Tag Archive: coalition


The VOAG is everywhere - The VOAG is watching

                               Theses on the AIUF

Jim Padmore, November 2011. 
1. The tactics of communists in relation to bourgeois and petit-bourgeois led movements coming into struggle with imperialism was outlined in essence at the Second Congress of the Communist International (CI). Lenin’s theses put forward the possibility of forming an ‘alliance’ with these forces on two conditions. One, that they were in practice leading a struggle against imperialism and two, that such an alliance placed no restrictions on the communist’s independent activity aimed at organising the workers and peasants against imperialism. The theses sowed no illusions in either the willingness or the ability of the ‘national revolutionary’ movement i.e. the bourgeoisie, to take the struggle through to the end, to break the stranglehold of imperialism. They emphasised that ‘a determined fight’ needed to be waged against painting these movements in communist colours. Independence of propaganda, organisation and action was necessary because the national bourgeoisie would vacillate and compromise in the struggle against imperialism.

2. The tactic of the united front in the colonial and semi colonial world was developed more fully at the Fourth Congress of the CI. Its development was part of the discussion and elaboration of the united front tactic undertaken between the Third and Fourth Congresses, in particular in relation to the social democratic parties and their trade unions in Europe. In the period directly after the Russian Revolution and during the revolutionary crisis which gripped Europe after World War I there was little stimulus to develop the Bolsheviks’ 1917 practise into generally applicable tactics for the CI, since the mass influence of the social democratic leaderships appeared to be on the point of collapse. As Trotsky said 1f we consider the party is on the eve of the conquest of power and working class will follow it, then the question of the united front does not arise.’ Within the CI the creation of communist parties, the building of soviets and the armed insurrection were the tasks central to a revolutionary situation. By 1921, however, it was clear that this revolutionary situation had passed. Capitalism, aided and assisted by the treacherous social democratic and labour leaders, had managed a temporary stabilisation. Recognising the changed situation and the strength of reformism in Western Europe, CI launched the united front tactic at the Third Congress under the slogan ‘to the masses’. After this Congress the ECCI developed the tactics that became known as the united front.

3. The workers’ united front was a tactic, or a series of related tactics, aimed at winning the mass of the working class to revolutionary communism, to the programme of the revolutionary party and for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Not through propaganda alone but through action, and in struggle:

‘Only by leading the concrete struggles of the proletariat and by taking them forward will the communists really be able to win the broad proletarian masses to the struggle for dictatorship.’ (Theses on Tactics 3rd Congress). As a tactic the united front was subordinate to this strategic goal. To turn the united front from a tactic to a strategy, where bringing it into being (or its maintenance once achieved) becomes the perpetual long term goal, can only lead to the liquidation of the revolutionary programme; a necessary consequence of the continuation of a long term alliance with the non-revolutionary parties or organisation.

4. Not withstanding the common method of the united front which underpins both the workers united front and the anti-imperialist united front (AIUF), there are important differences between them. The workers united front in the imperialist nation rests on the unity in action of the workers organisations and their parties. Communists fight within such united fronts, however limited, to develop the demands of the common struggle, through the use of transitional demands, to a struggle to overthrow capitalism. This necessitates the fight to develop the united front, in acute periods of class struggle, into soviets and the struggle for the workers government. The AIUF however develops on the terrain of minimum or democratic demands-the struggle against imperialist domination, for national independence and unity, for democracy and democratic rights. Into this struggle it seeks to draw, not only the workers’ organisation, but those of the petit­ bourgeoisie-the organisations especially of the peasantry, the small urban property holders, the professionals, teachers etc-and even sections or elements of the national bourgeoisie itself, where ever the latter is compelled to resist imperialism by the pressure of the masses. The fight by communists to win the workers, poor peasants and the urban petit-bourgeoisie to the perspective of socialist revolution, to transform the struggle for democracy and against imperialism into a struggle against capitalism and for the dictatorship of the proletariat, to the extent that it is successful, must break up and replace the AIUP. The fight to win the masses from the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois leaders and their parties, the struggle to create workers soviets in the towns and soviets of poor peasants and agricultural proletarians in the countryside, is part of the struggle for a workers and peasants government; a government where the peasants have been broken from their bourgeois and petit-bourgeois leaders and won to the support of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

5. The united front by its very nature is a temporary agreement. Nine times out of ten, where there exists no especially favourable relation of forces or political situation, the reformist or nationalist leaders will refuse it and do their utmost to prevent their rank and file from participating. Where it is struck it will be around clear, precise and limited objects of real struggle. Its primary aim is not to produce joint propaganda (if it did it would be a propaganda bloc not a united front) but agitation around the action goals of the united front.

6. The Communist International made clear that the united front was not just an ‘appeal to leaders’; even less was it a proposal for a purely parliamentary combination or bloc: The united front means the association of all workers, whether communist, anarchist, social democrat, independent or non-party, or even Christian workers, against the bourgeoisie. With the leaders if they want it so, without the leaders if they remain indifferently aside, and in defiance of the leaders and against the leaders if they sabotage the workers united front.’ (ECCI April 1922). Thus the appeal for the united front was both from ‘above and below’. But, ‘the real success of the united front depends on a movement “from below”, from the rank and file of the working masses’ (Theses on Tactics 4th Congress).

7. The striking of the united front does not for one moment mean agreeing to end criticism. For the CI there were to be no diplomatic silences or glossing over of past or present vacillation and betrayals by the reformist leaders. Communists within the united front; ‘While accepting a basis for action must retain the unconditional right and possibility of expressing their opinion of the policy of all working class organisations without exception, not only before and after the action is taken but also if necessary during its course. In no circumstances can these rights be surrendered.’ (ECCI December 1921) Further more to maintain the united front in a bloc with reformist leaders during or after a betrayal in action, would be to become complicit in it. If it is important to know when to make a united front, it is equally important to know when to break it and thus issue an immediate warning to the rank and file workers that treachery is afoot.

8. The type of organisation appropriate to the united front is an organ of struggle not of propaganda for a programme. As such, a trade union is in one sense a united front. More correctly a united front creates ad hoc fighting bodies commensurate to the task in hand. These may be strike committees, councils of action and at the highest level soviets. Such bodies, vital for the struggle, strengthen the pressure on the reformist leaders to ‘break with the bourgeoisie’. A united front can therefore take many forms, it can be extremely episodic-for a single demonstration, rally, strike—or it can be of a ‘higher’ form, involving a series of actions and agreements-a military bloc, a rank and file opposition in the trade unions like the British ‘Minority Movement’ of the 1920’s. Whatever form it takes, it is a block for action in defence of working class interests, in which the communists neither boycott nor submerge their own programme, and they ‘march separately, strike together’.

9. The united front is not limited to defensive trade union or extra-parliamentary struggles. It is taken on to the electoral arena where reformist parties dominate the working class. It also takes up the question of government and governmental demands. The resolution on tactics at the Fourth Congress makes clear that the slogan for a workers’ government ‘is an inevitable consequence of the united front tactic’. The partial struggles of the working class inevitably run up against the structures of the capitalist state, against the government of the day and its policies. The communists have to provide society wide answers to the problems facing workers, they place demands on the workers’ leaders, put forward a programme for a workers’ government. But these are not just left as demands; they are fought for within the rank and file of the working class belonging to all workers’ parties and none, in a united front struggle to implement them via workers’ control in the factories, through the fight for soviets, via the general strike etc.

10. The basis of the anti-imperialist united front rests on the clash of interests between the peoples of the imperialised countries and the imperialist bourgeoisie. Imperialism promotes industrial development in the imperialised countries but in a stunted and lopsided form. The imperialist banks and monopolies dominate their economies, extracting super-profits in the form of repatriated profits and usurious interest payments on loans. They impose their constrictions on the economies through the imperialist agencies such as the IMP, World Bank, etc, and inevitably because of the impossibility of imposing such exactions democratically over any period, in alliance with the most reactionary elements tied to imper­ialism-the military hierarchy and landed oligarchy. The demand for ‘independent economic development’, for alleviation from debt, for state capitalist industrialisation, protectionism, land reform, and constitutional democracy, reflects the needs of those sections of the bourgeoisie and petit-bourgeoisie which suffer most from the straight jacket of imperialist domination. These demands can lead to episodic clashes between the bourgeoisie of the semi­ colony and the imperialist bourgeoisie (or its agents within the country) as in the case of the struggle against Somoza in Nicaragua.

11. However, because of the weakness of the bourgeoisie in the semi-colonial world, the degree to which important sections of it are tied economically to imperialist capital itself, and most importantly, because of its fear of the revolutionary mobilisation of the masses, which threatens its own rule as well as that of the imperialists, the national bourgeoisie only exceptionally leads or throws its weight behind serious struggles against imperialism. As a result in many countries in the twentieth century the leadership of the anti-imperialist movements has fallen to the petit­ bourgeoisie. But in the vast majority of cases its programme has remained faithful to that of the bourgeoisie despite the attempt to delude the workers by cloaking itself in socialist or communist colours – Nyrere’s ‘African Socialism’, Mugabe and the Ethiopian Derg’s ‘Marxism-Leninism’, the FSLN’s Sandinism, etc.

12. Where the bourgeoisie or sections of it, or the petit­ bourgeoisie, enters into a struggle with imperialism it is obliged to draw and lean on the mass of workers and peasants. In such cases it is the duty of communists to enter such a struggle alongside these forces. The anti ­imperialist united front aims to break the hold of the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois nationalists over the masses, in struggle. The communists neither stand aside in a sectarian fashion nor do they hide their criticisms of these leaderships or the goals for which they struggle. Unlike the popular front which is a cross class coalition subordinating the interests of the working class to the programme of the bourgeoisie, the AIUF confines itself to concrete joint actions, specific agreements which take forward the struggle against the imperialists, within which the communists retain both freedom of criticism and propaganda. Such united fronts, given the compromising role of the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois nationalist, are likely to be extremely episodic and temporary. There is no question of tailoring the slogans of struggle to those considered acceptable to the bourgeoisie, let alone ‘reserving a seat’ in the united front.

13. The conclusions Trotsky drew for the International Left Opposition from the Chinese revolution of 1923-7 were not that the tactic of the AIUF had to be abandoned but that its opportunist distortion led to disaster. Under the leadership of Bukharin and Stalin the tactic had been gutted of its revolutionary content The Chinese Communist Party abandoned its independence and submerged itself inside the bourgeois Koumintang (KMI). It had, under the guidance of the Comintern painted up the KMT leadership in communist colours, lauding its anti-imperialist credentials and abandoning all criticism of it. It had boycotted the demands of the workers and peasants which threatened to rupture its alliance with the bourgeoisie. It had turned the AIUF into a popular front which delivered the Chinese proletariat into the hands of the counter-revolution.

14. Stalin and Bukharin were aided in this by the lack of clarity of the governmental slogans put forward by the CI in its discussions of the AIUF tactic. The Chinese revolution proved the slogan of the ‘Revolutionary Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Peasantry’ not only redundant but capable of being perverted into a call for a separate bourgeois stage of the revolution. In this sense, in Trotsky’s words, the slogan became a ‘noose’ hung round the neck of the proletariat. It implied that a bourgeois solution to the struggle against imperialism was the goal which the proletariat fought for with the united front The Chinese events reaffirmed the necessity of the perspective of the permanent revolution, the struggle for soviets and the workers and peasants government Such a perspective does not mean that the AIUF can only be struck around such demands. In periods of defeat or where the masses are emerging from long periods of dictatorship, the united front may well be agreed around democratic demands, rights of free speech and demonstration, release of all political prisoners etc. The fight for a democratic constituent assembly can become an important goal of an AIUF where it is part of the struggle to overthrow an imperialist backed dictatorship. The fight for the expropriation of the landowners and for an agrarian revolution would figure centrally in the struggle for such an assembly in most parts of the imperialised world. The fight for these demands are above all conducted to strengthen the independence of the working class and its organisations alongside those of the peasants-via demonstrations, strikes, committees of struggle, soviet type organisations, etc.

15. The AIUF in no way implies giving support to so called ‘anti-imperialist governments’. Communists give no support to bourgeois governments. We support any serious action of such governments taken against imperialist interests, e.g. the nationalisations or expropriations of imperialist holdings. Communists would support and participate in military actions taken against imperialism i.e. in Nicaragua against the contras and US advisors, in Argentina against Britain in the Malvinas, fighting in such a struggle for the arming of the workers, for democratically controlled workers militias. Similarly where the political struggle reaches the stage of civil war against a dictatorship, communists might enter a military united front, whenever possible as an independent armed force accepting a common discipline in battle, making agreements under a common discipline. Aiming to strike a united front around common goals of struggle-immediate elections to a constituent assembly, legalisation of trade unions and strikes, etc. We recognise that military blocs are one form of the united front-a form not qualitatively different to united action for political goals, ‘war is nothing more than the continuation of politics by other means’. When we call for the military victory of such movements as the FMLN, FSLN, etc, fighting against imperialism, its agents or a dictatorship, normally a slogan raised where the civil war or revolutionary crisis has reached a decisive stage, we are not endorsing the victory of their political programme. Within such a united front we struggle for our programme, to break the workers and peasants from the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois leaderships and enter onto the road of struggle for a workers and peasants’ government

16. It is therefore not permissible to give the AIUF in a governmental form since the proletariat cannot share with bourgeois forces the goal of a common government. While we can join a common struggle for the convening of a constituent assembly along with petit-bourgeois and even bourgeois forces, our governmental slogan remain the workers and peasants’ government. No bourgeoisie will tolerate a genuine working class government i.e. one that rests upon the armed workers and serves their immediate and historic interests, and the proletariat must under no circumstances support a government of its own exploiters. Any government which claims to be ‘above classes’ or to represent ‘the people as a whole’ is a deception. The proletariat can indeed defend or seek to bring about a democratic regime, utilising democratic slogans insofar as these mobilise for a struggle against dictatorship and for the rights of the workers, poor peasants and the oppressed petit-­bourgeoisie. But such struggles and slogans should never be erected into a self-contained or self-limiting stage. Soviets must replace the freest parliament, and the workers’ dictatorship the democratic republic. From the moment that democratic liberties have been won-de facto as well as de jure – they become an arena for the proletariat’s struggle for power.
The VOAG is watching, the VOAG is everywhere!

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

More than £1bn of NHS services are to be opened to competition from private companies and charities.

The government will open up more than £1bn of NHS services to competition from private companies and charities, reported the Guardian on 17th July. It will lead to the “privatisation of the entire health service” it said.

In the first wave, beginning in April, eight NHS areas – including services for back pain, adult hearing services and wheelchair services for children – will be open for competition. If successful, “any qualified provider” will be allowed, from 2013, to deliver more complicated clinical services in maternity and chemotherapy.

Even Labour’s shadow health secretary, John Healey said it was “not about giving more control to patients, but setting up a full-scale market”.The Tory-led government is pushing ahead with its wasteful and unnecessary NHS reorganisation, rather than focusing on improving patient care. Their policies were just a step towards privatisation. The government insists the NHS must save £20bn over the next four years”.

Writing in Labour Briefing, John Healey said: “In its original form the NHS bill was more than three times longer than the 1946 Act that set up the NHS and it has already been subjected to hundreds of amendments”. “Furthermore, the revised Health And Social Care bill is to be put before Parliament the day after the Summer recess, leaving MPs no chance to read the details of the bill before they vote on it”.   

A Unison spokesman added: “Patients will be little more than consumers, as the NHS becomes a market-driven service, with profits first and patients second, and they will be left without the services they need as forward planning in the NHS becomes impossible.”

A spokesman for the British Medical Association questioned the assumption that increasing competition will mean improving choice, and said: “The Government is misleading the public by repeatedly stating that there will be no privatisation of the NHS”.

 From April 2012 eight types of health services will be opened to competition:
• Services for back and neck pain.
• Adult hearing services in the community.
• Continence services (adults and children).
• Diagnostic tests closer to home.
• Wheelchair services (children).
• Podiatry (feet) services.
• Leg ulcer and wound healing.
• Talking Therapies (primary care psychological therapies, adults).

Max Pemberton commented in The Telegraph on July 26th: “There are 15 clauses that will allow private companies to buy and asset-strip NHS facilities. This means that in these areas the NHS will no longer exist. Sure, the logo will still be there, but the NHS will no longer be national, any more than British Telecom is”. “The health secretary and the Prime Minister assure us the NHS will not be privatised when the legislation they are pushing through explicitly suggests otherwise”.

 

Labour Briefing – The Privatisation of NHS
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/labour-briefing-the-privatisation-of-nhs.pdf

 

 

British Medical Journal: The Privatisation of NHS
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/bmj-the-privatisation-of-nhs.pdf

In David Cameron we have a leader whose job is to quietly legitimise a semi-criminal, money-laundering economy

‘I would love to see tax reductions,” David Cameron told the Sunday Telegraph at the weekend, “but when you’re borrowing 11% of your GDP, it’s not possible to make significant net tax cuts. It just isn’t.” Oh no? Then how come he’s planning the biggest and crudest corporate tax cut in living memory?

If you’ve heard nothing of it, you’re in good company. The obscure adjustments the government is planning to the tax acts of 1988 and 2009 have been missed by almost everyone – and are, anyway, almost impossible to understand without expert help. But as soon as you grasp the implications, you realise that a kind of corporate coup d’etat is taking place.

Like the dismantling of the NHS and the sale of public forests, no one voted for this measure, as it wasn’t in the manifestos. While Cameron insists that he occupies the centre ground of British politics, that he shares our burdens and feels our pain, he has quietly been plotting with banks and businesses to engineer the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor and middle to the ultra-rich that this country has seen in a century. The latest heist has been explained to me by the former tax inspector, now a Private Eye journalist, Richard Brooks and current senior tax staff who can’t be named. Here’s how it works.

At the moment tax law ensures that companies based here, with branches in other countries, don’t get taxed twice on the same money. They have to pay only the difference between our rate and that of the other country. If, for example, Dirty Oil plc pays 10% corporation tax on its profits in Oblivia, then shifts the money over here, it should pay a further 18% in the UK, to match our rate of 28%. But under the new proposals, companies will pay nothing at all in this country on money made by their foreign branches.

Foreign means anywhere. If these proposals go ahead, the UK will be only the second country in the world to allow money that has passed through tax havens to remain untaxed when it gets here. The other is Switzerland. The exemption applies solely to “large and medium companies”: it is not available for smaller firms. The government says it expects “large financial services companies to make the greatest use of the exemption regime”. The main beneficiaries, in other words, will be the banks.

But that’s not the end of it. While big business will be exempt from tax on its foreign branch earnings, it will, amazingly, still be able to claim the expense of funding its foreign branches against tax it pays in the UK. No other country does this. The new measures will, as we already know, accompany a rapid reduction in the official rate of corporation tax: from 28% to 24% by 2014. This, a Treasury minister has boasted, will be the lowest rate “of any major western economy”. By the time this government is done, we’ll be lucky if the banks and corporations pay anything at all. In the Sunday Telegraph, David Cameron said: “What I want is tax revenue from the banks into the exchequer, so we can help rebuild this economy.” He’s doing just the opposite.

These measures will drain not only wealth but also jobs from the UK. The new legislation will create a powerful incentive to shift business out of this country and into nations with lower corporate tax rates. Any UK business that doesn’t outsource its staff or funnel its earnings through a tax haven will find itself with an extra competitive disadvantage. The new rules also threaten to degrade the tax base everywhere, as companies with headquarters in other countries will demand similar measures from their own governments.

So how did this happen? You don’t have to look far to find out. Almost all the members of the seven committees the government set up “to provide strategic oversight of the development of corporate tax policy” are corporate executives. Among them are representatives of Vodafone, Tesco, BP, British American Tobacco and several of the major banks: HSBC, Santander, Standard Chartered, Citigroup, Schroders, RBS and Barclays.

I used to think of such processes as regulatory capture: government agencies being taken over by the companies they were supposed to restrain. But I’ve just read Nicholas Shaxson’s Treasure Islands <http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jan/22/treasure-islands-tax-havens-shaxson-review> – perhaps the most important book published in the UK so far this year – and now I’m not so sure. Shaxson shows how the world’s tax havens have not, as the OECD claims, been eliminated, but legitimised; how the City of London is itself a giant tax haven, which passes much of its business through its subsidiary havens in British dependencies, overseas territories and former colonies; how its operations mesh with and are often indistinguishable from the laundering of the proceeds of crime; and how the Corporation of the City of London in effect dictates to the government, while remaining exempt from democratic control. If Hosni Mubarak has passed his alleged $70bn through British banks, the Egyptians won’t see a piastre <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egyptian_piastre>  of it.

Reading Treasure Islands, I have realised that injustice of the kind described in this column is no perversion of the system; it is the system. Tony Blair came to power after assuring the City of his benign intentions. He then deregulated it and cut its taxes. Cameron didn’t have to assure it of anything: his party exists to turn its demands into public policy. Our ministers are not public servants. They work for the people who fund their parties, run the banks and own the newspapers, shielding them from their obligations to society, insulating them from democratic challenge.

Our political system protects and enriches a fantastically wealthy elite, much of whose money is, as a result of their interesting tax and transfer arrangements, in effect stolen from poorer countries, and poorer citizens of their own countries. Ours is a semi-criminal money-laundering economy, legitimised by the pomp of the lord mayor’s show and multiple layers of defence in government. Politically irrelevant, economically invisible, the rest of us inhabit the margins of the system. Governments ensure that we are thrown enough scraps to keep us quiet, while the ultra-rich get on with the serious business of looting the global economy and crushing attempts to hold them to account.

And this government? It has learned the lesson that Thatcher never grasped. If you want to turn this country into another Mexico, where the ruling elite wallows in unimaginable, state-facilitated wealth while the rest can go to hell, you don’t declare war on society, you don’t lambast single mothers or refuse to apologise for Bloody Sunday. You assuage, reassure, conciliate, emote. Then you shaft us.

Notes from Save Our Services in Surrey (SOSiS) meeting in Staines on 3rd March 2011. Recorded and typed by Paul Couchman.

We had expected a smaller turnout than usual due to the long distance from other parts of Surrey but there were about a dozen activists present – almost all from the Staines and surrounding area. A number of people from the newly formed West Surrey branch of the Revolutionary Socialist Youth group also came along and were fully involved in the meeting. A key decision to advertise anti-cuts council candidates was taken, see below.

AROUND THE TABLE
There were reports around the table about cuts taking place (or planned):
*Staines Fire Station (and other Surrey stations) threatened. Night fire cover being axed.
*Cuts in colleges and universities – the University College Union (UCU) balloting for strike action.
*Threatened closure of 11 libraries
*Axing of the entire Mobile Library service
*Commissioning of Youth Services
*Closures of Childrens Centres and Surestart Centres
*Childrens Homes
*Adult Social Services – major job cuts and changes threatened in terms and conditions – UNISON balloting members around industrial action.

OFFICERS REPORTS:
CHAIR
Chris apologised for tinkering with the SOSiS website and bringing it crashing down. A replacement website has been set up and Chris is working on saving all the original information. Coach tickets for 26 March can still be bought online and the mailing list is unaffected.

 ORGANISER
Paul outlined some of the people and organisations he has been making contact with on behalf of SOSiS:
*Staines Labour Party (LP) – Paul spoke for SOSiS at the demonstration organised by the local LP to save night time fire cover at Staines Fire Station. One of the organisers was at the meeting.
*Close contact has been made with the ‘Friends’ groups at New Haw and Godalming libraries.
*A letter appeared in the local paper from the Surrey NetMums group saying they were fighting cuts to childrens centres and Surestart. Paul has made contact with them.
*MenCap (learning disability charity) have organised a series of anti-cuts roadshows and Paul is attending the Surrey event this Tuesday.
*Paul and Chris met with the leaders of Save Our Surrey Community Hospitals, which has organised big demonstrations in defence of local health services. They are open to joint activity around the NHS.

Surrey County Council Trade Union group (SCCTU) have always bee fully supportive of SOSiS and again pledged support at their last meeting – with a specific motion passed to support the Royal Holloway Anti-Cuts Alliance in their difficulties with the university management. The UCU reps said they wanted to work more closely with SOSiS around their current dispute.

Lastly, Paul was hoping to get a local NW Surrey anti-cuts group off the ground and the support and turnout at the meeting made that look very likely.

 TREASURER
Thelma was unable to make this meeting. It was reported that we have around £1,000 and that local groups and campaigns should make use of this by requesting funding for specific leaflets etc.

YOUTH AND STUDENT ORGANISER
Craig gave a full and detailed report of the amazing work and activities going on in Royal Holloway (RHUL) and in other universities and colleges in Surrey and in London.
* Lots of students turned out from RHUL and Strodes to an anti-EMA demo in January in London.
* Dan Cooper, leading anti-cuts campaigner, was elected President of NUS at RHUL.
* RHUL organised a debate on the ‘Big Society’ with a range of speakers, including from SOSiS, from the RMT and ‘False Economy’.
* RHACA (Royal Holloway Anti-Cuts Alliance) organised an occupation of a university building in London (with other * London students), setting up an anti-cuts space which was ended by bailiffs coming through skylights and dragging people out.
* It was also reported that leading anti-cuts campaigners and the RHACA have come under attack from RHUL management. SCCTU sent a message of support to the students.

REGIONAL ANTI-CUTS ASSEMBLY
It was reported that plans were under way to try to organise a regional assembly at RHUL but due to the management position this was now very unlikely. An offer has come from the UCU at University of Surrey (Guildford) to try to secure space there for an assembly after March 26th. Craig suggested that close links with the UCU at RHUL may mean pressure could still be brought to bear on the management there to allow the meeting to take place. Negotiations continue but it is our firm intention to hold a regional assembly in the near future.

 MARCH 26TH TUC DEMONSTRATION
A discussion took place and it was generally agreed that we believe this will be the biggest demonstration in the UK for decades. Coaches and trains have been booked from cities, towns and villages across the country. Every trade union is mobilising their members. UNISON in Surrey have booked four coaches from Staines, Woking, Guildford and Redhill – tickets are £2 each and selling fast. Craig informed the meeting that a student feeder march was planned on the day.

 MAY COUNCIL ELECTIONS
A discussion was started by Paul and Chris and a motion moved by Paul regarding how SOSiS can intervene in the May borough council elections without supporting any one political party. It was agreed by everyone that SOSiS needed to have a position and be able to inform the public and trade unionists regarding the anti-cuts position of candidates.

Paul moved the following motion, which was agreed unanimously after discussion:
That SOSiS puts aside a space on our website to list any and all candidates for council office who agree to sign up to the following pledge:
“If elected, I pledge to vote against ALL cuts in jobs, services, pay, terms and conditions. I will work with the trade unions and anti-cuts campaigners to defend all public services”.
That SOSiS circulates this message widely and invites candidates of all political parties and affiliations [except far right, racist and fascist parties] to contact us and sign our pledge.
This motion is completely in line with our founding principles and does not infer SOSiS support of any individual candidate or party.

ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Paul announced that there will be a lobby of the Labour Party Local Government Conference in London this Saturday 5th March, organised by the NSSN, the RMT and other trade unions – calling on Labour Councils not to impose cuts.

NEXT MEETING
It was agreed that we should aim to hold the next meeting on 24th March in Redhill and invite a speaker and use the meeting as a rally prior to the big TUC demo. We will also firm up and communicate any important information at that meeting regarding coaches, stewarding etc. Chris will make contact with the Redhill group to organise a venue and consider speaker/s. To make it more possible for people from this end of Surrey to attend, lifts can be arranged and/or a minibus booked. Activists who wish to go but need support to get there should contact us.

STAINES AND NORTH WEST SURREY ANTI-CUTS ALLIANCE
The majority of those attending were from the local area and, after the main meeting, all agreed to be part of a local group affiliated to SOSiS. We now have a solid group in Redhill and fledgling groups in Woking, Guildford and Staines.

There will be a SOSiS street stall on Saturday 19th March from 11am till 2pm in Staines to advertise the TUC demonstration and recruit new local activists. More details will be sent out nearer the day.

For Updates, news and events visit www.saveourservic.es or join Guildford Against Fees And Cuts Facebook page.  Email: guildfordagainstfeesandcuts@yahoo.co.uk

REMEMBER: There are Subsidised coaches to the TUC National Demonstration in London, March 26th. All are welcome. Only £2.00 RTN. Coaches are leaving from Staines, Guildford, Redhill and Woking. Buy a ticket online using a secure paypal at www.saveourservic.es or email www.guildfordagainstfeesandcuts@yahoo.co.uk

 

Aaron Porter – This Is Your Life!

What a month it was for Aaron Porter, NUS President. The Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford looks back at the lows and lows of a Tory low-life and bids farewell.

On the 29th January, Aaron Porter was invited to speak at the closing rally of the NUS/UCU “A Future that Works” demonstration in Manchester. As protesters gathered at the starting point on Oxford Road, about thirty activists from Hull and Leeds Universities accosted Porter and demanded that he justify his record. Instead of engaging with the students, Porter turned and hurried off. In true Benny Hill style, he found himself being followed by a growing number of demonstrators. Within a couple of minutes he was literally being chased through the streets of Manchester by almost half of those who had gathered for the march – perhaps about five hundred people – with chants including “Students, workers, hear us shout, Aaron Porter sold us out” and “Porter – out”. Eventually he took refuge in Manchester Metropolitan Union, protected by a heavy cordon of riot police.

Aaron Porter is escorted in to the Manchester Met University, pursued by 500 protesters

Unsurprisingly, Porter did not turn up to speak at the closing rally. NUS Vice-President and Further Education officer, Shane Chowan spoke in Porter’s place. He was drowned out by hostile chanting and pelted with eggs and was unable to finish his speech. Most of the speakers were heckled repeatedly.

After the rally, about a thousand students marched back into the city center. They were met by a huge and violent police presence, and were kettled in central Manchester’s Deangate.

The following day, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail reported that during Porter’s pursuit through the streets of Manchester, he was subjected to racial taunts and chanting. The Mail’s article was titled: “Student leader faces barrage of anti-Jewish abuse at rally as protesters accuse him of being a Tory.”

When activists contacted the two newspapers, The Mail claimed a photographer was the sole source of their story but refused to name him. The Telegraph said there were only two sources for their story, a PA photographer, and the NUS itself. The NUS official who heard the chants, is “believed to be an aide to Porter”, an NUS Press Officer said: “We cannot allow you to speak to the person directly. There is an ongoing police investigation into the allegations, and we feel it is not appropriate to discuss the matter.”

In an email to NUS members printed in the Financial Times, Porter said; “Just before the march started, I was surrounded by a particularly vicious minority of protesters more intent on shouting threatening and racist abuse at me rather than focusing on the issues.”  On January 30th, He sent a tweet that read: “I Will not back down to intimidation, and certainly not to racial abuse”, and in a Times article on January 31st he wrote of the protest: “However, before I was able to speak to the rally of thousands, a small group of people started to chant abuse to try to intimidate me, and there were audible anti-Semitic comments.”

Porter later admitted that he had not himself heard any racial abuse “The NUS had only confirmed the story when journalists contacted them for a comment”. In a statement through the NUS Press Office, Porter said: “I was not certain what was said by those shouting abuse at me, however I was informed by others present that amongst other things anti-Semitic comments were made. I have not made a specific complaint to the police as I did not clearly hear the contents of the chants myself.”

Allegations of racist chanting or abuse have been strongly denied and contemptuously shrugged off as a highly cynical attempt to salvage a sinking political career.

Two YouTube videos have emerged since the protest. One shows the moments before Porter was escorted into the Manchester Metropolitan Students’ Union. Another substantially longer one, which is largely uncut, shows most of the protest. At no point are there anti-Semitic chants, nor chants of “no to racism,” which was reported in the Telegraph article but not in the Mail.

There was a BBC reporter outside Manchester Metropolitan Students’ Union where Porter was taken. The BBC news reports made no mention of anti-Semitic chants.

Like the WMDs in Iraq, this looks like noxious New Labour spin. May be the weapons will turn up and video evidence of racial abuse will be made available, but I doubt it. Although no eyewitnesses have come forward to corroborate the Mail or Telegraph‘s claims, several have come forward to say that they heard no racist abuse.

A member of the Campaign Against Fees and Cuts said on their website: “We were at the front of the crowd which chased Porter, and thus would have heard any racist chants – let alone a “barrage”! We were also in possession of two of the four megaphones involved”.

Josie Hooker, a student at the University of Manchester was about 15 metres away from Porter for the majority of the march. She also claimed not to have heard anti-Semitic chants or the chants of “no to racism”. “At no point did I hear anti-Semitic abuse and at no point did I hear anyone shout ‘no to racism,’” she said. “Due to my position on the march, I believe that if a 20 strong group of people were shouting ‘no to racism’ in response to anti-Semitic or racist abuse, myself or one of the 15-20 odd friends and acquaintances present in various positions among the protesters would have heard it.”

She also suggested that the photographer who heard the chant “Tory Jew Scum” simply miss-heard “you’re a fucking Tory too,” which was chanted throughout the protest.

Peter Campbell, a medical student from Newcastle, also claimed to have heard no racial abuse. Referring to the “Aaron Porter we know you, you’re a fucking Tory too” chant, he said: “It is a chant of disgust at a man who has repeatedly set back the student movement. It is certainly not pleasant, it’s not meant to be. However, it is not anti-Semitic.”

Chris Marks, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, when asked if there were any anti-Semitic chants said: “Absolutely and categorically not. I was at the front of the group which instigated the protest. If there had been anti-Semitic chants we would have heard and challenged it. Anything shouted was jovial.”

Porter, kettled in Glasgow cries for the police

On the 12th February, Porter was in need of police protection again, when he was chased through the streets of Glasgow. As he left the Labour Students Conference at Glasgow University, where he had been speaking, he encountered a group of student activists. Occupiers from Glasgow University, who are battling against cuts on their campus.

The protesters crowded around the entrance as he left. In the words of one protester: “Having been sacrificed to us by his Labour bosses, so they could clear the door of the clearly terrifying mob, Aaron was kettled by us. Much screaming of “I don’t expect to be filmed!” and “I don’t want to be hit!” followed – nobody was hitting him, in fact he broke someone’s camera.- until he did a total comedy run away”. Showing uncharacteristic swift and decisive action, Porter immediately dived between one of the protesters’ legs and fled. Porter was forced into hiding somewhere on the Glasgow University campus. Even the Labour Club didn’t know where he was hiding. It’s an indictment of the disgraceful policies of the NUS leadership when even the Labour Students and Young Labour delegates appeared, to say the least, unconcerned about Porter’s wereabouts.

Porter’s recent betrayals began when he condemned the occupation of Millbank, whilst keeping silent about the much more extreme police violence. Secondly he flip-flopped, saying he had been “spineless”. He announced support for student occupations and promised he would obtain legal aid for occupiers which he didn’t do. Then he voted against NUS support for an anti-fees demo, instead choosing to back a useless “candelit vigil”.

The Daily Telegraph reported on 8th December that they have seen emails from Porter to the Government, leaked by his close associates. Trying to persuade ministers at the Department for Business to enact their planned 15 per cent cut in higher education funding without lifting the cap on fees. The NUS leadership urged ministers to cut grants and loans as an alternative to raising tuition fees. Aaron was ready to call for cuts of up to £800 million in grants behind the back of students.

In one email to the Department for Business, dated Oct 1, Porter suggested that £800 million should be “deducted from the grants pot” over four years. That would cut total spending on grants by 61 per cent. Porter also proposed the “introduction of a real rate of interest” for student loans.

In an email the following day, Graeme Wise, an NUS political officer, urged ministers seeking cuts to start with the “student support” package of grants and loans. Graeme Wise also suggested that the cuts in support could be imposed on students currently at university.The NUS’ plans also called for 2.4 billion to be cut from the universities’ teaching budget over four years, a reduction of 48 per cent.

The NUS have also been calling on NUS officers at different universities not to oppose hikes in fees, describing them as “relatively progressive” – completely at odds with what they said publicly. Another leaked memo told NUS officers to “engage” with university leaders rather than campaign for lower fees.

In response, the President of Cambridge University Students’ Union, Rahul Mansigani, said: “It is disappointing that anyone views as progressive a scheme that students up and down the country have campaigned against”.

Porter has been universally condemned by both students and NUS officers as a “sell-out”, a Tory and a careerist. He has been accused of giving into the government without a fight; spending more time condemning student protesters than arguing against the tuition fee rise; and more concerned with ingratiating himself with politicians than standing up for students

When newly elected, last summer he said in a Guardian interview, he would “define success as ensuring that a market in fees does not emerge”. Failure, he said, “would be a real market in fees coupled with cuts from the government”.

The Guardian interviewed him again on the 28th February and asked him, How then can you possibly claim to have been a success? His responses were almost delusional: “I still believe we’ve run a successful high-profile campaign. A disastrous campaign would be one that made no impact whatsoever. This made an indelible imprint in the public’s consciousness and in the political landscape. Did we get what we wanted? No, we didn’t. Would I have signed up to the proposals for trebled tuition fees? Not in a million years. But I think it would be wrong of me to say that this was not a successful campaign. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the coalition was under real pressure.”

The VOAG would argue that the campaign’s impact was achieved not by the NUS, but by the occupations and by the protesters, condemned by Porter, who invaded Millbank Tower back in November. Had students not organised outside the NUS structures, and had they not stormed Millbank; had 50,000 students simply marched peacefully through London, tuition fees would not have developed into the high-profile issue it has become.

Many Liberal Democrat candidates signed an NUS pledge before the election that they would vote against any fee increase. The breaking of this pledge by the Lib Dem leadership became a focus for Porter. Porter declared to the guardian  “Committing them to oppose any rise in tuition fees was a master-stroke”. The journalist replied: “Well it would have been a master stroke, I agree, if the Lib Dems had felt bound by it – but in the event they just tore it up”.

“I still think that it was a remarkable campaign tactic”, said Porter. “Because the pledge meant that one of the parties could not run away from it”. “It was the most effective campaign of 2010”.

“But they did run away from it”, replied the journalist, “didn’t they”? “They did,” he conceded, without missing a beat. “The preferred outcome from the pledge would’ve been that the Liberal Democrats stuck to it – but they didn’t.”

On the 21st February, Porter announced he would not be standing for re-election in the Student Union elections in April. Porter said that the campaign over fees is “moving into a different landscape” and the union needs a new president.

In an email to members, Porter wrote: “So this new regime brings with it a new landscape, and I believe the NUS needs reinvigorating to enter into the next phase of this campaign. After considerable soul-searching, I believe there needs to be a new President to lead the student movement into that next phase. As a result, I’ve resolved not to seek re-election at the National Conference this year”.

This is only the second time in over 40 years that an NUS President has not run for a second year in office. In a guardian interview following his announcement, Porter maintained he would be certain to win the presidency if he chose to stand. “Oh, without a doubt”. He predicted the NUS will elect a successor very much in his “image” – and said his tenure “had been a terrific success”.

Regarding the student protests, he told the Guardian, “I cannot see, on the issue of tuition fees, how illegal protest is helpful.” “Well tuition fees, whilst I disagree with them, are not the biggest evil in society. It is not the worst decision that the Labour government made to introduce them, and it is not the worst decision this coalition has made to increase them.”

He concluded his Guardian interview with: “For me the question is about what next year would’ve been like. And I think that the NUS, and also me personally, need to be able to draw a line under the tuition fee debate, and I suspected that my continuation as NUS president would’ve inhibited us to move on from the tuition fee issue”.

Aaron Porter then, leaves us with a sigh of resignation for the inevitable. ‘We lost, now lets move on’.  The Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford also gives a sigh, a sigh of utter contempt. What a waste of space.

There’s nothing inevitable about the education cuts, fee rises, or the implementation of the Bologna process and the marketisation of education. There is everything to play for. Education is only one area of the public sector that is under attach from the ConDem government. Workers And Students Unite is not an empty slogan,  together we can stop all cuts. There is an alternative, but we must first see the end of this government.The TUC National demonstration on the 26th March is the first step and a spring-board to develop anti-cuts groups in every town, college and university in Britain.There are coaches subsidised by Surrey Unison leaving from Staines, Woking, Guildford and Redhill. Everybody is welcome. Tickets are only £2.00 Rtn. You can buy a ticket on-line at http://www.saveourservic.es or email:guildfordagainstfeesandcuts@yahoo.co.uk

“The unions should no longer criticise from the sidelines but recall their membership in special conferences and discuss how to mobilise to defend every single hospital and NHS unit, and make sure this Health Bill cannot be implemented”. 

Or go down to the summary

The publication of the Health and Social Care Bill last month heralds dramatic changes for the NHS, which will affect the way public health and social care are provided in the UK. Those changes alone will have huge impact, but it is the formation of an NHS Commissioning Board, and GP commissioning consortia, that will once and for all remove the word “national” from the health service in England. The result, due to come into force in 2013, will be the catastrophic break up of the NHS.

Out go strategic health authorities and 152 primary care trusts and in come several hundred general practitioner consortiums, responsible for commissioning £80bn of NHS care from “any willing provider.” This means Privatisation!

Putting general practitioners (GPs) in charge of commissioning health services for their patients is similar, in some respects, to the fundholding experiment in the 1990s. The principle then was that GPs controlled the budgets to buy the specialist care their patients needed. Fundholding took years to implement, but evidence on short-term or long-term benefits for patients is lacking. In the current Bill, health outcomes, including prevention of premature death, will be the responsibility of the NHS Commissioning Board, which has been asked to publish a business plan and annual reports on progress. That business plan is urgently needed to allow transparent appraisal of how the Board plans to monitor patients’ outcomes.

The UK coalition Government has now been in power for about 8 months. Neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats included the formation of an NHS Commissioning Board, or GPs’ commissioning consortia, in their health manifestos. There was no mention of their health plans in either of the parties pledges and the plans were not mentioned in the coalition agreement. However, less than eight weeks after the election, an outline emerged in the white paper “Equity and excellence: liberating the NHS.

The speed of the introduction of the Health and Social Care Bill is surprising, especially given the absence of relevant detail in the health manifestos. The Conservatives promised, if elected, to scrap “politically motivated targets that have no clinical justification” and called themselves the “party of the NHS” — a commitment that seems particularly hollow now.

The NHS was unsurprisingly absent from the 2010 election campaign because satisfaction levels with the NHS were at an all time high, and for most of the electorate the NHS was a non-issue. In the words of Simon Stevens, president of global health at United Health Group, a company that stands to benefit from the reforms,“The inconvenient truth is that on most indicators the English NHS is probably performing better than ever.”

The House of Commons Health Committee’s report, “Commissioning 2011” points out that the proposed changes are to be implemented at the same time as annual efficiency savings of 4% over four years. The report says,“The scale of changes is without precedent in NHS history; and there is no known example of such a feat being achieved by any other healthcare system in the world. ”To pull off either of these challenges would therefore be breathtaking; to believe that you could manage both of them at once is deluded. Since its establishment in July, 1948, the aim of the NHS has been to offer a comprehensive service to improve health and prevent illness. Health care for all, for free, has been the common ethos and philosophy throughout the NHS. On July 3, 1948, in an editorial entitled “Our Service”, The Lancet commented: “Now that everyone is entitled to full medical care, the doctor can provide that care without thinking of his own profit or his patient’s loss, and can allocate his efforts more according to medical priority. The money barrier has of course protected him against people who do not really require help, but it has also separated him from people who really do.”

Now, GPs will return to the market place and will decide what care they can afford to provide for their patients, and who will be the provider. The emphasis will move from clinical need (GPs’ forte) back to cost (not what GPs were trained to evaluate). The ethos will become that of the individual providers, and will differ accordingly throughout England, replacing the philosophy of a genuinely national health service.  As it stands, the UK Government’s new Bill spells the end of the NHS.

Moving to consortiums will incur the costs of transition in addition to their recurring costs. On the basis of past National Audit Office data, the government has put the cost of the NHS reorganisation at £2-3bn. The white paper’s key financial pledge was to reduce the NHS’s management costs by more than 45%. GP consortiums would replace primary care trusts, which have administrative costs of over a billion pounds a year (for a population of 51 million) The potential consortiums have learnt that their running costs will be capped at between £25 and £35 per head of population which equals around 1.5billion a year (based on a £30 cap). So where’s the saving?

The government’s recent “bonfire of the quangos” provides an instructive example of how a rush job doesn’t necessarily guarantee the best outcome. Earlier this month, the parliamentary select committee on public administration criticised the axing of 192 public bodies and the merging of 118 more as poorly managed. It also said that the government’s NHS plans would not deliver significant cost savings or better accountability—two of the government’s key aims. The committee’s chairman said that,“The whole process was rushed and poorly handled and should have been thought through a lot more.”

Rationalising a few hundred arm’s length bodies hardly compares with turning the NHS upside down, yet the proposed timescale for the health reforms is dizzying. The bill promises that all general practices will be part of consortiums by April 2012, yet it took six years for 56% of general practices to become fundholders after the introduction of the internal market.

The health secretary has made much of these changes being evolutionary rather than revolutionary. People “woefully overestimate the scale of the change,” he said. After all, practice based commissioning, choice of provider, an NHS price list, and foundation trusts already exist. But a week later came the revelation that hospitals would be allowed to undercut the NHS tariff to increase their business. Health economists queued up to say what a terrible idea this was, citing evidence that it would lead to a race to the bottom on price, which would threaten quality. Taken with the opening up of NHS contracts to European competition law, it was the last piece of evidence needed to convince critics that the government was unleashing a storm of creative destruction onto the NHS, with the imperative: compete or die.

Regardless of the true motivation behind the governments plans, such radical reorganisations always adversely affect service performance. They are a huge distraction from the real mission of the NHS, “to deliver and improve the quality of healthcare” that can absorb a massive amount of managerial and clinical time.

With an estimated one billion pounds of redundancy money in their pockets, many of those made redundant in the reorganisation and “efficiency savings” of the NHS are likely to be employed by the new GP consortiums in much their same roles. It raises the question: if GP commissioning turns out to be simply primary care trust commissioning done by GPs, aren’t there less disruptive routes to this destination?

Meanwhile, government cuts haven’t gone away. Although the impact assessment of the new bill calculates that savings will have covered the costs of transition by 2012-13, the reorganisation will not have made any savings to contribute to the £15-£20bn efficiency savings the government requires from the NHS by 2014-15.

 East Sussex GPs Oppose Consotia
A recent survey of East Sussex GPs, conducted by the BMA found that more than 70 per cent of them fear patient care will suffer when changes to the NHS are given the go-ahead. The vast majority of GPs surveyed slammed government plans to put GP consortia in charge of health care. Just 7.7 per cent of respondents were convinced that GP consortia will be up to the task.

Although 58 per cent of the GPs believe too much money is wasted on bureaucracy in the NHS, just one in ten GPs approved government proposals to hand purchasing power to GPs. Under government plans, GP consortia will replace the East Sussex Downs and Weald Primary Care Trust by 2013 and will be responsible for buying 80 per cent of health services.

Dr Michael von Fraunhofer, of the Eastbourne consortium steering committee, said local consortia could be hamstrung with more than £30 million in debt from the outgoing PCT. He warned: ‘This will cripple patient care and the blame will fall on GPs unfairly. No matter how good, dynamic or inventive we are, we will be making massive cuts in choice and services just to stay afloat.’
Private Health Care Company, Care UK 
Meanwhile, private health firm, Care UK has won a £53m prison hospitals contract, despite an NHS bid offering a better service. The company has won the contract to run health services at eight jails in north east England, with its cheaper, lower quality bid. About 200 nurses’ jobs and pay could be under threat. Glenn Turp, of the Royal College of Nursing, said he was worried about infection control as Care UK ‘had no plans in place’.

An NHS executive who lost the contract, Les Morgan, sent an angry email to the Health Commissioning Unit which decides who should run healthcare at the eight jails. Morgan wrote: ‘Our bid was judged better on quality, delivery and risk. ‘We are keen to understand the large difference in scoring on price.’ Care UK’s then boss John Nash and wife Caroline donated £200,000 to the Tories before the general election, including £21,000 to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s private office.

BMA Discusses Strike Action
BMA boss, Dr Hajioff said, The British Medical Association will put ‘absolutely everything’ on the table including strike action when members determine their response to the government’s NHS Health and Social Care Bill. His comments come as health unions are planning further protests against plans by Barts and The London NHS Trust to cut 635 posts to save £56m over two years. This includes the loss of 250 nursing jobs and a 100 beds.

Similar plans are taking place all over Britain. The Royal Surrey in Guildford has already seen 400 redundancies and the loss of beds. BMA Council member Anna Athow said in a recent interview: “‘The Health Bill aims to accelerate the plans of the last government to physically close and destroy hospitals and make their staff redundant on a massive scale, in order to privatise the NHS”.

She continued; “The unions should no longer criticise from the sidelines but recall their membership in special conferences and discuss how to mobilise to defend every single hospital and NHS unit, and make sure this Health Bill cannot be implemented”. “The recalled Special Representative Meeting of the BMA on March 15 should discuss all options in this campaign. Hospitals must be occupied by local staff and campaigners in Councils of Action to stop them closing.’

In Summary   
1. Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill will encourage ’any willing provider’ to cherry pick profitable slices of NHS services. It’s the biggest-ever privatisation of health care anywhere in the world,

 2. The Bill will turn the NHS into a free market, cost billions to implement, and be far more unequal in its provision of services than the current system.

 3. GP consortia, with their budgets squeezed to create £20 billion of savings will have to restrict access to hospital care.

 4. GP consortia will have to employ private management consultants, who are the only people to have welcomed Lansley’s plans.

5. Patients will be even less informed as existing public bodies are replaced by local GP consortia, that function in secret sessions, and a remote national NHS Commissioning Board.

6. Health care services are to be privatised, with EU competition laws forcing GPs to put any service out to tender.

7. All limits on the money Foundation Trusts hospitals can earn from private medicine are to be scrapped. Hospitals will then prioritise attracting wealthy private patients.

8. Price competition is to be introduced in clinical services, despite warnings that this will undermine the quality of care.

9. The limited ’scrutiny’ proposals are a fraud: GP consortia and the Commissioning Board will take their decisions in secret, and are not even obliged to go through the motions of consultation.

10. The Bill is opposed by the health unions and the TUC, the majority of GPs, and virtually every organisation of health professionals, including the Royal College of GPs and the BMA.

That’s why Lansley must be stopped. It’s time for urgent political action to Kill Lansley’s Bill.
Read: “Kill Lansley’s Bill 10 good reasons” from the PCS Union. 

Save Our NHS Facebook Group
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Our-NHS/142561392425826?v=wall

Protest To Save The NHS on 9th March          
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Our-NHS/142561392425826?v=wall#!/event.php?eid=176583299053096

Don’t forget: 26th March. THE BIG ONE: TUC DEMO AGAINST THE CUTS.
Coaches leaving Guildford. Only £2.00 Rtn. Click link for details.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Our-NHS/142561392425826?v=wall#!/event.php?eid=178381258861986
or visit www.saveourservic.es

Activists from around the UK are planning to occupy Hyde park for the night, after the March 26th TUC demonstration against the cuts.

Their plan, says organisers, is to participate in the TUC demonstration and various actions on March 26th, then occupy Hyde Park as a temporary free zone. A village in the center of London where people can camp, organise, relax, eat, dance and hatch plots.

“Hyde Park should be used as a launch pad and base for actions, and demonstrations for the following 24 hours. A safe convergence space for spontaneous marches and demonstrations throughout the weekend”. “A space to create a micro society based on mutual aid, respect and combined power to hold a siege of London which will have those in power running for the panic room”.

Marching from A to B, listening to some speechifying bureaucrats, and then going home empty-handed is not an option. Thousands have already pledged their support. The Facebook event has 1500 people attending –and the number is growing daily.

The idea of the occupation is to reach out to layers of trade unionists and others who would otherwise just get the coach home. People who share the view that the TUC leadership’s gestures and speechifying aren’t enough- but who are not yet ready to occupy buildings or break the law. We need to find a way to reach out to people like this – and this could be it.

The vision is for the “Temporary Occupied zone of Hyde Park” to be the RED BASE from which a hundred tentacles reach out. Hyde Park will prove to be as big and as powerful as the March itself, and who knows what a radicalising  experience it might be compared to a deflating coach ride home? The demo itself will be a truly historic occasion with over 1 million people expected to attend. The largest march of its kind in UK history. It’s the first national demonstration called by the TUC since 1926- And that one ended in a general strike.The STAY 4 1 DAY will only work if people keep spreading the word on social networking sites. So make the effort to spread it round. Think of the Ceaucescu like look on Brendon Barber’s face as the cry of STAY reaches him from the back of the Park. The game will be up

Egyptian oil workers hear of the Hyde Park occupation in London

 

Facebook event for STAY 4 1 DAY – http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=196454957048306 Spread like wildfire!

Remember: There is subsidised travel leaving from Guildford. Just £2.00 RTN (If you don’t fancy staying and partying in Hyde Park)
Coaches are subsidised by Surrey Unison. All are welcome. Buy a ticket online at www.saveourservic.es or email: guildfordagainstfeesandcuts@yahoo.co.uk.

For more details see the events page on Guildford Against Fees And Cuts Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Guildford-Against-Fees-Cuts/167151436659040?v=app_2344061033&ref=ts#!/event.php?eid=178381258861986&index=1

The Poverty Premium –
It’s not cheap being poor

It is a shocking fact that families on a low income are still paying more for their basic goods and services than better-off families says a Save the Children report published this week. Save the Children has calculated that this annual ‘poverty premium’ can amount to more than £1,280 for a typical low-income family. Moreover, the poverty premium has risen by over £280 since Save the Children’s original research was conducted in 2007.

The poverty premium
The poverty premium is a notional extra cost that people on lower incomes can pay for goods and services, compared with the cost that is paid for the same goods and services by higher-income families.

Their report sets out the scale of the poverty premium and focuses particularly on the extra cost of gas and electricity bills, which account for 20% of the premium. Of all the elements of the poverty premium, the cost of gas and electricity to keep a home warm is an expense that no family can avoid. There is a clear link between living in cold, damp conditions for long periods and significant health risks. Families who cannot afford to pay the cost of heating their home adequately are putting their children’s health at risk says the report.

All children have the right to the best health possible, yet the evidence in Save the Children’s report shows how families on a low income struggle to pay for their gas and electricity and frequently compromise the warmth of their homes to reduce their bills. Of those who are fuel poor, 16.1% are families with children aged under 16, up from 11.8% in 2003. Many of these families will not be eligible for the government’s proposed Warm Home Discount.

The highest charges for gas and electricity are paid by those families who have a prepayment meter or who pay by standard credit. Prepayment meters are often installed for families on a low income who want to budget weekly or have been in debt. If families on a low income who pay the highest tariffs for gas and electricity- because they use payment meters- were charged the same amount as families who pay by direct debit, they would save, on average, over £250 a year. Save the Children is calling for all industries to ensure that the poorest do not pay more.

Low-income families shouldn’t be penalised for being poor. To ensure a fairer system for all vulnerable families, the report calls for all energy companies to provide a fixed rebate under the Warm Home Discount for families on a low income with children, using receipt of Child Tax Credit and income below £16,190 as a proxy for fuel poverty. (£16,190 is the first income threshold for entitlement to Child Tax Credit only.)

Save the Children is calling for The Department for Work and Pensions and the energy suppliers to run a pilot program to assess the feasibility of data-sharing, to allow direct payment of rebates to low-income families; to raise awareness of their rebates by promoting it to all customers; and to provide adequate notification of price increases to prepayment meter customers.The cost of living for low income families
Rising costs for low-income families comes at a time when the government is committed to cutting the welfare budget and public services. Families on low incomes are disproportionately reliant on welfare and public services, and consequently cuts in both areas of government spending will have serious impacts on the poorest. This new financial austerity comes on top of existing difficulties that low-income families have to overcome to make ends meet. It is mainly those on low incomes who tend to be unable to access favourable payment terms, whether for household or personal items they need to buy, fuel they need to purchase or loans they need to secure.

For many families on low incomes, the amount they either earn (from low-paid work) or receive in benefits is not enough to cover their basic living costs. A couple working full-time with two children needs £29,731 a year, or £402.83 per week (excluding money for rent and childcare), to afford a basic but acceptable standard of living. The same family on benefits will only receive £235.29 per week, which is 62% of the amount they need. Church Action on Poverty’s recent research report has provided further evidence of the difficulties families are having in meeting basic living costs. The report concludes that families on a low income need to borrow to survive.

Many low-income households choose to manage their budget in cash to ensure they have control over their total spending, which is a rational, safe approach that limits risk and minimises exposure to unexpected costs and outgoings. Many households (690,000 in 2007/8) do not have access to a bank account or other banking facilities that would allow them to pay a range of bills by direct debit, which is often the cheapest payment option for products and services. Some low-income families have a poor credit history, which means they have no access to affordable, low or no interest credit. The credit that they can access is therefore charged at the highest interest rates in the market.

The cost of credit
Households with a low or variable income often have a poor or non-existent credit history and are therefore unable to access reasonably priced credit from mainstream lenders (banks and building societies). Often the only option available is from commercial lenders (rent-to-buy, catalogues, doorstep lenders) who charge high interest rates on goods with a mark-up on retail prices. The annual percentage rate (APR) charged by commercial lenders can vary from 50–1,000%, compared with less than 30% APR charged by a mainstream lender. A basic household cooker can cost a family without access to low-interest credit a total of £669, more than two and a half times the cost of the same cooker bought outright.

The cost of borrowing
Low-income families with a poor credit history who need to borrow cash do not have the option of using a 0% bank overdraft facility or securing a low-interest bank or credit card loan. The only options available are high cost, such as doorstep lenders. A £500 cash loan from a doorstep lender could cost the borrower £750.

The cost of quick money: pawnbrokers, payday lenders and cheque cashing
A household may need to be able to access cash at short notice, but for those without a bank account this could mean using pawnbrokers, payday lenders or buy-back stores. A loan from a pawnbroker of £100 over six months will cost between 5% and 12% per month (equivalent to an APR of 70% to 100%), making the total cost of the loan between £170 and £200. Households without a bank account who need to cash a £200 cheque from a third party quickly will be charged a fixed fee and interest. For example, a £200 cheque would cost £12 to cash at Cash Converters.

The cost of insurance
Those on lower incomes often pay more for insurance. Insurance premiums are calculated in accordance with the risk of an event, and those on low incomes tend to live in areas where there is a higher risk of car crime and property theft. Families on a low income who live in more deprived areas can pay on average 48% more for car insurance and 93% more for home contents insurance.

The cost of gas and electricity
The extra cost of gas and electricity for low-income families accounts for 20% of the poverty premium. This significant additional cost arises because many low-income families pay for their gas and electricity using prepayment meters, which attract one of the highest tariffs. The lowest tariffs are offered by energy suppliers to customers who can either pay by direct debit, online, or who are eligible for the supplier’s social tariff. Low-income families who do not have a bank account cannot make direct debit payments. In addition, the eligibility criteria for the social tariffs of five of the ‘big six’ energy suppliers do not include families with children. In the last six years gas and electricity bills have more than doubled, and it is predicted that these increases will continue. Any across the board percentage increases in the cost of gas or electricity tariffs will have the greatest impact on those paying the highest tariffs – in other words, those using prepayment meters, including many low-income families. It is therefore likely that the poorest will be hardest hit by increases in energy costs.

Families on a low income with children can be affected by a number of difficulties when it comes to paying their energy bills. In addition to having to use payment methods that incur an expensive tariff and not being eligible for the current option for cheaper fuel under the social tariff, they often:
• Accumulate debt because they cannot afford their energy bills
• Are less aware of their energy use and how it is charged
• Lack access to information that would allow them to identify and secure cheaper energy deals.

Fuel poverty
The consequence of high fuel costs for those on a low income is fuel poverty – defined as being where households have to spend more than 10% of their income on fuel. Ofgem estimates that there are 5 million people in fuel poverty in the UK, representing about 18% of all households. In the UK, 7% of lone-parent households and 9.9% of couples with children live in fuel poverty. No parent wants to put their children’s health at risk, but figures for the UK showed that 5% of children were living in accommodation with inadequate heating. Cold living conditions increase children’s susceptibility to illness, compromise healthy weight gain and are detrimental to children’s respiratory health. A recent study has shown that respiratory problems were more than twice as prevalent in children who lived for three years or longer in homes that lack affordable warmth (15%), compared with children who had never lived in homes that were hard to heat during the previous five years (7%). In addition, it has shown that the mental health of adolescents can also suffer if homes are poorly heated. Families who can only afford to heat one room risk reducing their children’s education attainment if there is no warm, peaceful space to do homework. When inadequate heating is improved, research has recorded a marked reduction in the number of days pupils have off school. The government recognised the link between fuel poverty, inadequately heated homes and poor health and introduced the Fuel Poverty Strategy 2001.

The Strategy aims to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016 and “to ensure that by 2010 no older householder, no family with children, and no householder who is disabled or has a long-term illness need risk ill health due to a cold home” (p.10). It is unlikely that the government will hit its targets, largely because of the unprecedented increases in gas and electricity bills between 2003 and 2009. In response to these developments, the government has announced an independent review of the fuel poverty target and definitions. The introduction of a social tariff was one scheme to tackle fuel poverty. It has been partially successful in reducing the cost of gas and electricity for vulnerable groups but its impact has been focused on pensioner households, leaving other vulnerable groups, including low-income families with children, still paying relatively high fuel costs. As stated above, only one of the major six energy suppliers includes families on a low income with children in their eligibility criteria. So, in effect, a family on a low income that is eligible for a social tariff from one energy supplier could be denied the social tariff of another. Save the Children has conducted a qualitative research study that asked a group of families who are affected by the poverty premium about their experiences of paying for their gas and electricity. The research shows that families interviewed were not aware of the existence of social tariffs; had only a limited knowledge of their own tariff and energy costs, and had no appreciation of the information available to help them secure cheaper energy bills. Without the information, or access to the best deal, they are left paying more than they need to and are yet more vulnerable to fuel poverty.
Warm Home Discount

The government’s consultation paper, Warm Home Discount proposes that in England, Scotland and Wales, the social tariff is replaced by a fixed rebate on electricity bills that will be sent directly to a core group of pensioners on pension credit (with the scope of eligibility increasing between 2011 and 2015) using a data-matching system between the energy companies and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The value of the rebate will increase from £130 to £140 by 2015. The consultation paper also proposes that the same fixed rebate should be given to a broad group of consumers who are vulnerable to fuel poverty. Energy companies will be given discretion to decide which of their customers should be included within the broader group.

Under the previous voluntary system, energy companies were given discretion to decide which of their customers would benefit from the social tariff. As already discussed, the outcome was that only one of the largest six energy companies ensured low-income families with children were eligible for their social tariff. The current proposals for Warm Home Discount risk repeating the same inequity. Energy companies could still decide not to include low-income families with children within their broader discretionary group. The result would be that families who struggle to pay their fuel bills will again miss out on financial support. Save the Children’s report calls for the government to ensure that low-income families with children are included within the group that receives the fixed rebate. This would lower the cost of fuel for these families and thereby reduce their poverty premium. Families with lower fuel bills would be able to heat their homes adequately without fear of going into debt. We propose that families with an annual income below £16,190 and in receipt of Child Tax Credit should be eligible for the rebate so that the mistake of leaving children out, made under the social tariff system, is not repeated. A pilot data-sharing project could be undertaken for families in receipt of Child Tax Credit, in the same way that a pilot project was run to establish the feasibility of data-sharing for pensioners on Pension Credit between the DWP and the energy companies.

Prepayment meters
A prepayment meter is a system that requires cash to be paid before energy can be consumed. Some meters take cards or tokens on to which cash can be credited. The tariffs charged for prepayment meters are more expensive than direct debit or online tariffs. Yet despite the relatively high cost, the majority of families on prepayment meters have an annual income less than £17,500. In Britain, 13% of households pay for their gas and/or electricity using prepayment meters, with almost two-thirds of these households using prepayment meters to pay for both gas and electricity. More than half of households on prepayment meters receive a means-tested benefit or benefits for disability. Ofgem’s own investigation found that prepayment meter customers were paying a premium that was greater than the extra costs involved in supplying the energy via the meter.

To ensure that the tariff for prepayment meters was cost-reflective, Ofgem introduced new licensing conditions for energy suppliers. Since September 2009 the new conditions have required energy suppliers to ensure that the price paid by prepayment meter customers reflects the cost of this form of supply, when compared with direct debit and standard credit tariffs. Ofgem have concluded that the new conditions have led to the average premium for prepayment meters compared with direct debit falling to £69 from £111 since October 2007. Nevertheless, Save the Children’s investigation into the cost of the poverty premium based on a real-life example revealed a differential of £253.

The prepayment meter can be an effective debt management system for the energy company because it allows the amount owing (or a portion of it) to be taken from future cash deposits into the meter, before calculating the remaining credit available. In 2007, more than 350,000 pre-payment meters were installed; 63% of these were put in place to recover debt. Some families who have tried to change from a prepayment meter to an alternative cheaper payment method have found their plan effectively blocked because the energy companies charge them a deposit of £250. This additional cost would prohibit many low income families from switching. The high tariffs associated with prepayment meters result in high fuel bills for low-income families and these in turn can lead to debt. Despite trying to budget for fuel costs, many families find themselves in debt, particularly during the winter.

A number of families featured in Save the Children’s report say they put double the amount into the prepayment meter in the winter compared with the summer. Families who try to avoid debt describe a range of approaches to minimise their energy use, many of which amount to self disconnection or self-rationing. These can have a significant negative impact on the health and wellbeing of families.

Some families have to bear the cost of using the ‘emergency‘ facility. In a worst-case scenario, a household may find that it is on a prepayment meter but is not eligible for the social tariff offered by local energy suppliers. The household may then find itself also paying off arrears from a (previously unknown) price increase, as well as paying back debt accrued from previous bills. In addition, it may be paying the charge to use the ‘emergency’ facility. The scale of these costs for families on a low income is significant.

In 2009 there were 502,631 customers repaying electricity debt through prepayment meters and 365,036 customers repaying gas debt through prepayment. Once an energy company has installed a prepayment meter to recoup debt from a family, it can be very difficult for the family to change to another payment method as a way of reducing their energy bills. Paula, mother of one, explained that she had got into arrears of approximately £800 when she was paying quarterly bills and the energy company had installed a prepayment meter to collect the arrears at a rate of £3.50 per week. Lana, her partner and three children had had a prepayment meter installed and reported that, “of every £10 which went on, £3 went towards paying arrears”. Matt explained that he had topped their gas up by £10 the previous day; after their arrears were taken off they were left with £3. This allowed “the four children to have a bath, and us to have the heating on for one and a half hours at tea time to warm the house up”.

Awareness and consumer choice
The current energy market works best for customers who are aware of their energy use and charges and who can navigate the information energy companies provide to minimise their costs. Informed consumers are able to switch between suppliers to get the cheapest deal, and price comparison websites can make this process more straightforward. However, research reveals that lack of awareness stops many families from accessing the best prices.

This lack of awareness is compounded by a lack of access to information, which is primarily through the Internet. Many low-income families do not have Internet access. Although 70% of households in the UK had access to the Internet by the end of March 2009, 50% of households with an income below £11,500 did not have Internet access, compared with 5% of households with an income of over £30,000. A lack of awareness and lack of access to information restricts consumer choice. Price comparison websites show that customers who are able to pay by direct debit from a bank account can secure the lowest cost for their energy. This price difference for families who cannot pay by direct debit amounts to an extra £250 a year.

The UK economy shrank by 0.5% in the last quarter of 2010, proving that government claims of Britain’s recovery are lies.

Today’s updated GDP figures prove that the government’s austerity program is not working. Even the Labour Party, who let us not forget had its own cuts program, has issued a statement today arguing that cuts are being made too deeply, and too rapidly.

Economists were reported in the Guardian as saying that GDP for the last quarter was much worse than expected, which meant that Britain could now suffer a double-dip recession. With inflation hitting 3.7% last month, there are also growing fears the UK is heading for an unpleasant dose of “stagflation”. A term coined in the ‘70s for the twin economic problems of stagnation and inflation.

The news has sent the pound falling by nearly one and a half cents against the dollar to $1.575, and pushed the FTSE 100 index down. Not that we at the Voice Of Anti-Capitalism have any shares.

The ONS (Office of National Statistics) reported that the services sector – the dominant part of the UK economy – shrank by 0.5% in the last quarter, and construction declined by 3.3%. UK retail sales dropped 0.8% last month- and over the year have been flat. The retail sector suffered its worst December in 12 years.

Even the head of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), Richard Lambert accused Vince Cable of hindering business and job creation through politically motivated austerity initiatives.

George Soros, hedge fund owner and criminal financial speculator, hailed as an expert by his Tory lackeys, speaking at the World Economic Forum yesterday said the government’s spending cuts were unsustainable. He warned David Cameron that the government would push the British economy back into recession unless it modified its austerity package. Nouriel Roubini, another Tory economist I’ve never heard of, was quoted as having similar warnings.

What this goes to show is that there are significant concerns in the government and among its business partners as to whether Tory austerity measures will provide the greater profits promised by the government. No matter what the Tory’s say in the press, the ruling classes have no solutions to the crises.
There are no solutions to the crises under capitalism. The system has been prolonged by massively increasing debt and fraudulently underestimating the risk associated with that debt.

Debt ridden institutions have been buying and selling other institution’s debt in a merry-go-round, and now the bubble has burst. The best our politicians can come with is to take the money out of our pockets and put it in to the banks. The result is no consumer spending and a resulting recession.

But we don’t have to play this game. We can take over the banks and cancel the debt. This generation can break the cycle.