Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Bristol Anti-Cuts events: NHS Emergency!

Andrew “Greedy” Lansley’s crazed plans to break-up and privatise the NHS have already started, despite Cameron’s spin that the plans are on ‘pause’.
Join BADACA supporters on the following three protests over the next week to voice your feelings about moves to turn Bristol Community Health (which provides many of our local NHS services) into a ‘Social Enterprise’, ripping up NHS contracts with staff and leaving our local services one corporate takeover away from being run for profit by some huge American health insurance company!!!
Thursday 26th May, 12 noon – 2pm: 1st Picket of Bristol Community Health Consultation – Easton –
Saturday 28th May, 12 noon – 2pm: Bristol UK Uncut – Emergency Operation – Broadmead –
Tuesday 31st May, 2pm – 4pm: 2nd Picket of Bristol Community Health Consultation – Southmead –

Indignados shake Spanish elite

John Hird, Socialismo Revolucionario, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Basque country

The movement of May 15 in Spain has shaken the political elite to its core. Leaders and candidates of the main capitalist parties, PSOE and the PP are at a loss as to what to say. The media at first patronised the young people who occupied Puerta de Sol last week, labelling them the usual anti-capitalist suspects. Even as late as last Wednesday the Spanish press was in denial about the unfolding situation. Matías Prats, a leading newsreader raised his eyebrows when he read out the headlines on the ’Spanish Revolution’ from the foreign press as if to say, ’what do they know?’
TVE had sent teams of reporters to Tunisia and Egypt to cover the Arab revolutions live yet they almost ignored the revolt taking place under their very noses. Only one station had live coverage from Madrid from May 15.
PSOE’s initial response was to hide behind the law and threaten repression egged on by the PP. The electoral commission and supreme court voted by a small majority to clear the squares. The close vote indicates that the Spanish state is not in agreement on what to do. The police unions told the interior minister, Rubalcaba, that clearing the squares was ’a bad idea.’ The police have been affected by the scale of the movement and also by the correct tactic of the demonstrators, who have fraternised with them, using YOUTUBE videos to make direct appeals to them to not intervene.
The movement has exposed the complete disconnection of the political elite from the realities of life. On the Friday before the elections when the movement made it to the top of the news it was striking to hear the difference between what the demonstrators are demanding and what the politicians are offering. Puerta del Sol is plastered with posters where people have written slogans and appeals for solidarity to the world: In English: ’PEOPLE OF EUROPE RISE UP!’ Almost spontaneously, commissions were formed and the manifesto of DEMOCRACIA REAL YA was democratically agreed. Below are some of the main demands:
“The priorities of any advanced society must be equality, progress, solidarity, freedom of culture, sustainability and development, welfare and people’s happiness.
These are inalienable truths that we should abide by in our society: the right to housing, employment, culture, health, education, political participation, free personal development, and consumer rights for a healthy and happy life.
The current status of our government and economic system does not take care of these rights, and in many ways is an obstacle to human progress.
Lust for power and its accumulation in only a few; create inequality, tension and injustice, which leads to violence, which we reject.
The obsolete and unnatural economic model fuels the social machinery in a growing spiral that consumes itself by enriching a few and sends into poverty the rest. Until the collapse.”
The news then went live to the leader of the PP, Rajoy, who was finishing a speech. As with Zapatero there was the obligatory patronising comment that it is good that young people are expressing their ideas and then to the ’politics’ as usual. Everything is PSOE’s fault and the Plazas must be cleared to protect the constitution and the day of reflection before the election. PSOE warn that things could be worse under a PP government. Rajoy and Zapatero use the same empty irrelevant phrases over and over again like two Ipods on repeat. As the youth so elegantly put it: ’¡PSOE Y PP, LA MISMA MIERDA ES!’ (PSOE AND PP. SAME SHIT!)
Thousands of small incidents underline the fact that the youth have managed to Darle vuelta a la tortilla.. (flip over the omelette) in only five days. On Radio Naciónal Española (RNE) last week a group of journalists were making fun of the young people in Puerta del Sol. Asking what they had to complain about when they could fly to London for 30 Euros. Back in their day life was really tough. A working mother phoned RNE and spoke coherently and powerfully for five minutes. She asked why RNE which is publicly funded was ignoring the demands of the young people. Why were they insulting the future leaders of the country? The ‘experts’ were speechless.
A feature of the movement has been the use of the internet to organise and offer an alternative to the PPSOE (PP and PSOE) controlled media. Following on from the Arab Revolutions it is clear that the internet speeds up events and acts as an independent organisational tool. It can also give the participants in the movement confidence that their movement is succeeding. An interesting aspect of the movement is that the TV and press became mere spectators. Always a few steps behind what is happening. The pronouncements of the government and supreme court are immediately ridiculed on TWITTER and Facebook and the call goes out for assemblies in the plazas and votes are taken and the decisions sent out via the Internet.
Despite the supreme court decision the interior minister Rubalcaba pulled back from the brink. The demonstrators voted to continue the occupations which have spread to over 150 Spanish cities and even internationally. Rubalcaba has one eye on the leadership of PSOE in the future and would not like to be the one responsible for attacking peaceful demonstrators on the eve of an election images of which would be beamed around the world.
The government back down exposes their weakness in the wake of a determined movement which in some ways is quite well organized. It is also clear that the winners of the local and provincial elections will have no legitimacy.
So, how has this situation come about? A situation where the young Spanish “democracy” is totally discredited in the eyes of probably a majority of society and definitely amongst most of the youth.
Puerta del Sol is the epicentre of the political earthquake but the tsunami has spread across the peninsula.
Spain has 4.9 million unemployed. 43% of young people cannot find a job. The TV constantly talked about the NI NI Generation who neither study or work. They were more interested in Big Brother and botellónes (drinking parties on the street) than politics. The crisis has had a devastating and shocking effect in Spain. Pensions have been reduced, services cut and most of all the feeling has spread that there is no future for this generation of young people. Banks have started repossessing homes as people cannot afford their mortgages. The anger at the system and especially the banks has been bubbling away under the surface for a long time.
There is also widespread contempt for and anger at the politicians of PPSOE for their corruption and lack of confidence in the electoral system. Elections are choreographed sterile affairs with a lot of slick advertising but little substance. In the Basque Country, the main parties have given up on promises and keep it simple with enormous billboards with photos of the candidates with meaningless slogans such as “PREPARED” or “READY”. It is politics without any actual politics and shows the contempt the politicians have for the people. The list system perpetuates the election of hacks who are in it only for themselves. Scores of candidates on PSOE and PP lists have actually been charged with corruption or some sort of misdemeanor. When a politician is actually convicted of corruption they sometimes but not always resign. The problem is the same party just replaces them with another person further down the list. For that reason the movement is calling for clean and open lists and other democratic reforms.
The President of the Comunidad of Valencia is accused of accepting designer suits in return for political favours. In his last four years in power he has only deigned to do two press interviews.
So why did the movement develop now and in this way? The two main Spanish unions CCOO and UGT had organised a General Strike previously but it was a half-hearted affair, from their point of view. The leaders of the unions are generally seen to have been collaborating with the PSOE government. Socialists would generally expect from past experience that such a mass movement would first develop through the trade unions or at least in the factories and workplaces, but in this case it has not happened. It is clear that the young people have found a way round and over the road block set up by the leaders of the trade unions. Now it is important for the youth movement to link up with the workers in the factories and work places.
The movement seems to have taken an anti capitalist direction without a clear socialist consciousness amongst the Spanish people or indeed the existence of strong socialist parties. This shows us that the seeds of revolution and socialism exist in capitalism and that the experience of life under the rule of the banks pushes the mass of people into opposition to the system. People know what they are against and are now edging their way towards seeking an alternative.
Some of the most inspiring aspects of the movement have been the optimism of the youth, their ability to organise and indeed their hopes and dreams. Socialists are inspired by events in Spain.
The PP are declaring a massive victory over PSOE who they beat by 6% and are whipping themselves into a frenzy of triumphalism. On an election night as Rajoy saluted his party they chanted ‘¡BILDU FUERA!’ ("Bildu out!"). Bildu, in only a couple of weeks of legality, has become the second force in Basque politics. The attitude of the PP faithful does not augur well for the future and a victory for the PP in the general elections will surely heighten tensions around the national question.
The election results are a blurred photo of a moment in time and do not tell the whole story. 33% of the population did not vote. The PP got 24% of the votes of people who bothered to vote (1 in 4) while PSOE got 18%. IU had a slight increase in their vote but not as much as it could have been if they had taken a clear anti-capitalist position.
BILDU in the Basque Country are now the first force in Guipúzcoa, second in Vizcaya and third in Álava. They got the most votes in Donosti/San Sebastián. In Euskadi as a whole they will have 74 mayors and 953 councillors making them the most powerful force in local politics even above the Basque nationalist party PNV (Basque nationalist party). This is extremely significant as the coalition party was only legalised a couple of weeks ago. Their success in a way reflects the possibilities for genuine left wing parties. Although we would not characterise their programme as socialist they are perceived as a fighting party who will stand up for the workers in Euskadi. It is clear they received a fair few protest votes inspired by the May 15 movement as well as their traditional vote.
The election results are not going to make a fundamental difference to the situation in Spain. The May 15 movement has and will make the difference. The PP will continue on the same austerity road mapped out by PSOE but now politics has a new factor. Young people especially will stand in the way of further attacks. They are willing to struggle and have the confidence to fight back.
In Vitoria-Gasteiz last Saturday older workers spoke in front of the thousands in La Plaza. They invoked the spirit of March 3, 1976 (a City wide General Strike in response to the killing of workers by the police which was one of the key events of the “Transition” from Francoism). These workers spoke about a 35 hour week, the formation of committees in the workplaces to build for a general strike, internationalism and the need for socialism. They received thunderous applause which shows the potential for class and revolutionary socialist ideas. However there were also cat-calls from sections who dismissed them as union hacks and being part of the problem. This shows the confusion amongst some in the MAY 15 movement. In fact, the day after a banner appeared which urged people to get involved as people and not organisations and specifically mentioned unions and political groups. This is a weakness in the movement which socialists need to skillfully address.
However these weaknesses do not diminish the significance of this movement and what it has achieved in just a short time. May 15 has inspired young people and workers including internationally. Socialists should build international solidarity and follow the example of the Spanish youth rebellion.

Some slogans from the movement

Nietos en para, abuelos trabajando – Grandchildren on the dole. Grandparents working.
Esto no es botellón, es la revolución – This is not a piss up, it’s the revolution.
Roban los banco, no los inmigrantes – It’s the banks who rob, not the immigrants.
Los políticos y banqueros desde arriba nos mean. (Los medios dicen que llueve) - Politicians and bankers piss on us from above. (The press say it’s raining)
Nos habéis quitado demasiado, ahora queremos todo. - They’ve taken too much from us. Now we want it all.
Juventud sin futuro: Sin casa. Sin curro. Sin pensión. Sin miedo. - Youth without a future: Without homes. Without work. Without pensions. Without fear.
Apaga la tele. Enciende tu mente. - Turn off the TV. Turn on your mind.
Spain is not a business. We are not slaves.

Solidarity with Spain; we won't be a lost generation!

Taken from:

Youth Fight for Jobs sends its solidarity and support to the struggles of workers and young people in Spain. Internationally young people are forced to fight for a future, and from Iran to Spain are taking to the streets by the million.

A movement of millions has built up over the last few months in response to devastating cuts and the conditions facing Spanish people. Now young people have come to the fore, fighting against conditions that threaten to make them the 'ni ni' generation, no job, no house. For Spanish youth, almost half are unemployed. Devastating cuts are planned and are already being implemented. Politicians are more concerned with bailing out their big business mates than the lives of the majority of the population.

Many young people in Britain will recognise this as similar to those we face. If the politicians are allowed to get away with their brutal attacks, we will find ourselves in similar conditions. But the one thing that can stop them is by young people and workers taking the road of Spain and others, to fight back in our masses and say no to all cuts, no to mass unemployment, and for the right to determine our own future.

If there are Spanish people involved in the struggle in Britain or Spain who would like to discuss with us, or have suggestions for how we can support your movement, contact us on

The crisis that you face is the crisis that we face, an international crisis of capitalism. It is vital that we stand together across borders and fight for a future for all. We say "we won't be a lost generation! Fight for jobs and education!"

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Bristol Socialist Party meeting: Women and the Cuts - Tuesday 24th May

Bristol Socialist Party: Women and Cuts

Tuesday 24th May 2011


Cheltenham Road Library, Bristol, BS6 5QX

Public sector cuts run the risking of turning the clock back for women’s equality. Women make up two-thirds of the public sector workforce and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development estimates that 725,000 public sector jobs will be lost due to cuts. Our guest speak from Socialist Party Wales will look at how the cuts could devastate the lives of millions of working class women. Please come along and share your views.

Peter Taaffe video - Crisis on all fronts

Socialist Party video: a massive social and political revolt is brewing in Britain, argues Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary. Peter explains the crisis in the UK and argues for a socialist alternative to unending cuts, following a successful Socialist Party national committee meeting.

Spain: Video of Puerto Del Sol - 'Real Democracy Now!'

During the evening of Thursday 16 May, the opposition youth movement that is developing in Spain brought out 150,000 protesters to occupy squares in 57 towns and cities.
The youth movement - ‘Real Democracy Now’ - is continuing and spreading. Despite the attempts of the PSOE government to ban the protests, this coming weekend is expected to see a further growth of this youth rebellion. Spanish members of the CWI are intervening in the protests across Spain, for more analysis visit:

PCS conference agrees ballot for action on pensions

By Rob Williams, NSSN anti-cuts convenor -

The conference taking place this week of civil servants in the Public and Commercial Services union ( PCS) has voted overwhelmingly to start a ballot for strike action against the Con-Dem attack on public sector pensions.
General secretary Mark Serwotka, in moving the motion for the ballot, made it clear how serious the union is on this issue by saying that the ballot is not a strategy to protest, but is a strategy to win.
He make it clear that with the PCS and other unions (NUT, ATL and UCU) balloting for strike action on pensions there could be three quarters of a million public sector workers on strike on Thursday 30th June.
Also, that by appealing to the large unions that are not yet balloting, four million workers could be on striketogether in the autumn if the government doesn't back down.
Three Socialist Party members spoke in theconference debate. One of them, Robbie Faulds from Sheffield, said that he had missed Mark Serwotka's speech in Hyde Park during the 26th March TUC demonstration because with the march being so large he had still been at the Embankment where the march had assembled.
He went on to say that his PCS members had marched alongside NUT members on that day, and should strike with them on 30th June. In reply to a solitary speaker who advocated that the ballot should be delayed until the autumn, Mark Serwotka said that 'if we go at the speed of the slowest union to take action, thousands of workers will have lost their jobs and pensions will already have been cut.
This motion is designed for taking action before it is too late'. The Socialist Party and the National Shop Stewards Network have been arguing that there should be solidarity demonstrations in every city on 30th June that can reach out to involve workers whose unions are not taking action yet and bring them on board for taking action in the autumn.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The final furlong? BA Cabin Crew offered new settlement

A mass meeting today of Unite cabin crew at BA members agreed to ballot the wider membership in regard to the companies latest offer to settle the long running dispute. According to an official statement from Unite, the union will be recommending acceptance of the offer, which includes the restoration of staff travel.
Further analysis of the deal will follow once it becomes available.

Pay more, get less, retire older? No way! Teachers vote yes!

NSSN Conference - Saturday June 11th 2011

Form more info and to book tickets visit:

The mighty TUC demonstration on March 26th showed once and for all that workers in Britain are prepared to fight when well over 500,000 demonstrated in London. The NSSN is holding its 5th annual conference 19 days before 800,000 workers could take strike action on June 30th against the ConDem coalition’s attacks on public sector pensions. This year our conference will be discussing the practical steps that union reps and activists can take to make sure that on the strike day every city in Britain is filled with marching workers - sending a warning to the ConDems that the next step should be a one day general strike to stop them trying to make us pay for the bankers' crisis.
The NSSN was initiated by the RMT in 2006 to try and build a real rank and file organisation in the trade unions. It has already shown its potential as an organiser of solidarity in early 2009 in the private sector disputes in Lindsey Oil Refinery, the Visteon occupation, Linamar and Vestas. This year, alongside our work in the anti-cuts movement, we have supported the 400 locked-out workers at BP Saltend in Hull, the blacklisted workers at the Olympic site, the victimised RMT tube workers and many other disputes.
Come to the NSSN conference and link up with hundreds of other workers facing the same issues in the workplace - in the private and public sector. We will be running sessions on the three big issues facing workers at the moment - Fighting to defend public sector pensions, saving the NHS and fighting for the very right to strike and organise, including ending the blacklist and victimisation.
To register in advance for the conference online, go here. Alternatively, or phone 07816 134 690. Tickets cost £5.
If you'd like to stand for election to the NSSN Steering Committee, please by 12noon on Thursday June 9th.

East Bristol Socialist Party - meeting tomorrow 18th May

Wednesday 18th May 
Cross Keys Pub, 
Fishponds Road, 
BS16 3BA

East Bristol Socialist Party will host Socialist Party member and Unison activist Domenico Hill on the popular uprising in North Africa and the Middle East. 2011 has already seen the fall of two dictators, and they are not likely to be the last. There has been revolution, counter-revolution, and now the bloody intervention of Western military force in Libya, with recent events in Syria exposing the hypocrisy of these ‘humanitarians’. But what are the prospects for these mass movements? How can Socialists support their struggle for a better world? For more info contact

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Government admits that privatisation doesn't work - at least for wine...

Government wine cellars have been in the news recently, spun both ways with some sources saying the cellars have avoided the government axes, while others using the same story to say it represents proof that we really are "all in this together"!
Now we know that is too hard to swallow, but not as hard as the top Tory Henry Bellingham who is quoted by the BBC - "...this is a resource that's used by government for government hospitality, for business hospitality, for visiting heads of state. If we sold the cellar we'd have to go out there and buy wine and ultimately that would be much, much more costly." In other words, privatisation doesn't save money and doesn't work! Well the Socialist Party could have told the government that. So why not apply that logic to the NHS, prisons, schools, etc? And while they are at it, the railways, utilities and all the other services and industries that have been flogged off over the years. Privatisation is legalised theft!

Hardest Hit protest - Defend disability rights!

Thousands of people with disabilities, along with their families, carers, supporters etc, protested in central London on 11th May against government spending cuts.
Photo by Paul Mattisson - for more photos of the demo see here

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Great results for the left in PCS NEC elections

The left-wing Democracy Alliance has had a resounding success in the Public & Commercial Services Union NEC elections, increasing it's majority, including over 10,000 votes for Bristol local election candidate Mark Baker who stood for TUSC in Frome Vale last Thursday. This will strentgth the PCS in leading a militant fightback against the ConDem cuts. The Bristol Socialist Party looks forward to participating in and supporting the co-ordinated strike action that PCS has called for.

BADACA meeting: Monday 9th May 7.30pm

Circular from Bristol & District Anti-Cuts Alliance:

The next BADACA Open meeting is on Monday 9 May, 7.30pm, Hamilton House, Stokes Croft


This will be an important meeting with big issues and events to discuss (see below). Please try to come along.

Minutes of previous meeting
Matters arising
Reports from groups and related activity
Day of Action
BADACA Conference
Policing in Bristol (Although we are unconcerned as an organisation with the Tescos issue, the standard of policing in Bristol does affect us as an organisation which holds protests. We may wish to issue a public statement on recent events)
Election of Organising Secretary

Saturday, 7 May 2011

UK Uncut and the anti-cuts UK movement

Article by Hannah Sell, from the latest issue of Socialism Today:

Half-a-million participated in the TUC demonstration against the cutbacks on 26 March, a clear indication of the potential power of Britain’s organised working class. Numerous other protest movements have also emerged. UK Uncut, for example, mobilises a radicalised layer exposing big-business tax evasion. Some commentators, however, claim that this is a ‘new model’, in opposition to coordinated strike action and democratic mass campaigns. HANNAH SELL explains that this view poses a danger to the struggle to defeat the attacks of this right-wing government.

JUST TWELVE MONTHS ago, Britain was a completely different country than it is today. The political landscape has been transformed. For a few months it seemed, superficially at least, that there would be no serious resistance to the austerity assault of the Con-Dem government. But the surface calm could not last. First to break it were the students and school students. Over a month in the winter of 2010 young people took to often snowbound streets in their tens of thousands. This was the biggest student movement for a quarter of a century, characterised by audacity, inventiveness and raw class anger at the millionaire, privately-educated ministers who were tripling student fees and axing the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

If the student movement was the overture, the massive – half-a-million plus – trade union demonstration on 26 March was the thunderous opening of the main act. Drawn into activity by the winter movement many tens of thousands of students took part in that demonstration.
The October 2010 launch and subsequent growth of UK Uncut are directly related to the student movement. Most, but by no means all, UK Uncut activists are radical young people. UK Uncut says: "We start with some simple points of agreement. The brutal cuts to services about to be inflicted by the current government are unnecessary, unfair and ideologically motivated… A cabinet of millionaires have decided that libraries, healthcare, education funding, voluntary services, sports, the environment, the disabled, the poor and the elderly must pay the price for the recklessness of the rich".
"Austerity-economics is the policy of the powerful. It cannot be stopped by asking nicely. We cannot wait until the next election. If we want to win the fight against these cuts (and we can win) then we must make it impossible to ignore our arguments and impossible to resist our demands. This means building a powerful grassroots mass movement, able to resist the government cuts at every turn. UK Uncut hopes to play a small part in this movement".
UK Uncut initiates protests in banks and high street shops – Vodafone, Topshop, BHS and others – whose owners are tax evaders or avoiders. Particularly targeted are stores owned by Philip Green, boss of the Arcadia retail group and a government advisor on where to wield the axe, who enjoys a £4.1 billion fortune.
Protests organised by UK Uncut have received widespread publicity and have caught the imagination of many. Alongside others – in particular, the PCS civil servants’ union campaign pointing out that £120 billion goes uncollected in tax every year – UK Uncut has helped to counter the government’s propaganda that there is no alternative to cuts.
The most powerful weapon
THE SOCIALIST PARTY shares much of UK Uncut’s approach, in particular its understanding that a mass movement can defeat the cuts. We would not, however, agree with the view of some of its adherents who argue that UK Uncut and similar initiatives represent something completely new which, unlike ‘more traditional’ methods of organising, offer the means to defeat the cuts. Radical journalist, Laurie Penny, for example, wrote: "What we are seeing here is no less than a fundamental reimagining of the British left: an organic reworking which rejects the old deferential structures of union-led action and interminable infighting among indistinguishable splinter parties for something far more inclusive and fast-moving". (The Guardian, 24 December 2010)
Penny concluded: "For these young protesters, the strategic factionalism of the old left is irrelevant. Creative, courageous and inspired by situationism and guerrilla tactics, they have a principled understanding of solidarity. For example, assembling fancy-dress flash mobs in Topshop to protest against corporate tax avoidance may seem frivolous, but this movement is daring to do what no union or political party has yet contemplated – directly challenging the banks and business owners who caused this crisis".
Many of those involved in anti-cuts direct action would not agree. Nonetheless, the ideas she expresses represent a developing political trend within the student and anti-cuts movement. If these ideas were to become dominant among young anti-cuts activists they would disarm a generation, and isolate them from the mass anti-cuts movement that has begun.
The TUC demonstration, the biggest workers’ demonstration since the second world war, showed graphically the mobilising power of the ‘old structures of union-led action’. It was direct action on a far higher level than ‘fancy-dress flash mobs’. The demonstration should have taken place earlier – by 26 March many jobs and services had already been lost. The delay by the TUC leadership left a huge vacuum. This is one reason that UK Uncut captured the imagination of a layer of youth and workers desperate to see something done against the cuts. However, the authority of the trade union leaders among broad sections of the working class meant that, while UK Uncut has mobilised a few thousand, the TUC mobilised over half-a-million. If the TUC was to harness that power and determination into a call for a one-day general strike, there is no doubt it would receive a huge response.
The working class, and in particular the organised working class in the workplaces, is key to the movement to defeat the cuts. Big sections of the middle class will also join the anti-cuts movement. Community campaigns have an important role to play, too. But it is the potential collective power of the working class in the workplaces which is the anti-cuts movement’s most powerful weapon.
The power of the working class has been demonstrated in the revolutions unfolding in North Africa and the Middle East. In Egypt and Tunisia, the dictators were forced to flee when the working class came out on strike and threw its weight behind the movement. In Britain, a 24-hour general strike, even of the public sector in the first instance, would be mass direct action on the highest level Britain has seen in many decades. It would terrify the government and give enormous confidence to working-class people to step up the fight back.

UNFORTUNATELY, IT WAS clear from the platform speakers on 26 March that the majority of national trade union leaders want to send the movement back to sleep, not step up the struggle. The verbal support that TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, has given for ‘peaceful direct action’ – "the days of protests being solely about unions going on strike are over" – is also a warning that some union leaders may support organisations like UK Uncut to try appear more ‘radical’ while, in reality, hiding behind them to avoid organising effective strike action. They will not succeed.
Several trade unions, including PCS, the UCU lecturers’ union and the National Union of Teachers (NUT), are planning to co-ordinate strike action at the end of June. The PCS is demanding that the TUC calls regional midweek demonstrations on the first day of co-ordinated strike action. The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) is campaigning throughout the trade union movement for other public-sector unions to join this action. What should be the role of UK Uncut activists in this situation?
The most effective approach would be to orient towards the union movement, and to campaign for the idea of co-ordinated strike action across the public sector. Where based in schools, colleges and universities, UK Uncut activists could work to make sure that school students and students strike together with public-sector workers. Alongside this, UK Uncut could orient towards communities facing the closure of their services and assist them in their campaigns, encouraging them to organise occupations of swimming pools and libraries, etc, threatened with closure.
This does not mean that direct action by small groups (like the Topshop flash mobs) has no role to play in publicising the rich’s failure to pay tax. Long before the term was coined, direct action was part of many struggles: from the suffragette movement for women’s rights to the battle against the poll tax. When deciding if direct action by small groups will be effective or not, however, we must always assess whether it will increase support among the mass of the working class and oppressed, or undermine it. A small minority attempting to stop the cuts by acting on behalf of the mass of the working class will never succeed, no matter how heroic its actions. Direct action is useful if it helps to build a mass movement. If it does not, it isn’t.
In the aftermath of the 26 March demonstration the capitalist media initially conflated UK Uncut’s peaceful occupation of Fortnum & Mason with the small minority of protestors (not related to UK Uncut) who smashed shop windows as a means of protesting against cuts. In contrast to the TUC leadership, which wrongly condemned all violence by protestors without a word about the violence of the police in manhandling peaceful demonstrators, UK Uncut spokespeople refused to condemn anyone, saying that it is up to individuals how they choose to protest against cuts. This was honourable, but it would have been far better to have also used the opportunity to positively explain an effective strategy to defeat the cuts. This would have meant explaining that UK Uncut understood the anger of a layer of desperate young people and that smashing windows is less serious than this government smashing young people’s futures.
Nonetheless, smashing windows, in particular intimidating low-paid shop workers, is not an effective method of protest. And it gave a weapon to the capitalist media and the government to try and undermine the impact of the demonstration. UK Uncut could also have explained that it is unlikely to be a coincidence that only eleven of the ‘window smashing’ protestors were arrested, whereas 138 peaceful UK Uncut protestors were held for 24 hours. Given how politically useful it was for the government to be able to point to ‘violent protestors’ it is highly probable that there were undercover police acting as agent provocateurs among the window smashers. One demand of the movement should be for the state to reveal where their undercover officers were deployed on the day.
Lack of democracy
UK UNCUT IS limited in the strategy it puts forward because of its lack of a democratic structure through which it can discuss and agree an approach. UK Uncut operates without structures on the basis that anyone who wants to can organise a UK Uncut protest and advertise it on their website. This has advantages, making it easy for people new to protest to organise such an event. However, it also has limits. It is not, as Penny and others suggest, a fundamentally new and non-hierarchical way of organising, which is better than ‘the old structures’. In fact, similar ideas have existed for as long as there has been a struggle against capitalism. The history of the last 30 years means that they have been particularly prominent in the last period.
A decade or so ago the same kinds of direct action and methods of organisation dominated the anti-capitalist movement which developed from the 1999 Seattle demonstrations against the World Trade Organisation. In some senses the anti-capitalist movement was more developed politically than UK Uncut. Today, the profound crisis of capitalism has led to a far wider questioning of the system than existed a decade ago. But UK Uncut’s demands are more limited than those of their predecessors. The May Day anti-capitalist protests in Britain, for example, the biggest of which was around 10,000 strong, were organised around the slogans, ‘break the banks, cancel all debt’, and ‘carnival against capitalism’, considerably broader in scope than UK Uncut’s demand that the rich pay their taxes.
While the anti-capitalist movement was an important step forward, after a period of time, it came up against its political and organisational limitations. It burst onto the scene after several years of extremely low levels of struggle by historical standards. Understandably, given the legacy of the Stalinist dictatorships and the record of right-wing trade union and labour movement leaders, scepticism towards organisation and fears it would lead to bureaucracy were very strong. ‘Spontaneity’ and lack of structures were therefore held up, as they are by Penny and others today, as superior to, and more democratic than, ‘traditional organisation’.
But the lack of a democratic organisation within which anti-capitalist activists could discuss and take decisions on strategy meant that the anti-capitalist movement remained inchoate and without any clear idea on the way forward. In Britain in 2001, the biggest anti-capitalist May Day demonstration was kettled by the police for nine hours. In response, the organisers simply declared that they would not be calling any more May Day demonstrations, unilaterally deciding that the state had defeated the protests.
Effective organisation, effective action
THIS ILLUSTRATES THE fact that organisation is a vital prerequisite for democracy. It is a myth that any demonstration takes place entirely spontaneously. Every event is organised to some degree. For UK Uncut protests, for example, people update websites, write and print leaflets, and so on. However, without organisation and democratic structures, there is no way to take part in collective decision making. ‘Self-organisation’, far from preventing the development of leaders, as its advocates claim, simply means that the people taking the decisions – regardless of whether those decisions are good or bad – are not accountable to the movement.
Today, some aspects of the scepticism towards political organisation are even deeper than they were a decade ago. The experience of thirteen years of New Labour in office, followed by the Lib Dems joining the Tories in coalition, has hardened the idea that all politicians act in the interests of the rich and powerful. Of course, this is true of all capitalist politicians. But the answer is not to turn away from political organisation but for the working class to organise its own party.
The failure of the massive anti-war demonstration in 2003 to stop the Iraq war has also been embedded in the consciousness of young people and has encouraged the idea that ‘new’ methods of organisation need to be found. Yet, that demo came within a hair’s breadth of forcing Tony Blair to pull back from supporting the war. He had even warned his children to pack their bags as the family might be leaving 10 Downing Street. If, as we demanded at the time, the trade union leaders had called for a day’s strike against the war, Blair would have been forced to retreat.
This could not have been done using ‘self-organisation’, which is very limited from a purely practical point of view. Collective decision-making – where a debate takes place, a vote is taken and a majority decision reached, which is abided to by all – is a basic prerequisite for effective action. It is clearly crucial, for example, if a strike is to be successful.
Some would argue that these criticisms are merely the ‘strategic factionalism of the old left’. But there is no dogmatism here. New ideas will be thrown up by the movement, and are welcome provided that they take the struggle forward. However, the battle to defeat the cuts is the most serious the working class has faced in decades. If we fail, living standards will be driven back to the level of the 1930s. Therefore, discussion to work out the right strategy, tactics and methods of organisation is not ‘interminable infighting’, but absolutely essential.
On one level, the demands of UK Uncut are very modest – that the rich should pay their taxes. If they were to do so, as PCS has worked out, it would virtually wipe out the budget deficit. But the rich are not about to cough up. Protests in shops have the power to publicise the issue but not to make the rich pay. UK Uncut supporter, Johann Hari, was naïve when he wrote in The Independent: "The more protests there are, the higher the price. If enough of us demand it, we can make the rich pay their share for the running of our country, rather than the poor and the middle class". (29 October 2010)
Demanding workers’ control
THE RICH SHOULD pay their taxes and the levels of tax they pay should be massively increased. However, capitalism is a system based on the exploitation of the majority in order to maximise the profits of a few. Capitalists will never meekly accept increased regulation and taxation. In the past, when minimal measures were taken against them, capitalists in Britain threatened a strike of capital. Labour Party governments, because they remained within the framework of capitalism, were forced to retreat.
To be effectively implemented, even the demand for the rich to pay the tax they owe would require state control, the complete nationalisation of the banking and finance industry. This would need to be combined with the control and checking of the import and export of capital. Even this would be ineffective unless it was accompanied by strict workers’ control and management of these nationalised industries. Left to themselves, the capitalists will find a thousand and one ways to escape measures to control them. Hence the need to link UK Uncut’s demands to a socialist programme of nationalisation of the banks and financial sector under workers’ control and management, with the participation of consumers and small businesspeople. To achieve these demands will require that the working class has its own democratic party which can draw together the different layers of the working class and fight for a programme in its interests.
The struggle against the cuts is also linked to the struggle for socialism. UK Uncut states that the cuts are "unnecessary, unfair and ideologically motivated". There is no doubt that an ideological desire to finish what Margaret Thatcher began is an element in the zeal with which the Tories are pursuing the cuts. However, across Europe there are governments of ex-social democratic parties (equivalent to New Labour) in Greece, Spain and Portugal, and right-wing capitalist parties in France, Germany and Italy, implementing cuts that are virtually identical in their brutality. The cuts flow from the drive by the capitalists to offload responsibility onto the working class for the profound crisis of capitalism which began in 2007/08. They are determined to drive the cuts through. This does not mean they cannot be stopped. Faced with a powerful mass movement that threatens the capitalists’ rule, they would have no choice but to retreat. However, in its relentless pursuit of profit, capitalism would then come back with other ways of making the working class pay, for example, through inflation.
A new generation has been thrust into activity over the last four months. Many are looking to the organised working class in the trade union movement for a lead in the struggle against cuts. A significant minority are drawing socialist conclusions. Others, understandably frustrated by the delaying tactics of right-wing union leaders, are looking for other methods of struggle. While many are a useful addition to the struggle, if they take the form of shortcuts, aiming to substitute a small minority for the building of a mass movement, they will represent a dead end.

Nigeria: 2011 General Elections

Statement and analysis from the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI Nigeria)The 2011 General Elections and the Working People

On three different dates, April 9, April 16 and April 26, Nigeria held the general elections to elect politicians that would control power at central and state levels for the next four years. For a country of about 150 million people in which over 70% of its citizens live on less than $2.00 per day, a foremost organ of international capitalism, "The Economist" of London of April 14, 2011 complains that "the process has been expensive: the government has set a record for public spending on elections of $580million". Another foremost organ of international capitalist, the Financial Times of London, in its own publication of April 28, 2011 put the official cost of election at $647million. However, for most bourgeois commentators, including foreign political leaders in the West and Africa, the 2011 general elections is portrayed as the most "credible, free and fair" electoral contest in Nigeria, most especially since 1999 when the current civilian rule started. If for now, we leave out the massive violent protests which greeted the post April 16, presidential election in certain parts of the country, the preponderant opinions of most politicians, domestic and international observers together with the overwhelming reports by both print and electronic media, tend to agree that the 2011 general elections were the "most credible, free and fair" elections conducted since the 1998 when the current civilian dispensation started.

Unlike the 2007 general elections, which the then President Olusegun Obasanjo openly declared as a “do or die affair” for the PDP and the leadership of INEC as personified by its Chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu adopted and mostly exhibited a “go to hell” disposition towards voters with visible bias towards the PDP and other major ruling parties, this time around the entire electoral processes were preceded by repeated pledges from both President Goodluck Jonathan and Prof. Attahiru Jega, the new electoral commission chairman, that they were committed to organize a credible free and fair elections. Of course, this disposition was largely informed by the general societal revulsion felt towards the 2007 exercise by most Nigerians and even domestic and international observers. Also noticeable in the elections under review was the remarkable, peaceful and orderly conduct of most voters during the exercise. In fact, during and throughout these elections, the electronic media, most especially beamed pictures of voters across the country queuing up peacefully and in an orderly manner for accreditation and voting exercise, with several on-the-spot interview of voters and electoral officials of how “smoothly” everything has been going on. Unlike in previous elections, voters were consciously urged this time around, by the electoral commission, not only to vote, but also to wait for the counting of the votes before leaving the polling centres. Nevertheless there was officially only a 53.7% turnout in the April 16 presidential vote when just under 39,500,000 ballot papers were cast.

As we write, bourgeois analysts of different persuasions both locally and internationally have continued to pour encomiums on President Goodluck Jonathan and the INEC Chairman, Prof. Jega for having promised and actually conducting credible, transparent, free and fair elections. Notwithstanding this, certain political parties and politicians, most especially within the opposition group, have alleged many irregularities which negatively affected a free and fairness of the entire exercise. As noted before, the outcome of the presidential elections had also witnessed serious violent protests and demonstrations in certain parts of the north of Nigeria, leading to killings of hundreds, burning of churches, mosques, palaces of emirs and politicians suspected to be close to the PDP, the ruling party at the centre since 1999...

Read more:

TUSC local election results

Total number of candidates: 144
In addition there were 18 Socialist Alternative candidates in Coventryand eight Democratic Labour Party candidates in Walsall who have endorsed the TUSC local elections policy platform but are appearing on the ballot paper under their established electoral names.  Their results are listed in the West Midlands region. 

1226 votes for Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts in Bristol

Results are in and TUSC Against Cuts got a respectable 1226 votes across the 16 Bristol seats. Although we did not win any seats, we raised the level of the debate considerably in this campaign by being the only party to consistently argue for no cuts to jobs and services. Tories, Liberals and Labour all pushed an agenda of massive spending cuts and neo-liberal market policies, but we stand firmly against those spending cuts just as we stand against Councils that faithfully implement those cuts, whatever their political complexion. We have argued that the spending cuts are neither fair nor necessary and that ordinary people should not be paying for an economic crisis that they did not create, and we will continue to do so. The anti-cuts movement must now take this message into every community and every workplace, building for co-ordinated strike action and resistance to every single cut the council tries to make. On every issue the coalition has been tested and has shown to be weak, it can be broken and the cuts can be stopped. Help us in this struggle, get involved in building the Anti-Cuts Alliance, join with us in the Socialist Party.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

China: The Socialist - 10th issue of banned Chinese Marxist magazine out now

The tenth issue of Socialist magazine is now available. Already over 100 copies were sold on May Day demonstrations in Hong Kong and Taipei. Hundreds in mainland China will receive the magazine electronically as the deepening crackdown makes it impossible to distribute the printed version – Marxist ideas and publications like Socialist magazine are banned in “communist” China with serious consequences including inprisonment for “offenders”.

“We are very proud the magazine has come out for a tenth issue, under very difficult conditions,” declared a member of the production team. “We have made a lot of progress since the first issue appeared in January 2009, with more contributors and translators, new layout, and a stronger financial base – thanks to so many generous contributions from supporters and well-wishers. This is despite a massive police crackdown in China right now,” he said.

The editorial of this issue focuses on the new wave of arrests in China, including well-known artist Ai Weiwei. There is a feature section against nuclear power looking at the Fukushima disaster in Japan, Chernobyl 1986 and an article by Qiu Qing on China’s nuclear expansion plans. Gou Paixia looks at Hong Kong’s new minimum wage law and Zuo Ren examines the debate over mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong. This issue includes an in-depth interview with two public hospital doctors about Hong Kong’s hospital staffing crisis and doctors’ grievances. There are also features on China’s economy and the war in Libya. Other contributors to this issue include Rob Jones, Peter Taaffe, A Chou, J. M. Roy and Vincent Kolo.

Monday, 2 May 2011

US forces kill Osama Bin Laden

By Tony Saunois, International Secretariat of the CWI

The US government has announced a successful military assault on a large mansion in Abbottabad, near Islamabad, which has resulted in the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

Significantly, the complex where the killings took place was very close to the Pakistani Military Academy in an extremely wealthy area largely populated by retired military officers. This points to the fact that sections of the Pakistani state machine around the secret services, ISI, and especially retired military officers have colluded with Al-Qa’ida and Bin Laden and the Taliban.
This operation represents a further development in US imperialism’s foreign policy of targeted assassinations of its opponents. This strategy is enthusiastically backed by the former commander of US troops in Afghanistan and current CIA chief, General Patreus, dubbed a policy of “hot pursuit”. It follows recent attempts to assassinate Gaddaffi in Libya. They imagine that by the removal of one man they will resolve the problem.
While Bin Laden opposed both Mubarak and Ben Ali in Egypt and Tunisia the mass uprisings in those countries have clearly demonstrated that it is mass movement and not the methods of terrorism which show a way forward. The use of terrorist methods arise from a defeat rather than show a way forward to struggle against brutal regimes or imperialism.
Marxists and socialists lend no support to Bin Laden or Al-Qa’ida, either ideologically or the vicious terrorist methods they have used. Yet US imperialism in confronting a struggle against a Frankenstein monster which it created itself particularly through its support for such forces in Afghanistan in the 1980’s. Later Bin Laden and other forces were boosted by imperialism’s support for rotten corrupt regimes in some Muslim countries.
Bin Laden employed the use of terrorist methods, including mass terrorist methods which caused devastating slaughter and misery for ordinary working people. Yet US imperialism and other imperialist powers by employing these methods are also pursuing a policy of state terror and are adopting a policy which is a mirror image of what they denounce Bin Laden for. The use of the lethal drones in Afghanistan and other places has caused the slaughter innocent civilians. These events show an endless cycle of violence and slaughter in which it is the ordinary working people and poor who pay the price.
US imperialism has attempted a policy of assassination in the past. Such methods were used against Castro in Cuba following the revolution. Now however, it is being increasingly justified by US imperialism as it faces a relative decline as a world power although it still remains the most powerful imperialist country. While US imperialism’s propaganda machine will attempt to portray such killings as an indication of success and a demonstration of the power of US imperialism in reality such a policy is a reflection of the weakening of the power of US imperialism. It is reduced to “quick fix” solutions to remove “rouge” leaders or opponents but is unable to resolve the underlying crisis which exist.
Obama and US imperialism have undertaken this operation in the wake of the revolutionary movements which have swept the Arab world in an attempt to reassert its influence and demonstrate its power. In the USA itself this will undoubtedly be used to strengthen Obama and divert attention away from the deepening social, economic and political crisis which exist.
The Pakistani government has claimed that it was not involved in the military operation militarily but stated that it shared intelligence and information with the US. But it is clear that sections of the military and ISI have financed and colluded with Bin Laden and the Taliban.
Rather than strengthen US imperialism in Pakistan and the neo-colonial world, in many countries, including Pakistan, it is likely to increase anti-US sentiment there and in some of the Muslim world. In particular it will strengthen opposition to the war in Afghanistan which was justified on the basis of capturing Bin Laden. The Indian government has also used this attack to try a gain some advantage for itself arguing that it shows that Pakistan is offering safe haven to terrorist forces and urging further such operations be carried out.
At the same time it is unlikely that the killing of Bin Laden will give a boost to Al-Qa’ida forces in Pakistan. This has sharply declined in recent years. Following the attacks on 9/11 Bin Laden had 40-50% approval ratings in Pakistan. However, the attacks by his forces and those of the Taliban in the urban areas and indiscriminate killings of ordinary people in bombings and shooting has led to a sharp decline. Bin Laden’s and Taliban approval ratings have fallen to 4-5% in recent polls. However, it cannot be excluded that some Al-Qa’ida forces may get a certain boost from this operation in some countries.
Many in Pakistan, including the Taliban and Al-Qa’ida at this stage are refusing to accept that Bin Laden has been killed. If confirmed it will result in a shock effect on their forces for a period.
The killing of Bin Laden will represent an important symbolic set back for its forces although it is unlikely to affect the military effectiveness of it’s forces. It is likely to result in a shock in the short term but they will undoubtedly attempt an attack at some stage.
The killing of Bin Laden will be used domestically in the US and internationally as a propaganda weapon it will not resolve any of the underlying social conditions which have resulted in the emergence of forces such as Al-Qa’ida and the Taliban. In Pakistan and parts of the Muslim world it will further undermine the position of US imperialism. The continuation of imperialist domination and of landlordism and capitalism will result in organisations like Al-Qa’ida continuing to exist as a Frankenstein’s monster for imperialism. The horrors that capitalism and the reactionary forces of Al-Qa’ida and the Taliban mean for the mass of the population can only be ended by the working class and poor struggling for a socialist alternative and the only solution to the carnage which has developed.

TUSC Against Cuts: Eve of Poll public meeting TOMORROW

Cross Keys Pub,
Fishponds Road,
BS16 3BA
Tuesday 3rd May 2011


Come along to the Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts eve of poll meeting and hear from your local TUSC candidates. In this part of the city Roger Thomas is standing in Eastville, Matt Gordon in Hillfields and Mark Baker in Frome Vale - TUSC are also standing in 16 seats across the city. We will be discussing the importance of our electoral challenge to the axemen in the three main parties, all set to hack at the living standards of ordinary Bristolians, as well as how we can take our campaign forward after May 5th. TUSC could well achieve the highest left vote Bristol has ever seen, and this will give a powerful impetus to the fightback against all cuts to jobs and services. Come along!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Stokes Croft Riots - eye-witness reports from 21st April 2011

“I arrived at Cheltenham Road at about 11.30pm. There was a peaceful crowd of around 200 and a line of riot police blocking off Ashley Road. By St Paul's Community Centre the riot police were running towards the crowds and driving them away from St Pauls. At one point on City Road some people tried to block the riot vans from herding the crowds by placing metal fences across the road. People held these fences in place and the police responded by driving their riot vans straight into the fences and consequently the people holding them. For several hours the police attempted to kettle the crowds on Cheltenham Road. On several occasions I saw the police knock people who posed no threat onto the ground with their riot shields. At approximately 2am around 10 riot vans sped up Cheltenham Road away from the crowds. The road was empty of police and this is when the Tesco store was attacked. Why did they leave Tesco’s unguarded? Was it to enable them to try and point to the riot as being against Tesco’s, when in fact it was in response to ferocity of the police assault? There seemed to be no threat of petrol bombs as I did not see a single fire engine all night”.
"When I first arrived there was only a small confrontation of between 50-100 people on Ashley rd/Bridgestock rd who having been charged by riot police, responded by throwing bottles and constructing barricades with bins. A complete overreaction by the police involving repeated charges, dogs, shutting down the whole of stokes croft, coupled with intimidation and assaults on innocent bystanders managed to turn this incident into a full scale riot. The fact that half the people there weren’t even sure how the riot started shows how they badly they handled the situation."

"I was a witness to the scenes on the streets of Stokes Croft. The actions and tactics of the police in entering Stokes Croft on a Thursday evening before the long bank holiday weekend incited and encouraged violence and chaos. I saw police riot vans driving down pavements towards people. The police used dogs, which in a confused and chaotic environment was dangerous. I also saw the police acting violently towards people who clearly had no involvement in the disorder and who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. "
Tuesday 10 May, 7.30pm at Cheltenham Road Library, BS6 5QX
“What the Socialist Party Stands For”

May Day message from the CWI: Revolution in the Middle East and Mahgreb – workers’ struggle around the globe

Fighting to end capitalism and its crisis, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) sends warm May Day greetings to workers, youth and the oppressed around the globe. Here is the CWI statement:

May Day, the traditional day for celebrating the international struggle of the workers’ movement, this year takes place against the background of the revolutionary wave in the Middle East and Maghreb countries. This has shown the mighty strength of the working class starting to put its stamp on these developments. But also other countries, the US with the tremendous developments in Wisconsin and the mass movements for example in Greece and Portugal, show that the new wave of cutbacks is being met with growing resistance.
The revolution in the Maghreb and the Middle East is still spreading from one country to another. The uprising against the regime in Syria continues. The regime there desperately clings to power using bloody repression, shooting demonstrators and jailing opposition activists. But the unrest in the region over state repression and social misery has dramatically changed both the area and international relations – and continues to do so. Demonstrators in Egypt have started a second wave of protest to achieve the objectives of their struggle: democracy and fundamental social change.
Even the regime in China – in many ways less affected by the global crisis – is trembling in fear of the Tunisian contagion. Dictators from Sri Lanka to Kazakhstan fear the effects of these revolutionary upheavals.

Defend the revolution! No to imperialist intervention!

Trying to use the international support for the Libyan people, the US, accompanied by European imperialist powers, started their armed intervention in Libya. Their objectives in the war, in which they are getting more and more involved, are to try to regain control over developments, to regain a grip on the whole region and for regime change in their interests.
They have no qualms about backing the brutal regime in Saudi Arabia and its intervention against the movement in Bahrain. The interests of the imperialist powers are not the interests of the working masses and the fighters for democracy and social change in Libya.
The solidarity of working people around the globe is needed on the side of those struggling against the brutal regime of Gaddafi but also against the imperialist intervention and war.

Stop the destruction of the planet!

On this May Day, our solidarity is also with all those workers in Japan fighting against a nuclear catastrophe and with all the people affected by the earthquake, tsunami and the following nuclear disaster. The Fukushima reactor crisis makes clear again that capitalist governments put profits before the need for even a minimum of security for the mass of the population. The earnings of companies like Tepco, the owner of the Fukushima reactors, General Electric (GE), Toshiba, Hitachi – the latter three all involved in the construction and design of this nuclear power station – were more important than the interests of hundreds of thousands or more people now affected by the ongoing nuclear accident.
Given the record of lies and the inability of the energy companies to guarantee anything other than profits for a few, the whole industry should be nationalised under democratic control and management by working people. The immediate need to organise an end of nuclear energy generation cannot be used as an excuse for not meeting the targets for ending carbon emissions to halt global warming. A socialist energy plan is needed, based on international cooperation, to bring to an end the age of nuclear power and fossil fuels.
Without a mass struggle this will not be achievable. Only a socialist transformation can ensure an end to the constant destruction of the vital components of our very existence.

Ongoing crisis

With the events in North Africa and the Middle East, this May Day sees the first wave of revolutions in the aftermath of the economic crisis that started in 2008. As it unfolded, it revealed the inability of capitalism to offer jobs, security and a decent life for the working masses.
In many countries, the answer of the capitalist governments to the deepest crisis since the 1930s is now an intensification of their policy of austerity and privatisation. Even in those countries with some kind of recovery, the accepted practice is to put the burden of the bailout for the bankers on the shoulders of the working masses in as short a time as possible.
However, the rebellion against this new wave of attacks has seen an impressive first round of battle in the USA. A mass movement sprang into action in Madison, Wisconsin to defend trade union rights and the conditions of public-sector workers. As Michael Moore put it, the Tea Party Republican Governor Scott declared “class war” and “aroused a sleeping giant”, the working people. In this small state of less than 6 million inhabitants, demonstrations of up to 200,000 showed the anger and determination that exists to defend trade union rights.
Unfortunately, the trade union leadership was more interested in rotten compromises than concretely defending working-class people. There was widespread support, both inside and outside the trade unions, for the call for a one-day general strike. Socialist Alternative, the CWI section in the USA, advocated concrete measures to make that next step a reality.
We have seen this in a lot of countries where many trade union leaders make verbal protests and, sometimes, organise mass protests and strikes simply as a way of letting off steam, not as mobilising measures for a serious struggle. The CWI fights for democratic and fighting trade unions. Wherever necessary, we have to re-build the unions to defend working-class people.

Stop the cuts - defend the public sector

Cushioned by the economic effects of China’s boom, some countries in Latin America and Africa hope to avoid being dragged into the European and North American quagmire. But the price they are already paying is the re-colonisation of their economies, returning them to the age of dependency on the export of raw materials.
The economic basis has therefore been prepared for future eruptions and new waves of resistance.
Most acute at present is the situation in Europe. Instead of fundamentally solving the crisis, the hopes of the capitalists and their governments are now concentrated on plans to avoid, or even just to cope with, a default on the part of Greece or Portugal. Their only objective is to avoid further contagion – but this is becoming less successful. The banking crisis is not solved and the sovereign debt crisis is increasing.
However, the policies of cuts have provoked a response in the form of mass resistance. In Greece, the regime of austerity has been met by eight general strikes. A general strike with ten million on the streets brought Spain to a halt. Hundreds of thousands protested in Portugal. In Britain where the trade union leadership postponed the protest against cuts for months, the final result was a show of accumulated anger with 700,000 marching on 26 March in London.
No government in Europe is stable or immune to the growing discontent. While much confusion in the consciousness of working people is still inherited from the past decades of neo-liberal offensive, the growing attacks of the capitalists and their states are forcing workers into action and into a new and developing debate about an alternative to the profit driven system.
So far these protests have not yet fundamentally blocked the attacks on living standards. Therefore, a clear plan of action to stop the immediate assault and to argue for an alternative to the crisis-ridden capitalist system is needed. This is why we argue for the nationalisation of all banks and the commanding heights of industry under workers’ control and management.
As Joe Higgins, together with Clare Daly recently elected to the Dáil (Irish Parliament) for the Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), put it: “There is a huge vacuum on the left. There is a need for a new movement to represent the working class in its widest sense”.
In many ways the workers’ movement has to be re-built to defend working class people, to fight capitalism and to struggle for an international socialist transformation of society.
The CWI in Pakistan - Socialist Movement Pakistan - was in the forefront of building a new independent trade union confederation. On this May Day, the SMP and the Progressive Workers’ Federation Pakistan are involved in the organisation of May Day celebrations all across the country.
In Kazakhstan the CWI helped to form a new trade union federation. As May Day is also the day to remember the martyrs of the workers’ movement, we have to honour all those fighters for democracy and socialism who – for example in Kazakhstan – have been imprisoned and, in many cases, tortured.
The ruling capitalist party in Sri Lanka is trying to hijack May Day by calling for demonstrations against the recent UN report which accuses them of war crimes on a mass scale. The United Socialist Party (CWI Sri Lanka) defends May Day as the day of the workers’ movement and links it to the struggle against Rajapakse’s dictatorship.
In many countries the CWI is involved in new political formations to build new mass parties of working class people.
In rebuilding the workers’ movement the CWI seeks to help to develop the best way to fight back, to organise resistance and to spread Marxist ideas within these new formations – the ideas of the CWI to end capitalism and the dictatorship of the markets.

Fighting for socialism

The struggle in North Africa and the Middle East poses the question of how to achieve a government in the interests of the working class and the poor, breaking with the framework of cuts and austerity, nationalising the banks and major multinationals which dominate the economy. Based on mass movements, such governments could open the way to democracy and socialism on an international level. This has nothing to do with the dictatorship of a privileged bureaucratic elite as was seen in the Stalinist former USSR and Eastern Europe.
In 1871, 140 years ago, when the people of Paris took power in the Commune, the working class showed its potential to lead a social struggle to change society. The workers of Paris established a model of workers’ democracy, based on elected representatives subject to recall and on a workers’ wage. It abolished the armed forces of the capitalist state and replaced them with the armed working class. The whole bureaucracy of the old state was superseded by democratic structures at all levels. “It was essentially a working-class government, the product of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of labour.” (Karl Marx, The Civil War in France)
Given the inability of capitalism to develop the productive forces to satisfy the needs of the majority, the imperialists are relying again and again on rotten dictatorships and puppet regimes to control the masses. In the struggle for democracy and social improvement, the revolution in the Maghreb and the Middle East is pushed further towards the spontaneous conclusions of the Commune.
But the task is – as it would have been 140 years ago in Paris – to completely fulfil the revolutionary tasks by the taking of power into the hands of the working class.
In 1871, a mass socialist party was missing to give the militant fighters a lead in this struggle. Our task today is still to build such a force able to offer a way of transforming society on a world scale. This is the task the CWI has set as its objective to help to develop on an international level. With its members and sections in over 40 countries around the globe, the CWI invites all those interested in socialist ideas to take part in the struggle to overcome capitalism, imperialism, war and poverty.
The capitalist crisis since 2008 has pushed working people into a new era of sharpened attacks from above. However, it is also a new era of mass movements which are increasingly challenging the ruling classes and capitalism itself. Let us build on these forces to achieve a socialist society.