Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Prepare to resist austerity in 2013

Editorial of the Socialist

Millionaire Tory Chancellor Osborne began his Autumn Statement speech with excuses for economic predictions reduced from 0.8% 'growth', to -0.1%, a contraction, and lower forecasts for years. Two days later the Guardian reported: "The City has put the UK on triple-dip recession alert after news that falling factory and North Sea production have sent the output of industry plunging to its lowest level in 20 years."

In reality the truth is the capitalist class in Britain, as elsewhere, have no solution to the deep-going crisis of capitalism they face. We've quoted Einstein's definition of insanity before, "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results", but it is certainly apt.

Osborne later pledged that a further cut in the rate of corporation tax to 21% from April 2014 - already among the lowest of the world's main economies - would bring us growth and jobs. But there is no evidence to show that previous reductions have had that effect - the opposite has happened.

On the one hand you have Amazon, Starbucks and co, corporate tax-dodging. On the other hand you have £800 billion lying idle in the bank vaults of the big corporations as they see no easy profit in spending it.

A government serious about improving the lives of millions would make a 50% levy on that stashed cash and use it to put money where it will make a difference - in working class and middle class people's pockets, through a massive programme of socially useful public works, through wage and benefit increases and real job creation not workfare, so we can actually spend money, raising 'consumption'. But they refuse to consider tapping their super-rich big business pals. In the same vein, Osborne decided against a mansion tax.
Blame game
Disgracefully but characteristically Osborne directed us to blame our neighbours for the cuts he announced, and talked about: "being fair to the person who leaves home every morning to go out to work and sees their neighbour still asleep, living a life on benefits ... we have to have a welfare system that is fair to the working people who pay for it."

The government's big lie, that we are divided into 'shirkers' and 'workers', must be smashed. They want us to blame each other for the poverty conditions we face - but it is them and the capitalist system they defend that are to blame. This budget limits most working-age benefits to a 1% rise for three years, breaking the link with inflation and meaning misery for millions.

Look at the figures: on average there are more than five job seekers for every vacancy. And the majority of new claimants for housing benefit are working people - with an estimated six million stuck in precarious, low-paid work. The real shirkers are the millionaires and billionaires whose wealth is continuing to pile up - whether they work or not - while we are being put on rations.


Again we heard about Osborne's fantasy infrastructure plans - this time £5 billion to go into roads, broadband, science, etc. We'd all like to see investment in socially useful and planned infrastructure, bringing jobs and improved travel and living standards but his inadequate measures will be paid for by fresh cuts across most government departments.

The Ernst and Young Item Club said that this amount would have "minor, almost negligible impact", and Guardian research shows that of commitments made in the 2011 Autumn Statement very few of the projects announced have progressed. This year the Chancellor pledged £1 billion for roads but the Guardian reports that of the 18 road schemes in last November's budget work has not begun on one!

That the gas strategy is to include consultation on incentives for fracking represents major threats to health and safety and to the environment.

Teachers will face the prospect of performance-related pay, a bully's charter in effect. Already the number of teachers who quit their jobs in English state schools has risen by almost a fifth in one year. See page 4 for more on this.

Education spending shows a blatant transfer of wealth and partial control from ordinary people to the rich vultures preying on our public services.

A smug Tory education minister Michael Gove will be given £1 billion, 'saved' from government departments to spend on expanding his pet academy and free school project - in effect privatising schools, eroding education workers' rights and democratic accountability and transferring land from the public to the private sector.
Fail, fail, fail

Labour MPs made speeches attempting to show that the Con-Dems are "failing, failing, failing", as Ed Balls, shadow chancellor, put it. But Labour is also failing - failing to put up any alternative to austerity.

Osborne has promised austerity into the next parliament. If Labour announced that they would cancel all these measures if they won the next election they would be enormously popular.

Local government is to have a year's 'respite' from the massacre of its budget, notwithstanding previously decided enormous cuts coming down the line in April. But the year after there will be a 2% reduction in spending. What does this mean? No let up from the Tories handing the axe down to local councillors.

If Labour councillors cannot find the courage, as the few rebel councillors in Southampton and Hull have done, to vote against this annihilation of local services, they must step aside or face a challenge from people who will - and that means trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners standing as 'no cuts' candidates.
Action needed

The case for building a new mass workers' party that would actually oppose cuts is clear. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, involving the RMT transport union and other leading trade unionists, is an important step in that direction.

The best way to show the mass opposition to austerity is to support the call for a 24-hour general strike. There is no question the mood is there. See the workplace reports on page 4, largely unreported elsewhere.

In Scotland Unison delegates representing union members in local government, health, education, etc, unanimously supported a motion calling for a coordinated industrial action strategy, beginning with a one-day strike across Scotland and coordination with unions across the UK for a one-day strike.

The PCS union has announced a ballot for strike action in the New Year - that will provide the basis for other unions to join the action. Such action would terrify this posh-boy government - look at the measures they take to try to weaken the unions. Strike action would also massively build the confidence of working class people that we can defeat the Con-Dems.

Socialist alternative needed

With all this comes a questioning of what kind of a society we live in that sees children malnourished, pensioners dying in the cold, and hospitals closing - while there is no shortage of wealth. It's unsurprising that, with a comparable situation in the US, a Gallup poll has found 39% of Americans now have a "positive image" of socialism, 53% among Democrat voters.

The 30% vote for a Socialist Alternative (CWI) candidate in Seattle in November's US elections is further evidence of the search for an alternative to rotten capitalism - in the belly of the beast itself. The times are changing and this is not limited to the US.

In 2013, linked to making a 24-hour general strike our rallying call, the case for democratic socialism, based on planning to meet the needs of the '99%', the overwhelming majority, as an alternative to bankrupt, rotten capitalism must be made at every opportunity.

Solidarity with Bristol CWU postal workers in dispute against bullying and heavy workloads – No to all cuts & privatisation! Including Royal Mail!

Get the latest here;

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Autumn Budget: CUTS DON'T WORK

Chancellor Osborne has had to admit the humiliating truth - his policies to revive the British economy aren't working.

But his solution is to carry on with more of the same - make the working class pay more and do nothing about his tax-dodging, multimillionaire friends.

Councils across the country are cutting jobs and services. Now Osborne's autumn statement is rubbing salt into those wounds.

It carries measures which will hit the poor and the most vulnerable the hardest. In fact everybody except the super-rich is facing rising bills and falling wages, as well as job insecurity and a bleak future.

We're definitely not 'all in this together'.

Big tax-avoiding companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Google are embarrassed that their antics have been exposed.

It's not good PR. But they know that the chancellor will generally leave them alone, along with his rich chums.

After all it was Osborne who cut £3 billion from the tax office HMRC's budget in October 2010. This included axing 10,000 jobs.

When you look at this alongside the scandal of MPs still with their snouts buried in the expenses trough, it's no wonder that workers are fighting back.

The call for co-ordinated action against the cuts, low pay and the Con-Dem's austerity agenda in general is gaining support.

For example Unison's Scottish council has voted unanimously to instruct the union to "immediately take the necessary steps to promote with all STUC affiliated unions the need for a coordinated industrial action strategy, beginning with a one-day strike across Scotland."

Brian Smith, Glasgow city branch secretary and a member of Socialist Party Scotland explained that the trade unions "must step-up our campaign to defend wages, jobs, pensions and services by organising coordinated strike action across all sectors of the economy.

"At a time when Unison members are facing yet more pay cuts, further attacks on pensions and tens of thousands of jobs losses its clear the Con-Dem government will not stop unless they are forced back. A 24-hour general strike must be organised urgently to stop these attacks."

Failing coalition can be beaten:
Lobby the TUC on 11 December

The National Shop Stewards Network has organised a lobby of the TUC on 11 December to call on the TUC to name the date for a 24-hour general strike. 
To support this demand, see and get a copy of the model resolution.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Video: NHS Demo in Bristol

Around 2000 NHS workers and supporters from across the South West, joined together for a march and rally around Bristol against the Regional Pay proposal by the South West Pay Cartel.

GMB, BDA, BMA, British Association of Occupational Therapists, CSP, FCS, HCSA, RCM, The Society of Radiographers, UNISON, Unite and the Bristol & District Anti Cuts Alliance took part.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

This Friday is the anniversary of N30…TUC name the date for a 24 hour general strike!

From the National Shop Stewards Network bulletin, subscribe here:

Yes…on Friday it will be 12 months ago to the day when over 2 million public
sector workers went on strike to defend their pensions. It may have been just
a year ago but how many have forgotten about that day? The biggest single day
of strike action this country has seen for possibly 85 years, since the
general strike of 1926. But we believe that when you close your eyes and
remember how great a day that was or look at the photos you took or the videos
on YouTube, you’ll realise that it really did happen and it IS possible for
workers to take action in their millions. Because that’s what happened on N30

It wasn’t just a strike, it was a mobilisation of working people. The streets
were full in London, Glasgow, Belfast and Cardiff but also Taunton, Brighton,
Newcastle and almost every town and city throughout the country. We’ve no
doubt that it was the sights and sounds of workers and their unions on the
march again that has led to the countless disputes this year, including
victories like the Sparks, London buses and the Sova recycling workers in

N30 should have been the beginning of a programme of co-ordinated action that
could have defeated this government. But some of the union leaders settled and
killed the momentum, despite the best efforts of those like PCS, POA, RMT,
Unite, ISU, NIPSA and UCU who tried to salvage the dispute this May. But N30
showed that our demand that the TUC co-ordinate a 24-hour general strike
against the billions of pounds of cuts we’ve had and the 80% to come isn’t a
pipedream but necessary and possible. If a strike of the proportions of N30
was organised with the time for unions to prepare properly and co-ordinate
ballots and live disputes, how many other workplaces would see it as the
chance to raise their grievances against their employer – to strike together
in maximum strength?

N30 2012 will be like most days are this year – a day of strikes and protests.
PCS members in the Department of Transport will be on strike and all other PCS
branches will holding protests and to build for their national strike ballot
in the New Year on pay and to fight attacks on terms and conditions and union
facility time. Low-paid cleaners in RMT will be on the 2nd day of a 48 hour
strike for a decent wage.

We’ll be supporting these workers but imagine what we could achieve, if we
went on strike together? The NSSN has called a lobby of the TUC General
Council on Tuesday December 11th – now from 8.30am. It’s outside TUC HQ in
Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS. We took up to a 1000 union activists to
Brighton to lobby the TUC conference in September to successfully build
support for the POA motion calling for the unions to “consider the
practicalities of a general strike”. Come to the lobby on December 11th and
let the union leaders know how “practical” and absolutely vital it is!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

We Are One NHS - Stop the Pay Cartel - demo this Saturday in Bristol


Join the protest on Saturday 1st December, assembling at 11:00 at College Green and ending in a rally at Castle Park at 12:30.

Saturday 1st December 2012
Assemble College Green

Egypt: President Mursi’s ‘Constitutional Decree’ sparks angry protests

By David Johnson, Socialist Party (CWI England and Wales)

In November 2010 former president Hosni Mubarak’s parliamentary elections were so rigged they laughably saw his party winning 81% of the seats. Eight weeks later the mass uprising began leading to his overthrow.

In November 2011 revolutionary youth opposing the continuing rule of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces – appointed by Mubarak – were brutally attacked by security forces.

Now in November 2012 there are renewed demonstrations and clashes with security forces on the streets of Cairo and other cities. This time the spark has been the constitutional announcement by President Mohamed Mursi on Thursday 23 November.
Mursi’s declaration stirs rapid opposition

Hours after mediating the Gaza ceasefire between Hamas and the Israeli government, glowing with praise from world leaders, Mursi declared he was “authorised to take any measures he sees fit in order to preserve the revolution, to preserve national unity or to safeguard national security.”

No presidential decision taken since 30th June (when Mursi took office) could be overturned by the courts. Neither the constituent assembly drawing up a new constitution nor parliament’s upper house (the Shura Council) could face legal challenge.

Both bodies are dominated by right wing political Islamists, from Mursi’s Freedom and Justice Party (the Muslim Brotherhood) and the even more conservative Nour Party (the Salafists). In previous weeks, liberal and Christian members of the constituent assembly had walked out, claiming the majority’s constitutional proposals were undemocratic.

Mursi sugared the pill by announcing retrials for Mubarak and those of his henchmen recently acquitted of organising killings of protestors during the January 25th 2011 uprising. The Attorney General, also a remnant of the previous regime, was dismissed.

Within hours of Mursi’s announcement, thousands demonstrated in Tahrir Square, including many football fans, chanting "Down with Mohamed Mursi Mubarak" and “The people want to topple the regime.” Tear gas, birdshot and rocks were used by security forces and field hospitals were set up by demonstrators, in scenes reminiscent of 2011’s street battles.

On the 24 November hundreds of judges protested with the same chants. Some courts have gone on strike and more may follow. The head of the lawyers’ association told the judges, “The country’s fate is in your hands now. If you decided to strike, we will strike. If you decided to stage a sit-in, we will join you.”

During Mubarak’s last years, many judges criticised his rigging of elections. Many reflect the views of liberal middle class opponents to the Muslim Brotherhood, although others hope to see a return of the former regime under which they prospered. Another group of judges support Mursi. Splits in the judiciary are a sign of wider divisions in Egypt. Shares on the stock exchange fell 10% on Sunday 25 November.
Splits appearing in Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood is not immune to these divisions. The chairman of the Shura Council was reported to have criticised Mursi’s announcement (although he subsequently denied this), despite being a leading Brotherhood member himself, while the Justice Minister said he had reservations about the President’s announcement.

It seems that the strength of opposition could make Mursi partially back down rather than risk growing confrontation on the streets. A Muslim Brotherhood statement on Friday 23 November called for marches on Sunday 25 November and a “million-man march” on Tuesday 27 November in support of Mursi. But on Sunday, the Freedom and Justice Party issued a more conciliatory statement saying “it is looking forward to a dialogue with all political parties and forces and social groups and movements with regard to the current situation or the draft… an opportunity to achieve the desired consensus, so as to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of all the Egyptian people.” And on Monday their “million-man” march was called off.

Crackdowns on the media are also growing. Earlier this month privately-owned Dream TV was ordered off air (apart from its sports and entertainment shows). It has a long record of criticising the previous and current regimes. A court has now temporarily overturned the original ban. Another TV channel supporting the previous regime has also been closed down. A newspaper editor is awaiting trial, charged with insulting the new president. On Sunday a meeting of the journalists’ syndicate (association) threatened a strike in response to Mursi’s move.
Mursi’s attempt to strengthen his powers shows anxiety over bigger challenges to come. His honeymoon in office is running out. Although many still support Mursi, this is probably temporarily boosted by his mediating role in Gaza.

Three million workers in Egypt are now organised in 800 independent trade unions (compared to four independent unions before the 2011 uprising). Two thousand Ain al-Sokhna dockworkers employed by DP World (owned by the Dubai government) struck in October, with 800 occupying the port in shifts, bringing it to a standstill. They were protesting against the sacking of eight trade union activists and successfully forced the company to back down. Cadbury, Suzuki Motors, Pirelli Tyres and other multinational corporations have all sacked trade union activists.

On 14 November, Cairo metro workers went on strike, returning four hours later after the company chair agreed to resign and pay talks were agreed. The leaders were summoned by security forces and charged with hindering work, but they warned the workers would be back on strike if they were harmed.

After many strikes and protests in recent months, Mursi has threatened, “In the new law there is no room for blockading roads or [obstructing] production.” The government is making organisation of independent unions harder. It wants to strengthen the state-backed Egyptian Trade Union Federation, replacing its Mubarak-era leaders with Muslim Brotherhood members.
IMF loan with strings attached

The International Monetary Fund has just approved a $4.8billion loan to help Egypt’s growing budget deficit. Fearing further revolutionary movements, “there is a strong international desire to help stabilise the rule of Mohamed Morsi and avert economic shocks which could provoke unrest in the Arab world’s most populous nation.” (Financial Times 24.11.12)

The price of the loan is a 22-month ‘reform’ programme, aimed particularly at cutting energy subsidies that account for 20% of the budget. Millions depend on subsidised fuel for cooking, heating and transport. An IMF spokesperson said, “Given the magnitude [of the subsidies], it will take several years to wind them down. To get buy in [from the population] and protect those in need, savings cannot be used exclusively to reduce the deficit but must also shore up necessary social spending.”

Food costs continue to rise, causing great hardship. All the problems under Mubarak remain – including jobs and housing shortages, inadequate health care, sexual harassment of women, electricity and water cuts, overcrowded and poorly maintained roads and public transport.

Over 50 young children going to school were killed when their bus was struck by a train on 17th November – the latest of many tragedies in Egypt where terrible safety claimed innocent lives. Egypt’s infrastructure continues to crumble, unchanged by revolutionary upheavals over the past two years. The prime minister was chased away from the hospital by family members when he visited.
Independent working class organisation with socialist programme needed

Workers need to continue building their own independent trade unions. A mass workers’ party is also needed to draw together workers, youth and community activists involved in struggle. While it is correct to march together with liberal forces in opposition to Mursi’s undemocratic measures, workers’ organisations need an independent identity and programme.

Less than six months ago, the Revolutionary Socialists (linked to the International Socialist Tendency/British SWP) called for support for Mursi in the second round of the presidential election to defeat the old regime candidate, Ahmed Shafiq. They wrote of “the error in failure to discriminate between the reformism of the Muslim Brotherhood and the ‘fascism’ of Shafiq.” (28th May statement) What sort of ‘reformism’ is Mursi showing now, as he negotiates with the IMF and tries to put himself above legal challenge?

The Revolutionary Socialists now say the Muslim Brotherhood regime and the remnants of the old regime “are two sides of the same coin…We say to Mursi: you and your organisation are the real threat to the revolution, as you embrace Mubarak’s businessmen, run panting after loans from the IMF, trade in religion, threaten national unity and sell the revolution.” (23rd November 2012)

Such twists and turns, without analysing their earlier mistaken positions, confuse instead of clarify. Who do the RS include in their “national unity”? Is it the same “national unity” Mursi spoke of in his announcement?

What is needed is unity between workers, poor people and youth around a programme of democratic socialist change – a second revolution to win real, lasting democratic rights and to take into public ownership under genuine democratic control all the major companies and banks. Egypt’s wealth could then be planned for the benefit of all, ending disasters such as the 17th November rail crash. A socialist Egypt would inspire a new wave of democratic socialist revolution across the region.

Defend the 4: Historic victory for Socialist Party trade-unionists

From the Socialist:

The white flag of surrender is currently flying over Unison HQ (Britain’s main public sector union). For five and half years the union bureaucracy have sought to justify and defend the witch-hunt against four Unison activists and Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) members.

They have spent over £100,000 and have been prepared to lose thousands of defecting members and many good activists.

Despite losing in two courts - Employment Tribunal (ET) and Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) - they were still willing to spend another £100,000 in taking the case to the Court of Appeal, with the Orwellian argument that the lower courts had breached the union’s human rights in not being allowed to ban the four!

The case was due to be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in December. But on 20 November the union did a complete U-turn.

They have written to the court to withdraw their appeal. In doing so the union has now accepted the previous courts’ decision that they acted illegally.

A hearing will now be called to determine the compensation that the union will have to pay to the four.

The four have now set legal history in defending the right of union members to defend themselves from being attacked by union bureaucracies seeking to silence them.

The four Socialist Party members were disciplined by Unison on trumped-up charges of racism, after producing a leaflet at the 2007 Unison conference, challenging the Standing Orders Committee about ruling resolutions off the conference agenda. The ET completely exonerated the four on bogus allegations of racism.

Unison took disciplinary action in 2007 against Glenn Kelly, Onay Kasab, Brian Debus and Suzanne Muna and then took three of the activists’ branches away from democratic lay member control and into regional administration.

The Four challenged the union’s actions in court and twice the courts ruled that they were unlawfully and unjustifiably disciplined.

The EAT further found that the disciplinary action violated Unison members’ democratic rights.

Unbelievably, Unison filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal against the ET and EAT’s decisions. Then on 17 July this year, Unison demanded the right to claim costs if they won the appeal. But the Unison leadership’s demands were thrown out of court.

In a humiliating response to Unison’s attempts to bully the four out of defending themselves in court due to lack of money, Lord Justice Elias called Unison "shabby".

This is a victory for the Socialist Party and the Four, who have refused to be bullied and intimidated. They have run a determined five-year campaign exposing the actions of the union.

The Socialist Party would also like to put on record its thanks to the lawyers who gave their support and time for free, showing that not all lawyers are just in it for the money, in particular, Nick De Marco.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Monday, 19 November 2012

Stop the Israeli state terror!

Socialist Party Meeting: Stop the Assault on Gaza
Tomorrow - Tuesday 20th November 2012
Cheltenham Road Library,

The Israeli government has declared that its shocking and brutal assault on the Gaza strip will be a "widespread campaign" and threatens "protracted conflict".

Among its opening strikes was the assassination of the military leader of Islamist party Hamas, Ahmed Jabari, and more than ten other Palestinians, as a terrifying rain of missiles were fired from the air.

The onslaught was clearly aimed at escalating the conflict, with the Israeli regime turning its back on a ceasefire agreement that had just been negotiated to stop military attacks from both sides.

Assassinations of Palestinians by the Israeli armed forces in recent months have played a central part in escalating the conflicts in the south of Israeli and Gaza.

Nevertheless, British foreign secretary William Hague blamed Hamas as bearing "principal responsibility" because of the rocket fire from Gaza, as effectively did Labour's Douglas Alexander, both refusing to condemn the Israeli regime for deploying its massive, vastly stronger, military might.

"I am responsible for us choosing the right time to exact the heaviest price and so be it" was the chilling message of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Palestinians fear a repeat of the invasion of Gaza at the end of 2008, when nearly 1,400 people were slaughtered, including 314 children, and are in a state of terror and panic.

There are ominous signs that a ground invasion is being considered, with Israeli soldiers' leave cancelled and some reservists called up.

As well as the terrible toll of Palestinian deaths and injuries, following the killing of Jabari three Israeli civilians were killed in the Israeli town of Kiryat Malakhi when their building was hit by a Palestinian missile.

Netanyahyu and Co knew that their assault would bring this kind of response but their aim was not to encourage peace and security for Israelis or Palestinians, but was to serve their own interests.
Seeking votes

In particular they are desperately trying to boost their support prior to the general election scheduled for January by trying to appear to be fortifying security in Israel.

In recent weeks, opinion polls have showed that Likud Beytenu, the newly merged party formed by Netanyahu and Lieberman, was losing support.

They want to draw attention away from the burning social problems in Israel, which Lieberman said he's "sick of hearing all the cries about".

The Israeli government's decision to respond to straying shells from Syria by returning fire, along with other threats of retaliatory military action, and threats of punitive action against the West Bank based Palestinian Authority, are also part of the election campaign of these failing nationalist politicians.

They fear losing their seats and are therefore willing to engage in mass slaughter of Palestinians and to gamble on the lives of ordinary Israelis.

Leaders of the main Israeli 'opposition' political parties, Yachimovich (Labour), Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Mofaz (Kadima) were quick to stand by the government and speak with one voice.

They don't even pretend to offer any real alternative to the narrow, mad and dangerous agenda of the current government.

In addition to their re-election aims, the Israeli leaders want to cut across the revival of a Palestinian bid for UN recognition later this month, pre-empt any pressure for peace talks from re-elected Obama in the US, and to try to counter any strengthening of Hamas as a result of the major changes and tensions in the region - in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon etc.

But their blood-filled strategy can spiral out of their control and rebound on them by massively inflaming relations between countries and the situations within them; already there are protests and demonstrations breaking out across the Arab countries and worldwide, as well as in the Palestinian territories.

In Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza, a call to defend the residents of Gaza is being made on demonstrations.

Opposition to the war plans of Israeli leaders Netanyahu, Barak and Lieberman must also be rapidly organised in Israel to make it clear that the bloodshed is not in the interests of ordinary Israelis and to counter the lies of the government.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Bristol protest against Israeli attacks on Gaza - tomorrow...Not one more bomb!

This event has been organised tomorrow, please come along and show solidarity with the people Gaza:

Not one more bomb! Stop Israeli attacks on Gaza!
Friday 16th November 5pm
The Fountains, Bristol Centre (opposite the hippodrome)

Che Guevara - Symbol of fashion or symbol of struggle?

By Tom Baldwin, Mayoral Candidate for Bristol, Trade Unionists & Socialists Against Cuts
Che Guevara, photo Alberto Korda
Che Guevara, photo Alberto Korda
Ernesto 'Che' Guevara is perhaps the most recognisable revolutionary icon, his image having graced countless posters and t-shirts.
For some it is just a fashion statement, but many are drawn to him as a symbol of the struggle against capitalism and the fight for a better world.
Films such as the Motorcycle Diaries and the two-part biopic 'Che' reflect his enduring popularity and give a glimpse of how his political ideas developed.
Revolutionaries do not fall ready-made from the sky, but are formed by conditions and events. In 1950 the asthmatic Guevara began his series of travels around Latin America as a 22 year old middle class medical student, seeking only youthful adventure.
But these experiences were to shape the rest of his life. On these journeys he witnessed the enormous class divide that existed between the "luxurious façade" and the real "soul" of the continent, the poor and downtrodden.
Seeing the struggles of workers and the poor everywhere he went, Guevara's attitude evolved from sympathy, through support, to active participation.
It was also on these travels that he was given the nickname Che, due to his Argentinian accent.

26 July Movement

It was in Mexico in 1955 that Che first met Fidel Castro and joined his 26 July movement. At the time Cuba was under the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, who had come to power through a military coup.
Its economy was completely dominated by US big business and wealthy Americans frequented the many Havana brothels and casinos.
Castro wanted a modern capitalist state in Cuba with some reforms for the poor. He envisaged a guerrilla struggle to overthrow only the dictatorship, not capitalism.
Even after returning to Cuba he told a journalist: "we have no animosity towards the United States... we are fighting for a democratic Cuba and an end to dictatorship".
Che himself was, by this point, an avowed socialist but joined the movement as a way to get active in the struggle.
He had previously criticised the Stalinist 'popular front' policy, promoted by the Cuban Communist Party.
This was the idea that in Latin American countries the working class was not ready to take power and establish a socialist society and instead had to make alliances with the 'progressive' sections of the national capitalist class in order to defeat imperialism.
He had seen first-hand how these so-called progressive capitalists were prepared to use bloody repression against the workers to defend their own interests.
However, while correctly criticising this approach, Che did not propose an alternative. He had not absorbed the lessons of the Russian Revolution nor the writings of its leaders, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, particularly on the role of the revolutionary party and Trotsky's theory of the permanent revolution.

Trotsky's theory

Trotsky explained that the capitalist class in countries with developing capitalist economies such as Cuba was dominated by imperialism and unable to play the independent role that it had in the capitalist revolutions such as in Britain.
It was therefore incapable of carrying out its historical role and the tasks of land reform, establishing capitalist democracy and creating an independent nation state.
Trotsky argued that these steps could only be achieved through socialist revolution: nationalising industry, taking its ownership and control out of the hands of the capitalists and establishing a planned economy under democratic workers' control.
Trotsky said that the working class, even when in a minority, must lead the struggle against capitalism.
The decisive role of the working class arises from its role in production and the collective consciousness which develops in the workplace and lays the basis for the collective democratic control and management of society.
Because of isolation in rural areas and an individualistic outlook, the peasantry cannot lead such a transformation, but can still play in important role in the struggle.
This theory was borne out in the course of the 1917 Russian Revolution when the working class, in the period immediately after 1917, established the most democratic state in history.
But Che was not an active member of any organisation that understood the lessons of 1917. He instead saw the peasantry as the most revolutionary class and the methods of guerrilla struggle as the most effective.
He was influenced by many factors, including his own class background, the abandonment of an independent working class approach by communist parties and the victory of Mao's peasant army in the Chinese revolution.

Cuban revolution

It was December 1956 when a small band of fighters, Che and Castro among them, landed in Cuba. The landing was plagued with errors and accidents and two days later, when the scattered guerrillas managed to regroup, they were reduced in number from 82 to just 20. But just over two years later they had forced Batista to flee the island.
Che thought the guerrilla struggle would ignite a revolutionary movement, especially among the peasantry.
But while the guerrillas drew support, the mass of the population - especially the urban working class - were not active participants in the struggle.
Che gained a reputation as a courageous fighter and leader. He also organised political discussions among those under him and argued for socialist ideas within the 26 July Movement.
The guerrilla forces grew as they were seen as the only force consistently opposing the Batista dictatorship.
In marked contrast to the brutal treatment they received at the hands of the regime, the guerrillas did not execute the soldiers they captured.
Instead they discussed politics with them and let them go, winning an increasing number of defectors from the army.
On 1 January 1959, with his regime crumbling and the guerrillas approaching the cities, Batista fled the country.
The only successful general strike since Che's arrival on the island was called for the following day, which greeted the guerrillas as they marched into the major cities.
Despite Che arguing for it, Castro's intention had never been the overthrow of capitalism. It was over a year later when he first described the revolution in Cuba as 'socialist'.
He was pushed to take measures of nationalisation by the pressure of the masses combined with the reaction of American imperialism.
As the US recoiled, Cuba developed greater trade and political links with the Soviet Union. The 26 July movement merged with the Communist Party and became the organ of one party rule.

Capitalism overthrown

The Cuban revolution broadly bears out the theory of the permanent revolution. Castro's vision of an independent, democratic, capitalist Cuba was impossible; the Cuban revolution overthrew capitalism.
But workers did not play an active role in the revolution, so their role in the subsequent running of society was also passive.
From the outset the planned economy in Cuba was controlled not by workers' democracy, but by a bureaucratic elite, reflecting Stalinism in the USSR.
Despite this, the revolution still brought huge improvements to the lives of ordinary Cubans. Illiteracy was eradicated in just two years and by the late 1970s life expectancy was 74, comparable to Britain and much higher than other Latin American countries, Bolivia's was just 45.
Showing the same spirit of self-sacrifice that had marked him out as a fighter, Che rejected completely the privileges of the bureaucracy.
For this he must be saluted and it is one of the reasons he's still so admired today. Despite his growing disillusionment and revulsion at the bureaucracy, unlike Leon Trotsky he did not propose nor fight consistently for an alternative.
Instead he left Cuba in order to try and spread revolution abroad. This devotion to internationalism was another of Che's best characteristics.
The methods of guerrilla struggle, which succeeded in the specific conditions of Cuba, did not have the same effect elsewhere.
In 1965, Che left for the Congo but his efforts were unsuccessful and he had to make a clandestine return to Cuba.
In 1967 he appeared with a band of guerrillas in Bolivia. Sadly the failure to ignite revolution and resulting defeat of that struggle were to prove fatal to Che.
Che was captured and executed by the Bolivian army, backed by the CIA, at the age of just 39. Throughout his life, the injustices that Che saw motivated him to continue struggling for a better world.
At the same time, the development of his political ideas never stopped. Works by Trotsky were found on him when he was captured.
Che Guevara's position as an icon of struggle is completely justified. But we would not be doing his life justice if we did not examine it 'warts and all'.
His life is an inspiration for all those seeking to fight oppression and change society.

Today is your chance to vote against austerity - vote for Tom Baldwin for Bristol Mayor

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Tom Baldwin for Mayor! - Eve of Poll Rally this Wed 14th

Trade Unionist & Socialist Against Cuts
Eve of Poll Rally
Bristol Council House, College Green
Wednesday 14th 2012

Dave Nellist - former Socialist Party councillor in Coventry
John McInally - PCS NEC, personal capacity 
Tom Baldwin TUSC mayoral candidate

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Nadine Dorries in I'm a Celebrity row - Dave Nellist talks about his time as an MP on a workers wage

Following the example of all genuine workers representatives, Tom Baldwin, Mayoral candidate in Bristol for the Trade Unionists & Socialists Coalition  has pledged to repudiate the huge salary and only except the average wage of a worker in Bristol.
See this from Coventry Socialist Party:

Rightwing Tory MP Nadine Dorries decision to take part in reality TV show ‘I’m a celebrity...Get me out of here’, which could see her being away from her job in the Commons for up to a month, has sparked controversy across the establishment media and within the Tory Party itself. It raises once again the role and duties of an sitting MP.

We have re-posted beblow an interview with Coventry Socialist Party member Dave Nellist. Dave was a ‘Militant’ supporting Labour MP in Coventry from 1983-92, who chose only to take a skilled factory workers wage, and a Socialist Party Councillor in Coventry from 1998-2012.

Dave Nellist Interview In Red Pepper

The recent scandal over MPs’ expenses and second jobs only seems to have confirmed the suspicion that ‘they’re all at it’. But when Dave Nellist was elected as Labour MP for Coventry South East he made a point of only taking the wage of an average worker. Now a Coventry city councillor and leading member of the Socialist Party, he spoke to Red Pepper about his experience in Westminster

You took the average worker’s wage as an MP – how much would that have been, roughly, in today’s terms?

It was an average skilled worker’s wage, which was always less than half an MP’s salary. For example, in 1989 MPs received £24,107 and the average skilled worker’s wage that year, calculated from figures from the engineering union’s Coventry district office, was £11,180 – so that was 46 per cent. An MP today is on £64,766 – 46 per cent of that would be £29,792. But the amount I would take today if re-elected would depend not on a percentage, but the actual average wages received by the people I represented.

What were your personal circumstances at the time? Were you married? Did you have kids? Were you conscious of making sacrifices?

My wife Jane and I were married in August 1984, during the miners’ strike. We held a social as part of the wedding celebration and charged an entry fee, which raised quite a bit for the local miners’ support fund!

For the first year we were married Jane still had her job in a department store in Sutton Coldfield. But a year later the first of our three children arrived and for the rest of my time as an MP we only had the one worker’s wage for myself, Jane and our family to live on.

I’d been unemployed before being elected in 1983, so living on a skilled worker’s wage was not a ‘sacrifice’. We had a holiday every year in Scotland or Wales, and we could manage a night out for a meal or to the theatre or the cinema in exactly the same way as any other couple with young children could. But we felt the same pressures with bills and other living expenses as the people I represented.

So I would say taking the ‘worker’s wage’ wasn’t so much making a sacrifice. If I had taken the full MP’s wage we would have been insulated against those day-to-day problems and the pressures that most people in Coventry felt. 

How did you divide your time between your constituency and Westminster?Did you need to keep up two houses? Did you take much in the way of expenses above and beyond your ‘worker’s wage’?

I usually dealt with constituency business on Monday morning, went to London Monday lunchtime, tried to come back Tuesday evening (late), more constituency business/meetings on Wednesday morning, then back to London at lunchtime, coming back to Coventry late Thursday night – unless there was any pressing business on Friday. Friday and the weekend would be spent on casework/meetings in the constituency or addressing public meetings elsewhere.

Although I managed to have a voting record usually in the top ten of Labour MPs, I addressed about 1,500 meetings over the nine years I was an MP. In the 1980s parliament often sat late into the night (or even through the night), so I rented a furnished flat in London. No moat or oak beams! Nor any claims for food!

I claimed the full ‘office costs’ allowance to employ research and secretarial assistance in the Commons and in the constituency. I also rented an office in Coventry to work from. I was receiving on average 200 letters a week. We had wards with 50 per cent male unemployment, and a huge amount of constituency casework. None of the office costs money came to me personally – it was used to pay wages, and for rent and equipment.

What did you think of your fellow MPs? Were they clearly ‘on the take’ in your day? Did having a comfortable salary make them out of touch?

A number of MPs had outside jobs – mainly, in those days, Tory MPs with directorships. One I remember, Geoffrey Rippon, who had been a minister in previous Tory governments, was the King of Company Directors. When I was there he was an MP, a QC, and the chairman or director of four dozen different companies. He had 50 jobs!

It always seemed to me to be the real reason why parliament sat in the afternoon and evening, so Tory MPs could make their real money in the mornings – or as Geoffrey Rippon apparently put it, ‘to earn a crust and go on drinking decent claret’. These days, of course, it’s ex-Labour ministers who are earning tens of thousands of pounds a year moonlighting. In my book it’s an even bigger crime than playing the expenses system to be an ex-‘Labour’ minister advising private companies on how to win contracts taking public services away, and getting paid perhaps two or three times an MP’s salary – on top of an MP’s salary!

(Terry Fields MP & Dave Nellist MP at Eric Heffers funeral. Photo Dave Sinclair)

How did other MPs react to the example set by yourself (and fellow left MPs Pat Wall and Terry Fields), proving that the job could (and perhaps should) be done on the average worker’s wage?

Although there were a number of honourable exceptions (Dennis Skinner’s and other Campaign Group MPs’ generous donations during the miners’ strike, for example), for many Labour MPs it wasn’t the socialist ideas we tried to champion in parliament that upset them the most, but the threat to them receiving their ‘due reward’.

Perhaps the most vivid example was the debate on MPs’ salaries and allowances shortly after the 1987 general election (MPs’ wage increases were never announced before elections, when they might upset voters). The debate started at 9pm and went on until past midnight, and yet every seat in the House was taken! The motion was for a 21.9 per cent rise in MPs’ salaries from £356 a week to £434 a week. That £80 a week rise was £3 more than the then take-home pay for a whole week for civil servants, upon whom the government had just imposed a 4.25 per cent pay award.

I organised the vote against. I prepared a speech, which I reckoned would take me 10-15 minutes to deliver. Because of interruptions, it actually took 38 minutes. I asked MPs to vote against the rise; but that if it were passed I asked Labour MPs to give at least 5 per cent of their new salaries to the Labour Party to prevent the proposed 40 redundancies that were due to take place at Labour headquarters.
Immediately after me, David Blunkett spoke and complained about me ‘lecturing colleagues on how much to give of their pay’. He said he tried ‘to do a good job, to learn how to do it better and to try to earn the rewards that I am paid’. The motion to increase MPs’ wages by 22 per cent went through by an 11 to one majority.
David Blunkett now apparently gets three times his MP’s salary (on top of his MP’s salary) in outside earnings from firms including A4e, which describes itself as ‘a leader in global public service reform’.
I rest my case.

Dave Nellist was MP for Coventry South East from 1983 until 1992

US Elections: Socialist wins historic 27% against WA House Speaker

From Socialist Alternative (CWI USA) -

Kshama Sawant, the Occupy-inspired Socialist Alternative (CWI supporters in the USA) candidate for Washington State House, scored 27% against Democratic incumbent Speaker Frank Chopp. With half the votes yet to be counted, Sawant is predicted to win over 20,000 votes - the highest vote for an openly Socialist candidate in Washington in decades, and Frank Chopp’s strongest challenge during his entire 18 years in office. This follows the historic lawsuit by Sawant that compelled the Washington Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and King County to print her party preference, Socialist Alternative, on the ballot.

“We achieved this election result as an openly Socialist campaign that was largely ignored by the corporate media, with no corporate donations, on a shoe string budget,” explained Sawant. "Occupy gave a voice to working people’s rage at Wall Street, and our campaign gave voice to mass anger at the corporate politicians. It shows the potential to build a powerful left electoral challenge to the two corporate parties.”

“This vote sends a clear message to Frank Chopp and the political establishment – we are coming after you. We are reaching out to other progressive forces to form a united left slate of independent working-class candidates to run a vigorous campaign for Mayor and every open City Council position in 2013,” Sawant stated. “Wall Street has two parties - working people need a party of our own.”

The Democrats who control the state government are likely to implement further budget cuts to social services next year while they allow corporations such as Boeing and Microsoft to get away without paying barely any taxes. Sawant, a professor of economics at Seattle Central Community College and union activist, commented: "Alongside left electoral challenges, public sector unions like mine need to prepare for strike action against cuts. Ordinary people need to be ready to occupy City Hall and the Olympia state capitol building against attacks on our living standards.”
Election night saw mass celebrations erupt in the streets of Seattle after the passage of Referendum 74 upholding marriage rights for same-sex couples. Speaking from atop a make-shift sound truck, Sawant addressed a crowd of over 2,000 people: “If you think that the Democratic Party politicians did this for you, let me tell you it was us that won this! The fight for LGBT rights has just begun, we still need to fight poverty, homelessness, and workplace discrimination.”

Monday, 5 November 2012

Fight austerity! No to all cuts!

Videos from TUC march - Rally votes for General Strike!

Around 150000 marched through London to Hyde Park. Len Mcluskey, UNITE's General Secretary, called the rally to vote for a General Strike - this was passed!

Report from Socialism 2012

Socialism 2012 Rally - photo by Senan

Socialism 2012 An inspirational weekend of socialist rallies, discussion and debate took place in London over the weekend 3-4 November, organised by the Socialist Party. Despite the fact that Socialist Party members and supporters were out in force just two weeks before for the national TUC 20th October anti-austerity demonstration, Socialism 2012 was very well attended. Rally at Socialism 2012, 3-4 November , photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge) Two large rallies took place in Friends Meeting House, Euston, on the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon and there were three sets of smaller sessions giving an opportunity for everyone present to discuss and express points of view. Bob Crow speaking during the Socialism 2012 Saturday rally, photo by Senan (Click to enlarge) The first rally welcomed transport union RMT general secretary Bob Crow onto the platform, who opened the event with a rousing speech against the Con-Dem government and in favour of a one-day general strike against its attacks. He was followed by excellent speeches from: Assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers Association Joe Simpson; Socialist Students organiser Claire Laker-Mansfield; Participant in the recent South African miners' strike movement in South Africa Alec Thraves; and General secretary of the Socialist Party Peter Taaffe. Socialism 2012 rally, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge) Addressing the second rally, were: General secretary of the Fire Brigades Union Matt Wrack; Assistant general secretary of the RMT Steve Hedley; Chair of the National Shop Stewards Network Rob Williams; President of the DWP group in the Public and Commercial Services union Fran Heathcote; and Deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party Hannah Sell. Over £17,000 was raised in the financial appeal made by Alec Thraves during the Saturday rally. If you weren't present, you can still add your donation to this important appeal; see and click on 'donate' below. A fuller report of the weekend will be posted soon.


Crossrail dispute: Desperate BFK resort to violence

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Miliband placates big business by promising more 'tough settlements for public services'

By Tom Baldwin, TUSC candidate for Bristol mayor

With anger rising against the government coalition's austerity programme, Labour is riding high in the opinion polls.

But there certainly isn't any enthusiasm for Labour leader Ed Miliband as a future prime minister. In fact he has a lower personal approval rating than Tory leader David Cameron!

His speech at the Labour Party conference was seen as chance to re-launch his "vision".

He has been praised for his confident delivery but beyond his ability to memorise a speech and which school he went to, what have we learnt about Ed Miliband? More importantly for those drowning in Con-Dem cuts and privatisation, what would a Labour government do differently? Certainly those hoping for any new ideas will have been disappointed.

The main theme of the speech - 'One Nation' - was the rehashing of an old idea, and an old Tory idea at that. In fact it was first raised by Tory leader Benjamin Disraeli 140 years ago.

Miliband considers himself a One Nation politician and he made sure we knew, using the phrase 46 times in his speech! He was forced to reflect the worries of ordinary people, the millions of us who can't find work or are struggling to make ends meet.

He correctly said that the system doesn't work for them. But the idea of 'One Nation' cannot square the opposing interests of workers trying to improve their pay and bosses who are trying to cut it.

We live under capitalism, a system where society is divided up in to classes. Rarely is this more obvious than now when the super-rich are continuing to rake it in while working class people are expected to pay for their crisis.

With four out of five ministers in this government being millionaires it is clear who they represent.

Bosses are getting cuts to their tax and to health and safety regulations, we're getting cuts to our pay, jobs and services.

Unfortunately, what little concrete proposals there were in Miliband's speech made clear that fundamentally Labour will continue with the same agenda.

Listening to other speeches at the conference confirms this. Labour's only alternative to austerity is slightly slower austerity.

In many local councils Labour councillors are already implementing huge cuts. They are another party of big business.

The 'One Nation' rhetoric is simply a way of masking their true intent, as the claim "we're all in it together" or the idea of the 'Big Society' were for Cameron.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Labour-affiliated trade union Unison, although a Labour supporter was forced to concede that the speech "offered little hope to the millions of low-paid public service workers ... who are going through massive pay cuts, their jobs threatened and their services privatised." In fact Miliband did offer them something: "Tough settlements for the public services and that will make life harder for those who use them and harder for those who work in them."

Ed Miliband was elected Labour leader two years ago, largely by the votes of trade unionists. Many hoped that he would lead a return to 'Old Labour'.

This hasn't happened. Now members of Labour-affiliated unions should be asking why their money is still going to a party that doesn't represent them.

We desperately need a party that will stand up for working-class and middle-class people.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), supported by the RMT transport union and a number of leading trade unionists in other unions is an important step towards such a party.

TUSC candidates will stand in the Manchester Central byelection and the Bristol mayoral election in November on a clear programme of implacable opposition to all cuts.

Workers don't need pious speeches about how hard things are, they need support when they fight back.TUSC supporters are proud to stand on picket lines with workers defending their standards of living. There's no attempt to hide whose interests we stand for - it is the 99%.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Palestine: Protests and strikes against high prices and Oslo shake the West Bank

By Shahar Ben-Khorin, Maavak Sotzyalisti/Nidal Eshteraki (CWI in Israel/Palestine)

"A-sha`eb youreed esqat Oslo!" – "The people want the fall of [the] Oslo [Accords]!" – a paraphrase of the famous slogan of the ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions, has become a central slogan in the latest struggles in the occupied West Bank. A wave of angry protests and strike action by thousands shook the area at the beginning of the month against the unbearable cost of living and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) government, particularly its slavish acceptance of the economic arrangements and conditions dictated to it by the Israeli regime.

Another slogan, "Yalla irh’al ya Fayyad!" – "Leave already, Fayyad!" – paraphrases a revolutionary song against the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Effigies of the PA prime minister, Salam Fayyad, a former official of the IMF and World Bank and a current stooge of Western imperialism, were set on fire and in Hebron demonstrators threw shoes over a large banner carrying with his photo. In an attempt to isolate the protestors, he rhetorically declared a willingness to resign if that was the will of the people and it would “solve the economic problems". Already at the beginning of the year, Fayyad was forced by social protests to reverse decisions to attack public sector workers’ pensions and raise taxes, but this time the protests are more extensive and radicalised.

At the end of May, the PA reaffirmed its support for a complete monopoly by Israeli petrol corporations for the next two years. As petrol prices were raised by 7% and set at an all-time record in Israel (8.25 Shekels / €1.63 per litre of octane 95) on 1 September, they were automatically matched in the PA enclaves (excluding the Gaza Strip), where GDP per capita is about 15 times lower than the Israeli figure of $32,000 and unemployment is on the rise, estimated at 17%. In neighbouring Jordan, thousands protested against the decision of the government to increase petrol prices for the second time in three months, which was enough to scare King Abdullah with the spectre of a mass movement and to spur him to reverse the government’s decision. In Jordan, the price of petrol is less than half of the Israeli rate! As if the general rise in the price of food and basic products wasn’t enough, the PA’s VAT rate, pegged to its Israeli counterpart, was raised at the beginning of September from 16% to 17%, imitating the measure taken by the Israeli government. And yet once again, after months of delays in the payment of wages, the 150,000 public employees of the PA (including over 50,000 non-governmental employees in Gaza), providing a living for nearly a million people, didn’t get their shrivelled salaries for August, and were forced to pay the price of the PA’s deep fiscal crisis.
Youth against Price Rises

All of this was received with great frustration and revulsion on the streets of the occupied West Bank. Tragically, similarly to many such incidents since the Tunisian revolution, these sentiments were accompanied by some attempts at self-immolation. One of these was in Gaza by an 18-year old unemployed person from the a-Shati refugee camp, who died soon after (a parallel wave of bitter self-immolation protests among impoverished Israelis since July has taken three lives). However, at the same time, hundreds of Palestinian workers and youth were also beginning to organize a fightback from 4 September. The day after, thousands demonstrated across Palestinian villages, cities and refugee camps in the West Bank. Youth, some of them organized in the new non-partisan front "Youth against Price Rises" (شباب ضد الغلاء), were leading the stormy blockades of main roads and junctions, aided by rocks and burning tyres, shouting slogans against the Ramallah government and its corruption and agreements with Israel. Alongside Palestinian flags and some Keffiyes, there were also some protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks, which have become an international symbol of social protest. Significantly, truck and cab drivers stopped their work and blocked roads and the Palestinian Teachers’ Union initiated several protest strikes as well.

Demonstrators were not impressed with the attempts by the PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, whose term was supposed to end almost four years ago, to endorse the protests, seemingly hoping to use them as a lever for his symbolic re-run bid to the UN General Assembly at the end of the month for the acceptance of the PA as a non-member state. Abbas himself met with angry protests in early July, organized by another youth group, "Palestinians for Dignity" (فلسطينيون من اجل الكرامة), in response to his willingness to meet with the leader of the Israeli Kadima party, Shaul Mofaz. The latter was IDF chief of staff during the Second Intifada (2000-2005) and responsible for several horrendous and bloody onslaughts against the Palestinians. Then, the demonstrators, already shouting against the Oslo Accords, managed to stop this planned meeting but were repressed brutally by Abbas’s security forces, with some ending up hospitalized. To pacify the anger over the role of the PA security forces as subcontractors for the Israeli occupation, an inquiry committee was set up. This time, Abbas initially implied that no force would be used against protestors, and on the ground parts of his Fatah party intervened in the demonstrations, apparently trying to focus the anger around the non-Fatah Fayyad. Those tactics didn’t help in watering down the general anger towards the PA. In the north-eastern governorate of Tubas, the governor was hit on the head by stones in one of the demonstrations. Very quickly, Fatah activists’ focus on Fayyad was answered in demos with matching calls against Abbas. In some incidents, protestors turned their frustration against PA buildings and threw rocks at the PA policemen. They were met with tear-gas and batons. Dozens were injured in Hebron and Nablus.

Read the rest of the article here:

Labour Party conference: Can Labour give a lead in the fight against austerity?

Lead article from this weeks The Socialist, by Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary

Owen Jones will debate these questions with Clive Heemskerk, deputy editor of Socialism Today, at:Socialism 2012, a weekend of discussion and debate.

The Labour Party conference takes place at a crucial time. Working people are crying out for a lead in a mass movement which can force elections and topple the hated Con-Dem government.

The TUC has responded, under the pressure of left trade unions and radical fighting forces such as the National Shop Stewards Network, by passing a motion calling for a 24-hour general strike.

The battle is on to make sure that, in the run-up to the 20 October TUC demonstration and afterwards, the General Council names the date for a one-day general strike.

No such bold initiative can be expected at the Labour Party conference. On the contrary, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls make it quite clear that they are opposed to strikes.

Yet the right to strike is the ultimate weapon, the last resort which working people possess to confront the bosses and their government.

And these rights are already severely restricted through Thatcher's anti-union laws. Laws, which New Labour in power, both under Blair and Brown, did nothing to repeal.

'Wait for Labour'

The Eds' mantra is 'wait for the Labour government'. It is also the real policy of right-wing trade union leaders who are incapable or afraid of mounting effective resistance which can mobilise the full potential of the labour movement to defeat the anti-working class measures of the government.

But what will such a government look like if it is successful in being elected? Ed Balls spelt this out in the most explicit terms at the TUC Congress.

Delegates were outraged to hear a possible future Labour chancellor openly admitting that if New Labour was in power now it too would be carrying through cuts and holding down wages.

This at a time when a UNCTAD report has pointed out that the share of GDP taken by wages declined from 70% in 1970 to less than 63% in 2010!

In other words, the only policy the New Labour leadership has is continued impoverishment of the working class.

Ah, but these would be different to Tory cuts! It would be like the ill-fated 'social contract' of the Labour government of 1974-79, which was supposed to be a trade-off for limited wage rises in order to create jobs.

The social contract collapsed when the trade union movement concluded that it was a device for holding down wages while prices increased, resulting in deteriorating living standards and little benefit in terms of new jobs.
Economic crisis

It didn't work then nor will it work today, particularly when capitalism demands unprecedented cuts in living standards as the price for maintaining the system.

There is not the slightest perception among the New Labour tops of the grave, deep-going crisis, which will hold any government in an economic vice, severely restrict its room for manoeuvre and remorselessly force it to bend the knee to capital unless it has a programme to break the stranglehold of capitalism.

Witness the retreats already, within months of being elected, of French president Francois Hollande. Forced by the pressure of the 'market', he has promised that his already weak and ineffective wealth tax will last no more than two years and even that timescale could be in doubt.

Moreover, he has proposed a €30 billion cuts package in state expenditure. The consequence of this is a plummeting in his standing in the polls and, incredibly, a rise in the standing of the recently ousted right-wing Sarkozy.

The Bank of International Settlements shows that on the basis of capitalism, the scenario for the working people of Britain and Europe is dire.

The Financial Times commented on its findings: "In most advanced economies, the fiscal budget excluding interest payments would need 20 consecutive years of surpluses exceeding 2% of gross domestic product just to bring the debt-to-GDP ratio back to its pre-crisis levels." [22 August.] The British capitalist economy has no chance of achieving a 'surplus'.

In fact, despite all the pain associated with cuts, the budget deficit will not be eliminated by the next election.

Capitalism is going through its biggest crisis since the 1930s. The failure of this system is there for all to see in the more than 200 million unemployed worldwide, including 100 million young people, and the colossal growth of inequality and poverty.

Europe is convulsed - particularly southern Europe - by mass movements protesting against the dead end of capitalism, which offers nothing for the future but endless austerity.

Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland are experiencing a soul-destroying depression. The level of unemployment in Greece for instance is the same - 24% - as afflicted the US in the deepest days of the 1930s Great Depression.

The youth with no future have scattered to the four corners of Europe and the world, or are returning to the villages from which their families came, in a desperate but largely fruitless search for a job, any job, even one paying slave wages. The wheel of history is being turned back before our eyes!

And Britain, facing the onslaught of decayed British capitalism and its brutal agents, Cameron, Osborne and Clegg, is not far behind; it is Greece in slow motion! Unless the present economic decline is arrested and a massive programme of growth, generating millions of jobs, is put in place, the conditions of southern Europe will surely come to Britain.

There are already elements of Greece present in the social decay of Britain flowing from economic decline, revealed already in the growing ranks of youth unemployment and the 'solution' of overseer Boris Johnson for them of work with no pay.

Even the knights of capitalism - professional economists - desperately casting around for an alternative have turned to Marx's ideas, according to the BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders.

She has produced a TV programme in which capitalist economists praise Marx and his ideas.

For instance, George Magnus is a senior economic adviser to the Swiss bank UBS and a frequent guest on Newsnight who "decided that Marx's warnings about the internal contradictions of capitalism were becoming more and more relevant."

It's reported that Magnus wrote an article headlined 'Give Marx a chance to save the world economy'. He received more emails in response to this than anything else he had written: "Some of the emails were pretty vicious"! The capitalist economist Nouriel Roubini simply stated in the Wall Street Journal: "Karl Marx had it right."


Yet Ed Miliband chooses this moment, just before the Labour Party conference, when capitalism is coming apart at the seams and the props of the system are enormously weakened, to ride to the defence of capitalism.

An interview with Miliband by Charles Moore, the former editor of the right-wing Daily Telegraph, in that paper has the headline: "I want to save the capitalism my father hated." [15 September].

His father, Ralph, was a well-known Marxist opposed to the system and its apologists on the right wing of the Labour Party.

The son, however, "wants to save capitalism from itself". When Charles Moore questioned his support for "responsible capitalism", which Moore correctly says is a "contradiction in terms", he doesn't even deny this! He just falls back on the moth-eaten arguments of Winston Churchill, famous for his hatred of the labour movement, socialism and particularly Marxism: "Yes! But I believe capitalism is the least-worst system we've got. I believe in the creativity of BlackBerry (picking up his)."

How do we know that it is "the least worst system"? A real democratic socialist plan of production has not been tried, at least in an advanced industrial country, up to today.

Miliband seems to equate "inventiveness" - his BlackBerry - to capitalism and the market. Yet it remains a fact that all the big innovations, from space travel and its spin-offs, health research, the worldwide web and aerospace were not developed by private capitalism for profit but were initiatives reliant on state backing.

Imagine the colossal advantages if instead of the isolated islands of innovation in the state sector this was translated to a national and international scale.

Capitalism is an enormous brake not just on the productive forces, but on inventiveness, imagination and talent.

'Good capitalism'

Miliband has also served up 'pre-distribution' as a winning idea. This has been described by an academic from Yale as "to focus on market reforms that encourage a more equal distribution of economic power and rewards even before government collects taxes or pays out benefits".

In other words, it is an extension of Miliband's "good capitalism" (markets). "Equal" and "market" are diametrically opposed to each other.

The system demands the highest possible profit - and the easiest and best way for the capitalists to achieve this is by cutting wages and slashing services.

There is nothing 'modern' in Miliband's arguments. In fact, they predate the formation of the Labour Party itself, a return to the ideas of liberal capitalism, of a programme of limited reforms within the framework of the system.

There was at least an objective basis for such ideas in the 19th century when capitalism was a relatively progressive system.

Despite the horrors of the Industrial Revolution, the slave trade, etc, capitalism was at least able to develop the productive forces, science, technique and the organisation of labour, thus furnishing the possibility on the basis of socialism to abolish want and privation for the first time in history.

However, this system broke down at the end of the 19th century, accentuated in the first decades of the 20th century, when capitalism was no longer capable of providing reforms, through the Liberal Party in particular, to the working class.

This in turn laid the basis for the rejection of the Liberals and the rise of the Labour Party, which adopted a specifically socialist clause in 1918 - the famous Clause IV Part 4 of the Labour Party constitution.

When the labour movement embraced the aim of socialism it was because capitalism had palpably demonstrated, as it does today, its inability to take society forward.

In the former Soviet Union a bureaucratic caste betrayed the ideals of the Russian revolution. Although the planned economy was still maintained - and therefore the system which remained was still relatively progressive compared to capitalism - a one-party totalitarian regime was gradually established.

Socialist opposition

But today, it would not be Stalinism but democratic socialism based upon workers' democracy which would be the model in Britain.

The check and control of all leaders and representatives at every level through workers' control and management of the economy and society would ensure this. This could open up a future of undreamed of plenty.

The other perspective, chosen by Ed Miliband, is of a Labour government operating within the framework of a diseased system of capitalism, with the capitalists threatening blackmail at every step and defeat whenever even a slightly radical measure is proposed.

Even Miliband perhaps has an inkling of this history when he says: "While there's capitalism, there'll be socialism, because there is always a response to injustice." Precisely! Capitalism will always provoke opposition from the suffering working class and, ultimately, also big sections of the middle class.

It will engender a mood of looking for an alternative which will lead to a rediscovery of socialism.

Why not then return to some of the roots of the Labour Party of the past which at least rested on the working class and the labour movement, although the right-wing Labour leadership always had one foot in the camp of capitalism? Miliband will not do this and is therefore preparing disaster for his party and the working class in the event of coming to power.

Some on the left who remain within New Labour, including some left trade union leaders, vainly hope that they can 'reclaim' the party for the working class.

Some, like the left-wing celebrity and writer, Owen Jones, together with trade union leaders like Len McCluskey of Unite, have set up a think tank, the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (Class) to further this aim.

Yet some of the panel members of this new organisation cannot be remotely described as 'left'.

It includes, for instance, Polly Toynbee of the Guardian - in the past, a champion of the right-wing Social Democratic Party split from Labour.

She is, at best, a liberal critic of the present government. Jack Dromey, a former right-wing trade union leader and another stalwart of Class, was a hammer for Neil Kinnock and the right wing in the Labour Party against the immortal Liverpool councillors in the 1980s who confronted and defeated Thatcher.

Moreover, this campaign has set itself very limited aims: to "transform the debate within the Labour Party".

When pressed if and when this project fails, under what circumstances will Class's supporters conclude that the task of transforming New Labour is redundant? Owen Jones has argued: "When the trade union leaders have come to that conclusion."

This worshipper of accomplished facts only proposes to change history when he is guaranteed overwhelming support supplied by the trade union leadership.

With this approach, the Labour Party itself would never been founded in the first place.

It was the heroic minority, those like Keir Hardie, as well as the advanced trade unions, which fought for the project of a new party, which through struggle and events eventually found a majority.

The same task is being fulfilled today by those left trade unions such as the RMT transport union and the left within the PCS and the FBU, as well as the Socialist Party, who are fighting for the same project in modern conditions: a new mass workers' party.

In the teeth of New Labour-dominated councils inflicting savage cuts across the board, such as Knowsley near Liverpool or in Southampton, where two Labour councillors have been suspended for fighting against the closure of a swimming pool and other cuts, what do Owen Jones and his allies on the left do in practice to counter them? Hold out the prospect that, in the mists of time, somehow New Labour will be transformed. This will have as much effect as a drop of water on a hot stove.

But if a mass workers' party, even a small one at the beginning, was in existence then right-wing Labour councillors - more like a privileged caste today rather than genuine representatives of the working class - will be looking over their shoulders at an electoral challenge from such a party.

This would at least hold out the chance of staying their hand and preventing the cuts.

New Labour's party conference, we can be sure, will be long on flowery rhetoric but short on a practical fighting programme to defeat the Con-Dem government.

It is to the idea of a new mass workers' party, with a fighting socialist programme, that increasing numbers of workers will turn in the stormy period opening up in Britain.