Protest against the latest fiasco in the privatised rail industry

Action at King’s Cross to protest public subsidy of private rail franchisee

On Thursday of this week campaign group We Own It staged an action at King’s Cross station in London. The aim of the action was to draw attention to the costs to the public of subsidising the private companies who operate Britain’s rail services. In this case the operators of the East coast rail franchise Virgin Trains East Coast and Stagecoach have terminated their franchise arrangement early. Critics, such as the We Own It group, point out that this is in effect a bailout. The franchise holders had committed to pay money to the Treasury in the final years of the contract. Now they will not have to.

The whole system of giving rail franchises to the private sector is an example of a desperation to transfer as much public wealth into private hands as possible. This is not the first example of a rail franchise failing. And, surprisingly, given that this is supposed to be all about ‘markets’ we find that in reality private companies are able to reap profits but avoid risk. This then is not in fact a ‘market’ operation at all. It is a kind of reverse socialism – where the public underwrite and subsidise the private sector.

Details of the franchise can be found on this Guardian article. 

Great that campaign group We Own It are actively campaigning on this matter.

For background here is an interview from some time ago which Cat Hobbs, Director at We Own It, gave on the subject of rail privatisation to Sky News last year.

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Pret á exploit

Fast-food chain Pret á Manager is, according to a report in the Guardian, ‘offering’ teenagers a week’s “work experience” over the Summer.

(The scheme is presented by their PR as something to do with recruiting ‘British’ teenagers to work in their stores, as most of their staff are non-British; an idea, which from certain points of view, seems simply racist. What’s wrong with non British workers?).

This kind of development should surprise no one. The gloves are truly off in capitalism. While exploitation is enshrined within capitalism it has, until quite recently, been held back from going the final mile, by a remnant of decency and morality. However; recently even these restraints are being abandoned. In a “progressive” shift in the culture such extreme kinds of exploitation can now confidently be explained away as “giving young people experience”. Power is so deeply buried – and yet so ascendant – that this kind of exploitation can be presented as normal.

In a competitive labour market, without restraints, it is entirely logical that people will find their first job is one they have to work for free; maybe even actually pay for. Expect more of this.


Severed limb protests – Russia replies

Following the ‘mannequin’ protest at the gates of the Russian Embassy in London Russia has replied:

If we want to count the wrecked limbs of killed civilians it would seem that, taking the last 20 years, the UK has more to its account than Russia. Bombing of Yugoslavia to force it to give up Kosovo (1998), Iraq (2003), Libya (2011) – the current destabilization of Syria. (The UK is fully aligned with weaponising all kinds of extremely right-wing Islamic militias who are being used to bring down the government of Assad).  As far as the Americans go there is a long list of refuge convoys, wedding parties, hospitals,  shepherds, TV stations, civilian air-raid shelters and so on to their account.

But our wars are always ‘right’. In defence of ‘human rights’. Or ‘democracy’. Or ‘regional stability’. And we “never deliberately target civilians”. And so it drones on.

Incidentally, a word on “we never deliberately target civilians”. Pay attention. This phrase is casually interpreted to mean that the West nevers hits civilians except by accident. But this isn’t that they mean. (Though every illegal war brings with it hundreds or perhaps thousands who are killed simply by ‘accident’ when a missile goes off-target or the coordinates were wrong). They have chosen their words carefully. It means that they are quite happy to bomb a target knowing full well that civilians are in or are highly likely to be in the vicinity – and they they will be hit. True – the civilians haven’t been “targeted”. It was the TV station, or the telephone exchange, or the house with the presumed militant inside which they were targeting. But, accidents aside, the West in its bombing is quite prepared to kill civilians in pursuit of military objectives. It inevitably does this when it bombs civilian infrastructure such as telephone exchanges, dams, power stations, bridges, water treatment plants and even TV stations etc [1] These people were not deliberately targeted. But they are dead nonetheless. And people also die when they were simply too close to a presumed military target. (Hundreds have been killed by the current wave of allied air-strikes in Iraq and Syria). [2] The liberal press and political class is whipping up a storm about “Russian war crimes” in Syria. But – the West does what it accuses the Russians of – on a far greater scale, and usually in wars of aggression rather than defence.

The people placing theatrical severed limbs outside the Russian Embassy in London, (unless they are committed peace activists who hold all parties to account for war per se), are in the strange position of people carrying out a protest which depends on delusion and make-believe. They might as well be on LSD for all their grasp of international affairs and recent history. Perhaps they are…


1. Partial list published in Washington Post illustrating typical civilian infrastructure targets hit when the US bombs a country. From 1991 campaign against Iraq.

Wikipeda article on US bombing in 1991 Iraq war. Details of civilian infrastructure hit.

2. Some Airwars (Soros backed monitoring group) figures on civilian casualties caused by allied bombing in Syria and Iraq