Freedom News

Somebody Else Can Finish It Off: A Molotov at the Union

Content warning for mentions of suicide

If people ask me about the democratic state of the United Kingdom, I just point them now to a video of Queen Elizabeth II cutting a cake. For some reason, the press had gathered to watch the Queen cutting her own cake for the Diamond Jubilee, and for another equally implausible reason, the cake is upside down.

I used to live in Hackney and how you hold a knife says a lot about you. If you want to see the heir to a dynasty of slavery and inbreeding stab a cake with a large knife and then, with her characteristic German charm, inform someone else to “finish it off” for her – I recommend you put on Perfect by a surrogate Prince Harry, stand on a chair and make sure that noose is tight.

Let me explain. The Queen is a rock of hilarity and myth that allows all from the left and the right; republican, monarchist, fascist or anarchist to avoid talking about our other problems. She represents a national mental breakdown and identity crisis: a form of empire fatigue mixed with national neglect and waste.

I always know something terrible is happening when I see the Queen all over the news. She has more parties than the Kaiser and he was in exile from Nazi Germany. What are you going to do?

We cannot demand those without the concept of responsibility to do anything but relinquish their wealth and divide it mostly among the former colonies that fought for their independence in the first decades of Elizabeth’s rule. It will not submit to reason…

Colonization is not a thinking machine, in the words of Franz Fanon.

Instead this is a Molotov aimed at the unions, specifically the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and Unite the Union. Do not fear, this is not some kind of Thatcherite firebombing. This is about the division of responsibility and how we are complicit in what we already know. Res ipsa loquitur.

Despite the sensationalism, Molotov was an intensely boring man. It was the best survival technique in the Soviet Union and for that he outlived Stalin, yet his name gained the reputation of resistance and revolution in urban and guerilla fighting. As we learn from history, it is always the quiet ones that are the most dangerous because they are frequently misunderstood.

Take Ian Duncan Smith MP. In 2003, he went ‘up north’ to find what they call in politics ‘the idea thing’. He decided to go to one of the most impoverished areas of Scotland and met a woman who was grieving for her son. It sounded like social justice. It may just win him an election.

Allan Dobbie had died in a homeless shelter after writing his mother a suicide note. His life had been consumed by drugs and prison – by a system that punished him for the conditions of his life rather than helping him. The problem Smith identified was not the roots of why Glasgow was blighted by drug use but the support that addicts get; the state-sponsored methadone that stops heroin addicts from dying.

He saw this as the symbol for what New Labour had made out of the newly created Department for Work and Pensions. The DHSS was not, as Beveridge had hoped, an act of health and security against violently fluctuating markets and mass unemployment following economic depression, disease and war. It became an act of support.

What was a right – a preconditioned contract – became Dynamic Benefits. That is; a relationship between citizen and state that is constantly changing as to the politics of the government of the day and their reaction to unemployment or views on the disabled. This was the New Deal we were already promised by the new cocaine dealers of New Labour;

“In the past, the benefits system has defined people with disabilities and long-term sickness by what they cannot do. This has meant condemning many people to a life of benefit dependency and low expectations. The new deal for disabled people will instead restore the opportunity to work for disabled people… to let them fulfil their potential.”

Choose life. In short, both political parties have made everything worse.

“The quiet man is here to stay,” Ian Duncan Smith once said before being kicked out of shadow government by the 1922 Committee. You know who I mean? The men in grey suits who recently kept a criminal in power. Smith never forgot Glasgow and when he was re-elected again in 2010 he got his revenge with his very own think tank, the ironically named Centre for Social Justice (CSJ).

At the time the former Minister for Suicide Prevention had this to say, to refresh your minds.

“I hope the budget really marks a beginning of our quest to truly reform the dependency culture that exists in Britain today… we will not only reduce welfare bills but increase tax receipts to the Exchequer, so that the entire nation will be better off and future budgets will be a lot less painful than this one.”

Dependency implies control – Universal Credit is deliberately designed as a dependency through debt, a sickness through sanctions until finally you are part of the off-benefit flow – suicide or early death. As with interrogation, you’re tortured not for the answers you give or do not give but for obedience. To truly answer questions like “So why have you not killed yourself yet?“.

This ‘violent bureaucracy’ is run with performance targets that seek to dehumanise the victim, creating an ethical indifference that allows the worker to absorb themselves and their actions through the moral authority of the state. “You had some who seemed to enjoy the stick… it’s like a power trip.” a Work Programme Welfare to Work Advisor testified.

What must be understood is that ‘front line workers’ have an obligation to sanction. They will lose their jobs if they refuse an order. In short – which side of the stick do you want to be on?

This point is being made fairly painfully now, as the PCS have noted that their members will end up on the dole queue. Those who sanctioned people into poverty will be faced with the same institutional violence they once wielded. The guard becomes the prisoner, or as the union puts it: “First we were clapped, then we were scrapped”.

In just three years, the DWP through reassessing the disabled was responsible for 590 suicides, a quarter of a million mental health problems and 750,000 additional prescriptions of anti-depression.

Testifying if debt was central to suicide, the former Minister for Suicide Prevention responded:

“It absolutely is. If you look at the plan we have produced today… (it) raised issues of particular professions that are going to require work but clearly the issue of debt is a major issue. Debt and relationship breakdown are by far the biggest drivers of suicide.”

The CSJ, who originally designed the blueprint of Universal Credit, also admitted that debt was a problem within the design in 2017, but as an abstract concept rather than a systematic abuse.

We live in the state of denial and the quiet man is here to stay. The one who witnesses and engages in injustice but does nothing to prevent it, hiding instead behind false divisions of responsibilities. “I just drove the train,” springs to mind… “I just sanctioned the customers” is the mantra of our times.

In 2017, the PCS testified to a Work and Pensions Parliamentary Committee along with the leaders of this Poverty Industrial Complex; Aton, Capita and Maximus:

“Our members report that there are regular examples where the level of expertise of a person carrying out the assessment does not appear to match the requirements of the health condition of the assessed,” PCS noted, “we do not believe there is any real quality control.”

“Many of the Health Care Professionals (HCP) used by contractors to make assessments identified themselves as physiotherapists… our members have continually reported that there is pressure to turn out numbers… original decisions can be rushed (as it can be) much easier to confirm the original decision than change it.”

“There are significant problems faced by claimants with mental health issues, learning difficulties or illnesses like Asperger’s, ADHD, epilepsy etc.”

Atos and capita admitted to employing only two doctors each, out of a workforce of 1,500. A doctor working for Maximus wanted to make it clear the “division of responsibility” resulted in the government taking all the responsibilities for the referral. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions denies she has a Duty of Care, which is handy because Negligence is against the law.

Sanctioning started up again in the summer of 2021 after a brief period of amnesty during the Coronavirus, possibly more in relation to bureaucracy than the Tories actually wanting to protect people from death. As evidence to that claim, the government’s record only confirms one of those realities.

At the time, the entire administrative order had collapsed but even weeks after an international pandemic was declared – disability assessments were still being rejected. At the time, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions called it “service excellence.” So this is the government’s fault no? It was Boris Johnson! It was the Queen – look at the size of that fucking diamond!

No, It was me. When someone starved to death because their benefits were stopped, did I do anything? When an epileptic died from a massive seizure 10 years ago from the stress of being declared fit to work, did I do anything? The endless names of those who have died for absolutely preventable reasons been not been failed by the Conservative Government. They have been failed by us.

Demanding a far-right political party engage in Duty of Care is like telling the Queen to finish it off herself. It’s as useful as a Molotov bread basket.

This is the failure of the union to represent the disenfranchised – not just the wage slaves. The failure to not just protect us from sanctioning, but then have the audacity to demand the rights of those who have punished the working class on the dole queue, to continue doing so for the sake of their own job. To not share the same fate they inflict on others.

We are as responsible for our own actions as much as those who give orders.

Listen. I am clearly a journalist. So for representation against, let’s say Corporate Negligence, I would need union representation from the National Union of Journalists. Unfortunately, in the rules of the NUJ, the definition of work is paid which means if you do not earn the majority of your income from journalism, then you are not a journalist.

However, you would have to be drunker than Hemingway to believe for an instant that the vast majority of journalists have an income, a fixed salary. They fired us all, remember? This was how Thatcher fucked the unions, she made us all unemployed and so we lose our status as workers. Media tycoons like Murdoch finished off the rest – straight to the DSS.

The NUJ offers a benefit to those who are out of work, but the insane rule structure is more punitive and restrictive than Universal Credit, minus the psychological trauma. You can get an associate or temporary membership, but these two are excluded from a press pass, legal representation and unemployment benefits.

If you are incapacitated or an asylum seeker, you are also not allowed unemployment support. So when, for instance, someone is diagnosed with a neurological disorder, they have to go to members of the PCS union, not the NUJ – where underqualified medical practitioners working for the Department for Work and Pensions will declare them fit for work.

The hypocrisy of the disenfranchised represented by a solidarity based on capital gains, conditional benefits and centralisation have been a long time coming. Ewa Jasiewicz explainsher opposition to the former Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey’s position on migrant workers;

“You never punch down. You never collude with the state to stop poor people seeking bread, and you never collude with a classification of people as lesser. You wouldn’t accept a two- or three-tier employment contract system in a workplace, which is rampant today, any more than you should collude with that in immigration status.

These concepts of class, underclass, a black-market workers’ class, serve neoliberal states, which continue to pursue policies of atomisation, authoritarianism and poverty class reproduction. Why would you follow this model?”

Jasiewicz worked undercover in hotels to expose abuse with the Hotel Employees Action Teams (HEAT), a proven model of union organisation as opposed to the ‘servicing’ of major unions. So why hotels?

“We need a new social movement to change toxic economic relationships,” she told the Guardian four years before.

“Hotel workers are the most marginalised and the most isolated. Many London staff will not picket a hotel for fear of CCTV surveillance. They know that some hotel chains police social media for ‘contract infringement.’” That is criticism of management, speaking out to your colleagues, friends or family about your day at work.

The hospitality and tourism industry follows the business model of multi-tiered exploitation, from underpaid workers to those trafficked through its rooms. These are the two major crimes that have followed the hotel industry despite anti-slavery declarations on their corporate responsibility pages and belated support for the protection of children vulnerable to exploitation.

The price of privacy and what abuse this can afford is almost limitless. Within this legal grey area, other violations of dignity are committed. Hotels are also a respectable face to property development, banking and tax havens, typically using franchising models to cover the true owner, again a division of responsibility.

In a global pandemic that has killed millions of people, the rich are more desperate than ever to get their money overseas, and the City of London has provided that haven. For example, let’s take a completely random company – one that has a proven history of the facilitation of slavery, intimidation of workers, and grotesque violations of intelligence.

Two years ago, property developers 4C Hotel Group signed a £65m deal with Hilton to develop a hotel in the City of London. There was a major problem however, 4C only had £18,539 in cash. End of story, no? The property market in London can be summed up by fourteen words.

“I know fourteen people who have died on these streets these last two years,” a man sitting on the streets of the City of London speaks into the growl of a passing Hummer limousine.

I can’t reply through waves of rage that eat at my mind. The National Union of Journalists offers me useful free advice in its guide “Reporting Poverty“:

“Journalists seek interviewees to humanise a story, and the interviewee needs you to add the structural context, to make clear that their story illustrates a wider problem that society can choose to address.”

“Fourteen people man,” he repeats, “it fucking twenty quid a night for a homeless shelter.”

We look up at the towering fountainhead above us. A titan of individualism, built from only the salary of a nurse. It must be anarchism? The sign outside declared ‘Freedom’ and I decided to go inside. As I pushed open the heavy doors, however, I find myself in a Russian oligarch’s toilet.

The feng shui was a mix of inspiration from the insane interior designs of Donald Trump and Muammar Gaddafi – a gross violation of intelligence that caused me to shout in rage across the hotel lobby and cafe.

“What the fuck happened?” I call my source, an anarchist called Cat. “This is a modern-day ‘Sacco and Vanzetti Cigarettes,’ are the bastards crazy?”

“There has been an Anarcho-Capitalist takeover; the expropriation of Freedom!” the anarchist screeched while being put into a cage by left-wing Putin supporting tankies. The line goes dead.

“Can I help you?” a hotel worker asked nervously.

I demand a coffee. It tasted of the bitter hatred of exploitation. Workers whispered to each other but I was prepared, I had a story. Finishing the coffee, I asked to make a formal complaint. I did this because I don’t have a press pass. You have to graft with no paperwork.

“Can I ask what this is about?” the hotel worker asked. This is about you, I thought.

“This is not about you my friend, this is about something bigger.” He goes off to get the manager.

You see? This is a story about freedom, not Freedom. The fact that a hotel had, with the help of a PR company, taken the format of the newspaper I worked with and turned it into a cocktail menu was one thing. There was something else lurking in this corporate nightmare that should be examined beyond the initial violations of intelligence.

When looking for missing money, it is probably better to ask the Director and Company Secretary. Mr Bashir Hakamali Nathoo has all the answers but unfortunately too many jobs to comment. Currently holding 21 jobs at the same time, at companies like ‘Citco Jersey Limited’, ‘Ocean House Development Ltd’ or ‘4C Minories 2 Ltd’

It seems clear most of these companies are fictitious in any meaningful sense, some with net assets of £1 and others based in the tax haven of Jersey. After a bit of digging, I found an interview with Al-Karim Nathoo, another director, who had this to say on the missing money, reported in the hard-hitting Caterer Magazine;

“Working alongside our team, Leumi UK has yet again delivered outstanding service, enabling us to meet our capital needs while continuing to grow our portfolio.”

Leumi is an Israeli bank, formally known as the Anglo-Palestine Bank. Despite the nationalisations of most of the banks after the establishment of the State of Israel, it remained private, until it was caught up in a scandal involving buying back its own shares in the 1980s. The resulting crash meant the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange was closed for 18 days.

The bank was nationalised and the government bought the shares, until 2005 when it was privatised again. Sound Familiar? It was in that same year that the bank came up with a great idea. With the help of Mossack Fonseca, it set up ABC Formation S. á r.l. and registered the shell company in Seychelles, with a Luxembourg branch.

In 2014, Leumi admitted to the U.S. Department of Justice that it conspired to hide its assets and income in offshore accounts. As a punishment, the bank paid only £270 million in fines and moved its account from Panama to Switzerland, before the leaks that formed the Panama Papers became public.

As this country is being bled with those very banking and taxation crimes combined with rising inflation and spending cuts, workers are earning less and the safety net is cut. Instead of understanding the complex nature of work and solutions within the power of grassroots lead action, workers are still excluded by people with ridiculous job titles such as General Secretary.

Hotel workers “Come here from other parts of the world for work.” Ewa Jasiewicz explains. “They think they will stay for a short time. Then they make ties. They work so hard, they commute long distances, they have no time and energy to improve their language, to develop their skills, and so they become trapped.”

“Can I help you?” a voice interrupts me from writing my story, while I try to get the bitter coffee down with complimentary warm lemon water.

“I wish to make a formal complaint,” I repeat.

“Can I ask what it is about?” the manager of the Hilton asks, “do you work for Freedom?”

“With,” I reply. I work with freedom.

“Why Work?” the menu in the table asks a cocktail for £11. ”This provocative collection…”

“I think you know what this is about,” I say, but before I could get to my story, she media snowballed me like a Conservative Party MP. “No comment… Meeting later on Friday… Come to that and talk about it…” Deny, Deny.

All I wanted was clarification for my story. The right to respond. So, what is to be done?

There are plenty of examples of grassroots union organising, with the Sex Workers Union, United Voices of the World and Industrial Workers of the World as notable examples. If the union cannot prevent its workers from actions that will lead other workers to their own death, they share the same charity as that of a Queen. Someone has to pay the piper.

It is up to journalists to do their jobs and in action prove what the craft is not what it has become. Anything else is toothless propaganda for wage slavery. We are all in some way complicit, maybe you are the manager of a large hotel or a job centre employee. Someone who is trafficked or underpaid. A member of a union or government… break the silence.

The consequences can be dangerous but without the exposure, there is no accountability. We are trapped in the violent repetition of what we already know. Those who break the silence are pursued because their bravery represents something more than just telling the truth. Some whistle-blowers expose the oppression they previously supported in their work and allow others, armed with that knowledge, to do something to change it.

The cocktail was a resistance to Molotov, not a homage. What was first an incendiary device used by Francoist soldiers became a resistance by the people to the Secretariat of the Proletariat’s deadly bread basket. His division of responsibility lives on.

We all remember the cocktail but few of us remember the telegram Molotov sent to Ukraine in 1933, co-signed with Joseph Stalin, that precipitated the starvation of 11 million Ukrainians with the restriction of food. Why would a food crisis in Ukraine be relevant today? It is a culture of aggressive indifference that asks stupid questions.

If complicity is knowledge and inaction, then disobedience is the act that speaks for itself;

We are the drink that goes with the food.

For advice on whistle-blowing, visit the Courage Foundation who actively campaign and provide legal support and protections for whistle-blowers, as well as The Canary [] who offer their advice in communicating and leaking information of public interest, and the EFF for digital security.

Josie Reynolds

Image by Loz Pycock, published under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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