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    conference season

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    lost

    Number of posts : 151
    Registration date : 2010-12-13

    conference season

    Post  lost on Tue Oct 11, 2011 9:15 am

    the british press refer to august as the silly season,when short of what they call news,they make up things even more than usual,although the story so far in britain this year,tends to throw all their assumptions into the air.

    september marks the conference season,when the tuc/trades union congress is followed by the conferences of the bourgeois parties,the 3 parties used to government.they follow in a fixed and strict order-labour,lib-dem,conservative

    whilst the working stykle of all these conferences has changed over the years,the way they tend to be reported on television is very much as stars talking at audiences.that is true of the conservative party which i dont believe can even spell democracy let alone apply it,but still less so to varying degrees for the rest.indeed shiraz socialist website reported very much on the unseen debate at labour party,seeing room for hope and movement behind the miliband miasma.

    what has certainlky been true this year is a certain downsiziung of conference events which reflectrs both the real impact of crisis and the concern that organisations should not be seen to flaunt a grander scale of things in the face of that crisis.

    yet what is not reported at all is that there is really no season to the conferences of the many other parties and trades unions and other organisatiions across britain.teachers unions meet around eastertide.students twice a year in spring and autumn,unite once every 2 years in july.

    i have just returned from my own union conference held for most of 3 days in eastbourne in the last days of the sun on the south coast.i have been a priobation oifficer working in the criminal justice system here for just over 20 years,most of which i have been a member of napo/national asociation of probation officers,although this was the 1st time i had been to its conference.

    at some and various times i have been an office representative,known in some if not most unions as ashop steward-which is my preferred term.duriung those times i would circulate office bulletins and tried to organise office meeetings at least on an approximately monthly basis.early on i took part in monthly branch meetings centrally,usually at one of the key locations of the service.

    for many years that has proven increasingly difficult for me,and indeed others as the pressure of work increases,along with increased other pressures on workers themselves.of course for all too many the trades union is a low priority and the impoactr of morale also affects levels of activity.besides the excuses,this is always a political conundrum,especially when meetings might well be some considerablle time and distance from anyones particular worksite.

    in some ways napo is an unusual if not peculiar organisational animal.it is inevitably small.its 9,000 membership possibly represents 2/3 of its potential membership.it combines beinga trades union with a professional body which explains some of its strengths and weaknesses.it regrads itself as particularly democratic in that it allows any anbd all members to attend annual conference and to participate fully.it also enables that in supporting members who attend.it currently also hasa national programme to actively encourage a new,younger generation of activists,which is of particular impoirtance in such difficult times.although by size it cannot compete with the big battalions such as unite and unison who still organise over 1m mnembers each,it has a reputation amoingst the lleft of other unions for its progressive views and believes it punches above its weight.it is often pro-0active in campaigning in social and progressive issues,although it is not particularly militant in the use of trades union tactics nor innovative in its approach.

    i have sought representation and assistance,individually on 2 occassions,both in relation to serious healthand attendance issues.on both occassions ii recieved sharp,supportive,very professional and caring support and representation.on the 1st occassion that was from someone i have since found to be on the left of the union.he assisted me to return tio work after a substanbtial period of illness and insisted that our employer treat the situation both seriously and sensitively.one this occassion i am again seriiously unwell and seeking early medical retirement.throughout,my rep has not only supported me but protected me from some of the insensitivies of a bureaucratic institutioin which is essentially part fo the state.i am aware of the same system operating to the benefit of other members in various forms of difficulty and distress,despite the unions lack of obvious piolitical muscle.

    conference sessions consited of an interesting and useful mix of report backs,guest speakers and sessions devoted to resolutions.an emergency resolution advocating ballotiung for 30/11/2011 (general)passed very easily,although there was noi discussion on the mechanics of this.the answers might be obvious to a certain generation of activists-but we cannot assume that of either the whole workforce or membership.we wlao need to address how and what arguments we make to the general public who will already be ubject to misinformation and downright lies from the ruling elite and press.wealso need to win all those members who think that voting is it-that will have doubts about the actual day.as a revolutionary socialist we ned to articulate that acting in solidarity with others needs to be more than simply striking.iut is about supporting each other and developing techniques and tactics that make our solidarity real and solid.that will surely need to include being on each others picket lines,organising around an picketing"weaker"workplaces,carrying the message to workers"outside"the strike.

    a general strike is possible but in order to make it probable let alone anything else we need to build the kind of links across our class that enable us to strengthen it and devlop the support that will ne neccessary if we take the next steps......"all out,stay out".we will need action committes that link up workplaces and communities,anbd we will need to develop ways to help and support each other practically-money,food,transport and a lot else besides.

    the miners were defeated in 1985,but they would have not been able to struggle for so long without a real solidarity movement that made political and practical arguments and arrangements for miners,families and supporters.expressing goodwill and supoport is one thing.we are going to have to give substance to that this time.i believe we need to live as we want to live,not simply hope for a better day.

    it is not just the union that makes us strong-it is the effort of working and unemployed people in action,"doing"together.we will need to show the true might of our class and its abilities,in standing up to a ruling elite and its class,who talk the nonsense of "all being in it together"whilst instructing others,us to do their bidding and solvingf their crisis at our expense.they need to get the message-the loud No!from us that we will no longer follow their rules-we will create and do for each other,our class in action.our No can be a refusa,a recognitiion that something is badly wrong with it all,and in our actual solidarity take the first steps in another way.

    -to be continued-conference report continues in further posts-

    lost

    Number of posts : 151
    Registration date : 2010-12-13

    some observations from conference

    Post  lost on Sat Oct 15, 2011 11:59 am

    napo is one of the smaller unions in the uk,with approx.9,000 members.it is not the smallest-some unions count their members in 100s only.

    napo regards itself and its conference as highly democratic and activist based.amongst the delegates pack is a pamphlet on how to make the best use of conference,and an early conference session to serve the same purpose.there is also a major campaign in the unioin to encourage a newgeneratiion/layer of activists.i dont know whether there are similar perspectives in other unions but would say that in difficult times particularly,this is to be welcomed

    there were a number of fringe meetings at conference.the one on progressive regimes in venezuela,cuba and nicaragua included talks,music and a free rum cocktail.i was busy elsewhere so could not attend.i know however that such regimes raise serious questions and problemns for progressives,let alone socialists and is contested from both the right and the left.

    there were also a wide range of stands at conference.some of these were commercial and other services on offer to members.some were the traditional enterprises which emerge from trade union,socialist or workers initiatives,some make absolute sense as partners,given that napo members work within the criminal justice system and within the state.i have questions if not doubts about some others which might be seen to further blur the edges of a welfare state in probably terminal decline.

    a key plus of conference,which undoubtedly reflects the dual nature of this union,is that members of parliament,government and shadow ministers and others attend,are expected to attend and in some respects are called to account.certainly members ask very pointed questions and make clear highly articulated opinions which ministers cannot simply dismiss.of course,in a different kind of society,we would be able to make such views"stick",but this questionning is a key start for something bigger and better,and indicates a way in which such workers can serve the wider society.

    this does not however mean that everything in the garden is rosy.as well as the wider social crisis,there are tensions within the union.i hope to explore thes in further posts about conference and into the future.

    lost

    Number of posts : 151
    Registration date : 2010-12-13

    resistance!

    Post  lost on Sun Oct 16, 2011 8:52 am

    the title and theme of this years napo conference was resistance-in at least 2 senses.resisting the increasingly absurd and destructive changes in the criminal justice system and secondly within the broader economic-political-social attack on working people.

    unlike some other unions,the agenda gave a varied blend of reports,speakers and current business,in the form of discussion on resolutions.even the report backs on annual report,accounts,last years conference etc was given in the context of using past achievement and reporting back as a springboard into current and future business,rather than poring,line by line over everything,which renders tedious subjects even more boring.for example,the treasurer used his report back to stress the forthcoming batttles and particularly the way the current ruling gang-i make no apologies to refusing to grant them legitimacy asa a government-is already stealing from public sector pensions.

    there was for example a major sesssion in which government and opposition ministers were called to account,that i have touched on previously.

    there were speakers in the main conference on a variety of other,related subjects including one on defending palestinian children in palestine who are constantly subject to military arrest and worse,and the mother of a victim of stalking,still raw and painful after a year of her loss.

    fringe meeetings allowedvan opportunity for staff and special interest groups within the union/criminal justice to meet.there was alsoa meeting in which the chief executive of a major probation service presented her views about the core of our proffessional tasks.fine and important words,if kept to account but i quickly found myself exasperated and yet further alienated.

    further fringe meetings continued throughout the conference,including further specialist meetings.i could not bear to attend the session on stalking,partly becaused the speeches in the main conference had already reduced me to tedars,at the way the criminal justice continues to fail especially female victims.what is however clear,is the influence of this union in raising and campaigning on such issues in the parliamentary context.as someone not impressed by parliament,this is a real achivement in which my union punches well above its weight,and is calling parts of the parliamentary/democratic process to account.

    i attended the napo members action group meeting.it is an achievement that this left/member propelled/rank and file section of the union is alive and well after some 40 years,although on its own admission at this time it wields little voice,let alone influence and needs rebuilding.i joined,hoping i can put in my constructive "2p worth".

    itis some 18 years since i was myself secretary of a small but significant rank and file body/committee within another and larger union.much is changed since then.i remember struggling to effectively operate a diversity/equal opportunities policy for a quarterly meeting of say 20 people for a friday-weekend meeting which was a moving feast.i remember for example the constant difficulty of findinng accomodation for people with disabilities and on most occassions failing completely.

    so i not with interest,although without knowing whether the facility i am about to discuss would fit directly,the monitoring policy of my current union.this monitors all union meeting and events and enables members to report concerns and incidents to it.this keeps order in meetings,where participants have to be aware of their own behaviour and makes comments and recommendations on facilities.having sucha process or procedure,whilst not making the changes themselves might indeed point up both the flashpoints and the progress,and might provide a cornerstone to further campaigning.i intend to explore this further.what brought this particularly to my attention was that a pamphlet about these procedures was contained in every conference pack.

    as they say,you live and learn.one of the effects this policy has is that speakers have to consider their demeanour and language more carefully.sometimes it slips but it does make participants listen more closely and sometimes to sharpen the actual arguments,taking the unneccessary heat out debates that by itself does not generate light.it does not however deaden real difference and debate,some of which are predictably difficult and some of which seemed to be generated in the debate itself,rather than from pre-debate positions.

    composite resolutions seem to be constructed by steering committee.it appeared,though i do not know this,that proponents of the resolutions which constitute the starting positions may not have a role in compositing.this year,this proved somewhat disastrous for the debate on palestine/israel,which was deepened and worsened in that conference occurred at the same time as yom kippur.this was not the unions finest hour.i am aware that there were other incidents about other issues.

    they cannot always be avoided,but they should never be airbrushed away.we need to learn how to deal with such incidents so that the issues are clear and the hurt we impose on each other minimised.i think a starting point has to be that most of us,most of the time(if not all,all the time)act in good faith.real differences are one thing,but damaging others in many of thesed situations serves no-ones cause and indeed weakens us all,in asituation in which"we"start off being disempowered and oppressed.



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