Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Bristol Day of Action Against Workfare

With the support of Bristol Youth Fight For Jobs, see event on Facebook here:

On the 3rd of March, anti-cuts groups across the country are organising coordinated protests against the Government's slave-labour workfare programme. This page is for everyone who will be in Bristol on that day. If you want a part in the organisation, get in touch.

The plan is to start outside BHS (next to ferris wheel) at 13:00 and set off on a tour of many of the nearby workfare businesses, briefly stopping outside each shop, making some racket, and moving on to the next (route to be added shortly) before moving on to a rally on Castle Park (unfortunately the Green is bordered off).

PCS says Barclays tax could fund proper jobs for youth

From PCS Press Release

The £500 million in avoided tax that Barclays bank will now have to pay could fund full-time jobs above the living wage for all the young people who have been working for free under the government 'work experience' scheme.

Divided between the 34,000 16 to 24-year-olds who have been put onto the programme, the money could pay salaries of £14,706 a year, or £8.08 an hour for a 35-hour week.

A tax loophole that allowed Barclays to avoid paying £500 million in corporation tax has been closed by HM Revenue and Customs.

PCS points out that this is a "drop in the ocean" compared to more than £120 billion in tax revenue that is avoided, evaded or uncollected every year.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Bristol Socialist Party Public Meeting: Could There Be A 'Compassionate Capitalism'?

Bristol Socialist Party Public Meeting
Tuesday 28th February 2012
Cheltenham Road Library, Cheltenham Road, BS6 5QX

Could There Be A 'Compassionate Capitalism'?

Capitalism is in crisis all over the world. From New York to Athens, from Moscow to Cairo, inequality and poverty are being challenged by millions of people, the 99% are fighting back.
Tories Cameron and Osbourne tell us not to blame capitalism, but only the wrong sort of 'crony capitalism'. Vince Cable and the Liberals lash out at bankers, speculators and other 'nasty' capitalists. Ed Miliband and the rest of New Labour go so far as to plead for a 'responsible, compassionate capitalism'.
But who are they pleading to? Can capitalism share out the wealth from the 1% to 99% as easily as it shares out the pain? Or is capitalism itself at the root of the problem? Do we need a complete system change. These and other questions will be discussed at this open meeting of the Bristol Socialist Party. 

Newcomers are always welcome. If you would like more information email or call 07936712962,-2.5926&spn=0.02374,0.054846&t=h&z=14

Pensions Battle: Strike on March 28th

By Martin Powell-Davies, NUT national executive committee (personal capacity)


The Con-Dems' shabby deal on public sector pensions is little different to what was on offer on 30 November, when two million workers took strike action.

The government still expects workers to pay more, work longer and get less. This is why civil servants in the PCS, teachers in the NUT and lecturers in the UCU unions are being consulted on plans for further strike action, starting with another national strike on 28 March.

There is no reason for workers to pay in more and then get less in return. For example, the NUT calculates that £46 billion more has been paid into the teachers' pension scheme than has been paid out.

This 'deal' is an unfair tax on workers to pay for the government's bank bailouts while £120 billion of tax continues to go unpaid by the very rich.

If the Con-Dems are successful with this attack on pensions, it will be followed by further attacks on pay, pensions and working conditions.

Young workers have got the most to lose. They face a lifetime of high contributions but then won't be able to claim the full pension that they have paid so much for until they are at least 68.

Some young workers will just drop out of the schemes altogether, guaranteeing poverty in old age. That's a threat to everyone. If too many stop paying in, the pension schemes would really be in trouble. Then they'll demand even higher contributions!

The government's attacks don't just affect public sector workers. They have acted as a signal to big business to make further attacks on private sector pensions.

Unilever, where workers have already started a programme of strike action, Shell and Ford have all ended their final salary pension schemes despite all increasing their profits. There is, therefore, the potential for public and private sector unions to coordinate action over pensions.
Support further action

The threat of action last November forced some minor concessions out of this government. With continued action, public sector workers can win further gains. This is why PCS, NUT and UCU members should vote yes in the consultation to continue campaigning to save pensions and yes to further strike action, starting with 28 March.

They could be joined by the Northern Ireland Public Sector Alliance (Nipsa), Scottish teaching unions EIS and SSTA, the Fire Brigades Union and sections of Unite, who have also rejected the pensions offer.

The government intends to start increasing pension contributions from April, but the changes don't come fully into effect until 2015. Public and private sector workers' action can still force the government into retreat.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Another attempt to assassinate the legacy of Leon Trotsky?

Condemnation of Leon Trotsky is well-trodden ground for so-called biographer Robert Service. Service was condemned by The American Historical Review (June 2011), which considered his 'biography' of Trotsky a complete distortion. This was anticipated by Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe in a review in the Socialist (13 October 2009) where he took Service to task.

Here Peter reviews Service's latest offering, 'Spies & Commissars', in which the skulduggery of British spies like Sidney Reilly is used to spice up the same old false picture of the Bolshevik regime which followed the Russian revolution of 1917 - particularly of its leaders, Lenin and Trotsky.

Service writes in the introduction to this heavy tome: "Lenin and Trotsky... were convinced that Europe was on the threshold of communist revolution and that it needed only a slight nudge from them to make all this happen."

It did not need a "slight nudge" but the workers of Europe needed to emulate their Russian brothers and sisters and take power out of the hands of the capitalists who, through the bloody carnage of World War One, had ruined Europe.

The Bolsheviks, by declaring a unilateral peace, began the process of ending the war. As to the international effect of the Russian Revolution, Service himself comments that "the Labour Party held a celebration of the revolutionary events at the Albert Hall. 10,000 people attended and Ramsay MacDonald [then Labour leader] was the main speaker...

"It was an occasion that nobody present would forget. The Romanovs were gone and freedom had arrived in Russia. There was talk of a brotherhood of the Russians and the British no longer poisoned by the existence of tsarist despotism." This was just one expression of the colossal enthusiasm and sympathy that the Russian revolution generated.

Lenin is described as a "killjoy" during his return to Russia in February 1917 and "less than gracious to the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries" because he told the truth. He correctly called on the working class to place no trust in the coalition government involving some workers' leaders - the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries - with the 'liberal' capitalists.

Marxists adopt the same position today in placing no trust in the governments which have arisen on the backs of the revolution in Tunisia or Egypt. Instead, we call on the masses to build their own independent organisations if they are to make a 'second revolution', a social revolution, which is the only way to satisfy their demands and consolidate the revolution.

Childishly, Service describes Trotsky and Lenin as "exceptional troublemakers". As if a revolution - demanding an understanding of the process of revolution at each stage and the political slogans and action which flow from this - could be led by mere "troublemakers"!

Yet Service allows himself to admit that, in the words of one observer, "Lenin and Trotsky are merely the spokesmen of the workers."


Read the rest of the review here

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Europe: No to the debt! No to the austerity! No to the blackmail! Europe: No to the debt! No to the austerity! No to the blackmail!

International struggle can end dictatorship of the markets

Joint declaration by CWI sections in Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain

In 2012, the markets and capitalist governments which serve them, have more misery in store. This will mean a deepening both of the economic crisis, and of the war being fought against the lives and futures of working people. On top of this, will be the attempted imposition of the new austerity “Fiscal compact” treaty, recently agreed by EU leaders. The new 48-hour general strike in Greece on 10 and 11 February also points to the massive class battles and confrontations which this war will meet with. We, the sections of the Committee for a Workers’ International in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Spain, supported by the other European sections of the CWI including in France and Germany wish to make the following statement as an answer to the class war waged upon the working people and youth in our countries, an answer to the blackmail of the markets and EU, and an answer to the mantra that no alternative road other than that of craven capitulation to the markets and bondholders can be considered.

In Europe, currently the epicentre of the economic crisis, workers and youth have been hit by wave after wave of crisis and worsening prospects. In the Eurozone “periphery” in particular – Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland – a panorama of mass unemployment, especially for young people, a prolonged recession and growing impoverishment, is the dominant one.

The policies of austerity, born out of the determination to make workers pay for the crisis, serve only to further depress the economy.

The new “market-friendly” governments, such as the Popular Party in Spain and the so-called “technocrat” governments imposed by the speculators on the peoples of Italy and Greece, have, as expected, failed spectacularly to reverse these tendencies.

We see the inevitability of a process of contagion, with the ongoing freezing out of Italy and Spain by the debt markets. This is accompanied even by the widening out of the debt crisis to engulf “core” countries, including France losing its “Triple A” along with Austria, whose fortunes are linked to the devastating financial crisis in Eastern European countries such as Hungary and Romania. This all points to the eventuality of a financial storm the likes of which the Euro cannot survive, in its present form

Kicked out of Euro?

We are confronted, with the return of an open colonial-style agenda on the part of the stronger European imperialist powers, German capitalism in particular, with the so far obedient and servile collaboration of national ruling classes in the economically-weaker countries. The outrageous proposal by the German government, to abolish Greek budgetary control, instead installing a special EU commissioner to oversee Greek economic policy, is an example.

One of the features of the current stage of the crisis has been the willingness by the ‘lords’ of the system to bypass the so-called democratic “norms”, giving the dictatorship of the banks and corporations a much more clearly exposed form. Politicians and governments which defend the rotten capitalist system, confine themselves to the role of puppets implementing the diktats of the markets and Troika. The new inter-governmental treaty agreed at the most recent European summit, which further enshrines in legal terms the dominance of austerity policies, further underlines this.

The desperate attempts of the capitalist leaders, especially in Ireland, to avoid a referendum on this issue is a further expression of their anti-democratic approach, forcing through the will of capitalism internationally. However, in other cases, such as in Greece under Papandreou this autumn, we have seen how capitalist governments can attempt to use referenda, constructing a campaign of blackmail and fear around the ‘catastrophic eventuality’ of economic collapse following a NO vote.

Ultimately, only the mobilisation of the power of the workers and youth armed with an alternative to the catastrophic plans of capitalism, can be depended upon. However, we support fully the right of the people to reject through fully democratically organised referenda, the payment of the debt, the social cuts etc. We join with the millions of workers and youth who will demand a say on this austerity deal through referenda, in which we would advocate a clear and unambiguous NO vote.

Fight fear-mongering and blackmail

2011 saw the intervention of the mass of working people onto the scene in a series of European countries. Greece saw 7 general strikes (including 2 of 48-hours) in 2011, in addition to another seven in 2010, while 2012 has began with another wave of general strike in early February, rapidly announced as government parties discussed new brutal measures. This shows the depth of the anger and determination to resist of the Greek workers, faced with a desperate situation. Portugal saw a general strike in November, and Italy has seen waves of strikes and protests. Portugal, along with Spain, saw the explosion onto the surface of the movement of “Indignados”, articulating a rage against the bankers’ dictatorship. The entry of the masses onto the streets of Bucharest and other cities brought down the Romanian government this week.

The response of the establishment, alongside increased brutal state repression, has been a campaign of fear-mongering and blackmail, in which the prospect of exit from the Euro and EU is suspended above working people like a guillotine, capitalising on the legitimate fears of workers. On the basis of remaining within the confines of the capitalist system, an exit of a number of countries from the Euro would indeed provoke a period of deeper economic crisis for the whole of the eurozone, with rising unemployment, poverty and immiseration, affecting millions of working people, above all in the “peripheral” countries – Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy.

Therefore the working class and social movements, with the assistance of mass left parties, where they exist, have the duty to develop a programme to overcome this crisis which challenges and goes beyond the framework and logic of the euro-zone and the current market system.
This must begin with an unambiguous rejection of the payment of the national debt to market vultures and states, as well as European institutions like the ECB. These huge debts, racked up on the basis of capitalist speculation, criminal mismanagement and cronyism by successive neo-liberal governments, including those previously made up of misnamed “socialist” parties in Spain, Greece, Portugal and elsewhere, multiplied by the bank bailouts to which there is huge public opposition, are not our responsibility.

While the genuine investments of working people, like pension funds, must be protected, the siphoning off of society’s resources towards paying this criminal burden must be resolutely opposed. Outside of the insane logic of the ruling elites, implementing the Troika’s diktats, these resources could be put to work, creating millions of jobs, establishing dignified welfare systems, public health and education, and organise productive economic activity, through huge programmes of public investment. On the basis of then nationalising the banks and financial sector, as well as the resources and key sectors of the economy under the democratic control and management of working people, an emergency plan could be developed to invest in the mass creation of jobs and restoration of living standards. We could then see genuine socialist policies put into place which could begin to overcome the fundamental problems imposed on workers and the unemployed.

We are told, that such measures would lead to countries being ejected from the Euro-zone. However, under the current austerity offensive and the dead end into which the powers are driving the weaker economies, such an outcome (default and ejection from the Euro) appears a near certainty anyway! True, on the basis of the continuation of capitalism and remaining outside the Euro, the nightmare for working people would continue or indeed worsen, as devaluation slashed their living standards and savings under the attacks of Greek capitalism, despite so-called “independence” from the EU. But the way to avoid the economic disaster for working class people is not to accept any further attacks on our rights and conditions in order to be kicked out of the Euro-zone just a little bit later on! From the point of the capitalists the alternative we are facing now seems to be: a) remaining in the Eurozone, accepting the complete demolition of welfare state or b) leaving the Euro and facing economic isolation, a severe decline and unprecedented poverty.

The working people of Europe have nevertheless a third option: this begins with organising to defend living conditions and workers’ rights and to break with the capitalist system. This will need to be extended to united struggles of the international working class, especially in the countries most affected by the crisis. The unity in struggle of the workers of Greece, Portugal, Ireland Italy and Spain, to overturn the rotten “bailout” deals and austerity is a key requisite step towards the building of such an alternative.

We of course do not share in the narrow nationalist vision of those who advocate leaving the Euro as a solution in itself. The national tensions which have been hiked up in the course of the crisis, particularly seen in the barrage of anti-Greek propaganda spewed out by representatives of capitalism in Germany, France, Austria and other countries, give rise to the danger of divisive and nationalist sentiments. These sentiments can be played on by sinister far right and populist forces, which given the vacuum in working class political representation on the left, can make dangerous gains, as seen in Hungary, Austria and elsewhere.

And, of course, we would never expect the national governments, in the service of the ruling class, ever to agree, never mind to implement, the policies we advocate. Such a way out can only be achieved on the basis of an internationalist anti-capitalist struggle and perspective and by a government representing and serving the interests of the working people.

Initially confronted with ejection from the Euro, a working people’s government could implement an emergency programme including state control over imports and exports and the imposition of capital controls to stop the “flight of capital” by profit-hungry property-holders and multinationals, under the democratic control of elected representatives, such a stand would have to be emulated and fought for throughout the continent.

On such a basis, the genuine integration of the European economy and society, to which the policies of the bosses’ governments and the capitalist system itself have been a barrier, could be advanced towards.

On the basis of an appeal to the allies of the working class in Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Greece and Italy, but also the key advanced economies of Germany, France, the UK etc, this struggle could win massive support quickly across Europe.

Countries ejected from the EU forming a federation on a socialist basis, could begin with the international democratic planning and co-ordination of the economy, as part of a fight for a full Socialist confederation of independent workers’ states in Europe, on a free and equal basis.

Internationalist alternative to end the misery of crisis

Various international days of action which have been organised over the past year, have given powerful glimpses of the strength which workers and youth mobilised across borders can wield. On 15 October 2011, the indignados / occupy movement brought millions onto the streets worldwide. The European TUC has organised different protests, the latest is planned for 29 February, this has a potential to mobilise, but token protests are not enough. We support the further building of such initiatives, towards a first 24-hour general strike across Europe. National general strikes in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy should be coordinated and simultaneous, in opposition to the Troika bailout deals and austerity policies, as a powerful initial show of unity and strength.

However, we have seen from the behaviour of the ETUC leaders in their home countries that their intention is not to lead a serious struggle to the end against the capitalist crisis. Lamentably, the working class in many countries confronts the crisis with a trade union leadership unworthy of the name, who have systematically refused to mobilise the full power of the majority to resist the markets’ onslaught.

Workers and youth in Greece and Portugal have given an indication as to how mass pressure and organisation from below has been effective in pushing these leaders into action. The CWI fights for the democratic transformation of the trade unions, for the building of left oppositions, for the replacement of the right-wing leaders by those who are willing to struggle and are fully accountable and controlled by trade union members, paid the average wage of their members. The general strikes of the coming period will have to be democratically controlled and built from below through mass assemblies in workplaces and communities and committees of action, to ensure that struggles achieve victories and are not sold out from above.

We are confident that, armed with such organisations and policies, a positive alternative can be popularised and fought for. But an essential part of this process must also be the forging of mass political organisations, democratically controlled by mass memberships of workers, youth and the poor, to build support and campaign for an alternative to cuts and capitalism. Such a new movement of the left must be capable of channelling the anger of those disgusted with the political establishment into the building of forces which are totally distinct from those which have betrayed them.

Join with the CWI in the struggle to bring workers and youth together in struggle around this perspective.

We demand:

End the dictatorship of the 1%! For real democracy now! Working people and the unemployed should decide, not the markets!
No to the dead end of austerity! For massive investment in jobs, housing, education and society instead of cuts! End the nightmare of youth unemployment!
For a way out based on international struggle! For co-ordinated general strikes! Towards a 24-hour all-European General strike!
For democratic and fighting trade unions! Build struggles from below through assemblies and committees of action! Build genuine mass left political instruments of the working class and youth!
Reject the blackmail of the Troika and markets! Only mass struggle can stop the straitjacket of austerity! No to the anti-democratic “technocrat” governments! Referenda to stop the EU’s new austerity deal!
For a workers’ Europe! Oppose the capitalist EU! Fight for an alternative Socialist con-Federation of free and independent states, in Europe!

Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Portugal)

ControCorrente (CWI supporters in Italy)

Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland)

Xekinima (CWI in Greece)

Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Spain)

Monday, 13 February 2012

URGENT: Leaders of all-Kazakhstan trade union, Zhanartu, in danger

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Click above to send the protest

Please send your protest to Kazakhstan Embassy of Kazakhstan in Moscow and to your local Russian and Kazakhstan embassies

Statement from Esenbak Ukteshbayev and Ainur Kurmanov.

To the Executive Director of the all-Russian movement ‘For Human Rights’,

Lev Aleksandrovitch Ponomarev

To the Director of the Institute for Human Rights, Valentin Michaelovitch Gefter

From Esenbek Ukteshbaev, president of the Kazakhstan Trade Union, ‘Zhanartu’ (‘Renaissance’), and vice-president of ‘Zhanartu’, Ainur Kurmanov


We, the leaders of Kazakhstan’s independent workers’ union, ‘Zhanartu’ (‘Renaissance’) – Esenbek Ukteshbaev, president, and deputy chair, Ainur Kurmanov – wish to alert you to the fact that we may soon be subjected to arrest or abduction, followed by our forced removal to the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan, where inevitable arrest and imprisonment await us.

The basis for these assertions is the coming to Moscow of the head of the Department of Internal Affairs of the Mangistau region, Colonel Amanzhol Kabylov, with a group of intelligence officers, to conduct negotiations with law enforcement officers of the Russian Federation. This we got to know through communications from Russian journalists and from our sources in Kazakhstan. The subject of these negotiations is obvious – to arrrange the carrying out of a certain proceedure in relation to us, as we are currently on Russian soil.

The said senior officer of the Kazakh Interior Ministry is at present in charge of “investigations” into the case of the bloody events of December 16 -18 in Zhanaozen and at Shetpe station in the Mangistau region, which, according to our information, resulted in the deaths of a large number of striking workers and their relatives who had been involved in a peaceful protest.

As a result of the collaboration of the Internal Affairs Ministry and the Kazakhstan Security Service, many criminal cases have been lodged and dozens of people have already been arrested, such as worker-activists taking part in the massive oilworkers’ strike that has lasted since 17 May, as well as leaders of the opposition party ‘Alga’ (‘Forward’) – Vladimir Kozlov, Ayzhangul Amirov, Ruslan Simbinov, Serik Sapargali, as well as the chief editor of the independent newspaper, ‘Vzglyad’ (‘Viewpoint’), Igor Vinyavski. All of them, as well as dozens of people who are forbidden to travel, are charged under several articles of the Criminal Code: 164 ‘ incitement to social discord’, 241 ‘organising mass disorder’ and 170 ‘calling for the overthrow of the existing constitutional system’.

For our part, we have been, since 7 October, on a prolongedvisit to Russia, where we have been exchanging experiences with workers’ organisations and those media organisations who support the striking oil workers in Mangistau and members of our union in Kazakhstan. At home in our country, in the Summer, there was also a criminal case levelled against us on the initiative of the local authority with its ‘arbitrariness’ – under Article 327 of the Criminal Code. But at that time it was suspended and was supposed to be totally stopped due to an amnesty that was announced.

But as we learned from our sources within the law enforcement bodies, a new criminal case is already being fabricated against us under Article 164 of the Criminal Code for ‘inciting social discord’. In fact there is an attempt to blame us and the opposition for the tragic events of December 16-18 last year in Mangistau. This is the reason for the former Commander of Zhanaozen visiting Moscow to organise our arrest and subsequent delivery to Aktau.

We fear that our arrest may be made in secret and carried out in the form of an abduction, without any announcement about us being sought internationally, nor any compliance with all the requirements for legal extradition. Something like this has already been done by Uzbek and Tajik special services in relation to their oppositionists and dissidents who were in the Russian Federation.

We similarly assure you that we are in Russia legally and have not broken any local laws of the land. We have only been engaged in defending the rights of our fellow citizens, violated by the Kazakh authorities in our country. We are asking for help from your side, and the organisation of a campaign in our defence if there is any unlawful arrest or abduction by the Kazakh secret services on the territory of the Russian Federation.

Sincerely yours,

Esenbek Ukteshbaev, President of the Kazakhstan workers’ trade union, “Zhanartu”

and Vice-president of Zhanartu, Ainur Kurmanov

Moscow, February 10, 2012

Campaign at
Kazakhstan: Stop police violence against strikers

Friday, 10 February 2012

Greece: 48-hour strike today!

48-hour general strike called as anger against troika austerity spills onto the streets

After Tuesday’s 24-hour general strike in Greece, the situation has escalated rapidly. While the capitalist politicians, after some token hesitation, have signed up lock stock and barrel to the Troika’s second ‘bailout’ and brutal austerity attached to it, the working class is lining up for a battle.

Unions have called a further 48-hour general strike to take place on Friday and Saturday 10 & 11 February, combined with mass rallies at the Greek parliament. Under intense pressure to organize action, even those union leaders aligned with the government parties, including PASOK, have supported the action. Even the leader of the union linked with the right-wing New Democracy government has resigned his membership of the party and adopted an anti-government position.

There are also calls for the renewed mass occupation of Syntagma square beginning this Sunday, by trade unionists and left activists. The Ministry of health has now been occupied by trade unionists.

These developments all point to the growing popular opposition to Troika policies and the determination of working people to resist them. More reports and material to follow…

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Local victory in the fight to save the NHS - but mass action will be needed

Local campaigners have stalled the decision to hand out the management of NHS Gloucestershire Primary Care Trust to a private contractor - see report on the BBC here and get the latest updates from Stroud Against Cuts.

However this will not be enough to stop the 'hand grenade' of privatisation in Stroud, in Gloucestershire or anywhere else. There is a now huge mood for action to save the NHS but unfortunately so far this has not been provided with a leadership. The trade union leaders have not called a mass demonstration in defence of the health service which, if it was properly built for around clear slogans and an on-going programme of struggle, could get a phenomenal response, given the mood of rage on the issue. An indoor evening lobby in March is not sufficient. The Socialist Party calls for a massive Saturday demo as a start of a determined united campaign to save and rebuild our NHS, with trade union strike action at its heart. Local campaigns should also link up and support this action.

All of this will deal a huge blow to ConDem plans to disamantle our health service, but will not address the issue that all the main political parties are basically in agreement on this issue. We need a a mass workers' party whose representatives would stand to defend the NHS and oppose all privatisation. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is an important step towards this and should be supported by all who wish to save our NHS.

Read this weeks' editorial from the Socialist on this issue here:

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

BADACA: John McInally gives 'rousing speech' - stand together, fight to win!

See the following article in the today's Bristol Evening Post reporting on last nights Bristol & District Anti-Cuts Alliance, including a long quote from PCS Vice-President John McInally, "who gave a rousing speech about the need for trade unions to stand side by side in opposition to the Government's plans."

TEACHERS and other public services staff in Bristol are gearing up for more strikes in their fight against Government cuts.

More than 150 union members and representatives from other organisations opposed to cuts to pensions, jobs and public services packed into the Council House last night for a rally.

The Unite the Resistance meeting, organised by Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance, called for members of unions to stand together and fight against proposals.

General secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) Mark Serwotka had been due to attend the event but was replaced by the union's vice-president John McInally, who gave a rousing speech about the need for trade unions to stand side by side in opposition to the Government's plans.

Accompanied by regular bouts of applause from the floor, he called on trade unionists to continue to fight cuts which he said would affect the most vulnerable members of society.

Mr McInally, right, said that there would be further industrial action by March, following on from a day of action in November which was supported by thousands of union members in Bristol.

"Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance is a shining example of how we take battle into our workplaces and give the trade union movement the best possible example of how we beat this Government," he said. "We need to build a leadership that spends more time fighting this and less time fighting their activists."

Jane Taylor, of union Unite, told the meeting that campaigns against the cuts needed to be "built at a local level so that national statements are not hollow".

"People are insecure about their future, they are worried about their jobs and how they pay their bills," she said. "As a trade unionist I believe the role of trade unions is to give a voice to the overwhelming numbers of people."

David Wilshire of the CWU union said cuts had already affected 350 workers in Bristol involved in administering TV licences who were told last month they would be losing their jobs....

Read the rest:

Friday, 3 February 2012

BADACA meeting 'How We Can Win': Mark Serwotka in Bristol

Monday 6th Feb - 7.30pm
The Council House, College Green, Bristol BS1 5TR 

An open meeting to discuss the way forward for the campaign to defend jobs, pensions and public services. 

MARK SERWOTKA (General Secretary, PCS)
JAYNE TAYLOR (Unite the Union)
Representative of Capita TV Licensing strikers (CWU)

Chair: ANNE LEMON (BADACA secretary & NUT exec)


For further information contact: BADACA, 4 Maycliffe Park, Bristol, BS6 5JH

Socialism FAQ: Answering Common Questions

By Branon Madsen, Socialist Alternative (CWI USA) -

With the rise of the Occupy movement, opposition to the existing political and economic order has gone mainstream. It’s hard to imagine that the bandana-clad woman on the cover of Time magazine – representing “The Protestor,” Time's “Person of the Year” – has many nice things to say about capitalism, and the ubiquity of the Guy Fawkes mask – popularized by “V for Vendetta” – further underscores how widespread the idea of revolution has become.

However, this growing support for system change has not yet been matched by a serious public dialogue about what an alternative might look like. A new Pew poll published 12/28/2011 indicated that people who are under 30 or black are more likely to favor socialism than capitalism, but this does not correspond to clear ideas of what socialism is or how a socialist economic and political system would work. We offer up this FAQ as a contribution to the discussion.

How would a socialist economy work?

Under capitalism, institutions where immense wealth is concentrated (corporations) run the economy, exploiting working people to increase their own concentrated wealth. The essence of a socialist economy is to flip this relationship upside-down, with working people running the economy, utilizing the enormous wealth and productivity of society to enrich their lives. To do this, we would have to take over all the biggest banks and corporations and put their resources into public ownership and democratic control.

Employing those out of work and reallocating investment and jobs towards social priorities – healthcare, education, clean energy, etc. – would give a huge boost to productivity and wealth in society. Democratic planning of the economy would allow us to make sure everyone had a good-paying job, high-quality health care, free education at all levels, and, of course, basic physical necessities like food and housing. It wouldn’t be limited to just the basics, though; we could choose to invest in empowering people to make music, art, writing, film, fashion, and all sorts of other forms of cultural development.

This type of economic system would require conscious planning, but this is already true to a large extent under capitalism. Corporations larger than entire countries are able to plan out their levels of production, spread of distribution, pricing schemes and so on without falling to pieces, so there’s no reason working people shouldn’t be able to do the same.

The difference is that planning under capitalism is fractured, incomplete and undemocratic, with the goal of maximizing profit for the individual firm. Under socialism, we could structure investment of the world’s wealth with a big picture, bird’s eye view of the whole economy, with the goal of fulfilling human needs, sustaining the environment and enabling a liberated human existence.

A socialist economic system would have to be globally integrated. This is also the case already under capitalism, where we live in a globally interdependent world. Right now globalization on a capitalist basis means brutal exploitation of the weaker economies, and a race to the bottom for workers everywhere. Under socialism, global economic integration would be part of the plan to enrich people’s lives on a global scale.

A socialist economy would handle the environment very differently. Today, companies don’t care about environmental costs because they are able to externalize them onto the public. The costs associated with contaminated air and drinking water are real, but they don’t show up as a red number on Monsanto’s balance sheet. That is why no corporation will ever undertake the necessary steps to save the environment on the basis of “free market” principles.

Democratic planning of the economy would eliminate the profit motive behind externalizing the costs of pollution. Instead, efficiency, environmental sustainability and meeting the basic needs of all would form the core principles of economic decision-making. Instead of inadequate measures like energy-efficient light bulbs and recycling-awareness programs, a socialist economy could invest in completely overhauling the way everything is produced, utilizing all the latest green technologies for maximum sustainability and creating millions of jobs in the process.

How would a socialist democracy work?

As most of us currently experience it, “democracy” boils down to voting once every couple years for which wealthy career politician will make all the decisions for us. Of course, there’s nothing democratic about this at all, especially when the whole process is corrupted by corporate money.

In contrast, socialist democracy would take place day to day, week to week, in every workplace, school and community. Workers would rotate management tasks, and elected managers would be subject to recall and replacement whenever the workers saw fit. All decisions could be overturned by majority vote.

School curriculum and policy would be jointly agreed upon by parents, teachers and students, rather than imposed by distant administrators and bureaucrats. Neighborhood assemblies would decide who is and is not empowered with policing authority and instruct elected officers how to prioritize their efforts.

All investment and economic decisions should be made democratically. Workplace and neighborhood assemblies would elect representatives to massively expanded local and regional councils, which in turn would elect national representatives. Elected representatives should have no special privileges or pay above their electorate, and they should be subject to instant recall.

In order to facilitate this process of democratic decision-making, there should be space roped off in regular work and school schedules for decision-making meetings and discussions. With the increased wealth created, the work-week could be shortened without loss of pay to allow people time and energy to become engaged politically, and to pursue their other life goals outside work and school.

Wouldn’t a bureaucratic elite just take over?

Undoubtedly, in the first stages of a socialist society, a struggle against careerists and corruption within the system would be necessary. The poisonous ideological baggage inherited from centuries of class rule would not just fade away overnight. However, by establishing public ownership of society’s productive resources, eliminating privileges, and creating bottom-up structures of democratic management and control, the obstacles to prevent aspiring bureaucrats seizing power would be immense.

The main example driving fear of a bureaucratic takeover is Stalin seizing power in the Soviet Union only a few years after Russia’s working-class revolution in 1917. This tragic degeneration of the Russian Revolution is something Marxists have grappled with in numerous books. The basic conclusion supported by a serious historical analysis is that this degeneration was neither natural nor inevitable, but the result of particular circumstances.

Russia was among the poorest countries in the world at the time of its revolution, and it was even further devastated when the deposed capitalist rulers, backed by 21 foreign armies, tried to violently retake power from the democratic workers’ movement, resulting in a bloody civil war. Though revolutions took place elsewhere across Europe, most notably Germany, they were all defeated, leaving Russia poor, broken and alone.

This was not a healthy ground upon which socialism could be built. The whole basis of socialism is having enough to go around, but Russia didn’t have that. In this context, the democratic structures in the Soviets (workers’ assemblies) ceased to function. Who wants to go to political meetings when you’re worried about where your next meal is going to come from?

It was this vacuum of workers’ power from below, fueled by the isolation and economic starvation of the country, that spawned the bureaucratization of Russian society and the rise of Stalin as this bureaucracy’s dictatorial figurehead. Even then, it was not a natural progression. Stalin had to jail, murder, exile, or otherwise force into submission literally millions of people whose only crime was adherence to the democratic principles of the 1917 revolution.

This experience shows the importance of building the fight for socialism as a global movement. Because of imperialist plundering of resources around the world, some countries may lack a stable economic basis for socialism, and will need to trade with and get help from the richer countries. If Russia had been joined by a successful revolution in even one other country, such as Germany, history would have turned out very differently.

Wouldn’t it be easier to reform capitalism?

Unfortunately, contrary to official accounts, the history of capitalism is not one of consistent progress towards ever loftier heights of democracy and prosperity. Rather, every serious reform has required mass struggle, often shaking the system to its core.

Reforms are not granted out of the kind hearts of well-meaning politicians, but are concessions grudgingly granted to appease or distract rising movements of working people hungry for real change. Whether we’re talking about civil rights, the weekend off, or the right to organize a union, every one of these required an all-out fight against the profit-driven logic of capitalism, where countless innocents were murdered by elites desperate to put down their struggles.

Under capitalism, even these partial reforms are not permanent, not a foothold or new baseline to work from. As we have seen in the last few decades, the capitalists and their politicians will roll back reforms as soon as they think they can get away with it.

Social programs that people fought tooth and nail for in the past are being dismantled or undermined via budget cuts. After almost destroying unions in the private sector already – where less than 7% of workers are in a union – corporate politicians in state after state are now going after the public sector, where over a third of workers are still unionized.

A stable basis for ongoing reforms will require working people to take political power out of the hands of the capitalists and wield it themselves – that is, overthrow capitalism and establish socialism. There’s no way around it; the fight for reforms and the struggle for socialist transformation are one and the same.

Socialism sounds great on paper, but is it realistic?

The only constant in history is uninterrupted change. From ancient slave states to the feudal landowner lordships to the global capitalist system of today, people have repeatedly overthrown old systems after they became a brake on progressive development. The truly unrealistic and utopian idea is that problems like war, poverty and environmental devastation will be solved on the basis of capitalism.

Though socialism is realistic, it’s not inevitable. Again and again, crisis-ridden capitalism has forced workers and the oppressed into revolutionary uprisings. Several have happened in the last year, most prominently in Egypt and Tunisia. But while many revolutions succeed in toppling governments, few have achieved system change. Capitalism will always find a way out on the backs of workers, youth and the poor if we fail to replace it with something better.

That’s where socialists come in: We take seriously the study of history, learning from both defeats and successes of revolutions and mass movements. We aim to spread these lessons widely so that future revolutions succeed in establishing socialism. That doesn’t just mean reading a lot of books. It means actively building and engaging with the movements that exist right now, boldly bringing in socialist ideas while learning from others in struggle, working out the way forward together.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Tunisia: Interview with a Tunisian Socialist

"Revolution is a process, not a single act"

From The Socialist, 1st Feb 2012

14 January marked the first anniversary of the downfall of the hated dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali by the Tunisian revolution. The Socialist spoke to two socialists who are campaigning in Tunisia and who sympathise with the politics of the Committee for a Workers' International, to which the Socialist Party is affiliated. For more international news and analysis

Can you describe the situation in Tunisia today?

Revolution is a process, not a single act. This process is still continuing, which can be seen by the new wave of protests which has taken place in Tunisia, especially since the beginning of the year.

Every day, new protests against the authorities, new strikes for better social conditions, sit-ins by people expressing their grievances are occurring all over the country.

The anniversary of the revolution has provided a momentum for what seems to be the biggest wave of mobilisations since one year ago, which has taken in some areas an almost 'insurrectional' character. In the mining areas around Gafsa, the situation is explosive, with regular strikes and demonstrations, and entire localities being self-run by inhabitants.

A regional general strike has also taken place and lasted five days in the governorate (region) of Siliana, in the south, between 13 and 18 January, to protest against poverty and the social marginalisation of the region.

Revolution in Arabic means a complete, fundamental break from the past, but this has not happened. All these protests show that people have still got much to fight for, that conditions for the majority have not fundamentally changed.

The objective conditions in society that caused the revolutionary upheaval are still present. In many respects daily life for the majority has actually got worse. Unemployment has literarily exploded, while this issue was at the heart of people's demands in the first place.

Since 14 January of last year, there have been 107 cases of new self-immolations in the country, with at least six during the first week of this year. Most of them are unemployed people, desperate and ready to do anything to get a job.

There has been no fundamental break from the past system; consequently it is entirely predictable that the mass of people continue to struggle. So it is clear that the revolution - people looking for real change in society, and erupting en masse onto the scene to impose it - is still alive.
After the first stage of the revolution can you draw up a balance sheet of what has been won and what is still to be won?

The first thing to note is that the capitalist class was relying on the old regime of President Ben Ali to defend its interests. When Ben Ali was overthrown, the capitalists were initially destabilised. Faced with a revolution that threatened their social existence, they had to concede important demands especially in the political sphere, in an attempt to restore a certain control.

Under the pressure of the mobilisations, a lot of leading figures in the state machine were removed, the ex-ruling party, Ben Ali's RCD, was dissolved, etc. The movement was so powerful that even the commentators in the capitalist-controlled media were forced to admit that this was a revolution.

However, since the initial revolutionary upsurge, there has been a conscious attempt by the capitalists to concentrate attention solely on questions of political democracy and political representation, but not to concede on the fundamental social foundations of capitalism.

All the elements linked to the capitalist class have deployed efforts to derail the revolutionary process towards the safe channels of 'legality', towards the old existing constitution and institutions. But it was the revolutionary youth and workers who imposed the election for a new Constituent Assembly, after the second mass occupation of the Kasbah Square.

The majority have no clear objectives in which direction to take society, the political consciousness is quite mixed. The mass of the people are trying to navigate themselves through the daily poverty and corrupt state bureaucracy bearing down on them.

However, there is a realisation among many that simply by removing the figurehead of the old regime, their lives have not and will not improve fundamentally.

People are angry and frustrated by the lack of progress. Many lost friends and relatives in the revolution, but see that their sacrifices have been hijacked by the ruling class. Even the martyrs' families have seen their cases denied real justice. A lot of the killers are still running free, including some whose identity is known.

And the people injured by the state's repression in the beginning of the year have been denied proper medical assistance. 90% of the people who were shot still have the bullet in their bodies, because of the lack of serious medical treatment! A lot have lost their jobs, or even their lives, since. In some cases the police have even been sent against them when they were protesting.

The British press has made a lot of the Islamist parties' election victory. How do socialists view it?

The 'moderate' religious party Ennahda was the main winner of December's parliamentary elections. It made gains at the expense of the other parties because it exploited the pressing social issues - poverty and unemployment, etc - of the majority.

Ennahda was also able to convince many voters that the other 'secular' parties were 'anti-religious' and wanted to attack Islam. This was made possible because most secular parties encouraged the political debate to be polarised in such a way that the burning social issues were not really addressed.

Ennahda also bought votes with money from the Qatar regime and elsewhere. Ennahda members promised voters gifts of all sorts, such as sacrificial sheep for the feast of 'Aid al-Adha'. When these didn't materialise there were protests.

It is not so much that Ennahda is a strong force in society; rather it is the case that the other opposition parties are very weak. And Ennahda was then able to fill the vacuum.

However, Ennahda will lose support as it fails to deliver in terms of improving the social conditions of the poor. This cannot fail to happen, as Ennahda's policy is nothing but a new version of the old regime's policies. And many people are drawing such a conclusion.

In January Ennahda attempted to impose figures associated with the old regime at the head of the public media. This provoked such an outcry that they had to step back.

Already Ennahda has experienced a fall in support in the opinion polls, from 41% to 28%. And a certain part of Ennahda's electoral support is on the streets to protest against the party they voted for in October. That does not mean an automatic drop in support for right-wing political Islam in general - as more fundamentalist wings are also trying to step in - but it shows that a significant layer of Ennahda's votes is not based on firm ground.
The workers, through strike action, played a decisive part in the revolution. What is happening now within the workers' movement?

In December 2011, a new national bureau of the UGTT [Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail, the Tunisian TUC] was elected. This is significant, as this new leadership is currently in a 'cold war' with the government. Among the 13 members of the new bureau, there are nine who purport to be from a 'Marxist' tradition.

The UGTT is potentially more powerful than any political party in the country, and to an extent the new leadership understands this. The UGTT leaders are not revolutionary. Despite coming from a Marxist background, they are not relating their day-to-day activities and propaganda to thesocialist transformation of society.

Nonetheless they are much more to the left than the previous leadership and not directly associated with Ben Ali's dictatorial regime as the previous ones were.

A number of them come from a militant background, they know that the crisis of capitalism is worsening the attacks on the working class and are more attuned to the mood of the rank-and-file workers. They are therefore pressurised to speak the 'language of the class struggle' and adopt a more radical stand in relation to the new government.

There are workers' struggles breaking out everywhere in Tunisia at the present time, including some key sectors of the working class, for example in the gas industry where a blockade of the port of Gabès has taken place. The oil sector has also been hit by strike actions. Workers and poor have also been involved in blocking the railways and roads.

Figures have been released stating there are on average four road blockades taking place every day. There have been sit-ins and in some cases hunger strikes, to improve working conditions and to demand more jobs.

These strikes have not only addressed social and economic demands, but have also been political in character - demanding the removal of corrupt officials and managers associated with the old regime, and targeting the new government's impotence in the face of their grievances.

The main challenge is for the UGTT to turn itself into a democratic and fighting body, working to strengthen the organisation of the working class, including orientating towards the massive amount of angry unemployed, and to embrace a positive programme which can challenge the rule of capitalism.

Of course we are not utopian. Without a mass party for working people that can be a lever for achieving a socialist revolution, all sorts of prospects could open up. That's why building such a party is now the most important task for revolutionaries.

The imperialist powers want to showcase Tunisia as a democratic 'model' of a capitalist-controlled transition. Imperialism would be panicked if there is a workers' movement going in the direction of controlling the economy. That is something they want to avoid at all costs because of the consequences for the entire region. This is the reason why there is such an aggressive ideological campaign in the media to attack workers on strike, a campaign aimed at scaring people, saying that strikes and sit-ins are "pushing away investors and destroying jobs", etc.

But this campaign seems to have little effect on the working class. The capitalists expected that with a new elected government, it would have sufficient authority to bring social stability. The demand from the new President of the Republic, arguing for a "social truce of six months" has reflected this. But it does not work. The continuous pressure put on the government because of the struggles and strikes could result in imperialist countries providing the Tunisian government with more financial support to calm the situation. But their margin of manoeuvre is limited, given the general economic conjuncture.
What role has been played by the left forces in Tunisia?

The left has historically played a central role in many important working class struggles and social gains, including on women's rights and to provide a public healthcare system.

There are now many organisations on the left. However, the litmus test in Tunisia today is the application of a socialist programme to take the workers' struggles forward.

The country could experience a Greek-style period of protracted struggle, because of the lack of a mass workers' party with a socialist programme to carry the movement towards challenging the capitalist system.

There can be no permanent solution for society's problems within capitalism. Those forces on the left who argue that a first, 'democratic capitalist' stage needs to be fulfilled before talking of socialism are misleading the working class. But capitalism is only interested in exploiting workers, not in putting in place a real democracy.

The only way out of the impasse is for the working class to achieve socialism. Concretely, a socialist programme must address the questions of a full jobs programme based on sharing the work and on massive investment in public infrastructure, a decent welfare for all, workers' control of industry and banks... But unfortunately the left does not put forward a clear programme on these issues.

The CWI in Tunisia demands the non-payment of the country's 'debt' from the old regime, the nationalisation of the banks and of the entire wealth of the ex-ruling clans under democratic control of the working class and the population, and a government based on the workers and on the people who have made the revolution, in order to fulfil these measures. At the moment we argue for the organisation of a general strike as a first step to unite in one powerful show of strength all the people who are struggling in different parts of the country.

What message would you like to give to workers fighting austerity measures and the crisis of capitalism in other countries?

After the revolution the media opened up a bit in Tunisia. So instead of the usual football matches on TV, we were also able to see workers' struggles in Europe, such as in Greece. Greece is to Europe what Tunisia was to the Maghreb and the region, in the sense that these workers' struggles have been hugely inspiring.

In Britain there has recently been a regeneration of the trade unions and workers' strikes after a relatively long period of quiescence. This is very significant, as it also shows the limitations of the rulers' propaganda, and how the situation can be transformed if working people organise and take their fate into their hands.