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Workers Power Conference 2012: Divisions, Expulsions, & Appeals – The VOAG Investigates. 

Workers Power, a small communist group had its conference over the weekend. The conference was dominated be factionalism and division. Two people were expelled, and although as yet there have been no formal splits, resignations from the National and Political Committees surely herald one in the coming days.

The conference began on Saturday 24th, March with two members formally appealing against their expulsions. In true Weekly Worker style, the VOAG (Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford) publishes the first of the two expulsion appeals – Delivered to the conference as a speech.    

Bureaucrat Expulsion
I went to two meetings in Manchester where I met with half a dozen people from the RSO, Socialist Fight and others. There were two subsequent meetings in Manchester, but neither I nor Cde B. attended them.

Like all members of Workers Power, I attend meetings organised by a number of different groups. I didn’t consider my attendance at this meeting any different than attending an SWP or SP meeting or indeed holding discussions with local Anarchists or anti-cuts campaigners.

There was a variety of attitudes regarding what might be achieved by the discussions. Opinions ranged from formalising a new group to continued informal discussions. I made it clear that my interest in the meetings was from within the framework of an Anti-Capitalist project

I recall prior to joining Workers Power, speaking to the 2009 Anti-Capitalist event. I told the conference:”What we really want is local groups, we have to come together at a local level because we don’t believe that political groups are capable of achieving a meaningful unity on a National basis”. “An Anti-Capitalist Party must be built from below, as an umbrella organisation connecting local Anti-Capitalist groups with the flexibility and freedom to react and adapt to local conditions”.

“However “, I added: “The Anti-Capitalist Party was not a replacement for existing groups, but a way for existing groups – along with non-aligned activists and anti-cuts campaigners – to work together” It was the feeling of the Surrey United Anti-Capitalists, “that a federal approach to a new Anti-Capitalist Party may provide the break-through to a successful ‘unity project”. This continues to be my belief. It is surely imperative to maintain ideological coherence by struggling for a clear programme via democratic centralism, a paper and our identity.

Late in the evening before the NC meeting in January, I received a phone call from Cde B. He told me he had received an email from the NC regarding the meetings inManchester. He forwarded an email to me, which had been sent from Simon Hardy to the members of the NC. The email contained correspondence between Cde B. and Gerry Downing. The emails addressed issues that arose out of the Manchester meetings and included a discussion about what kind of an organisation, if any, might arise out of them.

I too have had similar discussions. If the Anti-Capitalist Party is to be a Party of the working class, it must encourage the entire labour movement to sign up- and be a forum where theories and practices are put to the test. As Richard Brenner asked rhetorically in Workers Power 341, (Winter 2009): “Do we say that we want it to be a pluralist party? We want a democratic party in which everyone can say what they think. But another feature is that we want to win the argument in the party for revolution”.

It should be obvious that winning the argument for revolution requires a functioning group, faction or caucus to consistently argue for revolutionary Trotskyist politics inside the Anti-Capitalist project. Only Trotskyism has the programme that can defeat and replace the existing leadership of the working class by the method of the transitional programme. Bringing down the government and leading the working class to a socialist future.

I was aware that discussions were continuing between the participants of the Manchester meetings. Naturally, I too discussed these meetings. However, neither I nor Cde B. participated in the e-group where the emails Simon presented to the NC originated. Indeed, I didn’t know of the existence of the e-group.

Simon Hardy was leading the proposal for my expulsion. No accusations regarding a breach of discipline were leveled against me. Simon’s sole charge was that I “attended a meeting of a group hostile to Workers Power and the Anti-Capitalist project”.

My answer to Simon was, and still is: “that we all attend meetings with groups hostile to Workers Power. However, I didn’t discuss or impart any privileged information regarding Workers Power and I don’t believe Cde B. did either”.

I must add to this now, that Simon is wrong regarding the caucus’ hostility to “Anti Capitalism”. It is my understanding that Socialist Fight, and the other participants in Manchester, with the exception of the RSO, were in favour of joining an Anti-Capitalist project.

Cde B. may have made references to divisions in Workers Power, but I do not believe any details beyond what was in the public domain, were ever discussed. I do not accept Cde B. or I broke discipline or any democratic-centralist principle.

Cde B. has consistently been one of the most active members of Workers Power inLondon. He is well known and respected for his work within the GRL. He has been involved in numerous campaigns, the electricians and bus drivers’ disputes being recent examples. Billy is also the most consistent recruiter. There are people in this conference today that Billy either recruited or introduced to Workers Power. Indeed, I believe it would be foolish for any rump that may continue after this conference not to actively recruit Billy to it.

No, I think it is obvious to us all that the real splitters are those who have finally broken cover at this conference to propose liquidation. It is they who have been undermining Workers Power, and as we shall see – in their rush to promote their vision of an Anti-Capitalist formation – have already broken from democratic centralist methodology. Far from seeking to split Workers Power, Cde B. was looking for ways to save its politics and programme, the very reason Cde B. and I joined the group in the first place.

Libya
The first major retreat from the programme was over Libya. Unlike the majority of Workers Power, I saw no basis to believe that a popular or progressive uprising was unfolding. Indeed, behind the headlines there was plenty of reason to assume the opposite. Whilst Workers Power rapped their support for the NTC in the flag of Permanent Revolution, I felt those same arguments correctly applied to the forces supporting Gadaffi.

The most disturbing aspect of Workers Power’s support for the NTC was that the NTC was openly courting the patronage of the imperialist powers. It even promised western companies “preferential treatment” in what amounted to another arms for oil deal.

Leon Trotsky, “On the Sino-Japanese War”, wrote: “The Trotskyists, they say, ‘want to serve Chiang Kai-shek in action and the proletariat in words’. To participate actively and consciously in the war does not mean ‘to serve Chiang Kai-shek’ but to serve the independence of a colonial country in spite of Chiang Kai-shek. And the words directed against the Kuomintang are the means of educating the masses for the overthrow of Chiang Kai-shek”. “You cannot advance Imperialism’s victory and the victory of the working class at the same time”.

The leadership’s justification for their Libyan position was in the name of democracy and abstract liberal freedoms. In the early days of the conflict, I questioned the leadership about the lack of reliable evidence substantiating claims that it was a genuine popular uprising. Where was the general strike? Where were the mass demonstrations? In terms of numbers, it appeared that the rallies in support of Gadaffi were always larger than NTC organised events. Indeed, apart from a couple of small demonstrations, the only forces that the NTC commanded were rag-tag militias backed up by a few tribes and foreign interventionists”.

I find it Ironic that I’m appealing my expulsion, when those that are most keen on it are seeking to dissolve Workers Power anyway. It appears I am accused of breaking democratic centralism. However, it is my feeling that democratic centralist discipline broke down in WP some months ago.

The paper has ceased to be a coherent representation of the group. Under Simon Hardy’s editorship the paper has become the arena for internal differences between an old guard, and a middle class clique, running to the right and away from the working class. Their duplicity and dishonesty is exposed by their inconsistent and ever rightward stances in the paper.

Occupy – The 99%
With regards to the Occupy movement: Sceptical comments such as “the 1% as they have been called by the occupiers”. Criticisms such as “[occupy’s] limitation of always talking about “the people”. And calls for “discussions as to who constitutes the main agency of change”. (November’s issue of WP) have disappeared from the pages of WP.

Such comments and criticisms have been gradually replaced by a populist, un-critical support for the Occupy movement. And has led to a banner reading “We are the 99%” on the top of the South London Anti- Capitalist Network blog.

In contrast, on the WP blog last week, Dave Stockton, referring to ‘Occupy’ notes the: “necessity of working class direct action –that is, strikes – seemed to escape the more doctrinaire horizontals”…”In fact horizontalism- is an expression of layers and classes whose position in capitalist society gives them no natural unity: the lower middle classes, students, long term unemployed and intellectuals, who seek to escape cut-throat capitalist competition but at the same time feel collectivity, especially discipline imposed by a majority, an intolerable violation of their freedom”.

Compare that to March’s Workers Power, ‘Next steps for the Occupy movement’ in which Anton Solka writes “We are the 99% has brought the issue of class to the fore, there really is an us and them.”

Personally, I consider myself to be working class and not one of the 99%. My interests run contrary to many of the 99%. – And I would expect Workers Power to argue for class politics; warn of the dangers and Stalinist origin of popular frontism, and expose the contradictions within the 99% movement.

As with Libya, elements of Workers Power, with scant sources of information provided by the bourgeois media, has jumped on to the populist bandwagon of democracy and freedom. Support for the autonomist, environmentalist and horizontalist forces – those that are described by the clique struggling to break up our group as ‘New Left’ – may have temporarily grown, but there is nothing qualitatively new in Occupy. This ideology and methodology has been part of the political scenery for decades. The leaders of London’s Occupy are not just of the same milieu, but in many cases are the very same people that were on the peace camps and convoys of the eighties, on the road protests of the 90’s, and on the occupations and climate camps of the naughties.

Anti-Capitalism
As far as the Anti-Capitalist project goes; the Workers Power paper rarely repeats the same line twice. In February’s Workers Power article, “Labour in the Unions” Dave Stockton appeals to the unions to “put their money behind building a new fighting, Socialist Party”…”It must be a party whose aim is not to court the selfish individualism of the middle classes, but to lead the working class in a struggle for power”.

Simon Hardy writes in February’s paper “It is the battle to unite the anti–cuts movement, to create a new sense of energy and activism that UKUncut and Occupy exemplified. Although in the Editorial of the same month he writes: “In Britain, too, after an initial breakthrough, Occupy has reached a dead end”. Such is the retreat to the right, that even the name Anti-Capitalist is too radical for some in Workers Power. The group set up in Brighton is called the New Left Initiative.

In Conclusion
In conclusion, there are several common threads running through Workers Power at present.
In Libya WP elevated bourgeois democratic demands over the economic needs of the working class. With little information to support the position, WP opportunistically rode the wave of populism and supported the NTC. Its position sacrificed the security of the Libyan people, its welfare state, and its resources for democratic freedoms that will never be achieved and for the illusion of parliamentarianism.    

Again in the paper’s coverage of the Occupy movement and its 99% slogan, a faction of WP showed itself to be impressionistic. With little first-hand experience of the occupations, WP used second hand reports to analyse occupy. Here again elements in WP bent to populist sentiment and degenerated into uncritical support for the occupy movement. They sacrificed class analysis for democratic demands, popular frontism and horizontalism. As Dave Stockton said above: “These are the politics of the petit-bourgeois”.

It seems to me that the reason for the inconsistencies in the paper of late is not just the result of arguments on the PC, largely hidden from the membership. It is the result of a middle class clique in Workers Power looking for a way out and using Anti-Capitalism as their vehicle. Why else are they suddenly so enthusiastic about a project that’s been talked about for years. Why else would they be rushing headlong in to forming Anti-Capitalist groups before WP has decided the nature of this Anti-Capitalist project?

The rub, the elephant in the room, is finally exposed on paragraphs 20 and 21 of the draft proposal to the NC (included in the pre-conference IB.). Regarding Anti-Capitalism it says: “We will not declare a formal tendency or platform” – [But somehow] “will remain members of the League”. I don’t really think these people have thought this thing through. Does this clique really expect to reconcile plurality and democratic centralism within the same organisation? Or indeed, expect to remain members of the League, whose rules of affiliation insist on a regular paper. Read the rules of the League! You’re so gone. It’s these inconsistencies, and there are many, many, more, that make me realise the clique’s sudden enthusiasm for Anti-Capitalism is an unprincipled retreat into petite-bourgeois acceptability. We’re lefties, but harmless, and oh so intellectual they tell their peers. After-all, they’re reaching that age.

A post-script: Today – 9th April
It’s just two weeks after the above speech was delivered to the WP Annual Conference. News is reaching the VOAG that Workers Power is splitting. The VOAG believes that it totally vindicates everything that the two comrades who were expelled told the conference.  It follows a complete breakdown in the democratic centralist principles professed by Workers Power, mentioned above. Those of the ‘central tendency’ who claim to remain Leninists, saying they want to continue to build WP as a tendency in the worker’s movement, could have and should have put a stop to the machinations of the right-wing splitters long ago. Their refusal to do so shows their opportunism, and has led to this unnecessary impasse.  The right-wing, liquidationist splitters should have been expelled long ago for breaches of discipline and democratic centralism. The fact that they were not proves the degeneration and right-wing,
petite-bourgeois
trajectory of the entire group.    

TUSC, The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to challenge for a seat on London Assembly

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), made up of trade union members and socialists, is to stand candidates in the Greater London Election on 3 May to challenge the all-party support for the government’s austerity cuts and pay freeze.

The coalition expects to win support from trade unionists and other voters who are angered by the recent statements of Labour leader Ed Miliband and the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, in which they stated that they will not reverse the Government’s cuts and that they support its pay freeze.

A list of candidates will challenge in the ‘top up’ section of the election and if it wins at least 5% of the vote across the whole of London it could win at least one place on the 25-seat Greater London Assembly.

The coalition has already selected prominent London trade union leaders such as Alex Gordon, the national president of the RMT rail and maritime union and Steve Hedley the RMT’s London Transport regional organiser, Ian Leahair, the Fire Brigades Union executive committee member for the capital, Joe Simpson, assistant secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association and Martin Powell-Davies, who is the London representative on the national committee of the NUT teachers union.

The Labour Party will be concerned that many public sector workers who participated in the 30 November pensions’ strike may be moved to vote for this coalition because of the failure of Labour leaders to support the walk-out.

Labour leaders will also be worried that rank and file union members of Labour affiliated unions could press for their funds to go to a party like TUSC instead of to Labour.

Steve Hedley, whose RMT union was expelled from the Labour Party in 2004 for backing the Scottish Socialist Party, said, “We need candidates who support the ordinary man and woman. TUSC is the only organisation that opposes all cuts, defends pensions and benefits for all working people. Labour just wants a compliant, silent union movement to hand over its money. TUSC will be a voice for all workers and will support trade unions in struggle.”

TUSC national committee member Nick Wrack, who is also a candidate, said, “London is a city of stark contrasts. There is a huge amount of poverty amidst the plenty. Corporate bosses and bankers still get their million pound pay and pension packages while one in six London workers is paid less than the Mayor’s £8.30 per hour living wage. Millions are suffering from the cuts to services and benefits yet last year the city paid out over £4 billion in bonuses. It’s extremely hard even for those on better wages to make ends meet. We believe that there is an opportunity for a party that will speak up for working-class London to make a real break-through and that would begin to change the nature of political debate in Britain today.” TUSC believes it can get a candidate elected if it wins at least 150,000 votes across London.

Candidates selected for the TUSC GLA list so far include (in alphabetical order):
April Ashley, UNISON National Executive Committee

Alex Gordon, RMT President
Steve Hedley, RMT London regional organiser
Ian Leahair, FBU National Executive Committee
Martin Powell-Davies, NUT national executive
Joe Simpson, POA assistant secretary
Jenny Sutton, UCU Chair, London Regional Committee (FE)
Nick Wrack, TUSC national committee member (former chair of Socialist Alliance and Respect)
There will also be candidates from the CWU postal union and the PCS public service workers union.
(All standing in a personal capacity)

The final list is not yet decided. Other candidates are still being considered.
The FBU has 5,500 members in London.
The RMT has over 12,000 members in London Underground alone

 TUSC CONFERENCE: Saturday 28 January 2012,
11:00am – 4:00pm, University of London Union, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HY
http://www.tusc.org.uk

Fidel Castro Calls US Republican Nomination Race ‘Competition Of Idiocy And Ignorance’

HAVANA — Fidel Castro lambasted the Republican presidential race as the greatest competition of “idiocy and ignorance” the world has ever seen in a column published Wednesday, and also took shots at the news media and foreign governments for seizing on the death of a Cuban prisoner to demand greater respect for human rights.

Castro’s comments came in a long opinion piece carried by official media two days after Republican presidential hopefuls at a debate in Florida presented mostly hard-line stances on what to do about the Communist-run island, and even speculated as to what would happen to the 85-year-old revolutionary leader’s soul when he dies.

Cuba has become an important issue as the candidates court Florida’s influential Cuban-American community in an effort to win the biggest electoral prize so far in the primary season.

Castro said he always assumed the candidates would try to outdo each other on the issue of Cuba, but that he was nonetheless appalled by the level of debate.

“The selection of a Republican candidate for the presidency of this globalized and expansive empire is – and I mean this seriously – the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that has ever been,” said the retired Cuban leader, who has dueled with 11 U.S. administrations since his 1959 revolution.

Castro also disputed international media accounts about the Jan. 19 death of Wilman Villar, a 31-year-old Cuban prisoner, saying the man was not a dissident and not on a 50-day hunger strike as human rights groups and the island’s opposition claim.

Castro reiterated the government’s contention that Villar was a common criminal sent to prison for domestic violence, and that he received the best medical attention possible. Washington and several European governments have condemned Cuba for his death, and Amnesty International says it was about to put Villar on a global list of prisoners of conscience.

Villar has become a cause celebre for opponents of the Cuban government, but he was not a well known figure, even among island dissidents, before his death.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney said during Monday’s debate that Villar died “fighting for democracy” and that his death highlighted the need to remain firm on Cuba. Washington has maintained a near-50-year trade and travel embargo on Cuba.

Another Republican candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said he would authorize increased covert operations to bring down the Cuban government. And at another moment of Monday’s debate, Romney and Gingrich sparred over whether Castro’s soul would go to heaven or hell.

When asked what he would do as president if he found out Castro had died, Romney said he would first “thank Heavens” that the bearded revolutionary had finally “returned to his maker,” to which Gingrich replied “I don’t think Fidel’s going to meet his maker. I think he’s going to go to the other place.”

Castro didn’t refer to the comments specifically in his opinion piece, saying that he was too busy with other things to waste any more time analyzing the Republican competition.

However, Obama’s record speaks for itself:
1. Defended DADT in federal court and continued to enforce it for 2 more unnecessary years
2. Deported more immigrants than Bush
3. Sent 60,000 extra troops to an illegal occupation in Afghanistan
4. Kept Guantanamo Bay in operation
5. Extended tax cuts for the rich

6. Pledged 30 billion dollars to segregation & apartheid in Israel
7. Increased funding to nuclear power
8. Expanded offshore drilling
9. Gave permits to BP and other oil companies exempting them from environmental protection laws
10. Signed a bill that allows the indefinite detention of US citizens without a trial
11. Extended the Patriot Act
12. Launched FBI raids on anti-war activists in Chicago and Minneapolis
13. Criminalized the uninsured
14. Permitted drone bombing on innocent Pakistanis
15. Extended the Wall Street Bailout

During a state visit to Chile on 21 March 2011, US President Obama announced: ‘we’ll continue to seek ways to increase the independence of the Cuban people, who I believe are entitled to the same freedom and liberty as everyone else in this hemisphere.’ The ways sought by the US administration have been amply exposed since January 2011 through two court cases and by four Cuban agents. US policy has evolved, adapted and expanded, but the objective has remained unchanged since 1960 – the destruction of Cuba’ socialist revolution. Helen Yaffe reports.

While the US blockade has attempted ‘to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government’ (Lester D Mallory, US government official, 6 April 1960),1 the programme of fostering internal dissent was kept secret from 1959 to 1990. However: ‘In 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the financial and logistical support to Cuban dissidents became public and was integrated into US law’ (Salim Lamrani, Znet, 15 March 2011).

Programmes were run by the CIA until 1987 when Cuban authorities used evidence from 27 undercover agents to expose illegal activities and the use of diplomatic status as a cover for CIA operations. Subsequently, government-funded organisations have been used to promote internal opposition: the US Agency for International Development (USAID), National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Freedom House. US imperialism’s ‘unwavering support for human rights, democracy, and the open market system’ (Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba website) is backed by serious money. US President Bush’s administration of 2001 to 2008 ‘invested’ $166 million in pursuing capitalist restoration. The Obama administration has allocated $60 million to this end from 2009 to 2011.

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.

The ConDems pave way for privatisation of public services!

In an article for the Daily Telegraph, David Cameron said that ‘complete change’ was needed in the public sector
 
Almost all public services could be opened up to private companies under plans being put forward by Cameron. Cameron claimed: “complete change” was needed in the public sector to improve standards for users.

The Tories’ plan calls for private companies, voluntary groups and charities to be allowed to bid to provide services as part of the “Big Society project”. It would allow the Government to transform public services without having to legislate repeatedly to allow different providers to get involved.

The changes, contained in a White Paper to be released any day now, could allow non-public providers to run schools, hospitals and council services such as maintaining parks, adult care, special schools and roads maintenance.

Cameron wrote: “We will create a new presumption – that public services should be open to a range of providers. Of course, there are some areas – like the national security services or the judiciary – where this wouldn’t make sense. But everywhere else should be open to real diversity.”

With providers competing with each other, there will be an imperative to drive down price. The savings will come at the cost of workers’ pay and conditions. The drive to reduce costs will inevitably affect the quality of the services, and will precipitate a race to the bottom among competing service providers.

Writing in the Telegraph, Cameron said: “Opening up public services to private sector providers was an important part of the “Big Society” agenda”. “I would argue that our plans to devolve power from Whitehall, and to modernise public services, are more significant aspects of our Big Society agenda than the work we’re doing to boost social action.”

Cameron’s version of “devolving power from Whitehall” is to give the power to the bankers and capitalists, those who caused the economic crisis. And where he writes “modernise” read privatise for the profits of a few. Speaking of the White Paper Cameron said: “It will put in place principles that will signal the decisive end of the current model of public services”.

“And it is a vital part of our mission to dismantle Big Government and build the Big Society in its place.” He said. “The grip of state control will be released and power will be placed in people’s hands. Professionals will see their discretion restored. There will be more freedom, more choice and more local control.”

But Cameron’s plan is to take public services out of the hands of the people, and put them in the hands of private global businesses, which are unaccountable. For the vast majority of people there will be less choice – and often no service at all, as the profitable services are cherry picked by big business, leaving less profitable contracts to fall by the way-side. 

Demonstrate to save public services and the NHS
Join the TUC demonstration on March on 26th. Coaches, subsidised by Unison are leaving Guildford, Woking, Staines and Redhill. Only £2.00 Rtn.
Buy a ticket at www.saveourservic.es using a secure paypal -OR-  Email:guildfordagainstfeesandcuts@yahoo.co.uk

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.

EMA – If they won’t give it to us
we’ll have to take it!

The abolition of the student support grant, the EMA, in England will affect some students’ ability to reach class, college principals say.

As travel fares rise and cuts bite, there are particular concerns for those in rural areas, some of whom travel up to 35 miles (56km) to get to college. Principals fear poorer students may not be able to follow the preferred course, due to unaffordable transport costs.

In the Spending Review, Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to axe the scheme, which was designed to keep students coming to class, saying it had very high “dead weight costs”.

The findings come from a survey of 160 Association of Colleges (AoC) members. Some 94% said they thought the abolition of the grant, worth up to £30 a week for the poorest students, will affect students’ ability to travel. The agreed the EMA is a critical factor in students’ decisions about staying in education.

The majority (78%) of colleges provide some form of financial assistance. The average spend is about £140,000 a year. But figures are far higher for land-based colleges which specialise in agricultural and horticultural courses and tend to be in rural areas.

AoC President Chris Morecroft said: “There is a danger of students getting caught in a pincer movement between cash-strapped colleges and local authorities, which have also seen severe budget cuts. “Our members are concerned that local authority subsidies may be at risk, and even where subsidies remain, fares still may be out of reach for the poorest students.

“The abolition of the EMA (education maintenance allowance) will simply compound this, leaving the most disadvantaged students struggling to get to college to gain the qualifications they need to prepare themselves for a fulfilling and productive life.

“This may be an unintended consequence of the funding cuts faced by our colleges, local government and our students, but it flies in the face of the coalition government’s avowed desire to improve social mobility.” The AoC is urging the government to reconsider its abolition of EMA funding.

A Department for Education spokesman said it was determined to make sure that no young person was put off staying in education because of transport problems. “Local authorities have a statutory responsibility to enable 16 to 18 year olds to attend education and training by making sure that transport is not a barrier”. “And we are reviewing all home to school transport including looking at transport for pupils who live in rural areas.“But let’s be clear, the deeply worrying state of the public finances has meant we’ve had to make some tough decisions. EMA was an expensive programme, costing over £560m a year with administration costs amounting to £36m, and only increased the participation in education of a minority of students”.

Kingston students marching against fees and the scrapping of the EMA. November 24th.

Students have held protests at about 30 schools and colleges in England against the scrapping of the EMA study support grant, campaigners say. But this is just the start. There are more protests planned for the 26th and 29th of January. The government says the allowances of up to £30 a week for low-income students aged 16-19 are wasteful. But the college lecturers union said their research sugested that 70% of the poorest students would drop out if it were cut.

The UCU polled more than 700 students, in the 30 colleges and schools with the highest proportion of students receiving EMA in England. 38% of those polled said they would not have started their courses without EMA, while 63% said they received no financial support from their family for college costs.

Education Maintenance Allowances were introduced by Labour to encourage young people from deprived backgrounds to stay in education and training after they reach 16. Students whose parents’ earnings fall below certain thresholds receive payments of £10, £20 or £30 a week. These can be spent however the student chooses, and are used by many students to cover the cost of course equipment, books and transport.

There have been many walk-outs and demonstrations already this year at colleges around England. The University and College Union said it knew of about 30 lunchtime protests that had taken place, in colleges ranging from London, to Liverpool, to Newcastle and Cornwall.

One of the biggest was at Dudley College, where several hundred students rallied, some in fancy dress. Students in Leeds were planning to hold a silent protest later in the day, while young people at City College Norwich were to light a candle for every student at the college who receives EMA.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU said the government’s decisions over the EMA had been a “complete shambles”. “First they pledged they would not axe it, now they say they will”. “They clearly have no understanding of how important the EMA is or the difference it makes to so many people’s chances of improving themselves,” she said.

The government says it has had to make “tough decisions” because of the state of public finances. But let US make it clear 500 million pounds is a drop in the ocean compared with the amount of tax avoidence in this country. Vodafone alone owes the public purse twelve times that amount.

We know it’s about priorities. We need to take to the streets on the 26th and 29th January. -And build for the big one, when students and workers will march sholder to sholder against all cuts and for a better future on March 26th.

Join Guildford Against Fees And Cuts Facebook page. Get in touch if you would like to help at our events (see events page).
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Guildford-Against-Fees-Cuts/167151436659040

Save Our Services in Surrey have booked subsidised travel to the March 26th demonstration in London. This March is going to be the biggest Britain has ever seen. All the unions are backing it and organising coaches from all over the country.

Travel to the demonstration is only £2.00Rtn. To reserve a place on our buses go to www.saveourservic.es  Use the PayPal donate button and in the name field include the words “for bus” in brackets.Alternatively leave a message on the Guildford Against Fees And Cuts Facebook page and we’ll get back to you.
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Guildford-Against-Fees-Cuts/167151436659040

Whilst rumors abound of cuts around Surrey, the Council has been tight lipped about where the axe is going to fall.

There is a Council Cabinet meeting of the council February 1st, which will discuss the cuts in detail. On February 8th there is a meeting of the full council scheduled which will finally decide on the budget for the coming year. What is clear, the reduced government block grant is set to have an impact on services.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said in December there would be cuts of between 0.31% and 6.96% in the ‘revenue spending power’ of Surrey’s 11 borough and district authorities, plus the county council.

But the real figures for reductions in funding which comes direct from central government are much higher, as the revenue spending power totals included council tax money – which is collected locally – plus other smaller grants separate from the core ‘formula grant’.

The council funding settlements for 2011/12 and 2012/13 are provisional and the final figures have still to be confirmed. Council tax rates are set to be frozen for the next financial year, and Mr Pickles said: “We are stopping any revaluation and setting up a £650m fund so town halls can freeze council tax this April.”

But local authorities in the county, where cuts to jobs and services have been part of the landscape in recent years, warned of challenging times ahead.

Surrey County Council said its main central government grant was being cut by 25% over the two years, meaning a £41m funding reduction. Teams have already started cost-cutting ‘Public Value Reviews’ with the intention of making public service cuts like the proposed 25% cuts to the county’s fire service.

In Woking, voluntary and community groups will be asked to play a greater role in council services from next year -after a higher than expected cut in the borough’s annual grant. A total of £1.7m will be shaved off its contribution from central government up to 2013, equating to a 28.5% cut in Whitehall funding.

The borough council’s leader, Cllr John Kingsbury, said they were looking at following up the move of neighborhood police officers into Woking’s civic offices by inviting other public sector bodies to do the same. He added: “We will do things like looking at our investment programme, among other things, between now and February. The fact is, we need to save £1m.”

The formula grant cuts for Guildford Borough Council have been set at 15.7% (£1.2m) for 2011/12 and 11.3% (£731,000) for 2012/13. Leader of the council, Cllr Tony Rooth, said: “This is a very tough financial settlement but is in line with our projections. “We have been working across all our services to identify ways of making reductions in our expenditure and increasing our income, such that we can meet the financial challenges with the minimum impact on our residents.”

Before this week’s announcement, the council had already flagged up areas where savings could be made, such as axing the £100,000 staff subsidy at its restaurant. Strategic director Sue Sturgeon said it was still too early to finalise any spending cuts, but she added that other revenue streams, including car parks and the Spectrum leisure centre, were also suffering because of the recession.

Surrey Heath Borough Council said it had been taken unawares by the depth of the cuts made to its funding. The authority is set to lose more than £1m from its government grant over the next two years. Kelvin Menon, the borough’s head of corporate finance, said: “The proposed cuts are much deeper than the council expected, making them far harder to manage”.

“Surrey Heath Borough Council has already made significant savings in the past and it will be increasingly difficult to make savings of this size in the future without having an impact on services”. Surrey Heath’s main formula grant from central government was £4.4m this year. It will shrink to £3.6m and then £3.1m over the next two financial years. The borough council has already scrapped the full time Ian Goodchild day centre for the elderly in Camberley, while fees and charges for services like Meals-on-Wheels and Dial-a-Ride have risen.

In Elmbridge, the borough council admitted it faced a “huge challenge” after it was hit by the largest ever cut to its central government grant – double what officers had anticipated when setting out budget plans for the next financial year. The authority said it would now have to find further savings of £300,000 in order to balance the books. It said it was set to lose a third of its funding from Whitehall over the next two years – with reductions of 16.8% in 2011/12 and then 13.5% in 2012/13.

Jobs are set to be axed in the personnel, environmental health and licensing, housing and social services teams. The out-of-hours services will be scrapped, cutting £14,500 from the budget, and £15,000 will be saved after a decision to stop providing ‘poop scoop’ dispensers. Information for residents will be published online rather than in leaflet form, saving around £2,300. Elmbridge will also share the role of head of IT with Epsom & Ewell Borough Council, meaning another £35,000 of savings.

In Epsom & Ewell itself, the cuts in central government funding were said to be “as bad as expected” – 16.5% in 2011/12 and a further 10% in 2012/13. The borough’s formula grant is set to plummet from £4.1m at the moment to £2.8m. The council has made preparations for cost reductions of £750,000 next year, including a further pay freeze except for low paid staff, redundancies to cut the payroll by £500,000 and other savings on overheads including energy usage, training and external advisers.  

District council services will have to be provided next year in Mole Valley with almost 18% less government money. Its £4m grant will go down to £2.92m, followed by a further £375,000 cut in 2012/13. Saving money in Mole Valley has already hit services over the past couple of years, including leisure, maintenance of parks and recycling facilities. Dorking Halls has seen its budget slashed and was only able to stage a pantomime this year due to the intervention of a production company.

Waverley Borough Council has been left to find another £400,000 of savings after a “disappointing” grant settlement from central government. “The harsh reality is that we are facing a 17% reduction for 2011/12 and 14% for the following year,” said finance portfolio holder, Cllr Mike Band.” This is approaching a cut of 30%, which is a significant amount and it will have a further impact on our budget.”

Waverley had based its budget preparations for next year on having to find savings of about £1.6m, but Cllr Band said: “We will now have to save £2m, so a further £400,000 of savings will have to be found. Council leader, Cllr Robert Knowles, described the grant settlement as unfair and said they would be making “urgent representations” on the matter to MPs Anne Milton and Jeremy Hunt.

Reigate & Banstead Borough Council is due to see a formula grant drop from £6.1m now to £5.1m in 2011/12 and then £4.6m the year after (16.4% and 8.9% cuts for the two years). Council leader, Cllr Joan Spiers, added: “Clearly running a business with 25% less money over the next two years is going to be a huge challenge and we will need to make choices around what and how we do things.

The council is currently running a consultation, asking residents to nominate any non-statutory service they think could be cut. These could include keeping parks clean, community safety and CCTV funding, community centers or the Harlequin Cinema & Theatre in Redhill.

Across the border into Tandridge, the provisional grant settlement for 2011/12 is down by just under £500,000, a reduction of 12%. The district council described the cut as “higher than expected”. A spokeswoman said: “When the council also takes into account reduced income from investments, planning and other fees, together with other commitments, the total estimated saving for next year is £1.3m from a net budget of £11.5m.

Spelthorne Borough Council still needs to find another £500,000 of savings, with a 16.5% reduction in its government grant. A spokesman said: “While the council has planned for a cut in its formula grant by making redundancies, and increasing partnership working where there is the potential, it still leaves us with a gap of about £0.5m and further savings will have to be found.”

Runnymede Borough Council said its £1.3m grant cut for 2011/12 made it “one of the worst hit local authorities in Surrey”. In a joint statement, council leader, Cllr John Furey, and chief executive Paul Turrell said: We will be forced into savings of a further £750,000 on top of our current savings plan of £2.5m. “We will now work with staff and councilors to produce a potential list of savings [cuts].

So What’s To Be Done? None of us voted for these measures, and they are in no way fiscally necessary. Whilst local services are about to be devastated, banks which are partly owned by the public are making record profits again. Bankers are receiving record bonuses again, totaling billions of pounds. These bonuses are from the public finances given to the banks last year to shore up a system that doesn’t work. We even have the bizarre situation in which the government is issuing bonds to the banks, who are then charging the government over-the-top interest rates for the bonds that they’ve bought with our money. 

TUC Demo Against The Cuts: Defend the welfare state! The only answer we can give to the government is on the streets. The TUC has called a demonstration against the cuts to public services for the 26th March. This will truly be a historic day, making the Poll-Tax demonstrations of the ’90s and the strikes of ’85-’86 pale in comparison.

It will be the most important date for a decade. It will completely change the face of British society. Without a large turn-out the welfare state will be dismantled and we will have an American type situation in which healthcare, education and services will only be for the wealthy in society- whilst the workers, those who produce the wealth in society, are left to rot.

A large turn-out will rock the very foundations of the government. It will stop it in its tracks. The government will either reverse many of its policies or it will fall. The TUC hasn’t called an all out National Demonstration like this since 1926!- And that ended in a general strike. Many union branches, who have never organised coaches to a demonstration before, are already booking three, four, and up to a half dozen.

It is essential that every able-bodied person makes the effort to be at this historic demonstration. Every single person counts in this historic battle to save the welfare state.

In order to secure your subsidised bus ticket at only £2.00 return, email guildfordagainstfeesandcuts@yahoo.co.uk -OR- visit  http://www.saveourservic.es  Use the paypal donation button to pay £2.00 and write “for bus” in the name field. (Together with your name of course).

Please join the Facebook event page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/manage/updates.php?id=167151436659040&sent=1&e=0#!/event.php?eid=178381258861986

Together we can bring down this government, but if we all leave it to someone else – well, the consequences are unthinkable

The time and place where the busses will depart from will be confirmed nearer the time. – But the buses are filling up fast, so don’t delay in booking your ticket.

You can find out about local events against the cuts by joining Guildford Against Fees And Cuts Facebook page

Pamphlet on the cuts by the TUC – Read here:
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/tuc-cuts-pamphlet.pdf

Pamphlet on the cuts by the PCS union – Read here:
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/4015_nc_pamphlet1.pdf

Pamphlet: Public Spending Myths by Unison – Read here:
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/public-spending-myths.pdf

Jeremy Hunt. Now what does that rhyme with?

Jeremy Hunt was appointed as a Privy Counsellor on 13 May 2010. Whilst, I don’t know what a privy counsellor is, this certainly stinks.

It’s been revealed by the BBC that Ofcom thinks there are big problems with Murdoch’s BSkyB power grab. Their report to Jeremy Hunt- Tory MP for South West Surrey and Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport- says the Competition Commission needs to be involved.

 The argument is over Murdoch’s News Corp’s attempt to buy the 60.9% of BSkyB shares it currently doesn’t own.  In the report that Jeremy Hunt is keeping secret, Ofcom argues that it may be against the public interest because it would reduce “diversity and quality in the UK media below an acceptable level”. Ofcom recommends that the move is referred to a full Competition Commission enquiry.

 But Jeremy Hunt is sitting on the report and refusing to make it public. Instead, he’s been locked in secret meetings with Murdoch’s representatives. It looks like he could be trying to cook up a way of giving Murdoch’s power grab the green light. These meetings were not minuted and didn’t have any civil servants present.

Things could move very quickly – if Jeremy Hunt thinks he can get away with it, he could give Rupert Murdoch the go-ahead in the next couple of days. This is highly dodgy behaviour. We, the public need access to Ofcom’s report and we need to speak up in favour of the independent inquiry which Ofcom says is necessary.

If we don’t want a fat cat monopoly on the media, we need to make a fuss. The more public awareness there is for this issue, the less room Jeremy Hunt has to stitch anything up. We need to flood our MPs with messages telling them to speak out against the secrecy. Jeremy Hunt needs to be hearing from MPs and the media that he has to follow Ofcom’s recommendation.

Please click here to send an urgent e-mail to your MP. Demand an end to the secret meetings and for Jeremy Hunt to conform to Ofcom’s wishes.
http://www.38degrees.org.uk/hunts-secret-meetings

The BBC’s Robert Peston sums up the suspicious behaviour of Jeremy Hunt: “What I don’t understand is why Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, has not simply published the report and announced that there will be a further Competition Commission enquiry. Why is he only showing the report to Murdoch’s lobbying team? There’s a real risk he’s working with them to find a way round the Ofcom report”.

Ofcom’s recommendation to refer the BSkyB deal to the Competition Commission was a response to pressure from the 38 Degrees group. Now it seems Jeremy Hunt is trying to dodge the report. We need to let Jeremy Hunt know we won’t stand for yet another conspiracy with Rupert Murdoch. 

Jeremy Hunt was appointed as a Privy Counsellor on 13 May 2010. Whilst, I don’t know what a privy counsellor is, this certainly stinks.

Now it happens that Jeremy Hunt was only given the power to rule on media mergers on 20th December 2010. Business Secretary Vince Cable was stripped of those responsibilities after he told undercover Daily Telegraph reporters he had “declared war” on Rupert Murdoch.

Labour MP Tom Watson has written to the cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, accusing the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, of being “knee deep in News Corp”. In the letter, the MP for West Bromwich East accused the government of misleading parliament by failing to disclose the meetings which were held on 28th June and 21st July. Watson said he had been told in replies to written parliamentary questions that no formal meetings had taken place between Hunt and News Corp executives.

Watson also highlighted other meetings, including one on 21st July between the culture secretary and Jeremy Darroch, the chief executive of BSkyB, which was also unminuted. Watson said Hunt should not be handed the power to rule on News Corp’s bid, and demanded to know if the Cabinet Secretary knew about these meetings when he took legal advice before authorising the transfer of powers from Vince Cable to Jeremy Hunt.

The Voice Of Anti-Capitalism – You read it here first (unless you read the papers)