Thursday, 28 April 2011

In CABOT vote TUSC on 5th May

In CABOT vote Chris FARRELL on 5th May for Bristol City Councillor - Trade Unionists & Socialists Against Cuts

Stokes Croft Riot – For an open community enquiry

The Socialist Party believes that nothing short of a full-scale community enquiry made up of elected representatives from local trade unions and community organisations can begin to get to the bottom of the reasons for the outbreak of rioting around Stokes Croft that occurred on Thursday 21 April.

The events have been portrayed as an anti -Tesco protest, but even the Bristol Evening Post was forced to write that attacks on that shop began at 2.30am, over 5 hours after a police team entered Telepathic Heights allegedly to search the premises for petrol bombs.

It is stated that people in the community had become concerned after seeing people bringing ‘petrol bombs’ into Telepathic Heights, yet only one person has been charged with “possessing a petrol bomb and threatening property”, leading many to question whether he’s a victim of a police set-up after the event, to try and justify their massive over-response.

A number of urgent questions need to be answered by a community enquiry:

- Who supplied this information about petrol bombs and is it credible to ask us to believe that people were openly coming and going with them? It’s like a bank robber walking into a bank holding a bag with swag written on it.       
- Who took the decision to provocatively launch this action in the knowledge that it would take place at a time when hundreds of local people would be out and about enjoying the warm weather, relaxing with a drink or two and looking forward to the long weekend? 

- Why wasn’t the operation executed early in the morning in accordance with usual practice?

- Why did the police go charging in like robocops with reinforcements on hand from Wiltshire, Gwent and South Wales forces, if their target was so specific?

- Was there another agenda here as far as Avon and Somerset Police were concerned, involving dishing out a lesson to the ‘alternative’ Stokes Croft community, prior to the Royal Wedding and feared acts of civil disobedience on the day? In the last six months we’ve seen anti-cuts protests viciously attacked for no reason and hundreds of young students kettled and intimidated. Many are now asking, is the local police force out of control?

31 years after police aggression led to the St. Pauls riot, Britain is again becoming polarised between the super rich and the rest. Jobs and services are being slashed, EMA has been stolen from FE students and unemployment of 16-24 year olds now stands at a dizzying 20%. This is a recipe for anger and inevitably tensions in society are on the rise.

The Socialist Party does not condone damage against Tesco Express or other local businesses and opposes any attempt from whatever source to put the health of shop employees at risk. Rioting and acts of individual violence may be latent in this charged atmosphere, but offer no long-term solution to ordinary people alienated and oppressed by capitalism. The real way forward must be to build mass protest and resistance, involving trade unions and communities linking up together to defeat the cuts and the Cameron-Clegg Coalition which is trying to make us pay for the bankers’ crisis.

Tuesday 10 May, 7.30pm at Cheltenham Road Library, BS6 5QX
“What the Socialist Party Stands For”

Bristol 'Tesco riot' reveals local anger

Report by a Stokes Croft resident, from The Socialist -

On Thursday night, 21 April, disturbances took place in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol when police clashed with anti-Tesco protesters and the local squatting community.

A local campaign to prevent the opening of another Tesco store in the area has been running for a couple of years, organising demonstrations and direct action. Following the opening of the store protesters have been calling for a boycott of the supermarket, which it is argued will have a negative impact on the area.
Peaceful protests developed into a riot when 160 police with shields and batons descended on the area, allegedly following reports that local squatters intended to petrol bomb the store. The police response was heavy-handed and confrontational.
Stokes Croft is known as a hub of artistic endeavours, with a strong sense of independence and difference from the increasingly homogenised high streets in much of the UK. Some have suggested that the police actions smacked of trying to clean up the area ready for gentrification.
Events continued through the evening as people left bars and clubs and saw what was going on.
There was a sense that the violence came about, not only as a result of Tesco opening, but also of people's continuing frustration with the Con-Dem government, bankers' bonuses and the billions of spending cuts.
When ordinary people are not listened to, anger grows and can boil over into violence. We need more than ever a strong political voice that can take on the neoliberal agenda of the government and their friends in big businesses like Tesco.

Friday, 22 April 2011

30 years after the 1981 Brixton riots

After this riot in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol last night, please see this account of events 30 years ago this April that had its precedent in St. Pauls, Bristol. It is recounted by CLARE DOYLE who participated in the events. Clare was dubbed ’Red Clare’ in the right-wing press at the time for her participation and socialist politics (and red hair!). Today the conditions for new ’Brixtons’ are being prepared. The Con-Dem government, like that of Thatcher, has adopted a programme of vicious cuts in jobs and services. Last year saw the first actual fall in living standards in Britain since the recession of three decades ago. Unemployment is rising. There are almost one million young people without jobs in Britain.

On Friday 10 April 1981 a heavy-handed police incident in Railton Road, Brixton, sparked an explosion of pent-up anger that engulfed the area for days. Psyched-up police in full riot gear, many of them openly racist, went into battle with local residents, mostly black. Pelted with bricks, stones and petrol bombs, the police were forced to retreat, some with their riot shields on fire. An angry crowd surged through the central shopping area. Two pubs were burned out, other buildings wrecked, shops had their windows smashed in and their contents were strewn across the pavements.

300 police were injured as well as hundreds of their opponents, many of them too scared to seek medical help in the hospitals. Hundreds were being arrested and summarily charged with ’rioting’ and ’looting’. The most intimidating noise and sight was that of the ’Nightsun’ helicopter with its searchlight and infra-red camera peering into housing estates and side streets, on the hunt for new victims to put in the police cells.
By the Sunday afternoon, however, an eerie calm had descended on the centre of Brixton. The police had set up blockades around the area with the help of massive reinforcements bussed in from outside - a total of 7,445 policemen had been mobilised for the operation. But a traffic-free and police-free zone now existed, stretching from the west of the Town Hall down to the notorious Brixton police station (whose windows had also been smashed in!).
There was an almost festive atmosphere as the people of Brixton - white as well as black - wandered around to see the damage and discuss the significance of the events. They were joined by a growing number of sightseers and well-wishers.

Tories and police

Not so well-received were the Tory Home Secretary, Willie Whitelaw, and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, David McNee, as they attempted a walk-about to assess the situation. Their talk of "outsiders" fomenting the violence did not wash.
Michael Heseltine, then Tory defence secretary, also visited Brixton (and later Toxteth in Liverpool where riots also took place) with a mandate to find solutions.
But he told reporters that not one extra pound of public spending would be provided by Thatcher’s government. In contrast in 1984, mass action by workers in Liverpool forced the same Tory government to concede millions of pounds to the defiant Labour council, led by the Militant Tendency, the fore-runner of the Socialist Party.
The anger that had exploded in Brixton had deep roots. It was born of years of police harassment and outright brutality on top of decades of neglect and deprivation in terms of jobs, housing and social facilities. The previous April, there had been ’riots’ or mass disturbances in the St Paul’s area of Bristol, another run-down and predominantly black community blighted by unemployment and poverty.
The hated ’Sus’ laws, which gave police powers to stop and search merely on ’suspicion’, were being used against black youth far more than white. Raids on factories and homes with the aim of deporting immigrant workers were a daily occurrence.
Resentment smouldered in the black communities of south London over a number of recent racist incidents. 13 young black party-goers were killed in a fire in Deptford on the night of 18 January 1981. The police had done little or nothing to find anyone responsible for what was obviously a racially motivated attack.
Unemployment amongst black youth had reached over 50% nationally; it was rising four times faster than amongst white youth. There were 27 school-leavers for every job vacancy in Lambeth. 12,000 people were registered as unemployed at the Brixton dole office in April 1981.
A generation of black youth saw themselves already thrown on the scrap heap. Thatcher’s policies were obviously going to do nothing to improve their lot; in fact, they were guaranteed to make things worse.
In Liverpool, where the Toxteth ’riots’ took place, the Liberals, under David Alton, had built not one house, whereas when Labour, under the leadership of Militant, came into power, 5,000 homes were built!


In Brixton, the Railton Road area had been due for redevelopment since 1928 and with Thatcher’s housing policy, there would now be no prospect of new homes replacing the slums. She was the real criminal, not those she blamed for inflaming the situation in the inner-city areas.
On the very Saturday of the escalation of clashes with the police in Brixton (April 11), the LPYS and Militant had organised a mock trial of Thatcher in nearby Stockwell Hall. The charges against the prime minister were: "Obtaining votes under false pretences; bribery and corruption; fraud; GBH (grievous bodily harm); murder"!
As the police were battening down the hatches in the area, two socialists who had been putting up posters had been arrested and then the organisers of the court-room farce were ordered to bring it to an end! Tension in the area was mounting by the minute.

It was no surprise when Brixton went up in flames that weekend. But as one local man commented, the only surprise was that it had not happened earlier!

On a BBC 4 discussion ’commemorating’ 30 years since the Brixton events, police spoke openly about the racism that was rampant in the force. One of them recounted how, during the various police operations in the area, police officers, himself included, would attack Rastafarians with dreadlocks and literally pull their hair out from the roots. Back in the police station they would pin up the ’dreads’ as trophies.
Once the April flare-up began, the LPYS and Militant supporters moved into action. They did not consider burning and looting as the way to combat the policies of Thatcher, but they understood what was behind the rage that was unleashed.
They talked to people involved in the battles, to people in local community organisations and in the Labour Party about what could be done, firstly to combat the police rampage and stop the mass arrests, and, secondly to channel this anger into a political fight against the class politics of Thatcher and her government.
They worked rapidly to organise a mass meeting at the Town Hall for the earliest possible date. They got out a leaflet giving their explanation of what had happened and why, and also formulating a programme of demands to express the needs of the hour.

Young socialists

Teams of young (and not so young) socialists went onto the streets. They distributed 30,000 of the rapidly printed leaflets in a meticulously organised door-to-door operation, covering every household in the immediate area.
They went to bus garages, fire stations, hospitals, post office and council depots, factories, local government offices, a milk yard and rail depots to explain the case and seek support. Within two days they had 1,000 signatures on a petition. They put up posters and chalked on the pavements to advertise the public meeting.
By the evening of Wednesday 15 April, 600 agitated, angry and excited people were piling into the Town Hall meeting room to hear and be heard. A resolution to send to Thatcher and her government had been drawn up. It declared that: "the responsibility for the riots in Brixton rests with the police... Also responsible are the Tories and the class they represent, whose system - being run purely for the rich - has pushed unemployment up to three million and bred poverty and slum housing".
It included demands for the immediate withdrawal of the massive police presence from the area, release of all those arrested and dropping of all charges, democratic street committees to defend the areas, an end to stop and search, the disbandment of the hated Special Patrol Group (constantly operating mass swoops in the area), an urgent labour movement inquiry and the "release of funds from central government to be put back into the community".
As the meeting began, someone stood up to insist on an amendment to the very first phrase of the resolution. Instead of "This meeting declares", it should read, "We the people of Brixton, declare..."! That was agreed with a roar of approval. The confidence and enthusiasm of the meeting was palpable.
Many young people signed up to come to an LPYS meeting. Within the next two days 100 were visited and phoned. 45 came to the meeting that weekend.

Benefit gig

Little more than a month later, there were 700 youth packed into a benefit gig, also at the Town Hall, with a bar and a popular band called Aswad playing. The group UB40, along with MPs and many local organisations, including the trades council made contributions towards a fund for assisting the hundreds of arrested people being dragged through the courts.
The Labour Committee for the Defence of Brixton (LCDB) was rapidly set up, involving local black residents’ representatives, shop stewards, councillors, lawyers and Labour Party members.
Among them were Bob Lee, secretary of the PNP black socialist youth organisation, Tony Saunois, then on Labour’s National Executive Committee from the LPYS, Anne Beales, chair of the London region of the LPYS, local solicitor, Mike Fisher, and two members of Militant’s editorial board who lived in the area - Lynn Walsh and myself.
The LCDB came out immediately against the government’s proposal for a police inquiry into the Brixton events to be led by Lord Scarman. Why? Firstly, it was precisely that - a police inquiry! Secondly, it was set up by the Tories who were the ones to blame for all the problems that caused the ’riots’. Thirdly, no one giving evidence to the inquiry would be sure not to find themselves incriminated and under arrest!
Lord Scarman had the dubious record of heading a 1969 ’Tribunal of Inquiry’ into the ’disturbances’ in Northern Ireland without putting forward any solution.
The LCDB called for a totally independent labour movement inquiry as a launch pad for a socialist campaign to solve the major social problems behind the outbreaks of violence.
Although the 1974-79 Labour governments had moved decisively from reform to counter-reform, with attempts at restraining wages and attacking the hard-won gains of the working class, now that the Tories were in power, the Labour Party was under pressure to shift to the left.
On its NEC, the LPYS representative pushed for a national demonstration against Tory policies and rising unemployment. Instead, they organised demonstrations around the country, which turned out to be massive.


In Lambeth, as well as many other working class strongholds, unlike today, the local Labour Parties were still relatively combative and socialist, at least in name. Labour councillors and MPs responded favourably to the efforts of the Lambeth LPYS and sent money and support to the LCDB. The London Labour Party Executive circulated the LCDB material, as did the district offices of the NUPE, TGWU and AUEW trade unions.
The most important task of socialists at that time was to expose the real causes of the uprising in Brixton. They demanded radical changes in policing practice as well as an end to the Thatcher government. They also campaigned for a Labour government on a socialist programme to take its place - something unthinkable today!
Socialists warned that, unless the cuts and attacks on public spending were reversed and the harassment of black and Asian communities by the police was stopped, there would be more flare-ups - in Brixton and in other inner-city deprived areas.
In early July, while tens of thousands of activists were marching in Cardiff on one of the Labour Party protests against unemployment, the Liverpool area of Toxteth exploded, then Salford, then Bristol again and Birmingham and 20 or so other towns and cities across Britain.


Militant received a sudden flurry of publicity in the press and on TV when ’Red Clare’ appeared in Toxteth at the time of the violent clashes there. We used this opportunity to explain who the real culprits were - Thatcher and the Tories. We did not condone, but understood the actions of the harassed and desperate youth of these deprived areas of Britain.
Towards the end of July, Brixton kicked off again. Police decided to raid eleven households in the Railton Road area on the pretext that they were where Molotov cocktails had been manufactured and stored.
They wrecked people’s homes and terrified whole families. A new uprising was in the making.
The Labour Committee for the Defence of Brixton was still busy with the work of taking evidence from victims of the April conflagration and monitoring the level of police activity in the area. It moved into action immediately - condemning the action of the police thugs and demanding compensation for all those affected by the raids.
The events of 1981 - the levels of police violence and racism that were revealed and the ’findings’ of the Scarman Inquiry - led to the stepping up of attempts to introduce ’community policing’.
Militant and the LPYS took the idea further, calling for democratic control over the police and policing and the right of the police to organise in unions and to strike.
In the year before the Brixton explosion, a mood was developing for the TUC trade union leadership to call a general strike against the Tories and their austerity programme. This was eventually watered down into a ’day of action’.
Similar demands are developing today and a similar reluctance to take action is displayed on the part of the TUC leaders. If they do not move into action, the scenes of despair and explosions of anger like those of 1981 will be back on our streets. Deprived areas of major cities - if not the central areas, then the ’banlieus’ or outskirts as in France - will be the scene of new conflagrations.
Looking at the dramatic events of 30 years ago is a timely reminder of just how vital it is to forge a united workers’ struggle to end unemployment and poverty. Trade union action and the building of a mass party of workers with a socialist programme, including mass job creation, are now the only way ahead for avoiding riots and mindless destruction.
Socialism is less heard of today than in 1981 but the struggle for nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy and democratic planning to solve the major problems in society is more urgent than ever.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

50 Years since The Bay of Pigs invasion.

Cubans resist US backed invasion

50 years ago, on April 19th 1961, the workers and peasants of Cuba mobilised to defeat an invasion against their revolution, orchestrated and planned by the US adminstrations of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.

(Picture: Cuban militias during Bay of Pigs Invasion)

Approximately 1,300 Cuban exiles- the sons of former landlords, big bankers and the privileged classes- landed at The Bay of Pigs on the southern coast of Cuba. Armed and trained by the US military and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the invasion plan was premised on the belief that the Cuban people would rise in support of the expeditionary force and overthrow the revolutionary government.

Instead of being greeted by the Cuban masses, the invaders were surprised by the determination and commitment of Cubans to take up arms to defeat them. Despite taking heavy losses in the face of US air supremacy, over the course of three days the mercenary army was pushed back by a force of militias- workers and farmers who, the first time in their lives, were fighting for the new rights and social gains won during the course of the revolution. These militias were joined by members of Cuba's Rebel Army- a veteran force forged in the fight to overthrow the repressive regime of ousted Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista.

After The Bay of Pigs victory, the Cuban government moved to take steps to extend the gains of the revolution by nationalizing wider sectors of the economy through expropriating capitalist holdings in Cuba. This was the exact opposite of what the US capitalist class wanted, and is testimony to the determination of Cuban workers and peasants to retain their newly won economic and social gains. They proved, in action, that US Imperialism was not an unbeatable force, and could be resisted!

As the Cuban Communist Party holds in 6th Congress to discuss measures that could have a profound impact on the future of the Cuban revolution, many workers and farmers in Cuba will remember the events of 1961 and will remain determined to defend their revolutionary gains in the face of the ongoing world economic capitalist crisis and its undoubted impact inside Cuba.

Martyn Ahmet (TUSC candidate, Brislington East)

Sunday, 17 April 2011

TUSC Against Cuts: Vote Matt Carey in Lawrence Hill on May 5th

In LAWRENCE HILL vote Matthew CAREY on 5th May for Bristol City Councillor - Trade Unionists & Socialists Against Cuts - "I would oppose all privatisation and cuts in jobs and services. The council should set a needs budget and fight the cuts with the mass anti-cuts movement."

Algeria: Big student demo in Algiers defies ban on demonstrations

On 12 April in Algiers, tens of thousands of students from numerous schools and universities marched through the streets of the capital, where demonstrations are still officially forbidden. The students were demonstrating against a new system of requirements for receiving academic degrees, and, in general, against problems in the universities and the lack of public funding for education. Political slogans were also heard on the demos, such as “Fed up with misery, fed up with the ministry”, “Students enraged, system get out!”, or the now familiar refrain from the Tunisian revolution: “The people want to overthrow the regime!”

Despite the heavy police presence, students were able to make the police temporarily retreat. This was followed by an assault on the students by the riot police, injuring about 100 young people.

See videos of the demo at these links:

This came after a week of youth riots that shook many parts of Algeria at the beginning of this year - the ending of which gave the impression of a “false start”. There has also been a poor attendance at the regular Saturday demonstrations organised against the regime in Algiers. This could be explained by the presence, within new initiatives for “change”, of former personalities and ministers involved in previous governments. After this, many commentators rapidly jumped to conclusions, declaring that Algeria had somehow “escaped” the domino effect and wind of revolution from neighboring Tunisia and Egypt.

Superficially, this might seem true, since a mass political movement against the regime is not yet on the agenda. But a look below the surface of things gives a sharply different picture. Significantly, the General Secretary of the National Liberation Front (FLN, part of the ruling alliance), recently declared, “we are not hit by what is taking place in the other Arab countries, but nothing says that we are safe”, arguing that “only the reinforcement of the internal front, unity and national cohesion can protect us against such developments”.

The weakness of political opposition in Algeria clouds, in fact, a sharp radicalisation on the social front. According to Algerian paper ‘El Watan’, March 2011 saw a new record level of social protests in the country. Working class anger has been expressed by industrial actions in virtually every sector of the economy, the numerous local protests and sit-in actions by unemployed people to demand jobs, as well as the important mobilizations of university students for several weeks. This could be the prelude to mighty movements of an unprecedented scale, that could rapidly take on a political character. This is somewhat confirmed by the growing cracks appearing inside the state apparatus and ruling circles. The fact that Algerian President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has not addressed the nation since last October indicates that behind the scenes, big tensions and manoeuvres are taking place.
Regime in fear

“The huge presence of police officers in the capital gives you an idea of how frightened the regime is of its people.”, recently commented a blogger activist interviewed by Al Jazeera. The confidence of the masses, though still profoundly affected by the trauma of the 1990s civil war, has been notably boosted by the removal of the state of emergency adopted on 22 February. This concession has been interpreted by the majority of the people as an open testimony of the regime’s fear of mass, revolutionary movements.

Actually, it is the majority of the population which is in a constant “state of emergency”. The French newspaper ‘Le Monde’ already reported in March that“One after another, the various sectors are moving into action: yesterday the railwaymen, today the doctors, tomorrow the fishermen. Students, unemployed, women’s rights activists, communal guards... Collectives are springing up like mushrooms in an Algeria hit by an unprecedented fever of demands. On Tuesday in Algiers, even the blind have joined the social protest to defend their rights.”

The new series of strikes has even affected sectors which usually see little protest, such as the judiciary system (with a six-day strike movement by clerks). In the last weeks, paramedics, trash collectors, chemical workers, teachers, journalists and media workers, dockers, oil and gas workers, custom officers, nuclear researchers, hotel employees,…all have engaged strike action to denounce their conditions, sometimes by openly breaking current laws. Public sector workers went on a general strike on 6 April to demand higher wages and improved conditions. According to the National Autonomous Union of Public Administration Personnel (SNAPAP), the protest was followed by 84% of members. Thousands of workers threatening to halt production at Algeria’s largest oil and natural gas company, the State-run ‘Sonatrach’ - a sort of barometer of the social temperature in the country - ended their protest after the company agreed to increase workers’ wages by 80%!

Some politicians and elements linked to the regime are trying to manipulate the general anger to settle accounts between different ruling clans. To avoid such a scenario, the most effective weapon is to build independent organisations for the youth, the working class and the poor, around a concrete plan of coordinated and unified actions. This could clear away once for all the small corrupt caste of oligarchs who have ruined the country, and establish a democratic socialist society which would ensure sustainable democratic rights, end corruption and make the mass of the people benefit from the immense resources of the country.

Friday, 15 April 2011

TUSC Against Cuts: Vote Robin Clapp in Bedminster

In BEDMINSTER vote Robin CLAPP on 5th May for Bristol City Councillor - Trade Unionists & Socialists Against Cuts - "A socialist and committed community activist, I will oppose all cuts to jobs and services as I did successfully in leading the 2008 campaign to keep Marksbury Road library open."

Jobcentre call centres - out on April 18th!

In a ballot of the union’s 7,000 members in JCP’s 37 call centres across the country, 70% of those who took part voted for strike action. The turnout was 43%.
Following this strong result, the union agreed not to call any industrial action to allow negotiations to continue. But senior managers have shown little willingness to resolve the dispute.
The action will follow a well-supported two-day strike in January by more than 2,000 workers in JCP’s seven newest contact centres who have been forcibly moved from processing benefit claims to handling enquiries by phone.
The union wants to improve the levels of customer service in call centres; end the target driven culture, particularly by changing the way unrealistic ‘average call times’ are used; and introduce proper flexible working arrangements.
PCS’s Department for Work and Pensions group president Jane Aitchison said: “We are being prevented from providing a good quality service to the public because of unnecessary and unrealistic call centre targets.
“We entered into negotiations in good faith because we care about the help and advice we give to some of the most vulnerable people in society. It’s very disappointing that our management didn’t do the same.”
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “With unemployment rising and welfare recipients being blamed for an economic crisis they did not cause, it is outrageous that standards are being driven down in Jobcentre Plus.
“Instead of punishing people who are claiming benefits through no fault of their own, the government should be investing in our public services to help get people back to work quicker and to help our economy to grow.”

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Jobcentre Plus call centres - Support the strike!

Jane Aitchison, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) PCS president, explains why PCS members are striking in all Jobcentre Plus call centres on 18 April.
The PCS civil servants union DWP group executive met last week and called a strike for Monday 18 April. We want to maximise the pressure on management and force them to make the changes our members and our claimants need.
After the very strong strike mandate given to us by 7,000 Jobcentre Plus contact centre workers, PCS tried talking to management but so far they have been unwilling to offer the sort of changes our members are now demanding.
This strike follows a very strongly supported strike in January by members in our seven newest contact centres. They were very angry about their new working conditions when the offices became contact centres and the poor levels of customer service they were forced to give in this job.
The dispute has now escalated to all 7,000 Jobcentre Plus contact centre workers - with all members demanding to be involved in the fight for decent working conditions and better customer service.
Standard industry call centre practices are an anathema to trade unionists and a shock to trade unionised workers. In DWP we have fought hard for decent working practices and for staff and claimants to be treated with respect.
When management introduced contact centres into Jobcentre Plus they brought in technology that monitors staff every minute of the day. Members are constantly timed and pulled up every time they exceed a target time, even if it is only by a few seconds. They are even timed when they go to the toilet. It is incredibly "Big Brother" and degrading and it has to stop.
These are the type of draconian practices Victorian bosses introduced in their 'dark satanic mills', with their systems of overseers and over lookers. Accepting these practices turns the clock back decades for the dignity and rights of workers. We must end it.
All of the targets in the call centres are about time and getting the claimant off the phone as quickly as possible. People who ring Jobcentre Plus don't ring for fun - they either ring because they need help getting a job or with getting the benefit money they rely on to live.
They need to have their query dealt with properly - no matter how long it takes. Often claimants have nowhere else to turn and are pretty desperate. With 2.5 million unemployed people relying on this service - it is critical that we get it right.
We are not numbers and neither are the unemployed. This strike is about fighting for workers and the unemployed to be treated with respect.
We have already received massive support for this dispute - as soon as the strike was called we started getting messages of support. During our strike in January we had loads of support from other call centre workers in the private sector - pleased that someone was standing up for them - enthused to get more organised and unionised.
We also got messages of support from other public sector workers pleased that we were taking a stand against the kind of terms and conditions squeeze they were feeling because of the cuts. Everyone supports this strike because everyone wants to know that if they had to ring the Jobcentre they would get a good service and nobody thinks that anyone should be timed when they go to the toilet.
Support the strike. Together we are stronger. Together we will win.

See the article here:

And for local information on the strike in Bristol:

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

NSSN: Saltend workers lock out update

On Sunday 10 April, at ACAS talks, Vivergo refused to talk to union officials representing the 400 locked out Redhall workers, unless they called off the daily protests at BP Saltend, near Hull. 
The next day, Monday 11th, Vivergo got their answer when Redhall workers blockaded the gates, then invaded and closed the site, and later blocked the roundabout causing traffic to tail-back miles to the city centre. 
Whilst last Wednesday’s call for solidarity strike action at other construction sites did not come off, delegations joined the Protest at the gates from West Burton, Conoco, LOR and Drax, and the Teeside lads picketed ICI Wilton causing 3-4 mile tail-backs. 
And in a show of solidarity, the Interserve and Doosan repair and maintenance workers at BP Saltend refused to cross dispute lines and stayed out all last week. Also the electricians and scaffolders who had been put on “gardening leave” for 4 weeks refused to cross on Thursday and Friday when called back to work.
Employers are now threatening sackings of those standing in solidarity with Redhall workers.
The trade unions must make it clear that if any other worker is sacked as a result of this action, then the whole industry will be brought to a halt. We cannot allow victimisation of workers taking basic trade union solidarity action.
Pressure from below has finally forced an emergency (after 6 weeks!) NECC national industry stewards meeting to be called for next Monday 18th in Leeds specifically to discuss the Vivergo/Redhall lockout.
This meeting must take the bull by the horns. The lockout is a blatant attack on the NAECI agreement and TUPE rights. If Redhall workers are not re-employed, then this will give the green light to all employers to attack and sack other construction workers.
The NECC must name the day for a national stoppage of all NAECI sites. Stewards at all sites  should invite Redhall workers to mass meetings to explain what’s really happened and dispel the myths and rumours that have been circulating. This will prepare the way for a successful national strike which should be extended if the employers don’t back off and re-employ the Redhall workers.
BP, who have a 40% stake in Vivergo, have their company AGM in London this Thursday 14 April. Coach-loads of locked out workers are going to protest. As one Redhall worker put it “The ‘little men’ are going down to London to show them who’s boss”.

Join the protest at the BP AGM:
10:30am onwards on
Thursday 14th April 2011
outside the
Send messages of support to Keith Gibson:

RCN: No confidence in Tory Lansley

From the Guardian -

"The leader of the Royal College of Nurses has called on Andrew Lansley to "think again" after nurses overwhelmingly backed a motion of no confidence in the health secretary's handling of the NHS reforms.
Delegates at the RCN conference in Liverpool voted 99% in favour of the motion as the beleaguered health secretary struggles to persuade the public of the merits of his health reforms.
The almost unanimous dissent from an organisation traditionally seen as being more conservative in character than some of its sister unions is a major blow to Lansley's claim that most NHS staff support the proposed changes...."

Report of BADACA meeting in The Socialist

"The battle of our lives has begun" - 
Robin Clapp, BADACA press officer

In what veterans of the Bristol labour movement agree was the most inspiring public meeting since the launch of the anti-Poll Tax movement in the city in 1989, over 200 fired-up workers and young people cheered from the rafters as Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, threw down the gauntlet to the Con-Dem coalition and warned that the struggle to defend all jobs and services was only just beginning.
The marvellous 26 March demonstration was the backdrop to this gathering, organised by the Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance. BADACA has already led two hugely impressive demonstrations, both attracting over 2,000.
Our explicit opposition to all cuts has attracted an individual membership of over 900, the affiliation of almost every major trade union and four-figure donations from Unite and Unison branches.
A spirit of defiance permeated the audience, buoyed up by the news that Cameron's flagship NHS reforms have hit the iceberg. Mark Serwotka lifted the lid on a meeting he and other trade union leaders had had in Downing Street before Christmas.
Every arrogant cabinet minister sat opposite them had been a millionaire, dumbly unaware of the necessity of public services for working people. He lambasted those Labour leaders who say that some cuts are necessary, pointing out that Ed Miliband's argument for sugar-coated, slower cuts was nothing more than a poisonous recipe for division and defeat.
Mark called for coordinated strike action by the trade union movement: "If you are going to get into a fight, make sure you have as many people supporting you as possible".
At present, PCS, NUT and UCU are looking to coordinate action on the issue of pensions and he urged other public sector unions to follow suit.
From the floor of the meeting came an avalanche of examples that gave the lie to the myth that we're all 'in this together'. A worker from the Ministry of Justice pointed out that her PFI-owned office costs an incredible £650,000 to rent each month.
"Justice stops at the door of the Ministry of Justice for those who work there" she said, before going on to detail the effects of low wages and plunging staff morale.
This was a theme taken up by a worker from JobCentre Plus, who explained how management monitor your comfort breaks and threaten you with corrective training if you take too many visits to the lavatory.
Presumably your bladder is given a strict talking to, he speculated.
A probation worker drew a frightening picture of what a privatised probation service would look like, while a Year 11 school student criticised the hesitancy of those trade union leaders who failed to support the actions of young people demonstrating against university fees and the snatching away of Education Maintenance Allowance.
When I spoke I got a cheer for exposing the hypocrisy of Labour MPs like Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper who marched in London wearing suffragette sashes and then rushed into TV studios to attack those peaceful UK Uncut demonstrators who had had the temerity to trespass in the toffs' shop Fortnum and Mason.
A disabled worker recounted how his local support service has gone from providing five-day support to just two-day support since 1st April. "This is not the big society - it's the small-minded and selfish society".
He was followed by an angry pensioner, who clenching her fist throughout her fiery contribution, urged the audience to reclaim May Day from the Tories' attempts to hijack it.
An older black worker summed up the sentiment of the meeting: "To the rich I say - give it back. It's you that messed it up.
"We must take it from the top and not the bottom".
There was support for the news that the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is standing 16 anti-cuts candidates in Bristol in the local elections.
Tom Baldwin pointed out that the alternative to a Tory-Liberal government making cuts is not a Labour government making cuts.
In closing this electric rally, NUT president Nina Franklin alerted the audience to another meeting taking place next week. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber will be speaking at the Bristol Business School and for just £15 you can enjoy canap├ęs and networking with the great and the good of commerce and finance.
What a contrast, but some of us may go along... . What is clear though is that the battle of our lives has begun.
Our forces are growing and are organising across every community in the city. Like Thatcher before him, Cameron will rue the day he decided to take on everybody at once.
This nasty and brutish government shows every sign of becoming a short one as well.

TUC: Education cuts, 9k tuition fees, and now loans go up...

Using RPI to set student loans will cost graduates up to £5,000 more, says TUC

The government's refusal to change the interest rate on student loans from the retail prices index (RPI) to the consumer prices index (CPI) - despite already doing so for key benefits, tax thresholds and public sector pensions - will leave graduates thousands of pounds deeper in debt, the TUC warns today (Tuesday).
The RPI inflation figure for March, published later today, is crucial for many graduates as it is used to set the interest rate on student loans from the following September.
While some graduates are currently paying back their student loans at 1.5 per cent due to historically low Bank of England interest rates, RPI is the most common method for calculating the interest rate on student loans - and the only method for those taking out loans before 1998.
A TUC analysis has found that a graduate with a student loan of £25,000 and on the average graduate salary will pay an extra £4,800 and take two years longer to pay off their student loan if it is uprated by RPI rather than CPI.
Graduates with higher levels of debt, lower earnings growth or broken career patterns, for example if they stop working full-time to look after children, will pay an even greater amount, says the TUC...

Monday, 11 April 2011

Glenn Beck attacks the CWI

By Ramy Khalil, Socialist Alternative (CWI USA)

On the April 5th Glenn Beck program, Getting Our Fiscal House In Order,” Glenn Beck does one of his typical rants, this time blaming unions and socialism for causing governmental budget deficits. He denounces the role that socialist parties are playing in rallying workers to fight for their rights around the world, including theSocialist Party (CWI in Ireland) as well as the “Socialist Party of the UK.” These parties are the Irish and British sections of theCommittee for a Workers’ International (CWI), which Socialist Alternative in the U.S. is in political solidarity with. 

After 5 minutes and 40 seconds into the show, a very brief video of a Socialist Alternative leader Philip Locker appears where Locker is leading chants on a bullhorn at a Wisconsin labor rally. At the 8:08 mark in the show, Beck attacks the article, “Greece – Capitalist Austerity Must Be Met with Workers’ Action” from the website of theSocialist Party (CWI Ireland). At the 8:33 mark, he attacks the article, “Socialists on the 26 March Demonstration” from the website of the Socialist Party of England and Wales
This attack on Socialist Alternative is the third right-wing attack on our work in Wisconsin that we know of. Links to the two others media attacks on Socialist Alternative are included at the end of this article. If right-wing big shots like Glenn Beck are viciously attacking the labor movement and socialists, specifically our organization, then we must be doing something right! 
On his April 5th show, Glenn Beck draws links between the increasing national strikes in Europe, the revolutions in the Middle East, and the growing labor protests in the U.S. "Workers of the world unite!" he declares sarcastically, expressing fear that these growing protests pose a global threat to the global capitalist system. 
This is one of the few times when Glenn Beck is actually right about something. The global capitalist system is indeed experiencing its deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Millions of working people have been thrown out of work, had their hours and benefits cut, and been evicted from their homes. Governments are massively slashing spending on public sector jobs and services, at a time when people need those jobs and services more than ever. 
In response to the recession and these unbearable “free-market” policies, popular uprisings have toppled and continuously challenged U.S.-backed dictators across the Arab world since December 2010. Britain experienced its largest workers' demonstration in decades on March 26, 2011, a massive outpouring of 700,000 to one million workers protesting in London. 
In Wisconsin, Republicans claimed they had to balance the state budget by stripping public employees of their right to a union, provoking the largest labor protests in state history. Tens of thousands of workers organized daily rallies, one of which reached 150,000 to 200,000 people! Teachers and students also organized walk-outs and shut schools down in protest. On April 4, the labor movement organized an historic national day of demonstrations in over 1,000 cities in defense of workers' rights, the day before Beck's April 5th show. 
In his April 5th show, Beck joined the resounding chorus of media outlets blaming government budget deficits on workers, unions, and socialists who are fighting for basic economic necessities for workers. The true blame, however, belongs to the anarchistic, profit-driven capitalist system and the system’s business and political leaders. 
The federal government's deficit is a result of the economic crisis precipitated by the reckless investments of bankers and private Wall Street firms who are forced by the market system to compete in a reckless, short-sighted fashion. The deficit is also a result of the $7 trillion in taxpayer bailouts and guarantees that the Republicans and Democrats handed out to the capitalists to minimize the damage of their financial disaster. 
Right-wingers like Glenn Beck claim that the bailouts and temporary government takeovers of the banks and auto companies were socialist measures. However, socialists completely reject this claim - as well as the claim that President Obama is a socialist. 
The bailouts came at the expense of working-class and middle-class taxpayers in order to save the "free-market" capitalist system, which had utterly failed and ushered in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Presidents Bush and Obama, Republicans and Democrats, handed out trillions of tax dollars, with very few strings attached, allowing the executives who wrecked the economy to continue lavishing themselves with extremely high salaries and bonuses. 
A socialist party that was genuinely committed to the needs of the majority of people - the working class - would have protected workers' jobs, housing, and the economy in a completely different way. Socialists would have placed the banks and auto companies under public ownership and democratic control so that the working-class majority of the population would benefit from the enormous profits of those companies and banks, rather than having to foot the bill for the bankers’ mistakes. (For further explanation of a genuine socialist approach to nationalizing banks, click here.) 
Government deficits are also the result of other capitalist policies, such as the U.S. government wasting trillions of dollars on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya, (click here for socialist analysis of Libya). Wisconsin’s $137 million deficit was much made worse when the Republican governor gave away $117 million in tax breaks to corporations in January shortly after they funded his election campaign. Yet now he tries to blame the deficit on unions of public employees – on hard working teachers, nurses, and engineers. The right wing’s hypocrisy knows no end. 
Unfortunately, President Obama and the Democratic Party failed to use the enormous popular support and historically high majorities in Congress when Obama was elected to mount a serious challenge against the Republican agenda, consistently compromising away what the majority of voters hoped for in 2008. The Democratic Party has exposed its true colors as a capitalist party which is funded and controlled by many of the same corporations as the Republican Party. 
With labor struggles on the rise, now is the time to break with both corporate-controlled parties and begin building an independent mass workers' party – a party that refuses campaign contributions from the corporate elite and consistently fights for the interests of workers, oppressed groups, and the environment. 
In the face of the right wing and the ruling elite’s inevitable attacks against workers, unions, and socialists, workers cannot back down. They simply can’t afford to. Workers have no choice but to defend the right to a union – one of the only organizations workers have to defend our right to a decent living standard. 
In the face of Beck’s April 5th call for government investigations into the activities of socialists - which is completely undemocratic, we in Socialist Alternative will not compromise our principles or conceal our socialist views. We will continue to patiently explain the undeniable logic that public ownership of banks and corporations and a democratically planned, worker-controlled economy is the only solution to the economic crises which are unavoidable under capitalism. 
Only by ending the anarchy of the profit-driven competition of the global market system, can we end poverty, economic crises, war, and environmental destruction. Click here to support or join our international struggle for public ownership and democratic control of the world’s major industries so we can build a movement to create a rational economic system based on human need instead of corporate greed. 

Fight the cuts with TUSC - Vote against cuts in Bristol

In 55 local authorities there will be the chance to support candidates who will refuse to implement the cuts, this includes 16 candidates in Bristol. To find out details about our candidates visit -

Benefit Cuts Hurt Protest - Wednesday April 14th

What next after March the 26th?

Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary, speaking at the London district aggregate on the 31st March. The meeting discussed the success of the half-million strong Trade Union Congress demonstration through central London. In response to the "cold cruelty of the British ruling class", the working class has marched. Peter Taaffe described how the effect of the 26th March demo on the working class, in terms of raising confidence to fight the cuts, was like a stone dropped in a huge pond with eddies still feeding out. But the question on everyone's mind is 'what now?'

Sunday, 10 April 2011

BENEFIT CUTS HURT 3rd National Day of Protest Against Benefit Cuts


14th April  12 – 5.00pm
Government Buildings,
Flowers Hill, Brislington, Bristol, BS4 5LA

Welfare as we know it is under attack. Those claiming disability benefits are facing severe pressure as record numbers are being assessed as fit for work when they aren’t. ATOS, the company doing the tests, seems to be paid by results, putting unacceptable pressure on their workers. Support this protest, called by the Social Care, Claimants and Welfare group of BADACA, against the attack on vulnerable people.

Tory health plans are sick

By a North London Health Worker

Tory health secretary Andrew Lansley has said that the government will "pause, listen and engage" before continuing with NHS 'reforms'. For this read 'wait, spin and ignore' until after the local government elections in the hope of avoiding a drubbing.
Many media commentators have reported an apparent wavering by the Con-Dems in their plans to drive their 'Health and Social Care Bill' through parliament. This legislation represents a giant leap toward total privatisation of the NHS - with big business licking its lips at the prospect of making enormous profits. But we shouldn't be fooled by announcements that this attack may be watered down.
However, the recent show of strength by half a million organised workers on the TUC demo in London and opinion polls showing high levels of satisfaction with the NHS, have had some effect on David Cameron and his ministers. With more pressure the government may yet be forced to back down.
What's in a name? It's a curiosity of history that the Holy Roman Empire wasn't holy, Roman or an empire. Are we soon to have a National Health Service (NHS) that is neither national nor a health service but competing bodies moving steadily toward the status of private companies, some via the camouflage of 'social enterprises'?
The Tories in particular feel they have perhaps the first real opportunity to get rid of the NHS - an important and symbolic victory for socialism in our history. They are unlikely to substantially reverse direction without maximum pressure.
We must not slacken our resolve to defeat this attempt to drag us toward an inefficient and socially destructive US-style free-for-all in health care, in which workers and the poor are unable to afford private medical insurance. Campaigns and action must continue and be stepped up, especially in the workplace.
Workers in the NHS are already feeling the effects of government moves to full privatisation. Across the country nurses and other staff are finding their jobs being 'down-banded' or deleted. Services are facing massive cutbacks, particularly in specialist areas such as mental health.
A relentless series of attacks to reduce labour costs is taking place to prepare the ground for profit making. Waiting lists are increasing, elective surgery is being reduced, preventive medicine is being sidelined.
The mainstream media continues to repeat the line that health commissioning is being handed over to GPs. It is not. The commissioning function will be largely carried out by private consultancies and the big four accountancy firms.
The pressure is on the health trade unions, including the largest, Unison, to organise an effective fightback. Such a campaign must unite health workers and community campaigners in defence of the NHS as a fully publicly funded and democratically run public health service.
The government assault on the NHS is part of its general offensive to rip apart our public services and accelerate privatisation. The trade unions must come together in a 24-hour public sector general strike as a starting point to roll back the privatisation juggernaut.