Mark Bergfeld

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New struggles, new unions? On the Pop-Up Union at Sussex University

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This article was first published in Ceasefire Magazine

April 18, 2013

A piece on an innovative trade union tactic pioneered by workers fighting privatisation at Sussex University

The struggle at Sussex University is the latest in a series of student rebellions against austerity and neoliberalism in our universities. Occupy Sussex held Bramber House for 55 days and called a successful 2,000-strong demonstration against the outsourcing of 235 non-academic jobs. It has shown us how students can resist university managers implementing their new fees regime.

The response by trade unions at Sussex University has, in contrast, lagged behind. The three campus unions – Unison, Unite and UCU – have finally called a membership consultation ballot nearly a year after the campaign began. But this welcome step forward would not have happened without a new factor: the Pop-Up Union recently founded by Sussex workers, which has pushed for ballots, built and supported Occupy Sussex, and argued for escalating the battle against Sussex management. (more…)

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M26 Trafalgar Square: A report

img00271-20110326-1242This was first published on Turn Trafalgar into Tahrir, an initiative by students, trade unionists, MPs and community groups on March 26, 2011. I was one of the main initiators. This was written the day after the square had been violently cleared by the police. 

This Saturday over half a million people took to the streets in the biggest anti-government demonstration since the invasion of Iraq. Trade unionists and community activists from around the country rallied together. The supermarket of the super-rich, Fortnum and Mason, was occupied and shut-down along with many outlets owned by tax-dodger and government cuts advisor Philip Green. Several general secretaries called for strike action.
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McNally’s monsters, Georgy Lukács and hegemony – Can the Market Speak?

This book review was first published in the Berlin Review of Books on 05 April 2013

When first reading Campbell Jones’s Can the Market speak? I simply treated it by the author’s self-imposed standards: a philosophical enquiry into the market and “the structure of the ideas and fantasies that come with the category of the market” (7). If I had finished writing this book review before Cypriot bank heist and the run on banks it would have probably remained at the level of summarizing the book, and making some snarky comments on particular points I liked or didn’t like.

Protests outside the House of Representatives in Nicosia, Cyprus, in November 2012. (Photo: Tco03displays, source: Wikimedia, modified and used under Creative Commons ASA3.0 Unported License)

Protests outside the House of Representatives in Nicosia, Cyprus, in November 2012. (Photo: Tco03displays, source: Wikimedia, modified and used under Creative Commons ASA3.0 Unported License)

The euphemistic ‘Stability Levy’, which would steal up to 10 per cent from people’s savings, breathed new life into the wide-ranging critiques of the  market advanced by Campbell Jones. The question I asked myself was whether this short book could give meaning to this European Lehman Brothers moment  and the ensuing collapse of the market the following Monday morning. In his book, Campbell Jones argues that there is a long history of personifications of the market. Adversaries and apologists of the market alike have attributed human characteristics to non-human entities to display the powers of capitalism. (more…)

Millbank protests, occupations, solidarity, strikes: Interview with ‘Freedom’

Students demonstrate at the Tory Party Conference, Manchester in Manchester in 2011

Students demonstrate at the Tory Party Conference, Manchester in Manchester in 2011

Recently, I rediscovered this interview from 2011. It is well worth a read given that NUS Conference is only a few days away. Special thanks to Ché and Al.

Published July 2, 2011 – Originally appeared in Freedom #7213 – Online version here

Mark Bergfeld is an education activist who has played a vital part in mobilizing – and being a part of – the student movement in London, which took every political radical by surprise last November, and ignited the anti-cuts movement here in general. In this interview Mark shares with Freedom his thoughts on the subject, the current state of the movement, as well as the coming big action on J30.

  • Can you speak about the inception of the Education Activist Network (EAN) and your involvement in it? (more…)

Portugal: Police Batons for Protesters and Rubber Bullets for the Kids of Bela Vista

This article was first published on Monthly Review.

Ruben Marques, 18, died at the hands of the police in the barrio of Bela Vista, Setúbal, Portugal, on Saturday, March 16.  His crime: he crossed a red traffic light with his moped.

Bela Vista on the night of Reuben Marques' death

The media blame the victim for not wearing a helmet, the Communist Party mayor blames the victim for stealing the motorbike, and the police turn the victim into the culprit

Ruben is one of many casualties of police brutality in marginalized working-class communities under siege.  Just recently, the police officer who shot the 14-year-old“Kuku” at point-blank range was acquitted by the courts.  Tony’s mural has remained colorful since 2002.

As news of Ruben’s death reaches more and more shacks and apartments of immigrants from Portugal’s former colonies, travelers, and the unemployed, the police station gets surrounded by people in protest.  Young men and women start torching bins, vandalizing cars, and hurling rocks and glass. (more…)

You’re either a flower in a dustbin or that spark that lights a fire

sidi_bouzid_01I was asked to write “a populist piece” for some book that never appeared. I wrote it in May 2011 so it bears all the marks of a generation in revolt.  Forgive me! 

If I were to ask a call centre worker in Glasgow, a cab driver in Berlin and a bar worker in London what Johnny Rotten and Bruce Springsteen have in common they would probably give some half-hearted half-guessed answer containing the words punk and no future. Then all of them would rant about how shit The Boss is, and that they don’t understand what Springsteen finds so great about New Jersey.

If I were to ask a vegetable vendor in Tunis and a computer programming student in Alexandria the same question, they would light a cigarette, probably shrug their shoulders and continue to make ends meet.   (more…)

Rosa Luxemburg & the lost German Revolution of 1918-1923

Here is my talk on Rosa Luxemburg and the lost German Revolution of 1918-1923 that I gave at Revolt! Festival in Central London at the beginning of March.

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