Thursday, 31 March 2011

ConDems privatise prisons..expect and support POA strike action

Please read this interview for the Socialist:
Also see this from the BBC:

POA fights privatisation of Birmingham prison -
Interview with POA assistant secretary, Joe Simpson

The Con-Dems have sold Birmingham prison to private security firm G4S. This is the first existing public sector prison to be contracted out. The POA prison officers' union opposes privatisation and has warned that it will challenge the move.
Prison officers in prisons that are privatised could be forced out of the collective bargaining agreement with the government and face worse terms and conditions.
They could also suffer attacks on their pensions. According to the BBC, justice minister Ken Clarke told MPs that the "military are involved" in contingency plans should prison officers stage a strike.
The Socialist spoke to Joe Simpson, assistant secretary of the POA.
What is going on at the moment?
We are living at the moment with threats of injunctions against the union. It's been going on since the start of the week when we put out two circulars to our members reminding them of the policies of the union.
We immediately got a letter from the Ministry of Justice asking us to withdraw the circulars because they believed we were inducing prison officers to take industrial action which we weren't.
This resulted in another letter coming back saying that they were going to seek 'injunctive relief' against the POA, ie to get an injunction to stop us from doing anything.
If we try to do anything in the meantime they can just come in and seize the assets of the union. Phil Wheatley, who was director general of the prison service and is now on the board of directors of G4S, who've just won the bid for Birmingham, did say that if we ever went on strike he would 'own Cronin House', which is our HQ.
What are the policies of the union?
The policies of the union are that we would take industrial action up to and including strike action if a public prison went over to private. We are opposed to privatisation because we believe that the state has a fundamental obligation, that if it's going to sentence its citizens then it should also have the obligation of looking after them and rehabilitating them.
But what they're doing now is actually selling their obligation to the lowest bidder just to get out of that.
What will privatisation mean for members?
For members we are hitting a level of uncertainty here. This is unprecedented.
We've never ever had a prison go over to the private sector and now Birmingham has. The state of play now is that we are going to meet with the chief executive of the National Offending Management Service.
We've requested a meeting with the Prisons Minister, Crispin Blunt, who we are meeting on Monday 4 April 2011 at 5pm. And we're also going to be asking for a meeting with Brendan Barber of the TUC for support. We have received support from individual unions, RMT, PCS.
But the thing that disappointed us was that a Labour front bencher got up and actually supported everything that ken Clarke was saying, that was Sadiq Khan.
The opposition is in total agreement. This was a process that was started by a Labour government. They started this process in 2009.
Was it Labour who took away your right to strike?to strike?
Jack Straw brought back section 127. Actually it was 1994 when we lost our industrial rights through a Thatcherite government in which Ken Clarke was one of the more prominent MPs.
Then we signed up to the JIRPA [joint industrial relations procedural arrangement] which was a no-strike agreement because we thought we were getting a deal.
But then management started to veto what was a dispute, they were deciding what was a dispute and when we went to get agreement from court they agreed with the prison service so we withdrew from the arrangement.
When we withdrew Jack Straw tried to get another no-strike deal. When we refused he brought back 127 on the statute books. In fact the law that was brought in by Jack Straw is worse than what the Tories put in in 1994.
The only thing they could do in 2008 was to come out and start dismissing people which we believe they will try to do anyway. This is all about the union being bullied by an employer and by government.
How can readers of the Socialist support your members?members?
We will accept any support from anyone in our fight against this. We've got policies out there where we're asking our branches to organise meetings, which they will be doing over the next couple of days in the lunch hour.
We're even getting threatening letters about that from the employer, calling it industrial action! Having a meeting in our own time! We believe that government are trying to make law-abiding members of the public, ie the professional men and women who work in our prisons, slaves to the state. And to the private company now.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Clare Daly, Socialist MP, speaks against imperialist intervention in Libya

BADACA: Report on recent UCU strike

Taken from:
There have been two days of strike action called by the University and College Lecturers Union against attacks on pensions, pay and job losses. The action on Tuesday 22 March affected Bristol University and on Thursday 24 March lecturers at Bristol University, UWE and the City of Bristol College came out. On Tuesday there was a march to a rally outside the Wills Memorial Building and on both days the picket lines were supported by students. A poll of students overwhelmingly supported their lecturers’ action.
The pensions issue affects hundreds of thousands of public service workers. The Hutton Report is recommending the ending of final salary pensions and a later retirement age, eventually increasing to 68. This is the one issue on which there can be a general strike of public service workers without breaking the anti-trade union laws. Amongst the unions, the PCS and NUT are preparing for just such action.
Congratulations to the university lecturers for leading the way.

Socialist Party video - Dave Nellist, NSSN fringe meeting, TUC demo 26 March

Monday, 28 March 2011

Socialist Party video - Peter Taaffe on Saturday 26th TUC rally

Socialist Party meeting: How to defeat the cuts - Tomorrow 8th March 7.30pm

How to defeat the cuts: Lessons from the Liverpool Struggle

Tuesday 8th March 2011


Cheltenham Road Library, Bristol, BS6 5QX

On 26 March 2011 the British working class rose from its knees and took to the streets in an immense show of strength. The massive TUC demonstration against public spending cuts was well over half a million strong, possibly 700,000 or more. It will have a shattering affect on the farcical unity of the weak Con-Dem coalition and has boosted the confidence of millions of ordinary people. But most importantly it has led people to ask – what next? Where do we go from here? What will it take to defeat the cuts?
The Socialist Party has a fighting strategy - co-ordinated public sector strike action as a step towards generalised strike action if the government doesn't back down, and for local councils, especially Labour, to repudiate cuts and vote against them. If councillors are not prepared to fight then they should make way for those that will. That is why Tom Baldwin will look to the lessons of the Liverpool councillors of 1983-1987, who united the city on a programme of ‘No to All Cuts’ and forced concessions from the hated Thatcher government. All are welcome.

Liverpool and the Militant councillors - Lessons for how to fight the cuts

I would urge you to watch part one of the excellent film - Socialism on Trial - the production values have much to ask to for, but the content is second to none and has never been more relevant than now, as millions of ordinary people look for a way forward after yesterday's marvellous demonstration. Nowadays the Labour party has no democratic structures for socialists and trade unionists to effectively argue for fighting policies, but the message to Labour councillors is the same - fight all cuts, and if you are not prepared to, then make way for those that are. If you would like to learn more about this, come along to the Bristol Socialist Party public meeting on Tuesday 29th March, 7.30pm at Cheltenham Road Library, which will be a talk on the lesson of the Liverpool councillors and the relevance for fighting the cuts today.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

March 26th - Biggest trade union demonstration in decades

Please see this excellent analysis of yesterday's events by Hannah Sell. It was one of the biggest and best demonstrations this country has seen in decades, and showed in full force the huge movement that is now swelling against the ConDem attempt to making working people pay for a crisis they did not create. Bristol Socialist Party members had a great intervention, travelling down on the many union coaches that went from Bristol - Unite, NUT, PCS, Unison and more - if you were inspired by the event on Saturday, whether you attended or not, then come along to our public meeting on Tuesday 29th March, 7.30pm at Cheltenham Road Library, to discuss the way forward in beating the cuts.
By Hannah Sell, read the full article here:

On 26 March 2011 the British working class rose from its knees and took to the streets in an immense show of strength. The massive TUC demonstration against public spending cuts was well over half a million strong, possibly 700,000 or more.
The capitalist media has attempted to completely downplay the importance of the demonstration, concentrating overwhelmingly on the clashes with the police at far smaller protests on the same day.
And the turnout on the main demo was far bigger than has been reported, the BBC, for example, claims there were just 250,000 attending.
Unfortunately, the leadership of the TUC itself has also underplayed the turnout as between a quarter and half a million. In reality, this was the biggest trade union organised demonstration in decades.
It had widespread support from the working class and from wide sections of the middle class.
As a TUC-commissioned poll showed, a majority of the population - 52% - support the aims of the demonstration, with only 31% opposing them. Several Socialist Party members got free or reduced price taxi rides to catch early trains from sympathetic cabbies.
On the journey to London even first class passengers bought copies of the Socialist out of sympathy with the demonstration.
The potential power of the trade union movement was graphically demonstrated as a tidal wave of humanity flooded the streets of London. Among the protesters were pensioners, community campaigners and students, the latter veterans of their own movement before Christmas.
The overwhelming majority of marchers, however, were trade unionists, many taking part in their first ever demonstration. The Unison contingent alone took an hour to pass and it seemed as if every trade union - from the largest to the smallest - had its own lively and colourful contingent.
All of those capitalist commentators that have written off the trade union movement today as a spent force were decisively answered by this demonstration. The power of the trade unions was undisputedly established.
But the question on demonstrators' lips was 'what next?' How can the trade union movement use its power to stop the cuts?
Clearly rattled by the size of the demonstration, Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable has declared that marching will not stop the government, which he laughably described as "one of the strongest the country has ever had".
In reality this is a weak coalition government, far weaker than the Tory governments of Maggie Thatcher - the Iron Lady. Yet the Iron Lady was reduced to iron filings by a mass movement of 18 million people refusing to pay the flat rate tax (poll tax) that her government had introduced.
That movement ended the tax and brought down Thatcher. Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, was right when in his speech he called the anti-cuts movement the Con-Dem's poll tax.
This government is already rattled and can be decisively beaten by the huge power of the organised working class. Nonetheless, few demonstrators imagined that this savage government of millionaires will be stopped in its tracks by one demonstration, no matter how big.
Correctly, it was widely understood that the demonstration needed to be a springboard for further action.

Friday, 25 March 2011

NSSN Stage on 26th March Demonstration

The TUC-organised demonstration against cuts on the 26th March looks set to be the biggest display of anger and and opposition to the cuts since this shambles of a coalition government came to power last year. National Shop Stewards Network supporters up and down the country were involved in the campaign to get the TUC to call the demonstration and have been helping to build for the big day, which is now finally here.

On the demonstration tomorrow, the National Shop Stewards Network will have tens of thousands of postcards and stickers to distribute, alongside thousands of placards. If you would like to help give this out, find our stall near Temple tube station to collect material.

At the end of the march, we will be hosting an NSSN Stage at Speakers Corner from 2:30pm. Marchers will go in waves past the main TUC Stage, and this is a chance for the hundreds of thousands in attendance to hear other speakers from the trade union and anti-cuts movement after they have visited the TUC Stage at Hyde Park Corner. Tell your friends and workmates, details of some of the speakers can be found below.

Join the March 26 demonstration! - A Report from the NUT National Executive

Please see here and follow the blog, it is a site that Bristol Socialism wholeheartedly supports:

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

TUC March for the Alternative: "Jobs, Growth, Justice"

Saturday 26 March 2011


Assemble Victoria Embankment, London, 11am to march to a rally in Hyde Park

“The three main establishment parties - Tories, New Labour, Lib Dems - have so far succeeded in limiting political debate on the cuts in public services. Whether enthusiastically or regretfully, they all say 'cuts are inevitable' and 'there is no alternative'.

“On 26 March that cosy consensus will be severely challenged. That's when hundreds of thousands of workers and their families will march through London in the biggest protest for years on the Trades Union Congress 'March for the Alternative'.

"We'll protest against over 162,000 council jobs disappearing from April, according to the GMB union, and against service cuts that will leave few families unaffected. We'll march against wage freezes whilst inflation rockets. We'll demonstrate against rising pension contributions, delayed and reduced pension entitlements, education and health cutbacks, benefit reductions and other service cuts.

"On these issues, individual union industrial battles are inevitable. The Socialist Party believes 26 March should put a central demand on the TUC, that all the public sector unions should coordinate to set the same date for industrial action, in a one-day general strike.”

Dave Nellist, Socialist Party councillor and acting chair, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)

CWU flyer for 'March for the Alternative' - Saturday 26th

Monday, 21 March 2011

Coaches filling up for for Anti-Cuts demonstration next Saturday 26th

You will have to be quick if you still do not have a place on a union-organised coach for Saturday's TUC organised 'March for the Alternative'. 
This will be the biggest demonstration in Britain since February 2003. But  in many ways  it will be far more significant than that demonstration. This will be the biggest demonstration of the organised working class in over two decades. It will lay down a new marker if the consciousness of the working class. It will be a new high-water mark and the precursor to bigger events.
 March 26 will be a crucial part of the fight against the Con-Dem cuts but it has a wider significance in the broader context of the struggle for socialism. The crisis of capitalism in Britain, Europe and internationally continues; the capitalist class continues their long-term assault on working class living standards; the former workers’ parties and right-wing trade union leaders continue to discredit themselves as they collude in the cuts; there is a growing general acceptance that ‘taking to the streets does make a difference’ following the uprisings in the Middle East and labour movement protests in Wisconsin and other US states and the growing acceptance amongst important sections of the working class that ‘enough is enough’ and we have to fight back. These processes will deepen in the coming months.
Please visit - or if you have not already got yourself on a coach.

Japan: Scandal of private Japanese power industry

Report by Seizo Shimamura, Kokusai Rentai, (CWI Japan) in Tokyo

From -
Translated at -

Following the fear generated by a mega-quake, the devastating tsunami and radioactive contamination, now the series of black-outs being imposed by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) – owners of the deteriorating Fukushima Nuclear Power Station - are causing confusion and seriously disrupting the lives of people in the Metropolitan (Tokyo) Area.

These “planned blackouts” are on an unprecedented scale. Public transport, hospitals, schools, day nurseries as well as ordinary homes are all affected by the rolling cut-offs of electricity for 3-6 hours a day, leaving out central Tokyo where the central offices of the government and the big monopolies are situated. All this is on the grounds that, "the serious damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami to power-generating ability make it difficult to meet the electricity demand in the metropolitan area. Unless the planned blackouts are implemented, it may cause an unexpectedly massive black-out in the whole area including central Tokyo with all of its central government offices".
The blackouts have provoked large-scale resentment amongst the population in the Metropolitan area and also widespread criticism of TEPCO and the government who have arranged them. The policy appears to be promoting the idea that "nuclear power is essential to our lives after all". This is despite the fact that it is TEPCO’s own nuclear power station, its own mismanagement and their failure to have timely and clear emergency measures that is aggravating the disaster.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has pointed out that the Japanese thermal power plants are only responsible for 30% of their capacity and it is actually possible to supply sufficient power with the other thermal power plants even if all of the nuclear power plants were stopped. The black-outs start to look like a big conspiracy to impress people with the necessity of nuclear power, even after this horrific man-made disaster. And this is while the TV is repeatedly showing the atrocious situation and threat to health and life from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station.
It is true that TEPCO suffered quite a lot of damage to their key thermal power plants as a result of this earthquake but where can we get additional power from if not from the area covered by TEPCO and the Tohoku Electric Power Company (which also suffered major damage). Why can we not get excess power supplied from the areas not affected by the earthquake, namely Western Japan?
This is because of the situation very peculiar to the Japanese electric power industry: the frequency of the power grid is different in the West and the East (50Hz for the Eastern Japan and 60Hz for the Western Japan). This is what prevents supplying power from to the East from the West which did not suffer from the disaster and has sufficient power supply. This is one of the main reasons for the power black-out which severely affects civilian life. The commercial mass media gives the reason for this frequency difference as the introduction of the U.S.60 Hz grid in Western Japan and the German 50Hz grid in Eastern Japan.
Private power distribution companies separated on a regional basis during the Japanese industrial revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But there are important historical facts unwittingly or deliberately left out of the public account of how things stand today.


In fact, in the late 1940s, Japan’s electric power industries, which had been separate, were consolidated under the state. The Japan Electric Generation and Transmission Company, which had exclusive responsibility for power generation across the country, was a semi-state company. Under this arrangement, the entire electricity business was integrated. Undoubtedly, it was a very important chance to unify the frequency of electric power.

After the Second World War, the All Japan Electric Workers’ Union (AJEWU) was formed mainly by workers of this Japan Electric Generation and Transmission Company. Under the leadership of communists and left social democrats, militant strike struggles were developed. This organisation had a central role in the union organisations during the labour offensive after the war.
After the defeat of Japanese militarism in 1945 there was, in the late 1940s, a short-lived centre-left coalition government led by the Socialist Party intended to further develop the nationalisation of electric power as part of its democratic reforms. However, the U.S. military occupation set out to crush this movement and supported the birth of a right-wing Liberal government.
The U.S. occupation authorities broke up the Japan Electric Generation and Transmission Company and pushed a policy of segmentation and privatisation. It is obvious that they intended to repress the All Japan Electric Workers’ Union (AJEWU) because this was the militant union confronting not only monopoly capitalism and the conservative government but also U.S. occupation. (This process is similar to the privatisation of Japan’s National Railway in the 1980s and the attempt to smash the National Railway Workers’ Union, which played a leading role in the organisation of the left labour movement.)
The strategy of the ruling class was eventually successful. The electrical industry was divided up between private monopoly companies, based on nine separate regions again, and they lost their social and public character.
The All Japan Electric Workers’ Union (AJEWU) was dismantled and became the organisation of a tiny minority. Instead of the AJEWU, the Federation of Electric Power Related Industry Worker’s Unions of Japan was established - a right wing trade union. It advocated labour-management cooperation and organised many workers of the electric power sector. It is well known that this federation promoted the construction of the nuclear power stations. On the other hand, the All Japan Electric Workers’ Union (AJEWU) was forced into a minority and existed until the 1990s. It struggled jointly with the Anti-nuclear movement until that time.
No matter what form the end of the present catastrophe will take, the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, triggered by this large earthquake and tsunami, could still cause a serious disaster which will contaminate the neighbouring area of Fukushima and possibly, a large part of Japan and the ocean with radioactivity.
Even if the damage is limited and remediable, there is no doubt that it will cost an enormous amount of money for the restoration of agriculture, forestry and the fishing industry and the lives of the ordinary citizens. Who should be responsible for these costs? Needless to say, the electric power company (TEPCO) is responsible. TEPCO must be taken into the hands of the state again and run in the interests of the working class. Its assets and wealth should be injected into the reconstruction of industry and work to the benefit of workers and citizens.
The chaos of the power cuts in the Tokyo Metropolitan area has exposed the incapacity of the electrical industry to care for the needs of the people. Not only TEPCO, but all the electricity and power generating companies should be taken into public ownership under democratic workers’ control and management. This is the key to changing the nuclear power-oriented policy which does not care about people’s health and lives but serves the interests of monopoly capital.

March 26th Demonstration and the Anti-Cuts battle


This government has started a war on behalf of the capitalist class against the working class and public services. If they get away with it, this - combined with the continued economic crisis - will mean devastating cuts in living standards.
Even Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, has admitted that "the price of this financial crisis is being borne by people who absolutely did not cause it." Such crocodile tears will not prevent more misery being heaped on workers' heads in the Budget of 23 March. Vince Cable has already proudly declared that one of 'his ideas' will be in the budget - the ripping up of employment rights for workers in small companies!
King went on to say that "I'm surprised that the degree of public anger has not been greater than it has." In the next months he will get to see public anger on a scale even bigger than he expected. If such anger is organised around a cohesive strategy there is no question - cuts can be stopped.
There are now more than 600 coaches booked for the TUC demonstration against cuts on 26 March. Many thousands more people are planning to make their way to the demonstration by public transport or car. It is now a commonplace for anti-cuts campaign stalls around the country to be approached by members of the public declaring that they will be marching on 26 March.
There is no doubt that this demonstration will be massive. It will act to gel all the individual workers who already oppose cuts into one, potentially very powerful, whole. Opposition to cuts in Britain is becoming overwhelming; with the latest polls showing only 34% of people thinking that the government needs to cut. However, the demonstration also has the potential to raise the confidence of those workers who are not certain it is possible to stop cuts, and to draw them into action to defend our jobs, pay, pensions and public services.
For the demonstration to be effective it needs to be more than a parade, a 'grand day out'. It has to be a launch pad for escalating the action to stop the cuts. The cuts are multi-faceted and so will the campaign against them be. On the demonstration will be local residents fighting to stop the closure of their swimming pool, libraries and other services. For many of them escalation will mean occupation.

Strikes and elections

Another important aspect of the struggle against cuts will be standing anti-cuts candidates in the May elections. For the hundreds of thousands of trade unionists who will march, however, it is strike action that will be posed as the next step.
"Million to strike over pensions" was the front page headline of the Guardian following Hutton's pension report and there is no doubt that pensions are an over-arching issue around which unions can coordinate strike action. The change from Retail Price Index (RPI) to Consumer Price Index (CPI, which doesn't include housing costs) alone will mean pensions being cut by up to 25% over time. Alongside an increase in the retirement age and an increase in contributions, public sector pensions are being decimated. This deliberate cheapening of the cost of public sector workers is partly in order to prepare for mass privatisation of public services.
The civil servants' union, PCS, is discussing balloting for action on pensions to take place in May or June. The NUT and UCU teaching unions are also discussing action before the summer. To have these three unions - one million workers - strike together over pensions would be an important step forward.
Unfortunately, however, the biggest public sector unions have not yet made any proposals to ballot on pensions. Some of them, at least, are arguing that no strike action should be organised before September when the government finalises its attacks on pensions. But we should not wait - serious attacks on pensions are already being proposed - and we need action as soon as possible after 26 March. Whenever the first public sector union takes national strike action there should be a national mid-week demonstration against cuts and attacks on pensions - so that workers from across the public sector can show their support for strike action and to increase the pressure on other public sector unions to build for a one-day public sector strike.
Such a strike should also appeal to those in the private sector, who will be affected by the switch to CPI, to join. Around five million private sector workers are members of defined benefit pension schemes. Unite is already threatening to ballot 11,000 Ford workers over the issue.
While pensions are the one unifying issue that affects the whole public sector in pretty much the same way, coordinated action can also take place over other cuts. After all, if different groups of workers are planning to strike against cuts in their workplace or sector, there is no objective reason that their trade unions should not plan to strike on the same day as workers striking over pensions; even within the straitjacket of the anti-trade union laws.
The trade union movement needs to be prepared for the possibility that the courts would be used to sabotage such a strike by finding, for example, something spurious with one or more unions' democratic ballot in order to try and stop everyone striking on the same day. The government is terrified of the prospect of coordinated strike action over pensions, and it is preparing for battle - even setting up a 'war quango' to combat strike action.
The answer, of course, is not to fly the white flag before battle is even engaged, but to try to build a movement so powerful that they think twice about using the anti-union laws. And if they do, the movement is strong enough to sweep them aside.
We are not in favour of taking unnecessary risks with the trade unions' resources and funds. However, such is the severity of the cuts that action is essential. The growing opposition to the cuts, as the reality of them bites, means that any strike against cuts could win enormous support from workers and young people. In reality, if several public sector unions defied the anti-trade union laws, in the context of a public sector general strike, and with the other unions promising solidarity action in the case of any legal threats against them, the government would be powerless to stop them and, in the process, the anti-trade union laws would be broken asunder.
This is a very weak government which can be defeated. Most people who voted Lib Dem in the general election consider themselves left of centre, yet the right wing neoliberal leadership of the Lib Dems have signed up to every aspect of the government's onslaught on public services, even the plans to destroy the NHS.
The latter, however, was a step too far for the Lib Dem conference, which has demanded that changes are made to the health bill. Tory health minister, Andrew Lansley, may make some minor concessions in order to try to help the leadership of the Lib Dems, but this is an indication of the enormous pressure that the coalition will come under as struggles develop.

Retreat possible

In the local elections on 5 May the Lib Dems will be severely punished by the electorate for their role in the coalition. If they also lose the AV referendum - which takes place on the same day, it is not excluded that a large section of Lib Dem MPs could demand their party's withdrawal from the coalition, leading to its collapse. On the other hand the 'glue of power' could keep the coalition on the road. What is certain, however, is that in the face of a determined mass movement the government could be forced to retreat.
In the short term New Labour will be the main electoral beneficiaries of anger with the government, in the hope that they will at least implement the cuts more slowly than the current government. That much be might be true - but no more. It is only necessary to look at New Labour's record in government for 13 years to understand that they also support 'the logic of the market' - that is the logic of attacking public services and workers' rights.
Even in opposition New Labour abstained on the Welfare Reform Bill - which will drive millions of benefit claimants into unbearable poverty. New Labour was not prepared to support the student movement, not surprising as it introduced fees in the first place. Miliband's first speech as leader declared that New Labour would not support "a wave of irresponsible strikes" - a clear indication that it would not support strike action against cuts.
John Hutton, the architect of the attack on pensions, was a New Labour minister, commissioned to attack pensions by the last government! At local level New Labour councils, just like Liberal and Tory councils, are carrying out huge cuts.
An essential part of the movement against cuts needs to be the struggle for an independent voice for working class people. Ed Miliband is speaking on the 26 March demo, and several trade union leaders will call for a Labour vote in the May elections. For the hundreds of thousands of workers whose jobs are being cut by Labour councils this will not be met with enthusiasm. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition - involving militant trade unionists from the RMT, PCS and other unions - will be standing as many Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts candidates as possible in the May elections.
This needs to be a step towards building a mass party of the working class which offers a socialist alternative to the axe men and women from all three major capitalist parties.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Wisconsin: Will the Recall be Enough?

From Socialist Alternative (CWI in the USA) -

The movement to recall Walker and his Republican goons is gaining momentum. Hundreds of thousands of workers and young people are looking towards the recall to strike back and teach corporate politicians a well-deserved lesson. But does the recall strategy measure up to the challenge we face? 
Unfortunately, we have to say it will not be enough to stop Walker and his corporate offensive. A recall will take months, a year or more (nor is there any guarantee of victory). But that won't stop the immediate impact of this disastrous bill as public sector unions now face the danger of being dismantled in the coming weeks. Nor can we simply depend on a legal challenge. 
Now is the time – with March 12 seeing a massive 200,000 protesting and many more determined to fight – to rebuild a mass movement which is capable of reversing this bill and stopping the cuts. It’s crucial we build for mass demonstrations, workplace meetings, job actions, and student walkouts on the day the bill goes into effect and on April 4, along with the recall effort. 
Of course, Walker has shown he won’t be stopped by protests alone. That is why Socialist Alternative has raised from the beginning of this struggle that in order to win we will need to mobilize our full power as workers, including by organizing strike action to shut down the state through a one-day public sector general strike. 
General Strike
After the bill passed there was a groundswell of support for the idea of striking, with chants, signs and even local union leaders calling for a general strike. The situation was pregnant with the possibility of mass strike action. However, the top union officials did everything they could to stop a strike from happening. Through maneuvers at union meetings to scare tactics, they clamped down on the mood of their own membership for bigger and bolder action and instead have channeled the movement into focusing solely on the recall effort. 

The union leaders and Democratic Party officials emphasized that a strike was too risky, illegal, and would lead to mass layoffs. But far greater are the risks of not striking and allowing this bill to destroy our rights, jobs, benefits and even some unions themselves. And we can't win if we don't fight. 
Nor should the threat of termination automatically stop us. If the whole state was shut down – aside from necessary emergency services – by a one-day public sector strike they couldn't fire all the teachers, nurses, and state and city workers. To be effective, any strike must base itself on the basic principle of solidarity, with the whole movement rallying to the defense of any individual workers victimized for going on strike. 
Class Struggle
We must also remember that the union and civil rights movements were built by those prepared to defy unjust laws. Walker disregarded the law himself, and furthermore anti-labor laws like Taft-Hartley have been passed by Corporate politicians and are against the interests of working people. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “there are two types of laws: just and unjust...One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” 

A general strike could have been called and organized in the days after the bill was passed if the rank-and-file were organized and prepared to systematically take up the arguments of the union leadership and win a solid majority of their fellow members over to a clear plan for strike action. 
The lesson is that we need to organize the movement from below and transform our unions into fighting, democratic organizations. The top officials claimed that a strike could turn the broad public support against the unions. In fact, wide support for a strike could be maintained if the demands were not limited to defending public-sector union rights, but instead said that no worker should pay for the crisis of Wall Street and Big Business. Unions must fight for an increase in the minimum wage, jobs or decent benefits for the unemployed, and against cuts. 
Michael Moore correctly stated that this was a “class war.” The top union leaders, without asking their members, offered to accept almost all of Walker’s economic demands because they are trained in the methods of class compromise and partnership with corporate politicians in the Democratic Party, not the methods of class struggle. 
As part of building a mass movement in the streets we also should support the recall of Walker and the Republicans. But who should replace them? The Democrats are also backed by big business and, despite the “Fab 14” opposition to the attacks on bargaining rights, have said they agree with Walker’s attacks on workers’ healthcare, pensions, and budget cuts. 
It is therefore necessary that the interests of the movement are independently represented in the elections. Working people should run their own independent candidates as a step towards forming a mass party of workers and young people that can be a real voice to fight for and defend their interests. 
  • Rebuild a mass movement against the bill which is capable of reversing it. For mass demonstrations, workplace meetings, job actions, and student walkouts on the day the bill goes into effect and on April 4.
  • Emergency mass union meetings to democratically develop an immediate plan for stepping up the struggle. Build a rank and file movement to transform our unions into democratic organizations fighting for the interests of all working people.
  • Wall Street is to blame not working people or their unions! Tax the super-rich and big corporations!
  • No concessions! No Cuts! Reverse the whole bill!
  • The full right to strike for all workers; the right to unionize and have decent jobs, benefits and pensions for all.
  • Recall Walker and the Republicans and run independent working-class candidates.
  • An end to the corporate domination of politics and our lives. Working people of Wisconsin and the U.S. unite and fight for a working people’s party and a democratic socialist society!

The rich get richer - by another $1 trillion

The latest rich list produced by the Forbes magazine shows that the collective wealth of the world’s 1,210 billionaires has reached a new record high of $4.5 trillion - up nearly $1 trillion on last year’s total.

From the Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales)

At the same time three billion people (around 50% of the world’s population) exist on a meagre $2 a day. In fact only three years ago it was estimated that the world’s richest 225 people had combined assets equal to the combined annual income of the world’s 2.5 billion poorest people. This glaring gap in wealth has undoubtedly widened since then.
Such inequality, combined with the accompanying huge disparities in health and other life chances between rich and poor, are the products of the profit-driven capitalist system. This system almost went bust two years ago, in part due to the speculative greed of rich financiers. But it was rescued by pro-capitalist governments using trillions of dollars of public funds ie our money.
As Mahatma Gandhi once remarked: "We have enough for everybody’s need. But not enough for everybody’s greed."
So the next time rich politicians Cameron or Clegg or any other defender of this system parrots "we’re all in it together" or, "we can’t afford to maintain current levels of spending on public services", etc, then tell them to make the rich pay!

No to Western military intervention - Build an independent movement of workers and youth!

By Robert Bechert, CWI
Read the full article here:

The UN Security Council’s majority decision to enact a militarily-imposed ‘no-fly-zone’ against Libya, while greeted with joy on the streets of Benghazi and Tobruk, is in no way intended to defend the Libyan revolution. Revolutionaries in Libya may think that this decision will help them, but they are mistaken. Naked economic and political calculations lay behind the imperialist powers’ decision. It is not a lifeline that could ‘save’ the revolution, in the real sense of the word, against Gaddafi. Major imperialist powers decided that they wanted now to exploit the revolution and try to replace Gaddafi with a more reliable regime. However the Libyan foreign minster’s announcement of an immediate ceasefire has complicated imperialism’s position.

Faced with a rapid eastwards advance of Gaddafi’s forces, many in eastern Libya seized hold of the idea of a no-fly-zone to help stem this tide, but this is not the way to defend and extend the revolution. Unfortunately, the revolution’s initial drive towards the west, where two-thirds of Libyans live, was not based on a movement, built upon popular, democratic committees that could offer a clear programme to win support from the masses and the rank and file soldiers, while waging a revolutionary war. This gave Gaddafi an opportunity to regroup.
The growing support for a no-fly-zone was a reversal of the sentiment expressed in the English language posters put up in Benghazi, in February, declaring: “No To Foreign Intervention – Libyans Can Do It By Themselves”. This followed the wonderful examples of Tunisia and Egypt, where sustained mass action completely undermined totalitarian regimes. The Libyan masses were confident that their momentum would secure victory. But Gaddafi was able to retain a grip in Tripoli. This, at least, relative stabilisation of the regime and its counter-offensive led to a change in attitude towards foreign intervention that allowed the largely pro-Western leadership of the rebel ’Interim Transitional National Council’ to overcome youth opposition to asking the West for aid.
However, despite the Gaddafi regime’s blood-curdling words, it is not at all certain that its relatively small forces could have launched an all-out assault on Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, with around a million living in its environs. A mass defence of the city would have blunted the attack of Gaddafi’s relatively small forces. Now, if the ceasefire holds and Gaddafi remains in power in Tripoli, a de-facto breakup of the country could occur, returning to something like the separate entities that existed before Italy first created Libya after 1912 and which Britain recreated in the late 1940s.
Whatever the immediate effect the ‘no fly zone’, any trust placed in either the UN or the imperialist powers threatens to undermine all the genuine hopes and aspirations of the revolution that began last month. This is because the powers that have imposed threatened military action are no friends of the Libyan masses. Until recently, they were quite happy to deal with, and pander to, the murderous Gaddafi ruling clique, to maintain a ‘partnership’, especially concerning Libya’s oil and gas industries. Indeed, the day after the UN took its decision, the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal lamented that “the close partnership between the Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s intelligence service and the CIA has been severed” (18 March, 2011). The Journal reported “according to a senior US official” the previous ‘partnership’ was “especially productive”.
Now, having lost former dictatorial allies Mubarak, in Egypt, and Ben Ali, in Tunisia, imperialism is trying to take advantage of the popular uprising in Libya to both refurbish its “democratic” image and to help install a more “reliable” regime, or at least a part of Libya. As before, North Africa and the Middle East, with its oil and strategic location, are of tremendous importance to the imperialist powers.
This reveals the absolute hypocrisy of the main imperialist powers, which have shamelessly supported repressive dictatorial regimes throughout the Middle East for decades. At the very same time that they were deciding the No Fly Zone, the same powers did absolutely nothing to prevent Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies’ increasingly brutal suppression of the majority of the Bahraini population and their attempt to ferment sectarianism. Within 12 hours of the UN decision, the armed forces another regional ally, Yemeni, ally shot dead at least 39 protesters in the capital city, Sanaa. The UN was only able to take its decision on Libya because the Arab League supported a no fly zone, but of course these mainly reactionary rulers say nothing about repression in Bahrain, Yemen or other Arab countries.
Thus the fate of the revolution will be decided inside Libya itself. Its victory requires a programme that can cut across tribal and regional divisions and unite the mass of the population against the Gaddafi clique and for a struggle for a better future.
A programme for the Libyan revolution that would genuinely benefit the mass of the population would be based on winning and defending real democratic rights; an end to corruption and privilege; the safeguarding and further development of the social gains made since the discovery of oil; opposition to any form of re-colonisation and for a democratically-controlled, publicly-owned, economic plan to use the country’s resources for the future benefit of the mass of people.
The creation of an independent movement of Libyan workers, poor and youth that could implement such a real revolutionary transformation of the country, is the only way to thwart the imperialists’ plans, end dictatorship and to transform the lives of the people.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Japan: Solidarity with the people of Japan

Rebuilding should not serve the interests of private developers

Report by Carl Simmons, Kokusai Rentai (International Solidarity - CWI in Japan)

The initial response to the quake has been one of shock and disbelief at the images coming from the Tohoku area. Although Osaka is several hundred kilometres from the areas affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami, many people here have family or friends in those areas. There is a general air or depression and despondency hanging over society. Comparisons have been made to the devastation following World War 2, although obviously the area affected is much more limited.

There is also nervousness about the prospects of a nuclear disaster as the authorities struggle to prevent a total meltdown at at least three nuclear reactors. Representatives of the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) have appeared on television to tell us that the situation is under control and to reassure us that the amount of radiation people in the area have been exposed to is less than one CT scan. People are generally sceptical about this.
Japan’s privately-owned power companies and nuclear industry have a history of attempting to cover up accidents such as those at Monju in Fukui prefecture in 1995 and Tokaimura in 1999 and most people believe that the government is under-estimating the severity of the crisis so as not to provoke panic.
Sections of the foreign business community are already fleeing Tokyo. The US Seventh Fleet, with the aircraft carrier “Ronald Reagan”, which only yesterday we were told was standing by to “provide relief”, has withdrawn to a safe distance from Fukushima after detecting radioactivity. Most of the Japanese population has nowhere to flee to in a nuclear emergency, other than to sleep rough on the floor of an elementary school gymnasium or other public facility. Nearly 60,000 people have been told to evacuate their homes in the area around the reactors.
The anti-nuclear movement in Japan has long warned about the dangers of building reactors on or near to major fault lines. There have been ample warning signs such as the damage to a TEPCO plant in the Chuetsu-oki earthquake in 2007.
However Japanese capitalism has become heavily reliant on atomic energy, with nuclear reactors providing 30% of its power. Even if they succeed in avoiding a major nuclear disaster this time around, they are going to face a major energy crisis with many of their reactors out of action. In the case of Fukushima, the use of sea water to cool the rods almost certainly means that these reactors will never be restarted.
The authorities are now organising rolling power cuts in Eastern Japan, as well as urging consumers to economise on energy consumption. Incredibly though, Japan lacks an integrated national power grid. The industry is dominated by ten private regional power companies. Although the power supply in Western Japan is unaffected by the crisis, it is difficult to divert power because the grid in Western Japan functions on 60Hz, as opposed to 50Hz in the East. There are only three plants that can convert power generated in the West for use in the East.
A genuine workers’ party in Japan would call for the nationalisation of these ten regional power companies under workers’ control and management. This would enable a phasing out of nuclear power and the development of alternative energy sources. As the only country to have had nuclear weapons used against it, there is a strong fear of the effects of radiation and the population are particular sensitive to the nuclear issue. The crisis will undoubtedly give an impetus to the anti-nuclear movement, even if a major nuclear disaster is avoided. If it is not, then this will become a major and radicalising political issue.
Over the next few days, people’s attention is going to be focussed on the relief efforts. As in the Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, trade unions and community organisations will probably start their own relief efforts. Unions in the Kansai area are already discussing this. Many young people interviewed on TV in areas unaffected by the quake express a desire to do something to help those in the affected areas. As the days turns to weeks, though, the focus of people’s attention will shift towards reconstruction and the rebuilding of their communities.
Much has been made in the foreign press about the strict regulations governing building construction. However, this is far from the reality of the situation here. While regulations have been tightened over the years, collusion between the General Contractors, Politicians and city planning departments means that building regulations of any kind are often not enforced. In the Hanshin earthquake in 1995, many poor and elderly people were still living in temporary accommodation years after the quake because they could not afford to rebuild their houses. Most of the money provided for reconstruction was put into large infrastructure projects that provided business for the contractors, but little help for those made homeless by the quake.Socialists argue that the rebuilding should not serve the interests of private developers. The large General Contractors should be nationalised under workers’ control and management and communities rebuilt according to democratic plans drawn up by the neighbourhood committees, community and workers’ organisations.
The economic effects of the disaster will be severe. The Japanese Stock Market fell by 7% in one day, and has once again gone below the 10,000 barrier. Japanese Prime Minister, Naoto Kan has talked about a “New Deal” effect, with reconstruction leading to a recovery of the economy.
It is true that after the 1995 Hanshin earthquake, after the immediate negative effects of the quake had worked their way through the economy, there was a limited recovery helped by reconstruction. While it cannot be ruled out that something similar could happen this time, the destruction is on a much larger scale than the 1995 quake. State finances are in a much weaker position than they were in 1995.
Already the Democratic Party government has retreated on promises to pay increased child benefits and is attempting to build support for an increase in consumption tax, arguing that this is necessary to support pensions and welfare for a rapidly ageing population.
There is little doubt the Japanese capitalists will attempt to place the burden for this disaster on the shoulders of workers and the poor. This will inevitably provoke resistance. However the crisis unfolds in the short-term, the future of Japanese capitalism looks beset with major problems.

400 construction workers fight lock-out at BP Saltend, Hull

400 engineering construction workers have been locked out from work since 14 March at BP Saltend near Hull. Arriving for work on Monday, they were told by managers that their company Redhalls had had their contract terminated by Vivergo who run the new bio-ethanol plant.  
Two weeks ago, these same workers took unofficial strike action and blockaded the BP site gates to win a victory forcing Redhalls to abide by the national industry agreement over redundancy procedures.  
This time police were there in force which means that the company must have tipped them off. And a prepared letter handed to workers urged them to “go home peacefully …. and return the next day ready for work.” 
Workers returned on Tuesday to be told they were locked out. Electricians and scaffolders working for two other contractors have been stood down and will be paid 38 hours this week as per the Blue Book. But Redhalls workers have been promised nothing and will only be paid 38 hours for last weeks 46 hours of work!
Vivergo, which is majority owned by BP, issued a statement saying they had cancelled the mechanical and piping works contract because the works "should have been completed by February 2011".
The statement went on to say those works were "only 69% complete" and the construction site at Saltend had been closed for a period of assessment. It is not clear whether they want to mothball the project or get in new contractors.
But either way this is a lock-out and tearing up the national agreement. If the bosses can get away with this here, then they will try it everywhere. This dispute is as important as the Lindsey Oil Refinery (LOR) strikes in 2009.
Redhalls’ workers have set up a strike committee including LOR strike leader Keith Gibson. Plans have been made to protest against Vivergo and Redhalls and if the workers are not quickly re-instated with all monies owing, then a call will be made for a national walk-out by NAECI construction workers.
Messages of support to Keith Gibson: or 07743135183

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

BADACA debates with Tory MP - Friday 11th March 7.30pm

Horfield United Reformed Church, Muller Road
Friday 11th March 2011

Huw Williams of Unison and the BADACA Health Group will debate with Charlotte Leslie, Conservative MP for Bristol North West about the ConDem government's cuts programme. Could this be the last time the Tories dare to show their faces at a public event in Bristol? Let's do our best!

Ireland - Socialists in the Dail

Clare Daly and Joe Higgins - first day in the new Dail

Hundreds of supporters of the United Left Alliance, including the Socialist Party, marched to the opening of the Dail (Irish Parliament), led by the 5 new ULA TDs (members of the Irish parliament)

Unite: Petition to stop Cameron selling our blood!

By giving blood, people are committing a selfless act in the hope of improving the lives of others. Money and profit margins have no place in this transaction. It’s up to us to stop the Government's vile plan to let big business profit off blood donations.
Sign the petition here

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

BBC: Witness Rosa Luxemburg

A short radio piece to celebrate International Women's Day - in the words of Lenin, 'The Eagle of the Revolution'. Find a selection of her many excellent Marxist writings here:

Bristol Socialist Party meeting: Women and the struggle for socialism TODAY 8th March 7.30pm

Bristol Socialist Party: Women and the struggle for socialism

Tuesday 8th March 2011


Cheltenham Road Library, Bristol, BS6 5QX

International Women's Day meeting will discuss the consequences of the economic crisis and its aftermath for women. Will the important changes for women that have taken place unwind? Are inequality, discrimination and oppression inevitable in our lives? At this meeting Frankie Langeland will discuss the issues explored in a new book published by the Socialist Party. To order a copy visit or ring Martyn on 07961095348