In November 2010 former president Hosni Mubarak’s parliamentary elections were so rigged they laughably saw his party winning 81% of the seats. Eight weeks later the mass uprising began leading to his overthrow.
In November 2011 revolutionary youth opposing the continuing rule of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces – appointed by Mubarak – were brutally attacked by security forces.
Now in November 2012 there are renewed demonstrations and clashes with security forces on the streets of Cairo and other cities. This time the spark has been the constitutional announcement by President Mohamed Mursi on Thursday 23 November. Mursi’s declaration stirs rapid opposition
Hours after mediating the Gaza ceasefire between Hamas and the Israeli government, glowing with praise from world leaders, Mursi declared he was “authorised to take any measures he sees fit in order to preserve the revolution, to preserve national unity or to safeguard national security.”
No presidential decision taken since 30th June (when Mursi took office) could be overturned by the courts. Neither the constituent assembly drawing up a new constitution nor parliament’s upper house (the Shura Council) could face legal challenge.
Both bodies are dominated by right wing political Islamists, from Mursi’s Freedom and Justice Party (the Muslim Brotherhood) and the even more conservative Nour Party (the Salafists). In previous weeks, liberal and Christian members of the constituent assembly had walked out, claiming the majority’s constitutional proposals were undemocratic.
Mursi sugared the pill by announcing retrials for Mubarak and those of his henchmen recently acquitted of organising killings of protestors during the January 25th 2011 uprising. The Attorney General, also a remnant of the previous regime, was dismissed.
Within hours of Mursi’s announcement, thousands demonstrated in Tahrir Square, including many football fans, chanting "Down with Mohamed Mursi Mubarak" and “The people want to topple the regime.” Tear gas, birdshot and rocks were used by security forces and field hospitals were set up by demonstrators, in scenes reminiscent of 2011’s street battles.
On the 24 November hundreds of judges protested with the same chants. Some courts have gone on strike and more may follow. The head of the lawyers’ association told the judges, “The country’s fate is in your hands now. If you decided to strike, we will strike. If you decided to stage a sit-in, we will join you.”
During Mubarak’s last years, many judges criticised his rigging of elections. Many reflect the views of liberal middle class opponents to the Muslim Brotherhood, although others hope to see a return of the former regime under which they prospered. Another group of judges support Mursi. Splits in the judiciary are a sign of wider divisions in Egypt. Shares on the stock exchange fell 10% on Sunday 25 November. Splits appearing in Muslim Brotherhood
The Muslim Brotherhood is not immune to these divisions. The chairman of the Shura Council was reported to have criticised Mursi’s announcement (although he subsequently denied this), despite being a leading Brotherhood member himself, while the Justice Minister said he had reservations about the President’s announcement.
It seems that the strength of opposition could make Mursi partially back down rather than risk growing confrontation on the streets. A Muslim Brotherhood statement on Friday 23 November called for marches on Sunday 25 November and a “million-man march” on Tuesday 27 November in support of Mursi. But on Sunday, the Freedom and Justice Party issued a more conciliatory statement saying “it is looking forward to a dialogue with all political parties and forces and social groups and movements with regard to the current situation or the draft… an opportunity to achieve the desired consensus, so as to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of all the Egyptian people.” And on Monday their “million-man” march was called off.
Crackdowns on the media are also growing. Earlier this month privately-owned Dream TV was ordered off air (apart from its sports and entertainment shows). It has a long record of criticising the previous and current regimes. A court has now temporarily overturned the original ban. Another TV channel supporting the previous regime has also been closed down. A newspaper editor is awaiting trial, charged with insulting the new president. On Sunday a meeting of the journalists’ syndicate (association) threatened a strike in response to Mursi’s move. Mursi’s attempt to strengthen his powers shows anxiety over bigger challenges to come. His honeymoon in office is running out. Although many still support Mursi, this is probably temporarily boosted by his mediating role in Gaza.
Three million workers in Egypt are now organised in 800 independent trade unions (compared to four independent unions before the 2011 uprising). Two thousand Ain al-Sokhna dockworkers employed by DP World (owned by the Dubai government) struck in October, with 800 occupying the port in shifts, bringing it to a standstill. They were protesting against the sacking of eight trade union activists and successfully forced the company to back down. Cadbury, Suzuki Motors, Pirelli Tyres and other multinational corporations have all sacked trade union activists.
On 14 November, Cairo metro workers went on strike, returning four hours later after the company chair agreed to resign and pay talks were agreed. The leaders were summoned by security forces and charged with hindering work, but they warned the workers would be back on strike if they were harmed.
After many strikes and protests in recent months, Mursi has threatened, “In the new law there is no room for blockading roads or [obstructing] production.” The government is making organisation of independent unions harder. It wants to strengthen the state-backed Egyptian Trade Union Federation, replacing its Mubarak-era leaders with Muslim Brotherhood members. IMF loan with strings attached
The International Monetary Fund has just approved a $4.8billion loan to help Egypt’s growing budget deficit. Fearing further revolutionary movements, “there is a strong international desire to help stabilise the rule of Mohamed Morsi and avert economic shocks which could provoke unrest in the Arab world’s most populous nation.” (Financial Times 24.11.12)
The price of the loan is a 22-month ‘reform’ programme, aimed particularly at cutting energy subsidies that account for 20% of the budget. Millions depend on subsidised fuel for cooking, heating and transport. An IMF spokesperson said, “Given the magnitude [of the subsidies], it will take several years to wind them down. To get buy in [from the population] and protect those in need, savings cannot be used exclusively to reduce the deficit but must also shore up necessary social spending.”
Food costs continue to rise, causing great hardship. All the problems under Mubarak remain – including jobs and housing shortages, inadequate health care, sexual harassment of women, electricity and water cuts, overcrowded and poorly maintained roads and public transport.
Over 50 young children going to school were killed when their bus was struck by a train on 17th November – the latest of many tragedies in Egypt where terrible safety claimed innocent lives. Egypt’s infrastructure continues to crumble, unchanged by revolutionary upheavals over the past two years. The prime minister was chased away from the hospital by family members when he visited. Independent working class organisation with socialist programme needed
Workers need to continue building their own independent trade unions. A mass workers’ party is also needed to draw together workers, youth and community activists involved in struggle. While it is correct to march together with liberal forces in opposition to Mursi’s undemocratic measures, workers’ organisations need an independent identity and programme.
Less than six months ago, the Revolutionary Socialists (linked to the International Socialist Tendency/British SWP) called for support for Mursi in the second round of the presidential election to defeat the old regime candidate, Ahmed Shafiq. They wrote of “the error in failure to discriminate between the reformism of the Muslim Brotherhood and the ‘fascism’ of Shafiq.” (28th May statement) What sort of ‘reformism’ is Mursi showing now, as he negotiates with the IMF and tries to put himself above legal challenge?
The Revolutionary Socialists now say the Muslim Brotherhood regime and the remnants of the old regime “are two sides of the same coin…We say to Mursi: you and your organisation are the real threat to the revolution, as you embrace Mubarak’s businessmen, run panting after loans from the IMF, trade in religion, threaten national unity and sell the revolution.” (23rd November 2012)
Such twists and turns, without analysing their earlier mistaken positions, confuse instead of clarify. Who do the RS include in their “national unity”? Is it the same “national unity” Mursi spoke of in his announcement?
What is needed is unity between workers, poor people and youth around a programme of democratic socialist change – a second revolution to win real, lasting democratic rights and to take into public ownership under genuine democratic control all the major companies and banks. Egypt’s wealth could then be planned for the benefit of all, ending disasters such as the 17th November rail crash. A socialist Egypt would inspire a new wave of democratic socialist revolution across the region.
The white flag of surrender is currently flying over Unison HQ (Britain’s main public sector union). For five and half years the union bureaucracy have sought to justify and defend the witch-hunt against four Unison activists and Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) members.
They have spent over £100,000 and have been prepared to lose thousands of defecting members and many good activists.
Despite losing in two courts - Employment Tribunal (ET) and Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) - they were still willing to spend another £100,000 in taking the case to the Court of Appeal, with the Orwellian argument that the lower courts had breached the union’s human rights in not being allowed to ban the four!
The case was due to be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in December. But on 20 November the union did a complete U-turn.
They have written to the court to withdraw their appeal. In doing so the union has now accepted the previous courts’ decision that they acted illegally.
A hearing will now be called to determine the compensation that the union will have to pay to the four.
The four have now set legal history in defending the right of union members to defend themselves from being attacked by union bureaucracies seeking to silence them.
The four Socialist Party members were disciplined by Unison on trumped-up charges of racism, after producing a leaflet at the 2007 Unison conference, challenging the Standing Orders Committee about ruling resolutions off the conference agenda. The ET completely exonerated the four on bogus allegations of racism.
Unison took disciplinary action in 2007 against Glenn Kelly, Onay Kasab, Brian Debus and Suzanne Muna and then took three of the activists’ branches away from democratic lay member control and into regional administration.
The Four challenged the union’s actions in court and twice the courts ruled that they were unlawfully and unjustifiably disciplined.
The EAT further found that the disciplinary action violated Unison members’ democratic rights.
Unbelievably, Unison filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal against the ET and EAT’s decisions. Then on 17 July this year, Unison demanded the right to claim costs if they won the appeal. But the Unison leadership’s demands were thrown out of court.
In a humiliating response to Unison’s attempts to bully the four out of defending themselves in court due to lack of money, Lord Justice Elias called Unison "shabby".
This is a victory for the Socialist Party and the Four, who have refused to be bullied and intimidated. They have run a determined five-year campaign exposing the actions of the union.
The Socialist Party would also like to put on record its thanks to the lawyers who gave their support and time for free, showing that not all lawyers are just in it for the money, in particular, Nick De Marco.
An ex-liberal democrat intent on cutting £32million from Bristol may be the new mayor, but we can still look back on what was an excellent anti-austerity campaign from the Trade Unionists & Socialists Coalition - here is one of the highlights.
The Israeli government has declared that its shocking and brutal assault on the Gaza strip will be a "widespread campaign" and threatens "protracted conflict".
Among its opening strikes was the assassination of the military leader of Islamist party Hamas, Ahmed Jabari, and more than ten other Palestinians, as a terrifying rain of missiles were fired from the air.
The onslaught was clearly aimed at escalating the conflict, with the Israeli regime turning its back on a ceasefire agreement that had just been negotiated to stop military attacks from both sides.
Assassinations of Palestinians by the Israeli armed forces in recent months have played a central part in escalating the conflicts in the south of Israeli and Gaza.
Nevertheless, British foreign secretary William Hague blamed Hamas as bearing "principal responsibility" because of the rocket fire from Gaza, as effectively did Labour's Douglas Alexander, both refusing to condemn the Israeli regime for deploying its massive, vastly stronger, military might.
"I am responsible for us choosing the right time to exact the heaviest price and so be it" was the chilling message of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Palestinians fear a repeat of the invasion of Gaza at the end of 2008, when nearly 1,400 people were slaughtered, including 314 children, and are in a state of terror and panic.
There are ominous signs that a ground invasion is being considered, with Israeli soldiers' leave cancelled and some reservists called up.
As well as the terrible toll of Palestinian deaths and injuries, following the killing of Jabari three Israeli civilians were killed in the Israeli town of Kiryat Malakhi when their building was hit by a Palestinian missile.
Netanyahyu and Co knew that their assault would bring this kind of response but their aim was not to encourage peace and security for Israelis or Palestinians, but was to serve their own interests. Seeking votes
In particular they are desperately trying to boost their support prior to the general election scheduled for January by trying to appear to be fortifying security in Israel.
In recent weeks, opinion polls have showed that Likud Beytenu, the newly merged party formed by Netanyahu and Lieberman, was losing support.
They want to draw attention away from the burning social problems in Israel, which Lieberman said he's "sick of hearing all the cries about".
The Israeli government's decision to respond to straying shells from Syria by returning fire, along with other threats of retaliatory military action, and threats of punitive action against the West Bank based Palestinian Authority, are also part of the election campaign of these failing nationalist politicians.
They fear losing their seats and are therefore willing to engage in mass slaughter of Palestinians and to gamble on the lives of ordinary Israelis.
Leaders of the main Israeli 'opposition' political parties, Yachimovich (Labour), Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Mofaz (Kadima) were quick to stand by the government and speak with one voice.
They don't even pretend to offer any real alternative to the narrow, mad and dangerous agenda of the current government.
In addition to their re-election aims, the Israeli leaders want to cut across the revival of a Palestinian bid for UN recognition later this month, pre-empt any pressure for peace talks from re-elected Obama in the US, and to try to counter any strengthening of Hamas as a result of the major changes and tensions in the region - in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon etc.
But their blood-filled strategy can spiral out of their control and rebound on them by massively inflaming relations between countries and the situations within them; already there are protests and demonstrations breaking out across the Arab countries and worldwide, as well as in the Palestinian territories.
In Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza, a call to defend the residents of Gaza is being made on demonstrations.
Opposition to the war plans of Israeli leaders Netanyahu, Barak and Lieberman must also be rapidly organised in Israel to make it clear that the bloodshed is not in the interests of ordinary Israelis and to counter the lies of the government.
By Tom Baldwin, Mayoral Candidate for Bristol, Trade Unionists & Socialists Against Cuts
Che Guevara, photo Alberto Korda
Ernesto 'Che' Guevara is perhaps the most recognisable revolutionary icon, his image having graced countless posters and t-shirts.
For some it is just a fashion statement, but many are drawn to him as a symbol of the struggle against capitalism and the fight for a better world.
Films such as the Motorcycle Diaries and the two-part biopic 'Che' reflect his enduring popularity and give a glimpse of how his political ideas developed.
Revolutionaries do not fall ready-made from the sky, but are formed by conditions and events. In 1950 the asthmatic Guevara began his series of travels around Latin America as a 22 year old middle class medical student, seeking only youthful adventure.
But these experiences were to shape the rest of his life. On these journeys he witnessed the enormous class divide that existed between the "luxurious façade" and the real "soul" of the continent, the poor and downtrodden.
Seeing the struggles of workers and the poor everywhere he went, Guevara's attitude evolved from sympathy, through support, to active participation.
It was also on these travels that he was given the nickname Che, due to his Argentinian accent.
26 July Movement
It was in Mexico in 1955 that Che first met Fidel Castro and joined his 26 July movement. At the time Cuba was under the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, who had come to power through a military coup.
Its economy was completely dominated by US big business and wealthy Americans frequented the many Havana brothels and casinos.
Castro wanted a modern capitalist state in Cuba with some reforms for the poor. He envisaged a guerrilla struggle to overthrow only the dictatorship, not capitalism.
Even after returning to Cuba he told a journalist: "we have no animosity towards the United States... we are fighting for a democratic Cuba and an end to dictatorship".
Che himself was, by this point, an avowed socialist but joined the movement as a way to get active in the struggle.
He had previously criticised the Stalinist 'popular front' policy, promoted by the Cuban Communist Party.
This was the idea that in Latin American countries the working class was not ready to take power and establish a socialist society and instead had to make alliances with the 'progressive' sections of the national capitalist class in order to defeat imperialism.
He had seen first-hand how these so-called progressive capitalists were prepared to use bloody repression against the workers to defend their own interests.
However, while correctly criticising this approach, Che did not propose an alternative. He had not absorbed the lessons of the Russian Revolution nor the writings of its leaders, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, particularly on the role of the revolutionary party and Trotsky's theory of the permanent revolution.
Trotsky explained that the capitalist class in countries with developing capitalist economies such as Cuba was dominated by imperialism and unable to play the independent role that it had in the capitalist revolutions such as in Britain.
It was therefore incapable of carrying out its historical role and the tasks of land reform, establishing capitalist democracy and creating an independent nation state.
Trotsky argued that these steps could only be achieved through socialist revolution: nationalising industry, taking its ownership and control out of the hands of the capitalists and establishing a planned economy under democratic workers' control.
Trotsky said that the working class, even when in a minority, must lead the struggle against capitalism.
The decisive role of the working class arises from its role in production and the collective consciousness which develops in the workplace and lays the basis for the collective democratic control and management of society.
Because of isolation in rural areas and an individualistic outlook, the peasantry cannot lead such a transformation, but can still play in important role in the struggle.
This theory was borne out in the course of the 1917 Russian Revolution when the working class, in the period immediately after 1917, established the most democratic state in history.
But Che was not an active member of any organisation that understood the lessons of 1917. He instead saw the peasantry as the most revolutionary class and the methods of guerrilla struggle as the most effective.
He was influenced by many factors, including his own class background, the abandonment of an independent working class approach by communist parties and the victory of Mao's peasant army in the Chinese revolution.
It was December 1956 when a small band of fighters, Che and Castro among them, landed in Cuba. The landing was plagued with errors and accidents and two days later, when the scattered guerrillas managed to regroup, they were reduced in number from 82 to just 20. But just over two years later they had forced Batista to flee the island.
Che thought the guerrilla struggle would ignite a revolutionary movement, especially among the peasantry.
But while the guerrillas drew support, the mass of the population - especially the urban working class - were not active participants in the struggle.
Che gained a reputation as a courageous fighter and leader. He also organised political discussions among those under him and argued for socialist ideas within the 26 July Movement.
The guerrilla forces grew as they were seen as the only force consistently opposing the Batista dictatorship.
In marked contrast to the brutal treatment they received at the hands of the regime, the guerrillas did not execute the soldiers they captured.
Instead they discussed politics with them and let them go, winning an increasing number of defectors from the army.
On 1 January 1959, with his regime crumbling and the guerrillas approaching the cities, Batista fled the country.
The only successful general strike since Che's arrival on the island was called for the following day, which greeted the guerrillas as they marched into the major cities.
Despite Che arguing for it, Castro's intention had never been the overthrow of capitalism. It was over a year later when he first described the revolution in Cuba as 'socialist'.
He was pushed to take measures of nationalisation by the pressure of the masses combined with the reaction of American imperialism.
As the US recoiled, Cuba developed greater trade and political links with the Soviet Union. The 26 July movement merged with the Communist Party and became the organ of one party rule.
The Cuban revolution broadly bears out the theory of the permanent revolution. Castro's vision of an independent, democratic, capitalist Cuba was impossible; the Cuban revolution overthrew capitalism.
But workers did not play an active role in the revolution, so their role in the subsequent running of society was also passive.
From the outset the planned economy in Cuba was controlled not by workers' democracy, but by a bureaucratic elite, reflecting Stalinism in the USSR.
Despite this, the revolution still brought huge improvements to the lives of ordinary Cubans. Illiteracy was eradicated in just two years and by the late 1970s life expectancy was 74, comparable to Britain and much higher than other Latin American countries, Bolivia's was just 45.
Showing the same spirit of self-sacrifice that had marked him out as a fighter, Che rejected completely the privileges of the bureaucracy.
For this he must be saluted and it is one of the reasons he's still so admired today. Despite his growing disillusionment and revulsion at the bureaucracy, unlike Leon Trotsky he did not propose nor fight consistently for an alternative.
Instead he left Cuba in order to try and spread revolution abroad. This devotion to internationalism was another of Che's best characteristics.
The methods of guerrilla struggle, which succeeded in the specific conditions of Cuba, did not have the same effect elsewhere.
In 1965, Che left for the Congo but his efforts were unsuccessful and he had to make a clandestine return to Cuba.
In 1967 he appeared with a band of guerrillas in Bolivia. Sadly the failure to ignite revolution and resulting defeat of that struggle were to prove fatal to Che.
Che was captured and executed by the Bolivian army, backed by the CIA, at the age of just 39. Throughout his life, the injustices that Che saw motivated him to continue struggling for a better world.
At the same time, the development of his political ideas never stopped. Works by Trotsky were found on him when he was captured.
Che Guevara's position as an icon of struggle is completely justified. But we would not be doing his life justice if we did not examine it 'warts and all'.
His life is an inspiration for all those seeking to fight oppression and change society.
Following the example of all genuine workers representatives, Tom Baldwin, Mayoral candidate in Bristol for the Trade Unionists & Socialists Coalition has pledged to repudiate the huge salary and only except the average wage of a worker in Bristol. See this from Coventry Socialist Party: http://www.coventrysocialists.co.uk/latestnews_82404.html Rightwing Tory MP Nadine Dorries decision to take part in reality TV show ‘I’m a celebrity...Get me out of here’, which could see her being away from her job in the Commons for up to a month, has sparked controversy across the establishment media and within the Tory Party itself. It raises once again the role and duties of an sitting MP.
We have re-posted beblow an interview with Coventry Socialist Party member Dave Nellist. Dave was a ‘Militant’ supporting Labour MP in Coventry from 1983-92, who chose only to take a skilled factory workers wage, and a Socialist Party Councillor in Coventry from 1998-2012. Dave Nellist Interview In Red Pepper
The recent scandal over MPs’ expenses and second jobs only seems to have confirmed the suspicion that ‘they’re all at it’. But when Dave Nellist was elected as Labour MP for Coventry South East he made a point of only taking the wage of an average worker. Now a Coventry city councillor and leading member of the Socialist Party, he spoke to Red Pepper about his experience in Westminster
You took the average worker’s wage as an MP – how much would that have been, roughly, in today’s terms?
It was an average skilled worker’s wage, which was always less than half an MP’s salary. For example, in 1989 MPs received £24,107 and the average skilled worker’s wage that year, calculated from figures from the engineering union’s Coventry district office, was £11,180 – so that was 46 per cent. An MP today is on £64,766 – 46 per cent of that would be £29,792. But the amount I would take today if re-elected would depend not on a percentage, but the actual average wages received by the people I represented.
What were your personal circumstances at the time? Were you married? Did you have kids? Were you conscious of making sacrifices?
My wife Jane and I were married in August 1984, during the miners’ strike. We held a social as part of the wedding celebration and charged an entry fee, which raised quite a bit for the local miners’ support fund!
For the first year we were married Jane still had her job in a department store in Sutton Coldfield. But a year later the first of our three children arrived and for the rest of my time as an MP we only had the one worker’s wage for myself, Jane and our family to live on.
I’d been unemployed before being elected in 1983, so living on a skilled worker’s wage was not a ‘sacrifice’. We had a holiday every year in Scotland or Wales, and we could manage a night out for a meal or to the theatre or the cinema in exactly the same way as any other couple with young children could. But we felt the same pressures with bills and other living expenses as the people I represented.
So I would say taking the ‘worker’s wage’ wasn’t so much making a sacrifice. If I had taken the full MP’s wage we would have been insulated against those day-to-day problems and the pressures that most people in Coventry felt. How did you divide your time between your constituency and Westminster?Did you need to keep up two houses? Did you take much in the way of expenses above and beyond your ‘worker’s wage’?
I usually dealt with constituency business on Monday morning, went to London Monday lunchtime, tried to come back Tuesday evening (late), more constituency business/meetings on Wednesday morning, then back to London at lunchtime, coming back to Coventry late Thursday night – unless there was any pressing business on Friday. Friday and the weekend would be spent on casework/meetings in the constituency or addressing public meetings elsewhere.
Although I managed to have a voting record usually in the top ten of Labour MPs, I addressed about 1,500 meetings over the nine years I was an MP. In the 1980s parliament often sat late into the night (or even through the night), so I rented a furnished flat in London. No moat or oak beams! Nor any claims for food!
I claimed the full ‘office costs’ allowance to employ research and secretarial assistance in the Commons and in the constituency. I also rented an office in Coventry to work from. I was receiving on average 200 letters a week. We had wards with 50 per cent male unemployment, and a huge amount of constituency casework. None of the office costs money came to me personally – it was used to pay wages, and for rent and equipment.
What did you think of your fellow MPs? Were they clearly ‘on the take’ in your day? Did having a comfortable salary make them out of touch?
A number of MPs had outside jobs – mainly, in those days, Tory MPs with directorships. One I remember, Geoffrey Rippon, who had been a minister in previous Tory governments, was the King of Company Directors. When I was there he was an MP, a QC, and the chairman or director of four dozen different companies. He had 50 jobs!
It always seemed to me to be the real reason why parliament sat in the afternoon and evening, so Tory MPs could make their real money in the mornings – or as Geoffrey Rippon apparently put it, ‘to earn a crust and go on drinking decent claret’. These days, of course, it’s ex-Labour ministers who are earning tens of thousands of pounds a year moonlighting. In my book it’s an even bigger crime than playing the expenses system to be an ex-‘Labour’ minister advising private companies on how to win contracts taking public services away, and getting paid perhaps two or three times an MP’s salary – on top of an MP’s salary!
(Terry Fields MP & Dave Nellist MP at Eric Heffers funeral. Photo Dave Sinclair)
How did other MPs react to the example set by yourself (and fellow left MPs Pat Wall and Terry Fields), proving that the job could (and perhaps should) be done on the average worker’s wage?
Although there were a number of honourable exceptions (Dennis Skinner’s and other Campaign Group MPs’ generous donations during the miners’ strike, for example), for many Labour MPs it wasn’t the socialist ideas we tried to champion in parliament that upset them the most, but the threat to them receiving their ‘due reward’.
Perhaps the most vivid example was the debate on MPs’ salaries and allowances shortly after the 1987 general election (MPs’ wage increases were never announced before elections, when they might upset voters). The debate started at 9pm and went on until past midnight, and yet every seat in the House was taken! The motion was for a 21.9 per cent rise in MPs’ salaries from £356 a week to £434 a week. That £80 a week rise was £3 more than the then take-home pay for a whole week for civil servants, upon whom the government had just imposed a 4.25 per cent pay award.
I organised the vote against. I prepared a speech, which I reckoned would take me 10-15 minutes to deliver. Because of interruptions, it actually took 38 minutes. I asked MPs to vote against the rise; but that if it were passed I asked Labour MPs to give at least 5 per cent of their new salaries to the Labour Party to prevent the proposed 40 redundancies that were due to take place at Labour headquarters.
Immediately after me, David Blunkett spoke and complained about me ‘lecturing colleagues on how much to give of their pay’. He said he tried ‘to do a good job, to learn how to do it better and to try to earn the rewards that I am paid’. The motion to increase MPs’ wages by 22 per cent went through by an 11 to one majority.
David Blunkett now apparently gets three times his MP’s salary (on top of his MP’s salary) in outside earnings from firms including A4e, which describes itself as ‘a leader in global public service reform’.
I rest my case.
Dave Nellist was MP for Coventry South East from 1983 until 1992
Kshama Sawant, the Occupy-inspired Socialist Alternative (CWI supporters in the USA) candidate for Washington State House, scored 27% against Democratic incumbent Speaker Frank Chopp. With half the votes yet to be counted, Sawant is predicted to win over 20,000 votes - the highest vote for an openly Socialist candidate in Washington in decades, and Frank Chopp’s strongest challenge during his entire 18 years in office. This follows the historic lawsuit by Sawant that compelled the Washington Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and King County to print her party preference, Socialist Alternative, on the ballot.
“We achieved this election result as an openly Socialist campaign that was largely ignored by the corporate media, with no corporate donations, on a shoe string budget,” explained Sawant. "Occupy gave a voice to working people’s rage at Wall Street, and our campaign gave voice to mass anger at the corporate politicians. It shows the potential to build a powerful left electoral challenge to the two corporate parties.”
“This vote sends a clear message to Frank Chopp and the political establishment – we are coming after you. We are reaching out to other progressive forces to form a united left slate of independent working-class candidates to run a vigorous campaign for Mayor and every open City Council position in 2013,” Sawant stated. “Wall Street has two parties - working people need a party of our own.”
The Democrats who control the state government are likely to implement further budget cuts to social services next year while they allow corporations such as Boeing and Microsoft to get away without paying barely any taxes. Sawant, a professor of economics at Seattle Central Community College and union activist, commented: "Alongside left electoral challenges, public sector unions like mine need to prepare for strike action against cuts. Ordinary people need to be ready to occupy City Hall and the Olympia state capitol building against attacks on our living standards.”Election night saw mass celebrations erupt in the streets of Seattle after the passage of Referendum 74 upholding marriage rights for same-sex couples. Speaking from atop a make-shift sound truck, Sawant addressed a crowd of over 2,000 people: “If you think that the Democratic Party politicians did this for you, let me tell you it was us that won this! The fight for LGBT rights has just begun, we still need to fight poverty, homelessness, and workplace discrimination.”
Socialism 2012 An inspirational weekend of socialist rallies, discussion and debate took place in London over the weekend 3-4 November, organised by the Socialist Party. Despite the fact that Socialist Party members and supporters were out in force just two weeks before for the national TUC 20th October anti-austerity demonstration, Socialism 2012 was very well attended. Rally at Socialism 2012, 3-4 November , photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge) Two large rallies took place in Friends Meeting House, Euston, on the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon and there were three sets of smaller sessions giving an opportunity for everyone present to discuss and express points of view. Bob Crow speaking during the Socialism 2012 Saturday rally, photo by Senan (Click to enlarge) The first rally welcomed transport union RMT general secretary Bob Crow onto the platform, who opened the event with a rousing speech against the Con-Dem government and in favour of a one-day general strike against its attacks. He was followed by excellent speeches from: Assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers Association Joe Simpson; Socialist Students organiser Claire Laker-Mansfield; Participant in the recent South African miners' strike movement in South Africa Alec Thraves; and General secretary of the Socialist Party Peter Taaffe. Socialism 2012 rally, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge) Addressing the second rally, were: General secretary of the Fire Brigades Union Matt Wrack; Assistant general secretary of the RMT Steve Hedley; Chair of the National Shop Stewards Network Rob Williams; President of the DWP group in the Public and Commercial Services union Fran Heathcote; and Deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party Hannah Sell. Over £17,000 was raised in the financial appeal made by Alec Thraves during the Saturday rally. If you weren't present, you can still add your donation to this important appeal; see www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/15611/ and click on 'donate' below. A fuller report of the weekend will be posted soon.