Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Solidarity with PCS Strike tomorrow - 20 March

Bristol Rally
Tony Benn House (Unite building), BS1 6AY.

Article by John McInally, Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) vice president, personal capacity

PCS members are preparing to launch our union's national industrial action campaign with a one-day strike on Budget Day, 20 March, when Chancellor Osborne will be announcing more cuts in the civil service and also on workers generally.

PCS members are aware of the scale of the attacks - job cuts, pay freezes, attacks on terms and conditions and trade union facilities, all of this to prepare the way for the mass privatisation of the civil service.

Our campaign will be effective and sustainable with the aim of causing maximum disruption to the employer to get them around the negotiating table.

It's unreasonable that they're not prepared to sit down and discuss the issues with us, preferring instead to press ahead with these unwarranted attacks.

PCS members are prepared to struggle and the government is wrong if it thinks it can attack us without determined resistance.

There will be a one-day strike on 20 March and a further half-day strike on 5 April which marks the end of the 2012/13 tax year - this walkout will begin a week of tax justice campaigning to highlight the £120 billion tax 'gap'.

Added impetus for the dispute will come from the announcement that all 281 tax enquiry offices in the country could close under new plans by the government, including 13 to be closed this year in the North of England.

Also, from 1 April, PCS members will have extra pension contributions imposed on them, while from the same date, millionaires are being given a tax cut.

Fighting austerity

On 20 March there will be rallies in cities up and down the country, where there will be speakers from other trade unions and campaign groups like Disabled People Against the Cuts and Black Triangle.

We want to make sure people know that yes, it's a strike against the attacks on our terms and conditions, our pay etc but it is also a strike against austerity and the failed programme of the government.

PCS particularly welcomes other unions' involvement. For example we welcome the strike of Unite and PCS members in the Homes and Communities Agency who have coordinated their strike for budget day.

As our general secretary Mark Serwotka told the pre-budget TUC rally: "We hope our strike action is successful but we're quite clear, our union is right to take action, but we all know if more of us take action together we have a better chance of winning ...

"On 26 June George Osborne will do another significant thing. He will announce his comprehensive spending review which will confirm the butchery of public spending for the next three years.

What a brilliant day that would be - that while he announces cuts in parliament - to see as many people as we can taking industrial action together, demonstrating together and protesting together. If we build that movement then we can turn our aspirations into reality."

Weekly meetings

Starting off as a one-day strike on 20 March and an overtime ban from 21 March, the union's national disputes committee will meet weekly. We will be calling further action at short notice.

We will implement work-to-rules throughout government departments. We will keep up the pressure on the employer until they are prepared to talk to us.

We will also be making sure that government ministers and senior managers get a warm PCS reception when they come to visit civil service offices.

For example on 13 March at a Ministry of Justice building in London, Cabinet Office minister Frances Maude didn't go through the front door.

He was driven around the back in his Jag with the blacked-out windows because there were 40 PCS members demonstrating outside.

He's going to have to get used to that because we're going to keep it up until he talks to us.

The union's departmental groups are looking at what action to call as well. There will be days of action with themes like equality, welfare, taxation and so on.

We're determined to keep the pressure up until the government is prepared to talk to us. Over the course of the past six months we've managed to win concessions in disputes within departmental groups.

The slogan: "Campaigning works, action gets results" is true. We'll be making sure that we build the action until they're prepared to talk to us.

Cyprus: Refuse to pay the ‘debt’!

Mass demos demand to end the government’s link to the Troika and to refuse to follow its dictats.

Interview with Athina Kariati, New Internationalist Left (CWI in Cyprus)

After months of ‘calm’ the capitalist debt crisis has resurfaced over the banking meltdown in Cyprus, sending financial markets into a spin. EU ministers and the newly elected right-wing Greek Cypriot president have demanded that small savers, ie Cypriot workers, pay €billions for a banking bailout.
But angry workers in Cyprus are refusing to accept these capitalist dictats, with Cypriot CWI members helping to organise mass protests outside parliament. Already, the government is making concessions.
The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales), spoke with Athina Kariati about what it requires to solve the crisis in the interests of the working class.

Who is responsible for the current financial crisis?

The European financial crisis is now at its sharpest here in Cyprus. The capitalist class is responsible for this crisis.
The economy in Cyprus was in relatively good shape compared to other EU countries but over the last 18 months the crisis in the banking sector has meant that the country is now facing bankruptcy.
The main problem is that the Cypriot banks invested in Greek bonds in order to make quick profits but because of the ‘haircut’ which Greek bondholders had to take this caused a massive problem of liquidity and the small economy of Cyprus has been unable to recapitalise the banks.
It is clear that the crisis is the fault of the banks not the public sector workers or the general population.

Monday, 18 March 2013

NUT and NASUWT call joint action

From: http://electmartin1.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/nut-nasuwt-joint-action-proposals-fall.html

Plans for joint action announced – but firmer action needed to protect teachers and education 

The announcement at today’s joint NUT/NASUWT Press Conference that plans are being put in place for joint strike action between the two main teaching unions, the NUT and NASUWT, will be welcomed by teachers who have been waiting since Christmas for national action to be called to oppose Gove’s plans to impose performance-related pay. However, as the details become clearer, we think that many members will feel, as we do, that these plans have to be strengthened if we are to successfully oppose Gove’s attacks on our pay, pensions and conditions.

A school-term lost without action being called

It was in early December that Michael Gove made his announcement that, under legislation to be imposed after Easter, fixed incremental pay scales will be abolished and all future pay-rises would be tied to performance. In addition, teachers moving to new posts face the risk of huge pay cuts as their existing points on the pay scale will no longer be protected. This huge attack will leave teachers’ livelihoods dependent on arbitrary judgements of ‘performance’ and on the health - or otherwise - of an individual school’s budget. As the history performance-pay has always shown, it will also have a deadening and demoralising affect on education as a whole. All of this comes on top of the ongoing attacks on teachers’ pensions and the relentless workload still being imposed on staff.

Given the scale of the attack, and the speed at which these plans were being imposed, a minority on the NUT National Executive, including ourselves, have argued that national strike action should be called THIS term - in time to try and persuade Gove to back-down before legislation was enacted. Regrettably, and despite contrary evidence from elections, surveys and most Union meetings, we have been told that members weren’t ready to support strike action, and certainly not unless the NASUWT took joint strike action too. Strikes have not been called for this term and nor has a serious enough campaign begun to explain the threats facing teachers’ pay in order to build for that action.

Can we fight off these attacks school-by-school?

This term’s delay means that legislation will now become law before unions have taken action. As a consequence, all schools will be expected to adopt new pay policies that link pay rises with performance by the summer.

Regrettably, instead of starting with unifying national action, the battle will now be starting with school-by-school struggles to persuade governors to adopt pay policies that circumvent most of Gove’s plans. Given where we are now having to start from, the plans announced today for the NUT and NASUWT to publicise a joint pay policy are correct. However (and we have not yet seen the details of the policy ourselves), even the best policy will not be able to protect teachers moving to other schools where governors have refused to guarantee to protect existing pay points. Short of winning withdrawal of Gove’s legislation, unions will therefore need to mount a battle that can persuade the vast majority of schools to adopt an acceptable pay policy. How should that be done?

The NUT and NASUWT have also announced today that the ‘Action Short of Strike Action’ (ASOSA) campaign, launched jointly in September over workload, observation protocols and appraisal policies, be extended to cover pay policies too. The threat of non-strike action, escalating to strike action if required, has succeeded in making gains in well-organised schools groups and Local Associations. However, even then, compromises over the finer details of observation policies were sometimes made in order to reach agreement. The same may well happen over pay policies. 

The real weakness of such a school-by-school action approach is that, faced with intransigent management at a school and/or Local Authority level, some teachers will not feel confident in taking isolated action. In addition, even the best-organised Association will struggle to have the capacity to monitor and support members across all the individual schools in their area. The danger will be that less strongly unionised schools become isolated and only a minority adopt acceptable pay policies.

In order to overcome this isolation, action will need to be co-ordinated across as many schools as possible and, where Local Authorities refuse to recommend acceptable policies, across the whole Association. However, this requires that both unions adopt a far more urgent approach to warning teachers about these pay threats and in encouraging ‘ASOSA’ than has been seen up to now. But the best way to overcome isolation, and to show both teachers and governors that unions are serious about opposing these pay attacks, is to launch a vigorous campaign of national strike action. This should be combined with a bold public campaign to explain how Gove’s plans threaten education.

These plans are not strong enough to defend teachers

In our view, the plans announced today for joint action do not show Michael Gove, our members or Heads and Governors that we are taking this battle as seriously as we need to be. The plans suggest that there will be no national strike action in the summer term, just the beginning of rolling regional action in one area, on 27 June in the North-West of England. The indications are that this should be followed by further regional strikes in the Autumn – but with no national strike action being called until nearer Christmas.

As in March 2012, when Martin, as a NUT National Executive member for Inner London, went all-out to help build a regional strike called in the capital city alone, we will work hard to build action that is called. However, then and today, many teachers will have understandable doubts about this proposed plan of action. Yes, regional action spreads out the ‘pain’ of pay deductions but, as London teachers questioned a year ago, will such a slowly unfolding regional action have sufficient impact?

Teachers are practical people. They will be prepared to put up with pay deductions if unions can show that this temporary loss is likely to achieve a victory that means that the long-term pay losses from the permanent imposition of Gove’s pay and pension robbery plans can be avoided. But the plans announced today are not yet up to the job. Both NUT and NASUWT members need to tell their Unions to go back and strengthen the proposed plan of joint action.

Unions should call national strike action next term

If, despite bullying from Ofsted and budgetary pressures, we are going to successfully persuade schools not to apply Gove’s wishes, then the planned action needs to be stepped up. If, and this is the only real guarantee of success, we are going to mount sufficient pressure on Gove to withdraw this legislation before the new rules lead to teachers’ pay progression being blocked from September 2014, then, again, a far more vigorous plan of action is needed.
Both unions need to raise their sights and shake off their timidity. We should have confidence that, when the scale of these attacks are explained to teachers, they will respond to a firm call to take national strike action. 

The NUT and NASUWT are right to call on the Secretary of State to meet with unions to discuss our demands over pay, pensions and workload and to suspend any implementation of his divisive performance-pay proposals.  But what are unions bringing to the table that is going to make Gove think again? Instead of starting with regional action, teaching unions should be calling national strike action next term, perhaps escalating from a one-day strike up to 48-hour strike action. That’s a program that would show that unions were deadly serious about defeating these attacks.

Defeating Gove or just influencing the General Election?

The problem facing teachers is that some of their union leaders, in both the NASUWT and NUT, are not confident about making a bold call to action. Some Executive members seem to be looking at the timescales for action in a very different way to us. We fear that some have wrongly concluded that unions cannot defeat the Coalition, and so think our campaign should be restricted essentially to localised campaigns over pay policies. In this scenario, wider strike action isn’t then really aimed at defeating Gove but, over a longer timescale, at influencing the outcome of the next General Election.

Firstly, that approach will leave many of our members suffering pay and pension losses, and ever greater bullying and workload thanks to performance-pay, before any General Election is called. Secondly, it’s clear that, whatever the result of that Election, we can’t rely on any of the main political parties to adopt policies that oppose the pro-cuts, pro-privatisation agenda that demands the imposition of performance-related pay. It’s a strategy that just postpones launching a serious battle, demobilising and demoralising our members – and risks serious defeat. Instead, that serious national struggle needs to be waged – and soon, before we run into a quagmire of local disputes.

This Government is not as strong as it seems. Instead of just hoping for the best from a future Labour Government, unions should be co-ordinating action now, rebuilding the momentum that has been lost since the co-ordinated national strikes of 2011, including building for a 24-hour General Strike that could really start to shake this Government off its present disastrous course.

NUT and NASUWT Conferences must call for a strengthened program of action

Teachers in both the NUT and NASUWT will be asking questions about the strengths and weaknesses of the plans announced today. There will be relief that a concrete plan of joint action has now been announced. However, we think many will fear, as we do, that the potential advantages of united action across both unions could be wasted if the joint program of action that is agreed upon is too weak to adequately defend members of either union.

Today’s Press Conference announced that joint rallies are being planned for April and May in a number of cities. Classroom teachers of both unions – and parents and trade unionists that might also be attending - need to be calling for a more vigorous campaign of action to defend teachers and education. But, in reality, it will be hard to change these plans unless delegates at the two unions’ Annual Conferences meeting this Easter have already voted to improve the plan announced today.

Of course, delegates will be urged to back the agreed plan and, particularly at the NASUWT Conference, that call to back the leadership will be influential. However, NUT Conference delegates need to make sure that a plan of action is agreed that is up to the task of defeating these attacks. If the NASUWT feel unable to call national strike action earlier than, say, November, then that must not stop the NUT Conference from deciding on additional actions besides those jointly agreed. 

There are other unions also calling for co-ordinated action at an earlier date. For example, at the TUC’s pre-Budget rally last week,PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka publicly called for unions to take co-ordinated national strike action jointly with the PCS on June 26. As a minimum, surely that is a request that the NUT should support - and call on the NASUWT to do the same?

After months when calls for ‘confidentiality’ about talks between the two unions have prevented full and open debate within the NUT about the action that needs to be taken, today’s announcement needs to be the start of an urgent discussion leading up to NUT Conference, not a plan that is just presented as one that delegates are expected to rubber-stamp over the Easter weekend.

The Local Associations National Action Campaign (LANAC) will be seeking to aid that debate and bring together delegates who wish to propose a strengthening amendment to these plans. A fringe meeting on the Saturday evening of Conference in Liverpool (March 30) will be held to see if delegates can agree a common proposal to put to a Priority Motion expected to be tabled after this week’s meeting of the NUT National Executive.

Teachers should urgently discuss today’s announcements and let their NUT Conference delegates know what they think Conference needs to agree if we are to defeat Gove’s poisonous pay plans.

Martin Powell-Davies, NUT National Executive member for Inner London

Peter Glover, NUT National Executive member for Cheshire / Merseyside

Video: Bristol Anti-Bedroom Tax protest

Monday, 11 March 2013

No more austerity and cuts! Fight for our future! Demo on Wednesday 13th 6pm

Wednesday 13th March, 18.00
The Fountains, Bristol City Centre

The current global crisis has affected workers, unemployed, students and pensioners all over Europe. The crisis has social, economic and political impacts: firm closures lead to millions of redundancies; more people are living below the poverty line deepening in such a way the gap between rich and poor. Rising poverty and unemployment and the socio-political developments of the last 30 years under neo-liberalism are likely to intensify divisions based on racial or ethnic difference within society and push down the legitimacy of the political institutions.

In order to confront the crisis, to restore the profit rate, to service the total debt and to rescue the banks (by huge bailouts) the governments in Europe applied certain policies. The European banks were extremely exposed to the national debts of the periphery. The bailout of the banks by the member states was important since the states switched the holding of sovereign bonds from the European banks to the European tax payers having as their main argument financial discipline and paying off the debt.

Especially in the periphery of the European Union the austerity measures and the budget cuts, under the guidelines of the ECB and the IMF deteriorated the situation and deepened the division between the core and periphery. Austerity measures, budget cuts, house evictions pushing down the salaries and the pensions, privatisations, raising the taxation for the poor, inflation and increasing the flexibility of the workers, led to more than 10,000 suicides in the last three years. 11% unemployment in the Euro zone, more than 25% of the people live below the poverty line and thousands of homeless people reflect the situation in Europe. This is the real character of the murderous EU!

However, this situation is also visible in the core of the EU transferred due to the characteristics of the EU and the character of the austerity policies. The conservative and liberal government coalition has already applied, in England, the 5 year Government Austerity Program (in order to reduce the national deficit) which aims at destroying the welfare state: huge education cuts and increase of tuition fees, huge cuts in the health and care system (the NHS is under huge attack), companies more interested in avoiding taxation than recruiting new people. That means no new jobs, no income increase and that the gap in society in terms of income is rising dramatically. In addition, in Bristol, the new mayor, the independent neo-liberal Ferguson applies more than 100 million pounds cuts of housing, transport and local care services.

On the 13th of March people all over Europe will mobilize against this situation. We should fight united against the austerity measures and paying off the debt in order to reduce inequalities, defend our social and economic rights and achieve social justice. In this struggle the unions should be on the front line by mobilizing the workers with strikes.

Against EU policies! Against police repression!
Against paying off the debt! Against austerity!
For our lives. For our future!
People over profits! We will not pay for your crisis!


TUSC wins Council seat in Malby by-election

It might only be Maltby Town Council…
IT MIGHT ONLY be Maltby Town Council. It was only a by-election. There’s only 3,000 electors. Only a 16.5% turn-out. And only two candidates.

But you can only beat the opposition put in front of you, and last night Joe Robinson did just that. Standing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), young Socialist Party member Joe was elected by 303 votes to 201, taking 60% of votes cast.

His opposition was an ‘independent’ without description on the ballot paper, but in reality the Labour candidate whom the ruling group on Maltby town council had tried to co-opt when a vacancy arose.

But Joe collected the ten signatures necessary to force a by-election, and TUSC ran an enthusiastic and visible campaign with two ward-wide leaflets, posters and several high street stalls.

Local issues such as the bowling greens, tennis courts, parks and the High Street were linked to the need to make a stand against Con-Dem cuts including those passed on by Rotherham borough Labour council.

Our main issue was TUSC’s ongoing campaign against the draconian cuts being proposed at Rotherham hospital. TUSC had lobbied the January Trust board meeting with 3,000 signatures gaining much media publicity and making links with the hospital trade unions.

This issue had been a feature of TUSC’s campaign in the Rotherham parliamentary by-election last November and, while Maltby is outside the parliamentary constituency, the work done then played a role in building TUSC’s profile.

Maltby is now an ex-mining town as the pit is just shutting with the loss of 550 jobs. A quarter of its population has left in the last decade. A small Labour clique has run Maltby town council for decades and the BNP temporarily won a borough council seat four years ago.

Joe, only 21, was like a breath of fresh air to the tired old local politicians and TUSC’s appeal to trade unionists and socialists went down well in a strong working class community. Interestingly, postal votes accounted for nearly 80% of the votes cast with nearly half registered postal voters actually voting. This shows that TUSC’s first leaflet struck a real chord with disillusioned Labour supporters.

This year is the 40th anniversary of Clay Cross council’s defiance of the Tory Housing Finance Act in 1973. Clay Cross was only an Urban District Council of 10,000 yet made an historic stand. Maltby is bigger than Clay Cross, and who knows this by-election victory could be the start of something much bigger for TUSC.

Hugo Chavez dies, Hugo Chavez dies but the struggle continues

Millions of Venezuelan workers, the poor and youth will mourn the death of Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez

By Tony Saunois, CWI Secretary

The workers and youth in Venezuela will be joined by many around the globe who have been inspired to support Hugo Chavez’s regime as offering an alternative to imperialism, neoliberalism and capitalism.In an era when the gap between establishment politicians, who defend big business and the super-rich, and the masses seems to widen inexorably Chavez stood out. In fact in the age of austerity the measures he took to alleviate poverty stood out like a beacon.

Meanwhile the most pernicious right-wing capitalist commentators have wasted neither time nor ink in their outpourings of hatred of his regime.

The mourning of his passing and anger at these attacks must be channelled into a new stage of working class struggle for socialism in Venezuela and internationally.

Capitalist commentators’ hypocrisy

Since his death numerous articles have denounced Chavez, and his regime, as an “autocrat”, a “dictator”, a “caudillo”. Some have tried to depict his death as the end of another failed socialist regime.

The torrent of bile from these commentators was first readied in the hope he’d be defeated in the Venezuelan presidential elections in October 2012, but had to be shelved at the time. Against the expectations of the international capitalist media and its politicians Chavez romped home for a third term with 55% of the vote, on a turnout of 80%, a result any incumbent capitalist politician in Europe can only dream of.

These self-same commentators deafened us with their silence during the attempted coup in 2002 – backed by US imperialism. When these alleged champions of democracy attack Chavez they brush to one side the fact that Chavez has faced 17 elections and referendums since 1998 and won 16 of them.

They, and the capitalist politicians behind them, cannot abide the fact that a leader who spoke of “socialism” and the “socialist revolution” and who came into conflict with US imperialism and the capitalist class could win such popular support. They also fear the potential revolutionary movement of the masses which Chavez rested upon.

“Por ahora” - ”For now”

Chavez himself did not emerge as a political leader with a rounded out ideology or programme. He has empirically embraced different ideas – swept along by events as they have unfolded.

Chavez was swept to power in 1998 with overwhelming support. Initially he only spoke of a “Bolivarian revolution” and reform of the old corrupt system. Chavez, like thousands in Venezuela, including junior army officers of which he was one, was radicalised by the “Caracazo” which rocked Venezuela in 1989.

Carlos Perez had won an election opposing the neoliberalism of the IMF. However, he undertook a sharp U-turn and introduced a “shock therapy” of neoliberalism. It triggered a mass uprising of the urban poor. The army was deployed and an estimated 3,000 were slaughtered. Chavez’s right-wing opponents have little to say on these events. He was however radicalised and affected by these horrors.

He led a left populist military revolt in 1992 against the murderous Perez government. As the coup was defeated he proclaimed the “revolution is ended. For now”. “Por ahora” was to become ingrained in the minds of the masses.

Released from prison two years later, he built support and stormed to power in the 1998 election as the mass of the population demanded an end to neoliberalism and demanded change.

The limited but popular reforms his government introduced, paid for with the country’s oil wealth, were enough to enrage the ruling elite which attempted a coup in 2002 followed by a lockout. After 48 hours the coup collapsed and Chavez was brought back to Caracas and to power. During the coup the masses poured onto the streets to oppose the new right-wing regime and a revolt by the ranks of the army and its junior officers.
Right-wing coup in 2002

At this moment the situation erupted as the right-wing coup led by Pedro Carmona collapsed, making a decisive blow against the ruling class and capitalism. The working class and poor had the opportunity to take over the running of society. Unfortunately, at this moment Chavez opted to call for “national unity” and an agreement with sections of the capitalist class.

The lockout was broken after a 12-month struggle. On each occasion Chavez was saved by the mass movement from below.

These events enormously radicalised Chavez who by 2005 had begun to speak about the “socialist revolution”. It was in this period that he also made reference to the ideas of one of the leaders of the Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky, as well as to Karl Marx and called for the formation of a Fifth International.

This enraged both the Venezuelan ruling class and US imperialism. Nationalisations and partial nationalisations of significant companies were carried through. The introduction of a basic but free health service and widespread education and literacy programmes enormously enhanced the popularity of the government. Significantly, in the 2006 election – following this turn to the left – Chavez won his largest electoral victory, taking over 62% of the vote!

This development has had an enormously positive effect in putting the issue of socialism back onto the agenda in Venezuela and to an extent in Latin America and internationally. The idea of the “revolution” and even “socialism” and radical reform is overwhelmingly dominant in the consciousness of a majority of Venezuelans. This is Chavez’s positive legacy. There is a clear rejection of any idea of returning to the ‘ancien rĂ©gime’.

Blows to capitalism, but no decisive break

However, despite the radical phraseology, in response to the global economic crisis which began in in 2007, Chavez, and the Bolivarian government, rather than drive forward with a programme to break with capitalism, moved in the opposite direction.

Blows were struck but without defeating it the capitalist class remained in control. From within the Bolivarian a new force has also emerged – the ‘boli-bourgeoisie’, a powerful layer in society which has grown rich on the backs of the Chavez movement.

This, combined with the emergence of a powerful bureaucracy, and deteriorating economic situation, has meant that despite the popular reforms, which the CWI supports, massive social problems of poverty, unemployment, corruption violence and crime remain. These continue and arise from the failure to abolish capitalism.

Combined with a top down administrative approach from the bureaucracy and the lack of a democratic workers’ control and management in the revolutionary process, while Chavez has enjoyed massive support, it has also resulted in widespread discontent and frustration. Recent strikes by teachers and metal workers have been repressed by the state, all measures which have given a weapon to the right to beat the regime.
Transform socialist aspirations into a reality

If right-wing candidate Henrique Capriles and the right in Venezuela hope that Chavez’s death will mean an easy ride for them back to power then they are mistaken. Despite the discontent the idea of supporting the revolutionary process, of the idea of socialism and defence of the reforms is deeply ingrained in Venezuelan society.

In the short term it is most likely to mean a victory for Nicolas Maduro, the vice-president, named by Chavez as his successor, in the elections. A rallying of Chavez’s supporters and the mass of the poor to defeat the right is already developing. Capriles and the right are, like Maduro, appealing for calm, peace and unity. The right feel their weakness and are being careful not to provoke a backlash from the masses.

While the pernicious right-wing commentators have used Chavez’s death to beat their hypocritical anti-socialist drum, other sections of capitalism and imperialism have been more cautious. US president Barack Obama’s cautious statement, along with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, is aimed at opening a new era of cooperation with a future Maduro-led government. They have concluded the right-wing are unlikely electoral victors and therefore have left the door open for attempts to collaborate with a new “Chavista” government.

Maduro and the leadership will not have the same authority as Chavez and a new era will open following the elections. Divisions between the different currents within Chavismo may open following the elections. Sections of the ruling class are looking for this as a means of ultimately defeating the Chavista movement.

Such prospects underline the urgent necessity of the working class and the poor to rally to defeat the right but then to take the revolutionary process into its own hands with its own independent organisation and programme to transform the “socialist aspirations” raised by Chavez into a reality. The death of Chavez marks not the end of the struggle. A new chapter will now begin.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Portuguese worker and farmers fight back!!


Forbes Rich List: 0.00001% get richer, the 99% continue to pay the price

By Matt Gordon, Bristol Socialist Party

The annual list of billionaires produced by Forbes Magazine has again seen records smashed by the world’s hyper-rich. There are now 1426 billionaires in the world, 210 more than 2012, with a collective wealth of $5.4 trillion, up nearly a trillion from last year.

At a time of global recession and austerity, this bunch of high-flyers seem to be beating the odds. 80% of the list saw their wealth increase during the course of 2012. Despite youth unemployment in Spain now reaching 55% with desperation leading some to suicide, Spanish billionaire and owner of Zara Amancio Ortega has seen the biggest increase of all – an extra $19 billion on his fortune!

But some are still not happy - Saudi Arabian prince Alwaleed Bin Talal has lashed out at Forbes magazine which he says has robbed him of his rightful spot in the top ten. It placed him at unimpressive 26th in the world with a wealth of only $20 billion.

In reality these figures are scandalous at a time when global poverty is on the rise and 80% of the world get by on less than $10 a day, a stark contrast to the lavish lifestyles of this tiny elite.

World capitalism has been in crisis since 2008 and increasing concentrations of wealth at the top are not just an aberration but are one of the main problems the economy is faced with. Wealth doesn’t ‘trickle-down’ as we are told, but is instead sucked up and locked away, leaving everyone else worse off.

The latest figures show that between $21 trillion and $32 trillion has been stashed in offshore tax havens around the world by the super-rich, none of it being put to productive use. This will only be fraction of the cash hoard being held back by big business as a whole.

If this money cannot be put to good use then it should be taken into public ownership and used to create jobs, homes, infrastructure and prosperity for all, the 99% not the 1%. Next time someone says that there is no money for schools, hospitals, public services or decent housing and that we all have to tighten our belts, direct them to a copy of Forbes Magazine and ask if any of that money would do.

Socialist Party congress 2013: Peter Taffe on world perspectives

George Ferguson imposes £35m of cuts on Bristol...with a little help from his friends

By Tom Baldwin, Trade Unionists & Socialists Coalition mayoral candidate 2012

The opposition to £35m of cuts in Bristol took on a vocal and vibrant expression last week as about 70 people turned out to lobby the council and George Ferguson, the city's 'independent' mayor. Banners and flags from all of the local authority trade unions, the Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance and the Disability Equality Forum represented the broad spectrum of opposition to these attacks.

Unfortunately the mood of protesters outside the council chamber found no echo inside. Those who braved the public gallery were treated to a game of spot the difference as the mayor and Tory, LibDem, Labour and Green councillors all made indistinguishable speeches. One after another they got up to say how much they hated the cuts, only to claim there was choice but to pass them on. There's a word for people who say one thing and do another - hypocrites. Whether they’re made reluctantly or with enthusiasm, these cuts will hurt just the same.

Labour are the only party not to have joined the mayor’s cabinet, despite most of their Bristol councillors wanting to. When it was her turn speak the Labour leader rose like Spartacus and announced her group were so disgusted they were going to… abstain from the vote. They claimed this was in the spirit of a new, consensual age of politics in Bristol, ushered in by the election of an independent mayor. What’s new about the butchery of our public services and attacks on working-class people? Speaking to anti-cuts protesters one councillor tried to justify this collaboration with the hope it would win Labour 5 more seats in May’s elections. What good are 5 more abstentions when the Tories and their stooges are trying to obliterate our living standards? In the end only one Labour councillor voted against the cuts budget and it’s not even clear that was on purpose!

The mayor, Ferguson said he'd lost sleep thinking about the impact of these cuts but as a millionaire businessman he's unlikely to feel the impact. The 330 council workers due to lose their jobs will though, along with users of children’s centres and countless others. We won’t get very far on sympathy and abstentions. What we need is a mass campaign to stop the cutters in their tracks, whatever their political allegiance. Lobbies and demos will form a part of that but it’s strike action that will hit them the hardest. With the vast majority of people’s lives being made harder we’re strongest when we stand together. A one-day general strike would be a turning point in the fight against austerity. That struggle would also be stronger if it had a voice on the council benches, standing up against all cuts to our living standards no matter who makes them. That’s why Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidates will be standing across Bristol in May to give a real alternative to the cutters.