New book featuring NS contributors

<em>Fight Back! A Reader on the Winter of Protest</em> is free to download.

The first book on Britain's anti-cuts movement has been published by openDemocracy. Fight Back! A Reader on the Winter of Protest features a number of New Statesman contributors – Anthony Barnett, Rowenna Davis, Jeremy Gilbert, Dan Hancox, Johann Hari, Owen Hatherley, Laurie Penny and Daniel Trilling – and is now free to download as an e-book. More details from the publishers here:

In November 2010 opposition to the government's cuts exploded into direct action, as students stormed the Conservative Party HQ in Millbank.

A month later, Parliament Square itself was occupied, as 30,000 marched while the police protected the House of Commons, and later brutally "kettled" many of the young demonstrators.

Has a new movement been born? One which can even defeat the government?

Fight Back! the book features the best writing, blogs, articles, images and exchanges of two explosive months of action against the government's programme of cuts and student fees.

Its "editorial kettle" of seven are all under 30 and were all kettled by the police in November and December 2011.

Edited by the journalist Dan Hancox, others on the editorial team are Guy Aitchison, Laurie Penny, Siraj Datoo, Caillean Gallaghar, Aaron Peters and Paul Sagar.

The book brings together 43 contributors of all ages, from a 15-year-old UK Uncut activist to a rebel Lib Dem peer.

Fight Back! is published by openDemocracy's OurKingdom.

It will be published on 24 March as a book and on Kindle.

It can be downloaded now as a free e-book with no registration.

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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.