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Showing posts from 2013

Safe at Work?

November 14, 2013
by Sarah Friday

The health and safety fringe meeting at featured Dave Putson, PCS trade union activist speaking about a book he wrote recently on the history of health and safety in the UK, ‘Safe at Work? Ramazzini versus the attack on health and safety’.

One member at the meeting described Dave as inspirational – and how right she is. Dave explained that he hadn’t thought about writing a book before – and had intended to do less trade union work. That was before his branch secretary persuaded him to become a health & safety rep in the London courts. Dave enjoyed his TUC safety training and attended all of the courses. It was only a chance remark from his tutor that it would be good if all they covered on the training was written down, that made Dave think about writing a short booklet, but soon found he had enough for a whole book and Spokesman Books came forward as the publishers.

Who was Ramazzini?
Dave explained that Ramazzini, mentioned in the ti…

The Middle East free of WMD?

The Bertrand Russell Peace Russell Foundation supports an important initiative from Greece (see below). A nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East would enhance security in the region and the wider world. For decades, Israel's large nuclear arsenal has created instability, with Saudi Arabia now identified as the latest regional power seeking its own nuclear weapon. A nuclear arms race in the Middle East is of direct concern to the European Union,which abuts the region in the Eastern Mediterranean. So, as Greece prepares to assume the rotating Presidency of the EU in January 2014, it is vital that the Greek Government keeps in mind the interests and concerns of the wider Union and ensures these are represented at the proposed conference in Finland, initiated by the UN under the auspices of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, whenever it takes place. Greece has a vital role to play in securing Europe's peace and security. This cannot be done in absentia, and w…

Dirty Wars at Broadway, Nottingham

Cinema-goers in Nottingham will have the chance to see Dirty Wars next month at Broadway Cinema, Hockley. The film will be screened on Tuesday 17 December at 6.30pm, with an introduction by Roger Bromley, Emeritus professor of Cultural Studies at Nottingham University.

(For Spokesman Books' original post on the release of Dirty Wars, see

Dirty Wars film

Film producer Anthony Arnove on the UK cinematic release of Dirty Wars: Dear friends, On Friday, 29 November 2013, the Sundance award-winning documentary Dirty Wars, featuring the journalist Jeremy Scahill, releases in theaters across Britain, from BRITDOC Films ( and Picturehouse DOCS. Journalist Glenn Greenwald calls Dirty Wars 'one of the most important political films of the last 20 years' with 'remarkable, news-breaking revelations' and author John le Carré describes it as 'gripping, compelling and totally convincing.' The New York Times named the film a Critics' Pick and called it 'utterly riveting.'

I'm proud to be a producer of this film, many years in the making, which has received critical acclaim in the United States as well as a wide theatrical US release this summer, on more than 150 screens.

In late November and early December, I'll be joining Jeremy Scahill, a producer and writer of the film, as…

Safe at Work?

Dave Putson, Spokesman, 183 pages, paperback, £15

How many times have the tabloid headlines screamed: ‘Health and safety gone mad!’
The idea that the rules governing our health and safety are an ‘albatross around the neck of British businesses’, as David Cameron announced recently, gives a clue to the reasoning behind the media offensive.

Dave Putson’s book, Safe at Work? is a welcome riposte. Putson, a health and safety rep for London courts, traces the development of health and safety legislation, from the campaign to eradicate ‘phossy jaw’ suffered by Victorian match women and legal disputes over compensation, to the role of factory inspectors.
Before the comprehensive 1974 health and safety legislation, there was carnage across industry, with death and serious injury at work commonplace. The new laws were an important breakthrough, yet the number of people who still lose their lives or contract serious illness is frighteningly high – in 2012-13 some 148 people died at work. Safe at …

We are all Greeks (Amended)

Greece takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union in January 2014. For six months, including the campaign for direct elections to the European Parliament in May, Greece will preside over the affairs of the Union. In foreign affairs, will Greece prioritise peace in the Middle East and advance the creation there of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction? Will it bring to bear its good connections in the region so that the EU reinforces the momentum towards peace in Syria and constructive engagement with Iran? Under the Greek Presidency, what will be the priorities of EU policy towards Israel with respect to its illegal occupation of Palestine, the continuing construction of the illegal wall, and how will the Union’s modest sanctions against illegal Israeli settlements be developed?

Domestically, the scene in Greece is very difficult, but not without hopeful developments. Stratospheric levels of unemployment, particularly amongst young people where it has reached 60 pe…

No Glory in War

No Glory in War: campaigning in peace to remember the First World War

Campaign launch Friday, 25 October
7.30pm at St James's Church Piccadilly.

Tickets £13/£6 concessions.
Book now by calling 020 7561 4830 or online here:

With Billy Bragg, Elvis McGonagall, Kika Markham, Roger Lloyd Pack, George Hlawiczka, John Landor, I Maestri, Sally Davies, Jeremy Corbyn MP and others. Performances include Vaughan Williams' the Lark Ascending played by George Hlawiczka, violin, with I Maestri and London Musical Arts Orchestra conducted by John Landor.

Keep Space for Peace Week

Week of Action Against Drones
5th - 12th October

Starting this Saturday 5th October at midday, join activists from across Britain at RAF Croughton in Oxfordshire to say Keep Space for Peace and no to drones! Full details and registration at the CND website.

Yorkshire CND has also organised a series of events at RAF bases Menwith Hill and Fylingdales - take a look at their website for full details.

Our friends at the Drones Campaign Network have a detailed list of the week's events across Britain. Take a look and get involved here!


Only a few days left to register for CND Conference!
CND Conference will be held in Liverpool on 12th & 13th October. Our annual conference and AGM gives members the opportunity to decide our overall direction for the coming year, debate contemporary issues, vote in CND’s national Council elections, and to draw strength and inspiration from participating in a collective national forum.

This year’s theme is Building our Alliances to Scrap Trident. …

Murder in Athens

Around midnight  in the popular working class district of Amfiali in the region of Piraeus, a young man, age 34, was brutally knifed  to death by a gang of neo - Nazis, members of Golden Dawn.  Pavlos Fissas, deceased, was an active member of the local community in the anti-fascist movement of his neighborhood. The present Greek government is obliged to pursue in every possible way the fulfilment of the law so that the present increasing danger of neo - Nazism is marginalized. The “Greek Troika” government is also trying to pursue a propaganda of total distortion in order to somehow portray SYRIZA as the one “extreme” in the political geography of the country and on the other extreme, "Golden Dawn”.

SYRIZA has declared in every possible way that the democratic rights and laws of Greece are constantly being attacked by the brutal effects of the neoliberal policies of the Samaras government with the total support and “know-how” of the Troika.

The “theory of the two political extremes…

The Conquest of Happiness - A Play

The Conquest of Happiness is based on the writings of renowned intellect and pacifist Bertrand Russell, and is the first work by leading Bosnian artist Haris Pasovic to be performed in Ireland.

The play will open in Derry-Londonderry on September 21 for two nights as part of the UK City of Culture 2013 celebrations, before embarking on a tour of Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia, concluding in a spectacular finale performance in Belfast.

The unique collaborative production is spearheaded by Belfast’s Prime Cut Productions and co-produced with Pasovic’s East West Centre in Sarajevo and The Mladinsko Theatre in Ljublana.

As part of The Conquest of Happiness 200 performers from various choirs across Derry-Londonderry will form a magnificent chorus, representing through song the voice of the people as we follow various iconic world events. The choir will sing songs from the countries and cultures that are explored during the piece, from Germany to Israel and from Palestine to Chile, and …

Arms fair challenged with daily direct action - get involved!

A key event for the international arms trade is taking place in London this week: the DSEi arms fair which hosts 1500 arms companies and 30,000 arms buyers and sellers. The UK government's invite list is a roll call of authoritarian regimes and human rights abusers. But the fair has been challenged by daily direct action disrupting and blockading its business. A few highlights below...

Sunday: Hundreds of people 'Occupy the arms fair', blocking both entrances. Occupy camp is set up.

Sunday's Occupy vs. the Arms Fair action blocked access at both entrances to the arms fair
Following a musical protest at the ExCel on the Saturday, hundreds of people disrupted the set-up on Sunday as arms dealers arrived and equipment was delivered on the eve of the drones conference on the Monday. Protesters stopped vehicle access to the Eastern entrance. Blockades also obstructed access at the Western entrance. An exorcism was performed by priests and activists from Christianity Uncut.


Two plays

The Spokesman has received recommendations for two plays running in London this summer:

A couple of experiences friends may be interested in.

Rarely, we go to London for the theatre. This weekend we did.

Theatres beset with financial pressures are pushed into re-interpretations of classical productions, or depend on star billings to draw an audience. And so as not to offend wealthy patrons, they stay clear of politically contentious themes. There are exceptions – Maxine Peake’s enactment of Shelley’s Peterloo protest poem “The Masque of Anarchy” – but they remain exceptions.

However, we saw a couple of plays, which I at least (Joe) must confess, I went to out of interest in the issues aired, rather than in expectation of a dramatic feast. We got both.

On Friday night we saw Aime Cesare’s “A Season in the Congo”, about the travails of the Congo. It provides in dramatic form, a history lesson in de-colonialism/re-colonialism. When Patrice Lumumba was elected Prime Minister there in 1960…

Hiroshima Day (6 August)

The opening verses of James Kirkup's poem, 'White Shadows', about a photograph of the white shadow left by a man annihilated in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. Nagasaki suffered a second atomic attack three days later.
White Shadows
It was another morning, another morning.
A morning like any other, of dust and death.
A morning of war: raids, speeches, warnings.
In wartime, all mornings are alike.

Your were crossing a bridge in Hiroshima,
A bridge of plain cement, a place without mystery.
Below, the grey river ran as always, going somewhere,
Metalled and moved by the early summer sun.

The sun, that cast your shadow clearly, a healthy black.
It was the shadow of a complete man, someone
With a life, a personality, a past: but
Moving through a present that could have no future.

What were you thinking? Were you feared, hated, loved? Were you late for work? Sad or sick? Artist, student? Photographer or newsman returning home after a night out?
What was …

PIK/CAMPACC: Margaret Owen now 5 days on hunger strike for Shaker Aamer

Margaret Owen on hunger strike, in support for Shaker Aamer.

Margaret Owen is among the protesters entering a solidarity hunger strike for British Guantanamo Bay prisoner Shaker Aamer. The campaign aims to put pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to secure Mr Aamer’s release from the illegal US prison camp. Mr Aamer, whose family lives in Battersea, has been held in Guantanamo Prison without charge since 2002 when Afghan soldiers in Jalalabad abducted and delivered him to the US Bagram airbase.

Mr Aamer’s lawyers maintain that he was working in Afghanistan for a Saudi charity and say his jailers extracted false confessions under torture. He has long been cleared for release by the US.

The hunger strike is part of Reprieve’s Stand Fast for Justice campaign, which began with a weeklong hunger strike by reprieve founder and director Clive Stafford Smith, who is also Mr Aamer’s lawyer. He was later joined by Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle, and actress Julie Christie.

For more inform…

'Constructive Bloodbath' in Indonesia

In 2009, Spokesman published 'Constructive Bloodbath' in Indonesia: The United States, Britain and the Mass Killings of 1965-66 by Nathaniel Mehr, with a foreword by Carmel Budiardjo.

Historian Gabriel Kolko described the book as "EXCELLENT ... MUCH NEEDED".

Now, a contact in the United States strongly recommends THE ACT OF KILLING, a movie set against the background of these terrible events.

A film by Joshua Oppenheimer
Executive produced by Errol Morris, Werner Herzog and André Singer
116 mins. - Denmark/Norway/UK HD - 16:9 - 5.1 Dolby

'Constructive Bloodbath' in Indonesia is available to buy from our website.

Unruly Dog - The Spokesman 121

William Hague, the UK Foreign Secretary, couldn’t bring himself to utter Edward Snowden’s name, when he made an urgent statement to the House of Commons on 10 June 2013. This was in the wake of Snowden’s revelations about ‘Prism’, the US National Security Agency’s covert and extensive surveillance operation, which has been ongoing since 2007. Mr Hague wasn’t going to comment on ‘leaks’, as he repeatedly told the House. This rather put the Foreign Secretary 'behind the curve' in the debate that followed, excerpts from which are reproduced in this number of The Spokesman. Some of his comments to the House have been called into question by subsequent developments. We publish some of the seminal texts of this developing story.


The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation was established in 1963. In this, our fiftieth anniversary year, we take stock a little. What was happening then? What pre-occupied Russell? What was the peace movement doing?


Against the Public Inte…

NHS care squeezed by contrived financial crisis

July 18 2013

by Mike Marqusee

The financial crisis threatening jobs and services at the Barts and London Trust hospitals is a scandal and a tragedy – because it is entirely contrived.
Among the main causes of the £2 million per week deficit are “non-delivery of planned cost improvement programme schemes.” In other words, the Trust has been unable to implement the spending cuts it is required to make as part of the NHS-wide £20 billion “efficiency savings” programme.

It’s not that the Trust hasn’t been trying to meet its “savings” targets or that staff have been wanton with resources; it’s that those targets cannot be met without compromising patient care. It’s a paper exercise that is inevitably disjointed from the realities of service provision.

The Guardian notes that “Attempts to cut wage costs are failing because vacancies are having to be filled by agency staff.” What could better illustrate the irrationality of the NHS financial squeeze? Patient ne…

agit8: a Found Film

"agit8" was a live event held at the Tate Modern on the Southbank from the 11th June - 13th June, just ahead of the G8 summit, with the aim of inspiring the next generation of activists to 'get on their soapboxes' and pressurize the G8 to take action to help eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

We spent six weeks working directly with Richard Curtis and ONE to conceive and create 30 minutes of original content, which was projected on to the facade of the Tate Modern. The final product is part art installation, part documentary film and it involved working with a range of techniques and mixed media - incorporating music, speech, video, animation and motion graphics.

Once we had the rough concept sketched out, the team went about enlisting some of the biggest names in music today, as well as actors such as Colin Firth and Chiwetel Ejiofor, to contribute protest songs and speeches that were then woven into the film. We also commissioned a number of artists, illustrators and…

Lowdham Book Festival

Spokesman Books and Russell Press will be at the Lowdham Book Festival on Saturday. Details of the final day can be found below.

All Day Book Fair and Café
Saturday 29th June, 10am–5pm
Village Hall, Main Street, Lowdham

Throughout the day the Village Hall hosts a café run by mmm…deli,serving hot and cold drinks, salads and panini, cakes and ice-cream. The book fair is spread over the Village Hall, a marquee behind the hall and assorted gazebos. It features publishers, charities, book trade organisations,booksellers with new and second-hand books and cards. There are displays of old-fashioned letterpress printing equipment and bookbinding. Free author talks and talks about books will go on throughout the day. There will be books for children and adults, bargain books and books signed by all the authors appearing during the festival.

Entry is free to the book fair and all events on Saturday 29th June.

No tickets required. Join us for an hour or the wholeday!

For full details of all the events…

Trouble in Turkey

We have received this urgent appeal from the President of the Union of Journalists in Turkey.

Dear colleagues,

Everything is getting worse. In Istanbul, on Saturday evening, police entered Gezi Park using tear gas and water cannon against civilian people including women and children. Police also used tear gas in hotels around the area, where injured people had gone for treatment. Police do not allow the press to work freely in Taksim or other places where they attack to people. Pictures of a photo-journalist (Cem Türkel from Akşam daily) were deleted by using force in Harbiye near Taksim on Saturday night.

On Sunday, police began to arrest the doctors from the hotels who treated the people there. Police also made operation in some houses to arrest the leaders of Çarşı group (fans of Beşiktaş football team who were very active at the protesting demonstrations).

In Ankara, there was a funeral ceremony for Ethem Sarısülük, who was killed by a plastic bullet fired by police. Police do not al…

Book Launch for Safe at Work?

The WEA in partnership with the London Hazards Centre invites all Trade Union H&S Reps and trade unionists who want to get up-to-date with Government proposals for H&S to Health and Safety and the Cuts & Book Launch for Safe at Work?

Monday 24 June 2013
6.30pm - 8.00pm

WEA London Region
96 – 100 Clifton Street
London EC2A 4TP

SPEAKERS include
Tony O’Brien – Construction Safety Campaign
Dave Putson – Author, PCS H&S rep
Tony Simpson – Publisher, UNITE

The evening will be a combination of speakers on fighting the current attacks to H&S, an opportunity for H&S reps to network, and the launch of Dave Putson’s book, Safe at Work ? Ramazzini versus the attack on health and safety.

Dave is an active PCS TU H&S rep in the Courts Service

Please let Monica know if you will be attending on or 0207 426 1976


WEA Registered Charity number - 1112775