Tag Archive: birmingham


Grass Roots Rank and File Launch Conference.

Saturday 12 April 2014. 12pm
Comfort Inn, Opposite New St Station,

Station Street,

Birmingham. B5 4DY.

Following the successful meeting of the Grass Roots Left National Committee in Birmingham on 18 January the launch conference of the new Grass Roots Rank and File now looks to be on a far healthier basis than was feared when Socialist Fight supporters had been reduced to a minority of two in defence of the Constitution and Platform of the GRL as the basis for the new organisation at the AGM of 9 November. Between the two meetings the SWP had split at its December conference and the new organisation, now called the Revolutionary Socialists of the 21st Century, took the majority of the Unite the union faction who had supported Jerry Hicks for general secretary twice. Both the SWP and the SR21C attended the GRL NC and as they were now rivals they sought to accentuate their leftism. It seems now that the new joint Rank and File organisation will be open and democratic and be based on a platform and constitution at least similar to the old GRL one. Both Workers Power and Socialist Resistance had to reverse themselves and now say that standing on Jerry Hicks election points really was minimalist and not enough and they abandoned their charges of ultra leftism against SF. The SWP, of course, continues its opportunist tailending of all the other the TU bureaucracies as Laurence Humphries’s report on the Unite the Resistance conference on page 30 makes clear. In the meantime we hear that fusion discussions between Unite and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), whose Executive is dominated by the SP/CWI, are going to succeed because the government will withdraw check-off facilities from the PCS and so probably bankrupt it. The SP has already approached the United Left, the Unite bureaucracy’s mouthpiece, to ensure that they become ensconced as that bureaucracy’s footstools as well as for the RMT’s Bob Crow.grass-roots-RandF

In Defence Of Our Communities

The VOAG (Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford) has been passed Unison’s publi statement on the London riots, released yesterday. We congratulate Unison in speaking up and republish their statement below.

From last weekend there has been rioting and looting spreading across London. People in working class communities have looked on with fear as riots destroyed local shops and left some people homeless. Clearly we don’t support opportunistic looting or for acts of random violence. However, if we are to avoid a return to the social unrest and public disorder seen in the 1980s, this demands a response from our community and its leaders which goes beyond mere condemnation.

Why are our young people so angry and how can we unite our community?
The police.
The police killing Mark Duggan, acted as a spark for the recent riots. This was not an isolated incident. Since 1990 320 people have died in police custody (or following other forms of contact with the police). Stop and search is used as a daily form of humiliation, especially of young black men. In the student protests we saw violence used routinely against political protestors, including school students.

Tory cuts destroying our communities.
The deliberately savage reductions in public spending imposed upon our communities by the Coalition Government weaken our communities and create anger and despair.

In March Haringey Council approved cuts of £84 million from a total budget of £273 million. There was a savage 75% cut to the Youth Service budget, including: closing the youth centres; Connexions careers advice service for young people reduced by 75%; and the children’s centre service reduced. Haringey has one of the highest numbers of children living in severe poverty, and unemployment in the borough is among the highest in the UK. In London as a whole, youth unemployment is at 23%.

Lambeth Council have announced their intention to cut £76million from their budget in the next 3 years. This includes reducing adventure playground opening hours to weekends and holidays only; £1.45 million cut from Youth Centres and Holiday activities; Children’s social care cut but by £3.5million, deep cuts in the Connexions service with opening hours halved, and cuts in Buildings Schools for the Future; alternative education provision (Closing OLIVE School and cutting back Park Campus), and cutting the Young & Safe project which aims to reduce youth crime.

At the same time last year alone, the combined fortunes of the 1,000 richest people in Britain rose by 30 per cent to £333.5 billion. The wealthy bankers whose conduct caused the economic crisis continue to be rewarded with multi-million pound bonuses, while the jobs and pensions of public sector workers – the people dealing with the aftermath of the riots today – are under threat.

What needs to be done?
In order to avoid further riots two things are necessary. First, our police service must become transparently accountable to the communities it serves. There is legitimate and longstanding community concern about deaths arising from police action, and action to address this concern must not get lost in the cacophony of condemnation following the riots.

Secondly, the Government must reverse the disproportionate reductions in local government spending imposed upon Inner London so that we can maintain the social infrastructure which gives our young people a stake – and a voice – in our society. If the Government will not do this, then the responsibility falls upon Labour-led local authorities in London to represent the interests of their electors by fighting, with all means at their disposal, for the resources necessary to provide the vital services which sustain the cohesion of our communities.

The answer does not lie in David Cameron’s “Big Society” or Lambeth’s own “Co-operative Council” but in the defence of public services from a reckless attack by a Government which is indifferent to the social damage being wrought by their economic policies, some of the consequences of which have now been played out on the streets of London.

Lambeth Council needs urgently to review cuts already agreed and being made in services to young people in particular if we are to avoid further disorder and damage to our diverse, vibrant and tolerant community.

UNISON calls for an organised defence of public services and our communities, led by trade unions and community organisations and pledges to support a public meeting in Brixton in the next few days to discuss how to build this campaign.
A MUST READ:  Statement By Workers Power on the London Riots

The VOAG (Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford) Looks at the latest figures on youth unemployment.

According to the latest figures from the German Statistical Office and Eurostat, youth unemployment across Europe has increased by a staggering 25 percent in the course of the past two and a half years. The current levels of youth unemployment are the highest in Europe since the regular collection of statistics began.

In the spring of 2008, prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the financial crash of that year, the official unemployment rate for youth in Europe averaged 15 percent. The latest figures from the German Statistical Office reveal that this figure has now risen to over 20 percent.

In total, 20.5 percent of young people between 15 and 24 are seeking work in the 27 states of the European Union. At the same time, these numbers conceal large differences in unemployment levels for individual European nations.
In Spain, where the social-democratc government led by Jose Luis Zapatero has introduced a series of punitive austerity programmes at the behest of the banks and the IMF, youth unemployment has doubled since 2008 and now stands at 46 percent. In second place in the European rankings is Greece, the first country to be bailed out by the European Union and to install austerity measures, with a rate of 40 percent. In third place is Italy (28 percent), followed by Portugal and Ireland (27 percent) and France (23 percent).

In Britain, where youth have taken to the streets in a wave of riots and protests in a number of the country’s main cities, unemployment hovers around 20 percent. A recent report from Britain’s Office of National Statistics reported that joblessness among people between the ages of 16 and 24 has been rising steadily, from 14.0 percent in the first quarter of 2008 to 20 percent in the first quarter of 2011—an enormous 40 percent spike in just three years.

According to the latest statistics, Europe’s biggest economy, Germany, has one of the lowest official rates of youth unemployment (9.1 percent), but these figures are deceptive. Due primarily to the policies introduced by the former Social Democratic Party-Green Party coalition government (1998-2003), Germany has one of the most broadly developed low-wage job sectors in Europe.

In 2010, no fewer than 7.84 million German workers were employed in precarious so-called “atypical types of employment”—i.e., agency work, temporary work and part-time jobs involving less than 20 hours of work per week. Many of these workers earned €400 or less per month. Recent figures show that the wage levels of such workers have actually declined in recent years, thereby compounding the pool of so-called “working poor” in Germany.
The German Statistical Office notes that nearly 40 percent of young Germans able to find work are invariably employed in such forms of precarious work, which pay badly and are strictly temporary. Exact figures on underemployment in Germany are difficult to obtain, but the extreme situation for youth in the country is reflected across Europe—i.e., the official statistics for youth unemployment would swell enormously if they included the millions who are underemployed.

The growth of long-term unemployment for a broad layer of European youth, including very many highly educated young people with academic qualifications who are unable to find work, has led a number of commentators to refer to a “lost generation”.

The social problems encountered by the young unemployed are compounded by the social cuts and austerity packages being introduced across Europe. All of these measures aimed at restocking the vaults of the banks and the swelling the portfolios of the European capitalist elite hit youth the hardest.

It is no coincidence that the suburb of London where protests and riots began last weekend—Tottenham—has the highest level of joblessness in London, and the 10th highest in Britain as a whole. Just to the south of Tottenham, the London borough of Haringey has already slashed its youth services budget by 75 percent this year. These cuts are part of a package of measures aimed at driving down the borough’s budget deficit along the lines advocated by the Conservative government headed by David Cameron.

The closure of youth facilities, including libraries and sports clubs, together with the slashing of welfare payments, such as youth allowances and housing subsidies, means that unemployed youth are condemned to poverty and denied any opportunity of using their leisure time creatively. Such conditions are not exclusive to London and Britain. They prevail across Europe and have been engineered by governments of all political colours—conservative, social-democratic and Green.

In Britain, leading politicians and both the gutter press and so-called “quality” press immediately sought to deflect attention from their own criminal activities by demonising protesting youth as “yobs” and vandals. For significant sections of the European press, however, the link between what took place in Britain this week and the complete lack of a perspective for millions of young people in modern Europe is evident.
Two commentaries in the German language press make clear that some sections of the media are concerned that the systematic wiping out of jobs and social protection for youth could have not merely explosive, but also revolutionary social implications.

On Thursday, the German Der Spiegel wrote that August 12 is International Youth Day, and posed the question: “This should be a day of celebration and joy…. But is there something to celebrate? Hardly.”
The article continues: “The numbers are so alarming, because they give a face to the European debt crisis. They show that the crisis in the euro countries is not just a problem for the treasuries of bankrupt countries, but has fatal consequences for the population. And, as is so often the case, it hits youth first.”
The article then draws attention to the hundreds of thousands of youth who took to the streets of Athens and Madrid to protest against austerity programmes and makes a parallel with the most recent protests in Britain, concluding, “In London it seems there is no holding back this hopeless generation.”

In Vienna, the Austrian Der Standard writes: “Governments are showering billions into the markets with one hand to keep our resident devil, the Dow Jones, happy. With the other, they’re slashing social benefits. That policies of this sort are received as pure cynicism in countries like Spain, Greece and Britain, where youth employment is around 44, 38 and 20 percent respectively, is a puzzle for the minuscule elite, who discuss the difference between frustrated protesters and criminals over tea while worrying only about the state of the money markets.”

The article continues that the solution is not “extra police and empty phrases, but action. And quickly”. The article concludes, however, by warning: “But who knows whether the generation demonstrating in the streets will see that day come.”

Birmingham University Occupation Ends In Violence As Students Are Attacked By Police And University Security.

Yesterday, the Birmingham University branches of Unison and UCU issued a joint statement condemning the violent repression of student protests at the University on Monday 17th January.

Students occupying parts of the University Of Birmingham were assaulted by police officers and University security.  The students were determined to re-occupy the ‘the bridge’ between the Maths and Physics blocks on their first day back at university. At around 6.30pm, while letting other students in to the occupied space, they were rushed by university security and police and forcibly removed. The students involved, remained peaceful in spite of personal injuries, the destruction of their property, and very distressing scenes.

One student described what happened on the Birmingham Students Against The Cuts blog. “We were directly in front of the door. The guys inside undid the d-lock and tried to get us in and lock it before security could gain access. At this point, all hell broke loose. I was the first one in and another guy was behind me, we tried to get him in but one of the security guards had him in a headlock, strangling him. We tried to form a human chain to get him in but they got him to the floor. He was completely restrained and I witnessed another security guard assault him just because he could. Another girl got punched to the floor by a security guard and they tried to drag her and me out. Another girl got a completely unprovoked punch to the chest which knocked her to the floor”

Banner drop
Banner hangs over Barclays Bank

“I remember getting dragged to the floor, I think a guard tried to get me in a head-lock but I wriggled my way out. I was screaming to the others that they were strangling the guy in the headlock and killing him. I stood there for a while and when I turned my back to walk away ‘toothless guy’ lunged at me, grabbed my hair and yanked me back, very painfully. In someone else’s words “he really went for you with his face snarling”. I also saw him pacing about like he was gonna rip someone’s head off before his boss sat him down in a chair and told to be calm, he has serious anger problems”.

“I also witnessed one guard punch a girl to the floor and punch another in the chest . We started packing up and security were throwing all our stuff away, they tried to take someone’s laptop but didn’t manage, the one who had punched the girl in the chest threw away a d-lock so lord knows what else he might’ve thrown away when we weren’t looking. They confiscated a £500 projector claiming it was theirs and also took someone’s speakers claiming it was theirs”.

Another student told a very similar story. “I saw the doors to the occupation open to allow further students inside, when 3 security staff took the opportunity to wrench their way in too. I stood and linked arms with 2 other men to create a human blockade in peaceful protest, at which point some tables were kicked towards us. I was head-butted by a police officer, causing substantial swelling and my lip to bleed. The police forced me against the wall, at this point I was bleeding from the face. I left the building in a very shaken state.”

Debate With the Registrar

Students debate with the registrar

 A third student described the scene: “I saw the doors open to let more students in, then the security barged in. I kind of blanked for a bit, and then remember being behind one of the girls. She had brown hair, a pony tail, black trousers and a black long cardigan. One of the guards pushed her backwards and then punched her. He claimed he’d done it because she was trying to ‘damage his equipment’ which she blatantly wasn’t”.

“I waited outside for about an hour. One member of security staff had told me earlier that the occupation would not be permitted by the University to go on beyond 5pm. At around 5pm, someone who appeared to be a University manager arrived with a number of security guards. I and a few other observers waiting outside thought this might be the sign of the forthcoming eviction, so we followed them to the door of the occupation. As we waited outside, we were told that we needed to clear the area. I explained that I was a member of staff and that I was concerned that an observer needed to be present during the eviction. A policeman informed me that I was not allowed to stand on the stairs, or at the back of the corridor, away from the occupation room, as there was an ‘incident happening’. I repeated that I was concerned about how the eviction would proceed, and for the safety of the students inside, but was absolutely denied permission to wait and observe and was informed that I had no reason to be concerned as the police would ensure that no-one was hurt. I was subsequently told to leave, first the stairs, and then the entire Watson Building”. 

“I subsequently discovered that one student had already by this point been involved in an altercation with the police, which apparently involved a policeman kneeling on the back of a student lying on the floor. This was witnessed by a member of staff, a UCU member, who repeatedly insisted, to no avail, that the policeman stop”. 

“I waited outside the Watson Building with a group of students. A small number of students began to leave the occupation for various functional reasons. One left to speak with the press, another left to empty the bucket that the students had been forced to use as they were still denied access to the toilet, and these leaving students also joined us outside”.

“At about 7pm we could hear screaming and shouting from inside the building. Two students stumbled outside the building in a very distressed state. One claimed in a very distressed manner that he had been head-butted by a policeman as the police and security guards sought to enter the occupied room. The student’s lip was bleeding and very swollen. I reported this to the security guards waiting outside the Watson Building and asked if they were about to do anything to help the student. They refused to assist and informed me that the police were inside the building if I felt something should be done. This student proceeded to inform the police, by phone, that he had been assaulted”.

“About 30 minutes later the students exited the room. One student reported that she had been punched in the face, another reported that she had been pushed across the room. It was reported that another had been grabbed around the neck and dragged out of the room. One of the students who left the occupation was very visibly shaken and needed considerable consoling. All of the students were very upset and visibly shaken by the eviction”.

“I then watched as the policeman who was reported to have head-butted a student was questioned by the same student as to why the policeman had chosen to act in this way. The policeman claimed that he had not in fact head-butted the student, but rather that the student had presented an obstacle to the policeman in the policeman’s attempt to access the occupied room, and that ‘if my head happened to make contact with yours’ that was unfortunate but it wasn’t a head-butt. When the same student asked whether he could report this incident to one of the other policemen he was subsequently denied this demand on the grounds that it wasn’t ‘procedural’ for an accompanying policeman to receive such a report”.

In the light of these events it seems to me that it would have been highly advisable for the University to permit an observer to these proceedings, particularly if it transpires that a dispute occurs with the University, police and students each having different accounts of the eviction process.”

The statement by UCU and Unison, Birmingham University branches announced:
“UCU and Unison, University of Birmingham  are shocked and appalled to hear about the allegations of violence against the student occupiers on Monday 17th January-  in what was a peaceful demonstration against job cuts that are taking place across the University, including 8 Research Fellows who have been put at risk of redundancy in the School of Education . We deplore both the use of violence to control what was a non-violent protest and the additional threat of disciplinary action against students. The student action is an inspiration to staff and students seeking to oppose the vicious attacks to our higher education system and we condemn the heavy handed nature in which the protest was broken up. We will be marching alongside students at the ‘National Demonstration for Education’ in London on Saturday 29th January”.

See Birmingham University Stop Fees Stop Cuts Blog:
http://birminghamstudentsagainstcuts.blogspot.com/2011/01/forced-heavy-handed-eviction-of.html

Bottom-Of-Post - Anti-Police

Bottom-Of-Post - Anti-Police

May 1926: when workers stopped the country

Reprinted from Workers Power- May 2006

The May 1926 General Strike could have changed the course of British history but, as Andy Yorke and Mark Hoskisson explain, the trade union leaders demobilised the workers and handed victory to the bosses

“I suppose my usual critics will say I was groveling, and it is true. In all my long experience I have never begged and pleaded like I begged and pleaded all day today.” These were the words of Jimmy Thomas, a leading member of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), on May Day 1926.

Thomas had spent the day with Tory ministers in Downing Street, desperately trying to find a way to call off the imminent general strike. Meanwhile more than 100,000 workers, determined to stop an ongoing bosses’ offensive, gathered in Hyde Park for the biggest May Day demonstration in living memory.

But Stanley Baldwin’s Tory government gave Thomas no way out. They had prepared for battle. On Monday 3 May 1926, the TUC called the majority of organised workers out on strike. The British general strike had begun.

Preparations
The Tories were driven by an intensifying economic crisis on the one hand and by the need to counter the wave of militancy that had swept the globe since the Russian Revolution of 1917 on the other. Baldwin’s Tory government came to power in December 1924 determined to smash the unions.

On 30 June 1925, the owners of Britain’s coal industry terminated all existing wage agreements and slashed pay. All sides saw the attack on the miners as a test case. The TUC called solidarity strike action and the government retreated. It announced a nine month wage subsidy for miners and a Royal Commission on the industry.

This retreat was hailed as “Red Friday” by the workers’ movement. It demonstrated the power of workers’ solidarity. But instead of using it to prepare for a red future the union leaders sat back and congratulated each other. Yet it was clear that the Tories had no intention of giving up. Faced with Red Friday Winston Churchill, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, explained: “We therefore decided to postpone the crisis in the hope of averting it, or if not of averting it, of coping effectively with it when the time comes”.

The government and employers began preparations. The country was divided into 10 districts, each under a “Special Commissioner” in charge of strikebreaking. The Tories strengthened the army and police, creating a Civil Constabulary reserve made up of ex-soldiers. They set up the Organisation for Maintenance of Supplies (OMS) – a semi-official strike breaking organisation that was set up to run the rail and road supply system.

In contrast the TUC, the “general staff” of the workers, made no preparations.

This passivity was all the more unpardonable given that there was a sizeable left-wing faction on the TUC leadership – the General Council. The miners’ leader, A J Cook, together with TUC president George Hicks and builders’ leader A.A. Purcell, enjoyed the support of many workers as they argued a militant line. But most of these lefts were, as Trotsky commented, radical in words rather than deeds.

It was left to the rank and file, organised in the Communist-led Minority Movement, to prepare from below. On the eve of the General Strike the Minority Movement was able to hold a conference of delegates from 547 union bodies, representing 957,000 workers.Minority Movement Poster 

At this conference and throughout the general strike, the Communist Party correctly called for the setting up of local councils of action to organise and politically lead the strike. It also fought for workers’ defence of picket lines and strikers against the expected violence from scabs and the state. 
 
But while these policies were correct and the growth of the Minority Movement showed the growing influence of the CP (it had only 5,000 members in 1926), the policy of the party towards the “left” leadership was a fatal weakness.This all meant that the CP found itself tied to the left wing of the bureaucracy precisely at the moment when it needed to break with them and lead the Minority Movement in offering a fighting policy that could win the strike.Strike Rally

Employers’ offensive
In March 1926 the Tories went onto the offensive. The Royal Commission proposed scrapping subsidies to the coal industry, a measure that would immediately result in massive wage cuts and job losses. If it went ahead it would pave the way for similar policies in every industry.
Cook and the miner’s leadership rejected the proposals and declared the miners’ union ready to strike. The TUC was pledged to support the miners.

The right-wingers on the General Council, like Jimmy Thomas and Ernest Bevin, had a powerful influence that the lefts had done little to challenge. In an attempt to avert the crisis the lefts effectively ceded leadership to these two, dispatching Thomas on his famous trip to Downing Street to “beg and plead” for a compromise. They all feared that a general strike could lead to revolution – the last thing these reformists wanted.

But the miners were already locked out and a printers’ strike had started at the Daily Mail in protest at its anti-strike editorial. The Tories broke off negotiations and forced the TUC to call the strike.

The response from the ranks was immediate, solid and overwhelming. Once the working class had shut everything down it was immediately faced with the problem of who runs society. As councils of action and local strike bulletins mushroomed, millions of workers began to realise they could run society themselves.

The initial impetus for local councils of action came from the TUC, who envisaged them as mere strike co-ordinating committees. But once the fight was on, these councils gathered delegates from every type of workers’ organisation. Some of them became real centres of embryonic working class power, like the “soviets” which had taken power in Russia in 1917.
Mass pickets were organised to stop strike breaking at strategic workplaces, where, under police and army protection, the OMS had taken over.

In the Fife coalfield, in Scotland, the trades council formed a workers’ defence corps. A member of the Fife council of action wrote: “The organisation worked like clockwork. Everything was stopped – even the railway lines were picketed… After police charges on mass pickets, the defence corps, which 150 workers had joined at the outset, was reorganised. Numbers rose to 700, of whom 400 marched in military formation through the town to protect the picket. The police did not interfere again.”
Guildford trades council
Throughout the country the strike was gaining strength. In contrast the union leaders were desperate to find a way out. General and Municipal Union leader, Charles Dukes expressed their fears: “Every day the strike proceeded, the control and the authority was passing out of the hands of responsible executives into the hands of men who had no authority, no control.” A revolutionary situation was developing. The strike did not just call into question the survival of the government, it called into question the survival of the system.

Betrayal
What was urgently needed was a communist party that actively pushed this development towards its natural conclusion – the formation of a revolutionary workers’ government. This would have entailed preparing the workers for seizing power and smashing the obstacles that stood in their way-the police, the OMS and the army.

But the Communist Party failed to challenge the hold Hicks and Purcell had over the most advanced workers. And as the strike continued these lefts ran for cover behind the coat-tails of Bevin and Thomas. On 12 May, only nine days into the strike, the right wing delivered their unconditional surrender to the Cabinet. Bevin remarked: “We have taken a great risk in calling the strike off. I want to argue it must not be regarded as an act of weakness, but rather one of strength…it took a little courage to take the line we have done.”

The TUC lefts stayed silent. Even A. J. Cook, general secretary of the miners, refused to go over the heads of the TUC and call for continuation of the action from below. Yet the workers themselves showed no signs of wanting to retreat, on the day after it was called off 100,000 more workers came out on strike. But in the end the miners were left to fight alone, for seven more months. Starvation and isolation led to a terrible defeat.

The Communist Party failed to learn from the defeat indeed Stalin’s faction had to cover it up. They certainly attacked the right wing of the labour movement and their “left-wing satellites” but at the same time maintained their alliance with them in the ARC. They attacked Trotsky for his criticisms of the Anglo-Russian Committee and for his demands that the Russian trade unions should have publicly broken with the traitors in front of the working class.

To pursue the policy of “socialism in one country” inside the USSR, Stalin sought allies in the imperialist countries to ward off any attack on Soviet Russia. The “Anglo Russian Committee” (ARC) – an alliance struck between the Russian and British trade union leaders – was used by Stalin to promote sympathy for Russia and prevent, he hoped, imperialist attack. But this policy had a price. The CP had to promote the left reformist trade union leaders who were vital to this policy and mute its criticism of them in order to preserve the ARC.

These left leaders proved incapable of fighting the sell-out policies of the right wing and the CP never prepared its members, or the hundreds of thousands in the Minority Movement, to fight independently of the TUC leadership. Before and during the strike the CP’s main slogan – “All Power to the General Council” – disarmed and confused the militants – it was this very General Council, which organised the sell out.

Trotsky had outlined an alternative to this disastrous policy and warned in advance that the left leaders would vacillate and betray. But with Stalin’s campaign against “Trotskyism” in full swing his warnings were either suppressed or construed as “sabotage” because they undermined the ARC

The defeat of the general strike and the miners was a massive set back for the British workers. Thousands were victimised and wages slashed. General strikes were outlawed. The unions lost millions of members as the whole movement retreated after this strategic defeat of the working class.

The general strike was defeated not because the forces of the state were stronger than the working class, nor because the rank and file gave in, but because the union leaders were faced with a choice: the survival of capitalism or the fight for workers’ power. They preferred defeat to the threat of revolution and the revolutionaries were not armed with the right policies to be able to win the leadership from the bureaucratic traitors.
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How to oppose the cuts with a socialist transitional programme – including taking the banks under full social ownership and control, recouping bailout money, and closing tax havens and loopholes.

Eddie Ford (‘War on the working class’, June 24) correctly says that “it was always going to be the working class that would have to pay the price” for the massive financial crisis when “catastrophe was only narrowly averted by frantic and massive state intervention”. Under capitalism, there is no choice, especially with the mainstream parties needing to avoid clobbering largely middle class floating voters!

It is easy to say tax the rich and bash the bankers, and saying so is very popular at the current time, but what would be the consequences of doing so (more than the token £2 billion the coalition will raise from its levy on the banks which is chicken feed compared to the £375 billion bailout)? Companies and rich individuals would flood overseas. It is necessary to argue for the confiscation of their assets in this country if they do so, and to spread the revolution worldwide so there is nowhere to run to – but unfortunately few revolutionary socialists make such points even if they are aware of them. And if you don’t make such points, you ultimately lose the debate – as Green MP Caroline Lucas (who calls herself a socialist but not a revolutionary) did on Question Time on June 24 and as Counterfire’s Lindsey German (formerly of the SWP) did in a Radio 2 debate I heard on July 13.

Newsnight on the night of the budget pointed out that the Tories plan £40 billion per year more cuts than Labour did, showing chancellor George Osborne’s claim that the VAT rise is necessary because of the deficit accrued under Labour to be an utter lie. So much for the debate during the election campaign over the mere matter of £6 billion of cuts and the Tories’ claim that cuts will be achieved without hampering front-line services and would happen merely through not filling vacancies and cancelling IT contracts! Eddie is therefore correct to call the cuts “vicious” and point out that they don’t need to be as high as 25%.

So how do the Tories and their Liberal Democrat allies plan to avert another economic meltdown? By lowering corporation tax, by 1% each year for four years, and by giving incentives for small businesses. Once again, it is easy to say they shouldn’t help their business friends in that way but, under capitalism, they’ve got to do something (which means competing with other capitalist countries in a similar economic mess). After all, the Tories decimated manufacturing industry under Maggie Thatcher due to the unions being strong, and it has shrunk from 20% of the economy to a mere 12% under Labour. But it’s desperate stuff, bound not to work in my opinion.

Eddie correctly points to the likelihood of a double-dip recession as a result of the cuts, and I’d add that a depression rather than merely a second dip is on the cards. He says “we need a strategy leading to an alternative society” [his emphasis]. So what strategy does he propose – “a united Communist Party, guided by a principled Marxist programme”. Well, the Campaign for a Marxist Party didn’t take off at all, and the Greek Communist Party has been leading the protests there, but what has been missing in Greece is an adequate programme. To me, that is more important than the precise form of party, although I’d recommend a mass revolutionary socialist or anti-capitalist party not tied to any particular ideology.

In the budget response special of the Scottish Socialist Voice, newspaper of the Scottish Socialist Party, Raphie de Santos proposes a nine-point transitional programme including: “We would take the banks under full social ownership and control – they have £560 billion in liquid cash and £5 trillion of assets. This would not only allow us to recoup the £375 billion that we have ploughed into them during the financial crisis but allow us to fund socially useful projects.

An example of this would be a renewable energy programme. The design, administration, construction, maintenance, running, assembly, commissioning and servicing of the programme would create hundreds of thousand of jobs and apprenticeships for our young and old.” (downloadable from http://www.scottishsocialistparty.org).

I see this sort of demand, alongside a call for closing tax havens and loopholes (which Raphie also calls for), as key to winning the struggle. Merely calling for a revolution is not enough, although it’s important that some people do so!

By Steve Wallis
Web: http://www.prsocialism.org
Email: revolutionarysocialiststeve@yahoo.co.uk
Reprinted from the UK Left Network forum
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Botom-Of-Post - Protest

Hunter, Fisherman, Shepherd, Critic: Karl Marx’s Vision of the Free Individual.

A lot of nonsense is talked about Karl Marx, most of it from people who have never read him. Many consider his work to be discredited by the dictatorial regimes that were set up in his name. But what did Karl Marx actually have to say?  

Was he in favour of dictatorship? Did he think that the state should impose dull uniformity, rigid regimentation and boring work on its citizens? Did he think that human nature and talents should be suppressed in the name of equality and altruism and for the benefit of a collectivity?  

No. In fact, Karl Marx’s driving passion his whole life was the free development of the individual. Karl Marx was not opposed to the capitalist ideas of choice, liberty and individual freedom. He supported these ideas, but opposed the society that prevented them becoming a reality.  

He wanted to be able “to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic”.  

This is the very essence of Marxism. Only through socialism can Karl Marx’s vision of the free individual be achieved.  

SUACS Logo (Wage Slavery)

SUACS Logo (Wage Slavery)

 

Bottom-Of-Post - Anti-Police

Bottom-Of-Post - Anti-Police