Monday, 25 November 2013

Socialist Students helps force NUS to back education strike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Socialist Students original motion can be found here

Stop Ferguson's Cuts Onslaught

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Moving their motion, Keith said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seconding the motion, Don said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Chaffey

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Hundreds attend Kshama Sawant victory rally

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

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

Photos of the rally below.

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

George Ferguson’s ‘Vision for Bristol’ examined

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love going on tax-payer funded jollies

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

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

“Great cities help us to feel connected.”

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

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

I love billionaire tax avoiders.

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

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

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

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

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

I’m cutting libraries and museum services.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t count to 10

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

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lobbies and other council meetings, details here:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Meeting

Fighting Austerity – Why We Need Anti-Cuts Councillors

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