Strike for your rights!

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Jack Farmer spoke to University of London cleaners about how they won the London Living Wage and union recognition by staging an unofficial strike

Cleaners are among the most badly treated and poorly paid workers in London. Many are immigrants from South America and a lack of fluent English often makes it all the more difficult to organise.

This is why the struggle of cleaners, porters and security guards at Senate House - part of the University of London - has been so remarkable. Over a number of years they've built a Unison union branch which includes over 100 outsourced workers, organised noisy public protests and a successful unofficial strike, winning the London Living Wage and union recognition.

Organising to resist

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The retreat by union leaders over the pensions struggle shaped last year. What are the prospects for a renewal of resistance in 2013? Socialist Review spoke to Michael Bradley, from the SWP's industrial office, about the prospects for strikes and how socialists in the unions should organise

2012 was dominated by the retreat over the pensions struggle. What do you think is the balance sheet of that experience and what lessons can we draw from it?

Boots Riley: The Coup and the revolution

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How did you become involved in music and politics?

Growing up in Chicago and then Detroit and Oakland, my family were all interested in radical organising, so I was a political organiser from the age of about 14 and 15. At that time my musical inspiration was Prince, when everyone else in my school was just interested in rap. Through political organising I began to see instances that showed me how music can be a rallying point in campaigns and movements.

You were active in Occupy Oakland - can you tell us what you learnt?

China's scattered migrants

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China's booming economy has been built on the back of migrant workers. Hsiao-Hung Pai talked to Sally Kincaid and Charlie Hore about her new book and the lives of China's migrant population

Why did you choose the title Scattered Sand for your book?

The idea of Scattered Sand came originally from Sun Yatsen, the founding father of the Guomindang (Nationalist) Party - so it came from the Republican Revolution of 1911. The idea was when he was talking about the Chinese people as being scattered sands - not united as a nation against Western imperialism.

Quebec: how we won

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After a six-month strike students in Quebec celebrated a victory last month when the new Parti Quebecois government announced it would reverse a planned tuition fees hike. The new government also repealed Bill 78, an emergency law introduced in May, aimed at restricting the right to protest. Aamna Mohdin and Jamie Woodcock spoke to Jérémie Bédard-Wien, a spokesperson for CLASSE, a radical student coalition that played a central role in the movement

“Half a million people marched through Montreal on 22 May - the largest ever act of civil disobedience in North America.”

Jérémie Bédard-Wien

There has been a history of student strikes in Quebec. What was the trigger for the 2012 student strike? And what was the inspiration?

South Africa after the Marikana massacre

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The killing by police of 34 striking platinum miners at Marikana echoed the worst massacres of the old apartheid era. Socialist Review spoke to Claire Ceruti, a South African socialist, about the strike, the implications for the workers' movement and tensions inside the ruling ANC party

The Marikana miners have won a pay increase of up to 22 percent. Can you say something about the significance of the strike and its outcome?

Even though it fell far short of the miners' original demand, the result of the strike was a victory for the power of self-organisation. The mine management was forced to negotiate directly with the miners and the rock drillers won a 2,000 rand increase (around £150), with other sections winning a bit less.

The People Speak

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Anthony Arnove and David Horspool are co-editors of a new book of speeches and writings by British rebels and radicals from 1066 to the present. They spoke to Rebecca Short and Estelle Cooch

Tell us a bit about the project.

Anthony Arnove: It really began in 1980 with the book that Howard Zinn wrote called A People's History of the United States. That book really changed the way that people in the US think about history and the way history is taught.

An interesting moment happened in 1997 when Matt Damon, who grew up next to Howard Zinn in Boston, wrote a scene into the film Good Will Hunting where he mentions the book.

Trouble brewing in China

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Estelle Cooch and Jack Farmer spoke to Geoffrey Crothall from the China Labour Bulletin about workers' resistance in China.

What are the main reasons behind the upsurge of strikes in China recently?
There are lots of different reasons. The most fundamental is that workers don't really have any other option if they want to pursue their economic interests or defend their legal rights. There is no established system of dialogue workers can use to express their grievances with employers. The only way they can get their voices heard is basically to go on strike.

Revolution, sanctions and US imperialism

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Sarah Ensor and Mark L Thomas spoke to Tariq Ali who gives his take on the revolutions and rebellions in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria, the threat of war with Iran and US imperialism after Iraq

What is the balance sheet on Iraq for US imperialism? How far has US dominance been damaged?

The spirit of Occupy

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John Sinha and Amy Leather are socialists who have been part of the occupation of St Paul's since it began. They spoke to Jack Farmer about the Occupy movement

What has been the ideological impact of the Occupy movement?

John: It's had a huge impact, which can be summed up in the slogan "We are the 99%". What people meant by that is that we are fighting for the interests of the 99% of people who have lost out as a result of neoliberalism.

Amy: The slogan is also the beginning of an argument about class. It's made people think that it is possible to take on those at the top and do something to change the world.

What were the differences between Occupy in Britain and elsewhere?


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