Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Trotskyism, Corbyn and the Labour Party - public meeting



Tuesday 4th October, 7.30pm, 
YHA Bristol (Grain House), 14 Narrow Quay, BS1 4QA

The Jeremy Corbyn leadership campaign is once again inspiring thousands of people to get active in politics and stand up for the future they want. It has driven the right wing of the Labour party to distraction as they try every dirty trick to oust him and take control of the party back. 

Trotskyism has been thrown around as a dirty word in an attempt to smear some of their opponents. The name of Militant, (now the Socialist Party) a Trotskyist group expelled from Labour for being too left wing has been brought up and many slanders spread.


In this meeting we will discuss how Corbyn and his supporters can consolidate a political voice for the 99%, not the 1%. We also look at the real history of the Militant Tendency and what the Russian revolutionary socialist Leon Trotsky actually stood for.

Organised by Bristol Socialist Party and Bristol University and UWE Socialist Students groups. All welcome.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Organise mass working class resistance to austerity

Come to the National Shop Stewards Network rally at the TUC Congress

Join fellow trade unionists and socialists including Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and BFAWU (Bakers Union) general secretary Ronnie Draper on the NSSN lobby of the TUC in Brighton on 11 September, 1pm in the Ashdown Suite, Holiday Inn, 137 King's Road (seafront), Brighton, BN1 2JF



Junior doctors and teachers march together in a joint BMA and NUT demonstration in April. Now Cameron is gone we need to get Hunt and the rest of the Tories out photo Paul Mattsson   

Rob Williams, Socialist Party industrial organiser
TUC congress is taking place at the end of what has seemed like a hot summer, industrially at least. In the run up to the event, the figures for days lost in industrial action in 2015 were published.

On the surface, they are alarming. The lowest number of workers on strike - 81,000 - in a single year since records began in 1893 and only 170,000 days lost through action - the second lowest in history. In the 1980s, on average more than three million days were lost.

No doubt the conclusion drawn by the pessimists and cynics within the trade union movement will be that this confirms that the organised working class is too weak to defeat the employers and their government.

In fact, the TUC press officer, Michael Pidgeon, has used the figures to argue that the Tories had no need to bring in the repressive Trade Union Act, the biggest attack on the unions since Thatcher's anti-union laws three decades ago.

They will also be used to justify the absolutely baleful role of the right-wing union leaders in the fight against Tory austerity over the last six years. No serious campaign of co-ordinated strike action has been called against the biggest jobs cull ever seen in the public sector. Last year, it was estimated that 400,000 workers had been sacked, with the possibility of another half a million going by 2020.

Opportunity

The biggest opportunity to confront the cuts was the 2011 struggle to defend public sector pensions which saw 2 million workers walk out on the 30 November strike that year. If that dispute had been continued and escalated, it had the potential to stop Cameron and Osborne's austerity offensive in its tracks. Instead, the conscious sell-out only emboldened the Tories to go further.

The result has been devastating in terms of jobs, services and pay as well as pensions, which have contributed to the 10% drop in wages with increased pension contributions. No wonder the income of workers in the UK is still at pre-crisis levels. It was this position that forced joint action over pay in 2014. Although that too only lasted one day.

But it would be a huge mistake to draw pessimistic conclusions from a superficial view of these statistics. In some respects, they are a reflection of the disappointment of workers at the seeming inability of the unions to lead an effective fight against the Tory cuts.

As we have pointed out, this is the responsibility of the right-wing union leaders. Two of the three leaders who were primarily responsible for the ending of the pensions dispute, then leader of the TUC Brendan Barber and GMB general secretary Paul Kenny, were knighted by Cameron. The other, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, is under increasing pressure from members of his union because of his role.

Joint action

The ability of the Tories to drive through cuts in the public sector (which has a majority of union members and is where their density is greatest) without large-scale joint action over the last two years has undoubtedly had an effect on the figures.

But this masks the huge discontent and anger that exists. This has been reflected in individual union disputes in the public sector. For example, there have been national disputes by civil servants' union PCS and the Fire Brigades Union.

There have also been prominent local disputes, such as by Unite members in Bromley and Greenwich councils and Unison in Glasgow and Barnet. Socialist Party members have been prominent in some of these struggles.

There are many other disputes that don't even make the figures. Over the last few months there has been an uprising of teaching assistants in Derby and then Durham against pay cuts of up to 23% by Labour councils.

In Durham, 500 of these low paid workers filled a meeting and launched a public campaign but no actual official strike days have yet been sanctioned by theunions, Unison and the GMB.
Similarly, there have been three incredible disputes in London recently, at Deliveroo, UberEats and among contracted cleaners. It is likely that not one day of their action is officially recorded as neither of the small independent unions involved - the United Voices of the World (UVW) and the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) - have a recognition agreement with the employer.

Nevertheless both Deliveroo drivers and UVW cleaners have won victories against their brutal working conditions. Many of these workers are migrants and many have to hold down two or more jobs to have any chance of a living.

'Self-employment'

Their struggles should be celebrated and show that it is possible for unions to flourish in the era of zero-hour contracts and bogus self-employment. The trade union movement, especially 'new unionism' in the late nineteenth century, was built in similar exploitative conditions.
The strikes also showed a number of features that are becoming increasingly common. The use of social media has been important to advertise the disputes and build solidarity, including protests and financial support.

UberEats workers ride into town to face down their bosses photo Scott Jones, photo Scott Jones   (Click to enlarge)

The IWGB raised £8,000 in two days in their dispute with Deliveroo. PCS raised over £100,000 that helped pay National Gallery strikers during their dispute that lasted over 100 days last year. In fact, a number of disputes are seeing longer action.

Some of these disputes - such as those by BFAWU bakers' union members in 2-Sisters plants in Sheffield and Newport and PCS in the Welsh and Scottish Museums - were over employers attacking premium pay to compensate for the increase to the new National Living Wage.

The RMT has appeared to be on strike on all fronts - including Eurostar, Virgin East Coast, Southern Rail and ScotRail. Many of these have also involved protracted action. There have also been bitter disputes by Unite members on the buses in Leeds and Weymouth.

Construction workers went on strike at the Fawley oil refinery in Hampshire to ensure that migrant workers were paid the same as UK workers. Also, the first strike took place in the offshore oil industry for nearly 30 years. Both of these strikes got results.

Trade Union Act

The Tories may find that their Trade Union Act could actually up the ante, as the new law means that disputes could be timed out after six months, forcing a re-ballot. Workers could draw the conclusion that they might as well go all-out from the beginning.

Actually, far from dismissing the threat from the unions, the right-wing Tory press have a far more realistic appraisal of the potential threat of the unions.

They have particularly been fulminating about the rail strikes, demanding the immediate introduction of the new undemocratic higher voting thresholds or even outlawing strikes altogether!

In response to the new strike figures, Matthew Lynn of the Telegraph wrote, "Strike action may have fallen to the lowest levels in over a century - but the sooner it is eliminated completely the better." He was railing against the Southern Rail strike but also what he calls the 'public sector middle class'.

Of course, the most prominent of disputes among this group has been the inspirational junior doctors. They exploded onto the scene, not just on picket lines outside hospitals but campaigning in town and city centres.

Scandalously, the overwhelming support they have received from fellow trade unionists and the public hasn't matched by that of the TUC and most union leaders, especially in health.

However, the junior doctors have rejected the government's offer and are embarking on the next phase of action. It should be a key debate at TUC congress to turn support into active solidarity. 

At the very least there should be a national TUC demonstration in support of the BMA doctors' union and also widened to defend the NHS.

National demonstration

There is already a national demonstration called by the National Union of Students and lecturers' union UCU in November to defend education, just as national action has been taking place by teachers and lecturers.

The potential exists to bring all these struggles together. 90 years after the 1926 general strike, an increasing number of workers are groping towards the understanding that mass strike action can transform the political, as well as the industrial, situation.

The attempted Blairite coup against Jeremy Corbyn has deliberately deflected attention away from the historic crisis within the Tories after Brexit. The main architects of the brutal austerity offensive, Cameron and Osborne, are history.

May's government has no authority and she is only prime minister because of a defeat for an administration she was part of. In any other circumstance, there would be a clamour for a general election. Even if only semi-consciously, workers can feel that this is a weak government and this will only increase as more workers engage in action.

The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) is again holding a rally before the start of TUC congress.

Its two main themes will be for the unions to prepare the mass strike action necessary to take on what's left of the Tories and also to defend the left Labour leadership of Jeremy Corbyn against the Labour right. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell will be addressing the rally alongside leaders from some of the most militant unions.

The political and industrial are beginning to fuse. The second Corbyn wave, created by the whip of Blairite counter-revolution, has drawn more workers into the struggle against the Labour right.

Workers understand how much is at stake as the right wing try to turn the political clock back. This is not a period of passivity but one of increasing volatility. If given a lead it can develop into a mass movement of struggle to defeat the Tories and their Blairite agents.

Join fellow trade unionists and socialists including John McDonnell and Ronnie Draper on the NSSN lobby of the TUC in Brighton on 11 September, 1pm in the Ashdown Suite, Holiday Inn, 137 King's Road (seafront), Brighton, BN1 2JF

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

1000 Jobs To Be Cut At Bristol City Council

Marvin Rees (right) - Labour mayor doing the bidding of Tory chancellors past and present

TUSC calls on Marvin Rees to reverse decision and fight for necessary funding



Bristol Labour mayor Marvin Rees has announced the cutting of 1000 jobs from Bristol City Council, almost 1 in 6 of the workforce. This is part of a package of £43m cuts, additional cuts of some £60m planned by Rees over the next 4 years will further devastate jobs and services in Bristol.



The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) demands that Rees reverses these job cuts and campaigns for the funding stolen by the Tory government to be returned.



Anti-cuts campaigners and trade unions representing council staff have also raised their concerns. The Unite, Unison and GMB unions all have positions nationally of calling on councils not to make cuts and to use reserves and borrowing powers to protect services while demanding more funding from central government.



TUSC former mayoral candidate and Bristol Socialist Party member, Tom Baldwin said:

“It seems that Jeremy Corbyn’s call for opposition to austerity has not reached every level of the Labour Party. These cuts are being driven by the Tory government but here we have a Labour mayor putting forward an eye-watering package of redundancies.

“This will be seen as a betrayal by many of the people who voted for Marvin Rees hoping for a change from the cuts made by George Ferguson. Libraries and care were amongst the areas cut in the last 4 years. Services will be decimated by the latest round of cuts, let alone the extra £60m cuts Rees says he ‘must’ make.

“Austerity is a political choice by the Tory government. They’ve found money to cut taxes for the rich but are cutting council budgets to the bone. Our mayor needs to be exposing this hypocrisy and sticking up for his staff and the vital services they provide, not acting as the Tories’ hatchet man.

 “During this year’s elections TUSC were the only party to consistently warn of the impact of council cuts in the coming years. That’s because we were the only party with a plan to fight those cuts and stick up for jobs and services in this city.

“We call for a no-cuts budget that is based on what Bristol needs and the building of a mass campaign to push back the Tory government and reverse the swingeing cuts they’ve made. The council has significant reserves which should be used, along with prudential borrowing powers, to plug the funding gap while the campaign is built. By mobilising unions, anti-cuts campaigners and the communities that will be hit by the cuts and by linking up with other Labour councils that are willing to fight, the Tory cuts can be overcome.

“Marvin Rees must now adopt that approach if he doesn’t want to be known as the mayor that butchered Bristol’s services. The need to challenge austerity in deeds, not just words, is greater than ever.”

Thursday, 28 July 2016

No compromise with Labour right wing


photo: Paul Mattsson

#KeepCorbyn



The next few months will decide the fate of the Labour Party. Although he claims to be 'as radical as Jeremy', the leadership challenger Owen Smith is in reality the candidate of all those with a vested interest in keeping the Labour Party a safe, New Labour-style version of the Tories.



The stakes couldn't be higher. Labour was set up 116 years ago by trade unionists, socialists, women suffrage campaigners, the working class co-operative movement, and others, as 'our party'.



But over the course of 20 years under the leadership of Blair, Brown and Miliband it was completely transformed into another party of big business and the 1% capitalist elite.

Jeremy Corbyn's unexpected victory in last summer's leadership election created an opening to roll back the New Labour transformation. His anti-austerity message, and support for trade union rights, free education, council housing etc, changed the terms of political debate.



Even Tory prime ministers are now forced to speak of 'working class families struggling to get by' from the steps of Downing Street!



But because Jeremy Corbyn's victory offered the hope of change, a showdown with the capitalist establishment and their representatives within the Labour Party was inevitable.

And now, as the Socialist warned from the outset, the two-parties-in-one are in a desperate fight for control of the Labour Party brand.



The immediate task is to mobilise for Jeremy Corbyn's re-election. But also to organise to ensure that this time victory is consolidated by remaking Labour as a working class, socialist party that really can be the voice of the 99%.



Labour at the crossroads



The Labour Party right-wing were never going to accept Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. Standing behind them are the capitalist establishment, the 1% elite, who have benefitted enormously from the transformation of Labour into Tony Blair's New Labour and the domination of political debate by pro-market ideas which that allowed.



It was not for nothing that the former Tory deputy prime minister Geoffrey Howe said of Margaret Thatcher that "her real triumph was to have transformed not just one party but two", with New Labour's embrace of capitalism.



While for example, average household incomes have only just returned to the levels at the start of the 'great recession' in 2008, the richest 1,000 people in Britain have more than doubled their wealth to £547 billion in the same period. The New Labour era was good for the elite.



The Labour right have shown how ruthless they are prepared to be to defend the interests of their establishment backers. Only the protests of thousands of Labour members and trade unionists secured a narrow majority on the party's national executive committee (NEC) to stop Jeremy being effectively excluded from the ballot paper.



But this attempted coup having failed, the right went on to plan B and limited the franchise compared to last summer's election, after Jeremy and other supporters had literally 'left the room'.



Also, for the first time since world war two, all regular party meetings have been closed down, removing the chance for ordinary party members to hold anti-Corbyn MPs and councillors to account.



Angela Eagle's Wallasey constituency party has been suspended and the election of new, left-wing officers of the Brighton & Hove District Labour Party, the biggest local party unit, annulled.



Meetings necessary



Local parties should defy these edicts and continue meeting, or #Keep Corbyn meetings should be organised independently, including by trade union branches - and involving Corbyn supporters inside and outside the Labour Party.



After all, the dictatorial rule-or-ruin approach of the Labour apparatus in this battle gives a glimpse of the type of regime that will operate if Owen Smith were to win.



The idea that the social movement developing around Jeremy Corbyn could conduct an effective struggle within the confines of the Labour Party in the event that he is unseated from the leadership is utopian.



By the same token, it is clear that if Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected this time his victory must be properly consolidated. This means taking on the main bases of establishment Labour, in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), the national party apparatus, and locally, the big majority of Labour's 7,000 councillors.



Challenging the latter will be vital to show in practice what an anti-austerity party really is, in contrast to the actions of the Labour right.



It does not mean a party voting for cuts! The fact is that Labour councils this year will be sacking three times the number of workers who are losing their jobs from the collapse of BHS, denounced by MPs as 'the unacceptable face of capitalism'.



If Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected he must organise for Labour councils to defy the Tories, including refusing to implement the new Housing and Planning Act, with local parties pressing councillors who refuse to fight to resign. The situation where council Labour groups and not the members decide council policy must be reversed.



Inclusive structure



The national structures of the Labour Party would also need to be opened out and democratised. To mobilise the maximum possible support, there should be a return to the founding structures of the Labour Party which involved separate socialist political parties coalescing with the trade unions and social movements like women's suffrage campaigners and the co-operative movement.



That federal approach applied to today would mean allowing political parties like the Socialist Party and others involved in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), and anti-austerity Greens, to affiliate to Labour as the Co-op Party still does.



While mandatory re-selection would allow local parties to replace their MPs at the next general election, more decisive action would need to be taken before then to bring the parliamentary party into line.



MPs should have the Labour whip only if they agree to accept the renewed mandate for Corbyn and his anti-austerity, anti-war policies.



It is necessary to take on the forces in Labour defending the capitalist establishment, not seek 'unity' around their agenda.



Their attempted coup has shown that if there was a Corbyn-led Labour government they would play a similar role to those parliamentarians who joined Syriza as it overtook Pasok, the Greek equivalents of New Labour, but who were then to the fore in pushing for it to capitulate before the interests of capitalism.



A party of struggle with fewer MPs but a fighting socialist programme, would have a bigger impact in defence of the working class than a party with a couple of hundred MPs but which accepts the policies demanded by capitalism.



Winning new support it could regain the seats that may be temporarily held by anti-Corbyn MPs and go on to win a general election.



The right-wing have moved against Jeremy Corbyn and the most important question now is how the social movement that has begun to mobilise in his defence can be organised for the battles to come.

Europe and the workers' movement after the 'Brexit' vote


This year's Committee for a Workers' International (CWI - the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) summer school met in the aftermath of the UK vote for 'Brexit' in the 23 June referendum. Delegates from 34 countries attended.

 


The referendum result has undoubtedly shocked the capitalist class in Britain and worldwide and the school's first session discussed these important developments and their effects in Europe, introduced by Peter Taaffe from the CWI's International Secretariat. Kevin Parslow summarises the key features of Peter's speech and the debate which followed.




Europe - Britain in particular - is now at the forefront of developments. Because of the 'weight' of British capitalism, Brexit represents a giant boulder dropped into a lake. There will be an immediate ripple effect but the repercussions will be felt for months and years.



To give a measure of the potential scale of this crisis, the UK has the second biggest economy in the EU and fifth in the world. As a comparison, its economy is 15 times bigger than Greece, which confronted ejection from the eurozone and the EU in 2015.



The consequences of the referendum were expressed by a front cover of the Economist magazine entitled "Anarchy in the UK" - referencing the 40th anniversary of the punk rock phenomenon! The rise in discontent reflects how capitalist globalisation has stored up mass indignation, which is used to inflict blows on the elite.



The situation in the UK following the referendum continues to be covered in the pages of the Socialist. However, 'Brexit' has also had huge repercussions internationally. The International New York Times reported "US profits shudder after Brexit'"! A stronger dollar against the pound and euro reduces the value of American companies' earnings in Europe.

In Nigeria, ethnic groups demanding independence are asking that if the UK can have a referendum to leave the EU, why can't they have one to leave Nigeria?



But it is in Europe that the main effects have so far been felt. In the first session of the European Parliament after the referendum, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, asked Ukip leader Nigel Farage: "Why are you here?"



Juncker reflects the deep exasperation and concern that the UK referendum might see calamitous consequences in Europe, even the break-up of the eurozone and the EU itself. The EU establishment is desperately trying to prevent 'contagion'.



There is now deep gloom amongst the European capitalists and their political representatives. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, with the far-right, anti-EU Party for Freedom (PVV) ahead in national opinion polls, bluntly stated: "England has collapsed politically, monetarily, constitutionally and economically." In the Netherlands though, 47% of voters would like a vote on EU membership.



Brexit has put a new independence referendum in Scotland on the agenda. Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon would like to stay in the EU. This has been rebutted by the prime minister of the Spanish state, Mariano Rajoy, who has warned of the consequences for European states if this is granted. This would give new impetus to national groups, particularly in Catalonia and the Basque Country, for independence from the Spanish state.

Sinn Féin immediately called for a new poll on the Irish border following the referendum. This risks a new outbreak of sectarianism - which must be countered through a mass mobilisation of workers. Sinn Féin leaders commented that Northern Ireland was forced out of the EU by 'Little Englanders'!



The referendum result has had repercussions throughout Europe. Lucy Redler from Germany pointed out that there was not a week without crisis in the EU. It was a "spring and summer of discontent in the EU": The EU had told Ireland it could not abolish the hated Water Tax, stronger militarisation of the EU had been proposed and more and more opposition to the 'unreformable' EU was raising its head. But in Die Linke (the Left Party), only she and one other national committee member was opposed to the EU.

 


Divisions


 


International Secretariat member Danny Byrne said the EU question has divided the left in Europe and become a microcosm of the difference between a 'reformist' and a 'revolutionary' approach. This was now beginning to open up divisions in left organisations.

The Left Bloc in Portugal and the United Left (IU) in Spain were moving towards a policy of breaking with the EU because of the effects of EU-imposed austerity in these countries.

Peter explained there is a huge eurosceptic mood in most countries. About 53% in an opinion poll in France want a referendum on EU membership; but neither there nor in the Netherlands is a majority yet for leaving the EU.



Greek workers, following the EU-imposed austerity, are now the most eurosceptic; 92% believe the EU badly handled the crisis. Not so long ago, Greece was the most pro-European country but that was before being placed on the rack of EU austerity. That has led to a collapse in support for the Syriza government. This may hand opportunities to the Nazi Golden Dawn, now the third party in opinion polls.



Andros from Xekinima (CWI in Greece) said that for the Greek working class, the most important development has been Brexit. There is very low mood in Greece following the EU-imposed eye-watering austerity but new battles will come.



The general European economic situation is dire. Because no improvement in conditions is likely, capitalist commentators fear a domino effect through Europe. Italy could be the next country to follow Britain out of the EU exit door. This would just about finish the EU; already discussions have taken place about a 'two-tier' Europe. There is chronic economic stagnation in Italy. Broad swathes of the population have had no rise in living standards for decades.



There is a crisis in the banking system, including the world's oldest bank. Prime Minister Renzi wants to recapitalise the banks (burdened with €330 billion of bad debts), by government aid or nationalisation. Yet the EU is preventing this because it opposes 'state intervention'!



This is classical neoliberalism and poses further disasters for workers. However, Italy could be the precursor of political developments elsewhere. The populist Five Star Movement has had electoral successes and leads the opinion polls.

 


Far right


 


Germany has seen the rise of the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany - AfD), that started as mainly an anti-euro party, but which has grown to 11% support in opinion polls due to its virulently anti-migrant and anti-refugee propaganda. (AfD is now trying to politically capitalise on the recent attacks on bystanders by lone refugees in Germany).



Brexit will have important economic effects on Germany. It is reliant on exports to UK, Spain, Italy and Britain, which may be reduced if economic uncertainty takes hold.

Austria has entered a serious political crisis with the presidential elections, narrowly won by the Green party's candidate over the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) candidate. The election has to be rerun over a technicality. The FPÖ is anti-EU and welcomed the UK's referendum result.



Battling against the far right is a key question following the referendum as it can articulate the anti-EU mood and fill the political vacuum left by the former workers' parties. The struggle for new, independent left-wing mass parties is important in this respect.

French workers have been resisting up to now the worst aspects of neoliberalism, including the government's determination to push through anti-working class labour 'reforms', backed by the EU.



Given current polls, President Hollande will be defeated in the first round of presidential elections next year, if he stands. Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front (FN) is likely to be in the final round of voting.  Le Pen also welcomed the Brexit vote and strongly supports the idea of a referendum in France.



Spain has seen two general elections in the last seven months and the left parties, on the joint Unidos Podemos list in June's elections, lost a million votes between the two.

Viki from Spain said this was disappointing for the working class and youth (see issue 910 of the Socialist). Some believed the Brexit vote had a negative effect on the left's vote as the electorate chose stability, although the left's programme and campaign were not adequate.

In Ireland the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit TDs (MPs) in the Dáil (Irish parliament) have been the only ones to welcome the referendum outcome. Irish workers have suffered in the last few years from EU-imposed austerity.



Belgium has also seen a strike wave, and Els from Belgium remarked that on the morning of the referendum result, Belgian workers were on strike. The pickets saw Brexit as a victory while their officials thought it was a mistake!



Poland is symptomatic of developments in Eastern Europe. Governments there have embraced neo-liberalism and the EU but the current politically right-wing nationalist government has taken a certain tilt against the market in the direction of 'state capitalism'.

This is an indication of a partial rejection of the effects of the market and the need for a more 'regulated' capitalism including renationalisation. It raises the question of the planned economy and a socialist alternative.



But a storm cloud on the horizon in Eastern Europe is the increased tension with Russia, not just over the Ukraine but also the spreading of Nato's (Western military alliance) tentacles to the Baltic States. EU states in Eastern Europe have hosted military manoeuvres in recent months



Peter concluded by stating that we face a new disturbed period in Europe. The UK referendum showed that a polarisation is taking place that will not necessarily always take place on clear class lines.



But this is provoking discussion and debate and forcing working people, and then the youth, to attempt to think things out. This will bring new supporters to the CWI.

The undermining of traditional capitalist parties throughout Europe is clear but in the absence of fighting left organisations, we see the rise of right-wing populism, which are largely anti-EU. We cannot see the struggle against the far right as separate to the struggle of the workers' movement against austerity.



In new class struggles we can look forward to the broader development of a socialist consciousness than now. That will then pose the changing of society on socialist grounds.



See www.socialistworld.net for more from the CWI school as well as coverage of other key political issues and reports of workers' struggles internationally

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Trident Highlights Labour's Splits



Trident debate shows again, Labour is two parties in one



Monday's parliamentary debate on the replacement of the
Trident nuclear weapons system was another illustration of the fact that the Labour Party is two irreconcilable parties in one, heading for an inevitable split.


For parliamentary purposes the debate was completely unnecessary, not committing the government to any new action. But it had been tabled by the Tories as a means of aiding the capitalist establishment's campaign to unseat Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, almost certainly in collaboration with the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) Blairite majority.


Even last autumn, just weeks after Corbyn's leadership election victory, The Times (12 October) was reporting that "senior Labour figures were pushing for an early vote" on Trident as part of a 'destabilisation strategy', to prepare the ground for a leadership challenge.


The sight on Monday of backbench 'Labour' MPs queuing up to read their scripted attacks on Corbyn would have fooled no one that this was anything other than a co-ordinated campaign.


No case for Trident



There was nothing new in their arguments or those of the Tories justifying the enormous expenditure on weapons of mass destruction they were proposing.


Tory prime minister Theresa May's main argument was that "it is impossible to say for certain that no extreme threats will emerge in the next 30 or 40 years to threaten our way of life" and that therefore new nuclear weapons were a 'necessity'.


Labour leadership challenger Owen Smith, a former member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, also said "I think the world has got more volatile" so "we've got to stick to what we've got and renew it".


But we know something about the future and one certain 'threat to our way of life'. If global warming hasn't been contained 'in the next 30 or 40 years' there inevitably will be intense conflicts for resources in the ecologically ravished world that will exist then. But a new nuclear weapons system is of little use in fighting climate change!


Jeremy Corbyn highlighted the massive and escalating estimated costs of replacing the four nuclear submarines, £31bn with a £10bn 'contingency' fund. Then there is the operational and maintenance costs over the missile system's 30-year lifespan. Whether these come in at the lower or upper estimate of £167bn or £205bn this is a far greater amount than the investment in renewable energy that would be necessary to more than halve Britain's carbon emissions by 2030.


For these reasons alone a real socialist party would have voted against Monday's Trident motion. But only 47 Labour MPs joined Jeremy Corbyn in voting against while 140, including leadership challengers Angela Eagle and Owen Smith, joined with the Tories instead.


Trident part of the leadership challenge



Making the socialist case against Trident must be part of Jeremy Corbyn's re-election campaign.


The general secretary of the GMB union, Tim Roache, criticised Jeremy Corbyn for not supporting Trident renewal and announced a membership ballot on whether the union "still believed Corbyn was the right person to lead the party".


Meanwhile, Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson, speaking on the World At One, made an open appeal to Unite members to challenge the union general secretary Len McCluskey's support for Jeremy Corbyn, "who will be voting against the Trident programme tonight which will put many defence workers in Unite out of their jobs if he gets his way".


He forgot to mention that, if Jeremy Corbyn 'got his way', Labour would be committed to a defence diversification programme that, if it was based on nationalisation of the arms manufacturing, shipbuilding and related industries, would guarantee the jobs and conditions of the workers involved, only now in socially useful production.


But this shows that the pro-capitalist Labour right organising to unseat Jeremy Corbyn can only be effectively answered, not by seeking 'compromise' with them, but by counterposing clear socialist policies including democratic public ownership.



See www.socialistparty.org.uk for more analysis, including the latest on the Blairite coup against Corbyn.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

After the Referendum - Stop the Right-Wing Coup Against Corbyn


Come to the next meetings of the Socialist Party in Bristol and hear more analysis of the referendum result and perspectives for what may happen now.
Tues 28th June, 7.30pm, Halo, 141 Gloucester Road, BS7 8BA
Tues 5th July, 7.30pm, YHA Bristol (Grain House), 14 Narrow Quay, BS1 4QA.


Below is a statement on developments since the referendum result from Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary.


The vote to leave the EU has rocked capitalist institutions - in Britain and internationally. It is yet another reflection of the anger at mass poverty and savage austerity - and of the growing anti-establishment mood. And now the political aftershocks are beginning to reverberate.

When faced with a popular revolt the strategists of capital have been heard privately to echo a former California politician: "The people have spoken... the bastards!" Following the EU referendum result we witnessed a public display of fury by the bourgeois 'commentariat' which expressed barely contained contempt for those who had dared to defy the powers-that-be and voted 'Leave'. Polly Toynbee in the 'liberal' Guardian vented her rage against the "uneducated" leave voters who massively rejected austerity. Donald Tusk, Polish president of the European Council, declared that the British decision represented "the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but also of western political civilization". (Financial Times)

The victory for the leave camp in the referendum has already had massive repercussions for the future of Britain and, particularly, for the labour movement here as well as in Europe. The vote - 52% to 48% - represents at bottom a predominantly working-class revolt against austerity and the Tory millionaire government of David Cameron and George Osborne which has laid waste to living standards and working-class communities.

It is totally false to draw the utterly pessimistic conclusions which some small left groups have done that this result could lead to a 'carnival of reaction' in Britain and encourage right-wing forces in Europe and elsewhere. No doubt the European right will seek to exploit its outcome. But reports from the Left Bloc conference in Portugal, held immediately after the result, showed that representatives of the workers' movement in Greece, France and Spain have been given a boost by the British referendum outcome.

It is not automatic that reaction - through a figure like Boris Johnson or Michael Gove - can inherit the crown from Cameron and establish a firm base without the challenge of a general election, in which they can be defeated. The day before the referendum, teachers showed defiance of the government's plans for academies by voting by over 90% for strike action on 5 July. In fact, a mini-strike wave is unfolding in Britain, including on Southern Railways and strikes involving the Bakers Union.

Anti-establishment

Many workers who have come into conflict with the government seized hold of the opportunity presented by the referendum to strike a blow against the main enemy - the hated Cameron and Osborne. What it did not represent was a vindication of Johnson. On the contrary, the day after the referendum he was booed outside his house, and not just by the 'Remain' side.

Also, in the days after the referendum, Socialist Party paper sellers on the streets met many who had voted remain and yet, through discussion, were convinced of our class arguments for leave on a socialist basis. This gave a glimpse of what would have been possible if the labour movement leaders had not lined up behind the austerity commander-in-chief, Cameron, who has now been consigned to the dustbin of history, as we predicted he would be if he lost the referendum.

The relationship of forces between the organised working class and its allies and the government can be strengthened in favour of the trade union and labour movement, if it draws bold fighting conclusions from the outcome of the referendum. Without in any way prettifying all the forces involved on the leave side, the results of the referendum represent a major uprising of ordinary working-class people against the ruling elite.

It is true that the binary choice of a referendum allows participants to vote on the same side as those who have quite different and opposite class reasons. This can politically skew the outcome, making it difficult to draw clear general conclusions. But not in this case. Traditional Labour areas and regions voted heavily against the government led by the two 'big butchers', Cameron and Osborne, with only Northern Ireland, Scotland and London voting for remain. Even where remain won a majority there was an unmistakable working-class determination to show 'them' - the Tories and the remain elite - that 'enough is enough'.

On the other hand, an estimated three quarters of young people who voted went for remain, which was a distorted but nevertheless understandable expression of an internationalist approach. They mistakenly saw the EU as a progressive factor - an openness towards Europe and the world. This was cynically exploited by the Tory 'remainers' and their supporters. As the Socialist Party consistently pointed out, the EU is a neoliberal construct, a capitalist and imperialist exploiter not just of the European working class but, through its trade deals, a collective oppressor of the masses in the neo-colonial world.

There was a steely determination in many working-class areas in particular to turn out and vote leave. This was despite the unprecedented 'project fear' and hate campaign, with an array of bourgeois economists lined up predicting that the roof would fall in, there would be a new economic crisis, as well as Armageddon, and a third world war if the 'people' did not vote 'the right way' - that, is for remain. There was a determination to give the 'toffs' a bloody nose - those who do not have to live in the deprivation that the Tories and capitalism have created. There was an unprecedented mass participation in some working-class areas, including on council house estates, with the overall turnout an impressive 72%, higher than in the general election.

Playing into the right's hands

It is true that the racist UK Independence Party (UKIP) was for leave, as was the Tory capitalist brutalist duo of Johnson and Gove, with an emphasis on scapegoating immigrants. Some workers were no doubt seduced by the anti-immigrant message of these reactionary forces. This was particularly the case because the official leadership of the labour movement, both within the Labour Party and the trade unions, played into their hands by completely abandoning an independent socialist, class and internationalist programme. The Socialist Party adopted such a class approach - both in this referendum and the one in 1975, when Jeremy Corbyn also held a similar anti-EU position.

Now, unfortunately, Jeremy was trapped behind enemy lines, hemmed in by the Blairite remain creatures. And they have rewarded him with Hilary Benn and other plotters organising a coup against him. The right of the Labour Party would blame him for everything, no matter what he did, including the weather. They forced him - quite clearly reluctantly - into a remain position. He was damned if he did and would have been even more attacked if he didn't!

We pointed out during the campaign that if he would have come out clearly against the EU on socialist and internationalist lines, demanding a socialist Britain linked to a United Socialist States of Europe, he would have been in a stronger position. The choice then would not have been between two Tory gangs but a new general election in which the whole lot could be thrown out. The relationship of forces that could have developed out of such a campaign would have meant that this would immediately get a favourable response.

Many workers rejected the racist programme of division but had legitimate concerns about the heavy pressure in crowded working-class areas on limited resources, school places, housing, etc. There is a real fear of a race to the bottom as even more low-paid, zero-hour jobs are created. The solution to this problem lies not in scaremongering against immigrants but in a programme which demands increased resources, particularly through the building of council homes, as well as a crash building programme for schools, rather than on the divisive academies that are planned. There are 50,000 empty properties in London alongside eleven million in the EU as a whole.

Not a whiff of such a programme was heard during the campaign from the right-wing summits of the labour movement who spent their time appearing alongside vicious representatives of the class enemy in either the remain or leave camp. We were treated to the spectacle of the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, appearing with Cameron and 'taking on' Johnson in the defence of the capitalist EU. Previously in the mayoral contest he came out for more billionaires for London - it already has 141, the highest number in the world! This allowed Johnson to demagogically denounce the inherent inequality of the EU and to obscenely present himself as a defender of the 'little man and woman'.

The 'social Europe' myth

Tony Blair, accused during the Iraq war of 'lying as he breathes', reverted to type when he suddenly began to champion the rights of trade unions. In an article in the Daily Mirror, he had the gall to write "don't abandon workers' rights". Yet he had spent thirteen years in power maintaining intact all of Margaret Thatcher's anti-union laws! The hapless general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Frances O'Grady, woefully declared that workers would lose £38 a week by 2030 unless they lined up behind the bosses' EU.

It was the EU, not the trade unions as fighting organisations, which was scandalously presented in this way as a progressive vehicle for defending and lifting the living standards of working people. There could not be a greater expression of the complete bankruptcy of what is the leadership of the major workers' organisation in Britain.

The trade unions have found themselves in this baleful position because of their adaptation to the capitalist EU. In 1988, the EU Commissioner Jacques Delors offered to rescue the trade union leaders from the debilitating defeats in that decade - the miners' strike, Wapping, the collapse of the struggle against council rate-capping - by selling the idea of a 'social Europe'. This was always a false prospectus. Any legislation ratifying the rights of workers can only be achieved and maintained on the basis of struggle and industrial strength. But the trade union leaders, in gratitude, sang the French song 'Frère Jacques' to him for opening up a seemingly painless means of maintaining workers' rights.

From this flowed class collaboration policies like 'partnership' which, on the basis of a boom, could result in limited benefits during a period of economic upswing. But when the economic crisis struck - particularly since 2007-08 with its consequent historically extremely feeble growth - this has turned into the opposite: stagnant living standards and attacks on past gains on all fronts.

It was quite scandalous that, faced with the recent offensive of Cameron and Osborne against trade union rights, the TUC did not organise effective industrial action. They then compounded this retreat by offering a trade-off to the government. They would campaign to remain in the EU if the government would make some concessions on issues such as the check-off scheme, etc, which the government duly promised to carry out.

A neoliberal project

The arguments of Blair and O'Grady that the EU protects the rights of working people through measures such as the working time directive is completely bogus. Any legislation that is introduced which may favour workers and the trade unions is the result, ultimately, of the power and organisation of the unions and not some innately 'progressive' inclination of the employers' organisations, including the EU. Moreover, during the referendum campaign some of the more brutal and venal employers - like the airlines EasyJet and Ryanair - demonstrated just how they were prepared to consider strike-breaking when it suits their purpose, irrespective of any EU regulations.

They proposed to the EU that it coordinates action in the summer to circumvent the effects of any industrial action by French air traffic controllers by allowing German controllers to take over their work. Let us remember that it was Ronald Reagan who initiated the dark era of neoliberalism in the US by firstly taking on and defeating air traffic controllers in 1981. The conditions that were then set became the benchmark for all other employers throughout the US. The fact that such measures can now be proposed for the EU indicates its vicious neoliberal character.

It should be sufficient to mention the record of the EU on the issue of privatisation alone, for instance in relation to Greece, to implacably oppose remain on sound trade union principles. The EU has just forced on Greece a mass privatisation programme of 71,000 pieces of property and businesses, including selling off regional airports. A 'progressive' EU to a Greek worker is in complete contradiction to their experiences at its hands! Millions are being forced back to live on the meagre pensions of just one family member.

There is no doubt that the struggles of the Greek workers will have been given an enormous boost by the defiance of the British working class in the course of the referendum. A new domino theory is posed for Europe, with the repercussions of the events in Britain reflected in a similar leave pattern in other countries, such as the Netherlands and Sweden, and maybe even Italy. They can follow the path of workers in Britain, not by reinforcing nationalism but by creating real solidarity among the workers of Europe on a trade union and political level, linked to the prospect of socialism.

Nation states

As we have argued since the inception of the predecessor of the EU - the Common Market - despite all their efforts, capitalism will never be able to carry through the real unification of Europe. Some Marxists challenge this and even invoked during the referendum campaign the writings of Leon Trotsky to justify their support for remain - and the idea that capitalism can actually carry through the historic task of unification and that this would be 'progressive'. Such a conclusion - allegedly based on Trotsky's writings - is false to the core.

The urge to unify the continent flows from the needs of production and technique in the modern era. The productive forces have outgrown the narrow limits of private ownership by a handful of capitalists, on the one side, and the nation state, on the other. Modern industry - particularly the big monopolies, transnationals, etc - plan not just in terms of the markets of a country but of continents, and the biggest firms in terms of the whole world market. This expresses itself in the tendency towards the elimination of national barriers, limits on production, tariffs, etc, which goes alongside the creation of giant trading blocs like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

This process can be carried very far during a boom, as in the case of the EU. This happened in the 'noughties'. This allowed some sections of the capitalists and, unfortunately, some Marxists to dream that capitalism could actually overcome national limits and proceed towards a unified European capitalist class.

To justify their position, they scoured the works of Trotsky, using the following quote: "If the capitalist states of Europe succeeded in merging into an imperialist trust, this would be a step forward as compared with the existing situation, for it would first of all create a unified, all-European material base for the working-class movement. The proletariat would in this case have to fight not for the return to 'autonomous' national states, but for the conversion of the imperialist state trust into a European Republican Federation". (The Programme of Peace, May 1917)

Trotsky was quite clearly dealing here with a hypothetical situation which, moreover, he did not expect to materialise. It is also not a description of the EU, which has not 'merged' the nation states of Europe. He goes on to argue in the same article that "the democratic republican unification of Europe, a union really capable of guaranteeing the freedom of national development, is only possible on the road of a revolutionary struggle... by means of uprisings in individual countries, with the subsequent merger of these upheavals into a general European revolution".

Stoked-up anger

The situation in Britain prior to the referendum and particularly following the results - expressing as it does the stoked-up anger of the working class against the Cameron/Osborne junta - offers a unique opportunity to completely transform the situation in favour of the working class. Even before the referendum the government had been compelled to undertake 20 u-turns or partial u-turns with the wheels threatening to come off the Tory chariot. It remains besieged on every front with the economy heading for another crisis, with the biggest trade deficit since 1948 - notwithstanding recent improvements. Unemployment has risen among young people and the catastrophe of the housing situation in London and other big cities continues unabated.

One borough, Waltham Forest, has seen a 25% increase in the cost of houses in one year, while workers on the Butterfields estate face eviction and being sent into 'internal exile' to cities hundreds of miles away. This is so that rack-renting owners and landlords can sell off their humble dwellings to the well-off who are pouring in to snap up houses with vastly inflated prices.

There is also a brewing revolt on wages which have dropped by 8% since 2007. This, let us remind TUC leader, Frances O'Grady, was when Britain was part of the EU! There is a growing revolt within unions, reflected at a number of their recent conferences. The Welsh TUC, due to the pressure from Socialist Party members, passed a series of motions, including support for council 'needs budgets' and were very sympathetic to the idea of the nationalisation of steel. These were passed virtually unanimously, with new and younger layers of workers in particular attending the gathering for the first time. At the GMB general union conference, motions for nationalisation appeared on the agenda for the first time in a long time.

At the conference of the public-sector union, Unison, a new rank-and-file left organisation has been formed to spearhead the drive to transform this union from a moribund 'witch-hunting' outfit into a fighting, militant Unison able to mobilise the resistance of members. These all betoken a new combative era in Britain.

Political civil wars

At the same time, two 'civil wars' - one in the Tory party, the other within Labour - have intensified in the wake of the referendum. As could have been predicted - and was by the Socialist Party - the attempt to mollify the Labour right by Corbyn's supporters in Momentum and others, by moving to the remain camp during the referendum campaign, has not lessened their opposition to Corbyn but emboldened them. Within hours of the result, Margaret Hodge MP circulated a letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party for a motion of no confidence and a new leadership contest in a campaign with the obvious intention of removing Corbyn. The firing of Hilary Benn and the resignations of other shadow cabinet members followed.

Clearly, the Labour Party remains in a halfway-house position - locked in an ongoing civil war between the rotten forces of the Blairites and anti-austerity, potentially increasingly socialist forces gathered around Jeremy Corbyn. But the opportunity had been squandered by the 'left' petty-bourgeois forces leading the pro-Corbyn organisation, Momentum. It initially promised an open and democratic regeneration of the labour movement with the centralised bureaucratic structure of Labour Party of the past swept away. However, under the disastrous sway of its current leadership, particularly Jon Lansman, the early promise evaporated as this leadership attempted to mollify the right. This served to embolden them in their determination to remove Corbyn and reinstitute the rule of the Blairites.

Distrust of the right led the conference of the PCS civil service union to defeat a motion for affiliation to the Labour Party at this moment in time because the Blairite right still controls the party's machine, particularly the Parliamentary Labour Party. Indeed, during the referendum campaign, 71 'fieldworkers' were allocated by the Labour Party HQ to work for the defeated remain camp. PCS members were mindful of the fact that affiliation would require them to finance this Labour machine which, through the so-called 'Compliance Unit', acts as a right-wing barrier - a filter - to keep out of the Labour Party any working-class fighters who want to return the party to the path of socialism and struggle.

If they cannot succeed in this task, the right is once more preparing to split the Labour Party. The referendum indicated this already through the close collaboration between 'left-wing' Tories and the Labour right. This unbelievably led to a proposal, which was not carried through, that MPs of both government and opposition sit on both sides of the House of Commons during the special session after the murder of the Labour MP, Jo Cox.

During the remain campaign there was already an element of a national coalition - with right-wing Labour cosily collaborating with the 'left', 'liberal' Tories, as well as the Liberal Democrats. Indeed, the Lib-Dem leader, Tim Farron, concentrated all his initial post-referendum remarks on attacking Jeremy Corbyn for being insufficiently ardent in support of remain. So the civil war within the Labour Party which has existed since Corbyn's election continues unabated - scarcely a day has gone passed without some attack aimed against him.

The 'blue-on-blue' attacks - between Tory 'friends' - have also left lasting divisions between the Cameron/Osborne wing of the Tory party and the Johnson/Gove outfit. A new Tory leadership contest will widen these divisions and could result in an open separation, leading to some kind of alliance with the right of the Labour Party and also drawing in Liberal Democrats.

The referendum was similar to a giant boulder being dropped into a lake with the ripple effect likely to last for months and years. It has already reverberated throughout Europe and could lead, ultimately, to the collapse of the euro and the break-up of the EU. It has posed the question of a new Scottish referendum which could lead to the splintering of the UK. The ramifications are also serious for Ireland, particularly for Northern Ireland, where a new 'border poll' has been demanded by Sinn Féin, which could ratchet up sectarianism in turn.

However, in all the developments which will flow from the referendum, the labour movement must draw clear socialist conclusions and act accordingly by fighting on an independent working-class programme. The immediate demand is to fight for a democratically convened emergency labour movement conference, open to all pro-Corbyn left forces. The aim of such a conference should be to defend Jeremy Corbyn by defeating the attempted coup of the PLP plotters - by adopting clear socialist policies and democratic structures including a federal form of organisation.

The EU referendum was an earthquake for the ruling class and their shadows in the labour movement, and the aftershocks will continue for some time. At the same time, it is a big opportunity to reconstruct the labour movement on democratic and socialist lines.