Saturday, 26 January 2013

BADACA: Questioning Ferguson’s Cuts…

At tonight’s (24/01/13) meeting of Bristol mayor Ferguson’s cuts cabinet BADACA submitted the following statement…

To mayor George Ferguson:

When elected you promised a new approach to politics. Just a few months later and the reality is disappointingly familiar. The £35m of cuts in your budget will mean jobs lost and services under attack. Community transport and children’s centres are just two of things that will be hit. You’ve raised council tax by 2%, faster than wages and benefits are rising. Making people pay more for less is a kick in the teeth at a time when its getting harder to make ends meet. With another £65m due to be made over the next 3 years Bristol’s services will be butchered unless this assault can be stopped.

We note you have joined representatives of other cities in criticising the government’s cuts to council budgets. We agree, but those words will ring hollow as long as you continue to do the government’s dirty work and pass on the cuts to Bristolians. Ordinary people are sick of being made to pay for the bankers’ crisis and they’re sick of politicians who say one thing and do another.

These cuts are not a force of nature, they can be stopped. They’re being pushed by a Tory government hell bent on making the rich richer and the rest of us worse off. Letters alone won’t sway them from this course, we need a mass campaign to win back the money they’ve stolen from the city. That would be far stronger if you refused to implement the cuts and made the case for protecting our jobs and services. Otherwise the young, elderly and infirm are once again being sacrificed so that the rich and powerful can continue with their gold-plated lifestyles. Making these cuts breaks your promise to ”not leave this city any less but rather greater than I found it.”

We call upon you to throw out this cuts budget and consult on a one based upon what Bristol needs. We call upon anyone with a conscience to refuse to take part in a cuts cabinet.

While these attacks continue the Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance will fight them cuts by every means necessary. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with council employees, trade unions and service users. There will be no hiding places for the cutters, as we expose the true effects of your damaging vandalism through a relentless series of lobbies, demonstrations and direct actions.

No to all cuts to jobs and services!

The statement was moved in the council chamber by BADACA’s Tom Baldwin.

Questions to the mayor were also submitted by others including Bristol City Unison’s Branch Secretary, Steve Mills and various councillors.

In a show of arrogant disregard for the democratic process, mayor Ferguson questioned the mechanism by which members of the public, pressure groups & even elected councillors can question the mayor & the cabinet…

LibDem councillor, Gary Hopkins asked:

“Have you decided to stop giving responses to Cllrs and members of the public who put in statements or will you continue with the previous practice?”

To which the mayor replied:

“This is semantic quibbling and is not a good use of anybody’s time, and I’d ask you yet again to think carefully about how you use the question system to ask me about matters of policy rather than abusing it by making partisan points…”

Steve Mills of Unison asked a series of perfectly legitimate questions on behalf of his members, many of whom are facing redundancy under Ferguson’s swingeing cuts. However Ferguson in his responses attacks Steve & his members saying things like:

“You ask nine questions disguised as one in a manner that does not fill me with confidence that you mean to work co-operatively as I would have hoped from a responsible trade union. This kind of question brings the system into disrepute…”

“I am unused to this naked political form of questioning that I am sure has nothing to do wit Bristol’s welfare or care of your members and is all to do with Party point scoring in place of responsible involvement.”

And… “I have to say I am certainly not encouraged by the naked political nature of these questions to meet the questioner but I did meet with a dozen or so Trade Union representatives on the very morning I released my budget proposals to begin that very conversation, and we had a constructive discussion of the difficult circumstances which we find ourselves in.”

Clearly, Ferguson as an ‘independent’ considers himself above politics and is only interested in engaging with the confused and the obsequious. This will only encourage BADACA supporters and local unions to do all in our power to defeat these vicious cuts!

Changes to ESA: more attacks on disabled people

By Matt Gordon, Bristol Socialist Party

On 28 January changes to the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) come into force that will see hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people at risk of losing vital benefits.

These changes were tabled as 'minor clarifications' at the end of 2012 and have not been discussed by parliament, but in reality they completely change how ESA is awarded and will have a huge impact on some of the most vulnerable people in the country. Sick and disabled people will have their individual needs ignored and the support needed to manage their conditions could be withdrawn - instead they will be told they are 'fit to work'. This alone will be devastating for many, without even asking the question, fit to work in what jobs?

The changes to the WCA will give the 'healthcare professionals' at Atos even more power to withhold benefits. Assessors will now make judgements not just about a condition as it is at the time of the assessment, but about how that condition might 'improve' on the basis of medication, treatment or adjustments, whether or not these are suitable or easily available on the NHS. And these judgements can be made without the opinion or wishes of the claimant being taken into account.ESA was introduced in 2008 under Labour and was claimed by the government to improve the chances of getting those with long-term illnesses and profound disabilities back into work. In reality this benefit is awarded, or not awarded, via the deeply flawed and heavily criticised Work Capability Assessment (WCA), administered by notorious French company Atos.

Disability groups have drawn attention to the so-called 'imaginary wheelchair' aspect of the WCA test, where the assessors consider the improved ability to work if the claimant were to use a wheelchair - without discussing the suitability of a wheelchair or considering whether they are compatible with a particular workplace or their availability. This aspect of 'imaginative guesswork' will be extended to hearing aids, guide dogs, walking sticks and prosthetic limbs - so it is not just imaginary wheelchairs, but imaginary dogs and limbs as well!

These changes show that the Con-Dem government is not only out of touch with the hardship faced by sick and disabled people, but increasingly out of touch with reality itself.

Ordinary people live in the real world and not the imaginary world of the millionaire cabinet. We cannot 'imagine' the coalition out of existence, but we can stop the cuts by building a mass campaign that links the struggles of the disabled and unemployed with those of workers under attack.

Dave Nellist letter in the Independent responds to Owen Jones

The following letter was printed in the Independent, 22nd January 2013

New alliances on the left

Whilst I understand his impatience, Owen Jones ("British politics urgently needs a new force", 21 January) is far too dismissive about attempts to build an electoral alternative to the main three parties' overlapping agenda of austerity.

Owen does not want "another party of the left to be built"; he wants Labour to change. Yet he limits his aspirations to a "network" outside Labour to pressurise it from the left (but leaving the same politicians in post).

His sideswipe against the Trade Unionist and SocialistCoalition (TUSC) is misplaced. We know TUSC is small at the moment; Owen, however, can't see the wood for the saplings.

Yes, the average of our results, where we stood in a small number of council elections in 2011 and 2012, is only 7 per cent. This May, however, we hope to stand 400 candidates.

We are serious about putting together a stable coalition, rooted in the organisations and communities of working-class people, that re-popularises a socialist alternative.

Building a "network" that does not electorally challenge politicians, who only differ by the speed at which pain should be imposed on ordinary people, is simply not good enough.

Dave Nellist
Chair, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, London E1

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Lobby of Bristol CIty Council: Stand up against £35m of cuts in Bristol!

Join the lobby tomorrow from 5pm at the Council House
George Ferguson's proposed budget will mean:
  • -330 job cuts, including around 100 compulsory redundancies
  • -Attacks on children's centres
  • -Cuts to community transport
  • -Confirming the closure of care homes and day care centres
  • -32 fewer PCSOs
  • -More council houses lying empty
  • -More services lost to unaccountable, profit-hungry private companies
  • -Worsening services across the board
  • -No new swimming pool and recycling centre that were promised
And to add a final kick in the teeth we're expected to pay 2% more council tax for the privilege!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

PCS: Fighting the austerity agenda - 'Action gets results'

By John McInally, Vice President, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)


The coalition government's austerity programme is being increasingly exposed as a disaster for all but the business and banking elite.

Tory strategists now assume theirs will be a one-term government. That is one reason for their scorched earth policy.

They know that if Labour is elected, its embrace of austerity policies will mean a 'safe pair of hands'.

The civil service is again in the firing line. A leaked letter from the Cabinet Office says: "If the reforms are implemented, the Civil Service of the future will be smaller, flatter, more unified, more digital, more accountable for delivery, more capable, better managed, and ultimately - more fun to work for".

This management-speak gibberish cannot conceal the real intention - to cherry-pick what services can be squeezed for profit and discard the rest.

Everything will be up for attack according to ministers, including annual and flexi leave, sick pay, mobility, probation, discipline and grievance procedures, as well as travel and expenses and trade union facilities.

Ministers, such as multi-millionaire Francis Maude, recognise that PCS's unwavering policy of 'No Cuts No Privatisation' has been at the heart of organised resistance to their austerity policies.

PCS never accepted the 'need' for austerity and its campaign for an alternative based on tax justice, investment and job creation, derided as deficit denial, exposes the insanity of the market.

That is why the left-led PCS leadership is seen as public enemy No 1 by the government.

Attack on union organisation

The Tories are wrong if they think cutting trade union facilities to below the statutory minimum will mean activists and members will let them destroy jobs, living standards and services. These attacks will breed a new, more determined generation of trade union activists.

These attacks, including attacks on the health service and other areas of the public sector, are only possible because of the abject crisis of leadership in the labour and trade union movement.

Ex-TUC general secretary Brendan Barber has retired. He's off to enjoy his huge pension and pay-off while the millions of members he once sold out have had their pension rights stolen.

After being pressured, not least by PCS, into 'leading' the magnificent two-million strong public sector strike on 30 November last year Barber, in virtual open collusion with Tory minister, Francis Maude, tried to strangle the fight-back by 'selling' the so-called Heads of Agreement. This was instead of organising further action.

At the TUC in September 2012, unions voted for joint coordinated action and also to discuss the "practicalities" of calling a general strike.

Yet Barber, perhaps with an eye to future ennoblement, on the morning of the debate told the media a general strike wouldn't happen.

PCS has always argued, most recently by president Janice Godrich at the TUC general council before Christmas, the most effective way to defeat the government's austerity policies is by joint coordinated action.

PCS will do everything in its power to build the widest possible coalition across public and private sector unions to oppose the austerity programme, including recently writing to all unions.

We are flexible about plans to coordinate industrial action. But we cannot wait while these attacks on terms and conditions go ahead.

PCS will not stand back and allow the government to steal members' rights and continue yet another year of pay cuts.

Some members are now facing a fourth year of pay freezes and living standards have fallen by an average of £1,200.

If this is not challenged then the government will think it can make it the norm for the next decade or more. This issue is the best opportunity to build coordinated action across the public sector.

PCS would far rather negotiate but will ballot members in February if the government refuses our request for talks.

The ballot will cover jobs, pensions, privatisation and all the issues covered by the previous national ballot.

But it will also focus sharply on the assault on terms and conditions and pay. The ballot would be for discontinuous strike action and discontinuous action short of a strike. If the Tories think PCS are contemplating "protest" action they can think again.

They should understand now we will respond by organising the most effective programme of disruptive action the civil service has ever seen.

A vital part of PCS's response will be ongoing and developing disputes in the departmental groups. These will be coordinated by the national union.

Major concessions, including increased staffing, have already been won by the union. PCS members in the Home Office, Driving Standards Agency and HMRC have all won concessions.

DWP members have also taken action and won significant gains in the contact centre dispute and the long-running Merseyside dispute.

DWP members have voted by 2:1 in opposition to compulsory redundancy notices being issued.

Members in other public sector unions whose members also face attacks, will wonder why their leaders are not organising action.

TUC unions have been asked to set out their views on the "practicalities" of a general strike, from the motion moved by the prison officer's union POA and passed by TUC Congress. The responses of some 'leaders' are entirely predictable - they won't be supporting a general strike anytime soon, how could they ever explain that to Ed Miliband and Ed Balls?

Every union in the TUC has a current or potential dispute with their employer on jobs, pay or other issues such as privatisation. All that is required is for the TUC to call these unions together and name the day.

Whatever the leadership of the TUC decides at its next meeting, the demand for a general strike will not go away.

Most serious trade union activists and members now know a 24-hour general strike is the most effective way to start to take on this government.

Trade union leaders who are serious about organising action in a "coalition of the willing" should discuss coordinating their ballots - as was done for the N30 pension strike last year.

Attacks are increasing. But the resistance against austerity is also. The cowardly role of right-wing trade union leaders will be sharply exposed.

PCS's fighting, campaigning leadership, along with its battle-hardened activists and members, will face the government attacks by fighting back. Campaigning works and action gets results.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Bristol protest tomorrow: Solidarity with Anti-Fascism in Greece

Anti-Fascist Protest in Bristol

Assemble at 2pm

The Fountains, Bristol City Centre

A protest has been called tomorrow in solidarity with that taking place in Athens and other European cities in response to the rise of the Golden Dawn and other nationalist, xenophobic and far-right groups across the continent. Details on the above Facebook page. Please also see the following article charting the rise of the Golden Dawn and the menace they pose in Greece. The article first appeared in English in Issue 164 of Socialism Today, journal of the Socialist Party of England & Wales:

The menace of Golden Dawn

Greece has a proud anti-fascist history and yet, in 2012, a neo-fascist party, Golden Dawn, won 7% of the vote (over 400,000 votes), and 18 members of parliament. Even in villages that had been wiped out by the Nazis in the second world war, such as Distomo and Kalavryta, Golden Dawn averaged 6%. Why is this happening? Can it be stopped, and how? Below are extracts from articles byXekinima (CWI in Greece), collated and translated for Socialism Today by AMALIA LOIZIDOU.

GOLDEN DAWN IS a neo-fascist party, a gang of thugs and criminals. Their leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, has a criminal record, most notably for planting bombs in cinemas that showed left-wing films. Recently, it was revealed that he is the co-owner of a hotel that operates as a brothel. Other members of Golden Dawn’s leadership have also been convicted for criminal offenses. Currently, there are court cases on-going against four of its MPs.

Many commentators expected Golden Dawn to moderate its public violence upon entering parliament. In fact, its hooligan behaviour has increased, with 63 attacks within two months. It followed up its electoral success with a near-fatal arson attack on an abandoned factory used as a refuge for immigrants in Patras. There are daily reports of attacks against immigrants and anti-fascist activists. In parliamentary speeches, Golden Dawn MPs have threatened school student occupations. Its members have leafleted gay bars with the sinister threat ‘you are next’.

Even the international media were forced to take notice when Golden Dawn members attacked a theatre cast and audience of a play it judged to be blasphemous. In an echo of the 1930s they have injured members of left parties and organisations during activities to build for the last 48-hour strike (6/7 November). This follows on from the infamous scenes of Golden Dawn spokesman, Elias Kasidiaris, physically attacking Rena Dourou, a woman candidate for the Syriza radical left coalition party, and Liana Kanelli, a female MP for the KKE (Communist Party), live on TV.
Turning point

THE TURNING POINT for Golden Dawn, however, was not the most recent general elections in May and June. It was the municipal elections in Athens in 2010. Its leader, Michaloliakos, was elected as a councilor with 5.27% of the vote – in contrast to the 0.51% it got in the 2009 national elections. This gave Golden Dawn a certain legitimacy in the eyes of some Greeks by changing the image they had of being merely a marginalised group of extremist thugs.

Undoubtedly, the desperate social and economic situation in Greece has fuelled the rise of Golden Dawn. But the crisis alone does not entirely explain its sudden growth. It is also necessary to understand the tactics that Golden Dawn has used and the failings of mainstream and left parties to offer a way out of the crisis. As long as there are absolutely deprived areas with massive poverty and unemployment then problems will arise in relation to criminality and general social breakdown. In these conditions, Golden Dawn and fascism in general have a golden opportunity to rise.

Golden Dawn’s electoral success in 2010 was the result of consistent local campaigns it had launched in the deprived neighbourhoods. Whose fault is it, they endlessly asked, that these areas are deprived? Whose fault is it that there is such extreme poverty, unemployment, criminality, and no hope for the future? Its answer, of course, is to blame immigrants and foreigners, not the big-business bosses or capitalists. On the basis of this propaganda, Golden Dawn intervened in schools. It went petitioning. It went door to door and organised demonstrations. This was the way it built its electoral profile and recruited supporters.
Anti-austerity rhetoric

GOLDEN DAWN HAS also been aided in its rise by the use of anti-austerity rhetoric. In Greece, support for the far-right over the past few years was expressed in a party called LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally). But LAOS voted in favour of the first memorandum of cut-backs dictated by the troika – the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund. It also participated in the coalition government of the appointed technocrat prime minister, Lucas Papademos (in office from November 2011 to May 2012). Following this, LAOS was seen as an ally of the troika and on the side of the memorandum. As a result, it plunged into crisis and lost out to Golden Dawn. The more traditional far-right currents moved towards Golden Dawn as the ‘most authentic’ version of Greek nationalism.

Golden Dawn clearly understood that allowing the left to monopolise the anti-austerity movement would give it a huge advantage in the battles for hearts and minds. Positioning itself against the memorandum meant being on the side of the massive anti-austerity current that is developing within Greek society. This is how the Golden Dawn had the chance to have, according to its own website, its "most militant sections acting in the, until now, ‘red areas’."

Most of its supporters are young people who have nothing left to hope for. Over half of the youth in Greece are currently unemployed. Those in employment mostly work in horrible conditions, in precarious jobs and on extremely low wages. Golden Dawn had its best results among students and youth (9.5%), farmers (9.3%) and unemployed (9.1%). It is seen as providing easy answers to their problems – blaming immigrants – and as a party that is against corrupt politicians.

Yet, despite its boasts, Golden Dawn has not even touched a hair of any government politician, bankers, etc. The only ones its members threaten, and have physically attacked, are politicians of the left parties. Alarmingly, one out of every two police officers voted for Golden Dawn. It is widely known that the Greek police, especially the riot police (MAT), have close relationships with Golden Dawn. Recently published documents prove this. This is illustrated by the fact that when Golden Dawn members are on the streets they do not get attacked by the police like other demonstrators. On the contrary, they are being protected by the MAT.

Golden Dawn’s obvious slogans are ‘foreigners out’ and ‘Greece for the Greeks’. It also proclaims ‘Golden Dawn against everyone’. That slogan should really be ‘Golden Dawn against anyone that fights back’. The rest – ship-owners, big business, and capitalism in general – have nothing to fear. In parliament, Golden Dawn has backed increased tax relief for the ship-owners while, in Athens, it allocated publicly-owned municipal parking for use by private companies. Many other similar examples could be listed.

Last spring, Golden Dawn members provoked media workers by circling their demonstration on scooters, insulting the workers, giving Nazi salutes, and making obscene gestures. On 7 November in Volos, they were waiting outside of their offices for the participants of the general strike demo, holding clubs in their hands. On this occasion the demo was too big for them to be able to attack it. They also threatened teachers’ union officials because of their support for anti-fascist action.

This also has a theoretical expression. In a number of Golden Dawn website articles it is made clear that it is against strikes on the grounds that strikes create "hatred among fellow Greeks". It has declared publicly that it opposes specific strikes in specific workplaces, factories, etc. Its dominant theme is that all Greeks are of the same nation, blood and race – not that there are poor and rich, workers and bosses, oppressed and oppressors. According to Golden Dawn, therefore, Greeks must sit tight because, when they strike or demonstrate, they "serve the division that the system wants". This position is not at all different from the government’s and the bosses’, of the system and the establishment.

The clearest proof for all of the above is the consistent absence of the Golden Dawn from the mobilisations of the workers’ and youth over the past two-and-a-half years, in all the general strikes, massive demonstrations, occupations of the squares, etc.
Refugees, immigrants and ultra-nationalism

GOLDEN DAWN’S ultra-nationalism finds its expression in a virulent and xenophobic campaign against refugees and immigrants, demanding their complete removal from Greece. It claims that this is the only way to solve unemployment, poverty and criminality. Golden Dawn tries to present itself as a solution to these problems in an utterly racist fashion. For example, it accompanies old ladies to cashpoints and to the banks to collect their pensions offering them ‘protection’ against so-called ‘foreign thugs’. Yet, over the last two years, unemployment has tripled without a respective increase in the number of immigrants and refugees. In fact, many have sought a better life elsewhere.

Golden Dawn says: "Big problems demand extreme solutions. A revolutionary vanguard is necessary to destroy the rotten political establishment. This vanguard, after the disappearance of the so-called ‘revolutionary left’, can only be nationalist". Its demagogy is full of nationalism, with scenarios denouncing ‘traitors’ and ‘conspiracies against the nation’. The irony is that Greek capitalism (the ruling class) has already compromised with the neo-colonialism of the troika and its lenders. This is not unique to Greek capitalism, as it is a central characteristic of the way global capitalism functions. The weaker bourgeois classes historically survived by choosing more powerful bourgeois classes as their ‘protectors’.

Golden Dawn’s ‘revolution’, and its view of the ‘destruction’ of the establishment, sees no role for the millions of workers, oppressed and young people. It sees it as the work of the ‘nationalist vanguard’, which will impose the model of Mussolini, Hitler and the junta of the colonels, which ruled Greece from 1967-74. In reality, the role of Golden Dawn in the event of counter-revolution, would be as a deadly auxiliary to the military and other reactionary state forces.

In relation to the central question of the Greek crisis and austerity, Golden Dawn’s position really is for a renegotiation of the memorandum. It does not call for a repudiation of the debt because it does not want to clash with Greek capital, which it considers as the locomotive of the economy. Greek capital, for its part, does not want to and cannot clash with its bosses in Germany, the EU, the USA, etc.
Failure of the left

THE RISE OF Golden Dawn – and, generally, of the rise of racism, nationalism, the far-right and neo-fascism throughout Europe and elsewhere – is also the result of the failure of the left to respond to the urgent needs of the workers in the worst crisis of capitalism in a generation and the consequent defeats of the movement.

In Greece there was an underestimation of Golden Dawn and the dangers it represented. The left often merely denounced violent attacks, pointing at the historic experience of fascism, or limited itself to a narrow ‘humanitarian’ and not at all class-based and internationalist understanding of immigration.

Additionally, the left’s political absence in the deprived neighbourhoods left a vacuum to be filled by Golden Dawn, which had a consistent presence and daily activity in those areas. There was also a superficial belief that a demonstration through those neighbourhoods would be enough to ‘exile’ Golden Dawn from the area.

Most of all there was a refusal of the major forces of the left to unite and create common residents’ committees of both Greek and immigrants, which would develop a plan on how to face their common issues. The combined power of the different left parties and organisations was never used to develop initiatives and actions that would unite the workers and youth, including the refugees and immigrants, of these areas.
How can the Golden Dawn be stopped?

FOR MANY YEARS Xekinima (CWI in Greece) has been active around anti-racism and anti-fascism. It called for a united front of the left, the trade unions, and the movement against Golden Dawn even before it managed to establish itself as a party with elected representatives. The situation today is even more serious. What is needed is a new big anti-fascist effort. The united participation and common action of the left is crucial. Xekinima has repeatedly called for this with concrete proposals, before the last elections and the huge electoral rise of the Golden Dawn.

After the elections, Xekinima put forward the following steps to make this a reality: the creation of anti-fascist committees in every neighbourhood, workplace, school and university; the creation of self-defence groups in areas which have become dangerous for left and anti-fascist activists; for the campaign to be systematic to counteract the neo-fascists’ daily propaganda within the neighbourhoods; and the need for Greeks and immigrants to unite in a common struggle in order to tackle their common problems.

Xekinima also proposes a motion in the trade unions calling for members of neo-fascist organisations, especially Golden Dawn, to be barred from membership. This became a tradition after the fall of the junta in the 1970s, both in the workplaces and student unions. It is important that such decisions are taken in the union branches, in order to protect the workers’ struggles that are developing and that will inevitably rise in the future.

A number of anti-fascist committees are being set up in different areas of Athens and other cities. Xekinima has taken the initiative for the creation of some of these committees. It is noticeable that local activists from different organisations are endorsing this effort. Additionally, the role that the teachers’ union has played in a number of areas is also significant, including taking the decision, officially, to take up the issue of anti-fascism in the schools and with students.

Unfortunately, the main left parties (Syriza and the KKE) have not responded to this danger urgently enough. The KKE is tackling this issue with its usual sectarian approach. Syriza had mentioned the need for anti-fascist action but without any organised initiatives, apart from those taken by some of its components separately. However Syriza’s central secretariat has recently changed its stand and is now in favour of anti-fascist committees.

In addition, there are other smaller left organisations that either do not comprehend the importance of anti-fascist struggle or, when they do participate, try to hijack them or function in such a way that they obstruct the movement instead of helping it (such as the Greek SWP).

Historically, fascism has found fertile ground to grow in times of austerity, mass poverty and unemployment. This is why it is crucial to combine our programme and tactics in relation to anti-fascist action with a programme against cuts and austerity, and against the core of this problem which is systemic. The problem, in other words, is capitalism. Capitalism, as a last resort, will again turn to a dictatorial regime to preserve itself. The capitalists will not hand over power to fascistic forces like Golden Dawn, but they will use them as an auxiliary to the military, riot police, etc, as a lethal weapon against the workers’ organisations. The working class in Greece is far from being defeated, but political mistakes can lead to defeats, as in Germany in the past. That is why the above are very important developments.

Firstly, the left in Greece must patiently explain the phenomenon of migration. Whose fault is it that there are deprived areas with poverty and homeless immigrants? It needs to explain why this phenomenon will not stop as long as there is poverty, hunger and wars. If done correctly, such an explanation can even attract sections of society that have been affected by Golden Dawn’s propaganda. Besides, Greece is a country whose population in the past had migrated in waves, and whose youth is again leaving (or trying to) to go abroad because of the crisis.

However, it is also crucial to have a socialist programme in the agenda. It is necessary to explain persistently and patiently who is to be blamed for the crisis and austerity. The real positions of Golden Dawn have to be exposed consistently. It is not against the memorandum, as it tries to present itself, but against workers’ mobilisations and the movement of resistance.

It is necessary also to oppose all cuts and austerity, to demand money for the needs of society and not for the bankers. A state needs to be organised in a way that drug and people trafficking networks are punished instead of the victims, a justice system that will also punish all police officers who collaborate in racist acts, as well as the neo-fascists. All of these must be linked with the need to develop a planned, democratically controlled economy on the basis of the needs of the big majority of the population and not a handful of families and big multinationals.

Greeks should refuse to pay the debt. Then they should move to the nationalisation of the banking system and all strategic units and big businesses, under democratic workers’ control with absolute transparency. Such a solution would act as an inspiration to other workers across Europe struggling against austerity. It would be a beginning to establishing a socialist confederation of Europe which will put an end to the nightmarish existence of a capitalist Europe united only by poverty and unemployment.

Video: Solidarity with Irish HMV workers’ occupation

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

BADACA: Fightback Against Ferguson's Cuts

BADACA Circular:

A rare additional email from BADACA because we need your help to build the fightback against Ferguson's Cuts - £35 million of cuts including up to 100 compulsory redundancies.

We want you to join in:

Lobby Of Cabinet Meeting - Thursday 24th January. Meet outside the Council House from 5pm. Cabinet meeting starts at 6pm. Bring banners, placards & friends. Facebook here.

Stalls – we plan to run street stalls in as many parts of city as possible. If you can help with this please email as soon as possible and let us know where and when you could help.

We have only a few weeks to build a fightback against these cuts. Please do help if you can. Please pass this information on to anyone else you know who may be interested.

The full details of the proposed cuts are on the BADACA website here. These include:

  • access to Children Centres drastically reduced with the loss of 55 jobs
  • funding of community transport to be slashed
  • the new East Bristol swimming pool to be scrapped
  • the programme of closure of care homes and day centres for the elderly and vulnerable endorsed
  • In the words of the Evening Post, it is planned to 'squeeze better value out of commercial contracts for home care provision'. The council's own service was privatised resulting in a lowering of standards. It is now likely to deteriorate further.
  • And the Green Party's reward for giving their support to these cuts is – the scrapping of Hartcliffe’s proposed new recycling centre!
And of course Council Tax will be increased by 2% at exactly the time when many people, in and out of work, will find their benefits cut.

If you want more information about any of the above, email

Monday, 14 January 2013

Crisis in the SWP: Socialist Party material

Please see the above links for Socialist Party material on the current and previous crises inside the Socialist Workers Party of Britain including critiques of popular frontism, state-capitalism, a history of their method and ideas and chapters from Peter Taaffe's 2008 booklet - Socialism and Left Unity: A critique of the Socialist Workers Party

Honda to cut 800 jobs in Swindon

From the BBC:
"Honda is planning to cut 800 jobs at its Swindon plant, blaming weak demand across Europe. The Japanese carmaker, which began manufacturing there in 1992, has been hard hit by the eurozone crisis."

The Socialist Party and National Shop Stewards Network offer pull support to those workers at risk and will do everything possible to stop this offensive against the jobs of working people. More news will follow.

India: Rage against rape

"This system’s mind-set perpetuates hatred against women and disregards the fundamental right of women for freedom"

By New Socialist Alternative (CWI India)

Protests have broken out across India following the gang rape of a young women on a bus in Delhi which are now likely to continue following the victim’s tragic death. These protests, and the initial brutal attacks on protestors in Delhi, have brought to the fore the questions not just of women’s safety and rights but also of police and political corruption and oppression rooted in both India’s feudal legacy and modern capitalist development. Following this link you will find a statement which New Socialist Alternative, CWI supporters in India, has produced.

Trotsky on Democratic Centralism

A further contribution to the discussion on the internal relations of a socialist organisation.




Leon Trotsky

On Democratic Centralism
and the Regime


From a US Internal Bulletin in December 1937, prior to the formation the the SWP (US).

To the Editors
of Socialist Appeal (USA)
During the past months I have received letters in regard to the inner regime of a revolutionary party from several apparently young comrades, unknown to me. Some of these letters complain about the “lack of democracy” in your organisation, about the domineering of the “leaders” and the like.
Individual comrades ask me to give a “clear and exact formula on democratic centralism” which would preclude false interpretations. It is not easy to answer these letters. Not one of my correspondents even attempts to demonstrate clearly and concretely with actual examples exactly wherein lies the violation of democracy.
On the other hand, insofar as I, a bystander, can judge on the basis of your newspaper and your bulletins, the discussion in your organisation is being conducted with full freedom. The bulletins are filled chiefly by representatives of a tiny minority. I have been told the same holds true of your discussion meetings. The decisions are not yet carried out. Evidently they will be carried through at a freely elected conference. In what then could the violations of democracy have been manifested? This is hard to understand.
Sometimes, to judge by the tones of the letters, ie., in the main instance by the formlessness of the grievances, it seems to be that the complainers are simply dissatisfied with the fact that in spite of the existing democracy, they prove to be in a tiny minority. Through my own experience I know that this is unpleasant. But wherein is there any violation of democracy?
Neither do I think that I can give such a formula on democratic centralism that “once and for all” would eliminate misunderstandings and false interpretations. A party is an active organism. It develops in the struggle with outside obstacles and inner contradictions.
The malignant decomposition of the Second and Third Internationals, under severe conditions of the imperialist epoch, creates for the Fourth International difficulties unprecedented in history. One cannot overcome them with some sort of magic formula. The regime of a party does not fall ready made from the sky but is formed gradually in struggle. A political line predominates over the regime. First of all, it is necessary to define strategic problems and tactical methods correctly in order to solve them. The organisational forms should correspond to the strategy and the tactic.
Only a correct policy can guarantee a healthy party regime. This, it is understood, does not mean that the development of the party does not realise organisational problems as such. But it means that the formula for democratic centralism must inevitably find a different expression in the parties of different countries and in different stages of development of one and the same party.
Democracy and centralism do not at all find themselves in an invariable ratio to one another. Everything depends on the concrete circumstances, on the political situation in the country, on the strength of the party and its experience, on the general level of its members, on the authority the leadership has succeeded in winning. Before a conference, when the problem is one of formulating a political line for the next period, democracy triumphs over centralism.
When the problem is political action, centralism subordinates democracy to itself. Democracy again asserts its rights when the party feels the need to examine critically its own actions. The equilibrium between democracy and centralism establishes itself in the actual struggle, at moments it is violated and then again re-established. The maturity of each member of the party expresses itself particularly in the fact that he does not demand from the party regime more than it can give. The person who defines his attitude to the party by the individual fillips that he gets on the nose is a poor revolutionist.
It is necessary, of course, to fight against every individual mistake of the leadership, every injustice, and the like. But it is necessary to assess these “injustices” and “mistakes” not in themselves but in connection with the general development of the party both on a national and international scale.
A correct judgement and a feeling for proportion in politics is an extremely important thing. The person who has propensities for making a mountain out of a mole hill can do much harm to himself and to the party. The misfortune of such people as Oehler, Field, Weisbord, and others consists in their lack of feeling for proportion.
At the moment there are not a few half-revolutionists, tired out by defeats, fearing difficulties, aged young men who have more doubts and pretensions than will to struggle. Instead of seriously analysing political questions in essence, such individuals seek panaceas, on every occasion complain about the “regime”, demand wonders from the leadership, or try to muffle their inner scepticism by ultra-left prattling.
I fear that revolutionists will not be made out of such elements, unless they take themselves in hand. I do not doubt, on the other hand, that the young generation of workers will be capable of evaluating the programmatic and strategical content of the Fourth International according to merit and will rally to its banner in ever greater numbers.
Each real revolutionist who notes down the blunders of the party regime should first of all say to himself: “We must bring into the party a dozen new workers!” The young workers will call the gentlemen-sceptics, grievance-mongers, and pessimists to order. Only along such a road will a strong healthy party regime be established in the sections of the Fourth International.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Conduct and Party membership

The recent allegations of misconduct within the Socialist Workers Party (UK) raise a number of questions of what is unacceptable/acceptable behaviour for members of a socialist organisation. How do parties deal with the actions of its members? Do such organisations have obligations to the courts and the State, if its members are alleged to have transgressed the law? Are socialist organisations equipped to rule on legality, or only obliged to enforce it norms and rules?

Below is an extract from a report given to a delegated conference of the SWP(US) in August 1977, as a contribution to such a discussion.


Excerpt from “Political Committee report on Control Commission recommendations” report adopted by SWP National Convention, August 13, 1977

During the last year, the Political Committee has taken action on three recommendations from the Control Commission. Two of these recommendations involved cases of violence in the movement and the third involved a review of our security policy on the use of illegal drugs…

This report is not a report from the Control Commission. It is a report from the Political Committee to the convention on some general conclusions on membership norms the party must enforce. These are conclusions we came to in the course of discussing these specific cases….

Comrades have in their delegate kits the reports from the Control Commission on its investigation involving two cases of violence by one comrade against another. The individuals in both cases have resigned from the party and there are no formal proposals for discipline or appeals before us. The purpose of this report is not to review these cases, but to summarize the conclusions on membership norms reached by the Political Committee as a result of the cases.

The conclusions we are presenting here are not new. They do not deal with acts that were previously condoned by our movement and that we now condemn. Rather they represent a more explicit and more clearly defined explanation of what we mean when we say that violence within the movement is incompatible with membership of the Socialist Workers Party.

In investigating the two cases of violence, the Control Commission found that some comrades, who had not had to deal with .and think out this question before, had too narrow a view of what is included. It was in helping these comrades think out that question that the Political Committee divided the question of unacceptable violence in the movement into 4 categories….
(The first category was undisciplined free lancing in combat situations in the class struggle –MA)

The second category is the use of violence to settle differences or disagreements in the party. Any kind of violence between comrades totally cuts across democratic discussion and the frank and open exchange of ideas- the bedrock of party discipline. We are a democratic-centralist organization, meaning democracy within the party in reaching decisions and centralism and discipline in action. If physical intimidation is introduced among comrades, democracy becomes meaningless. You can’t have a democratic discussion if you think someone is going to punch you if you disagree with them. Intimidation, not an encouragement to discuss, becomes a creeping cancer. It ultimately destroys confidence in each other and in the party, and decisions are not arrived at democratically…

There is seldom any confusion about the use of violence to settle political differences, but what happens when we are dealing with personal situations between comrades? This is the third category- the use of violence between comrades in a personal or ‘family’ framework.

The Control Commission reported to the Political Committee that some comrades thought violence ‘within the family’- say, between two comrades who live together- was an exception to our policy against violence within the movement. Maybe, some comrades thought, that’s just a personal matter, a private affair, and not the business of the party.

In the discussions we had in the Political Committee about this, it became clear to us that violence between comrades was never a ‘personal matter’. Any violence between comrades, whether personal or political, introduces physical intimidation and undermines party democracy. If you feel safe on the branch floor, but think that under the guise of a ‘personal or private matter’ you might get the stuffing beat out of you at home- your democratic rights are not exactly being protected.

But, is violence between comrades at home, in private, beyond the pale of party concern? We have a long established norm in our party that the party does not snoop or pry into the personal lives of comrades. The party doesn’t try to dictate the hobbies, forms of relaxation, or dress of comrades. It doesn’t tell people who to be friends with, or who to live with or not live with. This is a norm jealously protected, I’m sure, by the entire membership.

The Political Committee thought it important to make it crystal clear that enforcing proscription against violence between comrades in ‘personal’ or ‘private’ matters as incompatible with membership is not a step back from our norm of not interfering in the personal lives of comrades.

In fact, over the past decade, if anything, the party has moved in the opposite direction. Because of the youth radicalization, the rise of Black Nationalism, the women’s liberation movement, and the gay liberation movement, there has been an acceleration of changing attitudes in the working class as a whole. The party, too, has been affected. There’s never been less than today to stick its nose in comrades’ private and personal affairs.

Of course, joining the party in and of itself affects your whole life. To belong to the party, for instance, you have to pay dues- that affects the amount of money you have for your personal life. You have to actively build the party- that affects the amount of time you have for your personal life. Loyalty to the party means you can’t violate party decisions- like our security policy (on illegal drugs- MA)- even in the privacy of your own home.

The rule against violence- in the same way- has nothing to do with snooping into comrades’ personal lives. It is about protecting the democratic rights of party members.

The fourth category examined by the Political Committee is the use of violence by men against women, including wife beating, which has almost epidemic proportions in capitalist society as a whole.

Beating up on women- whether the woman is a wife, companion, whether she is in the party or not, whether in public or in private, is incompatible with membership in the Socialist Workers Party.

The increasing consciousness of women about this issue, a product of the women’s movement, has, in the last few years, brought this issue into public prominence. And there’s growing consciousness that wife-beating is one of the most brutal, and yet widespread, forms of the sexist treatment of women…

How would it look in the women’s movement if the party said “comrade x is a fine comrade, a party builder, and a supporter of our program- the fact that he goes home and beats his wife up is no concern of ours”?

The principle is simple and obvious if we think about it. The actions of our members cannot be so at variance with our program and what we are fighting for that it would make the party look hypocritical or cynical to the class whose confidence we must have in the titanic battles ahead. We cannot say one thing and do another and expect to win the confidence of our class…

As I said earlier, these positions are not new. These acts were never condoned by the party. But real experience in the party this year made us think through and clarify this question. It seemed clear to the Political Committee that this would have an educational value the party would appreciate; and this we wanted to put before the delegates for their approval our codification of the fact that:

1)     undisciplined free-lancing in combat situations;
2)     the use of violence to settle any kind of disagreements in the movement;
3)     the use of violence between comrades, even in a personal of ‘family’ situation; and
4)     any use of violence by men against women-

are all incompatible with membership in our party.

-Linda Jenness (Political Cttee)

Friday, 11 January 2013

Cuban Revolution

Joseph Hansen was a leader of the Socialist Workers Party (US), who wrote on the character of the Cuban Revolution.
His views are not those of The Socialist Party, but I post this for historical interest and in the spirit of open and fraternal democratic discussion that is characteristic of the party.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Democratic Centralism: The need for a party

In the light of ongoing events on the left, we link here to some material on the questions of organisation, party democracy and left unity that readers of our blog may find interesting, and we welcome debate around these issues.

Democratic Centralism by Peter Taaffe, 1996 -

Published in Militant Labour Members Bulletin No.16, 'A discussion on Democratic centralism', 18 March 1996.

This discussion took place in the UK section of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), which at that time went by the name Militant Labour. This discussion on democratic centralism was followed immediately by the discussion on the name of the party, which dominated the following four members' bulletins (17 - 20) during 1996. It led to the decision to change the name from Militant Labour to Socialist Party in early 1997.
The Class, The Party and the Leadership by Leon Trotsky, 1940 -

This article is an unfinished work written by Trotsky and first published in 1940. It nevertheless forms a very valuable text.

Unite the Union general secretary election

Unite the Union general secretary election
Socialist Party statement

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has decided to bring forward the next election for general secretary by almost three years.

Because of his age, realistically he would otherwise be a 'one-term' general secretary.

This move has been agreed after wide consultation on the left, including ourselves. Peter Taaffe and Rob Williams had a two-hour meeting with Len McCluskeywhere he asked for our party's endorsement of the steps he was preparing to take.

The Socialist Party has agreed to give him critical support. This is despite some political disagreement such as on Unite's continued support for New Labour.

This does not mean we will automatically endorse all decisions and actions of Len McCluskey and Unite's leadership.

We will argue for the need for Unite to break the link with New Labour, which has clearly indicated that, if it wins the next general election, will continue the present government's cuts.

Some, like Jerry Hicks, who has now declared that he will stand, and the Socialist Workers Party, have tried to argue that the early election is undemocratic and smacks of past sharp practice by right-wing ex-Amicus [one of the unions which merged to become Unite] general secretaries.

Some other activists, particularly from the ex-Amicus wing will have genuine concerns as well. But we have to frankly explain that it's not just a case of what is done but who does it and for what reasons.

Unlike with right-wing union leaders in the past or in the future, this election is not being brought forward in order to push Unite to the right but to consolidate the union for the left.

Providing the rank and file is strengthened, we believe that a victory for Len McCluskey can achieve this.

Ultimately the essential considerations are: what are the interests of Unite members, the left and the wider working-class?

Len McCluskey's leadership since 2010

The election of Len McCluskey in 2010 as the first general secretary of the merged union was a victory for the left in Unite and the wider trade union movement.

The Socialist Party supported his candidature rather than that of Jerry Hicks because we believed that Len was best placed to defeat the right wing.

A victory for the 'Simpsonite' [Derek Simpson, the previous Amicus general secretary] candidate Les Bayliss would have been a major setback for the left.

It would have meant Unite lining up with the other big unions, Unison and the GMB, along with the TUC bureaucracy against the smaller left unions.

Instead, Unite voted in favour of Resolution 5 at the 2012 TUC congress, supporting the idea of moving towards a general strike against austerity.

At the post-congress general council executive, Len McCluskey lined up with the likes of RMT general secretary Bob Crow to defeat the TUC leadership's attempt to effectively stop all talk of a general strike.
Unite flags - 2012 Oct 20th TUC demo, photo by Senan (Click to enlarge)

In apocalyptic words in 2010, Jerry Hicks warned that if he wasn't elected, it would be a disaster for the union and that it would never recover.

Actually, the huge potential of Unite has started to be realised under McCluskey's leadership. It is far from perfect.

In just two years in a union of up to 1.5 million members across 23 industrial sectors, with the history of the ex-Amicus unions, some of them right-wing, it would be an extremely difficult task under the best stewardship.

Unite is in some ways a mini TUC. It is four to five times the size of PCS. When this is considered, Jerry's words lacked a sense of proportion and perspective.

Despite Unite's weaknesses, there have been clear steps forward. There have been innumerable strikes by Unite members and some notable victories, even if partial and/or short-lived.

The Sparks, London bus workers, Paddy Brennan in Honda Swindon, and now the Doncaster Tesco drivers have all won some gains.

Many others from Unilever, Crown, Remploy and Amnesty, as well as public sector members in the pensions dispute have also engaged in action.

Len has emphasised that not once has he issued a repudiation letter to any Unite members taking unofficial action since becoming general secretary.

He repeated this in the national United Left meeting. He also immediately doubled strike pay to £30 per day.

In the public sector pensions dispute, Unite refused to sign up to the government's 'heads of agreement' and the union's members in the MOD and civil service sector took part in the 10 May strike alongside PCS and others, including Unite health workers.

However, this was under huge pressure from the health national sector committee. But this did show again that under McCluskey's leadership, the union can be pushed into taking action.

In local government, it has followed behind Unison and GMB as it regards itself as a minority union, which it is.

Therefore, unfortunately it didn't see its role as giving a lead and putting pressure on Unison in particular.

Left programme

We believe it is correct to give support to McCluskey, while we raise criticisms where necessary when we think the union hasn't gone far enough.

We will raise our programme during the election, for instance about making Unite a more democratic union, including the election of officers.

We must continue to place demands on Len McCluskey, particularly about the Labour Party and the need for a 24-hour general strike or at least mass coordinated strike action against the Con-Dem austerity onslaught.

On the Labour Party, we disagree with McCluskey's view that the party can be reclaimed. We instead pose the need for Unite to disaffiliate and work with other unions to create a new party for working class people.

At the national United Left meeting, Len said Unite would support Labour councillors expelled for opposing cuts.

He said he would be prepared to put to the union's executive before the next council elections that they give Labour leader Miliband an ultimatum that Labour doesn't stand against them.

He was well aware that this could change the whole relationship between Unite and Labour.

We also need to use the general secretary election to push Unite to lead the call for mass coordinated strike action, up to and including a 24-hour general strike.

This approach has helped prompt Len to state that Unite will ballot and take action alongside PCS on pay, which he says is the next focus for the struggle against the cuts.

Unite could put pressure on Unison and the GMB if it seriously links up with left unions such as PCS.

Unite's United Left has many weaknesses - it is still too much influenced by full-time officials and hasn't been able to attract enough fresh forces - but we still think that it represents the most forces of the organised left. We will continue to strive to build it and make it more democratic and accountable.

Under Len McCluskey's leadership it has been possible to open up the union and push back the forces of the right.

But we shouldn't write off the potential for the right to reassert itself if the union's leadership disappoints.

Instead of following our advice and coming into the United Left after the last general secretary election, Jerry Hicks has continued with his own 'Grassroots Left'.

But we don't believe that Jerry has proved capable of building the broad left alliance that would be essential to drive the union to the left, combat the bureaucracy and build across the wider trade union movement.

The re-election of Len McCluskey is an important step to consolidate the real gains that have been made, which can be the foundation for the union to move forward.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Russia: New attacks on LGBT community

By Igor Yashin, CWI Moscow


CWI member and LGBT rights activist, Igor Yashin, was arrested and jailed along with others protesting against anti-LGBT laws passed by the Russian parliament last November. Below, Igor describes what happened to him and other protesters on 19 November and the wider issues surrounding the new repressive legislation.
Around 15 people were arrested outside the State Duma (Russian Parliament) in Moscow on 19 December 2012. This was the day when the parliament was due to have the first reading of a law to ban so-called “homosexual propaganda amongst the under-aged”. The law, in reality, will restrict the rights and freedoms of the LGBT community, create a threat of the growth of homophobic prejudices and will create real difficulties for LGBT teenagers.

Russia has one of the highest levels of domestic violence and teenage suicides in the world. It is known that in the West that the suicide rate amongst LGBT teenagers is 3-4 times higher than for other youth, but in Russia such information is not even collected. Covering themselves in concerns for “morality”, the fraudulently elected Duma is trying to exploit the widespread prejudices in society for its own political gain and, in doing so, is completely ignoring the welfare of children and teenagers.

At the same time as passing this new law, the Duma are passing another that bans the adoption of Russian orphans by American families. Orphans in Russia suffer an unenviable fate, but the law-makers feel it necessary to take “revenge” against the US for passing the “Magnitskii law”, which takes action against Russian bureaucrats involved in corrupt activities. These orphan children are being used as pawns in the conflict between Putin and the West. The “patriots” from the Russian Communist Party voted almost completely for these new laws!

The new homophobic law is being pushed through by the Putin regime at the same time as a number of other anti-democratic and anti-social laws. The ruling elite are attempting to maintain their position in power in the face of mass protests.

At a regional level such laws have been passed even before December 2011’s parliamentary election and before the mass opposition protests started. Feeling its position weakened in society, the ruling United Russia party decided to exploit these prejudices for its own political aims.

Noticeably the homophobic law was passed by the regional legislature in St Petersburg, along with five other acts directed at the “protection” of children. But after the election, the Regional Governor rejected all of these laws, except for the one restricting LGBT rights.
Reactionary attacks

Reactionary attacks by the authorities continue. Members of the rock group Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison for a peaceful protest in a cathedral; the government is considering a new law to protect “the rights of believers”; censorship is being introduced to cover the internet and all the while corruption scandals in the government and at the top of the church hierarchy continue.

The negative effects of these new laws are already being felt in a number of regions. The laws themselves have been so badly written that they are practically unenforceable, but their very existence creates huge difficulties for LGBT organisations. People are simply afraid to support LGBT acts or speak openly about rights for LGBT for fear of punishment. There have also been open physical attacks on LGBT activists and on various cultural and social events on LGBT themes.

Even in Moscow, where, to date, no actual anti-LGBT law has yet been passed, the authorities refuse permission to LGBT activists to hold protests against the proposed new law. In their justification for refusing permission, they claim that the protests will “provoke a negative reaction in society” and are “provocative, causing moral harm to children and teenagers, offending religious and moral feelings and harming the human feelings of citizens”.

On Wednesday19 December 2012, CWI activists joined LGBT activists in an “individual picket” outside the State Duma (An individual picket is the only form of protest that does not need permission from the state and consists of one person holding a placard). Our placards read, “We don’t need homophobic laws, but free kinder-gardens, schools and hospitals” and “Homophobia is the enemy of workers – unite together against division, for democratic and social rights”. We stood for an hour and a half in the freezing cold taking it in turns to protest.

By 12.00 about 30 LGBT activists and supporters had gathered and to express their protest decided to organise a flash-mob, kissing on the steps of the State Duma. However, by this time, the pro-government ‘Russian orthodox activists’ started throwing rotten eggs at the protesters. To begin with, the police took no action and then they moved against the victims of the attack. I was arrested by the police just because I complained to them that they were taking no action against the attackers. As a result, 10 LGBT activists and 5 attackers were arrested for several hours.

We were kept in the police cells for 30 hours. Despite a powerful campaign of protest against our arrest only a few people were released after a few hours. They told us we were to be charged with “hooliganism” and faced up to 15 days in jail. Only the evening after our arrest were we allowed to see the charge sheet, which claimed we had been shouting and fighting!

Even the police at the station were unhappy and openly admitted that they did not want to keep us detained, but they had been phoned “from above” and that at each call, the authorities changed their minds about what to do with us. Only at the dead of night did they police release one of us, the journalist Elena Kostyuchenko, who is well known amongst other things for her courage and shocking reporting from Zhanaozen in the few days after the massacre there. On the 16th December Lena spoke at the demonstration in Moscow to commemorate the victims of the Zhanaozen massacre.

The day after our arrest they took us to court, by which time we and our lawyers had managed to gather over ten eye-witnesses and video material to back our case. However, Judge Borovkova, renowned for her willingness to sentence oppositionists to prison, simply refused to hear our case, referring to mistakes made by the police in filling out the charge sheets. We were sent back to the police station. Eventually our lawyers were able to reach agreement from the police that we should be released. We were each given a fine of 500 roubles (12 euros) for ‘hooliganism’ and after 30 hours we were set free.

On 22 January, the first reading of the bill will continue. LGBT activists and their supporters will once again be in opposition. For many LGBT activists it has become clear that the homophobic policies of the authorities are tied up completely to the economic and political crisis in the country. Therefore it is necessary to seek solidarity from any other groups that are currently struggling. Now more LGBT activists are turning up on the different social protests and in defence of other democratic rights. On this year’s May Day demonstration dozens of LGBT activists and feminists joined up with the CWI contingent carrying banners with social slogans and demands for equal rights.
Nikolai Kavkazskii - several months in the police cells

Repression against the opposition is hitting LGBT activists. One of the best known campaigners for LGBT rights, Nikolai Kavkazskii, has already spent several months in the police cells following arrests linked to 6 May mass demonstration, which was brutally attacked by the police. He was arrested just after returning from the CWI’s summer camp. Another LGBT activist has been forced to flee to Europe after it became clear his arrest was imminent.

Unfortunately anti-LGBT prejudices are widespread amongst the Russian Left and protest movement and are hampering their development. On 7 November (Revolution day) a number of “lefts” attacked one of the activists who were carrying a rainbow flag, claiming that “the LGBT movement is “bourgeois”. Ironically the activist who was attacked, a sympathiser of the CWI, was a young electrical worker who had just moved from the Russian far-east to Moscow in search of work. While these “lefts” worry about the presence of LGBT supporters, they have no complaints about the presence of large numbers of far-right nationalists on the same marches.

This incident however provoked a wide-scale discussion of homophobic and nationalist prejudices within the Left movement. Representatives of the independent trade unions have approached the LGBT to propose a joint struggle for equal rights.

Today it is not just the rights of the LGBT that are under threat but the rights and freedoms of the majority – of workers, students and pensioners. Today, as never before, we need to overcome the old prejudices so that we can be united in common struggle to gain our rights.

We therefore call on all LGBT organisations, activists and supporters to carry out acts of solidarity on 22 January in support of those struggling in Russia.