Friday, 29 June 2012

BADACA Statement On English Defence League March


Statement On English Defence League March

Bristol & District Anti-Cuts Alliance opposes the proposed march by the English Defence League through Bristol on 14th July.

In our fight against the cuts, our unity is our strength - unity between races, religions and communities. The EDL aims to divide people along religious and ethnic lines, weakening us in our campaigns. In particular they target Muslims, promoting a climate of Islamophobia. They have also attacked trades union demonstrations and pickets. The real divide is between the 1% and the 99%; between the small minority who own and control our society and the rest of us.

The racist EDL, which has fascists at its core, encourages people to look for scapegoats to blame for the current economic problems.. There is a housing crisis – but this is caused by a failure to build more houses that people can afford to rent & buy, not by immigrants. There is a jobs crisis – but this is caused by decades of lack of investment in the economy. Building a million council houses would help solve the housing crisis and the jobs crisis. This would be a better use of money than giving billions to the bankers whose years of speculation helped cause the current situation. In fact, the EDL's backers include a millionaire banker.

The government's austerity policies push people into the arms of groups like the EDL. Standing up to the EDL and its backers is closely linked with the fight against cuts and privatisation. To defeat the EDL will require united action from the people of Bristol. We believe it is a mistake for people to turn their backs and pretend that the racists will go away as the police and city council are keen for us to do. The presence of the EDL in Bristol could scar the city for years to come.

BADACA will be supporting the rally and march organised by We Are Bristol on Saturday 14th July, assembling by the fountains on the Centre at 11am. We call on all our supporters to join us and to encourage others to do the same.

28th June 2012

Sunday, 24 June 2012

'What's Socialism Got to Do With It?' Socialist Party public meeting tomorrow

There is an Alternative
‘What’s Socialism Got To Do With It?

Monday 25th June 7:30pm
St. George’s Library, Church Road,
St. George, Bristol, BS5 8AL

Matt Gordon will look at why the capitalist system is in crisis and explain there is an alternative to ordinary people paying the costs through cuts and job losses

PCS: HMRC staff in Bristol on strike tomorrow


Members in HMRC have given resounding support for a programme of group wide industrial action in defence of jobs. Your group executive committee (GEC) would like to thank all members who participated and for our members' continued support. As part of a sustained campaign to defend jobs and services we are calling on all members to take strike action on Monday, 25 June. From Tuesday, 26 June, we are asking all members to strictly observe a ban on overtime working.


In our ballot, members have voted to support strike action and action short of strike over the following demands:
No further job cuts in HMRC
An end to private sector involvement in HMRC
No compulsory redundancies or moves beyond reasonable travel
An end to consideration points

We are now embarking on our biggest ever group wide campaign. We’re in a period of uncertainty. A further 10,000 jobs are planned to be cut from HMRC.

Our members are under pressure to deliver more, with increased scrutiny, with less staff and resources. 30,000 jobs have gone already in HMRC. Even by the estimate of the public accounts committee this has resulted in the department losing the ability to collect £1.1billion in tax. This figure will only increase if the government and the department ploughs ahead with its cuts programme.

Nobody has ever seen a compelling case as to why these cuts are needed. It is clear to the vast majority of the population that the government wants to make ordinary working people pay for an economic crisis not of their making. As part of this the government is demanding cuts and privatisation across government departments. No department or section of HMRC will be immune.

If the government was serious about reducing our national debt then they would provide the very department capable of solving the problem of the ever increasing tax gap and the billions of pounds of tax lying uncollected, with the necessary resources. Instead, they want to slash 10,000 jobs in HMRC by 2015.

Campaigning to Win

Your GEC met on 14 June to discuss the way forward. We are strongly committed to reaching a negotiated settlement on our issues, but we believe a concerted and wide ranging group campaign beginning with one day’s strike action on 25 June and followed with a rolling programme of activity and action will be critical to protecting jobs and services now and in the future.

We will also look to escalate our action should the department refuse to listen. We are embarking on our biggest ever consultation exercise amongst reps and members to determine our next steps in our campaign.

Our message to the department is this – we are serious about protecting our members’ interests and we will engage in a serious and determined campaign to defend jobs and services.

We’re launching a new campaign – Tax Justice for All. This brings together all the arguments we’ve been making about investment in HMRC as well as pulling in wider support for job investment in HMRC. The Tax Justice for All campaign encompasses our key demands, backed up with action and activity. We have made the case for investment in public services. We are now asking members in HMRC to support the campaign by taking action.
Taking our agenda forward

Key to the success of our campaign will be the involvement of members. Campaigning and action has so far directly resulted in HMRC securing £900million reinvestment in Enforcement and Compliance, ended the need for members to take medical appointments in their own time and protected jobs in Wick for a further two years.

We’re now calling on members to:
Support the action on Monday, 25 June and encourage colleagues to do the same;
Volunteer to help your branch representatives with workplace campaigning initiatives;
Strongly adhere to the overtime ban – by doing overtime members are undermining the argument for investment in jobs;
If you know of any non members ask them to join PCS today;
Get involved in organising local activity in your local area and present our arguments, outlined in the new Richard Murphy report Why are they increasing the tax gap? to your local MP.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

‘Local Associations for National Action Conference’ to defend pensions, pay and conditions for teachers

From 'Martin Powell Davies - member of NUT Executive' blog:

Over 100 delegates representing over 30 NUT Local Associations gathered at the ‘Local Associations for National Action Conference’ in Liverpool on June 16 to discuss how to build national action to defend pensions, pay and conditions.

At the conclusion of a day of democratic debate and discussion, the following amended statement was agreed unanimously, formally setting up the 'Local Associations Network':

This conference agrees to maintain and build a network of local associations and school reps that will enable teacher trade unionists to exchange information, debate and discuss strategy to defeat the serious attacks we face, call on our National Unions to implement such a strategy, and organise solidarity between local and national struggles with the following aims:

1. Continue to work at every level in the NUT for the earliest possible return to collective industrial action in opposition to the attacks on pensions and for a calendar of action that can secure further concessions from this weakened Government. This must involve an escalating program of national action, starting from as early as possible in the autumn term, and continuing beyond, including strike action of more than one day's duration. The NUT should call on other teaching and non-teaching unions to join with us in setting that calendar of joint action.

2. Develop a fightback on workload, capability and abuse of classroom observations at school, local and national level based on collective action by members, including both strike and non-strike sanctions, non-cooperation, defined limits to workload demands and spreading success.

3. Identify, develop and spread the best examples of effective, confident organisation in the workplace which can deliver action, involve members and breakdown divisions between school unions, and build solidarity with associations, school groups and other unions taking action.

4. Welcome and seek to maximise the potential of the national joint declaration of intent between the NUT and NASUWT on action to defend pensions & jobs, and to fight excessive workload, local and performance pay, starting by making every effort to win the national NUT ballot this term with as large a majority and turnout as possible. Establish association campaign committees. Organise as many school meetings as possible, preferably with the NASUWT, to build for the ballot and endorse the Agreement.

5. Work to ensure that the joint NUT/NASUWT initiative:

(a) includes joint national strike action

(b) clearly and explicitly addresses the issue of pensions and demands the re-opening of talks with government

(c) leads to the development of rank and file links between the NUT and NASUWT including across schools.

(d) is not used to justify further unnecessary delay in taking action alongside other trade unions seeking to build co-ordinated strike action.

(e) includes far more effective sanctions than those in the existing NASUWT ‘action-short-of-strike-action’

6. Congratulate London associations on organising the lobby of the DfE on 10th May. Commit ourselves to organise similar actions in our areas, if possible with local NASUWT branches. Build the joint NUT/NASUWT demonstrations in Sheffield and Oxford on July 14.

7. Fight to have these priorities endorsed and prioritised by the national union and every NUT association.

From this Conference, we propose that:

a. We agree to set up a ‘Local Associations Network’ from today’s Conference that:

i) Hosts a website to publicise the network’s aims, to share materials that can be used in schools and associations to build local and national campaigns, and to inform teacher trade unionists about the latest developments in union campaigns, decisions and debates on the National Executive, and about actions being taken by teacher trade unionists and other public sector unions.

ii) is co-ordinated by a Steering Committee elected at today’s Conference. In electing the committee, the conference must ensure that the steering group is not dominated by any particular geographical area or political viewpoint but is inclusive to the range of associations supporting the aims of the network (* see footnote).

iii) produces a report of the discussion and decisions at today’s Conference to be distributed as widely as possible and certainly by associations sponsoring the Conference.

b. We publicise the concrete actions suggested at today’s Conference including:

iv) Sharing and circulating model materials urging NUT members to vote YES in the new ballot.

v) Calling on school groups and associations to lobby their NUT Executive members by sending letters and motions calling on them to vote for national strike action to be held as soon as possible next term, such strikes to be co-ordinated with unions who are willing to take action, such as PCS and the NASUWT, wherever possible but not tied to such joint actions alone.

vi) Inviting Executive members to Association and school group meetings to explain the position they have taken and to listen to the views of members in schools.

c. We convene a further Local Associations Conference next term to review progress made in both revitalising the pensions campaign - and in building effective action to tackle the other attacks facing teachers and education - and to discuss our next steps.

* It was agreed that this proposal would best be met by agreeing that each Association that agrees to affiliate to the Local Associations Network and supports the Network's aims is entitled to one representative on the Steering Committee, to be decided by that Local Association, and that the first meeting of the Committee should be in early September.

As agreed unanimously (with amendments) by LANAC Conference on June 16 2012. 

Greece: Syriza preparing for power

Paul Murphy MEP is in Greece this week, campaigning with Syriza in the run-up to Sunday's election. He'll be writing daily reports of his experiences for Politico. The second of these is below, and you can find the first one here.

Day two of my visit began with a press conference of international guests to support Syriza. Political representatives from the Left Bloc in Portugal, Izquierda Unida in Spain, a left group in Argentina, the ambassador from Venezuela to Greece and a member of Occupy Wall Street addressed the press, together with myself and members of Syriza. The emphasis of all of the speeches were on the centrality of the struggle in Greece for working people all across Europe and the impact that a Syriza victory could have.

From the questions of the press afterwards to Syriza, the pressure from the media against their representatives was evident. One journalist recounted the fact that the leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, had declared to Bloomberg that the euro is not a fetish and asked for justification of this! Because of the fear of people of leaving the euro, there is an attempt to make the election a referendum on the drachma or the euro, just as was attempted in Ireland in the Austerity Treaty referendum.On a stroll to find suncream, I met two young members of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), handing out their election manifesto and a flyer advertising their final rally, due to take place last night. I engaged one of them, who had good English, like nearly all Greek young people. The conversation encapsulated the essence of what I think is mistaken about their approach.

The KKE is a huge organisation, with many thousands of active members, a large apparatus and deep support in sections of the industrial working class. Later on, I passed their headquarters, which is absolutely massive. It is the equivalent of about three or four Liberty Halls put together. Their position on these elections is summed up inan article published by the Morning Star newspaper in Britain.

The KKE activist made many criticisms of Syriza, with which I was able to agree – that they have not prepared people for the struggle for power, that a revolutionary break with the capitalist system is needed, that people's power is needed rather than governments managing capitalism. Together with those criticisms, he also made the kind of statements that are contained in the article: that Syriza is the enemy, and that Syriza is in favour of the continuation of capitalism and the imperialist European Union. These go beyond the bounds of comradely criticism and amount to a sectarian misrepresentation and reflect an approach reminiscent of 'Third Period' Stalinism.

The main problem, however, is that the KKE do not make any attempt to really connect with those who are attracted to Syriza and the idea of a left government by joining in a united front with Syriza and engaging in criticism of the Syriza programme while fighting together for power. Instead, in the context of this massive crisis of capitalism, where Greece is the weakest link in the chain, they simply stand back and make denunciations of Syriza. They make abstract propaganda for 'people's power' without proposing demands and measures that connect the need for 'people's power' with people's day to day struggles and consciousness.

In effect, they say that 'the people are not ready for socialism', and instead of engaging in struggle to raise consciousness and awareness about the fundamental change that is needed, they retreat from that struggle. In many respects, sections of Syriza have the opposite approach to that, in that they also accept that 'people are not ready for socialism', and therefore to some extent prepare to manage a better capitalism.

This emerged at a Syriza rally I attended and spoke at in Neo Ionia in Athens last night. Neo Ionia is historically a left-wing area, where in the last elections Syriza came first and the KKE came second. It has a left-controlled Council and was the birthplace of the movement of mass boycott against the Greek equivalent of the household tax.

This was one of many outdoor local Syriza election rallies taking place. There was a mix of people present, from pre-existing political activists from Syriza and Xekinima to others who came to hear what was being advocated. When I spoke, I was very warmly welcomed.

I explained that in Ireland we had also experienced a campaign of terror and bullying during the referendum campaign and that the lesson from Ireland was not to vote in fear. I also exposed the lies that are peddled about Ireland in order to bully the Greek people – that austerity is working and that people accept austerity in Ireland. I detailed how the domestic economy continues to shrink, as do people's incomes, while unemployment and emigration go up. My description of the mass revolt against the household tax and mass non-payment got a warm response, because of their experience with a similar tax and movement.

I also took the opportunity to put forward the need for a revolutionary break with capitalism and a struggle for socialist policies. When I explained that if they put Syriza in first place on Sunday and elected a left government, that they would not be alone but would have tens of millions of allies across Europe, there was spontaneous appluse. Just like in Ireland, the propaganda of being isolated in Europe if you stand up to austerity is used to intimidate people. That underlines the importance of international solidarity that demonstrates the common nature of the struggle we are involved in across Europe.

After I spoke, the next two speakers illustrated the differences in approach and tensions within Syriza. The first was from 'International Workers Left' (DEA), which is a split from the group linked with the Socialist Workers Party in Ireland. He put forward a left position – calling for nationalisation of the banks and the key enterprises under public control and declaring that a government of the left would cancel a large portion of the debt and impose a moratorium on the repayment of the rest, until the state was in a position to pay it. In contrast to the right-wing, he said that the payment of public services would come before the repayment of bondholders. He also emphasised the need for the working class and left across Europe to struggle together for a fundamental change in Europe.

The next speaker was from Synaspismos (the biggest grouping in Syriza, a euro-communist split from the KKE formed in 1991). While excoriating the right wing parties and the political leaders of Europe, the content of his speech was more tame. He emphasised that the time was not yet right for socialism in Greece, but that there were many 'bourgeois democratic' reforms that could be made, such as a reform of the electoral system and increases in taxation for the rich. In effect, he put forward a 'stageist' view, whereby firstly Greece would develop as a proper developed capitalist European country, before a later struggle for socialism.

Such a gradualist perspective seems to be totally at odds of the reality of what will happen if Syriza is the biggest party. On Monday morning, the markets in Greece and all across Europe will go haywire. Capitalism, in the form of the bankers and bondholders of the markets, as well as their political representatives in Germany and elsewhere, will go on the attack. The question of ownership and control of the financial sector in particular, together with the key sections of the economy, will have to be posed immediately if Syriza is to avoid a flood of money out of the country.

Immediately afterwards, I spoke to the speaker from DEA. He said it was now neck and neck between New Democracy and Syriza in the private polls that are circulating. In the papers, there are some reports of New Democracy pulling ahead by 1-2%, but he argued that in the latest polls it was back to even, as people had switched from the KKE and Democratic Left to Syriza to stop New Democracy winning..

I asked what he thought would happen if Syriza was elected. He confessed that he felt that Syriza was entirely unprepared for this eventuality. The members of Xekinima, the sister party of the Socialist Party, agree with that assessment. In the taverna afterwards, the Syriza member who had translated for me argued that they were in fact prepared and detailed a series of measures that would need to be taken in the 100 days after Syriza comes to power. However, I feel that a plan for 100 days is optimistic; there are many emergency measures that would need to be taken extremely quickly in order to stabilise the situation.

If Syriza wins on Sunday and if there is the possibility for a left government, the question will be quickly answered. One of the questions I will try to focus on in tomorrow's blog is about how 'preparing for power' should not just be about preparing to be in government, but in preparing for socialist change and a workers' government. That will require not just a victory for Left parties in the election on Sunday, but a fundamental struggle in the workplaces and streets to take economic and political power away from the capitalist establishment which currently holds it.

Paul Murphy is Socialist Party MEP for Dublin

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

NSSN conference calls for one-day general strike against austerity

Around 500 workplace reps assembled in Friends Meeting House in London Euston today for an excellent sixth annual National Shop Stewards Network conference.

After watching a moving film commemorating the many struggles and anti-cuts events over the last year, NSSN chair Rob Williams kicked off the day's discussions, reminding the audience that it was their conference, to discuss and debate building workplace struggles, solidarity, and action across the whole trade union movement.

To introduce the first discussion, entitled 'The Fight back against Austerity', the conference was addressed by PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka, NUT Deputy General Secretary Kevin Courtney, BMA member Dr Jackie Grunskill, and from Northern Ireland the newly elected NIPSA (Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance) President Padraig Mulholland.
NIPSA President Padraig Mulholland

Mark Serwotka emphasised the unprecedented nature of the attacks in this period, concluding that "normal rules of engagement do not apply".

With 85% of the cuts still to come, unions need a response that is up to the scale of the battle; "a radical opposition is required now more than ever...

"We need people bold enough to say that there should not be a single cut". He supported the NSSN's intention of lobbying the TUC in September to call for more strike action on the scale of 30 November 2011 and greater.

Padraig Mulholland deplored the hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs that are being lost and the fact that with wages being held down and working hours cut, "poverty levels are going through the roof".

He called for unified, non-sectarian workers' struggle against the coalition government and said that his union is preparing for the autumn, when he believes there needs to be a one-day strike as part of a unified fight across Britain and Northern Ireland.

Kevin Courtney emphasised the need for trade unionists to build strong networks on the ground and recognised the NSSN as a serious organisation in this process.

He declared that defending pensions is still a crucial demand, and that it is possible for governments to make changes.

For instance President Hollande in France has just reduced the pension age from 62 down to 60! To strengthen the fight on pensions and wider issues, the NUT is aiming to build unity amongst teachers by working with the NAS/UWT following an agreement of "historic significance".

After these first platform speeches, NSSN communications officer Suzanne Muna moved a NSSN Guide to Action, which welcomed the TUC national demo being organised in October and called for it to be a "start to the next phase of an action-based campaign against austerity.

"We advocate that the next step should be for the TUC to organise a one-day general strike, which includes both public and private sectors" (for the full text see below).

Then came a wide-ranging discussion from the floor in which trade unionists from a number of different unions took part, including Unison, PCS, NUT and Unite.

Afternoon agenda

Later in the day, a session entitled Workers in Struggle was addressed by RMT president Alex Gordon, POA chair PJ McParlin, Youth Fight for Jobs activist Jacqui Berry, Remploy trade unionist Ray Ludford and by a rank and file construction worker.

Speakers from the floor gave valuable elaboration on recent workplace disputes, including on MMP in Bootle, Coryton refinery, Honda, Ratcliffe-on-Soar and Sheffield recycling centres.

Phil Potter FOC at MMP Bootle addresses conference

PCS member Tony Mulhearn from the Liverpool 47, who was a Liverpool mayoral candidate for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) last month, spoke of the importance of TUSC in encouraging workers to stand as anti-cuts candidates in elections.

A business section of the conference was introduced by NSSN secretary Linda Taaffe, who referred to a written report that had been circulated (text below).

Linda appealed for finance donations to be sought widely from supporting trade unionists and trade unions; and a new steering committee was elected for 2012-13.

Finally, in an inspiring end to the day, international solidarity was expressed, via a filmed address from Greece, and by Esenbek Ukteshbayev from the trade union federation Zhanartu in Kazakhstan who graphically explained the plight of socialists and trade unionists in Kazakhstan who are being harassed, jailed and even killed by the Nazarbayev regime.

In a rousing closing speech, PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh summed up the conference, paying tribute to the many excellent contributions during the day when he commented: "To try to do justice to all of the speakers is virtually impossible".

He spoke of the need to prepare for an autumn offensive against the government's attacks that will be on a bigger scale than last year and "this time it must involve workers across the public and private sectors".

Few of the hundreds present in the hall will have left without feeling that the NSSN has already made a tremendous mark on events, and with the authority and allegiances it is building up, can go on to become an even more decisive force in making sure we have a trade union movement that is up to the tasks ahead.

Terry Pearce from Bracknell commented:

Excellent NSSN conference, inspiring speeches from trade union activists fighting victimisation, redundancy and attacks on their wages and conditions.

These are rank and file workers at the coalface of the struggle against this vicious government and the bosses.

Great platform speeches from some of our best trade union leaders. Inspirational videos and speeches from trade unionists from around the world, many facing state violence on a day to day basis.

These were not merely nice, articulate speeches, they are a reflection of the day to day struggle of workers in austerity Britain. This conference was however more than just about speeches, this was a call to action.

We call for full support for the TUC national demonstration on 20 October, but more than that we call on the TUC to announce a one day General Strike of both public and private sectors.

This is now the only way to combat the Coalition's pensions cuts and cuts to wages, jobs, services, privatisation of the NHS etc.

We call on all NSSN supporters to redouble their efforts over the coming months to build support for this strike around the country, at the same time this will build the NSSN and increase the effectiveness of rank and file trade unionism throughout the country.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Come to this National Shop Stewards Network conference this Saturday

The "hot breath on the back of the trade union leaders' necks"

National Shop Stewards Network Sixth Annual Conference
Saturday 9 June, 11am-4pm
Friends Meeting House, London NW1 2BJ

Speakers include:
Bob Crow, RMT general secretary
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary
Rank and File construction electrician
Kevin Courtney, NUT deputy general secretary

Article by Rob Williams, NSSN chair

On 9 June the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) is holding its sixth annual conference.

The NSSN was initiated by the RMT transport workers' union in 2006 and had its launch conference a year later. The potential of this organisation was clear, with the authority of one of the most militant unions behind it, and the Socialist Party immediately gave the NSSN its full support.

It wasn't long before the PCS civil service union, Communication Workers Union, National Union of Mineworkers and the POA prison officers' union also officially supported the network.

Now with the National Union of Journalists, six nationalunions back the NSSN. This is along with many trades councils, union branches, shop stewards' committees and individual stewards, branch reps, union activists and anti-cuts campaigners.

The NSSN was formed in preparation for the period of capitalist crisis and austerity we are in now. We've organised active solidarity to defend those being victimised and are proud of supporting trade union reps who have successfully seen off attacks by their employer, like the RMT members tube drivers Eamonn Lynch and Arwyn Thomas, and Paddy Brennan the Honda Unite convenor.
Pressure on union leaders

We're not here to replace the trade unions but to act as a vehicle where rank and file reps can channel pressure on to the unions and particularly the leaders. Two of the clearest examples of how that can happen is the public sector pension struggle and the 'sparks' dispute.

When Cameron, Clegg and Osborne announced their cuts programme, the NSSN was confident that there would be resistance from working class and middle class people. But we were adamant that the trade unions were absolutely central to leading this opposition, due to the economic weight of the organised working class. It was necessary to place demands on the union leaders and not allow them to avoid their responsibilities.

Therefore, we saw one of our prime roles as raising the idea of coordinated strike action against the cuts. Our message was clear on our leaflets and placards on the massive 26 March Trades Union Congress (TUC) 'March for the Alternative'.

Over 700 shop stewards and activists came to our lobby of the TUC the day before its September 2011 conference on the theme of a 24-hour public sector general strike.

The NSSN also gave out hundreds of thousands of leaflets in the run-up to the TUC conference, including on the 30 June 2011 (J30) strike which saw 750,000 civil servants from PCS striking alongside teachers and lecturers from the NUT, ATL and UCU unions.

The pressure put on union leaders, including by the NSSN and its lobby of the TUC conference, helped lead to the historic 30 November 2011 (N30) action.
Unison on strike

For example, following J30, the Unison leader Dave Prentis said that his union "would never strike alongside PCS". Five months later, that is exactly what Unison members did, together with most other public sector unions.

The strike on N30 of over two million public sector workers, arguably the biggest single day of strike action since the 1926 general strike, is not only the highest point of the last year, it has transformed the consciousness of the leading activists in the union movement.

The Con-Dems, the Tory media, and even unfortunately many of the union leaders, say that the pensions battle is now over with a 'sensible' agreement - meaning public sector workers have to work longer, pay more and get less.

The NSSN allied itself to militant public sector unions like PCS before N30, when the movement was on the offensive, and after when the right-wing union leaders like those in Unison and the TUC looked to settle the pension dispute and in the process throw away the huge momentum built up by the strike.

We lobbied the TUC on 19 December 2011 against a shabby pensions agreement that was little different to what was on 'offer' before N30. We helped build for a big turnout when PCS Left Unity boldly organised at short notice an open conference on 7 January 2012 as part of regrouping those unions still prepared to fight on to defend pensions.

The 400,000 strong strike on 10 May, when PCS linked up with Unite in the NHS and the civil service, the UCU, Immigration Services Union (ISU) and Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (Nipsa), along with the brave prison officers from the POA who took unofficial and illegal action, is the fruit of this labour. It offers the possibility of reigniting this struggle.

The massive police demonstration that day and now the strike vote of the British Medical Association, which saw 92% of junior doctors voting for action, shows how isolated the government is and why serious coordinated action can defeat them. We will continue to do all we can to make this possible, including supporting the rank and file NUT Local Associations conference on Saturday 16 June in Liverpool. This is open to all teachers, organised to force their unions and particularly the NUT back into the pensions fray.

We also welcome the TUC organised 20 October national demonstration against austerity. Such a demo has been a major demand of ours this year, although we think that it should have been called much earlier. But it can't be left at just a march. It should be the platform for further coordinated strikes, up to and including the N30 coalition, but also beyond it to reach out to the private sector.
Sparks' victory

The marathon and victorious struggle of the Sparks - the electricians, pipe-fitters and plumbers in the construction industry - shows how the years of retreat in the union movement can be reversed. The NSSN has supported this struggle from the beginning. It showed how rank and file workers can force the union leadership, in this case Unite, to take the dispute seriously.

As a result of countless protests in London and around the country, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey turned to his organising department and pushed the conservative officials aside, changing the tempo of the struggle. Eventually through the threat of an official strike against Balfour, the biggest of the 'Dirty 7' companies, their new Besna contract and the planned 35% pay cut was smashed.

The ripples of this victory are still being felt throughout the industry. There was a stoppage by Crown House workers at Heathrow terminal two in the middle of May. 600 construction workers walked out at Ratcliffe power station, Nottinghamshire, on 29 May to defend suspended health and safety steward Jason Poulter.

Over 1,000 workers at Sellafield power station, Cumbria, also walked out at the end of May to defend the jobs of two reps. On 31 May there was a stoppage at Alford Gas in Northwich, Cheshire.

A new period has opened up in Britain. The threats to our terms and conditions, trade union rights, the NHS, public services and the welfare state are real and devastating if the employers' and their government's offensive succeeds. Workers' organisations are central to resisting this onslaught and the sparks have shown that victories can be won.

The job of the NSSN is to be the 'hot breath on the back of the union leaders' necks'. The TUC must campaign for a massive demonstration against austerity on 20 October. Our approach should be: let's all march together to show our anger against the cuts, but let's use that to say clearly that we're going to strike together - public sector and private sector - before the end of the year.

85% of the government's cutbacks are yet to be made. Our movement has the potential power to stop this increasingly weak and divided government making those cuts. Let's do it!

Kazakhstan: Leader of Socialist Movement found dead

In memory of Takhir Narimanovich Mukhamedzyanov

Statement by Zhanartu union and Socialist Movement Kazakhstan

On 5 June, friends and colleagues of Takhir Mukhamedzyanov, who were worried that he had not turned up for work after the previous weekend, went to his flat in Karaganda, where they found his body. While the cause of death is not yet known, the passing away of Takhir, a healthy and energetic 51 year-old, is surrounded by suspicion. Not least because Takhir recently received threats from “persons unknown” that they would ‘get rid of him’.

For many years, Takhir worked as a miner, first in Soviet industry and then, after privatization, for ‘Arcelor-Mittal’, which took over all the main pits and metal foundries in the Karaganda region of Kazakhstan. He was illegally sacked in 2008, after which he took up full-time campaigning as Vice-President of the ‘Miners’ Families’, a post he held until his death. Takhir and his colleagues from Miners’ Families gave valuable assistance to those the organization was originally established to help – the widows and children of men killed in industrial accidents – but they also became more and more involved in defending the rights of working miners. Health and safety standards in Karaganda’s pits and metal foundries are ignored by the new bosses in their chase for profits. With the official state-supported trade unions doing little to defend the workers, the Miners’ Families has taken on the role of an independent trade union.

Such activities did not go unnoticed. All sorts of pressure was piled onto Miners’ Families. Meant as a ‘warning’ Takhir’s garage and the car it housed were blown up on 10 October, 2010. Activists in Miners’ Families believe that the explosion was directly related to Takhir’s work defending the rights of miners and their widows. According to his comrade, Natalia Tomilova, threats to use violent and terrorist methods against workers’ rights activists have again become commonplace.

Just two weeks after the garage explosion, at 9.30 in the evening, police turned up at Takhir’s flat and forcibly removed him to a local psychiatric hospital. Two doctors, three uniformed police and a plain clothes agent claimed that following the loss of his property in the explosion, Takhir’s suffered a breakdown and needed hospitalisation and psychiatric treatment. When they tried to give Takhir an injection of an unknown substance, Takhir managed to break free. He phoned a friend and his daughter collected Takhir and brought him home. Thanks to a public campaign, the doctors were subsequently forced to leave Takhir alone.

In March 2011, Takhir was living in the nearby mining centre of Shakhtinsk when a youth approached him and said that documents that had been in Takhir’s car when the garage exploded (and which, police claimed, were destroyed), had been found on a rubbish tip on the edge of town, revealed after snow melted. This confirmed that Takhir’s garage was broken into before the explosion.
He could not remain indifferent to injustice

Comrades from the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan (previously known as ‘Kazakhstan 2012’) first met Takhir in January 2009. In September 2010, Takhir organized a visit to Karaganda by Joe Higgins (then an MEP for the Socialist Party [CWI Ireland] and now once again a TD [MP] in Ireland). In November 2010, Takhir took part in the founding conference of the ‘Zhanartu’ trade union and was elected to its central committee. In May 2011, he participated in founding the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan and was elected as one of its five Joint Presidents. In July 2011, Takhir again organized a visit of an MEP to Karaganda: Paul Murphy (Socialist Party Ireland), who was one his way to visit striking oil workers in Zhanaozen. Just two weeks ago, Takhir visited Zhenkazgan city, where workers have been involved in strike action and facing repression. Takhir soon found common language with them and left with a firm commitment between the workers in Zhankazgan and Karaganda to support each other in struggle.

Takhir worked hard. He could not pass by or remain indifferent if he saw injustice. We will remember him as a tireless and consistent fighter for the rights of the working class of Kazakhstan. We will remember him as a personality; he had no pretensions, he was always spirited, he was a great person in company. We will miss him.

On behalf of the independent trade union Zhanartu and the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan we convey our heartfelt condolences to the relatives and friends of Takhir.

Takhir will always be in our memory, his name written into the history of the working class of Kazakhstan. Rest well, dear comrade

The Central Committee of the independent trade union, Zhanartu

The Political Committee of the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan


Letter of condolences from the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI)

The following letter was sent from the CWI to the relatives, comrades and friends of Takhir Mukhamedzyanov:

On behalf of the Committee for a Workers’ International, organised in over forty countries, we send our heartfelt condolences to the relatives, comrades and friends of Takhir Mukhamedzyanov.

Those members of the CWI who had the privilege of meeting Takhir, including Peter Taaffe from the CWI International Secretariat, Joe Higgins and Paul Murphy from the European Parliament, remember Takhir as a tireless fighter, a man who devoted his life to fighting for the rights of the working class, whether as part of the ‘Miners’ Families’, the trade union, ‘Zhanartu’, or the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan.

The CWI calls for a full and independent investigation into the cause of Takhir’s untimely death and, in the event of foul play, the bringing of those responsible to justice.

The CWI pledges itself to honour Takhir’s memory by continuing to campaign against the injustices inflicted upon working people by the multinational companies, such as Arcelor-Mittal, Kazakhmys and KazMunaiGaz and by the capitalist system itself. For the replacement of capitalism by a democratic and international socialist society, in which the wealth of society is used for the benefits of all the people, and in which working people have control over their own lives.


Tony Saunois

On behalf of the International Secretariat of the CWI

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Leon Trotsky on the real traditions of Britain

Rather than the Monarchy, which is a relic of feudalism used today to drape a Union Jack over the class chasm in society, workers and socialists can look back to very different British 'traditions'. Leon Trotsky in his important work 'Where is Britain Going?' from 1925 looks at two of those traditions, republicanism and working-class democracy. This is just the start of the chapter so please read on...

Two Traditions: The Seventeenth-Century Revolution and Chartism

The editor of the Daily Herald recently expressed his doubts as to whether Oliver Cromwell could be called a “pioneer of the labour movement”. One of the newspaper’s collaborators supported the editor’s doubts and referred to the severe repressions that Cromwell conducted against the Levellers, the sect of equalitarians of that time (communists). These reflections and questions are extremely typical of the historical thinking of the leaders of the Labour Party. That Oliver Cromwell was a pioneer of bourgeoisand not socialist society there would appear to be no need to waste more than two words in proving. The great revolutionary bourgeois was against universal suffrage for he saw in it a danger to private property. It is relevant to note that the Webbs draw from this the conclusion of the “incompatibility” of democracy and capitalism while closing their eyes to the fact that capitalism has learnt to live on the best possible terms with democracy and to have taken control of the instrument of universal suffrage as an instrument of the stock exchange. Nevertheless British workers can learn incomparably more from Cromwell than from MacDonald, Snowden, Webb and other such compromising brethren. Cromwell was a great revolutionary of his time, who knew how to uphold the interests of the new, bourgeois social system against the old aristocratic one without holding back at anything. This must be learnt from him, and the dead lion of the seventeenth century is in this sense immeasurably greater than many living dogs.

Following at the tails of those living non-lions who write leading articles in theManchester Guardian and other Liberal organs, the Labour Party leaders generally counterpose democracy to any sort of despotic government whether “the dictatorship of Lenin” or “the dictatorship of Mussolini”. The historical mumbo-jumbo of these gentlemen is nowhere expressed more clearly than in this juxtaposition. Not because we are in hindsight inclined to deny the “dictatorship of Lenin” – his power was, through its effective influence on the whole course of events in an enormous state, exceptional.

But how can one speak of dictatorship while passing over its social and historical content? History has known the dictatorship of Cromwell, the dictatorship of Robespierre, the dictatorship of Arakcheev, the dictatorship of Napoleon I, and the dictatorship of Mussolini. It is impossible to discuss anything with a crackpot who puts Robespierre and Arakcheev on a par. Different classes in different conditions and for different tasks find themselves compelled in particular and indeed, the most acute and critical, periods in their history, to vest an extraordinary power and authority in such of their leaders as can carry forward their fundamental interests most sharply and fully. When we speak of dictatorship we must in the first place be clear as to what interest of what particular classes find their historical expression through the dictatorship. For one era Oliver Cromwell, and for another, Robespierre expressed the historically progressive tendencies of development of bourgeois society. William Pitt, likewise extremely close to a personal dictatorship, defended the interests of the monarchy, the privileged classes and the top bourgeois against a revolution of the petty bourgeoisie that found its highest expression in the dictatorship of Robespierre.

The liberal vulgarians customarily say that they are against a dictatorship from the left just as much as from the right, although in practice they do not let slip any opportunity of supporting a dictatorship of the right. But for us the question is determined by the fact that one dictatorship moves society forward while another drags it back. Mussolini’s dictatorship is a dictatorship of the prematurely decayed, impotent, thoroughly contaminated Italian bourgeoisie: it is a dictatorship with a broken nose. The “dictatorship of Lenin” expresses the mighty pressure of the new historical class and its superhuman struggle against all the forces of the old society. If Lenin can be juxtaposed to anyone then it is not to Napoleon nor even less to Mussolini but to Cromwell and Robespierre. It can be with some justice said that Lenin is the proletarian twentieth-century Cromwell. Such a definition would at the same time be the highest compliment to the petty-bourgeois seventeenth-century Cromwell.

The French bourgeoisie, having falsified the revolution, adopted it and, changing it into small coinage, put it into daily circulation. The British bourgeoisie has erased the very memory of the seventeenth century revolution by dissolving its past in “gradualness”. The advanced British workers will have to re-discover the English revolution and find within its ecclesiastical shell the mighty struggle of social forces. Cromwell was in no case a “pioneer of labour”. But in the seventeenth-century drama, the British proletariat can find great precedents for revolutionary action. This is equally a national tradition, and a thoroughly legitimate one that is wholly in place in the arsenal of the working class.

The proletarian movement has another great national tradition in Chartism. A familiarity with both these periods is vital to every conscious British worker. The clarification of the historical significance of the seventeenth-century revolution and the revolutionary content of Chartism is one of the most important obligations for British Marxists.....

Read the rest here:

Unemployed bussed in to steward river pageant

From today's Guardian:

A group of long-term unemployed jobseekers were bussed into London to work as unpaid stewards during the diamond jubilee celebrations and told to sleep under London Bridge before working on the river pageant.

Up to 30 jobseekers and another 50 people on apprentice wages were taken to London by coach from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth as part of the government's Work Programme.

Two jobseekers, who did not want to be identified in case they lost their benefits, said they had to camp under London Bridge the night before the pageant. They told the Guardian they had to change into security gear in public, had no access to toilets for 24 hours, and were taken to a swampy campsite outside London after working a 14-hour shift in the pouring rain on the banks of the Thames on Sunday.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Monarchy - not just a 'harmless relic'

The government will be hoping that the Jubilee flotilla of 1,000 ships on the river Thames will serve as a useful distraction while it pushes through more swingeing cuts. But, as Becci Heagney explains, the Diamond Jubilee is more than just a diversion. Behind the pomp and circumstance, the existence of the monarchy poses a potential threat to the fight against austerity and more.

Across the country Jubilee fever is said to be 'rising'. But last year a Guardian/ICM poll found that 49% of people were more excited about an extra day off than seeing Will and Kate get hitched. And when looked at closely, 'Jubilee fever' isn't as hot as the government and Queen would like.
In 1977, for the Silver Jubilee, over 100,000 street parties were held. So far in London there are only around 1,800 street closures planned. Barking and Dagenham, a borough with one of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in London, has the lowest number with only five parties arranged. Working class people have nothing in common with the lifestyles of the royal family; the Queen alone has 'personal wealth' estimated at £1.15 billion.
When the Queen came to power in 1952, she was the 'head of the Commonwealth' and clinging to the remnants of the British Empire. Now Jamaica, celebrating its 50th year of independence this year, is considering severing all ties with the British monarchy and replacing the Queen as head of state with a Jamaican president instead.
The majority of people view the Queen as a harmless tourist attraction. The Royal Family are often treated as characters in a soap opera or like any other celebrity by the press. They have been mired in scandal over recent years with various family members and staff giving away secrets to undercover reporters, one royal dressing up as a Nazi and the Queen's own husband making a seemingly constant stream of bigoted racist public comments.
There have been attempts to 'modernise' the monarchy in the hope of reviving support for it. These include boasting the progressiveness of Kate Middleton - a commoner! - marrying Prince William. Kate's parents own a business which is estimated to be worth £30 million and she was sent to private schools, so hers is not the most 'common' background.
An Ipsos Mori poll in 2011 showed that 44% of people think that the royal family is "out-of-touch with ordinary people". And a recent Guardian/ICM poll showed that young people are more likely to think that Britain would be better off without a monarchy. But the Queen is far from merely being a tourist attraction or a celebrity.

One rule for them...

When some public sector trade unions called one day of strike action in June 2011 Tory MPs denounced them as threatening economic recovery. More recently the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, warned that the June Jubilee bank holiday could hit Britain's ailing economy, with estimates that GDP could be hit by 0.5%. Nonetheless David Cameron calls for "the mother of all parties". Why this seeming contradiction?
Generally the monarchy's role is in reinforcing feelings of deference towards our ruling class 'betters'. But there is a more serious side. She is a completely unelected head of state, so is only in that position by birth. She is supposed to be 'politically neutral' because she is a 'constitutional monarch' and we have a Prime Minister who has effective political power.
However, all legislative bills need to be granted with a 'royal assent' before they can become law so need to be approved by the Queen. This means she has the power to veto any decision made by an elected government.
The Queen does not disagree with the laws that are being passed by the Con-Dems or previous cuts-making Labour governments because they support and maintain capitalist society. But, if a government was trying to pass laws that were a threat to this order, the Queen could refuse to agree.
So the monarchy is not 'above' politics but in fact, holds significant political power. The Queen is head of the armed forces and police. MPs, senior government officers and judges swear allegiance to the Crown, not to parliament.
These powers could potentially be used to attempt to mobilise the armed forces against future mass movements and strikes. A foretaste of this was seen when 'emergency powers' were invoked by the Queen in 2000 during the lorry drivers' fuel protests.
Over the coming years, there will be an increase in the number of protests and strikes as the government tries to force through its austerity measures and the working class fights back. It is possible that 'emergency powers' of the monarch could be used to help the capitalist class repress this.

There by appointments

The monarch formally appoints the prime minister and can do this even when no political party wins a majority in an election, as with the present Tory prime minister. In 1931 when Labour leader Ramsay MacDonald resigned as prime minister, King George V appointed him as head of the 'national government' in coalition with the Tories and Liberals to push through attacks on the working class.
Similarly, the monarch also has the power to dissolve parliament. In 1975, the Queen's representative in Australia, Governor-General Kerr, dismissed Labour's Gough Whitlam as prime minister and appointed Malcolm Fraser, the right wing leader of the Liberal Party, as caretaker prime minister.
All this shows that the ruling class can at times turn to the 'reserve' powers of the monarchy to take action against the working class and socialist movements. They may not use them often but might not hesitate to do so at a time of crisis for them.
However, they need a social base of support for the Queen to allow these powers to remain in place, which is why she is portrayed as harmless, beneficial and someone who deserves respect.
Capitalism is currently in its worst crisis in 80 years. In order to save their system, big business and their representatives in government are hammering the working class and are attempting to force back the gains we have won such as the NHS.
With the Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year, the government is attempting to rally support for the royal family - the embodiment of class and privilege - to help to defend their profit driven system which is run for the benefit of the 1%.
The monarchy and the House of Lords are relics of feudalism and should be abolished. Their existence is undemocratic and they are used to justify the growing class divisions in society. Under a socialist society, there would be no place for these parasitical, ancient symbols of privilege.

Royal accounting:

  • £1.15 billion estimate of the Queen's 'personal wealth'
  • £52,000 cost every time the Royal Train is used
  • The Queen is the biggest landowner on the planet
She owns:
  • £10 billion art collection
  • £100 million stamp collection
  • £7 million cars

How much money do they get?

The Crown Estate property portfolio includes a big slice of a very rich pie - property in the West End of London, Ascot racecourse, a 12-nautical mile perimeter around all of Britain's coastline and much more.
For the past 250 years all Crown Estate profits have been paid to the Treasury which then pays the royal family an annual grant, currently £30 million. That's on top of the £150 million cost of security. Under a new formula starting next year, the monarch is estimated to get around £37.5 million, a big increase in royal funding in a time of austerity for most of us.