Monday, 2 December 2013

TUSC Public Meeting Tomorrow – Why We Need Anti-Cuts Councillors

Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition

Fighting Austerity – Why We Need Anti-Cuts Councillors

Tuesday Dec 3rd


Youth Hostel, 14 Narrow Quay, Bristol, BS1 4QA

The government is demanding Bristol City Council cut £90m from their budget in the next 3 years. This is one quarter of the total budget, already reduced by years of austerity.

This will mean 1000 people could lose their jobs. Services will be shut. This will hit hardest in so-called discretionary services like libraries, parks and public toilets. These are vital to Bristol but don’t have to be provided by law.

Services that remain open may be privatised or run by volunteers, not trained professionals. Charities may be expected to step in but Unions and anti-cuts campaigners will be working hard to stop this, starting by lobbying consultation meetings.

But will our mayor and councillors listen? They have already shown themselves to be dependable servants of the Tory government, pushing through the cuts locally. Last year’s cuts budget went through with only one vote against.

While anti-cuts activists don’t have a political voice we are fighting with one hand tied behind out backs. We need local representatives who will stand up for local people, not this shameful shower of collaborators. Last year Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts stood for mayor to oppose all cuts. We said the budget should be based on what local people need, not Tory demands for austerity. We should fight to get back the money they’ve stolen. Next year we’ll be standing in every council seat in Bristol. But we don’t just need your vote, we need your help. Join us in supporting every protest, industrial action and occupation needed to stop these savage attacks on ordinary people.

End the pay freeze: A united fight in post-16 education, support the strike tomorrow

Bristol university workers on strike in October 2013

Bristol university workers on strike in October 2013

On 3 December university and college workers will be taking action. This strike day involves UCU, Unison and Unite members working in universities who struck on 31 October, now joined by further education (FE) members of UCU in England and higher education (HE) members of EIS in Scotland.

In HE, the employers' organisation UCEA returned to negotiations with the unions, but did not improve on the initial pay offer of 1% that triggered the dispute. Rattled by the 31 October strike, they have asked the individual employers to impose 1%. University workers are fully aware, however, that their employers have multi-million-pound surpluses and reserves while staff incomes have fallen by 13% in real terms since 2008.

FE staff have similarly experienced a 15% real-terms pay cut in the last four years, and have just rejected their employers' offer of a 0.7% increase - that is, another below-inflation rise - with over 70% voting tostrike. This doubtless reflects the anger union members feel when research shows that over half the lecturers in FE work ten hours' unpaid overtime during an average week, for dwindling pay.

Many student unions and the NUS nationally have passed resolutions in favour of the action, with Socialist Students and other campaigning groups building support. Ultimately our interests are all the same - for a public, fully-funded education system, free at the point of use and democratically run.

This background makes the coordinated national strike action particularly positive - the more unions that can be brought out together, the greater chance of success. At the same time, it is important for each dispute to have a strategy and to keep its own momentum.

Industrially, we need to work to build for a 24-hour general strike against austerity; and politically, trade unionists and students need to consider the question of an alternative to the three parties of austerity. Education is been under attack - we need to fight to defend it!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Socialist Students helps force NUS to back education strike

The National Union of Students’ NEC voted “to stand in complete solidarity with workers taking strike action” in the December 3rd strike in higher & further education. Employers must now face education workers & students united as the dispute over pay and equality enters its 4th month. The motion passed, (see below) contained a number of mandates for NUS to carry out in the build up to the strike (though disgracefully, the clearest language calling for students not to cross picket lines was removed by Labour Students). It’s now vital that we maintain this pressure and use the NUS support to help organise students to turn out on the picket lines and bring solidarity. We should also put pressure on students unions to make sure that joint student union, trade union campus meetings that the motion called for are carried out. Socialist Students and NUS NEC member Edmund Schluessel, who submitted the motion, said, “education workers and students are natural allies. I hope this is the start of a long partnership against austerity & in the fight for an education system free at the point of use.”

NUS’s national executive also supported Socialist Students’ policy calling for nationalisation of the energy industry and tighter controls on rents and landlords. Labour Students showed themselves to be in the minority of society who opposes cheaper, more efficient, democratically-controlled public services. As NUS prepares to intervene in the 2015 general election, it should listen to its members and help build a new mass party of the working class that serves the interests of students, not bosses.

Emergency Motion passed by NUS NEC
proposed by Socialist Students member, Edmund Schluessel

NEC believes
• People who work for our universities, from lecturers to library staff, are taking strike action on 3 December. This is the second day of strike action that has been organised this term by the trade unions UCU, Unison and Unite
• The strike has been called over a 1% pay offer, which represents a real terms wage cut. This comes after many years of declining wages. Academic staff have seen a real-terns pay cut of 13.8% since 2009
• Many of the workers taking part in action will also tell you that their reasons for striking include ever increasing work-loads, low-pay, casualistion, zero-hour contracts, bullying and discrimination
• Many students are among those who will be striking, including the many thousands who rely on teaching and part time work to continue their studies
• The strike on 31 October drew wide support from students, many of whom joined rallies and pickets in support of those on strike.

NEC further believes
• The issues the strike relates to directly affect students. Under-paid, overworked and undervalued staff are never going to be able to give students the best possible help and support, however dedicated they may be
• This strike is part of both the fight to defend education and to beat back the brutal austerity policies that are seeing jobs destroyed, living standards decimated and the future for the next generation snatched away
• Strikes are the most powerful weapon working people have to fight to change things for the better – they demonstrate the huge potential power of workers
• For Students, this strike may be a minor inconvenience in the short-term, but the long term damage that’s being done to education will have far more detrimental effects if it goes unchallenged

NEC resolves
• To stand in complete solidarity with workers taking strike action in our universities
• To produce a leaflet for distribution on campuses, explaining why students should support strikes and attend picket lines to bring support and solidarity
• To make the campaign to support the strike a top item on the NUS website and use social media networks to publicise it
• To write to all students unions advising them to host joint public meetings with campus trade unions in the run up to the strike to attempt to raise awareness of the issues

Socialist Students petition supporting the strikes, you can use it on the picket lines and before the strike!

Socialist Students leaflet for the strike , this one already includes a public meeting idea

Socialist Students strike poster , and the public meeting on this one too

Socialist Students original motion can be found here

Stop Ferguson's Cuts Onslaught

Mayor George Ferguson is due to announce a further £90 million per year of cuts to Bristol City Council which, if passed, will destroy most of the public services we enjoy but that it would not be illegal for them to cut! An estimated 1,000 more workers will lose their jobs (800 FTE) and Bristol will never be the same again!

BADACA along with the unions and other campaigners will be protesting outside and intervening in various meetings over the coming weeks to build the campaign against this savage attack on the people of Bristol by the mayor & his cabinet.

Monday 18th November - demo from 5.30pm - meeting (booking required) 6pm: It has been trailed that the cuts will be announced at this event in Great Hall of Wills Memorial Building, University of Bristol, Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ To book:

The mayor will also be personally attending these four public consultation meetings on the budget:

Tuesday 26th November - demo outside from 5.45pm - meeting (booking required) 6.30pm to 7.30pm - Henbury School, Station Road, Henbury, Bristol, BS10 7QH To book:

Wednesday 27th November - demo outside from 5.45pm - meeting (booking required) 6.30pm to 7.30pm - The Park Centre, Daventry Road, Filwood, Bristol BS4 1DQ To book:

Thursday 28th November - demo outside from 6.15pm - meeting (booking required) 7pm to 8pm - City Hall (Council House), College Green, Bristol BS1 5TR To book:

Friday 29th November - demo outside from 6.15pm - meeting (booking required) 7pm to 8pm - Bristol Brunel Academy, Speedwell Road, Speedwell, Bristol BS15 1NU To book:

Then on Tuesday 3rd December is another of Ferguson's "aimed at residents rather than political or pressure groups" Question Times this time at Great Hall of Wills Memorial Building, University of Bristol, Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ - demo outside from 6.15pm - meeting (booking required) 7pm To book:

And finally there is Cabinet Meeting on Thursday 5th December at 6.30pm (venue TBC)

See also our Facebook event page for our lobby of the full council meeting on 17th December when there will also be a full Bedroom Tax debate in the council in response to our petition exceeding 3,500 signatures:

Southampton: Labour flies the white flag in face of call to fight back


£57 million cuts since 2010 and Southampton's New Labour council has announced a further £60 million cuts to come over the next three years.

This week's council meeting was the last before the council votes its budget through in February next year.

Southampton Councillors Against Cuts, Keith Morrell and Don Thomas, went to the meeting to urge Labour councillors to reject the cuts agenda and launch a mass campaign to fight central government for the funding the city needs.

Through using reserves and borrowing powers to fund the budget gap, as Keith and Don put forward at this year's budget-setting meeting, it would be entirely possible to protect jobs and services.

By refusing to implement the cuts the council would give a lead, build mass support that could force a weak and unpopular government into retreat.

Moving their motion, Keith said:

This motion gives the Labour councillors in this chamber today the opportunity to chart a different course.

You can say to this government of the rich and powerful: 'We were elected by the working people of this city to defend their interests, not collaborate in attacking them.'

You can say to this government of the rich and powerful: 'We demand you give us back the money you have stolen from us!'

You can say to this government of the rich and powerful: 'We will convene a conference here in this city to which we will invite the people of Southampton, to debate the way forward and organise a challenge to the unacceptable demands you are making on us.'

You can say to this government of the rich and powerful: 'We are Labour councillors who refuse to bend the knee.

We are Labour councillors who will fight for our class. We are Labour councillors who say: the fight-back starts here, today!'

Seconding the motion, Don said:

It has been shown recently if you are willing to fight anything is possible. Look at how the trade unions last year put up a fight and came out with decent terms and conditions. And of course it's not that long ago we were told that Oaklands swimming pool was to close and we were to "get used to it", as the then leader of the council said at the time.

Again residents and others were not willing "to get used to it", instead putting up a fight and forcing the administration to find an alternative, giving the pool a future. So it can be done.
False arguments

Council leader, Simon Letts, gave a reply that unfortunately confirmed the deepest cynicism and betrayal in the face of the impact these cuts will have.

Completely unwilling to provide any leadership, he hides behind false arguments of 'illegality', of 'commissioners taking over' and 'absence of any support' for such a stand.

In fact Labour is happy to promote a consultation process that encourages the public to choose which services they want to cut and where efficiencies can be made.

Some councillors understand that this will mean the wholesale destruction of the youth services, libraries, Sure Start services and non-statutory provision.

Even the council workers, whose strike in 2011 paved the way for the defeat of the Tory council in 2012, will see an attack on their terms and conditions.

Badged as the implementation of a Living Wage, the proposal is unfunded and demands changes to current terms and conditions.

The Labour administration has warned that if an agreement isn't reached, workers will be dismissed and re-employed on new contracts. Exactly the same threats as used by the previous Tory council!

One outcome of the council debate was to unite Labour, Lib Dems and Tories in attacking Keith's and Don's proposal! In reply Keith hammered the Labour group: "The Labour Party was formed to fight for working people against the rich and powerful. All we hear from you are excuses! You have become managers - what difference to the Tories?"

The council debate was covered on the regional BBC TV evening news - Keith and Don and supporters were shown on the steps of the Civic Centre - and BBC local radio interviewed supporters.

The message is clear: Labour may have no fight in them, no alternative and no confidence in winning support to stop the cuts, but Southampton Councillors Against the Cuts do and are prepared to take the campaign to communities across the city in the months running up to next February's budget-setting meeting.

Nick Chaffey

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Hundreds attend Kshama Sawant victory rally

Victory rally in Seattle sets the tone for struggles ahead and more historic opportunities for the socialist left - From

Up to 300 people attended a victory rally in Seattle to celebrate the first socialist elected to Seattle’s City Council for decades. Kshama’s call to take Boeing -the biggest private employer of the region, which is threatening to move jobs out of the state - into public ownership was welcomed with a standing ovation. Sawant commented: “The machines are here, the workers are here. Let us take this entire productive activity into democratic public ownership and retool the machines to produce mass transit."

Photos of the rally below.

Click on this link to see a short video of the rally by a Seattle-based TV station.

George Ferguson’s ‘Vision for Bristol’ examined

Bristol’s elected mayor George Ferguson announced his ‘vision for Bristol’ behind the closed doors of a ticket-only event. The well-heeled audience was treated to honeyed words about thriving people and flourishing communities. But talk is cheap, his willingness to slash jobs and services at the request of the Con-Dem government shows what we can really expect.

We take a look at what he said and what we think he really means…

“I have spent the last year listening to people across our communities.”

… and then doing exactly as I please. I’m only consulting on half the cuts I’m making.

“Many feel stuck… in jobs with no prospects. Or worse still in no job at all.”

And another 1000 will be soon, once I make my redundancies.

“I’m the most travelled UK mayor – even more than Boris”

I love going on tax-payer funded jollies

“I am driven by a strong belief in public services”

…which I’ve already cut by £35m, with another £90m cuts coming over the next 3 years.

“Great cities help us to feel connected.”

I’m cutting wardens in sheltered accommodation, support for older people, funding to community groups, community transport and subsidies for night and Sunday buses.

“And of course, Bristol’s homegrown Hargreaves Lansdown.”

I love billionaire tax avoiders.

“We need to define being a green city in our own image.”

I’m cutting the maintenance of our parks, pollution management and anti-fly-tipping work.

“There are many haves – including most of us here – but far too many have nots.”

I’m glad I’m saying this in front of my own people, not too many oiks who might criticise me.

“We must ensure that all citizens have access to high quality education”

I’m cutting libraries and museum services.

“We must do what we can to ensure all citizens are able to enjoy good health and well-being.”

I’m cutting parks, sports development, sports centres and supervised play areas.

“We must ensure Bristol people live in decent affordable homes.”

But I’ll evict you if you can’t pay the bedroom tax.
“The lion’s share of the work in others will fall on the shoulders of the private and voluntary sectors.”

Even more of your services will be handed to profit making private companies. Or maybe voluntary groups, except I’m cutting their funding too.

“We have no choice – we have to present a balanced budget”

Never mind ‘Putting Bristol First’, when the Tories say jump, I ask how high.

“We must make the council more responsive by cutting bureaucracy, unnecessary and expensive meetings”

I don’t like being scrutinised by councillors or the public, all this democracy gets in the way of me doing what I want.

“We live in a world where people can collectively and immediately express their views through social networks”

If you’re not on the internet you won’t have a say. You can go online at your local library, except I might be closing it.

“Bristol should be a place… where communities flourish.”

“I’m cutting the funding for community groups and the St Pauls Learning Centre.

“I give myself 7 out of 10. So, what might I have done differently to earn 9 out of 10?”

I can’t count to 10

What a study in hypocrisy. If you want candidates who do what they say and really will stand up for Bristol and oppose all cuts, then support Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Stop Ferguson's £90 Million Cuts - Joint BADACA/ People's Assembly/ Unite the Resistance planning meeting on Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Joint BADACA/ People's Assembly/ Unite the Resistance planning meeting on Wednesday, 20 November 2013 19:00 @ Community Art Space, 3rd Floor, Hamilton House, 80 Stokes Croft, Bristol, BS1 3QY
This coming Monday 18th November, mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson is due to announce a devastating £90 million of further cuts to our local services. This will result in another 800 FTE job losses - estimated by Unison to be over 1,000 workers including part-timers.

It is unclear at this stage how much detail will be available but Ferguson will be speaking at six different events over the next three weeks, four of which are 'Budget Consultation' meetings so presumably we will know at least what areas are going to be cut.

These cuts must be stopped - this would represent about a quarter of what remains of the council's budget putting at risk any council service which is not required by law. Bristol's councillors must stand up to Ferguson and vote the budget down and Ferguson must stand up to ConDem's like he said he would in the election campaign.

This joint planning meeting is called by BADACA in conjunction with Bristol People's Assembly Against Austerity and Unite the Resistance. We will also be inviting Bristol Trades Council to attend and all trade unionists whether in local government or from other areas.

We hope, among other things, to plan protests and interventions at the various consultation and other council meetings coming up; agree wording for a petition to go on the council website to try to force a special debate; agree a strategy for putting pressure on councillors; organise a press campaign and talk to the unions about their ideas for the campaign and how we could work together.

If Ferguson and his Cuts Cabinet get away with what is being proposed, Bristol will never be the same again. They must be stopped. Come and join the campaign and let's say no to austerity once and for all!

Lobbies and other council meetings, details here:

Victory for socialist in Seattle! “Earth-shattering consequences” in the US and internationally


An interview with Kshama Sawant. Sarah Wrack, from The Socialist (weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party, England & Wales)

 The evening of 15 November will go down as marking an historic step in re-building a socialist movement in the US, the world’s leading capitalist nation. Kshama Sawant, candidate of Socialist Alternative (co-thinkers of the Socialist party in the US), was poised to win a seat on the Seattle City Council after her opponent conceded the race. This is the first time in many decades that a Socialist in the US won an election by defeating the Democrats, a party that pretends to be pro-labour. Further counts continued to show Kshama’s lead increasing in this city wide vote. As of November 18 Kshama stands on 93,168 votes. She spoke to Sarah Wrack about the campaign.
Why did you and Socialist Alternative decide to stand in this election?

We ran a campaign last year where I stood for the Washington State House of Representatives against House Speaker Frank Chopp – probably the most powerful legislator in the state.

The reason we thought about running an electoral campaign was our political analysis of the conditions coming out of the Occupy movement. The Occupy movement was very active and then towards the end of 2011 and the start of 2012 it started branching out into offshoots like the Occupy Homes campaign in Minnesota and so on but for the most part it was starting to wind down. The most prominent topic of conversation was the re-election of Barak Obama and that, for people who consider themselves progressive, the priority was to get Obama elected because it would be unthinkable to get Mitt Romney in the White House.

Of course Socialist Alternative is in agreement that the right wing should not be given that opportunity but we also point out that the Democrats are not an alternative to the Republicans and on the whole having two big business parties, or just two wings of the same big business party, has not worked for the working class of the United States.

In fact the Obama administration itself is a good example of how progressive Americans put their faith in the Democrats year after year and then have a string of betrayals to show for it. All the promises that were made on healthcare, on the holding of people at Guantanamo Bay, ending the occupation of Afghanistan and the drone attacks – all of these have been betrayed. In fact drone attacks have shot up, Obama has presided over the highest number of deportations of undocumented migrants. And as a teacher I can tell you that the assault on public education and on teachers’ unions has become sharper under Obama’s Department of Education.

And so the question for Socialist Alternative was how do we continue to engage people in a political discussion and clarify the need to break from the two big business parties and also to break from capitalism itself. It seemed like an effective strategy to do that would be to run our own campaign and show what a truly independent grassroots campaign looks like.

We ran both campaigns not taking any money from big business and running independent from the Democrats, not seeking the endorsements of the Democratic Party establishment.

Last year we got 29% of the vote which was also quite remarkable – over 20,000 people voted for us. And we fought for our right to say Socialist Alternative Party on the ballot and this year also we were openly running as a Socialist Alternative candidate.
How was the campaign organised?

The first people involved in the campaign were members of Socialist Alternative and our primary focus at the beginning was developing the campaign platform itself. That was thoroughly discussed and debated in the Socialist Alternative branches. We highlighted three points – one was for a $15 dollar an hour minimum wage which we had been calling for last year as well. This year, seeing as we were running a city-wide election, our demand was $15 an hour minimum wage city-wide. The second was affordable housing and rent control. And the third was a millionaire tax to fund mass transit and education.

Our campaign said make Seattle affordable for all because a primary issue we were highlighting is that Seattle is a very wealthy city but it’s deeply unequal and it’s unaffordable for the vast majority of people – especially the growing ranks of low wage workers.

It was clear from the very beginning that these points were really galvanising attention from the working class in Seattle and that helped us to grow our base of volunteers because people were really excited about the idea of an electoral campaign that’s so unlike the business-as-usual corporate politicians.

One thing that really excited people was that we pledged that if we were elected that we would only take the average worker’s wage. Seattle City Council members are paid $120,000 a year which is a very high salary and is second only to the City Council in Los Angeles. Most people didn’t know that and when we said we’d only be taking the average worker’s salary and giving the rest to build social justice movements, that really caught people’s attention.

So through the politics of the campaign we were able to attract a big base of volunteers. We had several people from Socialist Alternative working full time to organise the volunteers. We had a campaign office, we organised staff meetings every day to discuss the tasks – the staff meetings were organised in cooperation with the local Socialist Alternative leadership.

And so we were really able to pay attention to everything that was happening in the city and take advantage of any potential opportunity to talk about the campaign, to publicise the campaign, to get media opportunities - which was really necessary for us because we were running against a 16-year incumbent, entrenched and powerful Democrat. We were relentless and sharp in bringing out all the problems not only with his 16-year reign but also with the city government in general and how they are out of touch with the needs of working people. Through all that effort we were able to build a base of over 350 volunteers which was a source of energy for the campaign.

Another thing we did that really helped the campaign was in the last weekend before election day we organised 100 rallies. We had people with signs for the campaign standing at busy street intersections waving them, we did several banner drops on top of freeways where there’s a lot of traffic of people going to work every day, we had big banners that said ‘$15 minimum wage, Vote Sawant’.

That really helped us in getting people to vote. For the most part city politics is so out of touch with normal working class life that people don’t pay attention to it, it’s boring. They see the City Council members as mostly white, wealthier, upper class people who don’t really know what’s happening on the ground and don’t care. So for us the struggle was not only to influence people who usually vote but also to get people who don’t usually vote to vote for this campaign.

And we engaged in a dialogue with people - we’re Marxists, we don’t necessarily think that the electoral arena is the most favourable to build social movements. However, we can show an example of how that can be done but that requires you to be involved. So I think that was the biggest challenge which we did quite well.

But we cannot talk about our campaign in isolation. We also have to mention that it was happening at the same time that the fast food workers movement has been on the rise. Especially in Seattle they’ve been quite confident and we’ve been in solidarity with them. There was also the $15 an hour ballot initiated in Seatac, which is a neighbouring city to Seattle where the international airport is located. It was specifically for giving $15 an hour to airport workers. So all of that created a lot of momentum for the campaign.

How did people respond to the fact that you were openly a socialist?

For most people what stood out was the fact that we were fighting for $15 an hour.

And what really attracted people was how audacious we were and that’s the opposite of the advice that you usually get. There were a lot of people who liked our campaign and have experience in bourgeois politics who would tell us: “you have to tone yourself down, don’t criticise the administration so much”. I was often asked: “why do you always start any speech by saying ‘I’m a member of Socialist Alternative’?”

They wanted to dissociate me from Socialist Alternative because normal US electoral politics is centred around individuals and personalities not on collective organisations, collective effort. But we rejected that completely. Instead we were bold and unrelenting in presenting our politics and making clear that if you like this campaign, if you like that we’re fighters, then that has everything to do with the fact that we’re socialists.

A lot of people didn’t care so much about the label, they cared about the issues and the campaign. But there is a layer of people for whom it was really part of it. There were people who said, ‘well if that’s a socialist campaign and I agree with everything, then maybe I’m a socialist, maybe I need to talk to Socialist Alternative’. We have had people join Socialist Alternative or explore joining because they agreed with what we were saying and their confidence was raised by how boldly we were fighting for the campaign.
What are your plans now?

First of all today [17 November] we are having a big rally to bring everyone who worked on the campaign and who is excited about our victory to celebrate it but also provide a sense of the way forward – what is it that needs to happen from here?

We want to talk about not only our campaign and what we’ll do in City Council but also, what is the significance of this? What is the significance of a revolutionary socialist being elected to the City Council of a major city in the United States? That has real (in many ways earth-shattering) consequences for the left in general, especially in the US but also internationally because it should make the left sit up and think, well if this is possible then what more could be possible?

The reason we’re getting national and international media focus is not that we won a City Council seat – ordinarily nobody would care that somebody won a City Council seat. What’s striking is that an open socialist won the seat, that the campaign did not take any money from big business and did not rely on the Democratic Party apparatus to win. We need the left to draw on these lessons and realise that there is an opening to build movements and to build a viable anti-capitalist, anti-corporate working people’s alternative to the two big business parties.

In the City Council, our first priority is to push for the $15 an hour minimum wage. Specifically we will be drafting an ordinance to present to the City Council. But we also have no illusions that it’s going to be easy. Big business is going to resist tooth and nail because Seattle is a major city and if we get $15 here it will have a domino effect for other cities. So we need to continue building mass support for the demand.

One of the things we’re going to work towards is having a big rally - our target is to bring 10,000 people but we’ll see how it goes - at least bring thousands of people to a rally early next year in support of $15 an hour.

I’ve seen a lot of comments saying that there’s something unique about Seattle. Of course there are always things that are different from one situation to another but I think it’s important for the left everywhere to realise that given the crisis of capitalism, especially in Europe given the extent to which austerity politics has been carried out, there is absolutely no question that there are opportunities. And if it can happen in the belly of the beast there is no reason why it can’t be done elsewhere. But it’s not automatic which is why we need to consciously build our forces.

BRISTOL COUNCIL: £90M Cuts, 1000 Job losses, services slashed… DEFEND JOBS AND SERVICES!

The government is demanding Bristol City Council cut £90m from their budget in the next 3 years. This is one quarter of the total budget, already reduced by years of austerity.

This will mean 1000 people could lose their jobs. Services will be shut. This will hit hardest in so-called discretionary services like libraries, parks and public toilets. These are vital to Bristol but don’t have to be provided by law.

Services that remain open may be privatised or run by volunteers, not trained professionals. Charities may be expected to step in but Unions and anti-cuts campaigners will be working hard to stop this, starting by lobbying consultation meetings.

But will our mayor and councillors listen? They have already shown themselves to be dependable servants of the Tory government, pushing through the cuts locally. Last year’s cuts budget went through with only one vote against.

While anti-cuts activists don’t have a political voice we are fighting with one hand tied behind out backs. We need local representatives who will stand up for local people, not this shameful shower of collaborators. Last year Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts stood for mayor to oppose all cuts. We said the budget should be based on what local people need, not Tory demands for austerity. We should fight to get back the money they’ve stolen. Next year we’ll be standing in every council seat in Bristol. But we don’t just need your vote, we need your help. Join us in supporting every protest, industrial action and occupation needed to stop these savage attacks on ordinary people.

Public Meeting

Fighting Austerity – Why We Need Anti-Cuts Councillors

Tuesday Dec 3rd, 7.45pm, Youth Hostel, 14 Narrow Quay, Bristol, BS1 4QA

Thursday, 24 October 2013

A mass campaign can save Grangemouth

Without a moments thought to the human cost, Ineos bosses today have announced the closure of the petrochemical plant at Grangemouth with the loss of 800 jobs. They intend to put that arm of their business into liquidation meaning workers may face losing thousands of pounds in redundancy payments. The oil refinery and the jobs of another 600 workers remain in jepordy, the result of a lockout by billionaire owner, Jim Ratcliffe. The next hours and days are vital in ensuring the building of a mass campaign to fight to save the Grangemouth plant and retain the jobs and terms and conditions of the workforce.

An urgent mass meeting of Unite members at Grangemouth should be organised. The shop stewards at Grangemouth should draw up a plan of action to put to the workers to seek to defeat this act of corporate vandalism by Ineos. Decisive action by Unite, including the occupation of an appropraite part of the site, would gain mass support and apply huge political pressure on the Scottish government to carry through the nationalisation of the plant. Unite should now demand the nationalisation of Grangemouth.

But this is a struggle that Unite members at Grangemoth can't be left to fight on their own. It's one for the entire trade union movement in Scotland and beyond. The STUC should call an immediate "council of war" of trade unions and shop stewards from across the trade movement to plan a mass solidarity campaign, including calling a Scotland-wide demonstration in the next couple of weeks.

Socialist Party Scotland trade unionists have drafted a resolution for trade union bodies in support of workers at Grangemouth (see below). Please rasie this motion in your trade union as soon as possible. Send copies to Unite Scotland at
Resolution for trade union organisations

The announcement by Ineos that they intend to pullout of the Grangemouth petrochemical site with the threatened loss of up to 800 jobs is an act of corporate vandalism. The oil refinery remains shut and the workers effectively locked out.

Ineos management and its majority owner, billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, are 100% responsible for this scandal. They have shutdown the entire Grangemouth site to force the workers to accept savage cuts in terms and conditions.

We congratulate Unite members and their shop stewards at Grangemouth for their refusal to be bullied. Around 70% of Unite members rejected the sign or be sacked ultimatum from Ineos management.

Ineos have also attempted to break the union at Grangemouth by victimising a leading shop steward and undermining the bargaining power of workers.

We believe that the struggle to defend jobs and trade union rights at Grangemouth is one for all trade unionists and is one of the most important the trade union movement has faced in years.

This union branch/organisation agrees to

• Offer our full support to workers and Unite at Grangemouth in the building of a mass campaign to retain the jobs and the terms and conditions at the site as a vital economic lifeline.

• Support workers in the action that they take, including occupation of appropriate parts of the plant, in their campaign to retain the site and jobs at Grangemouth.

• Demand that Ineos open the books to trade union inspection to show the real financial position of the company.

• Call on the Scottish government and UK governments to immediately bring Grangemouth into democratic public ownership to secure jobs and investment. To also support public ownership with majority participation by workers and the trade unions in the running of the plant.

• Call on the STUC to organise an urgent Scotland-wide demonstration in support of the workers at Grangemouth in the next couple of weeks.

• Support workers and shop stewards at Grangemouth in defending trade union rights, wages and pensions.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Fight Royal Mail sell-off: Strike against privatisation

By a Postal Worker

It is no surprise that the Con-Dems are rushing the privatisation of Royal Mail through as quickly as they can. They face overwhelming opposition. 70% of people don't want to see the postal service in private hands. Price hikes to line the pockets of the super-rich - that's been the bitter lesson from the sell-off of rail, energy and water.

Privatisation would only mean job losses and a worsening of working conditions for postal workers. The 125,000 postal workers in the Communication Workers Union (CWU) are expected to vote strongly in favour of strikeaction over pay and pensions in the ballot, whose result is due early in October.

Not everyone's opposed though. Big bankers, lawyers, accountants and PR firms will collect up to £20 million in fees from advising on the sale. But the public will pay higher prices and eventually lose services. Royal Mail will be at the beck and call of institutional investors wanting a return for their investment.

The £200 million Royal Mail said it could have paid out in dividends if it had been listed for a whole year, would be better spent on providing jobs and improving services.

Our union, the CWU will be supporting the NHS demo at the Tories' conference on 29 September in Manchester - this is very welcome. But the union leaders should also announce a national demo against Royal Mailprivatisation. This would give postal workers, other trade unionists and members of the public an opportunity to channel their deep anger over cuts and privatisation.

The CWU could link up with other unions considering action, such as PCS, NUT, FBU and the RMT to take strike action on the same day. The TUC must name the day for a 24-hour general strike. The collective strength of workers withholding their labour could bring this weak coalition to its knees.

CWU general secretary Billy Hayes recently said: "We want Labour to commit the next Labour government to renationalise Royal Mail if it is privatised." That would scotch the sell-off plans. But this was wishful thinking - when in government Labour failed to renationalise the rail network or repeal the anti-union laws. In fact they tried to flog off Royal Mail. This is just further evidence of the need for a new mass party of the working class.

Royal Mail workers are confident we can win this battle. We need to fight to convince every CWU member of the strike's importance and involve them in the strike.

Regular mass meetings at local, regional and national level should make the decisions about the campaign.

Victory to the Royal Mail workers!

The Socialist calls for:
  • No privatisation of Royal Mail
  • If CWU members vote to strike, this must have the support of the entire trade union movement
  • No to the use of the anti-trade union laws; scrap them!
  • Defend all jobs and no to increased workloads
  • Defend the union, defend the reps
  • For a fully nationalised and democratically run communications industry
  • Build a new mass workers' party to provide a fighting, political alternative to the pro-big business parties
  • For a 24-hour general strike to oppose all privatisation and austerity measures

Thursday, 29 August 2013

No to imperialist intervention in Syria

Editorial of the Socialist -
Via social media, smart phones and traditional news channels a flood of bloody images, footage and reports of the unbearable suffering inflicted on the Syrian masses has been broadcast around the world.

Initially in 2011, following the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, there was a popular uprising against Assad's police state. But, as has been explained in the Socialist, interventions and enormous financial and military backing came from the semi-feudal monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and imperialist forces in the hope of derailing that movement.

The uprising against Assad's dictatorship has been skewed now into a sectarian conflict and has, moreover, unleashed a dangerous battle between the Sunnis and the Shias on a regional scale. The death toll of Syria's now years-long conflict is estimated to be over 100,000. Two million people have fled the country and around five million are internally displaced. This is horror piled upon horror.

For the overwhelming majority of people the news that chemical weapons have been used in Ghouta, a district of Damascus, appears to represent the opening of a new circle of hell for the suffering masses. The reports that the dead are numbered in their hundreds and the injured in their thousands are as heart-breaking as they are horrifying.

Given what has taken place, combined with the threat of regional instability looming, a desire for a solution to this horror is a human response. But to hope that the US and UK governments and their allies in France, Germany and Turkey could bring any solution, given history, both recent and long-term, is horribly mistaken.
Air strikes

Over the last months US President Obama has warned that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a 'red line' to trigger an international response no fewer than five times. Already there are three US warships in the Mediterranean with another on its way. Pilots in Cyprus have reported seeing warplanes on British airfields there.

Foreign Secretary William Hague has been preparing the ground here in Britain, indicating that the absence of a UN mandate will be no obstacle: "it's possible to take action based on great humanitarian distress." He's suggested that action, most likely intense aerial bombardment, could take place within weeks, if not days. The UN security committee is split with Russia and China opposing intervention in the interests of their own capitalist classes.

Hague is also reported to have been liaising with the dictatorial and repressive Qatari and Saudi regimes who would welcome a defeat of Assad as a blow against Iran and Hezbollah. Iran has warned that western military intervention will destabilise the region.

Patrick Cockburn, Middle East commentator, has pointed out the difficulties of ascertaining who bears responsibility for the recent chemical attack. The UN inspectors were granted access and a ceasefire agreed but the inspectors came under fire and were ordered out within hours. However, that in itself does not yet prove who was responsible and the inspectors are only due to decide if there was a chemical attack.

Before UN inspectors have publicly reported, US Secretary of State, John Kerry said that the US would respond to the "undeniable" use of chemical weapons in Syria and that President Bashar al-Assad's forces had committed a "moral obscenity" against his own people.

'Moral obscenity' might also be a good word to describe the destruction of Iraq, including the alleged use of white phosphorous and depleted uranium tipped missiles, the open air prison that denies the Palestinians their democratic and national rights, silence in the face of genocidal slaughter in Sri Lanka, not to mention imperialist powers' record of employing chemical and nuclear weapons.

There is major domestic public opposition to US and UK involvement despite the desire for an end to the slaughter. Memories of the build-up to the invasion of Iraq and the 'dodgy dossier' claims that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction are evoked by the current rush to attack. That is compounded by the failure of the British government to publish the results of the Chilcot inquiry.

Obama's election programme included pledges to bring an end to US involvement in Iraq and the years of Bush's warmongering. Instead he has been a war president with the murderous drones multiplying in Afghanistan and Pakistan, albeit largely replacing troops on the ground, and the maintenance of Guantanamo Bay. 60% of the US population oppose US military involvement in Syria.

But both the US and UK governments have an interest in appearing as heroes to the Syrian masses and as defenders of democracy, mired as they are in a profound crisis of capitalism, with no solution, and with anger against them mounting.
Iraq war

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq the Lib Dems polished their thin anti-war credentials by opposing action without a UN mandate. The Socialist Party pointed out that the UN could not be relied on as an arbitrator in the interests of the Iraqi people, comprised and dominated as it is by representatives of the major imperialist and warmongering governments of the world. However, former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown now argues that, in the case of Syria, unilateral action is preferable to inaction.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander has demanded parliament be recalled. Cameron looks likely to do this, as he faces opposition from a small number of his own backbenchers, such are the complications and risks for the future of the entire region.

Labour has not indicated how it would vote. A genuine working people's party would massively oppose any form of military action in Syria. But Labour has a lustrous record as vicious warmongers in government, sending troops to Iraq for a war for oil in the interest of big business and for strategic aims.

In opposition Labour boasts an almost spotless record of kowtowing to the rotten Con-Dem austerity policies. Yet again the need to build a new political force to represent the anti-war, anti-austerity majority is glaring.

There can be no hope that any action on the part of this government or its international counterparts can bring relief to the populations of Syria or the Middle East. In fact it is guaranteed that increased bombing will bring increased suffering to the masses. And this is why it must be opposed.

'Regime change' is not a cited aim, because Assad's is a relatively strong regime, because of the fierce opposition of Russia, and because the question of who would replace it is so problematic. Given the significant funding and growth of Al-Qa'ida in Syria there are also serious dangers of a 'blowback' of increased terrorism, in the region and inside Britain and its allies in this adventure.

There is no real capitalist solution to this conflict, threatening as it does in the unstable arena of the region, to unravel into wider ethnic conflict which could last for years. What is clear from Iraq, from Libya, and from all imperialist military interventions, is that the interests of the working class and poor in the region are not a driving force.

There is no shortcut to the building of, and encouraging the establishment of, independent working class forces that can unite the poor and oppressed and suffering in their common interests against both the forces of imperialism and their semi-feudal and capitalist allies in the region.
We say:
No to imperialist intervention! The withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria and the region
Against all oppression, the people must democratically decide their own fate
For the building of united, non-sectarian defence committees to defend workers, the poor and others against sectarian attacks from all sides
Prepare a movement to fight for a government of representatives of workers and the poor
For a revolutionary constituent assembly in Syria
The implementation of the national and democratic rights of the masses, with the recognition of the right of the Kurdish people to self-determination including, if they so wish, the right to their own state
Independent trade unions and the building of mass workers' parties with a programme of land to the masses and the factories to the workers, implemented through a programme for a socialist democratic planned economy
A democratic socialist confederation of the Middle East and North Africa

Saturday, 24 August 2013

A Trend in the Wrong history..





A Trend in the Wrong Direction

(The case for defending an independently elected Party Control Commission was made by US revolutionary James P Cannon at a time when the Trotskyist party in the US, The Socialist Workers Party, was experiencing a growth of members as a result of the student radicalisation of the 1960's.
Posted for those interested in past discussions relating to organisation and cadre development in a Leninist Party.-Martyn Ahmet)

November 12, 1966
Copies to:
Ed Shaw, New York
Jean Simon, Cleveland
Reba Hansen
New York, N.Y
Dear Reba:
This answers your letter of November 2 with which you enclosed a copy of Jean Simon’s letter of October 12. I was surprised and concerned by Jean’s proposals to change the constitutional provisions providing for an independent Control Commission elected by the convention, and making it a mere subcommittee of the NC, which would mean in effect a subcommittee of the PC. This would be the de facto liquidation of the Control Commission as it was originally conceived.
As far as I can see all the new moves and proposals to monkey with the Constitution which has served the party so well in the past, with the aim of “tightening” centralization, represent a trend in the wrong direction at the present time. The party (and the YSA) is too “tight” already, and if we go much further along this line we can run the risk of strangling the party to death.
As I recall it, the proposal to establish a Control Commission, separately elected by the convention, originated at the Plenum and Active Workers’ Conference in the fall of 1940, following the assassination of the Old Man. The assassin, as you will recall, gained access to the household in Coyoacan through his relations with a party member.[6] The Political Committee was then, as it always will be if it functions properly, too busy with political and organizational problems to take time for investigations and security checks on individuals.
It was agreed that we need a special body to take care of this work, to investigate rumors and charges and present its findings and recommendations to the National Committee.
If party security was one side of the functions of the Control Commission, the other side - no less important - was to provide the maximum assurance that any individual party member, accused or rumored to be unworthy of party membership, could be assured of the fullest investigation and a fair hearing or trial. It was thought that this double purpose could best be served by a body separately elected by the convention, and composed of members of long standing, especially respected by the party for their fairness as well as their devotion.
I can recall instances where the Control Commission served the party well in both aspects of this dual function. In one case a member of the seamen’s fraction was expelled by the Los Angeles Branch after charges were brought against him by two members of the National Committee of that time. The expelled member appealed to the National Committee and the case was turned over to the Control Commission for investigation. The Control Commission, on which as I recall Dobbs was then the PC representative, investigated the whole case, found that the charges lacked substantial proof and recommended the reinstatement of the expelled member. This was done.
In another case, a rumor circulated by the Shachtmanites and others outside the party against the integrity of a National Office secretarial worker was thoroughly investigated by the Control Commission which, after taking stenographic testimony from all available sources, declared the rumors unfounded and cleared the accused party member to continue her work. There were other cases in which charges were found after investigation to be substantiated and appropriate action recommended.
All these experiences speak convincingly of the need for a separate Control Commission of highly respected comrades to make thorough investigations of every case, without being influenced by personal or partisan prejudice, or pressure from any source, and whose sole function is to examine each case from all sides fairly and justly and report its findings and recommendations. This is the best way, not only to protect the security of the party, but also to respect the rights of the accused in every case.
As far as I know, the only criticism that can properly be made of the Control Commission in recent times is that it has not always functioned in this way with all its members participating, either by presence or correspondence, in all proceedings - and convincing the party that its investigation was thorough and that its findings and recommendations were fair and just.

* * *

It should be pointed out also that the idea of a Control Commission separately constituted by the convention didn’t really originate with us. Like almost everything else we know about the party organizational principles and functions, it came from the Russian Bolsheviks. The Russian party had a separate Control Commission. It might also be pointed out that after the revolution the new government established courts. It provided also for independent trade unions which, as Lenin pointed out in one of the controversies, had the duty even to defend the rights of its members against the government. Of course, all that was changed later when all power was concentrated in the party secretariat, and all the presumably independent institutions were converted into rubber stamps. But we don’t want to move in that direction. The forms and methods of the Lenin-Trotsky time are a better guide for us.

* * *

I am particularly concerned about any possible proposal to weaken the constitutional provision about the absolute right of suspended or expelled members to appeal to the convention. That is clearly and plainly a provision to protect every party member against possible abuse of authority by the National Committee. It should not be abrogated or diluted just to show that we are so damn revolutionary that we make no concessions to “bourgeois concepts of checks and balances.” The well-known Bill of Rights is a check and balance which I hope will be incorporated, in large part at least, in the Constitution of the Workers Republic in this country. Our constitutional provision for the right of appeal is also a “check and balance.” It can help to recommend our party to revolutionary workers as a genuinely democratic organization which guarantees rights as well as imposing responsibilities, and thus make it more appealing to them.
I believe that these considerations have more weight now than ever before in the thirty-eight-year history of our party. In the present political climate and with the present changing composition of the party, democratic centralism must be applied flexibly. At least ninety percent of the emphasis should be placed on the democratic side and not on any crackpot schemes to “streamline” the party to the point where questions are unwelcomed and criticism and discussion stifled. That is a prescription to kill the party before it gets a chance to show how it can handle and assimilate an expanding membership of new young people, who don’t know it all to start with, but have to learn and grow in the course of explication and discussion in a free, democratic atmosphere.
Trotsky once remarked in a polemic against Stalinism that even in the period of the Civil War discussion in the party was “boiling like a spring.” Those words and others like it written by Trotsky, in his first attack against Stalinism in The New Course, ought to be explained now once again to the new young recruits in our party. And the best way to explain such decisive things is to practice what we preach.
Yours fraternally,
James P. Cannon

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Socialist Party meetings this week - Why the pharmaceutical industry should be nationalised

Under capitalism, essential medication is privately produced and distributed for profit. In the developing world, HIV drugs are withheld from people that need them most as they are marketed first in the West, and even in the US many cannot afford the huge costs. Michael Wright explains why drug companies should be nationalised.

Tuesday 13 August: 7.45pm, Cheltenham Rd Library, Bristol BS6 5QX
Wednesday 14 August: 7.30pm Hydra Books, 34 Old Market Street, Bristol, BS2 0EZ

Find out more:

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Bristol East Socialist Party picnic in the park

Saturday 3 August 2013 1pm

Entrance to St George Park, Chrurch Road, St George

Now with Music as it is the same day as the RedFest see here for details:

You are invited to the East Branch Picnic in the Park on Saturday 3rd August.

Where - St George Park
Meet at Church Road entrance.

When - Saturday 3rd August at 1pm.

What - Bring food and drink and a blanket or rug to sit on

Who - Everyone! Comrades, friends, family. Children of all ages
especially welcome!

So bring food, yourself, family and maybe a football, frisbee - whatever just be there for fun, sun, food and friends.

Please circulate to your local Socialist Party or Trade Union branch, to friends and anyone you would like to be there. Please let me know if you are coming so I can...well just know!

Also the picnic will be preceded by a paper sale/leaflet from 12pm outside Tescos on Church Road so all welcome there too.

If we get a good turnout some Comrades can go leafleting in the park.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Report from recent Tolpuddle march and festival

This year's Tolpuddle martyrs festival in Dorset took place in the extreme heat but that didn't dampen the spirits of those who attended.

Around 1,000 people turned up for the weekend to celebrate trade unionism and the memory of the Tolpuddle martyrs, which was a significant step up from last year. Many more then joined us for the Sunday.

Over 130 copies of the Socialist were sold and several thousand NSSN (National Shop Stewards Network) leaflets were distributed demanding that the TUC call a 24-hour general strike.

Many people signed the NSSN petition and said that they would attend the lobby of the September TUC congress in Bournemouth.

There was also a lot of interest in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) which shows that many trade unionists no longer see Labour as the electoral alternative.

With recent pronouncements by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls accepting Tory austerity policies and questioning Labour's link with the trade unions, many activists are having to accept for the first time that Labour no longer represents workers' interests in any way.

This potentially opens up the possibility of major unions ending their affiliation with Labour and looking for new ways to achieve political representation.

After the traditional march through the village of Tolpuddle on the Sunday afternoon, we heard various speeches including from Labour MP Sadiq Kahn who struggled to raise any applause.

The new TUC general secretary (and first ever woman in the job), Frances O'Grady, said that the TUC would support workers who wanted to take industrial action, "up to and including coordinated action" but she stopped short of calling for a general strike against austerity.

Finally, we heard from veteran former Labour MP, Tony Benn, now 88 years old. He said that he was against protests which just register our disagreement with government policy - workers should instead demand that the policies be changed.

With the horrendous policies of Cameron and Clegg causing untold suffering for millions of ordinary people in Britain, the labour movement is starting to come to life after years of relative passivity.

At a traditional trade union event like the Tolpuddle festival, you can really feel the solidarity and everyone goes home feeling re-energised and ready to continue the struggle.

By Kyle Williamson (East London Socialist Party) and Matt Carey (Bristol South Socialist Party)

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Trade unions must build a political voice for the working class

Editorial of the Socialist

"If others want to stick around and be insulted by those whose only interest is our money and not our ideas then that's a matter for them." RMT general secretary Bob Crow made it clear that the Labour leadership's attack on the unions, and Unitein particular, should be a defining moment for working class political representation.
From the platform at the 129th Durham Miners Gala Bob made the case for a new mass party for working people: "We need an alternative party of labour." (See RMT press release on

He reminded the massive crowd in the Gala's Big Meeting on Saturday 13 July how the trade unions broke from the Liberal Party over 100 years ago, because it was incapable of representing workers' interests, to form theLabour Party.
On top of all the crimes of New Labour over the last two decades -privatising public services, maintaining Thatcher's anti-union laws, conducting wars, etc - the Labour leaders' recent confirmation that a Labour government will stick with the Con-Dem cuts surely urgently raises the question of a political alternative.


Bob Crow's speech got a huge response from the crowd. There was also support for the Unite general secretaryLen McCluskey as he rose to speak.
As with many trade unionists around the country, the Gala audience wanted to show solidarity with a trade union leader under vitriolic attack from all the enemies of the working class, including the Blairites, the Tories and the right-wing press.
Len got the best reception when he attacked the Labour leadership for their attempt to scapegoat the unionsaround the Falkirk selection process where Unite had pushed for its preferred candidate. "Labour doesn't have an automatic right to exist...
"The Parliamentary Labour Party today does not look like, or think like, the working class communities it seeks to represent. That is a serious problem... That is what Unite was fighting for in Falkirk - to give the working class a stake in our democracy. I make no apology for that."
But as with the week before, when he cautiously welcomed Labour leader Ed Miliband's 'reform' of how the unions affiliate to Labour, even agreeing with Tony Blair, Len's refusal to draw the necessary conclusions, left many bewildered and disorientated, if not angry and frustrated.
Len posed questions without answering them: "But if we are to go out and convince thousands of working class men and women that they want to sign up to be associate Labour Party members they will not be interested in the rulebook, or even the history.
"They will want to know - will Labour make a difference? ... Will it be different not just from Cameron and his crew but from the Blair-Brown years as well? If we can say 'Yes, Labour has learned, and Labour is on your side' then this scheme will work.
"But if our people - our members - are unclear as to the answer then no amount of persuading will get them to sign up."
This doesn't address Miliband's proposed 'reforms' of the Labour Link which will further dilute the already neutered role of the trade unions in the Labour Party as a collective force for the working class.
Miliband is under pressure from representatives of the capitalist class to block a voice for the working class in this way.
Moreover, given Labour's commitment to working within the limits of capitalism and to maintaining cuts if it forms the next government, and Labour councils' record of implementing cuts, the answer is clear - Labour offers no alternative to austerity.
Rank-and-file trade union activists are disgusted at Miliband's actions, particularly calling in the police to investigate the Falkirk allegations, but also Labour's out-and-out anti-working class policies.
As Bob Crow angrily said on Saturday, why hasn't Miliband called in the police to investigate the scandalous injustice meted out to miners at Orgreave, or the Shrewsbury pickets 40 years ago still continuing today after successive Tory, Labour and Con-Dem governments?
We encourage Unite branches to discuss the model motion (see box) and all members of the affiliated unions to raise Falkirk and the question of disaffiliation in their branches.

Break with Labour

We say it is time for the trade union movement to take the bold step of breaking with New Labour, not to go into 'non-political' trade unionism, but to use its political strength to form a new collective voice, a mass workers' party, that could appeal to the disenchanted, the poor and all the victims of austerity and the capitalist system by putting forward fighting socialist policies.
Undoubtedly, there will be some in the unions and on the left who argue this is impossible. Ultimately they hope against hope that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, Labour can somehow be reformed.
The Falkirk debacle is a damning demonstration of the lengths to which the Labour leadership and their ruling class backers, including in the press, will go to resist any challenge to their complete control of the party and its policies and candidates.

New formations

The early Labour pioneers, such as Kier Hardie, prepared the ground for the advances Labour made from 1906 onwards when workers' mass struggles against the system showed the need for the working class to take independent political action.
Who could question that, given the pro-cuts policies of all the traditional main parties, alternatives can't develop rapidly in the resulting political vacuum.
Despite their limitations new formations have emerged in Europe. In Italy, Beppe Grillo's Five-Star Movement appeared to come from nowhere and in Greece, Syriza's anti-austerity programme sparked its rapid electoral rise.
In Britain, anger at the main parties has been demonstrated by abstentionism and votes for the right-wing nationalist Ukip, including by a section of workers who want to 'kick the main parties'. This adds urgency to the need to build a real workers' alternative.
Imagine a left challenge with the financial resources of the unions or even just the £3 million annual affiliation fee of Unite to Labour compared to the shoestring that the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) attempts to operate on, notwithstanding the involvement and backing of the RMT.
The Socialist Party is also a key component of TUSC and we believe that it is tenaciously playing a pioneering role, arguing the case for a political voice for the working class and providing a way for anti-cuts fighters to stand as candidates against councillors voting through austerity.
TUSC sees itself as facilitating and campaigning for the building of a new mass workers' party. A new formation, based on the unions and the resources provided by their millions of members and the basic anti-cuts and anti-capitalist policies expounded at Durham by Len McCluskey and Bob Crow, embracing all those being battered by these brutal cuts would have a massive appeal across society and, in fact, shove the political debate to the left.

What Unite should do:

Unite members, in their branches, stewards committees and constitutional committees of the union, should pass resolutions defending the union against these attacks and calling for a full, democratic discussion of the alternative. In particular, they should call on the leadership to implement the following plan of action:
  • An emergency executive council should be called to discuss the crisis.
  • The EC should pass a resolution for a recall rules conference which would have the objective of removing the references to Labour Party affiliation from the rulebook, thereby facilitating disaffiliation. This conference should also discuss political representation for the working class.
  • Should this be carried, Unite should call meetings and conferences of trade unionists, from affiliated and non-affiliated unions, including those linked toTUSC. These events should have the aim of forming a new workers' party, which would have the programme of fighting the cuts, scrapping the anti-trade union laws and opposing privatisation of public services. Such a party would truly reflect the needs of the working class and fight in workplaces, communities and in elections for socialist ideas.

Monday, 1 July 2013

7th Annual NSSN Conference: Building the rank and file, planning the way forward


There may well have been a pause in struggle on the part of some trade union leaders, but there has been no pause in the struggle for ordinary trade unionists and campaigners. This was the key point made by Linda Taaffe, Secretary of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) in her opening address to the NSSN’s seventh annual conference this Saturday.

The NSSN conference successfully brought together the key activists from these struggles in a packed hall at the Camden Centre. Among the many topics for discussion and debate was the task of ending the ‘pause’ in struggle at the top of the trade movement and making the demand of a 24 hour general strike a reality.
This discussion was given practical form by the action plan introduced by NSSN Chair Rob Williams and passed unanimously by the delegates present.

The key points of the action plan were an NSSN rally at the TUC Congress at Bournemouth on September 8thfollowed by a lobby of Congress.

In the run up to the Congress NSSN supporters were encouraged to pass motions in support of a 24 hour general strike in their shop stewards committees, union branches, anti-cuts group and trades councils. Each region of the NSSN was encouraged to hold regional meetings to build for the lobby of the TUC and popularize the call for a general strike.

Finally the action plan pledged to energetically build the TUC demonstration outside the Tory Party Conference in Manchester on September 29th and organise an NSSN contingent on it which will march behind a banner calling for a 24 hour general strike.
In moving the action plan, Rob Williams said it was a scandal that almost 12 months on from the TUC congress voting for the Prison Officers Association (POA) motion calling on the TUC to consider the practicalities of a General Strike, precious little action in that direction had occurred.

In his speech Rob made clear that the NSSN supports all tactics in the struggle but the NSSN was unapologetic in its view that mass strike action led by the trade unions must be central in defeating the austerity drive of the government and the employers.

In this way the mass organisations of the workers movement could draw behind them all of those whose lives have been ripped apart by cuts.

In Brazil and Turkey the entry of ordinary people into struggle had shifted society to the left in those countries. This was a glimpse, he said, of the effect a 24 hour General strike could have in this country. Working people would feel their collective power and have their sights risen to what is possible when a mass movement confronts an intransigent government.
The theme of the general strike was addressed by many of the platform speakers and by activists making contributions from the floor.

John Reid, London Regional Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) brought fraternal greeting from his union. He told the audience that the RMT conference reaffirmed its support for the NSSN and for the idea of a General Strike.

Steve Gillan, General Secretary of the POA and mover of the general strike motion at the TUC Congress pointed out that his union had taken more industrial action in the 19 years since their trade union rights were stripped from them by the then Tory government than in the previous 70 years. The willingness of the POA to defy anti-trade union laws in defence of their members is an example to other trade union leaders hesitating to throw their full support behind the general strike call.

Donald McDougall, secretary of the Unite Honda branch in Swindon added his support to the campaign for a general strike in a short but powerful speech from the floor.

Martin Powell-Davies, from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) national executive reported on the success of the joint strike action by teachers in the north-west on 27th June. Teachers from the NUT and NASUWT took strike action in 22 Local Authorities. This was an excellent start, Martin said, but he insisted it must be the beginning of wider action. The strike in the north-west suffered a complete media black out. A national strike by teachers would not be so easy for the media to ignore, he said. Martin ended his contribution with a point that applies to teachers and the general strike equally; “We need to be out together to win”

The need for national action was made clear by Communication Workers Union General Secretary Billy Hayes. To big applause he informed conference 96% of his members had voted to oppose privatisation of Royal Mail. A vote to pursue a pay offer got 99% in favour. Billy remarked on the ‘coincidence’ that three days after the vote Royal Mail management approached the CWU to open up talks on a pay offer! The CWU now has a number of live industrial disputes around issue of privatisation.

Chris Baugh, Assistant General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) reviewed the course of industrial struggle since November 30th 2011. Commenting on the decision of the GMB and Unison to settle the pensions dispute he said it was, at best, a terrible tactical decision or at worst a deliberate attempt to knock the stuffing out of the November 30th action. PCS has been forced to soldier on alone in the interim. Chris pointed out that a variety of trade unions are preparing action in the autumn. To big applause he declared that all unions taking action should get in a room together and begin planning a coordinated response to austerity.
The conference did not solely discuss the general strike though. There was also a wide range of speakers fresh from local industrial disputes or community campaigns.

Michael Ologun, Unite shop steward from the Equinox Housing group related his workmates struggle against 25% cuts, including strike action. In a sober but positive balance sheet of the strike Michael made the point that their action had won a deferral of the cuts. Michael pointed out this action was in the context of a workplace that had been largely unorganised not too long ago. Using their success in organising in the workplace and standing up to management, Michael urged the conference to get active in their workplace, telling them; “You can make a difference”.

Paddy Brennan, convenor at the Honda factory in Swindon brought greetings from his workplace. In his speech he thanked the NSSN for their support during his successful campaign against victimisation at the plant.

Steve North, branch secretary of Salford Unison (like all members of that union, speaking in a personal capacity) asked conference to support upcoming industrial action by Future Directions staff in Rochdale over cuts to pay and terms and conditions. He also read out a message of support from Gearge Tapp. George is a longstanding supporter of the NSSN who was a steward at last year’s conference. For many years George has campaigned tirelessly against blacklisting in the building industry. During this campaigning George was hit by a car in a hit and run incident on a picket line and seriously injured. George’s long term recovery prevented him from attending this year’s conference but he was keen to ensure he had a presence in spirit at the conference. Supporters of the NSSN wish George a speedy recovery and a return to his vital role in the struggle against blacklisting.

In a moving personal account Hannah Roche related the harsh conditions facing young workers in call centres Helen Pattison from the Youth Fight for Jobs initiative ‘Sick of Your Boss’ reported on the campaigns work in organising young people in the retail sector in cooperation with Unite.

The conference had a distinctly international feel to it. The closing plenary had a speaker from the radical French trade union federation SUD. However it was events in Turkey that were at the centre of discussion at the conference. NSSN supporters Steve Hedley, Assistant General Secretary of the RMT and Martin Powell-Davies visited Taksim Square as solidarity delegates from their respective unions. In a commission chaired by Martin Powell-Davies, Steve Hedley gave an eye witness account of the brutal crackdown on protestors in Taksim and Gezi Park on 12th June. He was joined by Oktay Sahbaz from the Turkish and Kurdish group Day-Mer. Oktay also spoke at the conference closing plenary. Day-Mer has been one of the key organisers of the almost daily solidarity protests in London with the movement in Turkey. Oktay thanked the NSSN for their support and participation in those protests. Oktay gave a brief history of developments in Turkey that led up to the explosion in popular protest. In a wide ranging speech Oktay emphasised that the movement has helped to break down divisions between Turks, Kurds, Alevi’s and other minorities. Of particular importance has been a new sense of solidarity between ordinary Turkish workers and Kurdish people through their shared experience of state brutality. The recent shooting of Kurdish demonstrators has triggered an unprecedented wave of solidarity and protests in Turkish cities.

The Bedroom Tax has provoked one of the biggest grass roots campaigns since the coming to power of the coalition. NSSN supporters have thrown themselves into organising anti-bedroom tax campaigns across the country. A special session on fighting the tax was well attended. Tommy Sheridan from the Scottish Anti-Bedroom Tax campaign gave a powerful speech on the inspiring work of the campaign north of the border.

In his opening remarks Tommy articulated the feelings of many working class people on the bedroom tax, which explains opposition to the tax goes far beyond those affected. “I am not personally affected by the bedroom tax but I am offended by the bedroom tax”. Tommy condemned the hypocrisy of politicians who make the very poorest in society homeless while they live in tax payer funded mansions! To a standing ovation Tommy pledged that the campaign in Scotland would meet any threat to evict people with “a wall of human solidarity”.
State harassment has been a feature of life for labour movement activists as long as the movement has existed. This has been underlined this year with revelations of state collusion with blacklisting and police infiltration of labour movement organisations.

Chris Baugh reminded conference that the state is very well aware of the importance of shop stewards and activists in defending the working class. It is the reason, he said why the state spends so much time harassing and spying on them.

This point was underlined by Lois Austin in her speech at the closing plenary. Lois is the former chair of Youth Against Racism in Europe, an organisation that played a key role in driving the BNP out of Tower Hamlets and fighting for justice for Steven Lawrence in the early 90’s. So effective was YRE that it attracted the attention of the security forces and was targeted by police spy Peter Francis.

In her speech Lois rejected the idea that this was the work of ‘a few bad apples’. Spying on peaceful political organisations was state policy. She called for a wide ranging inquiry that included those who had been spied upon. If that was not forthcoming from the state, Lois said, those effected should look to set up their own inquiry.

In contrast to other gatherings of activists the discussion at the NSSN conference was not just about organising the opposition to austerity, important as that is. There was also a number of important contributions on the alternative.

Padraig Mulholland, President of the Northern Ireland Public Services Alliance (NIPSA) brought fraternal greetings from the NIPSA General Council. In his speech he said NIPSA was producing educational material for its members exploring the causes of the economic crisis. A central part of this material will explain that crisis is an organic part of the capitalist system.

Steve Gillan responded to the governments plans to build a super prison by declaring; “Rather than spend £200 million on building a new super prison in Wales I’d rather see £200 million spent on helping to keep people out of prison” A perfect illustration of the different approach of the labour movement to that of the government and employers.

A number of speakers explained that attacks on the conditions of working people were inevitable under capitalism. The struggle in the workplaces and the communities against day to day attacks are important but it must also include a political expression and a socialist alternative.

This was a theme of the conference from the outset as John Reid reported that the RMT conference affirmed that it would use all its resources to campaign for the replacement of the capitalist system with a democratic socialist system.

By the end of the conference delegates went away armed with the ideas and tactics to change our movement in order to change our society.