Sean Vernell

Strange and Familiar

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Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, curated by renowned photographer Martin Parr, is a fascinating investigation into the social, political and cultural lives of working class people in Britain from the 1930s to the present.

Some 250 photographs are on display taken by 23 different photographers. What links them is that none are British. These photographers came to Britain to capture the lives of the “ordinary”. As outsiders they brought a new and fresh perspective on the everyday life of working people.

Louder echos at the TUC

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It is sometimes said that trade union conferences are merely the echo of the battle rather than the battle itself. If so then the TUC conference is the echo of the echo of the battle.

The TUC is the most conservative part of the trade union movement with most delegates working full time for the unions and several steps removed from the everyday pressures facing their members.

Time to escalate the fight

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The anger over pensions runs much deeper than this single issue. But some in the trade union movement have argued to keep the fight focused on this question alone.

They believe that workers, at the moment, are not interested in fighting a wider battle over privatisation and the defence of the welfare state. This is a mistake. The attacks on pensions act as a lightning conductor for the rage felt about the coalition's attacks as a whole.

There is an alternative

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With massive cuts looming debates are beginning about the best way to respond. Should Labour councils refuse to implement Tory cuts?

A debate is opening up about how best to respond to the attacks on the welfare state. I was invited to speak at an anti-cuts meeting in Lambeth recently and a lively argument broke out between members of the Labour Party which took me back to the 1980s - what should a Labour council do when faced with budget cuts?

With the workers always

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Profound economic crisis and renewed militancy from the working class means the relevance of Marxist ideas for 21st century trade unionism, and the role socialists can play within the movement, is worth revisiting, argues Sean Vernell

Walking past a bookshop recently I saw a window display with a copy of Robert Tressell's classic The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists - a story of exploitation and resistance in the early part of the 20th century. The recommendation from one of their young workers read "Worryingly relevant".

UCU strike ballot: Time to pay up

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Some 45,000 Further and Adult Education lecturers in the University College Union (UCU) are being balloted for strike action over pay alongside teachers on 24 April.

Some may say that there is nothing unusual about that when lecturers in this sector have probably taken more one-day strikes over the past 15 years than most workers. However, this time it is different.

We are used to getting insulting pay deals, but like other public sector workers this year we face a pay cut. Lecturers have seen principals' pay rise 50 percent faster than theirs since 2002. Last year we were offered 2.5 percent. On average, principals awarded themselves 4.5 percent on an average salary of £100,000.

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