Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Bristol ‘home help’ privatisation sparks protest rally on 3 September

Unite press release -

The health needs of more than 1,000 of Bristol’s home-based elderly and vulnerable residents face privatisation, Unite, the largest union in the country, has warned.

And Unite said that the move to hand in-house homecare services to private companies is ‘playing Russian roulette’ with their health, as private companies had already gone into liquidation recently.

Unite also alleges that the privatisation agenda is motivated by the Liberal Democrats, the largest group on the no overall-control Bristol city council, as ‘revenge; for the 2007 defeat of Cllr John Kiely, the then city council executive member for health and social care, who was promoting this policy, despite a 10,000-signature petition against privatisation of homecare services.

Now Unite is organising a march and rally on Saturday, 3 September to Save Bristol’s in-house Homecare Services.

Unite represents the vast majority of the 250 staff helping infirm older people, the disabled, those with mental health problems and the terminally ill to remain living with dignity in their own homes.

Unite said that the residents were already being transferred to private providers, without the option of remaining with Bristol Homecare Services, before the consultation period had been completed, and said that one of these companies had gone into liquidation – 'Care Mart' in the last month.

Unite regional officer Steve Preddy said: ”The council is playing Russian roulette with the welfare of this very vulnerable group by forcing through this privatisation agenda. It should reverse this policy immediately.

”The Bristol area does not have a great reputation for care, as the case of the abuse of mentally ill adults at the Winterbourne View Home, run by a neighbouring local authority, has proved.

”Unite believes that one of the motivations for the Liberal Democrats in pursuing this policy is as revenge for the defeat of Cllr Kiely in the Easton ward in 2007 – he was a champion of this misguided policy.

“The fact that one of these private companies have gone into liquidation recently does not engender confidence, especially as it is Bristol Homecare Services that are picking up the pieces and, ironically, providing the home help that this firm manifestly failed to do.

”Our members, not only fear for their jobs and terms and conditions, but for the welfare of the people they care about on a daily basis, year-in, year-out.

”We urge the people of Bristol, who care about the disadvantaged, to attend our march and rally on Saturday 3 September.”

Notes to news editors:

For further information please contact Steve Preddy on 07764 467 443 and/or Unite communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693 940

Details of the march and rally on Saturday 3 September.

12:30pm - gather at Greenway Centre, Doncaster Road, Southmead, Bristol, BS10 5PY

1:00pm - march through Southmead to Glencoyne Square, Southmead, Bristol, BS10

Unite also aims to hold a demonstration ahead of the next full Bristol city council meeting on Tuesday, 6 September from 17:00 on College Green at the Council House in Bristol.

Video: Bring the biggest companies into public ownership!

Monday, 29 August 2011

1911: Strike For Liberty

100 years since the 1911 railway strike
By Alex Gordon, RMT. Reprinted with author's permission from RMT News August 2011

August this year sees the centenary of Britain’s first national railway strike.  August 1911 was a turning point in trade union organisation, which created the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR), Britain’s first industrial union in February 1913 and hastened the Labour Movement's awakening everywhere. 

The causes of the 1911 strike are familiar today.  Wage levels fell 10 per cent between 1900-1910, while prices rose and bosses used anti-union laws to stop workers taking strike action. 

The August 1911 rail strike was one element in a huge upsurge of worker militancy between 1910-14 known as ‘The Great Unrest’.  Overall union membership doubled to 4.1 million.  Numbers of strike days rocketed from 2 million in 1907, 10 million in 1911 and 41 million by 1912.  The ‘Triple Alliance’ of miners, dockers and railworkers forged through industrial solidarity in 1913 became for a while the most powerful organisation ever created by British workers to fight for their interests. 

The frustration and anger of railway workers built up from 1907 when the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants’ (ASRS) ‘All Grades Movement’ to cut working hours, raise wages and secure union recognition was diverted into a ‘Conciliation Scheme’ that left pay and conditions unchanged. 

Tom Lowth, of the General Railway Workers’ Union (GRWU) said: “It does not look to me like a very satisfactory settlement” and he was right.  By August 1910 Lord Claud Hamilton, Chairman of the Railway Companies Association boasted: “The union of course is not recognised in any way.  Not a loophole as far as I can see has been left open for them.” 

The following month in September 1910 a full-scale, workers’ revolt broke out led by the South Wales Miners’ Federation against the Cambrian Coal Combine. 

On 9 January, 1911 Liverpool ship-repairers struck for better pay and the National Sailors’ and Firemens’ Union held mass meetings in London, Cardiff, Bristol, Southampton, Hull, Glasgow, Grimsby, Dublin and Manchester under the slogan “War Is Now Declared: Seamen Strike Hard and Strike For Liberty on 14 June 1911”

A 72-day national seamen’s strike began in Southampton on 9 June 1911 and spread like wildfire around British ports.  In Liverpool, Tom Mann the charismatic leader of the National Transport Workers’ Federation (NTWF) was invited to chair the strike committee.  Mann arrived at Liverpool docks on 14 June 1911, while the government sent 3,000 troops to occupy the city and anchored a Royal Navy gunboat in the Mersey. 

The ASRS leadership tried to negotiate a return to work by rail workers.  However, the rail companies were intransigent against demands for a 2-shillings per week wage increase and a reduction from 60 to 54 hours per week.  Unofficial railway strikes continued to spread from Hull, Bristol, Swansea and Manchester through June and July. 

On “Bloody Sunday” 13 August 1911 a mass strike meeting at St George’s Plateau outside Liverpool’s Lime Street station was attacked by police from Birmingham.  The Liverpool strike committee declared a general strike from midnight 14 August. 

Tom Mann announced: “A strike of all transport men of all classes; of railway workers, passenger as well as goods men, drivers, stokers.  It will mean all connected with the ferry boats, tug boats, river tender men, Dock Board men, Overhead and underground railways, flatmen, bargemen, dockers, coal heavers, crane men, elevator men, warehouse workers, carters, and in fact every conceivable section and branch of the great transport industry in Liverpool will down tools until this business is settled.” The strike initiated by seamen drew in 66,000 transport workers of all sectors who brought the Port of Liverpool to a standstill. 

The following day 15 August a joint meeting of the Executive Committees of four rail unions (ASRS, GRWU, UPSS and ASLEF) made a joint call for a national rail strike unless the railway companies agreed to immediate negotiations. 

The government offered rail bosses “every available soldier in the country” and on 17 August unions declared a national rail strike in the famous ‘liberty telegram’, which proclaimed: “Your liberty is at stake.  All railwaymen must strike at once.  The loyalty of each means liberty for all.” 

(1911 railway strike - the first in British history - commemorative medal)

Around 200,000 rail workers took strike action.  Organised attacks on parts of the rail system included 1,000 workers besieging a working signal box at Portishead, Bristol.  Tracks were ripped up and telegraph systems damaged.  In Derby troops ordered to defend the railway station fixed bayonets and charged unarmed rail workers leading to pitched battles.  In Long Eaton strikers impounded trains and it took 100 troops to release them.  Chesterfield station burnt to the ground. 

(Leicester Junction - the rail strike was strongest on the Central Railway)
The most violent scenes took place in Llanelli, South Wales.  Strikers blocked the South Wales mainline stopping the Irish Mail.  Magistrates read the Riot Act as strikers and their supporters sang “Sospan Fach” ("Little Saucepan") the song of Llanelli Rugby Club.  Troops then opened fire on the crowd killing two workers who supported the striking railwaymen. 

On 18 August the government offered a Royal Commission to discuss industrial relations and union leaders immediately called the strike off, although it took days for workers to return to work in Manchester, Newcastle and other centres. 

The Royal Commission reported in November and failed to meet any of the strikers’ demands.  However, the significance of the strike lay in its demonstration of the industrial power of transport workers acting together across shipping, docks, railways and road transport sectors.  The events of 1911 also demonstrated the willingness of railway workers of all grades to act together in solidarity to achieve their aims and undermined the grip of craft sectarianism, which the railway companies relied on to divide and rule their workforce. 

Most importantly the 1911 strike pushed leaders of three railway unions (the ASRS, GRWU and UPSS) to put aside their differences and to have the courage to start merger talks, which led in just over 12 months to the National Union of Railwaymen, one of the largest and most important trade unions in 20th century British labour history. 

Alex Gordon,

President RMT
11 July 2011

Further reading:
‘Pulling Together: A Popular History of RMT’ (available free to RMT members from );
Philip Bagwell, The Railwaymen: The History of the National Union of Railwaymen’ (London: Allen & Unwin, 1963);
Bob Holton, ‘British Syndicalism 1900-1914: Myths and Realities’ (London: Pluto Press, 1976)

Saturday, 27 August 2011

PCS: Fighting unemployment

Rising unemployment shows cuts are strangling the economy

Today's rise in unemployment figures is the latest indication that the government's austerity measures are strangling the economy and stifling the recovery, says the Public and Commercial Services Union.

Public sector job cuts and the lack of private jobs being created have helped to cause the continued rise in the unemployment rate – according to the Office for National Statistics figures for the three months to June it was 7.9%, up 0.1%. The number of unemployed women increased by 21,000 to 1.05 million the highest since May 1988.

The unemployed are facing even greater problems with the government’s attacks on welfare, including the chaos of the new welfare to work programme, as 20 jobcentres across the UK in areas of rising unemployment, whose employees have expertise built up over a number of years, face closure.

In Camberwell in south London where PCS members have been fighting a popular community campaign to save the jobcentre 6.2% of people are claimants and nearly 16 people competing for each vacancy. At Glasgow city jobcentre an area where 6.9% of people are claimants there are about 17 claimants for each vacancy (TUC figures from March 2011).

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “When unemployment is so high and the claimant count continues to rise it is more important than ever that public servants in jobcentres are given adequate resources to get people back to work. The government must remove the threat of jobcentre closures and tackle the mass unemployment that risks doing long-term damage to our economy.

“The chancellor wonders if the 50p tax rate will be effective because of tax avoidance and evasion when if he was interested in closing the £120 billion annual tax gap he would be investing in the Revenue staff to go after the big businesses and the rich and make them pay their fair share. Instead of this he is determined to continue the scandal of under-investment and let thousands of well-off people off the hook.

“By closing the tax gap and taxing the super-rich the government would be able to fund investment in council housing, renewable and public and close the deficit.

“Even billionaire investor Warren Buffett has called for the super-rich to pay higher taxes to end the US debt problems, something which the coalition and their wealthy friends in the UK appear keen to avoid.”

Libya: Gaddafi regime crumbles

By Robert Bechert, CWI -
After six long months of bloody, protracted struggle the overthrow of the dictatorial Gaddafi regime was greeted with rejoicing by large numbers of, but by no means all, Libyans. Another autocratic ruler, surrounded by his privileged family and cronies, has been overthrown. If this had been purely the result of struggle by the Libyan working masses it would have been widely acclaimed but the direct involvement of imperialism casts a dark shadow over the revolution’s future. The continuing battles in Tripoli and elsewhere indicate the instability of the current situation in Libya and also how the revolution that began there last February has, in many ways, been thrown off course.

Role of Nato

While many Libyans are celebrating, socialists have to be clear that, unlike the ousting of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, the way in which Gaddafi has been removed means that a victory for the Libyan people was also a success for imperialism. Without NATO acting as the rebels’ air force or the soldiers, weapons, organisation and training that NATO and some other countries like the feudal Qatar autocracy supplied, Tripoli would not have fallen to the rebels in the way that it has. Even the capture of the Bad al-Aziziya compound in central Tripoli was only achieved after a massive NATO aerial bombardment and an assault led by Qatari and other foreign special forces.

Now, despite their fears of exactly which way events in Libya will unfold, the imperialist powers are attempting to present Libya as a success for ‘liberal interventionism’, i.e. their right to intervene in other countries on ‘humanitarian’ or ‘democratic’ grounds. Of course, this was always hypocritical as ‘liberal interventionism’ does not apply to imperialism’s dictatorial friends and allies in Saudi Arabia, Yemen or elsewhere. The NATO powers hope that, after the disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq, they can win justification for further interventions in defence of their own interests.

Despite the involvement of large numbers of Libyans in the fighting and the mass arming of the population, there are not, so far, any signs of Libyan workers, youth and poor establishing their own independent rule over society. In fact, in a manner reminiscent of the collapse of the Stalinist regimes twenty years ago, imperialism has taken advantage of a spontaneous movement that knew what it was against but had no clear programme of its own.

Unfortunately, this overthrow of a dictator has not had the same character as the revolutions in Tunisia or Egypt, or even of the early days of the uprising in Benghazi when popular committees were established and briefly were the power in that city. Tragically, Gaddafi’s ousting was not simply the result of a popular mass movement, like in Tunisia and Egypt, forcing the dictator out. The momentum of the Libyan revolution’s early days was lost and, unlike Tunis or Cairo, Tripoli did not see one mass protest after another and strikes undermining the regime.

(Benghazi, 23 February 2011)

This was not simply due to the Gaddafi regime’s brutal repression of the mid-February protests; repression has not immediately stopped the repeated demonstrations in Syria.

The Libyan regime’s brutal reaction was not accidental; Gaddafi and his coterie feared the mass movements which were then developing in North Africa. As we explained in March: “Gaddafi’s first reaction to this year’s dramatic revolutionary events was to side with the dictatorial, corrupt autocrats. Just after Ben Ali fled from Tunisia, Gaddafi told Tunisians that they had ‘suffered a great loss’ because ‘there is none better than Ben Ali to govern’. Perhaps revealing how he viewed his own future, Gaddafi added that he had hoped that Ben Ali would rule ‘for life’.” [‘Stop the bombing – No to foreign intervention!’ 23 March, 2011.]

The Transitional National Council

Gaddafi, learning from the overthrow of Ben Ali and Mubarak, launched a counter-offensive against Benghazi and other centres of the revolution. These were certainly threatened but could have been defended by mass popular defence alongside a revolutionary appeal to workers, youth and the poor in the rest of Libya. But the self-appointed leadership of the uprising would not do such a thing. Dominated by a combination of defectors from the regime and openly pro-imperialist elements, the Transitional National Council (TNC), pushing aside the initial popular mood against any foreign intervention, looked to the imperialist powers and semi-feudal Arab states for support.

The main imperialist powers seized this opportunity to step in, justifying their intervention on ‘humanitarian’ grounds to save lives. But these same powers adopted a mild approach to the Syrian regime’s repression and maintained a virtual silence on the brutality of their close ally, the Bahraini regime. This simply confirmed that the Libyan intervention was based on a cynical calculation. Some imperialist leaders, like Sarkozy in France, sought to gain advantages for themselves, but their general aims were to establish a more reliable, pro-imperialist regime in Libya, seize a more lucrative share of Libya’s oil and gas wealth and, above all, intervene to seek to control the revolutions sweeping North Africa and the Middle East.

This intervention by the big imperialist powers, mainly the US, Britain and France, changed the situation as they attempted to establish a client opposition leadership. Under the false flag of protecting civilians, their aircraft carried out over 20,000 attacks on more than 4,000 targets in Libya.

NATO’s intervention allowed Gaddafi to rally support against what some Libyans saw as an attempt by the US, Britain, France, and others to regain control over Libya’s assets. Against this, there can be no doubt that widespread illusions were created that NATO was acting in the interests of the anti-Gaddafi revolution, an illusion that the major capitalist powers are now using as they attempt to control developments in Libya and secure the country for further exploitation.

No alternative to Nato’s intervention?

This is why the idea that the UN decision to intervene and NATO’s actions could be supported was to accept the derailing of the Libyan revolution. The idea that there was ‘no alternative’ to NATO was already disproved in the magnificent Egyptian movement that led to Mubarak’s ousting. The imperialist powers intervened for their own reasons not in the interests of the Libyan working masses and youth. Any failure to explain this as, for example, the small British AWL grouping did when it initially uncritically supported NATO’s role in the fighting in Tripoli, politically disarms the workers’ movement, leaving it unable to warn of imperialism’s intentions. The AWL has consistently supported NATO’s bombing and it now seeks to justify this by claiming the organisation of workers will be “easier” now after Gaddafi’s overthrow, something which it is not at all certain to be the case (see also: The ‘no-fly zone’, the Left and the ‘Third Camp’). In reality this is a rationalisation of their view, shameful for a self-proclaimed left organisation, that the military assault by the imperialist NATO alliance had to be supported as Libyan workers and youth had no chance on their own of defending themselves or defeating Gaddafi.

But what will happen now is not clear. The current situation indicates that there are elements, whether for political or tribal reasons, who are continuing to fight against the TNC. At the same time, there is no real unity amongst the main elements that fought Gaddafi. The population is also becoming heavily armed. This poses the possibility, even if the current battles end, of further fighting in the future, including tribal, national or religious conflicts.

Partly in view of this, we now see, alongside the start of a scramble for contracts, the main imperialist countries stepping up their intervention, including increasing talk of a ‘stabilisation force’.

Diverted revolution

However, at this time there is undoubtedly some support within Libya for NATO’s actions but this will not last. While obviously NATO has been planning for Gaddafi’s overthrow, including learning from what are now seen as the ‘mistakes’ made in Afghanistan and Iraq after the initial military victories, events will not necessarily go the way the imperialists hope. Although the combination of Libya’s small population and its oil and gas wealth will allow at least some rebuilding and social concessions, they will not automatically resolve all the issues now coming to the surface in Libya including potential regional and tribal tensions. There are also questions over the position of the Berber minority, about 10% of the population, and those who continue to support Gaddafi or, at least, oppose foreign intervention.

The very fluid situation that has now developed is, to a great extent, a result of the way in which the revolution has been diverted from a developing mass movement, with its own organisations, debates and policies, into a purely military struggle under NATO tutelage.

(Head of the National Transition Council, Mahmoud Jibril, and European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, in Brussels on Wednesday 13 July 2011)

Currently, the self-appointed TNC is attempting, with NATO help, to impose itself on the situation. But there is no guarantee that it can, in reality, do this. The TNC is currently largely a fiction. For a time, it appointed a ‘government’, but that was dissolved after the still unexplained 28 July ‘arrest’ and subsequent killing of Younes, Gaddafi’s former interior minister who became the TNC’s top military commander. Jibril, who is still being presented as the ‘head of government’ has generally been out of the country because “he fears for his own safety in Benghazi” [The Times, London, 23 August, 2011.] If "prime minister" Jibril does not feel safe in Benghazi, up to now the TNC’s main base, it is understandable that the TNC leaders hesitated over when to move to Tripoli.

The TNC itself, as we commented before, was “simply relying on a combination of NATO air power and the masses’ desire for change to secure victory”. [‘Defend the revolution! No to imperialist intervention!’ 30 March, 2011.] The TNC, based in the east, clearly lacked standing in the west, as was shown by the fighters in Misrata who rejected its authority. Whether it can now build its position and, if so, for how long, are open questions.

Alongside a Libyan national consciousness that especially developed over the last decades, many regional, tribal and clan loyalties remain despite the country now being heavily urbanised. Added to that is the position of the Berber minority, who played a crucial role in the battles against Gaddafi’s forces in the south-west and in the advance on Tripoli.

Libya itself is a relatively new creation, having been initially formed by Italy in the 1930s and again, this time under US pressure, in the late 1940s. A decline in the feeling of being ‘Libyan’ alongside a growth of regional and tribal tensions, or the development of fundamentalist Islamic forces, could pose the possibility of a break-up of Libya, even of a Somali or Yemen style development. Tribal tensions could develop as a result of any lengthy fighting if Gaddafi is able to follow the example of one of his heroes, Omar Mukhtar and the armed resistance to the Italian take over and occupation after 1911. However, against this there is the fact that one of the motive forces in the movement against Gaddafi, the young people who reacted against the stifling effect of a corrupt dictatorship, saw themselves as Libyan.
No trust in NATO, build an independent workers’ movement

For the Libyan masses, especially the youth, workers and poor, this revolution was for an end to oppression and the stifling, corrupt regime, and for higher living standards. But despite any immediate oil-funded concessions and rebuilding, these aims will, in the long run, come into conflict with the reality of the crisis-ridden capitalist economy. A new world recession would hit Libya in the same way as in the 1980s when its gross domestic product collapsed by over 40% as the oil price fell.

But to prevent the danger of a new collapse of the economy and to block the asset stripping of the country, a break with capitalism is required. The TNC is obviously not going to do this; on the contrary it is dominated by pro-capitalist elements.

From the beginning of the anti-Gaddafi uprising we argued: “What have been missing are independent organisations of Libyan workers and youth that could give a clear direction to the revolution in order to win democratic rights, end corruption and secure for the mass of Libyans democratic control over, and benefit from, the country’s resources.” [‘Stop the bombing – No to foreign intervention!’ 23 March, 2011.]

A programme for the Libyan revolution that will genuinely benefit the mass of the population would be based on winning and defending real democratic rights, an end to corruption and privilege, the safeguarding and further development of the social gains made since the discovery of oil, opposition to any form of re-colonisation and for a democratically controlled, publicly-owned economy planned to use the country’s resources for the future benefit of the mass of the people.

This is why Libyan workers and youth should have no illusions in NATO or put any trust in the TNC which is, in essence, tied to imperialism. This tie-up was illustrated in the TNC’s draft Libyan constitution, first published by the British foreign ministry, which declares that “the interests and rights of foreign nationals and companies will be protected”. But neither the TNC nor any other government based on capitalism will be able to meet the aspirations of the population in this period of world economic instability or prevent the development of a new exploitative elite.

The creation of an independent movement of Libyan and migrant workers, poor and youth that could rely on its own action and struggles to implement such a real revolutionary transformation of the country is the only way to thwart the imperialists’ plans, end dictatorship and transform the lives of the mass of the people.

To achieve these goals such a movement would need to defend all democratic rights, be against the privatisation of Libya’s assets, demand the withdrawal of all foreign military forces and oppose all foreign military intervention, demand the democratic election of a Constituent Assembly and, above all, reject participation in any government based on capitalism. Instead it would strive for a government of representatives of the workers and poor based upon democratic structures in the workplaces and communities.

The dangers facing Libya now is that the combination of imperialist domination over the new government and the absence of a movement of the workers and poor leads to the possibility of regionalist, tribal or religious conflicts.

However, as Tunisia and Egypt have shown, the mass overthrow of dictators is not the end of a revolution as the working masses strive to achieve their demands and aspirations. Although developments in Libya have taken a very different course, the demands of the masses have not gone away and in the struggle to win them lies the possible of building a socialist movement that can truly transform the country.

Unlike with Mubarak, Gaddafi’s overthrow has had a mixed response in the rest of the Middle East. Partly this is because he was seen by many as ‘anti-imperialist’ but mainly because of NATO’s role. The contrast between NATO intervening in Libya while doing nothing to stop Israeli attacks on Gaza and being allies of the Saudi and other dictatorships is clear to many. But a workers’ movement in Libya, Tunisia or Egypt that challenged both the old order and imperialism would receive a wide echo, offering the possibility of revolutions that open the way to a socialist future.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

China: Chinese regime repressing left-wing critics

For the immediate release of leftists, Lu Kun and Zhang Yaoyong • Stop the bans and breaking up of grassroots ‘red song’ concerts

Qian Lixing,

The Chinese regime has launched a new wave of suppression against the left in China. Several active leftists and Maoists have been arrested and ‘silenced’ by the police and the state apparatuses. Several grassroots ‘red song’ concerts (organised by local pensioners, workers and youth) have been banned and harassed in different provinces. The so-called “communist” (CCP) regime in China severely represses any challenge or opposition both from the left wing or the right wing. It made the CCP’s 90th anniversary more like an irony. Meanwhile, bourgeois liberal sections of the media and liberal groups in China also continue to ignore the repression of the left and Maoists in China. Very little information about the left in China can really be accessed by the outside.

According to information from various channels, Maoists Lu Kun (Online ID: Yu Hong) and Zhang Yaoyong (Online ID: Leiming Tingyu) were arrested by the police in Baoji City, Shanxi Province, and Beijing, the capital of China on 30 July.
Lu and Zhang were both active in an online Maoist group, the ‘Central Committee of Chinese Communist Revolution’, for the last three years. Lu is a computer shop owner in Baoji, and Zhang is an editor of a local press group in Beijing. When Lu made an online conversation with Zhang, he was arrested by eight policemen, who raided his flat and seized his two computers. Zhang was called by the party boss of the press he worked at soon after that, and has “been disappeared” since then.

In the recent period, the Chinese regime has harshly suppressed active and influential leftists and Maoists so as to prevent the spread of left and radical ideas. Many left-wing online groups and web-forums, including Trotskyists and other socialist currents, as well as Maoists, have been blocked and banned.

The regime has also used the iron fist against any activists and activity in the real world (beyond internet). For instance, some leftists, including Hua Qiao, from the so-called ‘Revolutionary Party of China’, who tried to make contact and intervene in the truck drivers strike in Shanghai in April, were immediately arrested and questioned by the police, until now Hua Qiao is still under house arrest.

From 2007 onwards there has been an increase in grassroots-initiated ‘red song’ concerts in different provinces and cities. These grassroots ‘red song’ concerts are usually organised by pensioners, former SOE (state owned enterprises) workers, and young people, who are Maoists or sympathise with the former Maoist regime. The regime only tolerates such ‘red’ manifestations if they are fully under the control of officials and praise, rather than criticise, the current regime. When such events are organised outside the its control, local governments and police will try to ban or break up the concert by themselves or by employing thugs, if they cannot buy off the organisers of the ‘red song’ concerts.

This has happened in several cities such as, Luoyang and Zhengzhou in Henan province, Taiyuan in Shanxi province, Jinan in Shandong province and Xi’an in Shan’xi province. For instance, from 2009, the police in Luoyang have taken away or stolen sound systems and speakers from local ‘red song’ concerts on several occasions. The local government has put at least four active Maoists, such as Wang Xiufeng and Liu Sanying, into ‘education-through-labour’ camps or mental hospitals for half a year to two years respectively, without any formal legal process.

The usual accusation is “violation of social order”. The ‘education-through-labour’ camps and mental hospital are the main facilities used local governments to illegally imprison and punish dissidents and petitioners. Recently, local media has reported that the government in Changzhou city, Jiangsu province, has put three petitioners into the ‘education-through-labour’ camps for one-year terms. The reason is that they rode the bus in Beijing without paying the one yuan bus fare, when they had gone to the capital to appeal their cases in 2009.

The repression of leftists and Maoists by the regime has further exposed the true autocratic face of the regime – a fake communist party. Even some reformist Maoists have desperately commented online, if singing ‘red songs’ cannot change China back to being red, “we have to use our blood to make it red”.

While we do not agree with the Maoists and some other leftist on political program, approach and analysis of the Chinese revolution and state, and the Marxist supporters of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) consistently defend basic democraatic rights and are completely opposed to the regime’s repression, especially against socialists and the left wing. We call for the immediate release of all political prisoners, including Lu Kun and Zhang Yaoyong.

For more information on ‘red song’ concerts read

China: repression or ‘reform’? (

Monday, 22 August 2011

Bristol: Strike at Connexions

Report by Tom Baldwin
Staff from Connexions in Bristol took strike action last Thursday, joined by colleagues from across the former Avon area. Connexions is an advice service that helps young people get access to education, training and employment.

As the Unison strike leaflet pointed out, this is more vital now than ever. Most people on the picket line were striking for the first time.

They felt pushed into taking this step in the face of attacks to pay and conditions and a lack of willingness to negotiate by management.

The service they provide has already come under the butcher's knife. One third of staff have been made redundant and other posts aren't filled when people leave.

Yet the remaining staff are expected to carry the same workload. Now they too are under attack, they have been promised pay cuts of up to 18%! To add insult to injury, managers will retain significantly more of their pay, so much for "we're all in it together".

Workers aren't just expected to swallow enormous pay cuts, they are also being asked to work an extra three hours a week for nothing. Those I spoke to were very proud of the service they provide but frustrated that cuts get in the way of them helping more young people.

Having taken the step to join their first ever picket line they were prepared to take more action if management still refuses to come to the table. They also agreed with the need to link up their struggle with other workers facing cuts and expect Unison to join action of other unions against attacks on public sector pensions.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Twenty years since failed coup in Soviet Union

Historical CWI document ‘Revolution and Counter-Revolution in the Soviet Union’ translated into Chinese -

19th August 1991 was a turning point in world history, signalling the break-up of the Soviet Union and the transformation of its member republics to corrupt and undemocratic ‘market economies’. This was followed by stepped up neo-liberal attacks on the working class internationally, and an unprecedented ideological offensive claiming the superiority of capitalism. On 19 August, the people of Moscow woke to the sound of tanks driving down the street. So-called ‘hardliners’ within the ruling Communist Party had launched a widely expected coup, but one that also collapsed within days due to its own internal weaknesses and refusal of military units to obey the coup leaders. These events were analysed at the time by the majority faction in the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) in the document ‘Revolution and Counter-Revolution in the Soviet Union’.

The coup took place in the sixth year of Mikhail Gorbachev’s rule as general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Gorbachev and the ‘reform’ layer he led had attempted to steer the bureaucratic Stalinist system out of its deepening crisis by initiating economic and political reforms. Without this they feared a social explosion from discontented workers, peasants and discriminated nationalities that would sweep the entire system away. But the reforms themselves only aggravated the social and economic crisis, while not satisfying the masses’ desire for an end to economic decline and autocratic rule.

Genuine socialists had long explained that the planned economy, which was the outstanding and only remaining social conquest of the great Russian Revolution of 1917, could only function under a regime of full democracy and democratic planning by the working masses, not under the dictatorial bureaucratic elite that controlled society in the USSR. The so called ‘communist’ bureaucrats, both the ‘reformers’ and ‘hardliners’, some consciously and others less so, were preparing the ground for a return to a brutal form of capitalism.

The 1991 coup leaders – called the ‘Gang of Eight’ – miscalculated that they could profit from Gorbachev’s unpopularity and the general sense of crisis to re-assert a more centralized and dictatorial regime. They introduced martial law, a curfew and announced the aim of “fighting the black economy, corruption, theft, speculation and economic incompetence”. This, they said, was to “create favourable conditions to improve the real contribution of all types of entrepreneurial activity conducted within the law”.

Such statements showed that the coup leaders themselves did not represent 'socialism' or an attempt to go back towards a Stalinist system with its bureaucrat-controlled planned economy, but stood for a more controlled pace of capitalist ‘market reforms’ under a stronger, more centralised dictatorial regime. This was one of the contentious issues in the debate between the CWI majority faction and a minority faction led by Ted Grant and Alan Woods, who later left our ranks. This grouping was for many years in denial over the restoration of capitalism in the former USSR. The documents of both factions in this dispute are available on the website.

The majority document ‘Revolution and Counter-Revolution in the Soviet Union’ stands the test of time. In contrast to the euphoria of the world bourgeoisie at the time of the break-up of the USSR, and the demoralisation of many on the left, it provides an analysis of these world-changing events and a perspective that enabled our international to anticipate in general outlines the subsequent events and to orientate ourselves accordingly. This material, appearing for the first time in Chinese, can be of special interest to Chinese readers.

The collapse of the USSR and its chaotic road to capitalism, especially in the early 1990s (when Russia’s GDP collapsed by around 50%), had a decisive effect on the mentality of China’s ‘communist’ rulers, coming just two years after their bloody counter-revolutionary crushing of a mass democracy movement in 1989, which contained important elements of political (anti-bureaucratic) revolution. The massacre of 1989 had not led to a reconsolidation of Maoism-Stalinism; the economic base of the Chinese dictatorship underwent fundamental change. As the CWI majority document explained, “… after this short period of re-adjustment, Li Peng and the hardliners have adopted pro-capitalist policies which are not fundamentally different from Zhao [Ziyang]’s”. The events of 1991 further convinced Beijing both that there could be ‘no return’ to central planning, but also that alongside capitalist ‘market reforms’ they must preserve the centralised one-party dictatorship to prevent a similar break-up of China and contain the pressure of the masses.

This doctrine – ‘economic reform without political reform’ – has been central to the Chinese regime’s outlook ever since. To this day, voices for ‘political reform’ make up only a small minority within the regime. This is why socialists explain that the decisive force for democratic rights in China will come from the masses, especially the vast working class, not from ‘enlightened’ elements within the one-party state and not from the capitalists who share in the benefits of the current repressive system.

The English version of the document ‘Revolution and Counter-Revolution in the Soviet Union’ and other material related to this issue can be found on

                        Revolution And Counter-Revolution In The Soviet Union
CWI document, September 1991

A turning point in world events

1. The recent upheavals in the Soviet Union represent a turning point in world events. While this process began some years ago, the crushing blow suffered by the "old guard" signifies the collapse of Stalinism in the USSR. It will have enormous repercussions internationally, even greater than those which followed the collapse of the proletarian Bonapartist regimes in Eastern Europe. Marxists must assess what the prospects are now for the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe where this process was already underway. We must assess what this means for the world balance of forces, the position of Imperialism, and the prospects for the remaining proletarian Bonapartist regimes. It is also necessary to gauge the effect of these events on the consciousness of the working class internationally...Read the rest here

Tell the TUC - call a 24-hour public sector general strike!

By Rob Williams, Chair, National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN)The Socialist, 17th August 2011 -

"If these attacks on our jobs, services and livelihoods go through there will be riots on the streets". Anti-cuts campaigners will have lost count of how many times they have warned politicians of all parties of this since last year's general election.

I went to the council budget-setting meeting in Brixton this spring when Lambeth's Labour-led council passed over £70 million worth of cuts in a side room behind police lines after protesters had occupied the council chamber. Last week in those very streets - some of the poorest in the country - the riots came to Brixton. The question is now posed, what next?

For working class people, while the anger and frustration is understandable, the riots are a blind alley. Cameron is trying to jump on the violence and looting as justification for even more hardline measures which will be used against organised protests in future. They hope 'law and order' debates will distract us from fighting the cuts. Cameron and Co are really terrified of organised resistance, particularly on a mass basis.

Now is the time for the organised trade union movement to act as a powerful alternative force. Who else will? New Labour is compromised by its agreement with the cuts and its echoing of Cameron's hypocritical moralising. In the Evening Standard, ex-Blairite Charles Clarke called for "proper policing to be put above civil liberties"!

TUC leader Brendan Barber warned of riots in 2009 but has not so far thrown the full weight of the TUC behind coordinating mass working class resistance. If the union movement of still over six million takes decisive action against the attacks of this government of millionaires, it could inspire all those who are both angry and frightened at the moment.

Anyone who has watched the incredible movements of workers and young people throughout the world this year from Egypt to Greece and to Israel/Palestine can see the positive effect of a mass movement of strikes and demonstrations.

The mass demonstration on 26 March of well over half a million in London shook the Con-Dems and resulted in their wobble on their NHS privatisation plans.

The strikes on 30 June against the attacks on public sectorpensions mobilised 750,000 workers and has posed the prospect of millions joining the strike action in the autumn. A 24-hour public sector general strike would not only heap pressure on the government on pensions, it would show everyone that there is a powerful alternative force that can fight for ordinary people. But a failure to act, particularly by the TUC and the biggest unions could let this creaking coalition off the hook.

On Sunday 11 September, the NSSN is organising a lobby of this year's TUC conference in London to increase the pressure for all unions across the public sector to coordinate strike action. We will be meeting at the Friends Meeting House in Euston for a rally to hear speakers like Mark Serwotka and Bob Crow - general secretaries of the civil service union PCS and the transport union RMT respectively as well as rank and file workers and young people facing the worst of the cuts.

Help us build a massive rally of workers and anti-cuts fighters, young and old, to send a clear united message to the union leaders - it's time to give a positive fighting lead to defeat this government.

Sunday 11 September
Assemble 1.30pm, Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London NW1. After the rally, march to lobby the TUC
For details of transport to the lobby from your area, email:

Youth Fight For Jobs and Day-Mer Youth organise in Tottenham

By Martin Powell-Davies

A week on from the riots, 'Youth Fight for Jobs' and 'Day-Mer Youth' organised an excellent meeting in Tottenham last night to discuss the way forward for the community and local youth. The meeting was introduced by Steve Hedley from the RMT and Vik Chechi from Youth Fight for Jobs (YF4J) but, refreshingly, most time was left for those in the audience to give their own opinions.

Contributions from a wide range of ages and backgrounds all reached a similar conclusion - that youth had every reason to be angry but that rioting helped nobody. However, unlike the hypocritical condemnation being spouted by the press and politicians, everyone who spoke wanted to seriously reflect on why the riots had broken out and, crucially, suggest ways to help the youth and community productively organise action over the many grievances facing working people across all of London's communities.

Before the meeting, YF4J had held a protest against the closure of youth services by Haringey's Labour Council. Plans were outlined to organise further demonstrations to oppose council cuts in the future.

David Lammy, Tottenham's Labour MP, came in for strong criticism for his failure to explain the real grievances facing local people and for not speaking out against the cuts and the stop-and-search harassment suffered by local youth. Calls for community campaigns and trade unions to stand their own anti-cuts candidates in the London Assembly elections were applauded.

The vindictive sentences being handed out on rioters were contrasted with the 'looting' of our services and taxes by the wealthy - with Osborne now suggesting he will even abolish the 50p tax rate for the wealthy.

A local youth, Young Deacon, performed "Failed by the System" that has so much more to say about the riots than the demonisation of black youth being spouted by many of the tabloids. Have a look on:

Zoe, a young teacher, spoke at her anger about the way that youth were being scapegoated in the media and for the way many pupils were labelled as 'failures' at an early age. Others pointed out that the killing of Mark Duggan by the police, the incident that had sparked the riots in the first place, must not be forgotten. Youth Fight for Jobs have been calling for an independent trade-union and community led enquiry into his death.

Trade unionists also spoke about the need for unions to show a way forward by taking strike action against cuts and austerity - especially by continuing and extending the action against pensions in the autumn. Many present said they would be be attending the NSSN Rally and Lobby on September 11th to call on the TUC to organise co-ordinated strike action across the public sector. Nina Franklin, NUT President, will be speaking as well as Bob Crow from the RMT and Mark Serwotka from the PCS.

When teachers return to school in September, both teachers and school students will undoubtedly be discussing the shocking events of August. We certainly don't need lectures from the press, politicians and the powerful to follow their high moral standards!

Teachers, as ever, will be trying to offer genuine support and help to young people so that they can make the most of the opportunities open to them and not follow the dead-end of rioting. However, teachers and students alike will be increasingly asking what opportunities are really available to embrace the many talents of our youngsters? It's not enough for Ministers to condemn 'criminality', it is their responsibility to provide decent jobs, training and education for our school leavers.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Israel: Mass movement against Capitalism

Shahar Ben-Khorin, Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI Israel/Palestine)

6 August 2011 saw 300,000 people flooding the streets of Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities in Israel roaring: "The people demands social justice!" – echoing the slogans of the revolutionary upheavals in the Arab World. In real terms, it was the largest ever demonstration in Israel. With officially low unemployment and a growing economy, Israel is now shaken by an historic mass movement. Not yet by the oppressed Palestinian masses, but mainly by Israeli Jews, putting the support for the regime into question.

What is left of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s words of the end of March, "there’s only one country in the heart of the Middle East that has no tremors, no protests ... Look at this. Earth shaking everywhere, west of India right up to the Straits of Gibraltar. Everything is shaking and rocking and the only stable place, the only stable country, is this democracy Israel - a developed country, prosperous country, everybody is equal under the law, it has a strong military because it has a strong society"?

Netanyahu’s government admitted offering Mubarak a political refuge in Israel. Now, militant youth are shouting at roadblocks: "Mubarak – Assad – Bibi Netanyahu!" indicating their wish to see the toppling of the Israeli face of the dictatorship of capital.

Partially influenced by the movements in southern Europe, a few protest tents were set up by a group of middle-class youth in the rich Rothschild Avenue in central Tel-Aviv on 14 July against the high cost of housing. Some of them talked about staying there for just a few days. But their initiative became the signal to let out the floodgates for the long accumulated revulsion against the heavy cost of living and the rule of capital in the country. Within days, there was talk among government officials that the coming social protest might bring down the government.

In tents across the country there are discussions on the way to change society and people everywhere dare to think of a different, brighter future. It is not a revolutionary situation but everybody would agree of the need for a ‘social revolution’ for ‘social justice’. Compared with the regular alienation and agony offered by capitalism and militarism, it is no wonder that in Tel-Aviv and some other ‘tent cities’ there is a festive mood, with music, movies and satirical displays.
From boycott to strike

A few weeks before the tents protest began, a successful mass symbolic boycott of cottage cheese, organized via Facebook, forced the milk industry cartel corporations to reduce its price. But it took the blinking of an eye for the idea of a consumer boycott bringing a solution to the heavy cost of living to be put to one side and replaced by a strategy of active mass protests, with tents, protest marches, road blocks, etc. Protest tents spread like mushrooms after rain all across the country. They have become the magnet for almost all other social protests that have united in this dramatic movement, which is drawing many into the first protests of their life – not only youth and kids, but also parents who march in protest at their rising cost of living. Not only "privatized" teachers and taxi drivers, but even the police and prison guards, who are banned from joining trade unions, participated in some of the protests to shed a light on their low pay. During the 300,000 demo, ‘leftist’ sports fans set up a building-high giant poster of a soldier from the Russian Revolution with the English title ‘working class’. These are just some examples of initiatives taken.

The government juggled its tactics for coping with the movement, zigzagging between failing attempts to dwarf and de-legitimize the movement in an attempt to contain it by appearing sympathetic to it and to colour planned aggressive neo-liberal steps as "solutions" to the protesters’ demands, and then returning again to blunt arrogance and incitement. The movement as a whole does not yet demand clearly the bringing down of the government, but none of the government’s tactics actually worked. The attempt to accelerate the privatization of land (held in majority by the state) and to hand it out almost for free to the real-estate sharks, stirred up an outcry across the movement and it only grew stronger. From around 30,000 at the central demo after the first week, it grew within a week to five times bigger when parallel protests where held across the country. Another week and 300,000 were mobilized!

From the early stages, there was a significant layer of protesters reaching the conclusion that all the various demos were not enough in themselves against this government, and strike action was necessary. Within days 20,000 joined a Facebook call for an all-out individuals’ strike on 1 August. The organization of local authorities, controlled by the capitalist mayors, was swept in to join in the initiative and hold partial shutdowns on that date in order to increase pressure on the government to solve the crisis. Finally, the dormant Histadrut, the main workers’ organization, was dragged into the movement.

Intervention of the Histadrut

Sensing the mood, the Histadrut chairman Offer Eini, highly influential in his ’Labour’ Party, began his intervention by trying to paint himself in radical colours, attacking all previous governments, including ’Labour’ ones, for turning the state "in one day from socialist policies, where the state guarantees its citizens, to the capitalist market". He praised the young leaders of the protest, and threatened the government that the Histadrut would use all its means if the government did not begin to take seriously the protesters’ demands. But as soon as those demands took the shape of calls for radical reforms, including free public education and health, Eini outrageously joined the capitalist choir by ridiculing these demands as groundless and "unpractical", as if he wasn’t standing at the top of the strongest workers’ organization in Israel. He also emphasized that the protesters needed to respect the prime minister and that he hoped that the government did not fall!

In recent years, the right-wing pro-capitalist collaborationist leadership under Eini has led a declared policy of industrial peace and brought the number of strikes in Israel to an historical low, as part of a formal alliance with the industrial capitalists and destructive deals with different governments. Against this background, the very limited rally of 10,000 workers organized by the Histadrut was nevertheless a rare event. Many among the thousands who came did not identify with the Histadrut slogan "the workers FOR the protest", as if workers should not be the main player in the fight against high costs and the rule of capital. At the rally, Eini paid some hypocritical lip-service to the rage against the rapid deterioration of working conditions in recent decades. This was too much for some of the dock workers, the bay lifeguards and others who were standing along with Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI) activists; they shouted "Workers demand a general strike!" and shouted against the hypocrisy of this false leader. These shouts were forcefully drowned out by the ‘Zionist socialist’ No`al youth who were there. Apart from attempts to snatch megaphones, they turned to shout "Workers demand social justice", which in that situation became an empty phrase.

For a significant layer of the organized working class, Eini and his likes are hated to the bones for the policies of betrayal that they promote, handcuffing workers and serving them as an easy meal to the capitalists and the government of capital. With the increased costs of living biting, different workers’ groups began to take the route of struggle in recent months before the current movement. Social workers even rebelled loudly and unprecedentedly against an attempt to dictate a sell-out agreement to them by Eini following their strike in March. This led to the setting up of an opposition movement inside the social workers’ union. The ongoing medical doctors’ strike was almost sold out during the first days of the tents protest, when the interns followed the example of the social workers and rebelled against the leadership of the doctors’ separate organization, gaining the entire strike a new momentum and overwhelming popular support. In parallel, inside the Histadrut, for quite some time there has been a trend of workers mostly threatening, and at times fulfilling, to take the route of leaving to join the new small militant union ’Power to the Workers’ – among them are the Haifa Chemicals North factory workers, who are currently engaged in a difficult 3-months strike. These trends are initial signs of the potential for development of an independent workers’ movement for the first time in Israel.

The government clearly hopes that given the strike-breaking record of Eini, including the betrayal of the recent social workers strike, he will assist it in steering the protest towards a ‘soft landing’. That, of course, is not guaranteed, as Eini and his bureaucracy won’t simply commit ‘suicide’ but will try to navigate their own survival through the conflicting pressures of the workers and the bosses and their government. That’s why the leadership supported a quite militant rail workers’ strike recently. Although this is not likely to happen immediately, they might even be pushed to declare a general strike at a later stage, if the movement does not die down in August. The Socialist Struggle Movement promotes the call for an active warning 24-hours general strike by the Histadrut, and calls upon workers’ committees to become directly involved in the protests wherever possible, and to discuss the demands of the movement and its possible next steps, including partial strikes.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Significantly, a few Arab-Palestinian tents were set up in Israel, using the momentum to raise demands for decent housing and against the nationalist-racist discrimination which inflicts the worst housing problems upon the Palestinian and Arab population of Israel. This happens despite the fact that many of the Palestinian residents of Israel feel that it is not ‘their’ protest – partially a reflection of the strongly-supported idea of ‘unity between right and left’, which in reality on the ground means no mention of resistance to the occupation, and so the hidden yearning for peace is not surfacing at the moment alongside the shouts for "social justice". It stems on one hand from an understanding that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has served the ruling class by weakening all previous social protests. However, an approach which ignores the national conflict is a dangerous trap, precisely because it plays into the hands of the Israeli ruling class, and works to isolate this upheaval on living conditions from all the rest of the struggles in the region, particularly the Palestinian struggle for rights and independence.

So far, no attempt by the ruling establishment to de-legitimize the movement itself has succeeded (one of the organizers in central Tel-Aviv was even accused by an anonymous far-right video of being a member of the Socialist Struggle Movement, which allegedly is controlled by a leftist Non-Governmental Organization fund). But as long as this movement and the ones that will definitely follow do not embrace a solidarity approach with the Palestinian masses and against the occupation and settlements, they will tend eventually to sharply spilt when facing escalation of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians or Israel and the countries in the region. The deceptive security alerts by the Israeli ruling class to the Jewish population will serve to fracture the movement, and to use parts of it to oppress the Palestinian struggle, which is on the road of heroic escalation as well.

A warning sign has been given with the infiltration of far-right elements that disguise and leech upon the movement, whip up nationalism, promote the settlements enterprise, and viciously incite against Arab-Palestinians, African refugees and immigrant workers. A joint Jewish-Arab protest march by impoverished neighbourhoods from Southern Tel-Aviv, Jaffa and other locations was cancelled following threats by the far-right Kahanists. Joint Jewish-Arab tents in Tel-Aviv were subjected to physical attacks. These far-right elements are recognized as a danger by a minority of the most radical layers of the movement, who are looking for a way to kick them out. For example, some militants have burnt tents of the far-right. But effective cleansing of such elements could be successful only through the open adoption of the ideas of a united solidarity struggle between all the exploited and oppressed, Jews and Palestinians, and of opposition to racism and the occupation. For the meantime, the head of the Students Association has felt confident enough to warmly welcome the main Settlers’ organization for "joining the protest", even though it is another chief servant of reaction.

Putting socialism on the agenda

A letter by some top capitalists to the prime minister dared to express support for the protest and shamelessly expressed concern for the cost of living of working people. In reality, these top tycoons fear the eruption of rage against the rule of capital. Shortly before the movement erupted, some of them tried to promote a law to ban a common term for employers in legislation which literally means "those who enslave / make others work"! Now, more desperately, they express willingness to sacrifice the head of Netanyahu in order to divert the fire.

For his part Netanyahu is clearly hoping to use either the spectre of an economic recession, or use the coming UN vote on Palestinian statehood as an excuse to blunt the movement in the name of Israeli Jewish "national unity".

The capitalist media tended in the main to give very ‘sympathetic’ coverage to the movement from the beginning. The financial press has tried to present it in a way as a rebellion against the "centralization of the market" and for "more competition" between capitalists. These are the same voices that work to ridicule calls for actual social reforms.

Clearly not a few of the capitalist class ponder on the possibility that they could channel this class-social storm towards replacing the coalition government with one that might be more reliable for them both geo-strategically and for appeasing social unrest – maybe even with the fig-leaf of a new ‘social’ political party growing out of this movement that still appears to attract almost 90% support in different opinion polls. A supposed party that grew out of the movement was suggested by one poll could win 20 out of 120 seats in parliament and become one of the major parties!

But there is confusion over that point, and only a few would immediately support the founding of such a party. This is part of the general gigantic gap between the yearnings of workers and youth for a radical change in the situation and the concrete steps and demands being put forward at this stage. The general perception is still that the best thing to do is to continue the increasing mobilization for protests, with one initiative talking about a one million-strong demo on 3 September. Many are doubtful whether this could prove to be effective to achieve thorough change but see no other way. Without a clear socialist alternative on the table, many have nostalgia for the past quasi-welfare state in Israel, as working and living conditions were massively more secure, but even with that vague and unrealizable concept of ‘correcting’ Israeli capitalism, there is confusion as to the steps for the struggle to take to get there.

There is obviously growing support for the ideas of the need for strike action, the need for a ‘different’ party to represent the voice of such struggles, the need to drastically cut indirect taxes, and the need for the government to intervene for ‘affordable housing’. Yet the demands for nationalizations and for strong steps against the tycoons are not central (for that reason, for example, the Socialist Struggle Movement replaces the popular "the answer to privatization – revolution!" with "the answer to privatization – nationalization!"). One of the youth who organized the central Tel-Aviv tents and, incidentally, became one of the leaders of the movement, has declared over and over that solutions to the problems should involve the "free market" and does not contradict capitalism.

Though it is still unclear how far it will go, this great movement, the great rebellion against the rule of capital, is in many senses just the beginning. One of the best fruits of this movement is the leap in interest in genuine socialist and Marxist ideas as serious solutions for a bankrupt society.

The Jewish and Palestinian members of the Socialist Struggle Movement are intervening around the clock in the movement to contribute to it as much as possible, including slogans for solidarity between Jewish and Palestinian workers and youth, and against the occupation and for peacee (for example: "the answer to the ’divide and rule’: the occupation must also fall!").

One of our newer comrades, 12-years-old Orr Akta, has become a television star, as "the kid of the revolution" – for the establishment media he is just a gimmick and a curiosity, but the comrade explains fluently to the media the ideas of socialism and exposes the Socialist Struggle Movement to many more. In general, we have received special prime-time coverage, including profile pieces on our organization.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Liverpool Socialist Party: Statement on Liverpool Riots


Liverpool & District Socialist Party is appalled at the current rioting which has resulted in the destruction of working peoples' homes, workplaces, and the community facilities and shops they rely on.
We recognise that there are those who are using theriots to engage in criminal activity and this is to be condemned. In condemning the wanton destruction we believe that the conditions for the initial disturbances have been created by mass unemployment, social deprivation and the massive cuts which have been imposed by the Con-Dem government and implemented by local authorities.
We believe that further riots are possible unless radical socialist measures are implemented. The systematic destruction of jobs, services and communities prepared this over two decades, since the Liverpool 47 socialist councillors were undemocratically forced out of office.
The "yobs" and "thugs" ultimately responsible are the main parties' politicians and their cronies the bankers and developers.
One-third of Liverpool's children are in households with no-one working. Almost 6,000 16-24 year-olds are on Job Seekers' Allowance.
Young people have seen their EMA college grant scrapped, costs for bus travel rocket, university fees raised to £9,000, and the Connexions youth careers service slashed to the bone amidst mass unemployment and dozens of applicants each chasing one of a handful of jobs.
The council should immediately reverse this year's £5.5 million (28%) cut to youth services, cancel the £5.05 million cut they intend next year, and reverse and cancel the £6.658 million cut to library and leisure services.
Connexions suffered a £2.1 million cut this year by Merseyside local authorities. This irresponsible action must be immediately reversed in full.
We call on the Liverpool City Council to organise a democratic discussion with the residents, community groups, trade unionists and young people of the areas affected, to draw up a plan of increased and sufficient public services.
This must include youth services and job creation. Both emergency and planned measures should be implemented by the council through borrowing and using reserves.
Rioting is the other uglier face of the L1 glitter ['Liverpool One' is a new large retail development]. While city centre and prestige projects are flaunted by the authorities and employers, our communities and youth are neglected.
High-skill well-paid jobs were replaced by service sector drudgery - low-paid or even unpaid. The council's so-called "apprenticeships" are an inadequate drop in the ocean.
We need job creation on a much larger scale, led by the council and on trade union rates of pay. We need training schemes to lead to real jobs not back to the dole.
Added to this are the colossal ongoing cuts being proposed by the council: £91 million this year, £50 million next year and a similar sum the year after that.
These must be reversed now.
The Labour group must demand that the Con-Dem millionaire government returns the £millions they have stolen from our city!
We are holding a public meeting next week to discuss how these policies should be implemented. The meeting is on Tuesday 16th August, 7.30pm, The Casa pub (downstairs), 29 Hope Street, L1 9BQ.
The whole situation is unacceptable. This autumn we are joining young people from across Liverpool and around the country to recreate the 1930s' most famous political protest, in a 280-mile "Youth March for Jobs" from Jarrow to London organised by campaign group Youth Fight for Jobs at .

Fire Brigades Union: Sickened by the silence of politicians over fire service cuts

Taken from:

The Fire Brigades Union says fire crews are ‘sickened’ by the silence of politicians over fire service cuts. Politicians have been queuing up to question police cuts, but none have yet challenged the same cuts to the fire service.
The union has been inundated by fire crews complaining about the lack of opposition to major fire service cuts in wake of widespread civil disturbances. The strongest and most recent comments have come from fire crews working in areas of recent unrest.
Fire crews have made similar comments over recent years in the aftermath of floods, extensive wildfires and in dealing with extreme winter weather. Like civil disturbances involving widespread arson, these incidents can tie up crews for protracted periods, sometimes months.
The last wave of cuts saw the loss of 1,000 frontline posts by April 2011. But ever increasing Government cuts will see that rise to at least 6,000 by 2014.
The cuts are being concentrated on full-time fire crews in largely urban areas, some of which have taken the brunt of recent unrest. The biggest cuts have happened and more threatened in Manchester, Merseyside, West Midlands, Yorkshire and the South West.
Recent civil unrest has shown how easily and quickly fire services can be stretched and struggle to cope. These disturbances, like others in the past, have seen widespread and major arson.
The FBU warns the fire service will also reach breaking point dealing with major incidents such as floods, wildfires and extreme winter weather. These incidents are more frequent and can last for weeks and even months.
Andy Dark, FBU Assistant General secretary said: “Fire crews are angry and sickened by the silence on widespread frontline fire service cuts. We are already stretched and struggling and that will only get worse.
“It’s not only civil unrest that highlights the problems. We’ve faced mass wildfires, terrible floods and freezing winter weather which stretched fire crews for weeks and even months.
“Claims that fire services can fall back on each other and pool resources don’t stand up when the cuts are widespread. The overall pool of frontline resources is being drained away and it will get worse year after year.
“Pre-election promises not to cut frontline services have proved worthless. You don’t get much more frontline than a 999 response and we’re being cut to pieces.
“The police are facing the same issues, but at least this is now being challenged and there is public debate. Why is their silence on frontline fire service cuts and how does the Government expect us to cope with far fewer frontline crews in the years ahead?
“We’re over-stretched and struggling now when we have to deal with a whole range of major incidents. We’ll be at breaking point when the cuts really bite over the next two years.”
Central Government grants to fire and rescue service budgets are being slashed by 25% in the next four years. The budget cuts are staged to get worse year on year – so called ‘back-loading’.
The job cuts – mostly losses through not replacing those who leave – cover wholetime, retained and firefighters in control. The heaviest losses are to wholetime firefighters.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

UK Riots: Mass trade-union and labour movement needed

Analysis By Judy Beishon, Socialist Party of England & Wales -

The four days of riots that followed the shooting dead of Mark Duggan by the police in Tottenham sent a massive wave of shock across the country.

"Over the last few days the state has lost control of England's streets" was the panic ridden comment of the Financial Times. Five people tragically died, over 100 people lost their homes and over 48,000 shops, pubs, clubs and restaurants were affected in 28 town centres.
Sporting and leisure events were cancelled and virtual curfews operated in many areas - from Hackney in London to Toxteth in Liverpool - out of fear of venturing onto the streets.
In the areas where the eruptions broke out, almost no one felt completely safe, for themselves, their families and their homes. In places not directly affected, people feared what could come.
That these events have changed the political landscape and impacted strongly on mass consciousness, is without doubt. Internationally there was also shocked reaction, with exaggerated comparisons being made with violence in Somalia and other former or existing conflict zones.

Just a year before the London Olympics the British government's international standing has been severely damaged. Prime minister David Cameron dismissed the street eruptions as "criminality pure and simple" and branded "pockets" of UK society as "sick".
However the sickest pocket of all in society is him and his fellow multi-millionaires in the British ruling class, who have nothing in common with the ordinary people who have been the hardest hit victims of the looters and arsonists.
Con-Dems responsible

The Socialist Party gives absolutely no support to rioting as a method of protest, but we place the blame for what has taken place firmly on the Con-Dem government and say that it must be removed from office.
This government, on top of previous governments, has worsened and presided over a nightmare situation for working class youth, and many in the middle class too.
Even young people with the greatest determination to 'succeed' are in despair over the shortage of jobs on decent pay and affordable accommodation that could give them independence from parents and a decent future.
It's no surprise that some young people have become so marginalised through lack of opportunity that they have become involved in gang crime, and many of them have developed - out of bitter experience - an overriding hatred of the police, mainstream politicians and other representatives of capitalist authority.
An onlooker to the riots in Hackney was quoted in the Times as noting: "Unfortunately this is about as empowered as many of these lads have ever felt in their lives and ever will feel".
A general "kick against authority" was among the verdicts of the Independent newspaper. How sickening has been the moralising about "teaching young people respect" and "the difference between right and wrong" as Brian Reade wrote in the Mirror and others have done.
However mistaken - or criminal, as a fringe element of arsonists etc were - the young people who were involved in the eruption can see how "wrong" the greed, corruption and amassing of vast wealth at the top of society is, with the resulting huge inequality.
And what "respect" did MPs show when they stuffed their pockets with expenses, or top police and politicians show when they tried to protect Murdoch's phone hackers? What an irony that the London Met police were trying to quell this wave of violence without having their chief commissioner's post filled because the ex-chief had resigned under a cloud of corruption.

Not so 'mindless'

Plenty of riot participants who have been dismissed as non-political 'mindless criminals' have made political comments to the media against the rich, MPs and of course the police, whose act of brutality triggered the start of this wave of rioting.
The strong anger at Mark Duggan's shooting by the police was justified, especially as it has since been officially confirmed that the initial police version of what happened was false.
As with the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 and the death of Ian Tomlinson in 2009, the truth of what happened was initially suppressed. Black people in particular have been treated almost universally as criminals by the police, they are seven times more likely to be stopped by the police than white people, and this rises to 26 times more in 'stop and searches' carried out under the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

But the wave of chaotic and violent revolt encompassed many other sections of youth as well as a section of the black youth in Tottenham, becoming very mixed in composition, with some areas - such as in Enfield - having predominately white participants, and others drawing from a number of ethnic minorities.
As the court cases are showing, the rioting and looting involved low paid workers as well as the unemployed - a reflection of the scale of anger and alienation that also exists in this layer.
But much of the media is deliberately playing up the participation of young people who have jobs in order to downplay the plight of the unemployed "have-nots"; however, one article mentioned the truth: that those appearing in court are overwhelmingly young, male and unemployed (Guardian 12.8.11).
The eruption took a different form in each area. For instance in the London boroughs of Tottenham and Hackney it took place in the midst of working class communities and was a relatively indiscriminate lashing out.
In Manchester, small independent shops were among those looted, but a particular target was the major chain shops and luxury goods. But whatever form the rioting took, and whatever momentary kick was gained by giving "a hamfisted two-finger salute to the authorities" as a Guardian journalist described it, the consequences show that it was counter-productive, for the participants, for the communities that suffered the destruction of people's homes, livelihoods and in some cases lives, and for working people in general.

Heavy sentencing

Over 1,800 people have been arrested and hundreds charged. Offences vary from the minor to the very serious, but magistrates have been rapidly dishing out draconian 'teach them a lesson' sentences for even the most trivial cases.
Some of the young people charged have no previous convictions and made the mistake of momentarily succumbing to temptation to steal goods that were no longer locked away - and are now facing draconian, disproportionate prison sentences as a result.
These include a college student who has been jailed for six months for stealing a £3.50 case of bottled water and a recent university graduate who took a TV and quickly handed it back in after the riots, saying she didn't know why she had taken it.
The Guardian reports that 3.5% of all cases heard in magistrates' courts last year resulted in remand in jail, but for the cases heard so far following the riots, it is 60%.
Cameron recently said that he had given Coulson, the disgraced former News of the World editor, a "second chance", but he will offer no such thing to the hundreds of young people who got caught up in deeds this week on the spur of the moment that they later regretted.
Those judging them are part and parcel of a judicial system that prioritises the defence of the private property of the rich, and are clearly pursuing a reactionary political agenda in these cases.
The trade union movement should demand the setting up of a democratically run inquiry into the riots involving elected representatives of trade unions and community organisations, that could also set the parameters on how the offences are dealt with, with the right to review sentences already imposed.
The prison population in Britain is already the highest it has ever been and a majority of prisons are overcrowded. The rate of rehabilitation is very poor; almost half of all prisoners are reconvicted within a year of release.

More repressive powers

It is not just the participants in the riots who will suffer the strong arm of the state forces, but trade unionists, anti-cuts campaigners, environment campaigners and others will now be faced with increased police powers and crowd control equipment in future struggles if the government's present plans are carried out.Cameron has said water cannon will be available at 24 hours notice. But a feature of the eruptions was "flash riots" - spreading fast through use of Blackberry Messenger and other social networking.
Water cannon are useless in this type of situation as they can't be everywhere at once. But they can be used against more static crowds and pre-organised march routes, that are usual in organised demonstrations of the labour movement.
When parliament - for the second time in a month - was reconvened on Thursday, other plans for repressive powers were outlined, including using army intervention; extra dispersal and curfew powers; increased powers to order the removal of face coverings; the spraying of semi-permanent dye; restricting the movement of 'gangs'; and blocking access to social networking media during times of 'social unrest'.
The eviction of offenders from council homes has also been raised. At the start of the riots, the police took a relatively low-key approach as they were terrified of provoking an escalation, but as criticism mounted they became more aggressive, including driving armoured vehicles at rioters in Lambeth and Ealing.
The future use of plastic bullets (baton rounds) was being discussed, though these lethal weapons may not be employed at this stage as some senior police representatives are opposed to it.
These include Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, who authorised water cannon and baton rounds in Northern Ireland in the past, but said during the riots:
"I do not think it would be sensible in any way shape or form to deploy water cannon or baton rounds in London.
"Baton rounds are very serious bits of equipment. I would only deploy them in life-threatening situations.
"What is happening in London is not an insurgency that is going to topple the country".
However, a major campaign needs to be launched against the increased powers that are being proposed, which will reduce the democratic rights of everyone.
No increase in repressive measures will remove the deprivation and discontent that lay behind the riots - they will only increase it, especially when considered together with the scale of the spending cuts that are still to be carried out and the extremely weak state of the world and British economies.

Firefighters in Tottenham, August 2011, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
Fear of crime

A misconception by some - particularly by left organisations that condone the rioting - is that the riots will inevitably damage the fortunes of the government.
The ruling class and government were definitely shaken by the events and were struggling to regain control of the situation. Meetings of Cobra, the government's emergency civil contingency committee were hastily convened, the government was widely criticised and Nick Clegg was booed when he visited Birmingham.
The events have also exacerbated divisions within the government, especially at present over its planned 20% cut in the police force budget.
But as the eruption ebbed, the government started to play on the widespread fear and insecurity that had developed in order to pose as the toughest executors of law and order.
It is no accident that in the special House of Commons sitting yesterday, both the government coalition and Labour MPs repeated again and again that these riots were 'simply criminal', in a crude attempt to both exploit people's fears and to divert attention away from the major crisis issues in society - the failing economy, level of inequality, spending cuts, etc.
The extensive riots that broke out in city suburbs in France and lasted three weeks in the autumn of 2005 did not prevent right wing Nicolas Sarkozy from winning the French presidential election in 2007, through exploiting the political weakness of the workers' movement.
Fear of crime can lead to increased polarisation in society, made worse by the propaganda of government ministers trying to attract support. All young people can suffer from this - with a whole generation potentially being demonised and labelled as troublemakers.

Danger of disunity

Another danger in the present situation is of racial and ethnic division developing in some areas, for instance in Birmingham, where many believe that racism played a part in the terrible mowing down by a car driver of three young Asian men.
The far fight British National Party and the English Defence League have both declared that they will organise to 'defend' communities, which means that they will spread racism and division as much as they can.
In contradistinction to this, local shopkeepers and communities quickly mobilised across ethnic and racial lines to defend business premises and homes in a number of areas during the rioting.
Sikh men in Southall organised to defend mosques and Hindu temples as well as Sikh temples. Turkish, Kurdish and Bangladeshi shopkeepers mobilised in Hackney to defend major streets and premises.
Had the riots continued, these initiatives could have been developed into democratically organised, mass, united defence of communities, with elected organising committees, as the Socialist Party would have called for.
It was also the case that after the riots, in many areas a mass of people turned out onto the streets to help clear up the mess and restore things to normal and donations poured in to help those who had lost homes and small businesses.
Taking all the above points into account, the applauding of looting in the Socialist Worker newspaper this week is totally wrong. An article by Gary McFarlane incredibly said:
"Karl Marx was exactly right when he talked about expropriating the expropriators, taking back what they have taken from us. That's what looting by poor working class people represents and in that sense it is a deeply political act".
The article even tries to excuse arsonists who placed people in danger of burning to death, by saying:
"No one set out to try and kill or injure those living above [business] premises."
What a travesty to suggest that Marx would have supported the looting of goods from small businesses or arsonists setting alight to people's homes, rather than the mass, organised working class action that he actually stood for, against the capitalist class.

Mass, organised protest needed

The danger of renewed flair-ups of rioting remains - in coming days as well as months. Nothing is being done to begin to tackle the causes - even by taking measures such as the relatively straightforward steps that the Socialist Party has demanded, like restoring basic youth services that have been recently cut.
It is very urgent that the trade union and anti-cuts movement responds with concrete avenues for demonstrating workers' unity and solidarity across all communities, to turn and channel the anger shown in the riots in a progressive direction.
In particular, the four million strong public sector of the trade union movement needs to exert a massive show of strength this autumn to tell the government, through a united day of strike action, that it will not accept the programme of spending cuts.
The lobby of the TUC organised by the National Shop Stewards Network on 11 September is very important in building pressure on the TUC leadership for this action.
The trade union leaders have a responsibility to take initiatives to cut across potential division and to attract young people and the unemployed into trade union organised action for a massive programme of job creation, investment in social house building, defence of public services, and other measures to improve people's lives and basic conditions.

Tottenham riots, August 2011 , photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)

The Con-Dem government will not reap significant support from its 'law and order' propaganda offensive if the trade union movement builds for well prepared, well stewarded, mass industrial action, putting forward an alternative to the Con-Dems' stance and cuts agenda, and calling for the removal of this government that is driving the cuts through.
However, the Labour Party has no real alternative to offer, it has just echoed Tory condemnation of violence. A few Labour politicians, such as Harriet Harman, have tentatively drawn a link between the riots and the government's spending cuts, but without of course mentioning that Labour supports most of those cuts.
So this raises even more forcefully the burning need for urgent steps to be taken towards the creation of new mass workers' party - one that can put forward a programme in the interests of ordinary working people across the country.
Following the widespread and profound shock of people at the riots, as well as the dangers of right-wing forces benefiting, there will also be many people questioning the nature of the system we live in and drawing the conclusion that it is deeply flawed and needs to be fundamentally changed.
The outburst of unorganised groups and individuals acting in a misdirected, chaotic, dangerous, mistaken way, caused the forces of the state to be temporarily overstretched.
Imagine what a mass movement of workers, acting in a highly organised, disciplined and democratically controlled way could do, to advance the interests of the overwhelming majority of people in society.
Armed with a socialist programme, of public ownership of the major companies and a planned economy, such a movement would be invincible, and could bring in a socialist government capable of offering youth a future that would provide them with decent living standards, and use and develop their talents and energies productively.