Thursday, 29 December 2011

PCS Left Unity conference - 7th Jan 2012

PCS Left Unity National Committee

Organising Conference Saturday: Friends Meeting House
(opp. Euston Station) 7th January 2012 11am – 4pm

Chair: Janice Godrich PCS President

Speakers: Mark Serwotka PCS General Secretary
John McDonnell MP
Kevin Courtney DGS NUT (personal capacity)
Roger Bannister UNISON NEC (personal capacity)
Mark Campbell UCU NEC (personal capacity)
Zita Holbourne BARAC
Kevin Donnelly Unite United Left
The PCS Left Unity National Committee invites all activists from all unions to an organising conference on the 7th of January to debate how we can build the campaign to defend our pensions and fight the cuts and prevent any unacceptable “deal” that makes us work longer, pay more and get less.

This will be an organising conference, not just a debating forum. It is intended to arm activists with the issues so they can go back to their workplaces and into their unions in order to build a campaign that will secure justice on pensions.

To cover costs there will be a registration fee of £5 for waged delegates. 


Thursday, 22 December 2011

North Korea: The nightmare continues

By Gerbrand Visser, Socialistisch Alternatief (CWI in Netherlands)

The death of the long time Stalinist dictator of North Korea brings no relief to the workers of the country. They suffered many years under Japanese occupation (1905-1945), then during the Korean war (1953-1955) and many, many years of the most ruthless Stalinist rule. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the economy of North Korea suffered setbacks and it is estimated that more than two million people lost their lives during famines at the end of the 1990s. North Korea is now one of the poorer countries in the world, but until well into the 1970s, the income per head of the population was higher than in South Korea.

Stalinist rule in North Korea adheres to the “Juche“ ideology, of ‘self-sufficiency’. The North is unsuitable for food production, because it is mountainous and cold. It has many minerals in its soil, even quite rare ones. The Chinese government prefers the present regime because it gives them relatively easy access to these minerals, and North Korea provides it with a buffer. If North Korea ceased to exist, China would border a country that houses a large contingent of American military forces.

For Japan and South Korea, the presence of the Stalinist regime is discomforting, but it provides a useful excuse for obscene military expenditure. One of North Korea’s military trump cards is that it possesses a nuclear bomb. This seems to be a fairly primitive thing, like the American nuclear bombs in their early stages of development. It is probably too big to fit on a missile, but the North Koreans conducted two test blasts after the US invasion of Iraq, to show the world that they too had the bomb. North Korea’s large land force is meant to defend the country and to repress the population; there is no credible air force or navy.

Most of the expenditure of North Korea is on its military apparatus. This will not change. The new leader, Kim Yong Un, is young and there is no doubt that the military council will firmly hold on to the reins of power. If they do not fall prey to dissension, they could hold on to power for quite a while - the regime has shown itself to be quite tenacious. The regime has effectively isolated the country and ruthlessly repressed any independent working class activity.

Life in North Korea is a nightmare for workers: a harsh struggle for survival in a country with has almost no heating and extremely low temperatures in winter, little and/or very primitive food, and almost no lighting (often one bulb for an apartment). Life is difficult for workers even if you do not take into account the horrendous repression, the concentration camps, the controls over the family and the workplaces, the total lack of information (mobile phones and internet are prohibited) and the ubiquitous secret police.

The death of this tyrant has again provided the representatives of capitalism with an excuse to besmirch the ideas of socialism, despite the brutal reality that this regime, among the most horrific and oppressive band of despots ever to have falsely bore the name. The CWI stands for a struggle to overthrow the brutal corrupt Stalinist dynasty, an integral part of the international struggle to end the poverty, repression, dictatorship and conflict which dominates the region. Asia, through mass struggle. Such a struggle to establish a workers’ democracy and genuine socialism in Korea, based on the democratic control of government, and planning of the economy, may seem far away at this point in time, but like the North Korean football team, the Korean workers always manage to surprise.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

NSSN lobby of TUC: No retreat on pensions! Name date for the next strike!

Hundreds of rank and file union members protested outside the TUC last night on the lobby of the TUC's Public Services Liaison Group called by the National Shop Stewards Network.
Rob Williams, Chair, National Shop Stewards Network

The lobby articulated the feelings of anger of hundreds of thousands of public sector trade unionists faced with the prospect of their leadership agreeing to a rotten deal.

The lobby, and the campaign around it, had an important effect in forcing TUC leader Brendan Barber and UNISONgeneral secretary Dave Prentis to partially step back from complete and immediate capitulation.

This now allows a window of opportunity for trade unionists to step up the pressure for a continuation of thepensions struggle.

As union leaders went into Congress House, protestors chanted "The Tories win when you sell out!", "N30 showed the way, TUC name the day [for the next strike]" and "Let the members decide!" The TUC's Public Services Liaison Group meeting took place after Brendan Barber and Dave Prentis spent the weekend trying to convince public sector unions to sign up to a 'Heads of Agreement' on the pensions dispute.

This 'agreement' would in effect suspend any further action and agree that the minor concessions of thegovernment are sufficient to settle the dispute.

From reports it seems that in local government UNISON, GMB and UNITE have indicated that they want to sign Maude's 'heads of agreement' and that UNISON has done the same in health.
It's clear however that the pressure from union activists, up to and including last night's lobby has prevented a far more open capitulation.

Barber had to issue a statement saying, "It's important to stress that no agreements have been reached, but unions now have proposals to put to their executives and members."

Prentis also had to emphasise that the 'agreement' would be put to the UNISON Service Group Executives (SGEs) on 10 January.

UNISON members now need to make sure that members of the SGEs are flooded with letters, emails and phone calls making clear members' opposition to this rotten deal.
Decisions should be made by NECs

Decisions on whether there is anything acceptable shouldn't be in the hands of a handful of union leaders but should be made by the unions' national executive committees, which consist of elected lay members, and then by full votes of the union members who were balloted for the 30 November 2011 public sector strike (N30).

The NSSN supports the actions of unions like PCS, NUT and POA who have refused to sign up to a process that can only give confidence to the government while lowering the confidence of workers that their unions are serious about fighting back.

The massive two million strong strike on N30 frightened the government. However, as yet the government have moved only by inches.

The government is relying on the right-wing trade union leaders to throw away their advantage. As The Mirror acknowledges today, the concessions are very slight and still mean that public sector workers will pay more in pension contributions in the middle of what is now a four year pay freeze, and work longer to get less.

In local government, the government might concede a two year delay in the increased pension contributions in return for what is effectively a no-strike agreement.
Far bigger pensions contributions

But if a worker has another twenty years' work in front of them, the majority of those years will be on far bigger pensions contributions.

In addition, the government is planning to change the pensions from a 'final salary' to the lesser 'career average' as well as increasing the retirement age.

Any movement from the ConDems after just one day of co-ordinated strike action should be taken as a source of confidence that the government can be forced into a total climb-down.

Rather than trying to cajole unions into signing up to a disorderly retreat, yesterday's meeting should have set the date for the next strike as early as possible next year, preferably by the end of January.
"Damage limitation"?

Unison's head of health, Christina McAnea, told the press that "we always knew this would be a damage limitation exercise." Union national officials might think this, but millions of union members who were on strike on 30 November will be determined that this battle doesn't end here.

The day before N30, Osborne sketched out the next five years or more of unremitting misery for working people.

Another £30 billion of cuts on top of the £81 billion he announced a year ago. 360,000 public sector workers have been sacked, while those remaining facing pay freezes and pay cuts because of job evaluation.

The most vulnerable in society have been hit hard by these ruthless cuts, made in order to pay for the bankers' greed - for which Cameron was prepared to go to the wall in Brussels.

Yet even more cuts are now demanded, which could see a further 400,000 sacked! No wonder N30 was so successful, with towns and cities all over the country seeing their biggest ever demonstrations.
Keep up the pressure

We've got to keep up the pressure on the union leaders. The government's so-called offer will be discussed and debated at union national executive committees early in the New Year.

Unison's local government and NHS group executive committees meet on January 10th. The National Shop Stewards Network calls on all public sector workers to send in motions and resolutions to their union branches, shop stewards committees and trades councils calling for rejection of this deal and the naming of the next strike date.

Sign our online petition and tell your friends, family and workmates about it. But most of all, come to the conference called by PCS Left Unity on Saturday January 7th at the Friends Meeting House in Euston Road, London.

It's open to union members, activists and reps in all unions to debate the way forward after N30 and yesterday's TUC Public Services Liaison Group meeting.

PCS: 'Unacceptable bullying' will not deter union's members


Speaking after today's statement in parliament by Danny Alexander, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the government's "unacceptable bullying" will not deter the union's members from standing up for what is right.

In singling out the union for criticism the chief secretary to the Treasury mislead MPs by saying PCS had "walked away from talks".

The truth is, the Cabinet Office unilaterally announced yesterday PCS would no longer be invited to negotiations over pensions, even though the union believes the government has a legal obligation to do so.

In a letter to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude yesterday, Mark Serwotka wrote: "As the union representing the overwhelming majority of civil servants we want to reach an agreement, but we could not accept that the government's proposals are an unalterable framework within which any discussions have to take place. PCS would expect to be involved in any further discussions which take place in relation to the government’s proposals."

Letter to Francis Maude 19 Dec 2011

The union has reiterated its commitment to negotiating but ministers have refused to negotiate on the three core issues of forcing public servants to pay hundreds of pounds more each year in pensions contributions, work for up to eight years longer and receive much less in retirement - in many cases, tens of thousands of pounds.

Of all the proposed changes, these will have the biggest impact on the pensions of millions of public servants. Not a single penny of the extra contributions will go to make pensions any more affordable - because this is not required - the money will go to the Treasury to pay off the budget deficit caused by the recession and bailing out the banks.

While talks with Cabinet Office officials have been held in recent weeks on aspects of the civil service scheme, there have been no central negotiations with ministers on these key issues since 2 November.

At a meeting of the TUC's public sector liaison group yesterday evening, Mark Serwotka reported the union's view that nothing had changed since the public sector strike on 30 November, that the offer on the table in the civil service was not good enough, and that further industrial action will be necessary in the new year if the government's continues to refuse to negotiate on the main issues.

Mark Serwotka said: "It is extraordinary how PCS members have been treated by this government, simply for saying they will not accept being made to pay more and work longer for tens of thousands of pounds less in their retirement.

"This kind of unacceptable bullying will not deter union members from standing up for what is right, and opposing the government's attempts to make them pay the price for a recession they did not cause. We remain committed to negotiating with ministers, but they continue to refuse even though we believe they have a legal obligation to do so."

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Act now - Sign pensions petition to help stop the sell out

Please urgently sign the NSSN e-petition below and get as many other trade unionists as possible to sign it. There is a recall TUC Public Sector Liaison Group on Monday afternoon, we will let you know about a lobby of it later today, but it is crucial that as many people as possible sign the petition BEFORE THAT MEETING. THAT MEANS ACTING TODAY!

Sign the petition by visiting by iPetitions:

Kazakhstan: Protesters Killed


Moscow, December 16, 2010, 08.30 GMT

We have just had information that the whole city of Zhanaozen is in chaos.
The oil workers and their supporters had today planned a peaceful demonstration. The authorities, however, afraid that a powerful show of support for the strikers on the day of the 20th Anniversary and in the lead up to the Parliamentary election in January have decided to use internal troops against the protests. We have just been informed that the City Akimat (Mayor's Office) has been taken over by protesters. But the situation is very dangerous as the authorities are clearly intent on using violence.

Please send immediate protests to the Embassies in your own country and to the Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry email:

and message of support to:

For those who are today already organizing protests outside Embassies, please make sure that the case is put very forcibly to demand an end to violent repression and for the start of immediate and meaningful negotiations.

09.30 GMT UPDATE: initial reports are that up to 50 have been killed, hundreds wounded - more details later

Friday, 16 December 2011

Message from PCS LEft Unity on Pensions Strike

From Janice Godrich, President of PCS, on behalf of PCS Left Unity:

“PCS Left Unity is organising an open meeting at Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London on Saturday 7 January to demand further action on pensions, this meeting will be open to all reps in any union that took action on N30 and is to put pressure on union leaderships to name a further strike day, please pass on to all your contacts in other unions, put the date in your diary and attend, more details will be issued shortly.”

URGENT: Stop the Pensions Sell Out

Press release from the NSSN: 

A recall conference of the Public Sector Liaison Group (PSLG), the body that brings together TUC affiliated public sector unions, will be convened on Monday 19th December at 3PM.

At this meeting TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber will attempt to sell Francis Maude's latest pensions offer as the basis for a settlement of the dispute to trade union leaders.

In a bid to head off this damaging out come the NSSN and other left trade union activists are calling for a lobby of the PSLG before it meets. Trade unionists will have the opportunity to voice their opposition to Maude's proposals and demand further action in the New Year.

The NSSN will be demanding:

Reject Maude's latest pensions proposals which will mean all public sector workers having to work longer, pay more, and get less.

No to secret deals by union leaders over the heads of the membership. We demand democratic control of the negotiations.

We demand that the date is set for the next co-ordinated public sector strike early in the New Year. UNISON Scotland has already proposed 25 January as the date of the next strike.

The lobby will begin at 2:00 PM at Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell Street. WC1B 3LS

The NSSN urges all of it's supporters and readers to come down to the lobby and build the pressure for further action in defence of pensions.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Paul Murphy MEP- Grills Barroso on austerity, democracy and right for Irish referendum

Kazakhstan: 20 years of independent Kazakhstan – 20 years of authoritarianism! International Day of action on 17 December

20 years of independent Kazakhstan – 20 years of authoritarianism!
International Day of action on 17 December - Press Release

Members of Campaign Kazakhstan in Britain will be holding a protest on Friday 16 December at 12 noon outside the Kazakhstan Embassy at 33 Thurloe Square, London SW 7 2SD

On 16 December 2011, the Republic of Kazakhstan celebrates 20 years as an independent state, a status it achieved as the Soviet Union collapsed. President Nazarbayev and his government are presenting this as twenty years of unprecedented stability and progress. While a clique around the Nazarayev family have become extremely rich and the big  banks, oil companies and other multinationals have gained almost unrestricted access to the country’s wealth and natural resources, the mass of the population live in dire conditions. If they dare to speak out, they face repression and violence. Lawyers, human rights activists, journalists and trade unionists are regularly beaten, jailed and some have been murdered.

Despite all this, EU leaders rush to congratulate President Nazarbayev on Kazakhstan’s 20th anniversary. EuroNews carries paid advertisements which portray Kazakhstan as a haven for business. Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is an adviser to Nazarbayev. The British musician, Paul McCartney, is due to perform at the regime’s official ‘jubilee concert’ to mark independence. We appeal to Paul McCartney to follow the lead of the musician Sting, who cancelled his concert in Kazakhstan, last July, in protest at the violation of the rights of striking oil workers.

16 December is also the seven month anniversary of the start of the strike at the KazMunaiGaz oil company in the West Kazakh Mungystau region and the oil workers will be staging a mass protest on this day. They are demanding the right to form an independent trade union and receive premiums for working in difficult and dangerous conditions. They have faced brutal repression and over 2,500 have been sacked. Their lawyer was jailed for 6 years on the charge of “inciting social conflict”.

Fearing a KazakhstanTahrir Square’, the Nazarbayev regime is becoming even more dictatorial. All the main opposition parties are banned from participating in parliamentary elections next January. The independent trade union, Zhanartu, and the opposition Socialist Movement Kazakhstan, were refused legal registration. Their leaders, Esenbek Ukteshbayev and Ainur Kurmanov, are subject to criminal investigations that could lead to prison sentences of up to 6 years. Fourteen prisoners at the Granit prison have been handed additional sentences of between 5 and 19 years after participating in a protest against torture by the prison authorities. Journalists from Stan TV visiting were badly beaten up following their attempts to cover the oil workers’ dispute.

Campaign Kazakhstan is organising international protests around Kazakhstan’s ‘independence’ celebrations to highlight the real situation facing opposition activists, oil workers and the majority of people in the country.

Campaign Kazakhstan calls for:

- The immediate end to the regime’s repression against opposition activists
- An end to the support given by European and international governments, politicians,    
   diplomats and cultural figures to the authoritarian Nazabyev regime
- The immediate release of the oil workers’ lawyer, Natalia Sokolova
- The dropping of all investigations and charges against Ainur Kurmanov, Esenbek
   Ukteshbayev, and other opposition activists 
- The right to form independent trade unions. For oil workers to receive premiums for
   working in difficult and dangerous conditions. Re-instate all the sacked oil workers
- An end to undemocratic ‘elections’ and attacks on the mass media
- An end to torture in the prisons

Press release by Campaign Kazakhstan in response to an appeal by Zhanartu (All-Kazakhstan Independent Trade Union Federation) and the Kazakhstan ‘Leave Our Homes Alone’ Campaign

For more information contact: Ken Douglas, PO Box 24697, London E11 1HH Telephone 0208 9888762

Scottish Anti Cuts Coalition to stand in 2012 Elections


Over 70 trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists gathered for a conference in Glasgow on December 10, to launch the Scottish Anti Cuts Coalition. The coalition will stand candidates across Scotland in the May 2012 council elections.

From the chair, PCS national executive member Cheryl Gedling - who along with other leading public sector trade unionists has played a central role in the formation of SACC - introduced the discussion explaining that the conference had taken on further importance after the mass public sector strike on November 30.

Cheryl highlighted the colossal impact of the strike that had cost the economy £500 million and had shaken the ConDem government. Tory Chancellor Osborne’s provocative autumn statement unleashing further austerity on the poorest in society and the continuing loss of thousands of jobs a week in the public sector show the need for an anti-cuts electoral challenge.

Brian Smith, Branch Secretary of Glasgow City Unison and a member of Socialist Party Scotland underlined the anger of workers in response to SNP government ministers crossing picket lines and Labour’s inconsistent attitude towards the strike. Labour leader Ed Miliband refused to back the strikes and while Scottish Labour supported it, their MSPs had crossed picket lines on the previous strike on June 30.

Brian stressed the need to expose and oppose SNP and Labour politicians implementing the ConDem’s cuts in council chambers not just through general anti cuts campaigning but also a political challenge to the cuts agenda. Anti-cuts activists have an opportunity with all of Scotland’s councillors up for election in May under a proportional representation system to raise principled opposition to all cuts to a wide audience.
5 key principles

Brian urged support for a resolution to create a coalition of anti-cuts candidates based around five key points: Opposition to all cuts, Candidates if elected would put forward needs budgets protecting services, jobs and communities and build a mass campaign to demand a return of the money stolen by the Con Dems from public services, Opposition to privatisation, Full support to workers taking industrial action and communities, young people fighting the cuts, Taxation of the rich and Public Ownership allowing investment in jobs and services.

Brian outlined the basis for a voluntary coalition. That all candidates would sign up to the five pledges and can add to them with further political and local demands. Socialist Party Scotland members who are candidates for example will also raise wider socialist demands alongside the 5 key pledges.

The coalition will aim to stand credible candidates in as many areas as is practically possible, bearing in mind the importance of standing candidates with a good record of fighting cuts, local campaigning etc. Where, therefore, other Left candidates are standing who have a principled record of defending the interests of local communities and opposition to cuts, the coalition will not stand against them. Provided they clearly come out against all cuts.

The name “Scottish Anti Cuts Coalition” would be registered. Candidates who are members of already registered political parties can use their party name if they wish. He also noted the calling of a political conference by the United Left (broad left in the Unite trade union) on 14 January and said he hoped this would be step towards trade union’s taking part in building political representation for workers and that the coalition set up at this conference would attend and participate.

Rab Patterson, chair of Midlothian Trades Council and a member of Midlothian Against the Cuts gave a flavour of the frustration of working class communities at Labour councils carrying out cuts. In his community, Labour councillors had carried out a large scale cuts program and failed to take up the privatisation scandal at a local Southern Cross hospital, instead they had spent millions on legal fees trying to stop the council’s workforce enforcing their rights under equal pay legislation.

Dundee Unison Chairperson and Socialist Party Scotland member Jim McFarlane gave a picture of the scale of the N30 strike pointing to the magnificent 10,000 strong demonstration in Dundee, a city of 140,000. Jim said the mood of workers reflected a political turning point which anti cuts activists had to respond too. He recounted that the loudest cheers at the Dundee rally, were for speakers who denounced the politicians for not supporting the strike but also for those who pointed to the cuts policies of the SNP and Labour in power. Jim argued that the SNP and Labour had had every chance and opportunity to defend communities against cuts but have shown which side they are on. These political representatives who have betrayed workers should stand aside or be forced out by a principled anti cuts challenge.

These points were echoed by young people at the meeting. Youth Fight for Jobs activists, Ryan Stuart and Wayne Scott explained the disenfranchisement of young people who are consigned to unemployment or low paid work and are being hammered by education cuts.

Unison activists and Socialist Party Scotland members Diane Harvey and Ian Leech highlighted the role of Glasgow’s Labour council in attacking workers conditions and attacking community services. Ian raised the need for the anti-cuts movement to have political leadership that challenged Labour’s argument for cuts at a slower pace.

Diane pointed to the government’s strategy of trying to divide public and private sector workers and argued that the disputes of the electricians and the Unilever workers were undermining this. She explained that workers who took part in N30 were asking who to vote for.

Gordon Morgan gave support for the motion on behalf of Solidarity Scotland’s Socialist Movement and said he hoped an anti-cuts electoral challenge would be a catalyst for strengthing and building community anti cuts campaigns.
Labour and SNP

The Socialist Workers Party supported the motion but raised differences about the approach of the coalition towards Labour and the SNP. In several contributions they raised some doubts about the impact of an anti-cuts electoral challenge and how widely it should be standing candidates.

SWP members for example argued that Labour councillors, activists and MSP’s had played a positive role in the campaign against the Edinburgh SNP/Liberal coalition’s privatisation program and that raising the question of standing against them may be divisive.

They urged unity with Labour representatives against the “common class enemy, the ConDem’s”. This was answered in the debate by Socialist Party Scotland members who explained that Labour, if they win control of Edinburgh council, will implement a cuts program.

The International Socialist Group, a recent split from the SWP, expressed a change of attitude towards the idea of the coalition from their position at the 22 October meeting. In October, the ISG had opposed the initiative, saying it did not go far enough and called for the immediate creation of a new united left. At the conference the ISG made a similar argument but supported the resolution to set up a broad coalition.

Kevin McVey, Scottish Socialist Party National Secretary reported on discussion in the SSP about the coalition and declared that the SSP members present would abstain on the vote for the resolution. The SSP had concerns that no new forces were involved in the setting up of the coalition and that its constituent parts did not represent anything significant. He also made it clear that the SSP had begun selecting candidates for the elections.

This was replied to by Alan Brown, a leading PCS member speaking in a personal capacity, who highlighted the social and political weight of the trade unionists attending the conference and the wider support for the idea of standing anti cuts candidates amongst trade union members and the wider working class.

Brian Smith concluded the discussion by raising the need to organise meetings in local areas in the New Year to bring together activists, discuss candidates and seats and raise the profile of the coalition. He reported that he had been involved in discussions with community campaigners and trade unionists and was encouraging them to stand.

Socialist Party Scotland members played a key role in driving forward the initiative for a coalition and will be standing candidates in the elections in May. The launch of the Scottish Anti-Cuts Coalition marks an important step forward. It will now be taken out among trade unionists, communities and the wider working class to build the challenge in May 2012 for a principled anti-cuts alternative.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Revenue & Customs workers' lunchtime strike

By Nick Chaffey -

As part of national industrial action on Monday 12 December, angry civil servants at HMRC Southampton held a lunchtime car park 
strike meeting to rally support for the continued attacks on sickness

PCS rep Dave said: "Members are angry at the attempt to make 
sickness a disciplinary issue and means members are coming into work ill
 and in some cases taking leave days rather than report sick.

"We will
 continue to support action on this issue. We need to build on the 
support for 30 November, 80% came out here.

"I think we now have to
 consider escalating the action". Other workers raised the lack of trust people have in
 politicians and all the arguments put around to justify the cuts.
 Support for a united stand against all cuts got a good response as well
 as the need to stand anti-cuts candidates against the cuts 

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Video: N30 Bristol Demo

20,000 Unison, Unite, GMB and over 20 unions, marched against the attacks on workers in the largest trade union demonstration in Bristol since 1932. Featuring Nina Franklin, President NUT, John McInally, Vice President PCS, Dave Wilshire CWU and Nigel Costley South West TUC.

Bristol: November 30 shows...WE CAN WIN

TUC must set the date: next united strike before 31 January
Extract of the speech given by John McInally, PCS civil service union vice-president, at the Bristol strike rally on 30 November:

In every town and city throughout the country, millions of workers are sending a message to the coalition government - we will not allow you to steal our hard-earned pension rights.
The austerity programme is a disaster. It means unemployment of 2.6 million. It means youth unemployment over one million. It means pay freezes while the richest 1% stuff their bank accounts with obscene, unearned wealth.
It means the biggest transfer of wealth and power in history through a privatisation programme which signals the end of free education and health.
And, let's be clear, the problem is not that they are cutting 'too fast' and 'too deep' - the problem is they are cutting at all.
There can be no excuse for this attack on pensions - public sector pensions are affordable. They are sustainable. And, they are falling in cost.
Pensions are only deferred wages. The average civil service pension, if you take away the tiny percentage of high earners, is only £80 a week - hardly a fortune.
The truth is this government wants us to endure a lifetime of low pay followed by an impoverished old age. They have sought to divide public sector workers from private sector workers. However, the real division in society is between the haves and the have-nots.
Our slogan is "fair pensions for all". When rich Tory ministers talk about "fairness" between private and public sector pensions what they mean is a race to the bottom - they want to impose on us the worst pension provision they can get away with.
That is why we must stand together to defeat this attack. But they couldn't get away with this if the Labour Party were not committed to protecting corporate interests above those of the vast majority in this country.
If the main political parties in this country are incapable of representing the interests of the vast majority, then it is time we do so ourselves.
We will use all campaigning methods to defeat these attacks. We will oppose them in the courts, in our workplaces, in our communities too. I urge everyone not only to support your trade union but also the anti-cuts alliance in your own town or city. If there isn't one - then set one up.
We give our solidarity and full support to the pensioners' alliances, the students and the school students and the Occupy movement.
After 30 November's brilliant show of strength and solidarity we must prepare for further action if the government does not concede. PCS believes that theTUC must announce at its upcoming meeting that - as an absolute minimum - we organise another national day of action.
That means escalation by getting even more unions on board, including private sector workers fighting for their pension rights too.
All targeted, selective or rolling action taken by individual unions must be coordinated for maximum impact.
But the way to win is to demonstrate our power as we have done so today.
National coordinated industrial action is the key to defeating the attack on pensions and the cuts themselves.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

N30: Bristolians strike back against Con-Dems

Huge demonstration in Bristol today. ‎20,000 on Bristol march according to police estimates so likely much higher. Biggest demo in the city since 1932. Socialist Party leaflets calling for the TUC to set another date and continue the fight were snatched up in the thousands. John McInally of PCS went down a storm when he called unequivocally for a new workers' party...

4,000 in Exeter, 4,000 in Truro, 3,000 in Gloucester, 1,000+ in Bath and 2,000 in Taunton. 1,000 in Dorchester and even 500 in Torquay which is a first for that part of Devon. As one woman comment "the peasants are revolting!"

Pictures and in-depth reports to follow soon!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Bristol: TV Licence workers to join November 30 strike

From CWU Website:

Hundreds of workers at TV Licensing employed by Capita will join millions of public sector workers by going on strike next Wednesday, November 30.

This will be the fourth day of strike action that these members of the Communication Workers Union will have taken in a long-running dispute over pay. The majority of them had never been involved in any industrial action before Capita refused to increase a pay offer worth around 2.6%. Capita makes more than £1 million profit every day and last year gave the CEO and other senior executives a 17% pay rise.

Andy Furey, CWU assistant secretary representing Capita members, said: "There are many similarities between what our members are fighting for - a fair pay rise - and the dispute that public sector workers are in - seeking fair and affordable pensions.

"We both face powerful employers who say they can't afford more. In our case the truth is the company makes over £1 million profit every day and gives its senior executives generous pay rises, while in the case of public sector workers the costings by independent parties like ONS show that the government's changes aren't necessary for affordable funding. In both cases there are political and ideological forces at play.

"We're here to speak for people who being treated wrongly. We want to resolve this dispute through negotiation and I'm again appealing to Capita to return to talks to resolve this dispute before Christmas."

Picket lines Wednesday 30th November:

Bristol: 7:30 - 10:30am 100 Temple Street, Bristol, BS98 1TL

Strikers will join the public sector march from College Green to Castle Park in Bristol.

Staff in Bristol and Darwen, and a small number in Glasgow, work in call centre and support roles and will be on strike on Wednesday 30th November. Enforcement officers who work in the field are on strike from 4 - 9pm on 30th November.

Watch live video coverage of previous strikes at both the Bristol and Darwen sites onCWUTV.

Enough is enough! Make N30 the start of a fight to stop all cuts

The Socialist editorial, from The Socialist newspaper, 23 November 2011

This government of millionaires claimed that its programme of savage cuts in public spending would eliminate Britain's structural deficit by 2014-15. Now, as the Socialist predicted, David Cameron has been forced to admit that this is impossible.

The government's assertion that the private sector would fill the gap created by slashing the public sectorhas been shown to be the nonsense it always was. Instead the deepening of the capitalist economic crisis, combined with the surge in unemployment and fall in taxes collected as a result of the public sector cuts, has even raised the prospect of an increase in the deficit.

The Con-Dems, however, are continuing to cut regardless. Only the super-rich are getting better off in Cameron's Britain. In the last year alone directors' pay in FTSE 100 companies grew by 49%. The latest figures from the High Pay Commission show that the gap between the richest and the rest of us is now the highest it has been since Queen Victoria was on the throne!

Meanwhile, government cuts are destroying the lives of millions - of the young, the old, the sick, the disabled - and will mean a lower quality of life for the vast majority of people.

Enough is enough! The time is overdue to stand up and fight back. That is what millions of public sector workers are doing by taking strike action on 30 November (N30) in defence of their pension rights. This is the biggest single day of strike action since 1926 and is terrifying the government.

The government has told public sector workers that they must pay more for their pensions, work longer and get much less on retirement. They say that 'gold-plated public sector pensions are no longer affordable. But as one PCS member tweeted, Tory cabinet minister Francis Maude is set to get a £731,000 pension pay-out and an annual £43,825 pension, while the average PCS member gets £4,200 a year.

N30 is in defence of pensions, but it is also a powerful weapon in the struggle against all cuts. Workers are facing pay cuts, job cuts, having to do interviews to keep jobs that they have worked in for decades, as well as cuts to all the services they rely on. Three million workers on strike will provide a taste to the Con-Dem bullies of who they are messing with. Working class people have huge potential power when they are organised and have a leadership that is ready to fight to win.

The trade unions need to make it clear to the government that N30 is not a token strike but part of a determined strategy to win. The TUC must set the next strike date for further coordinated action - another 24-hour strike or stepping up to 48 hours to make it clear to the government that they are on to a loser. That should be in the next two months.

Further action should also be spread to the private sector. A discussion should be held on making the next 24-hour strike a general strike, including private as well as public sector workers. As a minimum a call must be put out for all industrial action - private and public - to be coordinated. For example, construction electricians are currently balloting over attacks on their national pay deal (with pay cuts of up to 35%) by construction companies who are lining up to receive government bailouts.
Other strikes

National action on the pensions can also be supplemented by strike action in areas facing specific cuts such as the over 21,000 HM Revenue and Customs staff who could strike over privatisation plans.

If a fighting strategy is to be implemented it is essential that decisions on the struggle are not left in the hands of the national trade union leaders. We demand that trade union members have democratic control of the negotiations at every stage.

Within the trade unions we need to begin to build fighting left organisations that struggle to ensure the trade unions fight in their members' interests. One demand of such organisations should be for regular elections of full-time officials and for them to be paid no more than a workers' wage. The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) also has an important role to play in bringing together militant trade unionists.

Coordinated strike action has the potential to bring down this rotten Con-Dem government. To succeed in doing this would give huge confidence to millions of workers. However, Labour coming to power would not lead to an end to the attacks workers are facing.

The overwhelming majority of Labour's funding comes from trade unions that are taking part in N30, but it does not represent trade unionists' interests. Ed Balls made it clear at this year's Labour Party conference that a Labour government would also cut public sector workers' pensions, demanding, just like the Con-Dems, that workers work longer, pay more and get less. At local level every single Labour-led council has implemented the Con-Dem cuts. Incredibly, not even one single Labour councillor has voted against a Labour council implementing cuts.

Ed Miliband showed which side he was on when he condemned the 30 June strike. To add insult to injury Ed Miliband was then photographed in parliament laughing over a cup of tea with Cameron and Clegg, while the pickets stood outside. Now he has refused to give support to N30 despite pressure even from the Daily Mirror not to criticise "carers, dinner ladies, council workers, NHS employees, teachers, Jobcentre staff and tax collectors [for] rebelling at being asked to pick up the tab for banksters' bonuses" by taking strike action.

N30 demonstrates the enormous potential industrial power of the organised working class. However, if we don't have a political voice as well, we are fighting with one hand tied behind our backs. We argue that the trade union movement should begin to build a new party - a party that stands in the interests of the majority.

For the last 18 months the Socialist Party has participated in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) an electoral alliance involving leading militant trade unionists from the RMT, PCS and NUT. TUSC plays an important role, enabling trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists to stand candidates against the pro-austerity consensus of the capitalist parties. However, the potential exists for this to develop on a far wider scale in the coming period. During the strike on 30 June, every call made for trade unionists to stand for election themselves as trade union 'anti-cuts candidates' was cheered to the rafters.

Even if trade union candidates were to initially stand on a limited programme - opposition to all cuts in jobs, pensions, services and benefits, and repeal of the anti-trade union laws - it would mark a major step forward. However, the struggle that public sector workers are currently fighting goes beyond those immediate issues, in reality it is a struggle against the consequences of capitalism today and therefore poses the need for a socialist alternative.

The economic crisis was not caused by working class people; it is a crisis of the capitalist system. The same bankers and financiers who triggered the crisis by gambling vast sums are now demanding that governments bail them out. Not just in Britain, but across Europe, governments are willingly doing the financiers' bidding.

A socialist society would be run in the interests of the millions, not the billionaires. For a start it would nationalise the banking and finance sector - not to prop them up and leave the bankers in charge like New Labour did - but to run them democratically to help meet the needs of the majority. However, that would only be the start.

Capitalism has led to enormous economic destruction. In Britain around 10% of wealth has already been lost as a result of the recession, due to factories and workplaces closing, resulting in 2.62 million and rising officially unemployed. That is why a crucial step towards solving the crisis would be to take the big corporations that dominate Britain's economy into democratic public ownership in order to allow for production to be planned for need and not for profit.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Fair Pensions For All - All Out On November 30th

BADACA Circular:

23 unions are now joining the strike next Wednesday. Although the primary focus of the strike is public sector pensions, in reality millions of people wil be striking against the government's whole programme of cuts that threatens services and jobs as well as pensions. There will be a huge demonstration in Bristol. Make sure you're part of it. A flyer for the demonstration on November 30th can be downloaded from here. The front of the flyer makes a good poster. Print it out and stick it in your window. See latest updates here and on Facebook here.

Make sure you're on the demonstration and rally - assemble at College Green at 11am before marching to Castle Park.

If you can, go to the BRI for midnight on Tuesday/Wednesday to greet the first strikers as they leave the building. There will then be a candlelit vigil. Some people will meet earlier in the Zero Degrees bar in Park Row before going to the BRI - from 10pm in Zero Degrees

We will be handing out copies of Bristol Fightback on the march. If you can help with this please email as soon as possible

BADACA and unions involved in the strike have stressed to the local media that we see the OccupyBristol camp on College Green as part of our movement against government cuts. Wednesday's demonstration will help put the them even more in the spotlight. Please support them in any way you can. They have appealed in particular for: firewood, blankets, food, money, entertainment, volunteers, campers, arts & crafts materials & wooden boards. Go down to see them. Check out their FaceBook pages here and their website here. Call the camp information line on 07415 139 464. There is more information on the BADACA website here which will be updated regularly. Photos of the camp can be seen here .

While next Wednesday's strike is the most important step so far in the fight against the cuts, there are two important announcements that we need to be aware of - the government will announce details of more cuts for next year and Bristol City Council will publish its draft budget including major cuts to jobs and services from April 2012. BADACA will publish information on these cuts as soon as possible. Look out for this information over the next week or so and join us in the fightback.

On December 14th there wil be a lobby of South Gloucestershire Council, opposing their plans to privatise the Home Care service with the loss of 140 jobs. Please support if you can - details are below.

Kazakhstan: Free Georgii Epshtein!

At 11.30 this morning, Georgii Epshtein, a leading member of the Russian CWI, on a visit to Kazakhstan, was arrested by the police in the office of the “Leave People’s Homes Alone” campaign in Almaty. No explanation was given by the police.

He was first taken to the office of the immigration police of the Bostandykskii region, who refused to explain on what basis he had been arrested and has now been dragged before a court, where he has been charged with breaching the residency rules. It is highly possible the decision will be taken to deport him from the country. Although by law, a Russian citizen has to register with the police on their arrival, which Georgii did, there is no restriction on where in the city they can be at any one time.

Please urgently call either one of the following numbers to demand on what basis Gerogii has been arrested and his immediate release.

Aidis Dunshebaev – the Police inspector responsible for arresting Georgii – mobile number +7 705 555 79 39

Berik Dusenbaevich – Head of the Migration police in the Bostandyskii region +7 727 394 10 14

Or of course the Kazakhstan embassy in your country.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

State intimidation of young protesters

By Dylan Murphy, in The Socialist 24th November 2011

On 14 November, my nephew was arrested after taking part in a protest outside Knowsthorpe incinerator in Leeds against Stericycle. This global waste disposal company has a contract with Harlan Interfauna, the last UK company breeding dogs for research in animal experiments.

Stericycle take the bodies of dogs killed for research purposes from Harlan's laboratories to their incinerators. If Stericycle pulled out of the contract, Harlan would have to build its own incinerators at considerable cost.

My nephew and three other activists chained themselves together and stopped lorries getting into the incinerator. Thepolice arrested them for aggravated trespass, handcuffing them and putting them into a police van.

After two hours in the cells my nephew was arrested again on suspicion of causing intimidation to persons connected to an animal research organisation. Two officers aggressively interviewed him. His solicitor says the police approached this like a terrorism case, with Homicide and Major Enquiries Teams drafted in from Hull.

Six police officers turned my nephew's house upside down, seeking 'evidence' and confiscated an animal rights poster, two computers, three memory sticks and internet router.

Four teenagers face blatant intimidation as the state tries to stifle democratic protests. The labour movement must stand up for them.

Bring Back EMA!

Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) is campaigning for the reinstatement of the EMA. This is a small grant of £30 a week for 16-19 year olds in further education. It allows students to pay for their bus fare to school or college and for books and other equipment.

The government says it cannot afford to pay this small amount of money. Yet the banks that were bailed out with billions of public money are still giving their chief executives millions in bonuses. The number of billionaires is increasing as young people are being denied the right to go to education. There has been an estimated 49% drop in the number of students going to college this year as a result of this cut. But this is not the only attack. Those wanting to go to university are being told they will have to pay £9,000 a year. There are now over 1 million young people unemployed. Instead of creating jobs, the government is just going to force people to work for their dole money. We didn’t cause this crisis and so shouldn’t be made to pay for it! YFJ says: we won't be a lost generation!

Southwark Council in London is going to continue to pay EMA to people living in that area. We demand that our local councils do the same. But we don't think that they should just cut other services to pay for it. They should launch a campaign to demand that the government gives them the money!

We are collecting signatures on a petition to give into the council. If we get enough, they will be forced to debate the issue in a full council meeting. We want to organise lobbies and protests of the council to make our voices heard and make them bring back EMA!



NOTTINGHAM - need 5,000 signatures for the city council to debate

LINCOLN - need 3,500 signatures for the county council to debate

DERBY - need 8,500 signatures for the city council to debate

LEICESTER - need 1,500 signatures for the city council to debate



Saturday 10th December
ICC (YMCA) 61B Mansfield Road, Nottingham, NG1 3FN


Saturday 10th December
Community Centre, Croft Street, Lincoln, LN2 5AX


Saturday 3rd December
Lonny Wilsoncroft Community Centre, Stepping Lane, Derby, DE1 1GL


Saturday 3rd December
Room 216, Attenborough Building, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH


- Visit
- Message admins for more info
- Invite your friends to join this group and sign the petitions
- Organise a Youth Fight for Jobs in your local area!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Egypt Update: Military rulers “agree to form a national salvation government”

No trust in a ‘national salvation’ regime based on the interests of the ruling class, military tops and imperialism - latest from

Reuters news agency reported this afternoon that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in Egypt has agreed to “form a national salvation government and will stage presidential elections before July”. The leader of the Wasat Party (a ‘moderate Islamic party) is quoted as saying presidential elections will now be held before July 2012, brought forward from the military’s previous timetable of late 2012 or 2013.

The military regime has been forced to make a partial retreat in the face of mass struggle. This is entirely as a result of the courageous mass protests of youth and workers. But as the CWI has warned from the beginning of the revolutionary movement in Egypt, the masses cannot put any trust in a ‘national unity’ or ‘salvation’ government. This is a trap for working people and youth! It will be made up of elements from the army and various bourgeois parties, possibly including the Muslim Brotherhood, and pro-capitalist politicians. It will primarily act in the vested interests of big business, including the army’s huge wealth.

Scenes today in Tahrir square

The reported concessions by the military regime follow mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and elsewhere, demanding the military - the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) - relinquishes power. The last four days have seen the biggest challenge to military rule since the overthrow of Mubarak. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds injured in three days of protests. Two people died today in the port city of Ismailia after state forces clashed with some thousands of protesters. Late last night, tens of thousands occupied Tahrir Square after the puppet cabinet of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf announced its offer to resign.

Parliamentary elections were due to start on 28 November and to be staggered over the next three months. Protesters are angry over a draft document setting out principles for a new constitution, under which the military and its budget could be exempted from civilian oversight. The military also intended to delay the presidential election until late 2012 or early 2013.

Under growing pressure from the streets, the SACF leadership held talks with some opposition political leaders today, including the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The MB’s ‘Freedom and Equality Party’ is expected to do well in elections and refused to take part in today’s protests.
Youth resist state forces

The angry youth on the streets, however, are resisting riot police, troops, rubber bullets, tear gas and ‘birdshot’ and demand the removal of Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi - who heads the SCAF regime and was defence minister for 20 years under Hosni Mubarak - and that the military cleared out. Under military rule, torture and jailings continued unabated.

The Brotherhood called for the elections to go ahead. They are partly leaning on those sections of the population who are concerned that the protests are bringing chaos to much of Cairo and the city to a standstill, hitting the economy and their livelihoods. They also fear that the protests could actually have lead to the indefinite postponing of elections and democratic rights.

The regime will hope that its reported agreement to form a ‘national salvation government’ and to stage presidential elections before next July will be enough to dissipate the mass street protests. It is unclear which way things will now develop, particularly in the absence of a mass revolutionary socialist opposition. Up to now, during this latest phase of the revolution, the working class has not yet decisively entered the arena of struggle, using its methods of struggle, such as mass strikes and the general strike, which played a crucial role in ousting Mubarak.

But the SCAF’s partial retreat could also encourage the revolutionary youth and workers to push for the removal of the entire regime. According to the AP news agency, the “reported deal was immediately rejected by protesters in Tahrir Square. ‘We are not leaving, he leaves,’ they chanted, referring to Tantawi”.

The regime will hope that its concessions will be enough, at this stage, to see mass protests fall back. The bourgeois opposition, frightened by the developing revolutionary mood in society going beyond their narrow aims, will also want to see the protesters return home, so that they and the generals can start ‘governing’ in the best interests of Egyptian capitalism.

Protests today in Egypt

Build an independent movement that fights for a workers’ government

To win the aims of the revolution – for genuine, lasting democratic rights and real social and economic change - the working class and youth can have no faith in a ‘national salvation’ government of opposition bourgeois politicians and military chiefs but need to build an independent movement that fights for a government of the representatives of workers, small farmers and the poor.

In putting forward a programme to develop the mass struggle, the revolutionary opposition needs to take into account the wider concerns in society mentioned above. There is a danger that the regime and pro-bourgeois opposition forces will be able to rest on broader, more conservative sections of society, potentially isolating Tahrir Square and other protests. Therefore, as well as proposing the demands already outlined on, the CWI supports the building of an independent mass workers’ movement and for the urgent formation of democratic committees in all workplaces, communities and amongst the military rank and file to not only co-ordinate mass resistance to the regime but also to maintain order and supplies, and to act as the basis for a government of workers’ and poor. A workers’ government would crush the remnants of the dictatorship, defend democratic rights and start to meet the economic and social needs of the mass of Egyptians. spoke to Amr, on Monday night, a student activist at the German University in Cairo (GUC), about the situation on the ground and the views of students and workers:

“Our GUC struggle continues [for students’ recognition] but now the main focus is to finish what’s happening in Tahrir Square. Twelve of our fellow GUC students have been injured, so far. There are many students in the Square and protests are taking place at colleges all around Egypt. The students and youth want to teach the police another lesson for their brutal actions against protesters.

“Many layers of Egyptian society are protesting. The clash between the people and the regime is also about the people and capitalism. People are now starting to feel that the ‘parliamentary elections are no real choice and that what is happening in Egypt now is another revolution but this time actually it is against the whole regime and the big capitalists.

“Very clearly the SCAF has to leave office right now. There have been many martyrs over the past 3 days. The police and army are clearly seen carrying out brutal repression. The youth are heroically fighting back with stones. The protesters are getting organised again, to defend themselves against repression. The police and soldiers were captured on cameras killing people and it is very obvious that they are the ones who started the violence.

“An activist who was injured on the 28th January, losing sight in his right eye, also lost sight of his left eye, just two days ago, after he was hit by a rubber bullet.

“On Tuesday 22 November, there will be marches from everywhere in Cairo to Tahrir Square – it is being called ‘saving the revolution day’. Socialists and student activists are calling for a new general strike. We are appealing to the staff at our university for industrial action.

“It is possible that under huge pressure, the SCAF regime will try to put together a ’national unity’ or ’national salvation’ government - a coalition of pro-capitalist forces and with remnants of the old regime – and go for presidential elections. But if this was to happen, I think that young people and workers will come to see that such a regime will represent much of the old regime’s interests and capitalism, and mass opposition will grow.

Tahrir square last night

“The Left is growing, especially after the big strike wave in September - the highest wave since 1919, excluding the last two days of the Mubarak regime. The Left will need to develop, towards a mass alternative for workers, maintaining its independence - in organisation and socialist programme – to show a way out for the working masses and youth.”

Egypt: Protesters and army battle for streets

David Johnson, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) and Niall Mulholland, CWI -

Tahrir Square Last Night

Thousands of activists fought running battles with security forces for control of Tahrir Square, Cario, last weekend, and at the start of this week. At least 33 people were killed and over 1,750 injured. There have also been big protest demonstrations in Alexandria, Suez, Mansoura and other cities. Street fighting continued last night in central Cairo, turning parts of the city into “a war zone”. Today, Monday 21 November, clashes are reported as armed state forces try to clear Cairo’s Tahrir Square of protesters.

"The military promised that they would hand over power within six months," one protester said. "Now 10 months have gone by and they still haven’t done it. We feel deceived."

On Friday 18 November, a massive demonstration took place in Tahrir Square – the biggest for several months. The majority taking part in those protests were reportedly supporters of Islamist parties. But in the evening a few hundred youth set up a new occupation on the central roundabout. The state forces launched a brutal attack against the camp early Saturday morning. This led to tens of thousands of protesters returning to the Square to defend their right to protest. “The people demand the overthrow of the regime,” was the slogan chanted, as it had been before the former dictator, Hosni Mubarak, fell earlier this year. Indicating some splits at the top about how to respond to the latest street protests, Culture Minister Emad Abu Ghazi reportedly resigned in protest at the government’s handling of the demonstrators.

The Guardian newspaper (London 21/11/11) described the scene, “By Sunday morning, following 24 hours of fierce street fighting and the conquest of Tahrir by revolutionaries, the furniture of the anti-Mubarak uprising was once again wheeled into place in the capital. Civilian checkpoints dotted the square, corrugated iron sheets were torn down for barricades, and the makeshift field hospital...

“When the military attack finally came, dissolving once and for all any lingering boundaries in protesters’ minds between the army on the one hand and the hated black-clad riot police that symbolised Mubarak’s security apparatus on the other, it was brutal and ephemeral…” But “outnumbered and outfought, the soldiers fled, though not before some had been captured by protesters. Fires blazed in all directions, but Liberation Square – the plaza’s name in Arabic – had once again been liberated, although how long for, no one dares predict.

“’We’ll stay here until we die, or military rule dies,’ said 27-year-old Mahmoud Turg with a matter-of-fact intensity.”

Army clings onto power

Last weekend’s events come after growing anger at the role of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which is trying to retain its grip on power. The council, led by Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, is supposedly charged with overseeing the country’s transition to democracy after three decades of dictatorial rule under Mr Mubarak.

Elections are to be held on 28 November, but it is becoming clearer to many that the SCAF will do everything to hold onto power, whatever the human toll. Instead of repealing Egypt’s hated emergency laws, the generals have extended it, while protecting their own privileges. An estimated 12,000 people have been brought to military tribunals over the last 10 months, a higher figure than under Mubarak’s 30 years of rule.

Calls for Tantawi’s resignation were heard during the weekend’s protests. The BBC reported that the demands of the protesters “have changed over the course of the weekend”. Crowds gathered last Friday demanded the military set a date for the handover of power but now “they want the military leaders to resign immediately and hand over to a civilian administration.”
The longest continuous street protests since President Hosni Mubarak was removed in February has raised questions over whether elections due to start next week will take place.

Several opposition parties are reported to have stated they will not take part in the coming elections. Mohamed ElBaradei, a pro-capitalist opposition figure, has offered himself to lead a ‘national government of salvation’.

Scenes of demonstrators in Tahrir Square being brutally attacked by police baton charges, tear gas (made in the USA), bird shot and rubber bullets were reminiscent of the days following the January 25th demonstration. It was those demonstrations that began the 18-day movement that forced the former president, Hosni Mubarak, from power.

Over the past few months, there have been deepening and unbearable tensions between the SCAF regime and the masses seeking democratic rights and a better life. Now these deep-seated and mutually incompatible differences have burst asunder, in what many activists are calling “the Second Revolution”. Like other revolutions, the Egyptian revolution is not a single act but a process. The masses fought hard to remove Mubarak at the cost of many lives. After he was overthrown, strikes broke out in many sectors and protests continued by youth, students and other layers. For big swathes of the population, exhausted by struggle and yearning ‘stability’, they put hopes in the new regime to oversee democratic elections and a better life. But now big sections of the population have correctly concluded that the SCAF is an attempt to continue the Mubarak regime in new clothes and that a new revolutionary upsurge is needed to win real and long-lasting democratic rights and fundamental social and economic changes.

In September, there were massive strikes - national strikes of teachers and postal workers, 62,000 Cairo public transport workers - and even low-rank police officers, who were protesting against corruption and privileges of senior officers. Workers were drawing the conclusion that they could not rely on the new government and would only get improved living standards and real democratic rights by organising and taking action.

On 9 October, there were attacks on a Coptic church that led to a protest demonstration of 10,000 to Maspero, the state TV broadcasting centre. The demonstrators were attacked by troops driving armoured cars in to the crowd, killing scores of protestors. Television reports blamed the demonstrators for the violence. Continuing military trials of civilian opponents of the regime have been highlighted by the arrest of blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah for reporting the role of the military in the Maspero attack.

Meanwhile, Michael Nabil Sanad continues his hunger strike in protest at the three-year prison sentence he received in April. He had written an article accusing the new government of continuing the corruption and anti-democratic practices of Mubarak.

On 27 October, a prisoner, Essam Atta, was horribly tortured to death. The photo of his dead body was a gruesome reminder of Khaled Said, a young blogger killed by two policemen in Alexandria in 2010. The ‘We are all Khaled Said’ Facebook group was one of the movements that called the January 25th demonstration. Many had hoped that such scenes had ended with the end of Mubarak’s rule.

Over the weekend of 19/20 November, there were huge protests in the delta port of Damietta against continuing pollution from the Mopco fertiliser factory. Twenty thousand demonstrators blockaded the port and roads into the city. They were attacked by army and police, with two people killed. At the other end of the country, in Aswan, a mass rally of Nubians protested against the shooting of a Nubian boatman by a policeman.

Same methods of repression as Mubarak regime

These incidents have shown that SCAF are using the same methods of repression as the old regime. This is only to be expected, as these same senior officers served Mubarak for decades. They have massive economic interests, with large companies owned by the armed forces. They are determined to protect these interests, as well as those of the rest of the Egyptian ruling class.

This is why the CWI argued on 11 February, the day of Mubarak’s removal, that the working class and youth should have, “No trust in the military chiefs!” and needed to build an independent movement that fights for “a government of the representatives of workers, small farmers and the poor!”

The forthcoming elections are to the lower house of a parliament that will draw up a new constitution. Two thirds of the seats are elected on a local list basis, with individuals elected to the remaining seats. The election process will strengthen supporters of the old regime, many of whom are running as ‘independents’ or members of the ‘loyal opposition’ parties that Mubarak allowed to give a democratic veneer to his regime.

The government have now declared that the new parliament will not have control over the armed forces, which would continue to control their own budget and policy. After initial outcry, the SCAF ‘compromised’ and said it would be accountable to a National Council. Half would be elected from the parliament and half from SCAF, with the president as chairman. This would leave the armed forces with effective control over themselves.

While Islamists are expected to become the largest bloc in the new parliament, its supporters are divided between several parties. The biggest is the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) ‘Freedom and Justice Party’, which claims to model itself on the AKP that forms the Turkish government.

Young Muslim Brotherhood members broke away in frustration at the older leadership, reflecting pressure from youth activists they had worked with following the January 25th revolution. These younger Muslim Brotherhood members were expelled from the Muslim Brotherhood and set up four new parties. Increasing numbers of conservative Islamists support a number of more hard-line Islamic Salafist parties.

The electoral support of the Islamist parties is based on their record of charitable work, filling some of the massive gaps in social support under Mubarak, as well as their record of opposition to Mubarak and perceived lack of corruption. There have been reports of these parties handing out meat and half price medicines at some election rallies. Arguments over candidates’ lists between these different parties have taken place over the past few months. With growing class conflict, some of these Islamist parties will reflect differing class interests.

Revolution hijacked

The demonstrations across Egypt this weekend show an increasing number of youth and workers understand the SCAF is intent on hijacking their revolution. The youth and workers are courageously resisting the army and police on the streets of Cairo and elsewhere. The movement needs to urgently create democratically-elected and run committees of mass struggle and defence against state repression. The army rank and file can be won over, with a firm and decisive appeal to join the uprising. The soldiers’ grievances about low pay, bad conditions and treatment by their senior officers need to be addressed by the mass movement, alongside calling for the right of soldiers to organise a free independent trade union, to form soldiers’ committees and the election of officers. This can help win the rank and file of the army and sections of the police to the side of the masses. Mass workers’ action, including a general strike, to overthrow Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the whole rotten, brutal regime needs to be organised alongside an offensive to moblise and organise the masses as the basis for a government formed by representatives of workers, the youth, small farmers and the poor that can take immediate action against counter-revolution and for democratic rights, immediate steps to improve living standards and break with capitalism.

The masses are instinctively opposed to a constitution approved or drawn up by the military. The CWI calls for the rapid election of a real democratic parliament, a revolutionary constituent assembly, which not only agrees rules for elections but also a programme to change the conditions of the Egyptian masses. Such a parliament can only be convened – if it is really to represent the majority of the population – under the control of democratic workplace and neighbour committees. Representatives of the workers and poor farmers should form the majority in this parliament or constituent assembly.

Real change in the interests of workers, the poor and the youth requires genuine democratic change. Democratic popular committees in workplaces and neighbourhoods can re-develop or spring up anew in the cauldron of events now taking place on the streets. Such bodies, linking up at city, regional and national level, can form the basis for a revolutionary constituent assembly and a government with a majority of workers and poor.

A workers’ and poor people’s government would introduce genuine democratic reforms, including regular elections for representatives, on average workers’ wages and subject to recall should they act against the interests of workers and the poor. It would also guarantee the right to organise independent trade unions, the right to strike and the right to organise political parties.
These are needed to struggle for decent pay and working conditions, guaranteed jobs, and also decent housing, education, pensions and healthcare. The newly formed independent trade unions need to build their own independent workers’ party to campaign for these ideas.

Such a government would nationalise all the major companies and banks under democratic workers’ control, so that the economy could be planned in the interests of the big majority of the population, instead of being run for benefit of the rich.

The struggle between revolution and counter-revolution continues as the working class strives to complete what it began on January 25th – winning full democratic, social and economic freedoms. A workers’ party putting forward a socialist programme, linked to the daily needs of millions of workers and poor, could gain mass support, and undercut the false alternative of the Muslim Brotherhood. Linking up with workers and youth across the region, such a mass movement could lead to a federation of democratic socialist states, ending poverty, corruption and oppression.

The CWI says:
  • Defend the revolution: Clear out Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
  • No compromise with the old remnants of the regime - No to rule by the military chiefs or the elite.
  • No trust in any new ‘national unity’ regime based on the interests of the ruling class and imperialism
  • For the urgent formation of democratically-elected and run committees of mass struggle and defence against state repression
  • No to sectarianism – For the unity of all workers across religious lines
  • Immediate lifting of the state of emergence. Immediate freeing of all political detainees and prisoners. No prosecution or victimisation of activists in the revolution
  • Full political freedom. Freedom to publish and organise. Democratic control over the state media and opening up of state media to publish the views of all political trends supporting the revolution
  • No restriction of the right to strike and take other industrial action. Full freedom to form trade unions and conduct trade union activity. For democratic, combative trade unions
  • Formation of democratic rank and file committees in the armed forces and police
  • Arrest and trial before popular courts all those involved in the SCAF regime’s repression and corruption. Confiscate the assets of the looters and corrupt.
  • For the immediate elections to a revolutionary constituent assembly supervised by committees of working people, the poor and the youth
  • For a government of representatives of workers, the youth, small farmers and the poor
  • Nationalise the major companies and banks under democratic workers’ control, so that the economy could be planned in the interests of the big majority of the population, instead of being run for benefit of the rich