Tag Archive: uk


VOAG-Logo-(Ukraine)UK has ‘worst quality of life in Europe’

Survey of 10 developed European countries puts UK at bottom of the pile due to high costs of living, while France takes top spot


The UK has been named the worst place to live in Europe for quality of life, behind countries with damaged economies such as Ireland and Italy, according to the latest uSwitch quality of life index.
The UK emerged as having the second lowest hours of sunshine a year, the fourth highest retirement age, and the third lowest spend on health as a percentage of GDP. Despite above average household income – the fourth highest in Europe – Britons have 5.5 fewer days holiday a year than the European average and endure a below average government spend on education.

UK households also struggle with a high cost of living, with food and diesel prices the highest in Europe, and unleaded petrol, alcohol and cigarettes all costing more than the European average. As a result, more than one in 10 Britons (12%) said they are “seriously considering” emigrating, with “broken society” the biggest concern for 59% of those questioned, followed by the cost of living (49%), and crime and violence (47%). Just 5% of those questioned are happy in the UK.

The study examined 16 factors to determine where the UK sits in relation to nine other major European countries. Variables such as net income, VAT and the cost of essential goods were put under the microscope, as well as lifestyle factors such as hours of sunshine, holiday entitlement, working hours and life expectancy.

France bagged the top spot for the third year running, despite families earning an average £31,767 (compared to the UK’s £38,547) and working longer hours than people in the UK. But the French enjoy 2,124 hours of sunshine, have an average retirement age of 60, and receive 36 days of holiday a year. They also live a year longer than Brits, with an average life expectancy of 81.4 years compared to 80.4 in the UK. People in France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden call all expect to live longer than people in the UK.

Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany rounded out the top five best European countries for quality of life, with Denmark, Poland, Sweden and Ireland also above the UK in the table. Last year, Ireland was joint bottom with the UK.

France and Spain are also where people in the UK would most like to live, with 13% of the 2,036 adults surveyed by uSwitch choosing Spain and 7% opting for France. The Spanish can expect to live just over a year longer than people in the UK, and enjoy the highest number of days holiday in Europe with 39 days. Spain also has the lowest alcohol price of the 10 countries.

Uswitch said it had weighted each category to “nationally representative criteria” using sources such as the OECD, the Met Office, the World Health Organisation and Eurostat. It then calculated a standardised score for each category, defining quality of life as the sum of the standardised scores.

Ann Robinson of uSwitch.com said: “Last year, at least our neighbours in Ireland were worse off, now we can’t even console ourselves with that. We are now officially at the bottom of the pile. We may still be enjoying the fourth highest household income in Europe, but the high cost of living means we are living to work.

“When coupled with many of the issues facing households in the UK today it is not surprising that one in 10 of us have contemplated starting a new life abroad. But for those of us who decide to stick it out and ride the storm, there will be no choice but to batten down the hatches. Cutting back where possible to help combat our high living costs will go some way to improving our quality of life.”Revolution Banner

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Diabled CampaignThe Black Triangle Campaign was founded to support the human rights of disabled people and to oppose the Government’s “Work Capability Assessments”, which re-classify sick and disabled people as “fit for work”.

 

The hidden welfare state that the U.K. government dares not speak of

The UK has two welfare states. There is one that is reported and endlessly discussed, and another, which is rarely mentioned. Whilst the first is suffering enormous cuts under the Tory/LD coalition, the other just keeps expanding.

Governments on the left and the right can always justify welfare cuts by pitting, for example, mobility scooters against needle exchanges, or the soft-play area in children’s playgrounds against an old people’s home. Who deserves it most, they say, students or cleaners? Old or young? But when we’re running not one, but two welfare states, that’s a totally fake scenario. The real choice is between playgrounds or gas rigs; between Meals on Wheels or The City of London Currency Speculators’ Maintenance Allowance.

There’s a connection – never mentioned – between, let’s say, Britain’s eight new deep-water gas rigs and its new food banks. The connection is that the $4.5 billion subsidy package being doled out to transnational gas corporations is a very big slice of the welfare pie. And to keep the gas transnationals on the benefits to which they are addicted, hungry humans have to queue for tinned food that is too close to its sell-by date to be kept on the shelves of supermarkets, many of which are themselves massive recipients of corporate welfare.

Not only does the UK pay out unemployment benefits less generous than Romania, Albania and the US, but the wages of the employed have simply not kept pace with productivity over the last 30 yrs. Tory Ideology is all about Handouts to the Wealthy paid for by the Poor.unemploymentGeorge Osborne has cut £18bn from benefits plus a further £81bn from public services in the name of unavoidable austerity, whilst at the same time providing huge subsidies, tax cuts and removing regulation for the hidden ‘welfare’ system that benefits the private sector.

No goods or services are directly returned to the government in exchange for these expenditures, although of course, politicians will argue that they’re stimulating the economy, helping struggling industries, creating jobs or funding important research but actually this is just a corporate welfare system.

The Cato Institute, for example, estimated that in the US, $93 billion were devoted to corporate welfare in 2002. This was about 5% of the federal budget, and nearly twice the amount spent on social welfare ie. feeding people, housing the homeless, raising children out of poverty etc.

There is no reason to think the situation is different in the UK. However, overall statistics for the UK corporate welfare budget are hard to discover, and the variety of different subsidies are staggering. Needless to say, the Tories focus their attention on fraud and waste in the social welfare budget.

Welfare fraud and waste is never far from the top of the UK’s news agenda – but the real figures often bear almost no resemblance to popular belief. The British public, for example, think around 27% of the welfare budget is lost of fraud, according to TUC research.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ latest data on fraud and error in the benefit system shows a very different reality: fraud exists, but at a far lower level than the public believes – and is outweighed by errors from claimants and officials alike. The DWP estimates £3.5bn has been overpaid due to errors and fraud in the system; 2.1 per cent of the overall benefit expenditure.

The corporate welfare budget arises from four main sources: Paying little or no tax – Tax havens; tax breaks; enjoying huge subsidies and the removal of employment and environmental protection regulations.

Tax Havens
 The UK’s 100 biggest public companies are running more than 8,000 subsidiaries or joint ventures in onshore and offshore tax havens, according to research. The figures, published by the charity Action Aid, show that only two of the companies listed on the UK’s FTSE 100 have no subsidiaries in tax havens – while companies such as Barclays and Tesco own hundreds. http://www.guardian.co.uk. The UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories constitute half of the world’s most frequently used tax havens.

Tax Breaks
Almost one in four of Britain’s biggest listed companies paid no corporation tax in this country last year – and almost half fail to disclose their tax payments to the UK at all, according to research by The Mail on Sunday.  According to the annual reports and accounts of all the companies in the FTSE 100, 47 companies gave no obvious figures for tax paid in Britain.  Of the 53 who did, 12 showed they paid no tax at all and, six actually received a tax credit.Tax AvoidTax Avoidance

 Treasury minister, David Gauke, admitted in reply to a parliamentary written question that only four employees of HMRC are working to capture 124 tax fugitives. The amount of uncollected tax rose again last year. A Labour MP pointed out that the four officials dedicated to the tax fugitives compares with the 450 HMRC staff involved in administering the withdrawal of child benefit from higher-rate taxpayers.

Subsidies
Currently, it is estimated that the government has already provided £43.5bn in various subsidies including the National Infrastructure Plan, the Equity Loan and Help to Buy schemes, the Enterprise Finance Guarantee and the Regional Growth Fund, with nothing to show for it. Far greater sums are in the pipeline, up to £310bn.

Meanwhile supermarkets get an enormous subsidy to help with one of their major overheads, staffing costs. This is because many employees in these large and successful companies are paid only the minimum wage. And because the current minimum wage is not a living wage, nearly everyone on it has to claim tax credits to be able to make ends meet. Those tax credits are funded by the taxpayer. The supermarkets are effectively state subsidised industries.

In addition to the recent unprecedented public support for the financial sector The NEF (New Economics Foundation) identified at least three significant hidden subsidies:

* The ‘Too Big to Fail’ subsidy: The government now provides a public guarantee, effectively insurance against banks going bust. This gives banks a huge commercial advantage over other firms in a market system. It means banks are able to borrow money much more cheaply than if they were not ultimately underwritten by the public. Exchanges with leading auditors in front of the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs in January 2011 confirm this. A conservative analysis reveals that this hidden subsidy could be worth £30 billion annually. It means that bonuses to senior staff for ‘performance’ and dividends to institutional investors are at least in part a straight transfer from the taxpayer.
* The quantitative easing windfall subsidy: When it was decided that the economy needed more liquidity, the Bank of England pumped money in using the technique called ‘quantitative easing’. To meet various, and sometimes self-imposed, requirements, it did by purchasing government bonds through investment banks. Merely for being passive conduits for this ‘risk free’ arrangement the banks took a cut of every trade. Here nef analysts found that banks enjoyed a significant windfall, but that lack of transparency keeps the likely amount hidden.
* The ‘make the customer pay’ subsidy: Since the baking crisis of 2008, the banks have been increased the gap between what they have to pay to borrow money, and what they charge people to borrow from them. This is the so-called interest rate ‘spread’. This is because they can borow money from the Bank of England at virtually 0%. As it is, the taxpayer is subsidising the banks twice over: once through taxpayer funded public support to the banks, and secondly through paying much higher interest to borrow than the banks do. This hidden subsidy amounts to at least another £2.5 billion each year.Rebuild The Fourth International

lionFrom Animal Rights UK
This is Millionaire Banker, Tory Advisor and member of the Countryside Alliance Sir David Scholey.

David Scholey is one of many wealthy individuals who are willing to spend in excess of £60,000 for the privilege of shooting a lion in South Africa. These lions are bred to be shot in so called canned hunting operations which have grown significantly in South Africa over the last decade.

They breed the lions from cubs often bringing in tourist to play and walk with them boasting on their conservation work. The young animals are then prepared to be released into shooting areas where they will be brought out via meat baits in front of the guns of so called trophy hunters. In many cases the shooters will have been drinking and will blast wounding the animal many times before its killed.

Some operations even allow the use of high powered bow and arrows to kill lions. To make matters worse the hunt operations will provide the head and skin of the lion for use as a rug and a wall trophy and keep the bones which they will then sell into the Asian medicine trade at great profit. This trade is leading to a huge increase in the poaching of wild lions across Africa (little over 200,000 left). None of this seems to worry Mr Scholey who seems very proud of his kill.

The Countryside Alliance and US National Rifle Associations are vey happy for their members to participate in these trophy hunts despite the obvious cruelty and its impact on the future of a threatened species. Next time the Countryside Alliance start attacking the RSPCA don’t forget to ask them when will they throw out African trophy hunters from their membership like David Scholey.

Note: there is now a petition to have his knighthood removed please sign here
http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-cameron-remove-sir-david-scholey-s-knighthoodenemy is at home

VOAG-Logo-(Brick)5-transparPolice colluded in secret plan to blacklist 3,200 building workers

IPCC tells lawyers representing victims it is likely that all special branches were involved in providing information

The Observer, Saturday 12 October 2013
Police officers across the country supplied information on workers to a  blacklist operation run by Britain’s biggest construction companies, the police watchdog has told lawyers representing victims.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has informed those affected that a Scotland Yard inquiry into police  collusion has identified that it is “likely that all special branches  were involved in providing information” that kept certain individuals  out of work.

The IPCC’s disclosure confirms suspicions voiced by the information commissioner’s office last year that the police had been involved in providing some of the information held on the files, as revealed by this newspaper.

The admission has been welcomed by campaigners for the 3,200 workers whose  names were on the blacklist that was run for construction companies as  “absolute evidence” of a conspiracy between the state and industry that  lasted for decades.

Dave Smith, an engineer who had a 36-page file under his name and was  repeatedly victimised for highlighting safety hazards on sites,  including the presence of asbestos, said he was delighted that the IPCC  had revealed “the truth”. He added: “For the past five years, when we  have been saying the police were involved, we were told we were talking  nonsense and it was a conspiracy theory. They wanted it to go away. Now  we have the absolute evidence and this is no longer about industrial  relations but is a major human rights scandal involving a conspiracy  between the police and the industry.”A worker lays bricks at a building siteThe blacklist, run by a company called the Consulting Association, funded by 40 major firms in the construction industry including Balfour Beatty and Sir Robert McAlpine, was discovered in  2009 after a raid by the information commissioner’s office. Since then,  the victims have fought to find out who was providing information  against them. The IPCC’s correspondence is regarded as a major  breakthrough.

However, the watchdog’s disclosure has been disputed by a subsequent letter to the victims’ solicitors. This was sent by a  recently appointed senior investigating officer for the inquiry into the activities of undercover police officers, known as Operation Herne.

In a letter, seen by the Observer, detective inspector Steve Craddock insists that the IPCC’s statement is incorrect and that he has seen “no conclusive evidence” that Scotland  Yard shared information with the blacklisters.

The IPCC is  standing by its correspondence, which it says was informed by  discussions with the Metropolitan Police and that “developments since  that … are a matter for the Metropolitan Police”.

In response, a spokesman for Craddock said Operation Herne’s investigating officer was “aware of the apparent contradiction and is looking into how that may  have arisen”. She added: “Operation Herne will report on the  ‘blacklisting’ matter to the Metropolitan Police commissioner in due  course.”

The developments come as the group fighting for justice  for the blacklisted workers has received confirmation of a meeting  between undercover police officers and those running the blacklist in  November 2008. The information commissioner’s officers have confirmed in a freedom of information response that they hold notes from a meeting  between the Consulting Association and officers from the police national extremism tactical co-ordination unit, which runs undercover officers.

The notes of the 2008 meeting are part of a haul of documents seized by the information commissioner’s office when it discovered the existence of  the secret blacklist during a raid on an office in Droitwich,  Worcestershire.

Sir Robert McAlpine, which was allegedly a major player in the  establishment and funding of the blacklist, is currently being sued in  the high court over an unlawful conspiracy to amass a database of information against thousands of people.

Last week, in a dramatic twist, eight major construction companies, including Sir Robert McAlpine, announced  that they would compensate some of the 3,213 workers whose names had been on a blacklist. A statement said: “The companies – Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain,  Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci – all  apologise for their involvement with the Consulting Association and the  impact that its database may have had on any individual construction  worker.”

Sean Curran, a solicitor representing 69 victims in the  high court, said he cautiously welcomed the announcement but raised  concerns over the involvement of the unions, which are also suspected of providing information to the blacklist operation in some cases. He  said: “We note that there has been reference to the consultation of  Ucatt and Unite in the formulation of the proposed compensation scheme.  We express serious concern about the involvement of those organisations.

“We have seen evidence that implicates Amicus (which evolved into Unite)  and Ucatt officials in the supply of negative commentary about the  suitability of their members for employment. That commentary frequently  made its way onto the Consulting Association database and was no doubt  one of the factors that led to denials of employment.

“It is also  worthy of note that those unions refused to support their members in  bringing a High Court claim so that they could seek redress for the  hardship that they suffered. Many of those that we represent are firm  that they object to Unite or Ucatt playing any part in negotiations with the relevant companies for these reasons.”

Claire Windsor,  solicitor for the victims in regard to the complaint over police  collusion, said her clients had lost any faith in the ability of the  police to investigate themselves and that the blacklist support group  was now calling for a judge-led independent inquiry into blacklisting.The Voag

May Day Greetings from the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International to The VOAG.

The Liaison Committee for the Fourth International sends its
warmest revolutionary greetings to The VOAG and the world’s working class, the poor and oppressed and in particular to its fighting vanguard- those most class-conscious elements- who have now begun to emerge on a global scale to fight its cause under the banner of the world revolution, so shamelessly abandoned by so many international groups claiming the name of Trotskyism.
 

Since the uprising on 15 February, 2011 in Benghazi, the ‘Libyan revolution’
has
been the touchstone for revolutionaries worldwide. The mass media
supplied us
with a great deal of lying propaganda, lies that the
majority of left groups
would have had no trouble exposing in an earlier period, as
with Iraq,
for example, but they did not try.

They did not find and expose the racism of the ‘rebels’, their lynchings and
summary executions of black people on the pretext they were all “Gaddafi’s
mercenaries from Chad”. They could not expose the CIA connections and obvious
pro-imperialism of the Transitional National Council, and even those who were
eventually forced to acknowledged this told us that there was a ‘real
revolution’ in the ranks of the ‘rebels’, pointing to the sole pathetic piece of
‘evidence’, the very sophisticated banner that opposed intervention with six
people around it, undoubtedly flown in from CIA headquarters in Langley,
Virginia to fool the gullible and those who wanted to be fooled.

Of course the LCFI recognises that Gaddafi was no
revolutionary socialist, he was a bourgeois nationalist who ruled with a
corrupt clique of capitalist backers, whose main aim was the preservation of
the privileges of that group. He assisted Imperialism by supplying weapons to
Southern Sudan to divide the country to enable the US to seize the oil
resources then controlled by China. In return Omar al-Bashir (whom Gaddafi
assisted to come to power in the 1986 coup) was the foremost backer of the
rebels in Benghazi, secretly supplying weapons and other assistance to overthrow
Gaddafi, totally consistent with the completely unprincipled character of the
national bourgeoisie.

Those on the ‘left’ who wish to assist in the overthrow of
Assad in Syria, (and they are generally the same culprits) can point to similar examples
of treachery, and the favours Assad and his father Hafez al-Assad performed
for Israel and the US in Lebanon, intervening to prevent the defeat of the Falangists
(Christian fascist forces), when the alliance between Lebanon’s leftists and
Palestinians were on the brink of victory during the Civil War in 1976.

As with the policy of the United Front of working class
parties, the LCFI champions the Anti-Imperialist United Front tactic as developed by
Lenin and the Comintern in its first four Congresses. Just because the
semi-colonial world is terrorised by a brutal dictator, it does not mean that they
are the main enemy of the world’s working class and oppressed. That epithet
belongs to Imperialism and global finance capital, and to it alone in all wars and
conflicts.

A defeat for Imperialism has always two great progressive
consequences. The strengthening of the class consciousness of the workers and poor
in the oppressed nation under Imperialist attack; and far more importantly in the
global balance of class forces, the dashing of illusions in the working class
of the imperialist country in their ‘own’ bourgeoisie, as the defeat of US Imperialism
in Vietnam showed.

As with the international class struggle, so with the national.
You cannot fight for Imperialism in its foreign wars whilst consistently
seeking its overthrow at home. Domestically, the first line of Trotsky’s
Transitional Programme, “The world political situation
as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of
the proletariat” is as true today as when written in 1938. Every refugee from the
fight to build the world party of socialist revolution must deny the truth of
that proposition. Every refugee from the class struggle blames the working
class for its lack of combativity and its inability to lead itself, and thereby defends
the class treachery of the trade union bureaucracy and their political
representatives in parliament.

Trotsky said the British Trades Union leaders were the “backbone of British
Imperialism”.
This is true of every national TU bureaucracy, from the British TUC
to COSATU in South Africa. Without for a single moment neglecting our
internationalist duties, our main task today in our own class struggle is to
fight and pose alternatives to these treacherous misleaders. The building of rank
and file movements in the trade unions, the placing of demands on all those who
claim leadership of the working class, the relentless exposing of the centrists
who defend the left Trade Union bureaucrats is our central task in the class struggle.

As the Transitional Programme says: “In the struggle for partial and transitional demands, the workers now more than ever before need mass organizations, principally trade unions. The powerful growth of trade unionism in France and the United States is the best refutation of the preachments of those ultra-left doctrinaires who have been teaching that trade unions have “outlived their usefulness.”

We therefore reject totally any suggestions that the trade
unions have become simple agents of the capitalist state; that Trotsky’s
Transitional Programme no longer applies in 2012, that we must seek to build
our own sect in isolation from the mass struggles of the working class.
We are as confident as ever that with a correct orientation to Imperialism
internationally,
and to the class struggle domestically based on irreconcilable
opposition to the TU bureaucracy, our small international current will

undoubtedly find the ear of the resurgent vanguard of the international working class.

·  Defeat World Imperialism, finance capital and its agents in Syria and in every war!
·  The Malvinas are part of Argentinean national territory, defeat British Imperialism!
·  No reliance on Bourgeois nationalist leaders, even of the left variety like Chavez!
·  Only the International Working class can defeat Global Imperialism!
·  Build the World Party of Socialist Revolution!
·  Forward to the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International! 
Liga Comunista—Brasil
Tendencia Militante Bolchevique—Argentina
Socialist Fight—Britain
1 May 2012

News from the Anarchist Federation

16th April ’12


For the past week, thousands of anarchists from across Europe have been
converging in St.Imier, Switzerland to celebrate the 140th anniversary of
the founding of the Anarchist international. The gathering took the form of
a festival and educational, with music, films and entertainment as well as
workshops and discussions.

On returning from the St Imier gathering, two anarchists, one a member of
the UK Anarchist Federation, were detained for nearly two hours at Heathrow
by SO15 (counter-terrorist) police. During the detention, the anarchists
were told that their normal rights did not apply, and had their names,
addresses, email addresses, DNA and fingerprints taken. The detained
anarchists were also forced to sign forms – which may or may not be legal –
waiving their rights to silence and a solicitor. Police also conducted a
thorough search of personal possessions, photocopied literature and
passports and took information from phones and cameras.

During the detention, the police constantly accused the anarchists of lying
about involvement in criminal activity and alleged that they would be
conducting follow-up police action against one of the detained anarchists.
In addition to this, SO15 officers asked a number of inflammatory,
irrelevant and offensive questions, including ‘what would you do if someone
raped your mother?’ evidently in an attempt to cause emotional upset and
illicit angry or violent responses. One member (28) who did not want to be
named for fear of reprisals from the police, said “We were treated like
criminals. I told them I went to the congress as I am an amateur journalist
and I write articles about activism. They saw my note book, camera and
Dictaphone but they said I was lying. One officer said ‘You said you are an
anarchist, I’ve seen anarchists on the news, they are violent, throw
molotov cocktails and disrupt people’s lives not write articles'”.

The counter terrorist officers either didn’t know or chose to ignore that,
during the first day of the gathering, the International of Anarchist
Federations (Of which the UK Anarchist Federation is a member) had issued a
statement rejecting all terrorist tactics as a means of achieving an
anarchist society.

In contrast to the actions of the UK security forces, the local press and
residents in St.Imier reported very positively on the anarchist gathering.
With this incident, we are seeing a further slide towards political
policing and the criminalisation of political ideologies. The two detained
anarchists have not had any involvement in any illegal or violent activity,
or any activity that would concern the counter-terrorist police. As in the
past, when Metropolitan police called on people to give information about
local anarchists ( Anarchists should be reported, advises Westminster
anti-terror police | UK news | The Guardian ), anarchists suffered
harassment for their political viewpoint.

As class-struggle anarchists, we believe that the state does little except
serve the interests of the rich and powerful at the expense of ordinary
people. This is seen clearly when people who hold views critical of the
state are treated as criminals and terrorists. We seek to create a
classless society, based on freedom, equality and co-operation. We believe
in the capacity of ordinary people to run society themselves, without the
interference of bosses or politicians. This incident was not in response to
any crime and constitutes repression and criminalisation of a political
ideology.

*Notes:*
*The St Imier Congress was a gathering of anarchists from all over the
world to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the first international
anarchist gathering in the Swiss town of St Imier in 1872.

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!

“Councillors say they are ‘trimming the fat’. However, the fat went years ago and they have been gnawing on the bones ever since”.

 Cuts and closures are already being felt in Surrey, which people usually see as a place of leafy suburbs and stockbrokers. However the county’s less well-known trade union struggles and local, grassroots campaigns are beginning to fight back.

Across Surrey, people are mobilising against the cuts. Brooklands College was saved after a huge local campaign by staff, students, parents and local people. Parents, governors and staff at Shortwood School turned out in their hundreds at public meetings. They organised street stalls and collected a petition of over 1,000 signatures in a campaign to save their school. Working peoples’ creativity and organising ability has shocked the local council.

March 15th saw the launch of  the Save Our Services in Surrey (SOSiS) campaign, sponsored by Surrey Unison. The campaign will coordinate anti-cuts activity, support local campaigns, and bring local trade unionists together to defend jobs and services.

Paul Couchman, Tusc Parliamentary Candidate for Spelthorne, West Surrey and founder of Save Our Services in Surrey said at the launch rally: ”We face threats to close Shortwood infant school in Staines, threats to hundreds of essential bus services, a ‘review’ of fire services with a clear intent to reduce the number of fire stations -and swingeing cuts to community hospital services. -And this is before the county council’s £180 million cuts package over the next few years.”

Paul Couchman is also the secretary of the Surrey County Council Trade Unions (SCCTU), representing all trade unions within the council. They have formally affiliated to the campaign. Speaking at a joint SOSiS and SCCTU lobby of Surrey Council, at Kingston Town Hall on 23rd March, Paul said: “Public sector workers and local communities who need public services, will be asking who to vote for in this year’s general election. Most trades unionists already see that New Labour no longer represents working class people and that whoever wins, the next government will take the axe to public services.”

Richard Jones, Surrey FBU branch secretary spoke at the lobby. He said: “We’ve reached a point where fire crews are turning up at emergencies and having to tell the public that they cannot make a rescue because they have to wait for more staff to turn up. These cuts put lives at risk. We turn up to incidents without enough crew and have to wait for back-up before we can safely enter the building. Fire-fighters are going in understaffed and risking their lives. The public is in danger, fire-fighters are in danger, enough is enough!”

Richard Jones continued: “If these cuts go through, Surrey will be spending less per head of the population on fire services than any county in Britain. It will mean the loss of fire engines and station closures. It’s life or death in the fire services and if these cuts continue the Grim Reaper will be taking up residence in Surrey.”

After the lobby, Paul Couchman told the rally: “We’ve sent a message to the councillors that our public services are vital and we won’t tolerate cuts to them. The politicians spent billions bailing out the bankers, and they want us to pay the price. The local hospital has lost most of its wards including the A&E Dpt, local fire stations face the axe and bus routes are being slashed.”

Paul is Chairman of the Elmbridge Care Homes Campaign. Reffering to the Campaign he said: “We have decided to draw a ‘line in the sand’ and say no more sell-offs. We are fighting to preserve the excellent services provided by the care homes”.
Paul explained the importance of working class people having a political voice, now that New Labour has joined the Tories in cutting and privatising public services. “Its necessary to fight together, trade unions and the community, to maximise the pressure on politicians and councils to fully fund public services.”

Alan Greenspan, head of the US federal reserve during the boom years – once treated as a god by capitalists and now reviled as being responsible for the crisis – recently excused his role by saying: “Unless there is a societal choice to abandon dynamic markets and leverage for some sort of central planning, I fear that preventing bubbles will in the end turn out to be unfeasible. Assuaging their aftermath seems to be the best we can hope for.”

Greenspan is right, capitalism, an unplanned blind system driven by profit and not by social need, will always have periods of crisis like at present. Anxious to restore their profits, the capitalists’ way out of the crisis will always be to try to trample working class people a bit further into the dirt.  All of the things won through struggle – are under attack. The NHS, education – the list is considerable,  The crisis is being used to unravel and dismantle all of those social gains. We’re told that poverty must now increase and that we should meekly accept the growing gap between the richest and the poorest in society. However the public are not fooled.

A Mori survey in the FT showed the public was utterly unconvinced of the need for cuts. Only a quarter believed there’s a need to cut services to reduce the national debt. 50% don’t think cuts are necessary at all -and 48% think more, rather than less, should be spent on public expenditure. The recession is the result of massive market failure. It’s entirely technically and financially feasible to create at least a million new jobs, by investing in insulating homes and public buildings, investing in renewables, through a sustainable publicly run transport system, and utilising the skills and know-how in society for socially useful production. None of this will happen if we leave it to the market.

     http://paulcouchman.com/
     www.ourhomesoursay.org.uk
     http://www.saveourservic.es/
     http://www.surreycountyunison.org.uk/

 
Join Save Our Services in Surrey F/b Group:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=194817448458&ref=ts  
Join Guildford Against Fees And Cuts F/b Page:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Guildford-Against-Fees-Cuts/167151436659040