Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Bristol council opposes bedroom tax evictions

By Mike Luff, Bristol Socialist Party
'No eviction' for bedroom tax victims is now the official policy of Bristol City Council.

All four parties - Labour, Greens, Tories and Lib Dems - and the Mayor gave full support to a 'no eviction' resolution at Bristol council's full meeting on Tuesday 18th June.

All the councillors also called on mayor Ferguson to review the definition of a bedroom, reclassify box rooms, downstairs rooms and small bedrooms - which he agreed.

We have had two demonstrations and local meetings across the city, building opposition to the bedroom tax.

There will now be a working group of councillors who will look at the details of the new policy, so our campaign will continue.

Tom Baldwin (mayoral candidate last year for TUSC - the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) spoke at the council meeting on behalf of the Bristol and District AntiCuts Alliance.

His call to stop any evictions whether by the council or social housing organisations and for a house building programme, was supported by the full public gallery.

The mayor and councillors also supported the resolution calling for the building of social and affordable homes.

This could be paid for by the government lifting the borrowing restrictions on the housing revenue account.

However, their only weapon to change the government's mind was in having a directly elected mayor! While the councillors are keen to promote 'localism', there was no mention of building a city-wide mass campaign to fight for more housing and against the cuts.

They seemed to be suffering from mass amnesia, forgetting that it is their parties' policies which introduced and maintained these financial restrictions that have decimated council housing.

We can't trust councillors who have shown no opposition to other cuts, with over 300 local authority job losses as part of a 9% budget cut, including the eviction of old people from their residential homes.

There is the prospect of similar cuts for the coming year. We will be vigilant, hold them to their promise, organise to prevent evictions if they happen, and we will keep up the fight against all cuts.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Stephen Lawrence: Leaders of Youth Against Racism in Europe call for genuinely independent inquiry

The news that an undercover police officer was tasked with trying to find out any information that could discredit Stephen Lawrence’s family is terrible and shocking, but unfortunately not surprising. Last year’s revelations of police attempts to discredit the victims of the Hillsborough disaster show that this was not an isolated incident.

The officer concerned, Peter Francis, infiltrated Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE) over several years and was known to us as Pete Daley.

Lois Austin, Socialist Party member and national chair of YRE at the time, stated:

“It took eighteen years for the police to convict any of Stephen Lawrence’s murderers. Meanwhile, time and money was being spent searching for ‘dirt’ on a bereaved family, and secretly infiltrating Youth Against Racism in Europe, a peaceful organisation of young people, which was organising mass protests against racism and the BNP. There was no purpose to infiltrating YRE, far from being secretive we publicly advertised our events – the police could have read our leaflets and newspapers, or attended our public meetings, to find out what was going on.”

Ludicrously, Peter Francis has previously claimed that the “key success” of his work was discovering that the 1993 demonstration YRE co-organised to protest against the BNP’s headquarters was going to be “far larger than thought” (The Observer, 14 March 2010). YRE had repeatedly told the police that the demonstration, following four racist murders within two miles of the BNP HQ, would be huge. Fifty thousand attended. We wanted to march peacefully past the BNP bunker. The police response was to refuse to allow us to march at all, and to carry out an incredibly brutal attack on peaceful young people using their democratic right to protest.

Hannah Sell, deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party and national secretary of YRE at the time, said:

“Cameron has called for an immediate investigation into what took place, but all previous experience shows that an investigation by the police or individuals appointed by the government will result in another cover up. Francis himself says he wanted to report what he had done to the McPherson enquiry, but was prevented from doing so by senior officers. We demand a real democratic independent inquiry, made up of representatives from the trade union movement and the anti-racist and environmental protest groups that have suffered infiltration. Such an inquiry must not be limited to the role of the police, but also look at where the orders came from and the role of the government.

“Nor do we accept that this, as the Metropolitan Police have implied, is a thing of the past. Surveillance of peaceful protesters has increased dramatically in the recent period and police brutality, as shown by the tragic death of Ian Tomlinson, also continues. Today a new generation are becoming involved in campaigning against racism, and also against the government’s austerity policies. New ‘Pete Daley’s’ will be sent to infiltrate anti-racist campaigns and left wing organisations to try and cut across protest. They will not succeed. But questions about whose interests the police act in, alongside demands for them to be made democratically accountable, will be an important aspect of future campaigns.”

Taunton Socialist Party

Re-posted from: http://theredeemer89.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/the-fire-rises-taunton-branch-is-born/

The Fire Rises; Taunton Branch is Born…

We live in austere times and it shows; we assembled in Taunton to spread the word of Socialism on Saturday 15th June and were incredibly well received. Comrades from Bristol, Exeter, Taunton, Tiverton and myself from Plymouth, got together to highlight that there is an alternative to the crippling austerity faced by Britain and indeed much of Europe.

After many conversations with frustrated people, it was clear that a number of people in Taunton are ready to explore different avenues; avenues which mainstream media and politicians have always tried to demonise or ridicule. There are many frustrations in Taunton on a range of issues, spanning from youth unemployment to the bedroom tax to the privatisation of the NHS.

Within one Saturday afternoon in the heavy rain, high winds and then glorious sunshine we picked up a wealth of contacts who were keen to participate in the building of a new mass workers’ party and stand defiant against a government that has left them behind in the pursuit of profit.

The following Wednesday we held our inaugural Socialist Party branch meeting in Taunton which was well attended. After 2 hours of discussion on “What We Stand For”, led off by Jim Thompson, people were hungry for more discussion and everyone in attendance were keen to organise another meeting to continue exploring what Socialism has to offer.

Taunton will be holding another branch meeting on Wednesday 3rd July with Steve German, the driven and committed branch secretary ready to hit the ground running with an already optimistic group of individuals. I have no doubts that the Taunton branch will quickly flourish and join a whole host of branches in the South West as we build an alternative to cuts, cuts, cuts that will put the needs of millions of people before the greed of a select few multi-millionaires.

If you would like to get involved with the struggle and build for a prosperous and sustainable future, then don’t hesitate to check out the website of the Party that has helped me to find my own voice and join the thousands of others who share the vision to build our collective future:


Feel free to check out my latest article in The Socialist, I’m on page 8:


I also look forward to the results of the upcoming council elections in the Southway Ward by-election which I am standing in. I am standing on a platform of no cuts and hope that people can resist the hollow promises of the mainstream parties to deliver anything other than more austerity and posturing on issues which are having harsh consequences on the everyday lives of Plymothians.

The fire rises; spreading far and wide while burning more brightly, fueled by a mixture of frustration at the way things are in mainstream politics and a glimpse of hope that there are people standing united in struggle up and down Britain and indeed much of Europe demanding change and ready to work hard for it. The results will show themselves in time, with patience and a fervour to resist simply lashing out and instead an energy to build something new…

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Lawrence Hill Anti-Bedroom Tax Meeting - Thursday 20 June 7.30pm

Thursday 20 June
Barton Hill Settlement, Ducie Road, Barton Hill

The ConDems' vicious Bedroom Tax is now starting to bite. The recent tragic news of the suicide of grandmother Stephanie Bottrill after facing an £80 per month Bedroom Tax bill reflects the pressure facing thousands of families and individuals across Bristol.

Social housing tenants deemed by the government to have a spare room are having their Housing Benefit docked by 14% for one spare room & 25% for two or more. Even if there is no alternative accommodation available or their personal circumstances mean that the spare room is needed.

Come and join us at Barton Hill Settlement for the latest in a series of local meetings sponsored by Bristol Anti-Cuts Alliance. We are aiming to bring together tenants and supporters to talk about how we fight back and defeat this cruel tax.

We demand that:

* David Cameron and Nick Clegg withdraw the tax immediately and refund any payments made!

* The mayor and housing associations do not evict anyone in arrears because of the Bedroom Tax or other attacks on welfare!

* The council & the government fund a council house building programme to provide homes & jobs for local people!

Also coming up on 18th June: Lobby of Bristol City Council as they vote on a motion opposing Bedroom Tax evictions. For more click here:


Turkey: Mass movement challenges Erdogan's authoritarian government

For a one-day general strike as the next step in the struggle

By Sosyalist Alternatif (CWI, Turkey) reporters

KESK, Turkey's Confederation of Public Workers' Unions, announced a national strike against police violence for today (4 June) and on Wednesday.

Hundreds of thousands are expected to come to the demonstrations despite the police using tear gas and batons to violently attack demonstrators.

The ongoing police brutality, beginning at the end of May in Gezi Park, on Taksim Square in Istanbul, shows again the arrogance and arbitrary police violence that the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government rests on.

Hundreds were injured, some seriously. In the course of the mass movement, at least two demonstrators have been killed.

The government redevelopment of Gezi Park was the spark that triggered a political explosion. It is not only in Istanbul that protests are taking place.

Hundreds of thousands are taking to the streets all over Turkey, in Ankara, Inzmir and Bodrum and many other places. In total, it is reported that mass demonstrations have taken place in 67 cities.

There are some indications of divisions within the state apparatus, with military personnel distributing gas masks and even some police supporting the demonstrators.

The potential exists to develop a movement that challenges the Turkish capitalist elite.

This is a turning point. The AKP has been confronted with a sharp fall in economic growth rates this year.

It was able to present itself as a 'moderate' Islamic 'alternative' to the old establishment and pursued some populist social policies.

But the events of the last days have shaken the rule of the AKP and prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The mass movement was initially dominated by people from the middle classes. They were quickly joined by youth from working class suburbs.

Now there is an increasing involvement of the organised workers' movement (though this is still in its early stages).

This may be a harbinger of even greater mass struggles, moving towards a pre- or revolutionary situation.

Splits at the top of the regime, within Erdogan's party, are also starting to emerge. The right-wing Turkish regime, a Nato ally with its own ambitions to become a regional power, is now challenged by an uprising of anger and opposition.

The nightmare of the increasingly sectarian civil war in Syria, which sees meddling by imperialist and local powers, and its dangerous spilling over into the whole region, had appeared to threaten all the achievements of the 'Arab Spring' - peoples' uprisings against dictators and for social change.

The Turkish regime cynically intervened in the Syrian conflict in its own interests. But now the start of a potential 'Turkish Summer' is offering new hope to revitalise the movements from below across the region, encouraging a potential renewal of mass struggle fordemocratic rights, as well as the need to bring about fundamental change in the interests of the working masses.

'Erdogan resign!'

It started on 27 May with protests by environmentalists against the cutting down of trees to allow developers, who are close to Erdogan, to build another shopping mall in the centre of Istanbul.

Using police violence, developers tried to force this development through to bolster the profits of the few.

In the eyes of millions, this summarised the programme of the neoliberal AKP government.

"Tayyip istifa" ("Erdogan resign"), became the unifying slogan of the movement. Sections of the CHP (Republican People's Party), the main pro-capitalist opposition, and even the fascist, MHP, have tried to exploit the movement.

So far, the radical character of the mass movement has not allowed the CHP to dominate.

However, within the movement a debate on the way forward is essential. How can a mass political force be built to serve the interests of workers, young people and poor people, that is able to bring down the Erdogan government and offer an alternative?

This movement cannot have anything in common with the old CHP elite. A new force is necessary. Therefore a political programme is needed that puts democratic rights and the struggle for jobs, decent housing, higher wages and social security to the fore; a socialist programme that does not shy away from challenging the interests of the capitalist elites and multinational companies.

Divide and rule

The wing of Turkish bosses and international corporations that are close to Erdogan have been allowed to enrich themselves for years.

The politics of privatisations and neoliberal attacks and the repression of protests serve the enrichment of a few. In response, we need the united resistance of working people, the youth and the poor.

To be able to implement these policies, the AKP tries to present itself as defending Islamist values.

This is what is driving its divisive measures, such as further extending the areas where alcohol cannot be legally sold and sanctioning against people kissing in public.

With these measures and more, the AKP tries to organise support among more conservative parts of the population. This is a cynical attempt to cover the government's real policies and attacks.

Erdogan has made threats to mobilise conservative layers of the population onto the streets, to counter the protest movement.

He points to his parliamentary majority and believes the AKP can draw on substantial support in society.

The mass movement needs to advocate policies that can win over the rural masses and urban poor, to cut across government attempts at divide and rule.

The call by KESK for a national strike against police violence is the right decision. The other trade unions should follow this example and extend the strike.

A one-day general strike across Turkey can be the next step to build the mass movement against Erdogan - putting the organised workers' movement to the centre of the protests.

Trade unions and Left parties and groups, like HDK (People's Democratic Congress - an umbrella party, including Kurdish parties and Left groups), Halk Evleri (People's Houses) and others, can contribute to turn this into a mass strike.

Committees based on mass assemblies in factories and neighbourhoods are necessary to defend them from the police, to organise solidarity for a successful strike, and to encourage political debates.

Bringing together elected representatives of these assemblies locally, in the cities and regions, as well as on a national level, can build the movement in a democratic way, with full accountability and the right to recall all representatives. This can be the basis for a government of workers and the poor.

Based on these steps, a movement is possible that not only brings down the Erdogan government, but can fight for an alternative in the interests of the working class, the youth and working people, in general. A mass party of the working class, with a socialist programme, is necessary.

The full version of this article can be read onwww.socialistworld.net

Thursday, 6 June 2013

PCS rolling strike programme - Bristol rally today

 From: http://www.pcs.org.uk

As part of our national campaign to defend pay, jobs and conditions, all PCS members in DWP, HMRC and Valuations Office Agency - more than of half of our membership - are taking part in rolling joint regional strike action from 3-7 June.

The first day of strike action will coincide with the pilot to close 13 HMRC enquiry centres in north east England and Yorkshire and Humberside. As well as causing major disruption to the employer, reps will also be promoting our welfare and tax justice campaigns and our alternative to public sector cuts.

Strike day rallies are being organised in major cities by our regional offices, while branches are planning to organise further local rallies. For the latest check regional web pages in your area.

Bristol rally today - Thursday 6 June

11.30am, Ramada Hotel, Redcliffe Way, BS1 6NJ.

Speakers: Richard Capps (DWP Avon) and Dee Leary (HMRC Bristol West Country)

For more details contact our South west office: 01392 410 105.

Socialist Party article - http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/16838/05-06-2013/pcs-rolling-strike-programme

Stop unmanned drone attacks!

By Matt Gordon, Bristol East Socialist Party
"To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance," said US president Obama in a major speech recently where he promised to scale back the use of unmanned drones to attack targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

But pious hand-wringing will not bring back the lives of the civilians indiscriminately bombed in their homes by Obama's killer robots.

Nor does one speech change the tactics of the US Military and the CIA on the ground. On 29 May a drone strike in the North Waziristan, on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, killed at least four people, including Wali Ur-Rehman, second-in-command of the Pakstani Taliban.

However these attacks are rarely as accurate as that. One source estimates that only 2% of drone attacks kill targets as high profile as Wali Ur-Rehman.

It is also common practice for the Taliban to name a commander as killed only for them to later resurface elsewhere alive and well.

Obama and the US government have consistently downplayed the use of drones and the havoc they cause, but in truth their use has grown exponentially during his presidency. It is yet to be seen if Obama's most recent speech is any more genuine.

Afghanistan is undoubtedly the epicentre of unmanned drone attacks, with 506 incidents in 2012 and no way to verify the number of civilian casualties accurately.

In Pakistan there have been 369 since 2004, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that between 2,541 and 3,540 people have been killed, and that between 411 and 884 of those have been civilians.

On receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace, Obama declared that America, "must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war".

But unmanned drones are not used because they are more 'surgical' or less deadly than traditional weapons, they are used because they save the lives of American troops in the short term and so are more politically and financially expedient back home.

For those on the receiving end, a hellfire missile is just as deadly and indiscriminate whether it is fired by a drone or by a piloted aircraft.

The reality is that the war in Afghanistan is an expensive and bloody failure. Obama tripled the number of troops in Afghanistan, making it the mightiest and most technologically advanced military occupation in the world, but still failed to make any real gains against the Taliban insurgency, which is likely to become apparent when combat troops leave at the end of 2014. Replacing human troops with robots will not change this.

Drones terrorise entire populations. This will leave thousands if not millions of people psychologically traumatised and deeply opposed to the United States, and will also continue to fuel anger.

The billions spent on war could instead be used for schools, hospitals and creating jobs - both in America and in Afghanistan. The war and use of drones must be ended now.

EDL blocked in Sheffield

By Alistair Tice, Sheffield Socialist Party - http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/768/16821/04-06-2013/edl-blocked-by-counter-demo

Around 500 anti-fascists occupied Barkers Pool in Sheffieldlast Saturday to stop the racist English Defence League (EDL) from politically exploiting the death of Lee Rigby.

The EDL, who numbered less than 100, cynically said they wanted to pay respects by laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in the square.

They marched from a nearby pub with England flags and Union Jacks but were halted by the police before the square.

A stand-off ensued whilst the police tried to persuade protesters to let the EDL through. "No pasaran" was the reply.

So the police tried to force their way through with a wedge charge but the crowd held firm and they were repulsed.

Then the police prepared the horses, which drew chants of "We remember Orgreave". Significantly, the banner of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign was on the demo.

The horses were blocked and pushed back too, to cheers of "Two nil! two nil!" Then after a further stand-off, the police proposed that an officer lay one of the wreaths.

After checking that the inscription did not refer to the EDL, this was agreed by the crowd on the frontline of the counter demo.

This 'compromise' represented a defeat for the EDL who had not got through, so then started 'kicking-off', including throwing their flowers at anti-fascists - not very respectful! A celebratory mood ensued on our side as the EDL were eventually forced to disperse.

However, the EDL have announced a national demonstration in Sheffield this Saturday, 8th June, which will require an even bigger and more organised mobilisation by the anti-fascists to stop them again.