. We always have.

In defence of the Conservative voters.

You’ve seen all the reasons why you shouldn’t, but some of you are still voting for the Conservatives on Thursday aren’t you?

I mean you’re not proudly displaying it on your Facebook profile banner like the Labour, Green or even the Brexit Party voters, partly because you’re a bit worried about the backlash, but even more worried about being asked to explain your reasons.

Because you don’t really know why you are voting for them. You know you really hate the certain Leader of another party for reasons that have already been long debunked, but you repeat them like catchphrases. You barely know the names of the leaders of the other parties.

You do know you “want Brexit done” as they’ve convinced you that’s the most important issue right now. More important than hungry kids and you struggling to pay your bills despite working 60 hours a week. They’ve told you that Brexit is the reason these haven’t been addressed even though they’ve been in power 9 years and the referendum wasn’t till 2016.

You’re voting for them because you believe them when they say the reason they haven’t delivered Brexit it is someone else’s fault even though they have had 3 Prime Ministers and 3 years to do it.

You refuse to believe the NHS will be sold under post Brexit Tories. Even though you were recently given documents and video evidence of them saying they would. Because you accepted Johnson’s “it’s a lie, we’re not” and never even bothered to ask for an explanation of what the documents and videos were about, if not a move towards an American based insurance system.

Because even though he was proved to have stood in front of the fucking Queen of England and lied to her face, you still don’t think he will lie to you.

You hate austerity and the stories about disabled people being forced to go to assessments. You think it’s awful people with mental health problems are waiting so long to get help, often dying before they ever do. You’re disgusted by child abuse going undetected because of fractured police and social services. It breaks your heart seeing homeless veterans on the streets. Not so much the homeless junkies though, because you haven’t figured out yet that they usually ARE the adult survivors of undetected child abuse and traumatised veterans. I mean they are literally the same people. But you’ll get there.

I’ve been speaking to some of you. You all have a few things in common. You’re not bad people, but you are drenched in the politics of despair. You’re not voting Conservative because you are passionate about their policies, or because they give you hope. I see this in people voting Labour, Green, Lib Dem and yes, even the Brexit Party.

You’re voting them because you think the absolute drudgery around you is “just the way things are” and that life is hard and we just have to accept it.

None of you make any connection between government policies and the hardships you are currently facing.

One of you works in social care and emphatically told me it was “Conservatives all the way” because “Corbyn is a terrorist sympathiser”. An hour later you were sobbing at your desk because of your ridiculous, crippling case load and lack of support and resources. You are becoming more unwell because of your anxiety over work and still can’t see you are about to vote for the people responsible for that. You are one of the women who have been fucked over for your pension, yet you are about to vote for your own children to be working until they are at least 75 and have some vague belief that the reason for this is the bankers crash and 9/11.

All of you read the Daily Mail and The Sun. All of you.

But don’t worry. If you get your way and Johnson remains in number 10, and all the things that you told us was just ‘scaremongering’ start to come true, we won’t gloat. What on earth would there be to gloat about? We won’t tell you this is your fault, because it isn’t, mostly. Politicians spend millions upon millions to manipulate us into thinking our voting decisions were made of our own free will and the Conservatives have had more money than all of them to do this, because a lot of people with more wealth than we could ever imagine are shitting themselves over receiving a fair tax bill right now.

But we will fight. We will defend you and the kids living in squalor, the disabled and vulnerable people dying because of austerity. We will fight for the minorities who will face more racist attacks, including the Jewish people who you pretend to care about right now because it gives you a ‘virtuous’ reason to oppose Labour until you will promptly forget about them and the very real threat of antisemitism once the election is over. We’ll still fight for the homeless growing in terrifying numbers and for our NHS as we start to see the slow introduction of charges, which you’ll be fine with by then, because they will have convinced you it’s for the best.

We will fight for your family’s future, quite simply because you won’t and we always have. It’s not that you don’t care and certainly not that you don’t love them enough, but you still- even after all that- won’t be capable of seeing that the people sat in Parliament have a direct effect on your life and will destroy your family’s future. That will be the fault of someone or something else, far away that we can’t name or see.

You’ll take the piss out of us and fling “do gooder” around like that it is supposed to be an insult when we fight these things. Because it doesn’t matter what you think of us. We know that every civil liberty we have was fought for by ordinary people and we will do it for ours and for yours.

Because we all deserve so much better than this and we will fiercely dream it into existence.

Child poverty isn’t a symptom of a failing Tory government- It’s a tactic.

The Dispatches documentary, Growing Up Poor: Britain’s Breadline Kids, was aired on Channel 4 last night. As a practitioner who encounters child poverty on a regular basis, the thing I found most shocking was that despite the heartbreaking situations, small, anxious pale faces and the unforgivable hunger of the children featured, the stories were by far not the most shocking we face on a daily basis. The truth is, this endemic is much worse than could be possibly be seen in a one hour programme.

In interviews, whenever politicians are being probed about how relatable they are to the ordinary citizen, the question that is always used as the litmus test is “ how much is a pint of milk”. Usually they can’t even get that right, but personally I would like to see them answer questions that relate to real struggles of people in Britain at the moment. Imagine Priti Patel’s smirk as she’s asked “which tinned food is less revolting eaten cold because you don’t have the money to heat it up”. Or Jacob Rees Mogg shrugging nonchalantly when posed how he would try to keep an asthmatic 2 year old out of hospital through the winter while living in a damp flat with a faulty boiler and no flooring, utterly astounded when his suggestion to just throw another fox cub on the fire wasn’t applauded as just “good, common sense”. The children in the documentary knew all of these things. They knew how much gas cost, how unfair the system was, they understood how poverty was affecting their life chances socially, economically and medically in the future.

When mainstream media run articles about child poverty, the comments sections are typically an absolute social cesspit of human nature, seemingly devoid of empathy, with blame always being put on parents, no matter what the circumstances. Before the Dispatches documentary was released, comments sections which showed adverts for it had some perplexed users asking why they didn’t just install a wood burner or an aga to keep their houses warm. But in a good practice guide distributed within children’s services and other statutory agencies entitled ‘Neglect In The Context Of Poverty and Austerity’, which was published by Research In Practice in 2019, the findings from recent studies show that practitioners need to unlearn this way of thinking and develop a new approach to supporting struggling families:

To address fully the impact of neglect in our society we cannot look at changing parenting alone. Children’s lives must be understood within the contexts of both the strengths and the difficulties within families….and the wider structural issues, such as poverty and unemployment, within our society. (Scott and Daniel, 2018).

The document identifies that social workers and other practitioners need to consider that “resources and opportunities are shaped by the way the economy and society are structured and by political decisions about the distribution of resources” and that the response to poverty needs to be co-designed by the very people who are experiencing it. Because for many professionals in this area, the occurrence of poverty in the families they are working with is so normalised that it becomes what is described as a ‘wallpaper of practice’- something so familiar that it is no longer even considered as a factor when assessing parents ability to care for their kids (Morris et al 2018b).

The Children’s Commission on Poverty found that those families most at risk of poverty were lone parent, families, children living in Bangladeshi and Pakistani households and families that included a disabled child or adult- the very families that are often scapegoated by political parties and right wing groups as pilfering our resources . Funny how we are continually told that the people who have the very least are the ones taking the most.

Most families living in poverty are in employment too, which destroys another myth about child poverty. It has been on the rise since 2011, with the number of children living in poverty rising by 15%- the majority of which has been within working families (Barnard et al, 2018).

This isn’t just about struggling to buy uniforms or not going on holiday. Poverty affects our mental and physical health, the quality of our sleep and our personal and professional relationships. It affects children’s ability to concentrate and their cognitive, emotional and social developments.

The Conservative government has been in power for 9 years. Their failure not just to address this issue, but to actively make it worse is not just gross incompetence. It is entirely deliberate. In July it was revealed that 3.5 million pounds allocated by the EU in 2014 to relieve child poverty and homelessness had not been used by the government and was to be handed back. Their excuse was that their plan to use it for breakfast clubs was deemed ineligible for the criteria, and alternative uses had not been proposed. Which isn’t surprising. The people in charge of using this money haven’t the slightest idea what it is like to be poor, and have zero interest in actually consulting the communities affected by poverty to see how they feel it would be best used to meet their children’s needs.

Last week, we also found out that a £3.6 billion fund which was set aside for spending on some of the poorest towns in the country- which also happened to be Labour strongholds- was instead used on wealthier areas where Conservative MP’s have a majority of less than 5000, such as Loughborough, a town which doesn’t even feature in the top 500 of the UK’s poorest towns. In fact, one third of the areas that will be receiving cash from the Towns Fund aren’t even in the top 300 of most deprived and this money is being used to hold onto Tory seats, not being put to where it is most needed.

Combine this with the fact that the National Audit Office reported in 2016 that sanctions on benefits claimants actually cost the taxpayer more than it did before the changes. Combine this with the thousands of deaths that have been directly attributed to Universal Credit, sanctions and the other countless and cruel changes to the welfare system. Then we begin to see the bigger picture of what they really think of us and what they are trying to do. By exhausting and gaslighting a vulnerable population, they make us dependant and complacent, make us fight each other over dwindling resources on a promise that things will get better if we just vote for them again, or better still, not at all, lest we start making connections between those in power and how desperate our lives have become.

It’s why some ordinary working class people will vote Tory time and time again. Despite the fact their lives have got worse under them, and will continue to. Despite the fact that they have failed to deliver Brexit when they have had three Prime Ministers and three years, and why people just simply choose not to believe that the Conservatives are privatising an NHS they rely on, despite the overwhelming and increasing evidence to the contrary.

When confronted, their only tactic is to blame everyone else and wash their hands of all responsibility. Priti Patel claimed £152,672.15 in expenses in 2017-18 and still had the arrogance to outright say poverty was not the government’s fault while stood in an actual food bank the other week. While we allow ourselves to be treated with such open contempt, the outcomes of our children worsen. If you have ever supported the Conservative Party, ask yourself what is the best thing they have done to make your life better? The answer is nothing, because if the Tories had benefitted you in anyway, you would not be reading this blog. You’d be busy on your private beach in the Cayman’s, probably deleting any messages you may have ever received from Prince Andrew. They have not delivered on a single thing they promised you and they are not about to start now.

They taught us to be hopeless, that this is just how things are, but we should never accept this as our normal.But if we allow the Tories back in come December it will be. An independent think tank called The Resolution Foundation has predicted that child poverty will rise for at least the next four years, which if correct means another million kids will grow up this way by 2023.

If we want these children to have hope and aspiration again, then we must have it ourselves. If you think voting Tory is a good idea, imagine meeting one of these kids and explaining to them why their suffering is all for the good of the country and we’re All In This Together.

Manipulating our worst fears and our apathy is the only campaign tactic the Tories have.

Like many, I sat down last night to watch the debate between Johnson and Corbyn on ITV. Probably like many too, I was hissing and cursing like a scorned witch at the television by the end of it.

What happened was what I’d predicted. Brexit. Fucking Brexit. I’m sick of the word- and not in a “leavers and remainers now just want to see us Get Brexit Done” kind of way.

I’m so tired and furious of it being used as a shield by the Tories to hide from any other subject matter. To avoid close scrutiny as to why our public services are suffering so badly and only getting worse when they have been in power FOR NINE YEARS.

I do not just want to hear these people talk about Brexit. Even one of the Liberal Democrats, Layla Moran on BBC Breakfast this morning- clearly in a huff because they weren’t part of the debate- said it was scandalous there wasn’t a Remain voice in the debate because “this is a Brexit Election”.

This isn’t a Brexit election and if you think it is, you are talking from a place of utter privilege. If you think that is the only issue we have right now, give your head a wobble. You haven’t sat holding a shaking relative before they went into a PIP assessment. Seen them crying because they had no food or gas because they got sanctioned. Worried that they were going to Daniel Blake in the middle of the job centre, then were forced to represent themselves at another appeal, which they inevitably won, but then had to repeat the whole process again six months down the line.

I want them to explain why  Jayne Rae, a  woman dying of cancer, did more this week to try and save the NHS before she passed days later than Johnson has done in his entire career. I wanted to see him challenged more about the outright lie he told about not privatising the NHS when there is countless evidence that this has already been happening for years.

I wanted to hear about Universal Credit and the people whose lives it has ruined and what Labour’s plans were to replace it with when they scrap it, as they have pledged.

I want to demand an explanation as to why at least four homeless people have died in freezing temperatures this week in Camden, Wakefield, Glasgow and Nottingham.

When you look at the track record of the two main contenders for the Dec 19 UK General Election, it shouldn’t even be a debate who the next Prime Minister should be.

I don’t fangirl over Corbyn. All politicians should be subject to scrutiny and accountability at all times, he is no exception. But if you seriously think he was the weaker of the two last night then you only want to engage in soundbite politics and have been conditioned to distrust anyone who doesn’t give rehearsed and deliberately misleading answers.

I think he could have explained his answer on the Brexit question better. It is ludicrous that the Conservative and the Lib Dems are demanding to know which side he would campaign for and suggesting that it is dodgy that he wouldn’t do so, and I think he should have said this.

But think about it. What is dodgy is that any public servant- which a Prime Minister is supposed to be- would actively campaign for either. Their job, apparently, is to listen to what people want and do what will benefit the public best, not their donors and CEO’s of large corporations.

I was what we call a reluctant remainer. Many were. I find the EU inconsistent, bureaucratic and often sinister, but even I can see the obvious nightmare of cutting us off on an island while we have this plethora of twats in power. Why would anyone be so adamantly for Leave or Remain when we haven’t seen what the options are? That is just picking a team for the sake of it. If a good deal was negotiated- which the Tories haven’t-I would happily vote for that rather than Remain again.

I don’t want to have to wear a sign begging people not to call an ambulance if I have an epileptic seizure like people in the US are because an ambulance ride costs thousands of dollars.

I don’t want Priti Patel stood with that wretched smirk on her face at Margaret Thatcher Airport with her rubber glove on ready to personally violate every single person trying to leave or enter Britain.

I don’t like the country they have created in nine years and I wanted the Prime Minister challenged on this, but he wasn’t, because Brexit has been a convenient vessel for which to deflect responsibility and sell us more lies we know are bullshit, but still swallow every time. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

Whenever Boris Johnson is quizzed as to what his plans are for the country, he will immediately provoke the country’s most base emotions and manipulate our outrage. He and his team will yell “Get Brexit Done” and everyone claps. But they won’t get Brexit done because they’ve had three years and as many Prime Ministers to do it, and their excuse that it is everyone else’s fault and not theirs just doesn’t wash anymore.

His other trick is to scream provocative yet empty promises at us. “FULL LIFE SENTENCES FOR CHILD MURDERERS” was his latest. Because honestly, who doesn’t hate child murderers? He knows most people are instantly going to agree with that and that anyone trying to question it will be shouted down like we’d suggested Fred and Rose West should be on the next five pound note. The idea of someone harming children makes us recoil. It is every parent’s worst nightmare, and that’s why this kind of tactic always works.

But ultimately a full life sentence won’t stop those children being killed in the first place, so why is Boris Johnson not proposing measures that may stop it happening in the first place? Why has his party stripped funding to domestic abuse and children’s services, refuges, legal aid, youth work, alcohol, drug, mental health and disability services and all the other protective factors that might spot early warning signs and stop this happening in the first place. Why do they think they are any better than a child abuser when they refused to spend millions of pounds they were allocated to alleviate child poverty?

The refusal to engage in meaningful debate, the mainstream media’s utter inability to challenge on the open lying they participate in and dirty tactics of doctoring videos and pretending to be an independent fact check body- something they insist is normal behaviour- show the absolute contempt they have for the public and how stupid they think we are.

If your life if hard now, it is about to get worse if the Conservatives win this election. Every problem you have is a direct result of their policies or is at the very least exacerbated by them. Labour will not bring down capitalism like the Conservatives claim. I wish to god they would. Corbyn is not the “Far Left” renegade they make him out to be. By voting Labour you are not going to be living in some dystopic republic where we all wear grey uniforms and have to serve two years in the Black Bloc before being forced to work as a vegan propagandist in a gulag ran by the IRA.  It just means that outright institutional cruelty will not be made to feel normal to you. If you want to leave the EU, this is your best chance, with someone who actually has some negotiation skills, rather than having an agenda to just sell everything working class people fought for.

Stop saying you are sick of being asked to give your voice to political decisions and demand that they give you more say in what is happening to you right now.

It is far scarier if they stop doing that, for real.

Class dismissed: What we don’t consider about survivors of domestic abuse from different social classes

I delivered some training around domestic abuse to frontline professionals recently to increase their knowledge of what it looks like and how best to support people experiencing it. Usually during questions I’m asked things like “why don’t people leave” or what signs to look out for in customers and service users. While I do always briefly cover class in my training (I’m expected to cover a lot of ground in just a few hours) it’s unheard of that I am ever specifically asked about it, until this session when I woman asked me if class made a difference to someone’s experience of domestic violence.

It was good to have permission to go into the subject a bit more as we just don’t talk about it enough. Domestic violence and abuse cuts across social class and when we discuss it, it should never try and be a race to the bottom. It is found in all walks of life, and over my 15 years of doing this job I’ve met both survivors and perpetrators from just about every background you can imagine, from a woman who gave her address as being a phone box on a high street as it was the only place she felt safe from both her abuser and Home Office officials, to another woman who insisted on us meeting in a completely different town, as a stranger wearing non-designer clothes in  the elite, leafy millionaire suburb she was from would alert suspicion from the neighbours and would put her in danger if she was questioned about who she had been talking to.

There are financial barriers for working, middle and upper class survivors to escaping domestic abuse too.  While those from wealthier backgrounds may often have the means to leave an abusive situation quickly- such as owning another property they can move in to, or having a friend or family member with plenty of space to take them in for a while- their perceived wealth can also be an utter illusion. Abusers will control every aspect of their victim’s life, and this will of course include money, with the ways to abuse financially are almost endless. A survivor can live in a big house, drive an expensive car and have an extravagant lifestyle, but may have nothing in their name. While a good lawyer may help with this, it can take months or even years before this is looked at. Similarly I’ve met someone whose abusive husband had her name put on the mortgage and a car in her name- despite her not being able to drive. Because these were seen as ‘assets’ in legalese, she was not eligible for legal aid, despite not having access to any documents or keys which would allow her to sell ‘her’ car, which prevented her from leaving or obtaining an injunction against him and meant she couldn’t have him removed from the home.

The changes that were made to legal aid in the UK in 2013 were catastrophic for victims of domestic abuse and those going through the family court system. The threshold for eligibility is shockingly scarce, and what they class as disposable income is certainly not what you or I would class as it when things like utility bills and food are hardly luxuries we can go without. As such, survivors are being told they will have to pay up to a grand for one protective order when they are living hand to mouth working two jobs. Some are representing themselves in court in desperation, sitting up till 3am sobbing while reading law books before having to physically stand up in front of the person who abused them in court.

Calling the police is another barrier to survivors of all social class, for different reasons. Those from poor and working class neighbourhoods may be used to a police presence in the neighbourhood, but to be seen as the person who called them there may increase your risk considerably and not just from the perpetrator. For many people I have known personally and professionally, their own past experiences of the police means they would be the last people they would call if they were in danger and it is important to remember that not everyone sees them as protective. If you are involved in any criminal activity yourself either by choice, necessity or coercion, the chances of you ringing them for help decrease even more.  It’s not entirely uncommon for abusers to ensure there is a small cannabis farm, or a sizeable amount of other drugs in a property because they know full well their victim is unlikely to call police during an incident, particularly if they have children.

For those from more affluent households, the reasons may be different. They also don’t want police in marked cars seen coming to the address in a ‘good’ neighbourhood. It is also entirely possible that the perpetrator has strong police, legal and political connections that would make prosecution near impossible. It’s also important to remember that all survivors will try and protect the person harming them and that them not wanting their abuser to lose their important job is as strong a reason to not press charges as someone not wishing their abuser to be recalled back to prison on licence is.

Accessing refuge is also increasingly difficult with changes to the benefits and immigration system. Not all poor and working class victims of domestic abuse are entitled to housing benefit and refuge is surprisingly expensive to stay in if you are not covered. While someone may need the security that a refuge can offer, many of my wealthier service users have outright recoiled at the suggestion of refuge or making an application for social housing. While it may be tempting to judge those women, we need to keep in mind that no one ever wants to leave their home in the first place and a fear of losing absolutely everything that is familiar to them sometimes causes people to make decisions the rest of us don’t understand.

While we can see that the same barriers to escaping domestic abuse for people can work in different ways depending on their economic and social status, how working class and middle or upper class survivors are perceived by the authorities differs massively. Those who have had an upbringing where they are taught to trust authorities and had access to decent education to be able to properly convey what has happened to them are more likely to have a positive experience with the professionals who become involved once they have made a disclosure of domestic abuse. They are less likely to show any hostility to the police because of their past negative experiences and they are more likely to believed or taken seriously.

Some professionals I have met just expect certain groups of people to have domestic abuse factor into their lives, such as those living with drug addiction or extreme poverty. For families and individuals from poor BME and Traveller backgrounds it is passed off as their culture or “just what they are like, just to throw both classism and casual racism into the mix. If you are wealthier you are more likely to have the resources, skills and faith in authorities that  are seen to safeguard your children and therefore less likely to have children’s services involvement, and if you have better access to legal services or family support,  your kids are far less likely to go into the care system.

Being rich or poor does not make your experience of domestic abuse better or worse. It is terrifying, traumatising and heart breaking for everyone. But professionals need to be mindful of how their perception of survivors of domestic abuse may change depending on their class prejudice and privilege- and also that there are a thousand barriers as to why someone “doesn’t just leave”.

The Electoral Prole

It’s a bit of a contentious issue among the population, is voting.

Some deliberately and militantly abstain. Me, I’m an anarchist who has both purposefully abstained and voted before, and a small number of my mates with a range of opinions on the subject are too. But let’s face it most of the people who will not be voting in this election would never identify themselves as such. Even at the last General Election in 2017 which had higher numbers than the previous two, there was still just an overall 69% turnout, with some constituencies being as low as 53.5%.

So why don’t they use their vote ? Lots of reasons, most of them perfectly valid. For many it’s simply because they are poor. If you think the days when the only citizens deemed worthy of voting were the rich, then look again. People don’t like to be on the electoral register when they are in debt as it can be used to trace them. Photo ID has suddenly and very deliberately been introduced by the Tories just in time for this election, despite no evidence that it prevents electoral fraud, and the concern is that this will prevent people from further being able to attend the polls. Across the Atlantic, the Republicans pulled a similar stunt last year by bringing in even more rigid measures which required any ID used to contain a residential address- a huge problem for rural First Nations citizens, many of who rely on PO Boxes for mail which isn’t being accepted at the poll stations. Others are just so completely disengaged with politics that they make no connection between why their lives are so hard.

But I saw something the other day that made me realise that people not voting is particularly helping the Conservative Party at the minute. Don’t believe me, listen to MP Tobias Ellwood last week talking about why the Conservatives will not be allowing 16-17 year olds to vote. He doesn’t even hide it. He literally says that they won’t allow a large section of the population- who they are happy to take tax from- to vote because they know they will lose power. If that does not teach you that they love it when we don’t vote because it actively enables them, I don’t know what will. Yes, it’s wrong and it absolutely must change but this is what we have in the here and now whether we accept that or not.

I get it. I’ve switched the channel over before because I just can’t bear the white noise of the absolute garbage that they spout. I’ve swore blind I will not go to the ballot because I don’t trust a single one of them. I’m not fluent in jargon and spin and just don’t know what the very fuck they are going on about half the time. With everyone suddenly talking like some learned political scientist in Brexit discussions, I’ve had to ask my friends to explain it to me slowly, like they were trying to teach a toddler about complex bureaucratic and economic structures.

I don’t like participating in a political system that I’ve been forced to grow up in and that has always felt profoundly unnatural to me. Playing their game- so to speak- doesn’t fit with who I am, my identity and core beliefs. I still believe Emma Goldman when she said “if voting changed anything they’d make it illegal”. A change of government isn’t going to destroy capitalism and it would be naïve to think it would.

But I didn’t realise until recently that they rigged the game so they get even bigger prizes when we refuse to play.

So I am voting, because most our citizens are too exhausted and gaslighted to take to the streets and drag them out of Westminster right now.

I’m voting because I cannot tolerate my mam being forced into another benefits medical assessment by someone entirely unqualified, where she will be deemed fit to work, then tortured as she is forced to type with deformed hands at mandatory computer courses, despite a doctor’s note explicitly telling them she should not use keyboards. I’m terrified I will find her dead from her chronic respiratory condition because her gas ran out and she was too proud to tell me so I could put something on the meter.

I’m voting because I cannot bear the shame and guilt of looking one of my service users in the eyes again and watching them fill up as I tell them there isn’t a refuge in the whole of the country for them and their bairns to escape their abuser.

I’m voting because I don’t want any more people to die because they were saving that last bit of their inhaler “for absolute emergencies”.

I’m voting because I can’t pretend the NHS isn’t being privatised and I’m listening to the people who have been fighting for this for years. Activist doctors and nurses who are showing me the evidence that plans are already in place to force an American style health insurance system on us and I know what the consequences of that are for everyone. Because I know what my fellow neuro patients across the pond are paying for the MRI’s and EEG’s I’ve been receiving over the years, regardless of whether they have insurance or not.

I’m voting because I work in an area where I’m dealing with little kids who still believe in Santa being picked up by the police for removing food from supermarket shelves to feed their even younger, hungry siblings.

Voting is certainly not the only thing I am doing to try and bring about these changes- I’m too distrustful of anyone who chooses politics as a career to rely on that alone- but I will use it now I am in a position that I can do so.

One of the things I hear most is “where is the evidence that a Labour or any other government has made any real change for the working class”. You’re right in thinking that in most of our lifetimes, there isn’t any. But speak to someone who grew up in the 20’s and 30’s who tell of life before social housing and the NHS. Tales of multiple kids in one family dying in the space of a few years because they couldn’t afford a doctor. Thirteen people sleeping in one room, covered in lice. This was normal working class life back then and if you speak to anyone working in a field where they encounter child poverty today, it is not an overreaction to think we could see those days again. Those things developed because working class people were within the movements and the politics of the time, not simply obeying them. They developed because that same working class were changed from war and they weren’t going back to the slums when they had already proved to themselves and the state that they knew how to bring down a regime.

We will never put all of our faith in one man or one government. No politician should be subject to anything other than absolute scrutiny. Everyone is accountable at all times. I don’t believe a Corbyn led Labour government will solve all our problems nor do I think he is any kind of messiah or above criticism- and I certainly won’t be putting my boots up if Labour win in the belief that our work is done.

Voting isn’t an alternative to organising ourselves, direct action and a DIY ethos. It’s just one of many tactics that I’m prepared to use if necessary. Because the system relies on the masses to conform to it, but not to engage with it, and it starts to become very anxious when they do.

If I only vote in only one General Election it will be this one. Will I fall out with those who won’t because of their politics? No, in the same way I wouldn’t with abstainers who don’t because they can’t risk the bailiffs kicking down their door the minute they sign up, or are worried it will help an abusive ex partner find them. It’s not okay to vilify people for not voting as the reasons are often complex and personal, and it isn’t okay to tell people that “they deserve what they get” for abstaining, as I have seen people do in the past. But similarly, I’ll no longer allow anyone to try and shame me for doing so. You still have my love and respect and I see you for the work that you do and the love that you bring in to your communities, never tiring for a moment. We will still always need that fire in the world and never think for one moment that we are not fighting the same battle, because while this discussion will come up time and time again with us, we cannot let it become a divide.

But if you are in a position to vote, I would ask that you at least just consider what I’ve said, if only for a moment. There is no such thing as selling out when you are still so fierce in your resistance and it’s not a completely stupid idea to pull out one extra card on them that they don’t expect. It’s an unusual situation we are in right now where we cant say there is no difference between the two main party leaders. We can kick Tories out of office by placing one letter in a box, and if you don’t think that won’t bring at least some respite for the people who are taking the force of the blow of austerity measures, then you are looking in the wrong places. We use our real energies for continuing to build the world we dream of when we close our eyes.

Killing Joke- Another Bloody Election

The secret anarchist history of Halloween (kind of)

Halloween, 1995. I stood before the Witch-finder General, tried as a sorceress, accused of poisoning a good, learned christian man with my evil potions. Well, not quite. I stood in the Deputy Headmaster’s office, accused of pissing in my history teacher’s milk bottles.

I didn’t do it, as it happens. I hadn’t even been with the kids who did. I had, however, childishly cocooned his car in silly string earlier in the night and had been recognised by one of his neighbours. The milk bottle pisser arrived some hours after us apparently (I’ll not mention his name, as I’m no grass), but I didn’t know this at the time, and instead I’d churlishly demanded the deputy headmaster tell me how he thought I, a fifteen year old girl, could have neatly peed in a milk bottle without a funnel of some kind.

But I digress, sort of. The point is, why were multiple groups of kids from a small village, making the trouble to go to a local teacher’s house to play inane pranks, seemingly unconnected, all on the same night (before you feel too sorry for him, the same teacher would years later end up on the sex offenders register after being caught with thousands of indecent images of children on his computer following an FBI sting. In hindsight, I wish I’d set his car on fire)?

The reason for it was, it was Mischief Night. Mischief night, Devil’s night, it is known by many names, with different variations on its origins. Depending on who you ask, it is typically the night before Halloween and for us, like many others, was a night to go out and cause multiple, but generally harmless havoc.

It’s an old practice, which has in the past left authorities running so scared that they’ve imposed heavy sanctions on participants and tried to erase it altogether. In the United States from the 19th century, particularly in deprived urban areas, it was seen to get so out of hand, with kids targeting property and adults by means of window smashing and defacing the homes of local authority figures, that police and governments took bizarre steps in order to try and dispel youth dissent. In 1923 Omah, Nebraska, police took the tactic of turning youth against each other by taking 500 of what were considered to be the worst of the boys and appointing them “special policemen” encouraged to inform on others. In Toronto 1945 there was a full scale children’s riot on Halloween as both young boys and girls set fires and attacked the mounted police who tried to disperse them, then arrived in their thousands to free the 13 kids who were arrested, resulting in the police using tear gas and water cannons on them. So bad was the problem that Chicago City Council voted to abolish Halloween in 1942 to little success and in 1950, President Truman tried to appropriate it into ‘Youth Honor Day’ in a bid to re-market it into something they hoped would restore ‘morality’ into adolescents.

The tactic of appropriating noted days of the people that were seen to be subversive or threatening to their control of the masses, and replaced with either religious or national days designed to acquire conformity is thousands of years old. Trick or treating as we know it today developed in America, but it’s origins go much further back, some believe even as far back as ancient Greece when children would dress as swallows and sing for food and threatening mischief if they were refused. The pagans believed that Samhain was the time of year the veil between this world and the next was thinnest, and that fairies and ghosts would walk the earth, which could only be appeased by offerings of food and drink, and it is thought that Halloween costumes could have evolved from this, where people would dress up as spirits to receive these offerings.Christianity changed these customs, though the idea was still the same. From the 15th century the poor would visit house to house asking for soul cakes. The practise of guising in Scotland was similar, where young people would visit houses with painted faces, reciting rhymes and asking for food, and promising misfortune if they were refused.

There are also several little talked about, yet significant events in anarchist history that happen to have occurred on Halloween.

On 31st October 1870, revolutionary groups and demonstrators, including anarchist Louise Michel demonstrated outside Hotel de Ville against General Trochu and the government, demanding his resignation and proclamation of the Paris Commune. Many of the protesters were armed and shots were fired, narrowly missing the General.

Then in 1894, The trial of the thirty finally ended in Paris, where the case of 30 French and international alleged anarchists was heard on a charge of association de malfaiteurs- criminal association, which followed months pf police raids, searches and arrests aimed at extinguishing the anarchist movement and restricting freedom of the press. The trial descended into farce as the prosecutors struggled to define what criminal association was actually meant to be. When Félix Fénéon, a Parisian art critic and ‘active anarchist’ according to the police was accused of “surrounding” himself with two other suspects, he replied;

“One can hardly be surrounded by two persons. You need at least three”

The prosecutor continued with his cross examination, inferring that he had been “seen conferring with them behind a lamppost.

Fénéon, unfazed, retorted; “A lamppost is round. Can your honour tell me where behind a lamppost is”, leading to such laughter from the courthouse that the Judge had to call for order.

All of the anarchist defendants were acquitted, with three others being convicted.

In 1922, Italy, fascist blackshirts attacked the offices of anarchist newspaper Umanità Nova, days after Mussolini came to power. Despite all of their premises and equipment being destroyed, its makers fought on, managing to get one more edition printed in secret on November 22nd before it closed completely, then later reborn in Brooklyn, USA.

Staying with Italy, again on Halloween 1926 a young anarchist named Anteo Zamboni was killed when he made an assassination attempt on Mussolini at a parade. He fired at the dictator and missed, where he was lynched by a group of fascists. He was just 15 years old.

There’s likely a book full of other stories, ones we don’t know about, little tales of rebellion both big and small that became ghosts in a land of forgotten things. But we can be sure, in these times, there will be many more to come and there is something about this season that brings it out of us more. Maybe it’s the mysterious masks. Maybe it’s the falling of the leaves that makes us crave changes and discard the things in our lives that are no longer good for us. Whatever the reason, it will remain my favourite time of year full of magic, transformation and mischief.

So be sure to mask up kids, lest you end up in the Deputy Headmaster’s office on false urination charges and remember:

Resistance is enchanting.

Have a bewitching rainy Sunday with one of my favourite bands: https://youtu.be/saZN_0nUiV8

A head full of thunder and lightning- an epileptic’s guide to mental health.

It’s World Mental Health Day. We all have our own stories with it. Like the common cold, mental ill health is something I think most of us have personal experience of at some point, with a wide range of reasons, symptoms and recovery rates. Our story may be composed of personal tragedy, trauma, illness, addiction, poverty- perhaps all of these and more- but all will be different in their own complicated ways.

I have epilepsy. It has its challenges as you can imagine, and my mental health has fluctuated more than the value of bitcoin over the years. While the reasons for that are complex and certainly not solely down to epilepsy, it has definitely factored itself in over the years. There’s the pure, isolating fear of when or what will happen during the next one. Will you wee yourself, flash your arse or catapult out of a rocking chair… again? Will you lose a tooth, break your neck or get robbed…. again? Will people laugh at you? Will you wake up this time? Because although you try to keep that one at the very back of your mind, people seem to think it is perfectly acceptable, even if they’ve just met you, when finding out you have epilepsy insist on telling you all about their mate’s cousin who had a fit in the bath once and died.

I mean seriously people, what the fuck is with that? Do all of you really have a friend who has a cousin who drowned in the bath from having a seizure? Regardless, what has possessed you to think that is something I need to hear? I have my own stories of near misses , cheers, and would rather not be told of the poor bastard who never made it.

I don’t know if the rest of my fellow epileptics would agree here, but one thing I’ve found is doctors love epilepsy. They love it. Or specifically they love linking absolutely anything and everything to it, even when you’re just in for a regular GP appointment, which can make it really hard to get the right treatment. Depression? Dr: It’s probably your epilepsy. Psychosis? Dr: It might be your epilepsy, but imma sit with my hand hovering over the panic button under my desk just in case. A bit fat? Period pain? Dr: Hey, do you think it might be linked to epilepsy?

The thing is though, so little is known about the condition or about the human brain in general, that is genuinely almost impossible to disprove that it isn’t. Epilepsy can mimic mental health symptoms and it can also be affected by a number of things, including stress and diet.

While I doubt Socrates or Joy Division’s Ian Curtis were ever asked if their period pain might be a form of epilepsy, it certainly does present challenges with our mental health. For Curtis, who’s seizures would frequently occur on stage, this is definitely evident in his lyrics as he wrote extensively about his condition and others. The song ‘She’s lost control’ – a song that gave me a morbid sense of comfort when I was a teenager- was written about a young woman with epilepsy who he knew from Macclesfield Occupational Rehabilitation Centre who died from the condition.

Medications too, can affect our wellbeing. They might stop our seizures, but as many are also tranquillisers and anti-psychotics, they literally fuck with our heads.

Sometimes I have absence seizures, which can often look like daydreaming. Sometimes I may move slowly with my arms in the air and eyes up, which is how goths dance usually anyway, but after going to see Joker on Sunday night, it’s making me anxious that people will think I’m about to exact my revenge on the City of Gotham.

In the middle of writing this, I got up to make a drink in the office and seemingly decided to tip the rest of my glass of water over myself in front of a perplexed agency staff member who isn’t aware of my neurological status. During these times I’ll feel like I’m sleepwalking, an astral part of me suddenly transported to a strange Other Realm while the rest of me remains present in the real world, dangling somewhere between consciousness and dreaming and being a bit vague and moody about it. Basically I’m Bran Stark, without designs on taking the throne and better taste in music.

Whatever compounding circumstances make up your mental health status, be sure you can find solidarity somewhere, no matter how lonely and desolate your situation seems. Reach out where you can, and take comfort from where you can.

I feel relatively safe these days. Just. Both from my mental health and from epilepsy, but that hasn’t always been the case. If we meet, you can help just by not looking terrified every time I make a sudden movement or gaze out the window. Don’t mention baths and for fucks sake learn the names of some other famous epileptics, because the next one of you that says “Ooh, you’re just like Katie Hopkins” is getting brayed.

Honestly, I’d prefer Caligula.

Here’s a great band to see us off.

The State Of The Union

Unions and the struggles of workers around the world are the reason some of us have any rights at all in the workplace. Employment laws have been fought for by the literal blood, sweat and tears of activists around the world, with significant victories. Despite this union membership numbers declined significantly in the last two decades here in the UK- however  statistics are now showing some signs that this may just be about to change.

Last year union membership rose by 103,000 overall which followed an increase the previous year as well.  The figures are bittersweet, however. While female membership of unions has risen to 26.2%, male membership has fallen to 20.7%. There are also large generational gaps between union members too. 40% of workers who are part of a union are aged over 50 while just  4.4% are aged 16 to 24.

There are many reasons why this may be.  Many young people do not know what the role of a union is or how they are relevant to them. Schools do not teach of the victories of unions and workers struggles. While union membership was almost standard few decades back, many young people have not grown up in a household where a parent or guardian was a member of one. With many young people on extremely low wages or zero hours contracts and without good working knowledge of unions, it is easy to see why they might see union dues as an unnecessary luxury.

There is also a huge gap in membership between those in the public and private sectors, with those in the latter having decreased by 47,000 in numbers- a huge concern, but of no surprise when we look at the lengths large corporations are going to in order to prevent their employees from unionising. Many people are also worried that joining a union will get them into trouble or cause them to lose their job and their fears are certainly not unfounded.

In August this year, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy openly threatened to fire any employee in the company who tried to unionise. In a blog post which resurfaced from 2015 he wrote: “I can’t tell you how much I want them to unionise. Just so I can smash their little union to smithereens”. When Rafi Letzer, a union advocate and writer at Live Science vowed to support Barstool Sports employees in forming a union following this, Portnoy responded with another tweet that said “If you work for Barstool Sports and DM this man, I will fire you on the spot” before threatening to sue any unionising workers for “damages and back wages”. 

He is now under investigation from the National Labor Relations board as it is written in US law that workers have a right to join a union and that preventing them from doing so is a criminal offence, as it is in the UK. This doesn’t seem to faze Portnoy much though, who tweeted “So are they suing for a heartfelt apology? Is that what I really just read? How about this? Go fuck yourself. Case dismissed”.

But even bigger companies than Barstool Sports have come under scrutiny regarding their behaviour towards unions and employees attempting to organise. In 2017, the United Auto Workers (UAW) filed an official complaint against Tesla, stating that the company fired staff who were attempting to form a union, something strenuously denied by Tesla and SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk.  However his disdain of unions isn’t exactly concealed. While he claims to be neutral on them, he has repeatedly stated that there is no need for his workers to unionise when they already have healthcare and had a “good safety record”, and he has even gone so far to try and blame the UAW for destroying the auto industry in the US.

For the record, Tesla’s safety record isn’t great at all. At their Fremont, California plant there have been twenty four investigations into factory safety, and between 2014 and 2018 they received fines for 54 violations at that plant alone. Accidents have included severed fingers, a pelvic bone fracture and a severe back injury caused by a rear hatch door dropping onto an employee who later stated he did not get adequate medical care by Tesla’s contracted clinic. When questioned about their safety record, Tesla’s vice president for environmental health and safety said “ The most important metric is fatalities, and our number is zero”. So basically, the standard is that as long as no one actually dies on the job, they’re good.

One former worker, Dezzimond Vaughan claimed he discovered that his job was on the line when Tesla somehow found out he was having meetings at his home to try and form a union. Vaughan was eventually fired following two supposed poor employee performance reviews, which had the review scores changed by upper management after they were completed. The  original, positive comments written about him and his work were still visible on the report.

Musk has also accused another former factory worker who highlighted several safety issues within Tesla of being a Union plant. He also bizarrely promised frozen yogurt to employees in a letter asking them to inform them of any unionisation efforts within the company. Around about the same time as this, an employee named Michael Sanchez was made to leave company property by Tesla security after handing out pro union fliers outside the factory to his colleagues.

Walmart too, have recently come under the radar,  when in July 2019 a pro union employee was fired after they posted an internal policy memo on reddit that introduced new measures which really just entailed a plan to reduce the number of managers and forcing more responsibilities on frontline workers for no extra reward. The result of this was that Walmart’s subreddit was then flooded with pro union memes in solidarity with the sacked worker who believes that Walmart corporate was monitoring their original subreddit.

Then there is the ongoing revelations about Amazon. Earlier this year, Amazon were accused of trying to dissolve its employees unionisation efforts after a leaked training video for managers emerged, with instructions on spotting union activity containing tips such as “make it a point to regularly talk to associates in the break room. This will help protect you from accusations that you were only in the break room to spy on pro-union associates”.

As part of management recruitment, Amazon also specify they want their potential managers to have significant experience in handling union organising operations and responding to union activity.

After such negative press, Amazon then made some excruciatingly awkward efforts to improve their brand reputation. They introduced  ‘Amazon Fulfillment (FC) Center Ambassadors’ which if you saw the tweets, could only be described as being witness to corporate Stockholm syndrome.

The Amazon FC ambassador accounts began to appear and flood social media with robotic sounding responses about what a great place Amazon was to work. Some of the accounts were specifically anti-union, branding unions as “thieves” and stuck rigidly to a script from which they refused to deviate when other service users who engaged with them tried to bring up certain topics.

Like Tesla, Amazon claim unions are not required as their organisation is such a good one. But on Prime Day in July this year, Amazon workers organised a strike in response to pay and conditions. Because again, like Tesla, there have been serious concerns about the safety of Amazon employees. Last year, Amazon employees in the UK were reported to be urinating in bottles or missing toilet breaks altogether in order to meet arduous daily targets, and in a survey carried out by Organise, 80% of its workers stated they would never return to the organisation if they found another job. This followed an undercover investigation by a reporter from The Mirror who infiltrated an Amazon warehouse in 2017. There they found employees having to walk up to a third of a mile to go to the toilet, and reported that some staff had to be attended by ambulance crews due to exhaustion or accidents from the long, gruelling hours and compulsory overtime.

Seven former workers have also claimed they were fired due to pregnancy when they asked for more bathroom breaks and less hours on their feet.

It’s certaintly not just large corporate giants like Amazon, Walmart and Tesla that need unions. There are plenty of stories within organisations like the NHS and charity sector- organisations seen by the public as ‘caring’- that are rife with tales of poor treatment of their employees. Disciplinaries where workers are demonstrably unwell, combined with constant harassment from HR are almost standard in today’s workforce.

And here lies one of the major problems, particular when it comes to our younger workforce. There is a danger that we are beginning to be conditioned into accepting that low wages, poor conditions and corporate harassment as simply a part of working life. If your boss or company is anti-union, that is the biggest indicator that you are probably going to be most in need of one.

Because they are as relevant now as when they first formed, regardless of how you feel you are treated at work. I’m lucky, in that my boss is approachable, fair and has acted appropriately with regards to a recent health issue I have had. And I’m still part of a union- well two actually- and I’m happy to pay my dues. Why? Because things can always change and while things are going well for me personally, it might not always be the case. Either for me, or other colleagues, or for workers from entirely different organisations who it is important to show solidarity with. An injury to one is an injury to all, as the Industrial Workers of the World say.

Know your history. Every right we have as workers was fought for by workers before us and by unions. They were not given to us out of the goodness of a bosses heart, as they will claim, and we are in stark danger of losing these. Because there is an apathy, an assumption, that once we have won a battle, the reward can never be taken away from us,  that our rights then become carved in stone. But while oppressive state structures are in place, the struggle will always be there, and they will always test how much we will endure.

On May 4th, 1886, Chicago, what became known as the Haymarket Massacre took place, and preceded one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in American history as four anarchist labor activists were hanged in response. Around this time, many immigrant adults and children were working in factories for 60 hours a week for $1.50 an day. Unions were calling for safer conditions and less hours- “8 hours a day, with no cut in pay”- across the US. The rally in Haymarket Square was organised by August Spies, editor of the anarchist publication, Workers Times. The day before the rally, police had opened fire on workers striking at Chicago McCormick Company plant, killing two of them. During the gathering, police moved forward trying to shut down one of the speakers. At this point a stick of dynamite exploded, killing the officers it landed near and injuring others. To this day it is unknown who threw the explosive, but one thing that is clear was it was not any of the men who were executed for it: August Spies, Adolph Fischer,  George Engel and Albert Parsons. Another man, Louis Lingg, committed suicide in prison and another two were eventually pardoned for a crime they had no knowledge would even take place.

But from this outrage and the corrupt trial that the activists endured, came change. Support for the Knights Of Labor, fighting for the 8 hour day grew to 700,000 in number. The public holiday that we now call May Day sprang from this event, but very few people seem to know this. Around the world we still have small children in factories. We still have people being killed for trying to unionise, and it’s not an exaggeration to say there is safety in numbers. In 2001 Coca Cola were accused of hiring paramilitary groups to murder workers  after nine union members were murdered at bottling plants in Colombia over 13 years. Columbia has by far the largest number of union killings, with what is thought to be around 3800 trade unionists killed between 1986 and 2010.

Unions are not just about supporting workers’ rights within organisations. The power of unions can and should be used to show solidarity and praxis to oppressed people around the world. In 1974 a small group of Scottish Rolls Royce workers and trade unionists at the East Kilbride factory refused to repair jet engines for Pinochet’s regime, who were killing civilians following the coup and murder of socialist Prime Minister Salvador Allende. Chilean filmmaker Felipe Bustos Sierra, whose father was an exile living in Belgium, lovingly retells the story in his documentary ‘Nae Paseran’ after he grew up on stories of the workers act of solidarity that had no idea how much it meant to the political prisoners and refugees they protected. More recently around 500 workers at Boston based furniture company Wayfair organised themselves to walk out after they discovered Wayfair had a contract with detention centres on the Southern border in the US, where there have been reports of horrifying conditions and deaths of immigrant children detained at the border.

Unions are only as strong, as militant or as protective as the people in them. The echoes of Thatcher’s brutality of the unions in the UK is still felt today even by those too young to remember it.

Your unions or any type of organised action you form in the workplace should look like you. They should fight for the things that affect you in your work place. To do that we need to be organised as workers, however we do that. Don’t wait until you are in trouble to do so. Because then you are already vulnerable. We are instilled with a fear that unionising will get us into trouble, but by doing so, we make it harder for them to pick us off. There are many reasons why some feel disillusioned with unions. I spent my early working life not being part of one because the union associated with my organisation at the time supported Tony Blair’s government so I refused to pay dues to them because I believed there were no other options.

Organised workers protect each other and those further afield. Worker solidarity is not just those on the factory or office floor or in the fields. It’s the communities forming soup kitchens to feed the striking miners and their families. It’s the Flint Women’s emergency brigade who protected General Motors strikers from police and used brooms and mops to smash windows to release tear gas and keep people safe.

It’s protecting and fighting alongside indigenous people who are exploited by forced labour practices and have their land taken from them by corporations.  It’s supporting those who are not in employment at all. It’s calling out MP’s giving themselves an 11% pay rise while telling us we are all in this together. It’s not accepting the drudgery of our lives when we are seen only as a commodity, or ever increasing pension ages where they make us work until we drop.

Brands are not people who need our love and loyalty, and celebrity CEO’s are not our friends. Talking to that worker you only ever nod to on site, or other people within your communities, listening to their dreams and their struggles is more radical than we ever realise. Defy any instructions from your employer not to talk to colleagues and resist attempts to divide you. Support striking workers instead of crossing picket lines or grumbling that they caused you an inconvenience as you rant on facebook about how they should all be sacked.

With more of us spending less and less time from our loved ones because of long hours and commutes, we need to be reminded that it doesn’t have to be this way. Those who fought for the 8 hour day were told it would never happen. That authorities would not allow it, and yet we have never needed their permission. Imagine a better life.