Monday, 30 April 2012

Kazakhstan: Urgent solidarity needed

Report by Sarah Zhakupova, Kazakhstan Socialist Movement

Larisa Boyar, a prominent member of the Kazakhstan Socialist Movement, and two other opposition activists - Baxatjan Torevozhina and Kanat Ibragimov - have been arrested and imprisoned. In the morning on 28 April, as protest demonstrations were due to begin, these ’Dissenters’ were grabbed by police directly from their homes. By 7.30 in the evening they had been sentenced to 15 days’ immediate detention. At the ’trial’, the prosecution used a video of a press conference given on April 24, where Larissa had called all active and concerned citizens to fight together with the Kazakhstan Socialist Movement at the week-end.

The judge in the court was asked to use discretion in relation to the language used and not judge people for their beliefs and the open expression of their views. Despite the defence’s arguments, the judge, A A Korazbaeva (daughter of "notorious" composer Altynbek Korazbaev) made a totally unfair judgement. This court decision is politically motivated and is yet again evidence of the authorities’ persecution of oppositionists for their beliefs.

At the demonstration there had been about 40 people who came from Shymkent. They had been there to highlight the problems of people being harrassed by banks over the loans they had taken for homes. Guests of the ’Dissenters’ also included workers from the corporation, "Kazakhmys", who are currently conducting an active battle over their union.

Over the past week, the Kazakhstan Socialist Movement and the homes campaigners of the ’ONJ’ (Leave the People’s Homes Alone) have had huge pressure put on them in the run-up to the protest demonstration. They were not able to talk to each other on the phone and relatives were intimidated with the threat of being sacked from their work.

The most active members of Socialist Movement have had criminal proceedings initiated against them with fines imposed of up to 300,000 tenge (around $2,000). Leaders of the Socialist Movement and of the Trade Union, "Zhanartu" - Ainur Kurmanov and Esenbek Ukteshbaev – have been pursued by the authorities of Kazakhstan and have had to go abroad.

Thanks to the international solidarity of socialists, with the active participation of Ainur and Esenbek, numerous protests have been organised around the world in the form of pickets and rallies at embassies. The unjust actions of the authorities of Kazakhstan against workers and activists have been roundly condemned. A massive campaign is now needed in support of the organisers of the ’Dissenters’’ demonstrations.

Release Larissa Boyar, Baxatjan Torevozhina and Kanat Ibragimov!
Drop all charges and stop harrassment of the ’Dissenters’

Donations are urgently needed to assist the campaign. They can be sent via the donate button on the Campaign Kazakhstan web-site (here).

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

France: Presidential elections shows deep anger at Sarkozy

By Dave Carr - 

In the first round of the French presidential elections, held on 22 April, François Hollande (28.6% vote) of the social democratic Socialist Party (PS) narrowly headed incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy (27.1%) of the right wing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). Both candidates face a run-off second ballot on 6 May in which Hollande is predicted to beat the much despised Sarkozy.

Most commentators emphasised the success of the far-right, xenophobic National Front (FN) candidate Marine Le Pen - who gained 17.9%, a high waterline for the FN. However, the most positive result, from a socialist standpoint, was the rapid rise in working class support for the Left Front (FDG) candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The FDG secured 11.1% (nearly four million votes) on a left reformist platform of opposing the austerity cuts to pay for the capitalists’ economic crisis.

As expected, the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA), whose popularity and membership have fallen dramatically because of its unclear programme and the false methods of its leadership, took a disappointing 1.15% (411,000 votes).

Mélenchon’s virtual overnight success came about because his skilful rhetoric tapped into a mood of burning anger among the working class against the rich elite and the capitalist policies pursued by the establishment parties.
Far right

Some of this mood was undoubtedly channelled by Le Pen, who capitalised both on people’s anger and uncertainties over the deepening euro crisis and the recent murders in Toulouse by a right-wing Islamist terrorist.

Nearly 80% voted in the first round. Le Pen has called for her supporters to abstain rather than support Sarkozy in the run-off, while Mélenchon has called for a vote for Hollande.

Despite the limitations of the Left Front programme (which essentially argues for reforming capitalist institutions instead of meaningful socialist change), Mélenchon’s successes – the tens of thousands who attended his rallies and four million votes - shows the potential for renewing the debate for building a new mass party to the left of the PS that can challenge capitalism.

Further analysis of the elections to come from Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France) in the coming days.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Bristol Anti-Workfare Protest - this Saturday

Organised by Bristol Youth Fight For Jobs:

"Bristol has seen two successful days of action, highlighting the use of workfare to provide free labour. Youth Fight for Jobs have organised another. This time it will be a static protest, campaigning outside one of the companies using the workfare schemes. We will meet in the centre of Broadmead at 1pm (by the Ferris Wheel/BHS) before going to the shop in question."

The pensions’ battle continues

The edited article below, taken from the latest edition of 'Socialism Today', the journal of the Socialist Party, gives a summary of the need for concerted strike action against Con-Dem cuts - and, above all, against pensions robbery:

The full article can be read here:

THE PENSIONS’ BATTLE has been the centrepiece of the generalised struggle against government-imposed cuts over the last year. 

If the trade union movement was now to evacuate the scene of battle without deploying its full strength, it would be an enormous setback. That could, in turn, bolster the government at a time when it is on the back foot. This would have serious consequences for the struggle against the panoply of cuts, more than 90% of which have yet to be introduced. 

And yet this is precisely the danger which is posed by the defeatist approach of the right wing of the TUC, led by general secretary Brendan Barber, together with unions like Unison. Their acceptance of the ‘heads of agreement’ on pensions, despite promises of future action, broke the common front on this issue. 

Now, the leadership of the biggest teachers’ union, the NUT, is prevaricating. The union received an overwhelming majority in a consultative ballot for national strike action, to join up with unions like the PCS civil servants and UCU lecturers’ union on 28 March. But the nominally left leadership first of all rejected national strike action. Then, under pressure from some on the left, including Socialist Party members, agreed to regional action in London on that day. 

This retreat, in turn, made it impossible for the PCS to call on its members to come out in a national strike on 28 March. The PCS’s own consultative ballot, which resulted in overwhelming support for national strike action, was specifically linked to other unions, such as the NUT, coming out on the same day. But, despite the confusion, the 28 March strike in London was very successful, with up to 10,000 teachers and supporters marching through London. 

There was, therefore, an expectation that the Easter annual conference of the NUT would decide on decisive national action to defeat the government’s attacks on pensions. Notwithstanding the inaccurate headlines in the press, which gave the impression that the union had come out in favour of a serious strategy of national action, this was not the case. The national leadership once more dithered and, in effect, decided not to decide. 

Its muddled message was that a combination of measures including regional strike action – not necessarily on the central issue of pensions but also on the government’s proposals to introduce regional pay – would be deployed but with national action not completely ruled out. It gives the impression that they have no confidence that teachers will respond to a fighting lead. Yet when they have been called upon to demonstrate their support, teachers have responded magnificently. This was shown by the tremendous, militant demonstration on 28 March in London. 

Kevin Courtney, NUT deputy general secretary, said that teachers would be “very angry” when the first phase of the three-year increase in contributions kicked in this month, leading to an overall average contribution increase of 50% over three years. “For the first time since the 1930s, we think, teachers will see a reduction, a cash reduction, in their take-home pay, because the contributions go up”. The NUT has calculated that an inner-London teacher with ten years’ experience will lose an extra £49 a month from April, which is expected to rise to £123 a month by April 2014. 

The central issues around the pensions dispute – the extension of the pension age, the raised level of contributions, and declining benefits – are beginning to be widely understood, discussed and rejected by teachers. Strikes are a necessary stage in the development of the consciousness of workers, including teachers who increasingly see themselves as working in factory-like conditions, under enormous stress, heavy workload, etc. Moreover, they have considerable power, as indicated by the howls of anguish from parents and employers whenever teachers go on strike! The strikes have allowed the acquisition of invaluable experience by teachers, which can begin to separate out and develop a new layer of teachers who will play a key role in changing and radicalising the unions.

A successful outcome of the pension struggle depends upon the NUT, together with the PCS and UCU leaderships, deciding now for national strike action, perhaps on 10 May. 

The perception that many workers still have is that the current situation is merely a passing phase – that pensions, job opportunities, terms and conditions can just be ‘trimmed’ now and, in the future, ‘better times’ will return. This is a complete myth. The reality is that capitalism offers a future of ‘eternal austerity’. Don’t just take our word for this. The Observer pointed out: “Worse is to come. Last week, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development predicted that Britain could face decades of spending cuts and tax increases”. (15 April). The OECD should know, representing as it does the richest and most ruthless capitalist countries in the world. 

But a determined campaign by the unions on pensions – which, we repeat, includes national strike action – could not be better timed, given the weakness of David Cameron’s government, its policies in tatters. 

Support for the government has collapsed to its lowest since the 2010 general election. The Tories have dropped from 37% to 34%, with their Liberal Democrat ‘allies’ in government on 11%. Cameron is openly attacked as “Britain’s first dilettante prime minister since Herbert Asquith… Mouth open, but hands-off.” (Anthony King, Financial Times.) Thatcher herself, King points out, contrary to later impressions, proceeded cautiously in her first period in office. Cameron proceeded very quickly to attack the working class. 

However, what King does not take into account is the much deeper crisis of capitalism today. Yet on managing the economy, where Cameron was previously ahead in polls, now 53% of people say they do not trust him to lead the country through the economic turbulence! The consequence of all this is that Labour is up to 40%. This has nothing to do with support for Ed Miliband. The sensational result in the Bradford West by-election illustrates this, as does the fact that Miliband’s personal ratings are on minus 41%! 

Overall, latest figures show more than 2.6 million unemployed people are chasing 450,000 vacancies across the country – a ratio of nearly six to one. James Ball in the Guardian commented: “the worst affected areas are spread all round the country: Clackmannanshire in Scotland has 35 jobseekers for every vacancy; the Isle of Wight has 21; Haringey, London, 19; and Inverclyde 18”. These figures apply not just to full-time jobs but part-time jobs as well. If it were just full-time jobs that were being chased it would mean that four million rather than 2.6 million would be chasing them! This truly horrendous unemployment figure, which now has a tendency to become permanent, criminally affecting young people, shows the daunting scale of problems which beset working-class people on the basis of capitalism. 

It makes it even more urgent for the labour movement to resist tooth and nail the offensive of the government and the ruling class. The ruling class of Europe is attempting to use the spectacle of impoverished Greece as a scarecrow in order to prevent resistance by the working class in their own countries; ‘see what happens when you engage in senseless strikes and demonstrations’. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you fight it is possible to defeat or at least limit the damage. Weakness invites aggression. This is the real lesson of Greece and of all workers’ struggles. It is the lesson of the pensions’ battle; resolute leadership combined with correct policies and programme can yet inflict defeat on the government and hasten its downfall. 

A political aternative, however, is also vital. We have had a dramatic demonstration of the seismic shift which is underway in British politics in the Bradford West by-election, with George Galloway’s spectacular victory. The main parties – Tories, Lib Dems and New Labour – are increasingly seen, in the words of Galloway, as “three cheeks of the same backside”. When a real alternative is presented, increasing layers of workers and youth will opt for this. 

This is revealed not just by Galloway’s victory but also by the massive response which the Left Front candidate in the French presidential elections, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has received. In opinion polls, his share of the vote has doubled to 15% – latest polls put him at 17% – since he started his campaign. The conditions are there already for the beginnings of a new mass party of the working class.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Fishponds Against The Cuts – ‘Save The NHS’ Meeting

Fishponds Against The Cuts – ‘Save The NHS’ Meeting
Cross Keys Pub, 627 Fishponds Road, BS16 3BA 
Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The government's Health & Social Care Bill has been passed but this doesn't mean that the fight to save the NHS is over – it's just starting. People up and down the country will resist these changes.

The new act will fragment the NHS. Private companies will take over services and make a profit from them. The result will be a system like the USA where many people have no health care and private health companies make vast profits.

The changes are costing billions of pounds at a time when the government is also cutting the NHS budget. We will end up with a worse service and have to pay to use it. Only the private health companies will benefit.

The NHS is should be about co-operation not competition and privatisation. NHS workers and users of the service all recognise the threat these changes make. Together we can prevent them being implemented.

Come along and hear more about the facts on the threats to the NHS and how they can be stopped. All welcome.


Friday, 13 April 2012

Tunisia: Open letter from Paul Murphy MEP to the President of Tunisian Republic

To: Moncef Marzouki, President of the Tunisian Republic

Dear Mr Marzouki,

I have been following the situation in Tunisia very closely, especially after I had the opportunity to visit Tunisia on a delegation from the European Parliament in May of last year. Since then I have kept close contact with many of the trade unionists, human rights campaigners and youth activists I had met.

It is with dismay that I heard reports on the conditions the opposition movement have faced in recent days. I want to express my opposition at the brutal repression your government has wielded against peaceful protesters last Monday while they were commemorating the anniversary of ‘Martyrs’ Day’. I also heard reports of passers-by being attacked for just being in the vicinity of the march.

Masked police officers and government supporters attacked people using tear gas, batons and electric batons. They particularly focussed on well known activists and left wing supporters, these horrific scenes remind me of the darkest days under Ben Ali. As a result of these attacks many people needed to be hospitalised and an unknown number of people are being held in custody.

This is not the only example of the repression used by your government; a demonstration that took place last Saturday, organised by the ’Union of Unemployed Graduates’ met a similar fate.

This situation is in sharp contrast to the hopes and aspirations of the mass of people who rose up and overthrew the Ben Ali dictatorship. Having been yourself the President of the Tunisian League of Human Rights between 1989 and 1994, and an opponent to Ben Ali’s dictatorship, it is particularly disgraceful from your part to imply that both parties are equally to blame for what happened. I urge your government and its security forces and supporters to fully respect the people’s basic democratic right to freedom of speech and assembly and to cancel the state of emergency.

All protesters arrested in the last few days must be immediately released without charge. It is also crucial that there is an independent investigation into these events by representatives of trade unions, the UDC and other popular organisations.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Murphy

Member of the European Parliament.

PCS says 'shocking' tax avoidance shows cuts are unnecessary

Commenting on reports chancellor George Osborne was "shocked" by levels of tax avoidance by millionaires, Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

"The only shocking thing is that someone who was shadow chancellor for five years before becoming chancellor apparently did not realise that our public finances are deprived of tens of billions of pounds every year through tax avoidance and evasion by the super-rich.

"Mr Osborne should spend less time courting the very wealthy and agreeing to cut their taxes even further and more time talking to his own staff in HM Revenue and Customs who have been warning about this for years.

"But now he has seen the light, he must accept his government's cuts are not only damaging they are entirely unnecessary."

From PCS press release, 9.4.12

Saturday, 7 April 2012

BADACA: SAVE THE NHS Demo & Rally Saturday 5th May

Bristol & District Anti-Cuts Alliance 


Demonstration & Rally 

Saturday 5th May 
Assemble 11am College Green 

The government's Health & Social Care Bill has been passed. This doesn't mean that the fight to save the NHS is over – it's just starting. People up and down the country will resist these changes. 

The new act will fragment the NHS. Private companies will take over services and make a profit from them. The result will be a system like the USA where many people have no health care and private health companies make vast profits.

The changes are costing billions of pounds at a time when the government is also cutting the NHS budget. We will end up with a worse service and have to pay to use it. Only the private health companies will benefit.

The NHS is should be about co-operation not competition and privatisation. NHS workers and users of the service all recognise the threat these changes make. Together we can prevent them being implemented.

This demonstration is one of several events in the city marking May Day – international workers' day.

For more information contact

Video: Paul Murphy MEP on ACTA

Friday, 6 April 2012

Remploy - Not for sale!

Since 1946 Remploy has supported thousands of disabled people return to work, from ex-service personnel to people born with complex disabilities.

On 7 March 2012 the coalition government announced plans to close 36 of the 54 remaining Remploy sites with compulsory redundancies for 1,752 people. This decision comes just a few days after the government passed the welfare bill, which is to help people in to work. Instead of a commitment to help the most vulnerable people in society, the government is making life worse for them.

Remploy provides real jobs for many hundreds of disabled workers, giving them the confidence and dignity to be active and contributing citizens. Closing the factories will cause real hardship and push many to the back of the dole queue.

The government wants to sell off its Remploy factories. Join Unite in saying save our Remploy.

Sign our petition now to save Remploy factories

National Demonstration – Friday 20 April 2012

Lobby the DWP in Sheffield - The campaign to save Remploy factories continues
Assemble 12.30 for a 1pm start outside the Department of Work and Pensions office in Sheffield (Steel City House) at the junction of West Street, Church Street and Tripit Lane.

Rally and March to the Town Hall

Speakers to be announced

All Welcome bring your banners

USA: One year after the battle of Wisconsin

Before the Occupy movement challenged the ideas of the capitalist establishment in the US, contributing to the worldwide movement of the Enraged and Indignados, 2011 started with the uprising of the workers’ movement in Wisconsin: In February and March hundreds of thousands of workers and young people rose up against the attempt to strip public sector workers of their collective bargaining rights. Despite ending in defeat, it potentially marked the beginning of the end of a period of general setbacks for the US workers’ movement.

Socialist Alternative (CWI supporters in the US) published a balance sheet to outline the strength and challenges of this movement: