Saturday, 26 May 2012

'A Future That Works' - mass TUC demonstration in London on 20 October

The TUC is to organise a mass demonstration in London under the banner of 'A Future That Works' on Saturday 20 October 2012. A march through central London will culminate in a rally in Hyde Park.

On March 26 2011 the TUC's March for the Alternative attracted 500,000 people to a march and rally in London.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'The tide is turning against austerity. We were told that spending cuts were needed to get the economy growing, yet they have driven the UK back into recession. We were told that we were all in it together, yet Mr Cameron's main purpose at the G8 summit seemed to be protecting the banks against the growing international support for a Robin Hood tax - and the last Budget's centrepiece was cutting the 50p tax rate.

'It is becoming ever clearer that this government does not have the policies - or even much of a commitment - to build a prosperous economy that can generate the jobs and industries we need for the future.

'Rather than bold policies for investment and growth, the best that ministers can do is half-baked proposals to make it easier to sack people.

'That is why we expect a huge turnout from the growing numbers that want a future that works. With the USA and France now setting out the alternative, it's time the UK also changed course.'

TUC Press Release

Thursday, 24 May 2012

PCS conference: vote for more joint action against cuts

From PCS press release dated 23rd May 2012

Delegates at PCS's annual conference this morning voted in favour of further joint-union national strike action at the end of June against cuts to pensions, pay and jobs.

The move follows the walkout on 10 May by members of PCS, Unite, Nipsa, the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, University and College Union, and the Prison Officers' Association.

While the focus in the last year has been on pensions, delegates agreed to step up opposition to job cuts and the public sector pay freeze.

As well as organising joint national strikes, the union will hold co-ordinated targeted industrial action in employer groups and sectors, and other protests and political campaigns.

The conference noted that unions representing the majority of staff in the civil service, health and education have now refused the government's latest 'final offer' on pensions and agreed to:

Press the Trades Union Congress for closer co-ordination of unions on campaigning and industrial action, and to demand that the government negotiates on the core pensions issues of paying more and working longer for less in retirement.

To continue to build a new joint union campaign, called '68 is too late', in opposition to increases in the state pension age.

To fully support the TUC demonstration against austerity planned for the autumn

To fully support community campaigns, protests and peaceful civil disobedience against the cuts by groups such as UK Uncut, Occupy, welfare campaigners and those campaigning against the inequality of cuts.

In a national consultation ballot of PCS members which ended on 16 March, 90.5% of respondents rejected the proposals for a new pension scheme and, in the largest vote for action in any national ballot the union has held, 72.1% said they supported further industrial action alongside other unions.

Speaking after the vote PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "We continue to oppose the government's plans to force public servants to pay more and work longer for a worse pension, and will work with other unions on a rolling programme of co-ordinated industrial action.

"Despite ministers' wild claims late last year, unions representing the majority of workers in the civil service, health and education have now rejected the government's crude and unnecessary attempt to make them pay off debts racked up by the greed and recklessness of wealthy bankers.

"We have again called on the government to return to the talks with a genuine will to negotiate on the core pensions issues, but we will continue to build the widest possible alliance against these cuts if it refuses to do so."

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Video: Bristol NHS 'May Day' Demo

Solidarity with Greek workers

Voters - not only in Greece but also in the recent French presidential elections, the German regional elections, in Italy's local elections and indeed in the recent elections in the UK - have punished the ruling parties for making the working and middle classes pay for the failure of the greedy capitalist banks and the capitalist profit system as a whole.
But capitalist austerity has not only been given a huge thumbs' down in the political arena. Throughout Europe there have been massive workers' strikes and protests movements.
In Spain, a general strike in March has recently been followed by mass protests in the country's cities by the Indignados movement. In Greece there has been a succession of general strikes over the last two years.
The article below was written by Xekinima reporters (the Socialist Party's counterpart in Greece) and by members of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI - the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated). 

Following the 6 May election earthquake in Greece, which saw a hammering of the pro-austerity parties and a huge rejection of the 'Troika' (European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund), the main parties failed to form a coalition government.

Attempts by the Greek president to oversee a 'national unity' government or to form a 'government of technocrats' also failed. New elections will be held no later than 17 June.

The supporters of Xekinima strongly supported the decision by the left-wing party Syriza to refuse to join any government with pro-austerity parties, such as Pasok, the former social democratic party, and the right-wing New Democracy.

Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) leapt from 4.6% to 16.78% (52 seats), to become the second largest party in the last elections, largely on the basis of its anti-cuts policies and call for a united left government.

Over the following week, the main political parties desperately tried to find a way to avoid new elections. The Greek ruling class is disorientated. Their traditional political tools of support, New Democracy and Pasok, saw their vote dramatically fall.

This was the result of years of their austerity measures that led to mass poverty and homelessness, a steep fall in living standards and rising suicides. By the end of 2012, GDP (total output) is predicted to contract by 20% (since 2008) and unemployment to rise by 25%.

Leaders of New Democracy and Pasok, and most of the media, hypocritically blame Syriza for making the country return to elections. But Syriza's leader, Alexis Tsipras, correctly rejected their arguments, saying the political establishment wanted Syriza to become their "partner in crime" in making new cuts.

The aversion of the main party leaders to democratic elections is mainly because Syriza is tipped to become the largest party, according to opinion polls, winning anywhere between 20.5% to 28%. Syriza is the only party growing in the polls, while others are falling. New Democracy is projected to win 18.1% of a new vote and Pasok 12.2%, their lowest ratings in nearly 40 years. This reflects the huge popularity of Syriza's public opposition to yet more austerity cuts.

The neo-fascist Golden Dawn scored big successes in last week's elections and entered parliament for the first time. But many of those who voted for Golden Dawn to "punish the politicians", now see the real far-right, anti-working class character of the party. Golden Dawn has subsequently dropped in polls, to just above 3% in some cases, which would see the party fail to win any MPs in new elections.

Nevertheless, the working class cannot be complacent about the threat of the far right and reaction. Since winning parliamentary seats, Golden Dawn supporters have viciously attacked immigrants.

Xekhinima calls for the creation of local anti-fascist committees to include democratically-organised defence, extending to communities, schools, universities and workplaces. If the left fails to offer a viable socialistalternative, the far right can make new gains and the Greek ruling class, which previously resorted to military rule, will also seek to deploy more authoritarian measures against the workers' movement.
Eurozone exit?

The bosses' parties threaten that Greece will be forced to leave the eurozone if new elections are called and Syriza comes to power with its anti-austerity policies. Syriza leaders say they want to take measures to end cuts and to improve living standards and that Greece should stay in the eurozone.

While the vast majority of Greeks vociferously oppose the austerity programme they also want to remain in theeurozone. They understandably fear the aftermath of exiting it.

There are endless warnings from the media and cuts-making politicians about what leaving would entail: a dramatic fall in living standards, financial bankruptcy and hyperinflation. Not surprisingly, one recent opinion poll recorded that 78% of respondents said they wanted a new government to do whatever it took to keep the euro. At the same time, however, to stay in the euro straitjacket promises only endless austerity for Greeks and an increasing number of them are demanding to leave.

Notwithstanding the aim of Syriza leaders to stay in the eurozone, even if they follow their current policies in a new government, limited as they are to a 'radical' renegotiation of the bailout terms they will face stiff opposition from the EU and Greek capitalists, most likely leading to Greece's exit from the euro.

The Troika has indicated that it is prepared to reconsider aspects of the bailout terms but not the 'core' issues, which means new assaults on the living conditions of Greek people.

Yet Syriza is not preparing its own supporters and the working class generally for the consequences of confrontation with the Troika, the markets and the Greek ruling class or taking account of a likely ferocious media and bosses' parties scare campaign that will be unleashed against Syriza during a new election campaign.

Some Syriza leaders argue that when they form a new government, the Troika's bluff will be called and they will be forced to back down and make big concessions.

They point out that the EU leaders are terrified of a Greek default and exit from the euro, which would cause a new financial crisis and deep recession throughout the EU, with countries such as Spain, Portugal and Ireland also possibly forced out of the euro.

While this is true, events have their own momentum. Some EU leaders and markets fear Greece is on an irresistible slide towards exit from the euro. Financial markets are making preparations for a Greek exit from the euro.

Angela Merkel and EU president Jose Manuel Barroso openly stated that if Athens cannot abide by the bailout rules, Greece will have to leave. This may partly be a threat to force Greece to form a coalition government to continue with cuts, as well as an attempt to show what will happen to any eurozone country that dares to stand up to the Troika.
Left government

In this situation, what should the Greek Left do? Xekinima welcomes Syriza's public call for left unity. Syriza should open up and develop its structures as a broad left alliance, so that fresh layers of workers and youth can join and decide party policy democratically. Xekinima supports united action of the left parties ahead of the next elections and for working people to vote for Syriza.

This should be done concretely, with the convening of mass assemblies at local, workplace, regional and national levels to discuss and agree programme, demands and electoral tactics, to campaign for a left government and to strive to ensure that such a government pursues anti-austerity and pro-working class policies.

The communist party (KKE) and Antarsya (the Anti-capitalist Left Cooperation) both took a sectarian attitude before the last elections and rejected Syriza's 'left unity' proposal, to the amazement of many millions of workers, the KKE leadership still continues to refuse to form a block with Syriza.

But under growing pressure from their rank and file, and the working class in general, a section of Antarsya has indicated that it is prepared to have joint collaboration with Syriza.

Many KKE members also speak of the need to "make unity with Syriza". Xekinima urges Syriza to make a bold call to the rank and file of the KKE and other left forces to join in an electoral bloc on an anti-austerity platform and to fight for a left government with a socialist programme.

Xekinima will campaign for a government of the Left and call for it to carry out anti-austerity, pro-working class policies and to adopt a socialist programme to transform society.

A programme for united action by Syriza and the KKE around opposition to all austerity measures, for cancellation of the debt, public ownership of the main banks and industries and for socialist change, would win widespread support from the working class, youth and middle class.

Syriza should make a call for a resurgence of mass action in the workplaces, colleges and communities and for combative, democratic trade union organisation.

Pro-working class policies would predictably cause screams of outrage from the bosses in Greece and the EU. They would probably quickly kick Greece out of the eurozone.

Ejected from the euro, a workers' government would need to carry out an emergency programme, including state control over imports and exports and capital controls to stop the "flight of capital" by profit-hungry property-holders and multinationals.

Democratic committees should oversee the supply of foodstuffs, medicine, oil and other vital goods to working people.

A workers' government in Greece would link up with the workers' movement in other crisis ridden eurozone countries, like Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy, to break the diktat of the Troika, the bosses' EU and capitalism.

These countries could form a confederation on a socialist basis and begin the international democratic planning and coordination of the economy, as part of a fight for a full socialist confederation of Europe, on a free and equal basis. This would win massive support quickly across the working class of Europe.

Bristol Socialist Party, Public Meetings on Greek situation this week:

Tuesday 22nd, 7.30pm
Cheltenham Road Library, Stokes Croft, BS6 5QX

Wednesday 23rd May, 7.30pm
Cross Keys Pub, 627 Fishponds Road, BS16 3BA

Monday, 14 May 2012

Greece: Left has opportunity to stop austerity

Following the recent elections in Greece, which saw two out of three voters vote against pro-austerity parties and a big swing to left parties, Niall Mulholland spoke to Andros Payiatsos, from Xekinima (CWI in Greece).


What do the election results represent?

The parliamentary election results in Greece were a political earthquake, a crushing repudiation of the pro-austerity parties and the ‘Troika’ (International Monetary Fund, European Union and European Central Bank). This follows years of austerity measures that have led to a collapse in living standards, 51% youth unemployment and mass poverty.
The outgoing government coalition parties suffered a massive collapse in support. The traditional conservative party, New Democracy, fell from just over 33% in 2009 to 18.85% (108 MPs, which includes the 50 seat bonus received by the first party, according to Greek electoral law). Pasok, the traditional social democratic party, crashed from 43.9 percent in the last elections to 13.18% (41 seats). In the past three decades, the combined vote of the two “ruling” parties varied between 75% and 85% of the vote. Laos, the small right wing party that joined New Democracy and Pasok in the austerity coalition for a few months, lost all its MPs.
The biggest gains went to the broad left, Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left), which rose from 4.6% to 16.78% (52 seats). The communist party (KKE) won 8.48% (26 MPs). The Democratic Left, which split from Syriza in 2010 on a more right wing path, but which also attacked austerity cuts, won 6.1%.
This major swing to the left by Greek voters shows the huge potential for a bold socialist alternative to the capitalist crisis and austerity cuts.
However, serving as a warning to the workers’ movement, the neo-fascist Golden Dawn, exploiting the anti-cuts mood and issues over immigration, picked up 6.97%. For the first time, this far right party entered parliament, with 21 MPs. The Independent Greeks, a recent right wing nationalist split from New Democracy, also entered parliament, with 10.6% (33 MPs).
While the election results revealed a polarisation along left and right lines, many workers and youth saw no viable alternative on offer and simply did not vote for any party. Abstention was much higher than predicted, at a record 35%, and ‘blank’ and invalid votes stood at 2.4%

Why did Syriza gain so many votes?

Syriza gained support over the last two weeks of the election campaign mainly by appealing for a ‘Left government’ against the Troika’s ‘memorandum’.
The supporters of Xekinima pioneered the call for a Left ‘united front’ and for a vote for the parties of the left, over the last months. Unlike Syriza leaders, Xekinima did not call for a ‘renegotiation’ of the crushing austerity measures, but for a Left government to carry out a programme to defend working people. This would include repudiating the debt, stopping all cuts, nationalising the main banks and industries, under democratic workers’ control and management, and fighting for a socialist Europe, as opposed to the bosses’ EU - breaking with the diktat of the Troika and capitalism, in general.
The other main forces on the Left in Greece, the communist party (KKE) and Antarsya (the Anti-capitalist Left Cooperation) both took a sectarian attitude and rejected Syriza’s ‘left unity’ proposal. Yet if the left had formed an electoral bloc, they would probably now be in a position to form a government! With millions of workers yearning for an anti-cuts left government, the KKE and Antarsya paid for their approach in the polls. Their votes remain virtually stagnant: the KKE rose by just 1% (under 19,000) to 8.48% (26 MPs) and Antarsya finished on 1.19%, with no MPs.

Can a new government be formed?

Under the Greek constitution, New Democracy, as the largest party, was given three days to try to form a new government. But its leader, Antonis Samaras, announced on Monday after just a few hours that his party had failed in its bid to create a “national salvation” government.
Given the unambiguous anti-austerity verdict of the electorate, no parties entering a coalition government can do so without at least pledging to renegotiate the ‘memorandum’ with the Troika.
The Troika may be prepared to re-negotiate over aspects of the memoranda and to make some minor concessions. But the Troika will not agree to end its central demands for huge debt repayments from Greece, which can only come at the cost of yet more enormous cuts to welfare, jobs and living standards. The question of Greek membership of the eurozone and even the EU will, most probably, quickly be placed on the agenda.
Greek politics is entering very stormy waters. The invitation to form a government fell to Syriza, the second biggest party. If it fails, the initiative goes to Pasok, and if that fails, to the Greek president, who can try to assemble a coalition.
The combined strength of the Syriza and the KKE, even together with the Democratic Left, in parliament is not enough to form a majority government and, to date, the KKE has refused to accept Syriza’s proposal.
Failure to form a new government would eventually lead to new elections. The ruling class has additional reasons to dread this prospect, as most probably it will lead to Syriza becoming the largest party.

What must the left do now?

Alexis Tsipras, the Syriza leader, said he will strive to form a “left-wing coalition” to reject the "barbaric" measures associated with the EU/IMF bailout deal.
Xekinima (CWI Greece) supports the call for a left government coalition but it must be a government fully committed to opposing all austerity cuts and the bosses’ EU, rejecting the debt repayments and carrying out pro-worker policies, not ‘renegotiating’ for ‘milder’ cuts and ‘more generous’ loan repayments, which still means a lowering of Greek living standards. The Syriza leadership must oppose any coalition or co-operation with the bosses’ parties, which would be a disastrous trap.
There is now a great opportunity for Syriza to publicly put forward a programme for a workers’ government. It is true that according to parliamentary arithmetic the left do not have enough MPs to form such a government. Furthermore, the KKE leadership has, so far, refused to co-operate with Syriza. But huge pressure needs to come from trade unionists, social movement activists and the rank and file of the KKE and Syriza, to insist that both parties reject sectarianism and any ‘cuts-lite’ policies based on ‘re-negotiated’ austerity. The workers’ movement activists want genuine left unity, preparing the ground to form a new left government in the near future.
A programme to unite Syriza and the KKE around opposition to all austerity measures and the EU diktats, for cancellation of the debt and nationalisation of the main banks and industries under democratic workers’ control and for socialist change, as the basis of a workers’ government, would win widespread support from the working class, youth and ruined middle class. It would inspire a resurgence of mass action in the workplaces and communities.
If an attempt is made to form yet another cuts-making coalition, based around Pasok and ND, the left and workers’ movement needs to organise mass opposition, including general strikes and workplace occupations, to stop such attempts, which have no mandate.
Last weekend’s election makes clear that a majority government of the left is possible. If new elections take place in June, the left parties will have a great opportunity to win a majority. This requires the left parties adopting socialist policies – a rejection of the debt repayments and a struggle to break with the bosses’ EU and the profit-system. It also means a strong united front of the left and workers’ movement against the threat of the neo-fascist and far right.
If the left fails to offer a viable socialist alternative, the far right can partially fill the space and grow, and the ruling class will also seek to deploy more authoritarian measures against the workers’ movement resisting cuts.

Video: Bob Crow at strike rally

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Save the NHS – May Day Demo in Bristol this Saturday 5th May

Save the NHS!
Bristol May Day Demonstration & Rally

Called by Bristol & District Anti-Cuts Alliance
& supported by Bristol Trades Council & various local Trade Union branches

Saturday 5th May 2012
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.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Pensions & Cuts: Strike back on 10th May

By John McInally, National vice-president, Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), personal capacity

The PCS executive committee has called national strike action on 10 May (M10) as part of a united campaign with other unions. Strikes will take place in three of the four sectors being affected by the government's attacks on pensions - civil service, health and education.

This M10 trade union coalition is needed to challenge a government of millionaires which is trying to force low-paid workers to pay more, work longer and get less in their pensions.

(Bristol PCS on the 30 June 2011 coordinated public sector strike of PCS NUT, UCU and other unions, photo Matt Carey)
The government's aim is to cut pensions to make privatisation more 'affordable'. They want to cut or destroy the vital services that bind our communities together and allow their banking and big business paymasters to squeeze as much profit out of what remains.

But there's £120 billion in uncollected taxes, largely from the rich. Big business is sitting on over £750 billion that they could invest to create jobs. Not one cut to our public services is necessary.

The M10 action will be on the day after the Queen's Speech, which will set out the coalition government's next set of cuts. This includes forcing through more pension changes that will mean civil and public service workers paying more each month and working up to eight years longer. They also have plans for regional and local pay which, if implemented, would mean lengthy pay freezes for many in the most deprived areas of Britain.
Attack on pensions

The attack on pensions is a critical element of the government's assault on working people. To concede on pensions would give the Con-Dems a green light to step up their attacks.

The pensions battle gives the trade union movement the chance to build the widest coalition to stop the government's plans. 30 November saw the biggest strike in modern history and the government was shaken. If that action had continued, there is no doubt the government would have been stopped. And it still can be!

The government has given no concessions on the core issues on pensions of paying more, working longer and getting less. So it was a major error by the TUC leadership to fall for the government's divide and rule tactics and accept their 'Heads of Agreement' on pensions last December. This craven behaviour risked demoralising workers and it was a major boost for the government.

Along with a number of other unions, PCS opposed this sell-out. PCS played a major role in re-building the trade union coalition. PCS's Left Unity conference in London on 7 January, which saw over 500 activists from all public sector unions come together to build a fightback, was a critical turning point.

In an indicative ballot, 90% of members voted to reject the government's offer and 72% supported further action. Members voted on the clear understanding that any further action would be on the basis of a "strong campaign" capable of winning concessions. 28 March (M28) was set for the re-launch of the industrial action, but it then transpired that key allies in the alliance could not or would not take part.

The situation was quite simple, the alliance could not deliver the type of action our members expected. Rather than press ahead with M28, the PCS national executive voted to spend a few weeks re-building the coalition so that successful action could be organised.

In the middle of a battle it is important to aim for maximum unity. Members and activists were disappointed that M28 did not go ahead but understood the reasons.

We wanted to wait a few weeks to deliver effective action - as will now happen - on the basis of a greatly strengthened alliance. That alliance will now be bigger than the 30 June strikes and covers three out of the four pensions sectors - civil service, education and health.
Building in strength

The pensions battle is building in strength as workers realise the full scale of the attacks. On 10 May other unions, including Unite in health and the civil service, Northern Ireland's main public service union Nipsa, lecturers' union UCU, whose executive is to make a formal decision to strike this week, and RMT in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary will take part.

Teachers' union NUT is meeting to make decisions on regional rolling action and national action, including in June.

The Police Federation will also be holding a 25,000 strong demonstration on London on 10 May against attacks on their pensions, jobs and pay and privatisation. The British Medical Association is also balloting its members.

Crucially, the GMB is balloting for rejection of the deal. This is a significant development. While the union will not take part on M10 it raises the prospect that one of the biggest public sector unions could be part of a growing coalition. By the summer we could see action on a far bigger scale than many thought likely.

To carry out its pensions cuts, the government needs to introduce legislation that can take up to nine months. And the whole package doesn't come into full force until 2015, giving us 18 months to two years to stop them or win concessions

The government, with the shameful connivance of TUC leader Brendan Barber and Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, have tried to give the impression that the pensions dispute is all done and dusted. Their instruction from Labour leader Ed Miliband is clearly: "don't rock the boat guys".

But this dispute is only just beginning. The choice will be bow down and let these gangsters kick us into the ground, or fight back. PCS will continue to be at the forefront of this battle.

Make the M10 strike a success:
  • Organise a workplace meeting to prepare for the strike
  • If your union isn't striking discuss how to put pressure on your leadership. If applicable link up with other unions
  • You could organise a public meeting in your town or city via the unions in dispute or trades council, anti-cuts campaign or National Shop Stewards Network. Explain the need to prepare for further action
  • Plan for a demonstration in your town or city on the day
  • All united - invite private sector workers, young people, pensioners, benefit claimants etc, to any public meetings, rallies and demonstrations