Are Amazon digging a hole for themselves at Tilbury?

Since the Amazon distribution facility opened in Tilbury at the start of October, over 600 workers have either quit because the working conditions are so bad or they’ve been sacked for failing to meet onerous productivity targets. See this report in the Thurrock Independent for full details: Sacked worker backs report into poor conditions at Tilbury Amazon

This piece in the Thurrock Independent was based on an interview with an ex Amazon worker, Gary. This is a sample of what he had to say…
“You are constantly timed on how much you do, and if you don’t stow 3,000 items a day they basically kick you out the door. A lot of people walked out on the first day it was so bad.”
“The way management speak to you is so condescending, and as soon as you step away from your station they are asking where you’re going and timing how long you’re away.”
“They basically just want to have a team of robots working for them. You get two half hour breaks and if you’re back a minute late they scan your badge and deduct 15 minutes from your wages. It could have been a great place to work, but I don’t agree with how they’re trying to work this, I don’t agree with their philosophy and I don’t agree with their working standards.”
“You can’t talk to people, you can’t have a bit of fun, with this you’ve pretty much just got to work in silence. What they want are people who don’t have backbone and you’re not going to find a lot of people like that in Thurrock.”

The more we look into this, the more it seems that Amazon don’t give a toss about the number of workers walking out the door because they’re being treated like shit. This is because Amazon take the view that in the post industrial Thames estuary employment landscape where there are more potential workers than there are jobs, there will always be a queue of people willing to take the place of those who quit or are sacked.

If for some odd reason, Amazon believe the myth that migrants from Eastern Europe are more compliant and start to try and recruit them to replace the workers they’re shedding like there’s no tomorrow, they may be in for a massive disappointment… One of the consequences of the Brexit vote is that inward migration from the EU is already falling and many EU workers, pissed off at the reception they’re getting in this country, are heading homewards back over the Channel: Immigration figures have dropped by almost a third in the last year, as EU workers begin to pack up and leave following the Brexit vote If they think non EU migrants would be a pushover, they’re in for an even bigger shock because they’re not a pushover in any way, shape or form: Unions take note…this is how you take action!

Amazon in their arrogance are digging a hole for themselves. There are only so many workers they can piss off before it has consequences for them. As indicated above, it could be argued that Amazon are running out of workers they can screw over. Which leaves them with the option of completely re-fitting facilities such as Tilbury so they are largely automated. It can be done – the new super-port at London Gateway is largely automated but that was only possible because the owners, Dubai Ports have very, very deep pockets. Whether Amazon are willing to spend heavily on re-fitting and automating a facility they’ve only just opened is open to question…while there’s still a source of cheap, exploitable labour, automation will remain on the back burner…

What options do Amazon have? Relying on an ever punitive benefits system that forces people into jobs they’re not suited for but end up having to endure because if they quit or are sacked, the option is no benefits and destitution. In other words, a modern form of slavery. Given how people on benefits, even those who are working, are demonised, those who can’t stand the relentless, inhuman pace of work Amazon expect from their staff will get little sympathy from the mugs who’ve brought into the ‘hard working families’ rhetoric coming from the right wing media and too many politicians across the spectrum. However, how many people are actually buying into that myth about ‘hard working families’?

Thurrock with it’s industrial heritage has historically had a reputation of being a place where a lot of people are not afraid of a hard day’s graft. The qualifier is that workers in places such as Thurrock still generally want to a) be treated with respect and b) get paid a decent rate. On that basis, even though many people in Thurrock see themselves as grafters, they can see that Amazon are taking the piss something rotten…

This means there’s an opening to take on the likes of Amazon and win. In continental Europe, workers are not taking the shit they’ve been getting from Amazon lying down – they’re fighting back: Amazon workers are fighting back Granted, the situation in the UK is very different from continental Europe in that here, the process of smashing any form of collectivity and atomising people is more advanced than over on the other side of the Channel. Despite this, people still have a sense of fairness and they can see that Amazon are crap employers and they’re getting angry about it. If we can recognise the difference between here and continental Europe, tailor our rhetoric and tactics accordingly, there’s everything to play for in taking Amazon on and sending out a signal that no employer can get away with treating their workers in this way…

EVERYTHING TO GAIN (and everything to lose)

We’re entering a period of instability – all that’s solid seems to be melting into air. With an indecisive election and Brexit negotiations descending to the level of farce, our so called rulers look weaker and more divided than ever before. The faction ridden ruling elite of this country have embarked on the first stages of Brexit negotiations with no clear idea of what they want or how they’re going to get it. A fractured so called party of government seems to be more fixated on who’s going to replace the hapless Theresa May as prime minister and leader rather than getting it’s head around understanding exactly what Brexit entails.

A breakdown of trust

At local council level, councillors and council officers all too often are found to be self serving and incompetent. The Grenfell Tower disaster showed up the so called ruling elite at the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea as arrogant, out of touch and uncaring – it was ordinary people on the ground who took over the initial relief and recovery effort while the authorities floundered around.

Across the south of Essex, we struggle to find anyone who has a good word to say about their local authorities. Southend Council are obsessed with pointless vanity projects such as the museum on the cliff top instead of addressing the homelessness crisis in the town. Basildon Council can’t even organise a weekly rubbish collection on estates such as the ¾ in Vange without leaving bags of uncollected rubbish strewn all over the place. Thurrock Council are in full control freak mode attempting to dictate which media outlets can and can’t report on their proceedings and refusing members of campaign groups the right to ask questions at council meetings. People are losing what little faith they had in local councils to do the job of serving the public…

Whether, it’s at national or local level, trust in governance is declining, yet nothing appears to be happening to bring about real change. Much of the left has been subsumed into the bizarre cult of Jeremy Corbyn, buying into the deluded notion that should he manage to form a government, everything will be all right. The Corbynistas need to take a look at the dismal record of London Labour councils when it comes to socially cleansing the working class from London in the name of ‘regeneration’ – maybe that would give them the reality check they need. Everyone else appears to be just hunkering down and getting on with things as best they can…

There has to be a challenge

While the powers that be are divided and appear to be blundering from one crisis to another without a clue as to where they’re going or what they’re doing, they’ll continue to get away with it until there’s a serious challenge from below. At the moment there appears to be no sense of an opposition that can pose a real threat to the status quo, let alone a desire to move beyond the dysfunctional world we have to endure and build a more just, equitable and sustainable one. While this state of affairs continues, the ruling class can stagger from one crisis to the next safe in the knowledge that in the form of the state, they have the monopoly on the force that’s needed to keep their grip on power, regardless of how tenuous that may seem to be.

While the majority of people are under the illusion that things will be all right and thinks that the third of society that’s suffering needs to get its act together, there will never be a serious challenge to the system. Should things go seriously wrong as a result of another financial crisis or the Brexit process leading to a black swan event, then a large proportion of the population will be screwed. If there’s no significant radical movement in place by that point, we’re in serious trouble.

With the ruling class as divided as it is now, we have the best opportunity there’s been for a long while to build a movement that will bring about fundamental change through collective struggle. That movement can only be built from the grassroots upwards – waiting for the messiah in the form of Jeremy Corbyn will not bring about the change that’s needed. As the title of this piece says, there’s everything to gain if we can get our act together and build that movement. If we can’t, then as the bracketed subtitle suggests, there’s everything to lose…

Election 2017 – some thoughts from outside the bubble

Being political activists, there’s a tendency to hang around with other political activists and end up getting sucked into a bubble that distorts the view of what’s really happening in the wider world. We do our level best to avoid that but even we end up getting sucked into the bubble of endless discussion about the forthcoming election and in particular, the hyped up predictions of the Corbynistas about how well they might do.

There’s an easy way for us to take a reality check… It involves switching the laptop off, leaving the house and walking round the streets where we live. Apart from a huge Tory banner on the side of a barn on the edge of town, you wouldn’t know there was an election on. Sure, we know the tradition of putting posters in your window to declare your voting intentions has been in decline for some years now but there’s now almost a complete absence of election posters on display in our town. Anecdotal evidence from comrades in London and other parts of the country confirms a near total lack of election posters on display.

Once you step outside of the activist and media bubble, it’s pretty clear that this election is leaving people feeling distinctly underwhelmed. Even with Theresa May’s reputation as the ‘strong and stable’ candidate looking distinctly tattered after a string of gaffes and no shows leading to a narrowing of the Tory lead, out here, there’s still widespread cynicism about the election and the self serving reasons it was called.

We’re sticking to our original prediction that out of the total electorate, the number of people who chose not to vote will be greater than those voting for the ‘winning’ party. In other words, whoever forms the next government will have little in the way of meaningful legitimacy. Given that May’s reason for calling the election was to have an overwhelming Parliamentary majority to back her up in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, if she only achieves a slim majority on the back of a low turnout, she will have sod all legitimacy.

If a weakened Tory government is perceived by the other EU nations as having little in the way of meaningful legitimacy, it will make the Brexit negotiations ‘difficult’ to say the least. It could well mean more instability and the prospect of the UK crashing out of the EU without any kind of a deal. Suffice to say, there is a lot of turmoil to come as the political and economic system we live in becomes ever more crisis prone. Looking beyond electoral politics to a future of instability, it’s stating the bleeding obvious that there are dangers ahead but also, if we as activists can get our act together, there are opportunities to start to push the project of fundamental system change…

Get digging!

Type ‘Brexit and food security’ into a search engine and you’ll come up with a slew of articles warning about significantly higher food prices, crops not being harvested because there isn’t the labour to undertake the task and last but by no means least, the distinct possibility of food production standards being lowered. This piece is just one example of what we found: Brexit about to trigger sky-high costs for British food industry

Now we don’t want to come across as ‘Remoaners’ complaining about the impact of Brexit – as anarchists, we’re on record as having a pox on all your houses attitude towards the issue: A few thoughts on Brexit… However, if those eager to pull the UK out of the EU had undertaken some planning for life outside rather than relying on blind faith that things will work out okay in the end, we may not be facing a future of soaring food prices and disruptions to supply…

A tanking sterling has already started to force food prices to go up. If the UK ends up crashing out of the EU without any deal, tariffs on imported food from the EU will send prices soaring. Then there’s the question of the labour needed to get the food from the field to our plates. The stark fact is that much of this is undertaken by migrant labour from the EU. Already, there has been a decline in migration from the EU as potential migrants are being put off by what they feel will be a hostile welcome. If inward migration is cut to the levels the likes of UKIP and hard right Tories have been screaming for, we could face a situation where crops will be left to rot in the fields because there will be no-one to pick them. The jury is still out on this one but in a post Brexit UK where food prices are going through the roof, there may be a temptation to ease up on some hygiene and safety regulations relating to home produced and imported foodstuffs in a bid to keep prices down and stave off domestic discontent.

As the title of this piece suggests, there’s a solution…get digging! We’re not suggesting a patriotic ‘dig for victory’ drive – we’re anarchists and we don’t do patriotism or nationalism. What we are suggesting is making a start on building community resilience to deal with the shite that’s likely to come if we continue to rely on clueless politicians to negotiate the complexities of a Brexit no one seems to have any plans for or idea of how it’s going to pan out. One aspect of community resilience is localising as much food production as possible down to neighbourhood level.

We’re talking about things like turning your back garden over to growing your own. If you can get hold of an allotment, do so: Allotments going begging – get one while you can! If you feel a plot may be too big to handle on your own, team up with friends and neighbours to work it and share the produce equitably. If you can, find a plot to start a community garden. It’s not always necessary to ask permission – we’ve seen guerilla gardened plots that have been going for a good few years without any unwanted attention from the authorities!

Obviously, it’s better if food growing can be done as a neighbourhood project. Working together growing food and sharing the produce helps to build friendships and goes a long way to generating the community solidarity that will be vital in the troubled times ahead. Localising food production in this way with the solidarity it generates, not only gives you more control over where your food comes from, it’s empowering people to start taking more responsibility for, and control over, the neighbourhoods they live in. Also, growing food in this way is healthier, not just because of the fresh air and exercise involved but also because you have complete control over the inputs. Once a community feels empowered enough to start taking control of their food supply, that could lead to some interesting developments in the fight for a more just, equitable, sane and sustainable world…

Unsure how to make a start? Below is a list of resources which have loads of useful information on community gardening that can be done in a healthy and sustainable way – get reading!


Billericay Community Garden –
Empty Cages Design –
South East Essex Organic Gardeners –
Southend In Transition Community Allotment –
Spiralseed –

The end of UKIP?

With UKIP being wiped out in the local elections that took place on Thursday 4th May, losing every seat they held, many commentators are saying it’s the death of the party. Which in terms of UKIP as a viable political party with a coherent programme that will attract voters is pretty close to the truth. The point is that if pushed, a lot of UKIP activists wouldn’t give a toss because as far as they’re concerned, they’ve won hands down…

Firstly, they have played a major role in achieving Brexit. As we’re more than a bit ambivalent about the issue: A few thoughts on Brexit… we won’t dwell too much on this…

Secondly, they’ve driven the Tories to the position of being a nativist, even more reactionary and right wing party: Local elections: UKIP aren’t dead – they’re in charge Check out the rhetoric from the Tory party conference with the crap about people who see themselves as citizens of the world being derided as ‘citizens of nowhere’.

Thirdly, they’ve had the media feeding out of their hands while they peddle their reactionary crap, knowing that all the while, the Tories are taking note of what they’re saying and absorbing it into their agenda. In other words, UKIP have assumed the role of a massive pressure group, forcing the Tories to adopt many of their ideas.

There’s no reason for UKIP to exist any longer because they’ve done the job they set out to do. We have a Tory party with an agenda heavily influenced by UKIP… The Tories are on course to win the forthcoming election on June 8th and when they form the next government, they will have the forces of the state at their disposal to implement an agenda that’s pretty much been written by UKIP.

A motley crew of twenty far right boneheads were harried and hassled by almost three hundred anti-fascist protesters in Croydon on Saturday 6th May: Huge police presence as pro and anti-immigration groups protest in East Croydon Which is great but…the fact that only around twenty boneheads were out on the streets tells its own story. Namely that a growing number of racists and reactionaries see Theresa May’s Tories as the ones with the ability to implement their agenda…

We have a huge task in front of us… One that will not involve voting in a Labour government – regular readers of this blog will be aware of our views on the complicity of London Labour councils in social cleansing in the name of urban ‘re-generation’. It’s one that involves going a fair bit further than the ballot box: Lob a spanner in the works and let’s have some real change!

A few thoughts on Brexit…

Article 50 has been triggered and the process of the UK exiting the EU is underway. We’re entering a period of political instability which will doubtless by accompanied by economic dislocation as the Brexit process unfolds. There’s the distinct possibility that the start of the break up of the UK is also underway. We really are living in ‘interesting times’!

Let’s be clear, in reality, the EU referendum last year was a ‘choice’ about which faction of the ruling elite we ‘want’ to have running our lives for the benefit of big business. The point is we don’t want our lives to be run by either Brussels or Westminster if we end up being seen as nothing more than production units to be exploited and discarded at will. While the politics of the referendum and its aftermath was undoubtedly a fascinating spectacle, let’s not be deceived that it was anything other than a false choice between two shite options.

Here are just a few examples of how the EU basically screws people over… Firstly, there’s the continuing imposition of a level of austerity on Greece that can only be described as barbaric. Then there’s the trade ‘agreements’ with African countries that allow for the dumping of heavily subsidised EU produced food into Africa, undermining the ability of local producers to export their products. Also, how could we not mention the negotiations for the now thankfully defunct Trans-Atlantic Trade & Investment Partnership which were conducted under high levels of secrecy with no meaningful transparency. If this deal had gone through, it would have given major corporations the right to sue governments if policies that impacted their operations were implemented.

As for the alternative, Theresa May’s grovelling to Trump on her visit to the US earlier on this year was stomach churning and a signal of utter desperation. Effectively becoming the 51st state of the US with all that entails in letting the major corporations have even more power over our lives is not an option. Nor is turning into a low welfare tax haven servicing the global super rich an option either. The powers that be need to be aware that this is not what many people who voted for Brexit want.

We argue that neither Brussels or Westminster are wanted in our lives and the option of becoming the 51st state of the US in all but name is unacceptable. We need to reject all of these and start fighting for a more just, sane and sustainable world where the mass of people working together are genuinely in control of their destinies. That fight starts now – if we can get our act together, there’s everything to gain…