Thursday, 5 January 2017

2017: Upheaval and fightback will continue

By Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary


2016 was the year when the pent-up anger of the masses worldwide finally spilled over in a series of political earthquakes - a delayed reaction to the devastating world economic crisis of 2007-08. And tremors are still being felt, with serious aftershocks - if not new earthquakes - expected in 2017.


The changed situation was dramatically illustrated by Brexit, with repercussions not just in Europe but worldwide. At bottom, this reflected a working class revolt against the austerity programme both of the British Tory government and the predatory capitalist EU.


The Socialist Party has consistently opposed the capitalist, imperialist EU from its origins and therefore called for a Leave vote in the referendum, along with the transport workers' union the RMT and many others.


Moreover, it was striking that those who had suffered under the iron heel of the EU - the Greek, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian workers - hailed Brexit, which they saw as striking a decisive blow against their mortal enemies, the gang of EU robber capitalists.


Fight the right


We also fought against the corrosive nationalism of Ukip and other reactionary forces who attempted to seize hold of Brexit as a means of dividing workers against one another. We will stay implacably opposed to the neoliberal EU while at the same time proposing a class and socialist alternative: no to the EU, yes to a socialist confederation of Europe.


It is no exaggeration to say that the leave vote resounded throughout the world. How dare the ignorant untutored masses defy their rulers, reasoned an army of capitalist comentators!


The leave vote upended the Tory cabinet and Cameron was soon consigned to history. Absolute turmoil has ensued, which continues into 2017, plunging the Tory party under Theresa May into an endemic crisis. The capitalist media constantly harps on the split within Labour but from the medium and long-term perspectives, the divisions within the Tory party are much more serious.


A schism within the Tory party, like that over the Corn Laws in the first half of the nineteenth century, is entirely possible. This saw the Tory party out of power for generations.


In Italy, Renzi has followed Cameron, after a stunning 60% to 40% rejection of his own undemocratic referendum, which sought to consolidate his austerity regime.


But the far right in Europe is still on the march, having been given a lift by the victory of Trump in the US presidential elections. Although the Austrian far right failed to win the re-run presidential election.


It is not even excluded that at a certain stage some countries - Austria, France, the Netherlands and possibly also Italy - could repeat the successes of the far right in Eastern Europe, participating in right-wing coalition governments.


Failure


It is the transparent failure of right-wing social democracy in Spain, Greece, Portugal and Britain - trapped within the framework of diseased capitalism and consequently presiding over savage cuts, eye watering poverty, mass unemployment etc - which has provided this opportunity for the right to emerge and threaten past conquests of the working class.


They believe that they have been given a huge comfort blanket by the victory of Donald Trump in the US elections. There are even some on the left who believe that a 'festival of reaction' will follow.

Nothing of the kind is likely or possible. Without in any way minimising the threat from the right - which should be fought - the relationship of class forces is still decisively in favour of the working class and its organisations, although weakened. The fascists could not successfully use today the methods of Hitler or Mussolini, the mobilisation of mass middle class forces to terrorise and atomise the working class.


Coming to power - even partially sharing power in a right-wing, conservative government - would act like a crack of thunder to awaken the working class and particularly the youth into ferocious resistance to such governments and the measures that they would undertake.


Witness the marvellous resistance of Polish women to the attempt to restrict abortion rights. Other powerful mass women's movements have developed in Ireland against strict abortion laws, in Argentina against vile attacks on women, and in Turkey against attempts to legitimise rape.


Look also at the mass resistance that erupted against Trump's fraudulent victory in cities in the US, in some cases led by our co-thinkers in Socialist Alternative. It is expected that mass demonstrations in the US and worldwide will take place on 20 January at Trump's inauguration. This is just a little payment on account for the mass working class resistance he is likely to encounter in the next years.

Moreover, such right-wing governments with far-right participation would pave the way for a massive swing towards the left among the working class, which would be reflected in the labour movement. This will act to further discredit the right-wing social democrats, who through their failure have paved the way for the right's re-emergence.


The truth is class radicalisation overwhelmingly predominates worldwide. This was shown in the 180 million Indian workers who demonstrated their power in a mighty general strike against the right-wing Modi regime in September 2016.


Unprecedented mass movements have also a broken out in South Korea, which are likely to force the president out on corruption charges.


Middle East


Of course, this has to be balanced against the horrific intractable crisis in the Middle East with its countless victims - a monument to the endless horrors to which humankind will suffer on the basis of outmoded capitalism.


The war in Syria has lasted longer than World War One, and moreover there is an element of that situation in the present conflict with its mutual slaughter. Leon Trotsky remarked in relation to the pre-1914 Balkan war: "Our descendants... will spread their hands in horror when they learn from history books about the methods by which capitalist peoples settled their disputes."


If nothing else, the Syrian war has demonstrated beyond all doubt that none of the capitalist powers - the US, Russia, the European Union - can provide a solution to the myriad national conflicts within the region.


Indeed, imperialism in all its guises - British, French, US - is the author of the present divisive patchwork divide-and-rule tactics on a massive scale, undemocratically stitched together when these imperialist powers were forced to retreat from direct domination of the region in the post-1945 situation.


A representative of the British spy agency MI6 recently appeared on British television and had the effrontery to quote from the Roman historian Tacitus - "You create a desolation and call it peace" - while attacking Putin's Russia! If so, then Putin learnt well in the school of the British ruling class and MI6. They were the first to pursue a bloody divide-and-rule policy, to carve out their empire upon which the 'sun would never set'.


Only the decisive intervention of the working class and poor in the Middle East region through a programme of class unity and socialism on the basis of a democratic confederation can put an end to this horror once and for all. The first step towards this would be the development of an independent political voice for the masses.


But in the meantime the catastrophic situation which has beset all countries in the Middle East will continue. The attempted coup in Turkey has led to an even bigger and more effective right-wing counter-coup led by Turkish President Erdo─čan himself. Over 100,000 public sector workers have been dismissed; there has been a clampdown on the media and suppression of democratic rights.

Only by determined struggle, and a vision of a new humane, socialist society, will the forces of the right be pushed back.


Donald Trump


Nowhere is that more necessary than in the US following the victory of the right-wing demagogic populist Donald Trump, who lied and cheated his way to power by pretending to champion the 'working class'. Nothing could be further from the truth.


He lacks any real 'legitimacy' for his right-wing programme. While he won the Electoral College, he was decisively beaten in the 'popular vote' by 2.6 million, receiving fewer votes even than the last defeated Republican presidential candidates Romney and McCain, and George W Bush when he won.


Within a matter of weeks - and without being installed yet as president - he has shredded most of his promises. His proposed government, true to form, is stuffed with billionaires, representative not of 'Main Street' but of Wall Street, which he denounced during the election campaign.


He is recruiting heavily from Goldman Sachs, which after the crash of 2007-08 was described by Rolling Stone magazine as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity". Its tentacles are poised to try and further strangle working people in the cause of Trump's pro-big business agenda.


The trade unions face a massive challenge as he seeks to emulate Ronald Reagan in rolling out so-called 'right to work' legislation to weaken them. He will seek to reward Wall Street sharks who supported him by ruthless measures like privatisation and sackings, particularly of public sector workers.


Infrastructure and jobs


He hopes to soften the blatant pro-billionaire agenda by borrowing from capitalist economist Keynes with a promise to increase government spending of at least $1 trillion on the US's collapsing infrastructure.


However, as welcome as any new jobs would be in restoring the confidence of the US working class to fight back against the bosses and providing the unemployed with work, nevertheless these would not replace the high paid secure jobs which have been lost in the massive deindustrialisation of the US.


An estimated 70,000 factories in the US disappeared during this process, never to return on the basis of capitalism. Since 2010 something like 15 million new jobs were generated in the US but these have been overwhelmingly low paid and insecure, many the equivalent of the hated zero-hour contracts in Britain.


Moreover, the US is already saddled with colossal debt - government, corporate and personal - which is the main reason why enfeebled US and world capitalism has been able to still stagger on.

But will even a Republican congress ratify big increases in public spending, without any overall economic growth and ratcheting up even more debt? Top US tax expert and Congressman Ken Brady has declared: "The greatest threat to our prosperity long term is our growing national debt."


On the basis of capitalism, particularly the parasitic kind which Trump represents, a return to a 'golden age' when today appeared to be better than yesterday, and tomorrow would certainly be better, is over. The 60% of the US population who now consider themselves worse off than before signifies this.


Bernie Sanders


Hence the explosive developments in the US with the rise of the Bernie Sanders movement. Sanders' call for a political revolution drew mass support from discontented workers and young people and in turn terrified the pro-capitalist Democratic Party establishment.


When he was denied victory in the primaries by the manoeuvres of the pro-Clinton Democratic establishment, Bernie made a big mistake in not taking to the open road and establishing a new party. He had successfully appealed to the same impoverished and discontented layers of workers and young people to whom Trump was also pitching his message.


If he had stood for the presidency, then if not beating Trump, he would have at least attracted sufficient support to have allowed for the possibility of Hillary Clinton coming to power. This would have been the ideal scenario for the prospects of the further political awakening of the American working class and the youth.


A Clinton Democrat administration, which would have been tested to destruction - much as the Liberal Party in Britain was at the turn of the 20th century - could have created the base for the emergence of a new mass workers' party. Given the economic catastrophe of US capitalism and the desperation of the masses for an alternative, a new mass movement for socialism would have taken shape.


The election of Trump - the whip of counter-revolution - will not halt but ultimately spur on this process. There are features present in the current situation reminiscent of the explosive years in the 1960s and 70s. Socialism is an idea which has already captured the imagination of the new generation of workers and young people.


Socialism in the US


'Trotsky in New York 1917' - part of the avalanche of new books in preparation for the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution this year - while inaccurate about Trotsky's real political views, nevertheless provides valuable insights about the powerful attraction for the American masses of socialism and its leading international figures then.


We are informed that "at least six New York newspapers with more than half a million readers would announce Trotsky's arrival in the city. Three put the story on the front page." There was a vibrant socialist movement and Eugene Debs had stood as a Socialist Party candidate in every presidential election since 1900, receiving over one million votes in 1912, the equivalent of six million today.


Those traditions will be revived, alongside those of the monumental class battles of the 1930s. American capitalism's colossal wealth and power allowed it to soften class relations in the post-1945 situation. Its relative economic decline has now sharpened these divisions, which will be further deepened by Trump.


And this will develop with American speed and elan. The success of our US co-thinkers, with the spectacular growth of Socialist Alternative and the election of the first socialist councillor in 100 years in Seattle - Kshama Sawant - is a measure of the changes wrought in the heartland of world capitalism.


As is the success of the school student union in Spain, which chalked up a big national victory against the PP government - the first in five years - when it successfully mobilised two million school students in a national strike which compelled the government to withdraw its attacks on education.


The political force behind this victory, the Spanish Marxist organisation Izquierda Revolucionaria, is in the process of linking up with the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), which represents a great strengthening of the genuine forces of Marxism internationally. This will undoubtedly act as a magnet for other Marxist forces to come together with us to confront capitalism and its agents within the workers' movement.


Warnings


Never has this been more necessary. Even the representatives of the capitalist system, like Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, have warned the class they represent of the inherent dangers arising from the current crisis. Carney warned of the worst crisis for over 100 years with the UK "suffering its first lost decade since the 1860s", when Karl Marx was alive.


He repeatedly referred to the sense of insecurity and frustrations with global trade and technology, which has favoured "the superstar and the lucky... But what of the frustrated and frightened?" He denounced "inequality" as well as the banks who had been, according to him working in a "heads I win, tails you lose bubble".


Its intent was to warn the bosses who Carney represents of the incendiary economic and social situation in Britain which threatens to blow the system apart. And the examples which he uses are damning indictments of British capitalism, as well as an indication of further seismic events to come.


More than a fifth of the UK's population - almost 14 million people - is below the official yardstick for calculating poverty, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. That includes 4.8 million adults and 2.6 million children in poverty despite living in a working family. The numbers in this category grew by over a million in the last decade, symbolising the inexorable impoverishment of broad swathes of the British people.


Stories now creep into the press of how those who come from the middle class can now rapidly sink into a desperate situation. From having a job, to no job, therefore no income, then being incapable of paying the rent and ultimately ending up on the streets. The wheel of progress has gone into rapid reverse towards barbarism, with some homeless people now found to be living in caves in Wales!


Jeremy Corbyn and Labour


It was these conditions - arising from the complete failure of traditional 'social democracy' trapped within the framework of outmoded capitalism to provide an answer - which lit the flame of populist revolt symbolised in Britain through the mass movement gathered around Jeremy Corbyn. And yet 18 months after this - and with the crushing defeat of two right-wing Blairite coups - his campaign has now stalled. Jeremy himself seems to be missing in action. Why?


Because a policy of 'peaceful coexistence' during a civil war, which has existed in the Labour Party and the labour movement from the very first day that Jeremy was elected, has been adopted by his closest supporters in the leadership of Momentum. It is potentially fatal for his leadership prospects and the mass anti-austerity movement around him. This has been successfully urged on him by his closest advisers in Momentum.


There is an element of dual power in the Labour Party at the moment. The right controls the Parliamentary Labour Party - mainly the unreconstructed Blairite right, who display their opposition and contempt for Corbyn and his allies on a daily basis.


These 'Labour' MPs are unmistakably in the camp of the bosses. This was illustrated by Chris Evans, MP for Islwyn - one of the poorest constituencies in South Wales - seeing himself as the 'voice' of the parasitic hedge funds rather than the working class, and proposing a parliamentary liaison committee with these City of London creatures.


This right-wing MP is prepared to get into bed with the financial spivs, who create nothing and who treat factories and workplaces as 'assets' that can be gambled away on the stock exchange. They are the sworn enemy of working people and yet this alleged representative of the workers of South Wales seeks the participation of corrupt, parasitic swindlers who are shunned by even 'respectable' capitalists.


This shows just how politically corrupt large swathes of the Parliamentary Labour Party are - the sooner they are driven out the better. The Labour right have played for time, while the left has dithered and refused to conduct a real struggle, therefore playing into the hands of the right.


This is particularly the role of the leaders of Momentum. They refused to consistently support the one measure that would have mobilised hundreds of thousands of left-leaning workers and youth who joined the Labour Party in great enthusiasm to complete the Corbyn revolution: namely, subjecting right-wing MPs to reselection.


The Socialist Party has offered to further this process, to join the Labour Party on the basis of a political and organisational reconfiguration, leading to a federal form of party. Jon Lansman, the leader of Momentum, unceremoniously refused to support this, while showing touching sensitivity to the right. His tactics have blown up in his face, with Momentum torn apart over forms of organisation.


There have been no systematic protests at the arbitrary and bureaucratic denial of access to its ranks or that of the Labour Party.


Our request for readmission of 75 supporters of the Socialist Party previously expelled has met a brick wall. This while the right have ruthlessly used their position on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Labour Party to consolidate their grip.



Unresolved civil war



The right have a clear plan to expel and marginalise all those on the left who pose a threat to their continued rule. The left under the baton of Momentum's leadership - organisationally and politically inept - have allowed the right to make a comeback.


All of this could have been avoided if clear direction had been given from the beginning to the hundreds of thousands who rallied enthusiastically to Corbyn's anti-austerity programme and clearly demonstrated the desire to drive the Blairite right out of the Labour Party. The response of Momentum's leadership was to rule out any such political 'confrontation' with the right.



The Labour Party is still composed of two incompatible parties in one. The right from the beginning showed they were absolutely unreconciled to Corbyn's leadership and would overthrow him at the first opportunity. That still remains their goal.



The civil war which has existed from the beginning of Corbyn's accession to the leadership remains unresolved. The right, having failed to remove him in an open coup and afraid of leaving the Labour Party in the hands of the left, have fallen back on a 'creeping coup'. The tactics consist of a war of attrition, constantly seeking to discredit Jeremy and John McDonnell, and marginalising and excluding their supporters.



Blind alley



There is nevertheless everything to play for in 2017. Capitalism is a blind alley, incapable of taking society substantially forward. All of those parties who accept the system will ultimately fall under the wheels of history.



The movement around Jeremy represents a determined attempt to throw off the outmoded shell of Blairite pro-market, pro-capitalist forces and take to a more radical, socialist road.

The Socialist Party, together with the CWI, will do everything in its power to assist workers and young people to attain the goal of a mass, socialist party fighting for a socialist society in Britain and the world.




Thursday, 10 November 2016

Trump Victory - We Need Mass Resistance and a Party of the 99%

Anti-Trump protest organised by Socialist Alternative, one of many across the US


Bristol Socialist Party Public Meeting
Trump - How could this happen and what comes next?
Tuesday 29th November, 7.30pm
YHA Bristol (Grain House), 14 Narrow Quay, BS1 4QA


Article below by Philip Locker and Tom Crean of Socialist Alternative, co-thinkers of the Socialist Party in the US. 
We Need Mass Resistance Against Trump and a Party of the 99%
People in the US and around the world awoke today to one of the most shocking political upsets in living memory with the election of Donald Trump as president. It was the culmination of an election cycle when ordinary Americans rose up against the political establishment and against the destructive effects of globalization and neo-liberalism. This was expressed both on the left, with the campaign of Bernie Sanders which galvanized millions for a “political revolution against the billionaire class,” and, in a distorted way, on the right with Trump’s campaign.
But Trump did not just run as the alleged defender of the “forgotten men and women” in working class communities. He also ran the most overtly bigoted and chauvinist campaign of a major party candidate in modern times. He created a space for white nationalists and open white supremacists to come out of their holes and try to reach disaffected white workers and youth. This is a very dangerous development.
However, we completely reject the notion – relentlessly pushed by liberal commentators, trying to deflect from the staggering failure of the Democratic Party – that the outcome demonstrates that the bulk of the white working class shares Trump’s racism and xenophobia. Clinton actually won the popular vote by a narrow margin. Trump only got 47.5% overall, with tens of millions of the poorest and most downtrodden Americans not voting.
Trump’s vote was first and foremost a vote against Clinton and the establishment; it was a vote for a “change agent” against a consummate representative of the corporate status quo. Many responded to his attacks on the “rigged system” and corporations who move jobs overseas.What was tragically missing was a clear choice on the left that could offer an alternative to the seduction of right populism.
Socialist Alternative stands with the millions of women who are disgusted by the election of an open misogynist and correctly see it as a step backward; with Latinos who fear that mass deportations of undocumented workers are about to ramp up to unprecedented levels; with Muslims and African Americans who fear that Trump’s hate speech will incite more violence and the growth of a far right force.
We immediately called protests in cities around the country to make it clear that working people and the oppressed must stand together and prepare to resist the attacks of the right. In the past 24 hours we have been inundated with requests for more information about our organization. We must start today to build a genuine political alternative for the 99% against both corporate dominated parties and the right so that in 2020 we will not go through this disaster again.
A Shock to the Ruling Class
It needs to be underlined that the outcome of this election was not just a shock to tens of millions of progressive workers, women, immigrants, people of color, and LGBTQ people but also – for quite different reasons – to the ruling elite of the United States.
The majority of the ruling class see Trump as temperamentally “unfit to govern.” It is certainly true that Trump’s bully boy approach of publicly humiliating opponents and reacting to every perceived slight with nasty twitter posts has more in common with “strongmen” dictators in “failed states.” Even George Bush was not as proudly ignorant of international affairs as Trump. The ruling class see a Trump presidency as potentially deeply damaging to the interests of US imperialism at a time when its global power is waning, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, challenged by Russia and especially by an increasingly assertive Chinese imperialism.
They strongly object to Trump’s vociferous rejection of free trade deals and the dominant capitalist economic doctrines of the past forty years. But the truth is that globalization is stalled. Its engine of trade has gone into partial reverse. The Trump vote has some parallels with the Brexit vote in Britain to leave the European Union earlier this year which also reflected a massive rejection of globalization and neo-liberalism by the British working class.
The ruling class also fear that Trump’s crude racism, xenophobia, and misogyny will provoke social upheaval in the US. In this they will certainly be proved right.
At a deeper level, perhaps the most shocking aspect of this outcome for the ruling elite – including the corporate executives and the political establishment and corporate media outlets who serve them – is that the way they have dominated politics in this country through the two party system is broken. In election cycle after election cycle, the primaries have been used to weed out candidates who are not acceptable to corporate interests. Then the electorate would be left with the choice of two “vetted” nominees. The corporate elite might strongly prefer one or the other but they could live with either. Ordinary people were then left with the choice of picking a “lesser evil” or voting for a third party candidate with no chance of winning.
All that changed in 2016. First Bernie Sanders raised $220 million dollars without taking a dime from corporate America and came very close to defeating Hillary in the rigged Democratic primary. Trump was also largely shunned by the Republican “donor class” and the last two Republican presidents and the most recent Republican nominee were very public in rejecting him.

Trump and the Clintons in happier times
The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost
It is still staggering that the outcome of the primaries left people with a choice between the two  most unpopular major party candidates of the modern era. Exit polling showed 61% of voters had an unfavorable view of Trump and 54% said the same about Clinton.
In the primaries, the Democratic National Committee did everything it could to stack the deck for the establishment’s chosen candidate, Hillary Clinton, against Sanders whom polls showed consistently doing much better against Trump. This speaks directly to the fact that a significant element of Trump’s eventual electorate was open to a genuine working class argument opposing the power of Wall Street and their free trade agenda while calling for a $15 minimum wage, free college, single payer healthcare and massive investment in green infrastructure. But the truth is that the Democratic leadership would rather lose than to be tied to a program that really spoke to the interests of working people and the poor.
Disgracefully most union leaders threw their support and millions of dollars behind Clinton in the primaries while an important section of trade unionists and several national unions backed Sanders. In this way, the labor leadership helped to prop up Wall Street’s candidate against a pro-working class challenge.
Clinton limped into the general election as a deeply damaged corporate candidate. What received the most attention in the media was the State Department email scandal. But the continuing Wikileaks revelations also confirmed in detail and underlined the picture that Sanders had painted in the primary: that Clinton was a servant of Wall Street who said one thing in private speeches to bankers who handed her millions and another in public.
Liberal apologists will seek to blame the white working class, Bernie supporters or even Jill Stein’s voters for the outcome. But as we have repeatedly pointed out the Democratic Party long ago abandoned even the pretense of defending working class interests. For decades they implemented or supported one neo-liberal measure after another: from “ending welfare as we know it,” expanding mass incarceration, pushing through NAFTA and repealing Glass Steagall under Bill Clinton to bailing out the banks while millions lost their homes under Obama.
After the 2008 and 2009 economic crash, the left gave Obama a pass. The Democrats controlled Congress and did little to help the working class in the worst crisis since the 1930s. This opened the door to the Tea Party to mobilize opposition to the bailout of Wall Street and anger at the politicians.
Under pressure from the 45% who supported Sanders in the primary, the Democrats adopted the most left platform at their convention in 40 years. But Clinton ran her campaign solidly focused on the message that Trump was an existential danger to the Republic and that “America was already great.” Hillary’s donors did not want her stressing issues like the minimum wage or ending college debt for fear of raising expectations among fired up working people. It could be argued that Hillary had no credibility as a progressive so what could she do? Well what she did was make Tim Kaine who supported TPP and bank deregulation her vice presidential candidate instead of someone like Elizabeth Warren. She refused to promise not to appoint a bunch of Goldman Sachs personnel to her administration. All of this was completely uninspiring to the millions of people hungry for real change.
It is therefore no surprise that Clinton was unable to enthuse greater voter turnout. Neither Trump nor Clinton got 50% of the vote. And while Clinton got a very slightly larger share of the popular vote than Trump, she got six million fewer votes than Obama in 2012 and fully ten million fewer than Obama in 2008. Meanwhile, Trump’s vote was actually a million votes lower than Romney’s!
As Jacobin pointed out: “Clinton won only 65 percent of Latino voters, compared to Obama’s 71 percent four years ago. She performed this poorly against a candidate who ran on a program of building a wall along America’s southern border, a candidate who kicked off his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists. Clinton won 34 percent of white women without college degrees. And she won just 54 percent of women overall, compared to Obama’s 55 percent in 2012. Clinton, of course, was running against a candidate who has gloated on film about grabbing women ‘by the pussy.’” Clinton also did not excite younger black voters, many of whom sat the election out. And she lost in white working class communities where Barack Obama won handily in both previous elections.
The Democratic establishment played a dangerous game in this election – and they lost. And it will be working people, communities of color, and women who bear the brunt of their failure.

Bernie Sanders
Sanders Should Have Been on the Ballot
In the past few years we have seen a profound political polarization in the US with the growth of support among young people for socialism and Black Lives Matter while there is a growth of open xenophobia and racism among a minority of the population. But the overall trend in American society has been to the left, expressed in support for marriage equality, a higher minimum wage and taxing the rich. This election does not change that underlying reality but it clearly puts the right in the driver seat with control of the presidency, both houses of Congress and the bulk of state legislatures.
A large section of the white working class and middle class did indeed use this election to underline their utter rejection of the Democratic Party and also the establishment of the Republicans. In a distorted way, tens of millions were looking for a way to oppose the corporate elite. We cannot close our eyes to the growth in support among a minority for far right ideas but it is revealing, for example, that exit polls showed that 70% said undocumented immigrants “should be offered legal status” against 25% who said they should be deported.
This is why it is absolutely tragic that Bernie Sanders was not on the ballot yesterday. We urged him to run as an independent as early as September 2014 when he first raised the idea of a presidential campaign. When he decided to run within the Democratic Party primary we disagreed with accepting this framework but continued to engage with his supporters in a discussion about how to achieve his program and the need for a new party.
Our warnings about the consequences of supporting Hillary have been tragically borne out. If Sanders had continued to run all the way to November, as we and many others urged, his presence would have radically changed the character of the race. He would have almost certainly forced his way into the presidential debates and we would right now be discussing the immediate question of forming a new party of the 99% based on the many millions of votes he would have received. This is a massive opportunity missed.
Socialist Alternative supported Jill Stein of the Green Party who received just over one million votes because she also put forward a platform that substantively spoke to the interests of working people. Stein’s campaign had many limitations but, despite them, her vote in a small way indicates the massive potential that exists for the development of a mass left alternative.
A Presidency of Chaos and Struggle
The election of Donald Trump is a disaster which will have many negative consequences. But it is also a phase in the ongoing process of political and social upheaval in the US. Capitalism and its institutions are discredited as perhaps never before, a process that continued right through the end of the general election with the FBI interjecting itself into the political process and Trump relentless talking about the “rigged” political system.
There will inevitably be widespread despair in sections of the left and a feeling that all attempts to move society forward are useless. It is absolutely essential to push back against this mood. Real change as Bernie Sanders correctly pointed out comes from the bottom up, from mass movements in the workplaces and the streets.
Trump’s victory represents the “whip of counter-revolution.” There will be chaos and provocations which will impel millions into defensive action. This is why those who have been radicalized in the past period must redouble their efforts to build a real mass movement for change, independent of corporate control. The social movements of recent years and especially BLM show the potential.
But it also essential to see that Trump will inevitably disappoint his supporters. “Building a wall” will not create millions of good jobs to replace those lost to automation and trade deals. And though he talks about investing in 21st century infrastructure, he is also committed to even further massive tax breaks for billionaires like himself. A mass movement against Trump will need to appeal directly to the white working class and explain how we can create a future where all young people can have a decent future rather than trying to recreate the “American dream” by deepening racial division. Such a future can only be achieved with socialist policies.
Dump Trump!

Monday, 17 October 2016

More Massive Cuts Planned for Bristol City Council

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees on BBC Points West

By Mike Luff, Bristol Unison member, personal capacity

Bristol is facing a massive attack on its jobs and services, with a rapidly capitulating newly elected Labour mayor and its Labour controlled council. The Mayor, when challenged on the television that he was elected on an anti austerity platform, surprised the interviewer saying by saying “NO”.


Proposed cuts include the halving of bus subsidies, charges for users of dementia service, fees for disabled parking bays, handing over parks from Council control, cuts in museum hours, reduction of lollipop controls, ending of companion bus passes for carers, library service closures and some removal of short term help for paying bills – the list goes on. This amounts to £27 million cuts for 2017/2018, and then there is a further £65m cuts by 2020. Even the Mayor describes his proposed cuts as “horrifically unpalatable”.


This is in addition to 1000 full time equivalent posts being cut, one sixth of the workforce over the next few months. This will inevitably lead to hundreds of compulsory redundancies. No service closures have been announced, so we are likely to see reductions in services. As a Regional Unison officer said ”the cuts in jobs are not sustainable at such thin levels”. Services will easily collapse.


On the day before these announcements, the Anti Cuts Alliance, BADACA, met with Mayor Rees. We gave a clear way forward to build a mass popular campaign of trade unions, communities and campaigns from across the city, which would strengthen the demand for the return of our money from this weak Tory Government. By using reserves, prudential borrowing, the cuts can be frozen legally for a period, during which such a campaign can be built. This could act as a beacon to other authorities to build a national campaign to defeat the Tory government cuts.


The excuse given for not trying to build such a campaign was that it would weaken negotiations with the government! The fact that such an approach has been used and failed over the previous years is conveniently forgotten. On the following day, Sajid Javid, the Local Government Secretary visited Bristol and was asked about the government funding, he said “What I say is local government are looking to use their money more efficiently and having to make savings”.


Jeremy Corbyn has visited Bristol supporting Rees on a number of occasions  during the election campaign stating “the message of opposition to austerity”. Jeremy has to face up to those who are undermining the general election campaign of an anti austerity government by carrying out the Tory cuts.


Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance public meeting
Report back of meeting between BADACA and Mayor Rees
7.30pm, Monday 17th October
Tony Benn House, 92 Victoria St, BS1 6AY
Come to the meeting and hear a full report back of the discussion between Marvin Rees representatives of BADACA. We will also be discussing how we can resist this latest round of swingeing cuts.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

BADACA meeting - Stop the 1000 job cuts at Bristol City Council!

From the Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance (BADACA):


BADACA public meeting
Report back of meeting between BADACA and Mayor Rees
7.30pm, Monday 17th October
Tony Benn House, 92 Victoria St, BS1 6AY


Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees addresses a lobby opposing huge cuts to council jobs. 

Bristol Labour Mayor Marvin Rees has agreed to meet a delegation from Bristol & District Anti-Cuts Alliance (BADACA) to discuss our concerns about the cuts programme that he has already embarked on, 1,000 extra redundancies this financial year, and cuts planned in the budget for future years. The delegation will be lead by two-time anti-austerity mayoral candidate, Tom Baldwin. (Tom stood for mayor in 2012 & 2016 for the Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) )


BADACA has always opposed all cuts and will be calling on the mayor to refuse to implement the cuts and to join with the Local Government unions, the anti-austerity movement & Labour authorities in other cities in fighting back. Reserves & prudential borrowing should be used to stop the cuts for now while the movement builds. Jeremy Corbyn has just been re-elected as Labour leader, with an increased mandate & on a clear anti-austerity programme. Labour has the power to start to push back on Tory austerity measures as they have successfully under Corbyn with disability benefits & tax credits. Local authorities can't take any more - we need to end austerity NOW!!!

With the Tories in disarray after the unexpected Brexit vote and the sudden political demise of Cameron, Osborne, Iain Duncan-Smith & Michael Gove, we can push them back. Replacement chancellor, Philip Hammond has already abandoned Osborne's austerity targets... the alternative to fighting is the end of council services as we know them in Bristol!!

Come & join us at Tony Benn House at 7.30pm on Monday 17th October for a report-back on the meeting with the mayor and a discussion on where the campign needs to go from here. All welcome!!


The meeting will hear from a member of the Save Hanham Library campaign about the cuts to libraries in South Gloucestershire and a teacher about the attacks on education from the Tory government, including the proposals for new grammar schools. 


This meeting follows our successful meeting in September which was attended by about 15 people and agreed to continue to get BADACA meetings going again. At this meeting we are hoping to set a date for an AGM so new officers can be elected. More info in an email bulletin shortly. If you're not on our mailing list and would like to be, please message matthewcarey@mykolab.com with your name & email address.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Consolidate the Corbyn Victory

Refound Labour as a democratic, socialist, anti-austerity party!


Come to the Bristol Socialist Party / Socialist Students public meeting on
Trotskyism, Corbyn and the Labour Party
Tuesday 4th October, 7.30pm, YHA, 14 Narrow Quay, BS1 4QA


Editorial from The Socialist newspaper:

"The war continues." So declared one ex-shadow cabinet minister to the Sunday Times (25 September).

The attempted coup against Jeremy Corbyn by 172 Labour MPs has ended in abject failure, with his mandate strengthened. In the aftermath of the leadership contest many Corbyn supporters will have hoped that it would now be possible to unify the Labour Party around a clear anti-austerity programme in a battle to defeat the Tories. Within hours however it was clear that, as we warned, there is no possibility of the right accepting the democratic will of Labour Party members. They are reeling under the impact of a crushing defeat, with no clear idea of how to launch the next stage of their 'get Corbyn' campaign, but the one thing they are united on is its necessity.

Around the country a smattering of Blairites have torn up their Labour Party cards, including the leader of Portsmouth council Labour group, and businessman and SDP founder Lord Mitchell. The majority have, however, made clear that at this stage they intend to stay and try to 'reclaim' their party for the capitalist class. There are rumours that a few will rejoin the shadow cabinet but most are indicating that they will only do so if the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) gets to choose its membership.

Disgracefully, Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison (which voted to support Corbyn in the leadership contest) has suggested that this is the way to heal the rifts in the Labour Party. But such a measure would not be about healing rifts but handing victory to Tom Watson's rumoured 'Project Anaconda' - to isolate and then crush Corbyn.

That they have failed to do so to date is only because of the hundreds of thousands of people who have rallied to the defence of Jeremy's leadership and anti-austerityplatform, resulting in Labour having the biggest membership of any party in Western Europe. However, Labour remains two parties in one: the old pro-capitalist, establishment party and the new anti-austerity party in formation.

Whose interests?

In essence the struggle taking place in the Labour Party is about in which classes' interests it is going to act - the working class majority in society and the middle class with no hope for the future, or the capitalist 1%? The pro-capitalist wing of Labour dominates the PLP and Labour councils. It still controls much of the Labour Party machine, successfully preventing around 150,000 voting in the leadership election and banning regular local Labour Party meetings from taking place during the leadership contest.

The expulsions and exclusions look set to continue. The list of words that Labour Party members are banned from using even includes 'Blairite'! The right are also fighting tooth and nail to establish a majority on Labour's National Executive Committee.

To respond to these savage attacks by attempting to pacify the right is a major mistake. This was the approach taken after Jeremy's first leadership victory and it ended in the coup. A second attempt could only end the same way. The leaked 'Project Anaconda' email put it bluntly saying: "Every concession JC makes will be used to tighten the grip." No more concessions should be made. Nor should the current, highly-undemocratic, Labour Party rules and structures be accepted. Labour should be rebuilt as an open and democratic anti-austerity party.

Right-wing MPs are in a frenzy because Jeremy only said that the "vast majority of MPs will have no problem whatsoever" in keeping their seats in the selection contests that could take place as a result of boundary changes. Nothing but a promise that the seat of every single MP was safe would satisfy them.

But every MP and councillor should face mandatory reselection. This democratic procedure was hard fought for by the left in the past, including Corbyn and McDonnell, only to be abolished as part of the Blairites consolidating their grip on the party. There is no doubt that this made it easier for Labour MPs to vote for tuition fees, privatisation and war, and in some cases to fiddle their expenses, without any fear of being removed and replaced by their local membership.

Kick out the Blairites

The reintroduction of mandatory reselection would be an important step forward, but is not sufficient alone. Jeremy has a huge mandate for the anti-austerity programme on which he was elected. He should now insist that all Labour MPs agree to support his leadership and vote for his programme in parliament. It can no longer be the case that Labour MPs can vote for benefit cuts or privatisation of hospitals without consequence. MPs who do so should be excluded from the PLP.

In the short term this would undoubtedly leave Labour with fewer MPs but a PLP which was united in opposingausterity and supporting workers in struggle would be far more effective than the current situation, where a big section of the PLP are doing their best to 'get Corbyn' even at the cost of losing a general election.

And far from being unpopular, such an anti-austerity Labour Party could quickly make electoral gains. Unfortunately, the attempts to compromise with the right have muffled Corbyn's anti-austerity programme over the last year. But many of his policies - a £10 an hour minimum wage, free education, mass council house building, renationalising the railways - are enormously popular and now need to be shouted from the rooftops. Unfortunately the Labour Party conferences shows the danger that, once again, the anti-austerity message is not heard because of a desire to compromise with the right.

The question of local councils is an important aspect of this. Millions of working class people do not yet recognise Labour as an anti-austerity force because they live in Labour-led local authorities, which are implementing savage austerity. Central government funding of local authorities has been cut by 40% since 2010 and Labour local authorities are dutifully wielding the axe, resulting in 670,000 job losses and destruction of vital local services.

Pressure is mounting. This year Unite and GMB conferences supported a call for councils to refuse to implement any further cuts. In a vain attempt to protect Labour councillors from the anger of workers whose jobs and services are being destroyed (like the 20% of Manchester firefighters facing the sack from a Labour-controlled fire authority) a rule change is being put to Labour Party conference barring Labour councillors from voting against Labour cuts budgets or from setting so-called 'illegal' no-cuts budgets.

The Labour leadership should urgently make clear their opposition to it. It is in part a red herring but Labour conference should be passing a motion demanding Labour councils refuse to implement cuts, not trying to prevent them from doing so. The 58 Labour-led councils that had elections this year alone have £4.5 billion in general reserves. If these were pooled every Labour council in the country would be able to implement legal no-cuts budgets. This could be used to launch a struggle against Tory austerity which could defeat the government.

In Liverpool, where the Labour Party conference is taking place, in the 1980s the council was able to successfully take on Thatcher and win an extra £60 million in funding for the council. In the course of doing so they were decreed to have broken Tory laws, but the results - building council houses, nurseries, leisure centres and more - stand in bricks and mortar. Labour Party conference delegates should be taken on a tour to visit them.

And far from being electorally unpopular, the swing to Labour in Liverpool in the 1987 general election, had it been repeated on a national scale, would have led to a landslide victory for Labour instead of the defeat it was led to by witch-hunter Neil Kinnock.

It is urgent that a battle is launched to transform Labour into an anti-austerity party in word and deed. Alongside this a campaign should begin to democratise the party. This should include readmitting all those socialists that have been expelled and excluded.

The role of the trade unions - workers' organisations with over six million members - should be restored, on a democratic basis so that union delegates genuinely represent the views of their members. John Hannet, the right-wing general secretary of the Usdaw shop workers union, is backing the Blairites to the hilt. But he is not representing the views of many of his low-paid members, who would fully support a leadership fighting for a £10 an hour minimum wage.

Federal structure

The national structures of the Labour Party would also need to be opened out and democratised. The Socialist Party argues for 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 that were prepared to sign up to a clear anti-austerity programme, including the Socialist Party, to affiliate to Labour as the Co-op Party still does.

The movement in support of Corbyn opens up a very important opportunity for working class people in Britain. It creates the possibility of a workers' party - standing for the 99% instead of the 1%, and able to attract all those workers and youth wanting to fight back against capitalism. It is urgent that Jeremy Corbyn's victory is consolidated and the opportunity grasped.