Saturday, 20 December 2014

What Manchester says today, England says tomorow (Best wishes for 2015)


A strange title indeed for the last posted item of 2014, but I had to nip into the offices of the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) yesterday as the organisation is on the move to a new base adjacent to the hotel it bought a couple of year's ago (Quorn Grange - a great venue for TU and left events: and I had left a pile of books there when I left my part-time role to become full-time at Ruskin in Dec 2013.

One of the books, The Industrial Syndicalist, is a compilation of the newsletters of the same name which were edited by Tom Mann, and is a fascinating insight into that era when the GFTU was seen, alongside many trade unions, as the principal vehicle to facilitate and lead syndicalist debate, and ultimately the transition to a syndicalist economy and society.

The first conference on industrial syndicalism was held at the Corn Exchange in Manchester on 26th November 1910, and when the Industrial Syndicalist (Vol 1, No.6 Dec 1910) reported on the outcome of the event it's opening title was, A Manchester message to the workers of Britain, and the title of this post was used to introduce the article.

Whilst the current role of the GFTU has changed somewhat from the heady days of the early 20th century, it is still nonetheless an important institution of the national and international labour movement, and I wish my colleagues all the very best in continuing to serve the interests of small, specialist trade unions and professional associations.

Coincidentally, the famous labour movement artist Walter Crane created the original GFTU logo in 1898, and I used one of his images for the postcard given to current students of the MA in international labour and trade union studies (ILTUS) at Ruskin.

Naturally, it is important to recognise the cultural and political traditions of the labour movement, and whether through the continued use of the imagery of Crane, or the analysis of more contemporary forms of syndicalist worker organisation (see Manny Ness's latest for the best, latest coverage:, I am delighted that myself and my colleagues at Ruskin College (Tracy Walsh, Fenella Porter and Caroline Holmes) have the opportunity on the BA and MA ILTUS to ensure that we honour our collective past and investigate our collective future in our pedagogical approach with trade union learners.

It has been a fantastic year at Ruskin, and whilst we hold our breath based for the outcome of the May general election, we remain undiminished in our commitment to uphold the highest standards of worker and trade union education.

I wish you all the very best for 2015, and hope you have some time for rest over the next few weeks.

In Solidarity


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Ruskin College: The legacy of trade union education and research


My colleague Caroline Holmes (co-ordinator of the BA ILTUS) at Ruskin College has pulled off a fantastic feat in organising the first student-based and led symposium of the Critical Labour Studies network (CLS:

The network provides a forum (via an annual symposium and email discussion list) for critical engagement with the intersection between research activity and issues of work and labour internationally. Thus praxis is a central dynamic of the CLS philosophy, and exemplified in the international labour and trade union studies (ILTUS) programme at Ruskin.

The event next week allows BA and MA students (including alumni) to showcase their research approaches and subjects underlining the inexorable role of praxis in responding the trade union crisis and renewal theme which runs thorough the ILTUS progranme at Ruskin.

Adam Alarakhia address sister and fellow activists of the Communication
Workers Union (CWU) at a black leadership event in April on his
experience of the BA ILTUS at Ruskin and the importance of radical education
in social justice movements
The event is a considerable milestone in marking Ruskin's historical role in contributing to and shaping research by and for labour movements. It also recognises the pivotally important role that Ruskin now plays in being the only educational institution in the UK which still provides labour and trade union studies education.

The event next week reflects the spirit of hundreds of similar occasions at Ruskin, and allied publications. One of these events/publications is still used on the MA and is a continual reminder to me of what Ruskin has contributed to trade union research, but also of the need to maintain our reputation.

The new MA ILTUS cohort with Dan Blackburn of the
International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR)
Trade Unions and Social Research was published by 1991 and is jointly edited by Keith Forrester and Colin Thorne. It is the only book that I know of which focuses specifically on the research needs of labour movements and how these might be met, both by trade unions themselves and/or with academics.

The book brought together papers from a number of those who attended a conference in July 1991 and which focused on this specific theme.

Despite the distinctive nature of the book, and its continuing relevance to trade union learners, an ironic omission given that the event which led to the book, was held at Ruskin, was the role of the trade union learner/student in contributing to the research needs of labour movements.

Hence the relevance of next Saturday's event, and the need, all being well, to publish student/staff research output from the ILTUS programme area at Ruskin.

Here is the text from the publicity flyer that Caroline has put together:

Ruskin College hosts the First: Student Critical Labour Studies Conference

On 13th December 2014, between 11am and 6pm, Ruskin College is hosting the inaugural student Critical Labour Studies conference as part of the CLS network. This is the first conference of student work, that is being hosted by current BA students for the specific purpose of discussing and debating subjects that current and former BA and MA International Labour and Trade Union Studies (ILTUS) students are researching.

Students will be presenting their research topics and presenting them to an audience of students, academics and other interested parties, for discussion, feedback and debate. Topics on the agenda will include Sexism in the media, UK Trade Union Political Education and how are migrant workers viewed by the trade union movement in relation to the enlargement of the European Union? 

The conference is free and open to any interested parties who want to attend. Please just turn up on the day. The canteen will open for lunch and refreshments until 2pm. The conference will be held in rooms 209 and 210.

We are looking forward to a lively and active conference that will give students an opportunity to share their ideas with others who are studying within their field.
Come along and join in.

For more details contact:  
Caroline Holmes Programme Co-ordinator BA ILTUS. 
01865 759608.

In Solidarity