Saturday, 17 December 2011

Tories speak for the rich - not for us

The following is taken from the socialist issue 697

 

* No to austerity

* Step up national coordinated strike action in January

* Build a new mass workers' party

 

 

Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary
N30: millions of public sector workers went on strike on 30 November 2011, photo Senan
N30: millions of public sector workers went on strike on 30 November 2011, photo Senan   (Click to enlarge)
David Cameron was stoutly defending the 'nation'. This is what he claimed after he was humiliatingly defeated by 26 votes to one at the 9 December EU summit and withdrew from participating in discussions over a new EU treaty. Which nation?

Benjamin Disraeli spoke of 'two nations' in 19th century Britain. And Cameron and the Con-Dem coalition have done everything to recreate a similarly horrific, only worse, situation in 21st century Britain.

It was not the legions of unemployed - one million young people, one million women - nor the 200 people who will die each day this winter from cold and other preventable causes who have been helped or strengthened by Cameron's 'brave' stand.

Nor will it be the children and families mired in poverty, suffering cuts in benefits or living in catastrophic housing conditions that will be raised up by his actions.

Neither will it be the 700,000 public sector workers whose jobs will be destroyed at the end of chancellor Osborne's jobs butchery who will rejoice at the prime minister's Brussels posture.

No - it was the spivs, racketeers and banksters of the City of London in whose interests he was acting.
Nor could it be otherwise. Foreign policy is always a continuation of home policy. If his government blatantly acts for the rich, the powerful and the capitalists here, then why should it be any different abroad?

Derision

Workers from European countries protest against the European Union neoliberalism and austerity cuts, photo Paul Mattsson
Workers from European countries protest against the European Union neoliberalism and austerity cuts, photo Paul Mattsson

The derision emanating from the ruling class and their mouthpieces - or at least significant sections of them - which followed the Brussels farce indicates that David Cameron does not, on this issue, even speak for all of them. How the mighty have fallen!

He is a representative of one of the strongest powers, British capitalism, the world has ever seen, which at one stage ruled, through its 'empire', one quarter of humankind.

Backed by a powerful industry - the 'workshop of the world' - historically, British imperialism was able to play off one European power against another, with the infamous 'balance of power' strategy of the British ruling class.

Its navy 'ruled the waves'. Now, through Cameron, the 'empire' is reduced, metaphorically speaking, to one man in a rowing boat in the English Channel at odds with the rest of the European powers!

The full consequences of the historical collapse of British capitalism, which the Socialist predicted, have been brought home.

It is signified by the decline of productive industry, manufacturing, etc in favour of 'services', financial services in particular.

It was Thatcher (and Cameron loudly proclaimed himself as one of 'Thatcher's children') who ruinously pursued this policy in the 1980s, continued by Blair and Brown through New Labour governments.
This is reflected in the fact that manufacturing industry is now no more than 12-13% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Will Hutton in the Observer claims that 75% of GDP now comes from 'services'. But the financial sector is just 9% of the economy and in terms of employment accounts for less than manufacturing.

The financial sector is facing its biggest collapse since the onset of the crisis beginning in 2007-08.
It does not offer a lifeline to the generation of jobless and is unable to arrest the rise in unemployment, as manufacturing did in the past.

This is why Osborne and Cameron have urged the 'march of the makers', the renaissance of manufacturing industry.

Defending the City

 

Bankers are the real looters - Hackney - Tottenham demo after the riots, photo Paul Mattsson
Bankers are the real looters - Hackney - Tottenham demo after the riots, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)
But Cameron has taken a stand in defence of the City, the finance sector, which threatens to further undermine Britain's failed manufacturing base. 40% of steel exports, for instance, go to Europe, which is still Britain's biggest export market.

And for what? To prevent, allegedly, the imposition of a 'transaction tax' - sometimes referred to as the 'Robin Hood' tax - which, even if it is implemented, will merely trim the fingernails of the hedge funds and speculators at whom it is aimed.

We have to remember these are the very people - the speculators, the banks, the bond traders - who helped to bring the world economy and Europe to its knees in the first place.

These criminals have been bailed out with our money, through the state, instead of being put on trial and jailed.

They then awarded themselves obscene bonuses - some of the banks' top chief executive officers' salaries have gone up by as much as 5,000%!

Cameron with the pitiful Liberal Democrats in tow, led by that Vicar of Bray Clegg - 'all things to all men' - and 'Saint' Vince Cable, wishes to protect them against this excessively minimal measure!

Yet this is not guaranteed to protect them against the competition of other rival financial centres in Europe such as Frankfurt and Paris.

Even the Sunday Times, which supports Cameron, has warned: "Never underestimate the vindictiveness of the protectionist instincts of our European partners."

Ollie Rehn, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, has also warned that further regulation will apply to Britain's financial sector inside or outside of the new structures.

The fact that Britain is still in the 'single market' is not an insurance policy against Germany and France for instance, dubbed 'Merkozy', ganging up against British capitalism to ensure that the City is pushed out into the cold.

Cameron's claim that his refusal to ratify the new treaty will not lead to a refusal to invest by foreign multinationals in Britain is bogus.

The isolation of British capitalism flows from this. As capitalist commentators themselves have pointed out, when they consider investment in Europe, in Beijing or the US, they will be more reluctant to invest in this country if it is not involved in the 'consultative' process within Europe itself.

Not that working people should rely on the whims of capitalist magnates, whether in this country or abroad.
Capitalism worldwide is falling apart at the seams, with even its apologists warning of 'endless austerity'.

Cameron took his stand not for economic reasons but primarily because of the political pressures from within his own party.

The last general election gave a fillip to the Eurosceptic and often Thatcherite right wing of the Tory party.
This was reflected in the hugely significant revolt of 80 MPs against the government a few months ago.

Fear that going along with the rest of the EU would split the Tory party down the middle, and in the process lead to the shipwreck of the coalition, led to Cameron taking the stand he did.

It was for the same reason that the hapless Nick Clegg first of all supported Cameron and then came out against.

In fact, this issue of Europe has the potential for big splits in the two parties that form the coalition - the Tories and the Liberal Democrats - and could have repercussions within the Labour party as well.

The Europhile wing of the parliamentary Tory party is concerned that Cameron will take them out of the EU.
The pro-Europeans of the Liberal Democrats are equally incensed. Clegg was correctly described in the House of Commons by right-wing Tory Nadine Dorries as 'cowardly' for not turning up to Prime Minister's Questions on the Monday following the summit to 'face the music'.

New Labour's response

 

And what of Ed Miliband and New Labour's response? As Shakespeare's Macbeth said: "Full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing".

It has been just that, 'nothing'. Ed Miliband simply has nothing to say of any substance beyond accusing Cameron of not standing for the 'best interests of Britain'.

What Britain we may ask, as we have done of Cameron. If Miliband is in defence of anybody, it is the same City interests that evoke the support of Cameron as well.

We would defend most of the one million workers - not the highflying traders but the ordinary workers in the finance sector.

Their interests, as the catastrophes of RBS and Northern Rock showed, can only really be protected by nationalisation of the banks - but with workers' control and management.

We completely reject state capitalist methods of taking over the banks, keeping the same management that ruined them in the first place, accompanied by redundancies for many bank workers.

As with all issues the EU must be approached with the interests of working people central. Both in its original design and its practices today, it is a bosses' club.

It arose out of the contradictions of capitalism, specifically because of the inability of the productive forces - science, technique and the organisation of labour - to be further developed within the narrow limits of private ownership and the nation state.

Capitalism can never overcome this limit. They can share out the loot when the market is expanding. This is what happened with the launch of the euro but, as the Socialist predicted, once the boom became bust, the opposite has happened.

They are at each other's throats. This is what is unfolding before us, as each power jostles for supremacy.
German capitalism, represented by Angela Merkel, is the dominant power, with France in tow. It is using its economic prowess to put the rest of Europe on 'rations'.

With the departure of Cameron from the negotiations, the impression was given in Brussels that the other 26 countries had come up with a solution to the eurozone crisis around sovereign debt. Nothing of the kind was achieved.

'Merkozy' has not set up a mechanism for 'fiscal union' as they hinted at and some claimed. What is proposed is a new version of the broken Stability Pact, which limited budget deficits to 3% of GDP and total national debt to 60%.

This time, it will be the Stability Pact 'on steroids', with teeth, and the threat of fines of up to 0.25% of GDP if a country steps out of line!

It is, in effect, a brutal neoliberal straitjacket, which aims to prevent national governments from bending to popular will and increasing public spending.

It is another reason to oppose the capitalist EU, which is unreformable and seeks to attack and crush working people at every turn.

However, this political crisis in Britain gives the opportunity for the labour movement to raise all the crucial questions pertaining to the EU from a class point of view.

If this crisis persists, because of the inaction of New Labour and the trade union leaders who are refusing to speak with a clear class voice, then the dangers of nationalism can develop. Cameron and the Tories are toying with the idea of electorally capitalising on this.

We have had experience in the past - for instance, at the time of the Falklands War - of the way that the representatives of big business in the Tory party have used issues abroad in order to stoke up nationalism, which could redound to their benefit in elections.

In 1983, the Tories - with the help, it is true, of the traitors who broke from the Labour Party at that stage, when it was a workers' party at its base, the now defunct Social Democratic Party - called an election, using the new upsurge of 'national' pride following the victory in the Falklands War to climb back to power.
This was despite the previous unpopularity of the Tories and the existence of mass unemployment and deteriorating social conditions.

Poll results

 

The initial polls indicate that Cameron has about 62% support for his EU stance. It is possible that Cameron will attempt something similar to Thatcher in the present situation.

Witness the outpourings of support of the previous anti-Cameron Eurosceptic wing of the Tory party for him on his 'triumphal' return.

'Cameron played a blinder,' bellowed that towering intellectual Boris Johnson! On the evening after his return from Brussels, the Eurosceptics gathered at the Prime Minister's country retreat, Chequers, there to laud him as the reincarnation of the 'British bulldog'.

However, a snap election in the current conditions in Britain would be a risky enterprise for the Tories.
Cameron would not be able to limit the campaign to the issue of the EU as the questions of austerity, poverty and social deprivation would come to the fore.

In such a scenario, Cameron could face the same fate as former Tory prime minister Ted Heath, who called a snap election during the miners' strike of 1974 on the slogan 'Who rules Britain?' and was defeated.

The labour movement and the working class must have an answer which poses issues from a class point of view and in particular to cut across the dangers of nationalism.

The right may attempt to link Cameron's stance of standing up to 'Johnny Foreigner' to immigration, in order to prepare the ground for a possible early general election with the prospect of an outright victory of the Tories now a real possibility.

However, with the new grossly undemocratic arrangements that the Con-Dem coalition has put in place for five-year fixed parliamentary terms, there are some obstacles to facilitating early elections.

Unlike in the past when a vote of no-confidence in the Commons would almost automatically trigger an election, that is no longer the case.

The end of a five-year parliamentary term would obviously result in a general election. There are also two other ways in which this can happen before the end of the five-year term: if a motion of no confidence is passed and no alternative government can be found; or if the motion for an early general election is agreed either by at least two thirds of the house or without a division.

These arrangements were clearly designed to keep the vicious austerity coalition in power for five years, irrespective of the mass opposition increasingly demanding that they depart.

This is just one example of the anti-democratic semi-totalitarian methods which the capitalists internationally are resorting to in order to enforce their attacks against working people.

'Parliamentary Bonapartist' measures have seen unelected, so-called 'technocratic' governments installed in Greece and Italy.

In answer to this onslaught of increasingly undemocratic measures, labour movements internationally must adopt measures and tactics including the demand, in some cases, for referenda to stop them.

Ireland

 

In Ireland, the left, led by the Socialist Party and its parliamentary representatives like Joe Higgins, are demanding an immediate referendum on the EU treaty.

Yet British workers are denied the right to decide on this issue. As a very minimum the trade union movement should campaign for a referendum on the issues of our choosing - the class questions which are at the heart of the neoliberal agenda which is the 'modern' EU.

We do not want a referendum on issues framed by Cameron simply in relation to the proposed treaty in March, which in any case will not now be voted on, it seems, in Britain.

Referenda for the labour movement to oppose lock, stock and barrel the EU's Lisbon Treaty agenda - with its programme of privatisation, cuts in wages, etc - is a different proposition.

This must be closely linked to preparations and mobilisation of the trade unions for another one-day public sector general strike, including workers in the private sector. No time must be lost. Set the date now for early in the new year!

Another mass mobilisation against the attacks on pensions and linked to the brutal austerity package of Osborne in the autumn statement can help to cut across the plans of the Tory party to exploit their alleged new-found 'popularity' on the EU.

We need to reassert total opposition to the bosses' club of the EU. We must come together, not in a narrow nationalist fashion but with solidarity of workers and the labour movement on the international plane.

  • Down with the capitalist EU of mass unemployment and austerity!
  • For a workers' Europe, on the basis of a democratic socialist confederation of the continent
  • Down with the dictatorship of the capitalist markets and the bondholders
  • Cancel the debt
  • Nationalise the banks with workers' control and management

    Friday, 16 December 2011

    No sell-out on pensions - Fight until we win!

    Name the day for the next coordinated strike in January

    30 June pensions strike: London demo, photo Senan
    30 June pensions strike: London demo, photo Senan   (Click to enlarge)
    On 15 December the TUC's Public Sector Liaison Group (PSLG) met for the first time since the magnificent 30 November public sector strike.
    Disgracefully, Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, argued that all of the trade unions should sign up to the government's latest 'heads of agreement' on pensions, which would then allow Francis Maude to announce before Christmas that the dispute has been settled. This was met with outrage by many of the public sector trade unions present.
    Not one of the central demands of public sector workers has been met. All public sector workers are still being told to work longer, pay more and get less.
    The teaching unions NUT and NASUWT reported that they had been offered no serious concessions by the government, as did the civil servants' union PCS, the Fire Brigades Union and representatives of workers in the NHS.
    In local government the only concession is to delay the attacks on pensions until 2014, provided that local government unions promise to accept the pain without a fight when it comes.
    Yet Dave Prentis - general secretary for Unison - the biggest union in health and local government - argued for accepting this rotten deal. Hundreds of thousands of Unison members who struck on 30 November will not agree.
    30 November showed the potential power of the working class in Britain. We can force this weak, divided government to retreat, but only if the action is stepped up.
    The leadership of the TUC and Unison were only forced to support N30 because of the pressure of rank and file trade unionists - now we need to do the same again.
    At the PSLG, PCS demanded that the meeting name the day for the next day of national coordinated strike action.
    In Scotland, Unison delegates have already unanimously proposed 25 January as the day of the next strike.
    National Shop Stewards Network supporters need to pile on the pressure for the date of the next strike to be set before Christmas, and to take place in January.

    We immediately need to:

    • Flood the TUC and Unison leaderships with letters, resolutions and petitions of protest demanding that they do not sell out the pensions struggle and immediately set the date for a strike in January in coordination with the other public sector unions.
    • Members of all other public sector unions to send letters, resolutions and petitions to their National Executives demanding that they set the date for a strike in January in coordination with the other unions.
    • Organise a mass lobby of the next meeting of the TUC, which is taking place in early January.
    We will post more information as soon as possible.

    Monday, 12 December 2011

    Fighting the cuts after N30

    RCT Socialist Update no. 38

    Last week we saw between 2 and 3 million public sector workers take strike action defend public sector pensions and the government were visibly shaken as the saw the working class move into action against their cuts agenda. This week saw private sector workers and Unilever take similiar strike action to defend their final salary pension schemes, displaying the myths of gold plated pensions in the public sector, whilst private sector workings carried on as normal.

    With this heroic display of the strength and combativity of the organised working class came the question of everyones lips 'Where Next?' How can we finally defeat this government and how can we defend all public services which faces huge cuts in the false claim we are all in the together.

    South East Wales Socialist Party will be hosting a public meeting on just that topic. Speakers will include John McInally the vice president of PCS (the civil service trade union) and socialist party member, as well as one of the striking electricians at Llandough hospital. Come along and join the discussion on the way forward in the battle against cuts and in defence of public services. In the meantime you can read this article about the strike day in Wales http://www.socialistpartywales.org.uk/news93.shtml

    The meeting is at
    Tuesday 13th 7pm

    Cardiff Bus and Social Club, Tudor Street (5 minutes walk from central station)

    Sunday, 11 December 2011

    Con-Dems pile on the misery - 'Enough is enough'

    The following is taken from the socialist issue 697

    "We are the 99%" - that has been the rallying call of the year. Worldwide, 2011 will go down in history as a year when the poor, the oppressed, the working class - the majority in society - rose up and started to fight back.

    In the Middle East, in North Africa, in Southern Europe and also here, in Britain, working class people have begun to demonstrate their potential power to change history.

    30 November was the day when around two million public sector workers, members of 30 trade unions, took part in the biggest strike for over three decades. The majority had never taken strike action before, many had never expected to. But they see no other way of both defending pension rights and signalling to the government that they will not accept its plans to destroy public services.

    There were massive demonstrations in cities, towns and even villages, with estimates of over 1,000 taking place. In most cases they were the biggest rallies to have taken place for many decades, if not ever. In Bristol over 20,000 marched, in Manchester more than 30,000. In smaller towns there were large demonstrations - 2,000 in Bournemouth, 4,000 in Truro, 1,200 in Birkenhead, 1,000 in Hastings, 1,200 in Warrington, the list goes on.

    Many of the strikers were disgusted by the lies, insults and smears not only of Jeremy Clarkson but of the capitalist politicians and media as a whole. But these slurs had very little effect on public opinion. Even the online poll of the anti-strike Daily Mail showed 84% of people supporting the action. The Daily Mail, in its normal unbiased way, responded by quickly deleting the poll.

    N30 - Millions strike back at Con-Dem government on 30 November 2011, photo Paul Mattsson
    N30 - Millions strike back at Con-Dem government on 30 November 2011, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

    Nor did the claims that the strike had been a flop have any real impact. On the contrary, even David "damp squib" Cameron was forced to accept it was "obviously a big strike". No wonder. Official Department of Education figures showed that 62% of schools were completely closed, 14% partially closed, and only 16% definitely open.

    The NHS was also disrupted. For example, in London the Metropolitan Police, City of London Police and British Transport Police were all asked by the London Ambulance Service for help when it could not cope with demand.

    Approximately 84% of PCS civil service union members joined the strike. Museums and courts were closed or severely disrupted. Only 20 out of the 1,200 staff in the Student Loans Company went into work. The Cabinet Office had its best supported strike ever.

    The government claimed that only 18 of 900 job centres were closed. However, the big majority of those that opened were staffed only by management and could not offer a full service. Over 50% of job centres offered no service to the public at all.

    At Heathrow more than 90% of PCS members were out. Queues at airports were only minimised because over 20,000 passengers had taken the airlines' offer to rebook their flights for free.

    Whatever brave face the Con-Dems show in public, behind the scenes they were shaken by the massive display of 'people's power'.

    In one day, 30 November (N30), trade unionists gave a powerful demonstration that - contrary to the government's propaganda - public sector workers are crucial to keeping the country running. N30 showed that if these workers withdraw their labour, they are capable of bringing the country to a halt.

    The private sector as well as the public sector was affected in many ways - including the closing of the Metro and the Tyne Tunnel in the North East, the money lost by the airlines and, above all, by the millions of private sector workers who had to take the day off in order to care for their children.

    That is not to say that N30 was 100% solid in every workplace. At national and local level some of the unions participating have not organised a serious struggle for decades. Union officials have in many cases become used to administering defeat rather than fighting to win. Inevitably, as a result, there were many workplaces with no real union organisation.

    However, across the country there were reports of workers walking out and organising picket lines in such workplaces. This is a beginning of rebuilding the trade union movement in Britain. Unison membership applications have increased by 126% since the ballot result. The same will undoubtedly be true of the other unions that joined the strike.

    Build the unions

    N30 - Millions strike back at Con-Dem government on 30 November 2011, photo Paul Mattsson
    N30 - Millions strike back at Con-Dem government on 30 November 2011, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

    The task in workplaces which previously had weak or non-existent union structures is now to build fighting union branches and effective broad lefts, based around the new activists who flooded into action on N30.

    This is not a task that can be left for months, or even for weeks. It is urgent. On 29 November, Tory chancellor George Osborne dramatically escalated the Con-Dems' war on the working class. As the headlines of two national dailies declared, Osborne 'struck first' when he stepped up the onslaught on the public sector and workers' rights.

    Therefore the date for the next public sector strike needs to be set immediately and to take place before the end of January. All private sector trade unions with current disputes should also coordinate their action for that date.

    The trade union movement needs to make it clear that, if the government doesn't retreat, it will then step up the action further with a 48-hour public sector strike.

    Osborne's plans draw a picture of unrelenting misery. The number of public sector jobs to be cut has increased by 300,000 to 710,000. A two-year 1% cap on public sector pay increases is to be imposed, ie continuing the pay freeze; measures to make it easier to sack workers are to be introduced; and the increase in the retirement age from 66 to 67 is to be brought forward to 2026.

    Working Tax Credits are to be cut back. Osborne announced that the misery of 'austerity Britain' would continue for a decade. The already eye-watering £81 billion worth of cuts to the public sector is to be increased by £30 billion.

    This horror is combined with a serious threat to the rights of the working class to organise in defence of its rights. The break up of national pay bargaining, along with the increase in public sector job cuts, was tucked away in the Office for Budget Responsibility's (OBR) report. Osborne adopted the report by the OBR, an unelected quango, wholesale. This is an echo of the rule of the 'technocrats', the dictatorship of the markets, in Greece and Italy where unelected bankers have stepped in to force cuts through.

    More attacks

     

    N30 - Millions strike back at Con-Dem government on 30 November 2011, photo Paul Mattsson
    N30 - Millions strike back at Con-Dem government on 30 November 2011, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)
    The break up of national pay bargaining, if it was to go through, would seriously undermine the strength of the trade unions in the public sector. Cameron has now added to this by stepping up the threat to trade unionists' facility time.

    The OBR report also raised the ending of TUPE, which currently guarantees the pay, conditions and pensions of public sector workers whose jobs are privatised. For British capitalism, which lacks profitable fields of investment, privatisation of swathes of the public sector is a juicy and potentially profitable prize, provided that workers' pay and conditions are driven into the ground. Cameron is openly calling for privatisation of sections of the NHS.

    The war that has been unleashed on the trade union movement is an attempt to petrify it. They hope that in face of this onslaught the trade unions will stop fighting back and accept a rotten deal on pensions. The Financial Times on 3 December suggested that if the trade unions are prepared to settle on pensions the government will make 'further concessions', guaranteeing the pension rights of privatised workers.

    This 'concession', even if it materialised, would only be an agreement to withdraw one small part of the onslaught launched on Tuesday, in return for the unions swallowing the destruction of public sector workers' pensions.

    The government has declared war and the only possible response is to escalate the action, both in defence of pension rights, but also broadening the struggle against the government's austerity onslaught, and in defence of the rights of the trade unions to organise effectively.

    More misery

    N30 - Millions strike back at Con-Dem government on 30 November 2011, photo Paul Mattsson
    N30 - Millions strike back at Con-Dem government on 30 November 2011, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)
    Osborne's autumn statement has been quickly followed by a series of think tanks announcing that we face a 'decade of misery'. We have been told that our living standards will be lower in 2015 than they were in 2003. In a complete condemnation of capitalist Britain, 64% of people now believe that their children will be worse off than them. Inevitably, the economic misery capitalism offers is being used as a justification for further attacks on our living standards.

    Outrageously, Lord Hutton, author of the attack on public sector pensions and still a Labour member of the House of Lords, has weighed in to argue that, given the economic crisis, the government is offering workers "a good deal" on pensions. Millions of workers, however, are drawing the opposite conclusion - that it is only by conducting a determined struggle that they stand any chance of defending their and their children's living standards.

    Unfortunately, the right-wing trade union leaders are terrified of calling further national action. Unison's leadership have mooted 'smart action' - that is sectional action - as the next step. This would be a serious mistake. Sectional or regional action as a supplement to further national coordination action could be useful, but as a substitute it will demobilise and potentially divide the movement.

    The struggle of local authority workers in Southampton is held up as an example of 'smart' action. In reality, while Southampton shows the determination of local authority workers to fight, it is a demonstration of the limitations of 'smart' action, not of its success.

    On N30 millions of workers felt their collective power. At the same time the majority understood that the government would not retreat without further action. The right-wing trade union leaders only took part in N30 as a result of pressure from their members, who were frustrated that they had not been called out for the strike on 30 June. Now that so many trade unionists have had their confidence increased by taking strike action, it will be very difficult for the right-wing union leaders to avoid calling further coordinated action.

    Further action

     

    N30 - Millions strike back at Con-Dem government on 30 November 2011, photo Paul Mattsson
    N30 - Millions strike back at Con-Dem government on 30 November 2011, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)
    Already Unison Scotland has voted unanimously for a further day of coordinated action on 25 January. The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) has a vital role to play organising demands for further strike action through a major campaign to get petitions signed and resolutions passed through trade union branches and through lobbying the TUC.

    Another crucial task is to put forward an alternative to the 'austerity capitalism' offered by all three main parties. The biggest trade unions which participated in N30 are affiliated to the Labour Party, and their members' money provides the majority of Labour's funding.

    Ed Miliband, under pressure, did not give an outright condemnation of the strike as he did in June - but he made it clear that he did not support it. Instead he suggested that the unions "had fallen into the government's trap". Ed Balls, Labour shadow chancellor, has made clear that a Labour government would also slash public sector pensions.

    It is now widely understood that the cuts have exacerbated the economic crisis as tax receipts have fallen and the number of benefit claimants increased. Even Osborne has had to tacitly recognise this by including some attempts to stimulate the economy in the autumn statement, alongside huge attacks.

    But because Labour, like the Tories and Liberals, accepts the logic of the capitalist market, it accepts the 'necessity' of driving down workers' living standards. It is an indictment of Labour policies, of cuts 'less far and less fast', that more voters currently trust the Tories than the opposition on the economy. Although this can change as the crisis deepens and, in desperation, workers look for any outlet to defeat the government.

    No to ALL cuts

     

    Socialists, however, along with millions of workers, say NO! Working class people should refuse to pay for an economic crisis which was not of their making. Alongside an industrial struggle, we also need a political voice - otherwise workers are fighting with one hand tied behind their backs. We call on the trade unions to stop funding New Labour, and to begin to stand election candidates that say no to all cuts.

    The PCS civil service union has proposed an immediate alternative to Osborne's £111 billion of cuts. It demands the collection of the massive £120 billion unpaid tax of big business which, if implemented, would negate the need for cuts. The Socialist Party and the whole labour movement support this demand.

    However, the speed and depth of the present crisis of capitalism and its devastating effect on the lives of millions of workers in Britain and worldwide, poses sharply the issue not just of immediate measures that offer some relief for working people, but of more profound solutions, of 'system change'. This means outlining and fighting for a democratic socialist alternative.

    It is no coincidence that in the wake of the strike Blairite Labour MP David Miliband, along with pro-Labour columnist Will Hutton and others, have written articles which attempt to dismiss Marxism and socialism as an alternative to the misery that capitalism offers.

    The objective case for socialism has never been stronger; hence the rush to condemn it before it gains mass support. However, this will not work. Both Miliband brothers and Will Hutton can only offer a dream of good 'productive' capitalism rather than the 'bad' speculator-driven capitalism we have today. But this is a utopian dream.

    The financiers and the manufacturers are completely intertwined and inseparable. British manufacturing companies gamble on the stock markets and have £60 billion hoarded in their vaults - refusing to invest in new equipment, factories or jobs - because it is not profitable for them to do so.

    No amount of pleas from the Miliband brothers will change that. Only by taking the financial system, and the major corporations that dominate the economy, into democratic public ownership would it be possible to begin to fully utilise the science, technique and industry available in order to meet the needs of the majority.

    Only the start

     

    2011 has seen the biggest trade union demonstration for decades, possibly over 100 years, and now it has had the magnificent N30 strike. However, 2011 has only been the start. The stage is set for battles that will dwarf those we have seen this year. In the course of them there will be opportunities to win a new generation to socialism. There will also be opportunities to bring down the rotten Con-Dem coalition.

    Osborne has made it clear that his government is set on a collision course with the working class. Thatcher did similar when she launched the poll tax, but it turned out to be her downfall thanks to the 18 million-strong army of non-payers, led by Militant (the Socialist Party's predecessor). Something like this can happen again.
    Osborne and Cameron, with Clegg and Co in tow, are determined to talk tough in their battle with Britain's working class. However, this hides the reality that this is a weak and increasingly hated government. It can be brought down provided that the anger and determination shown on N30 is built on early in 2012.


    Splits on the horizon?

     

    It is clear from the autumn spending review that the Tories are preparing to drag the Liberals with them into a second 'austerity' government. However, the ranks of the Liberal Democrats have accepted wielding the knife in return for power for one term - but may balk at it carrying on indefinitely. In an attempt to appease his members, Nick Clegg has made a rhetorical attack on the excess pay of CEOs whose companies 'don't deliver'.

    Meanwhile he continues to sit happily in a government which has presided over average pay increases of 49% for the directors of the FTSE 100 companies - which are only delivering pay squeezes and redundancies for their workforces.

    However, as the cuts continue to mean terrible misery for millions - and particularly as the struggle against the cuts increases - there will be real possibilities for splits in the Lib Dems, as there will be for all the pro-big business parties.

    The spectre of Europe is haunting the Tories. Around 40% of Britain's exports go to the eurozone, and its break up would mean a dramatic increase in the economic crisis worldwide and in Britain. As the price of trying to save the eurozone German capitalism is demanding the right to insist that every country in the eurozone carries out Con-Dem-style cuts policies. This, however, will require changes to the Lisbon Treaty, and already the Tory right are agitating for a referendum.

    Socialists support the right of the people to vote on changes to the Treaty and oppose the strengthening of this axe-man's charter, just as the Socialist Party, the Socialist Party's sister organisation in Ireland, campaigned for a no vote in the two Irish referendums on the Lisbon Treaty.

    However, Cameron will be desperate to avoid a referendum and the issue, seemingly separate to the cuts but in fact connected, is likely to dramatically widen the fissures within the Tory party and between it and the Lib Dems.

    Have you got comments on this article? Get in touch.

    Email editors@socialistparty.org.uk or call 020 8988 8777

    Monday, 5 December 2011

    RCT Socialist Update no. 37


    In the last week we have seen the biggest
    strike action in Britain since 1926. With almost 3 million public sector workers out on strike it was a huge sign that working class people are no longer prepared to sit back and accept the dictates of the markets or the politicians who bow to every move by them. The burning anger was evident from the picket lines and the demonstrations in both Cardiff and Merthyr and from reports we have heard from right across the country. Socialist Party members were out in force on November 30th, many of them forming picket lines at there own workplaces with fellow trade union activists, whilst those members not working in the public sector, paid a visit to as many picket lines as possible before heading of to the march and rally in Cardiff. The highlight of the demonstration was hearing the improptu rally held by the National Shop Stewards Network at the begining of the demonstration.

    Along with this strike action and the growing mood of anger towards the cuts agenda of the government we have seen the emergence of the Occupy Movement which has come to South Wales and has currently set up camp outside Transport House in Cardiff, with so many people there looking for an alternative model for society and actively looking towards the organisations of the working class, the trade unions for guidance.

    The big question after the strike action of last week is 'What Next?' where do we go from here to effectively push back the governments assault on public services. Come along to the Socialist Party public meeting in Pontypridd to discuss this very issue, speakers wil include public sector workers who took strike on on November 30th. In the meantime you can watch this marvelous video from the Socialist Party covering events on that day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hcvE0EPD2w

    Come along to the meeting
    Tuesday 7pm
    Pontypridd Musuem

    Wednesday, 26 October 2011

    10,000 public sector jobs lost in Wales and counting…

    Welsh youth to join the Jarrow March For Jobs


    Over 10,000 public sector jobs have been lost in Wales in the last year according to accountants PwC. And it will get a whole lot worse according to the Wales Audit Office (WAO) who expects 21,000 jobs to be lost by 2015. So far the cutbacks have been less severe in Wales than the rest of the UK, but that has merely delayed the worst of the cutbacks.

    The Welsh government delayed the cuts until after the Assembly elections in May this year, but fully intend to make them bite this year and the next two years. Already 1,000 jobs have been lost in the Welsh government itself. The NHS, education and councils are currently shedding jobs like leaves from the trees outside the Assembly offices in Cathays Park.

    The ConDem government’s claim that job losses in the public sector will be made up by job gains in the private sector are confounded when you look at the small print of the employment figures. There has been a small growth in the number of employees (although not enough to stop a sharp rise in unemployment) but only by a rise in part time and temporary jobs. So permanent employment has been replaced by underemployment and short term employment.

    And public sector cuts will lead to workers’ jobs being lost in the private sector as well. PwC estimates that over 50,000 jobs will be lost in Wales in the public and private sectors as a result of the cuts.

    The loss of jobs in the public sector is also putting enormous strain on the remaining workforce. In the NHS (where a colossal £570 million is being cut in Wales) workers are reporting that they are having to cover for the unfilled vacancies as workers leaving are not replaced.

    The response of people in Wales to the cuts has already been angry but they have only just begun to bite. Thus far the Welsh Labour government has been able to shift the blame onto the shoulders of the ConDem government in Westminster who control the purse strings and cut the funding for public services in Wales. The Welsh government has shrugged its shoulders and said "What can we do?" before cutting services to the bone. But that can only last so long before the cuts become intolerable.

    The Wales Audit Office points out that the cuts will be absolutely unprecedented. Spending on public services has never been cut more than two consecutive years. It will now be cut in real terms for five consecutive years. Real term funding will be cut by a massive 12.4% over that period.

    The NHS in Wales will really suffer with health spending due to be cut by 6.2% in three years in real terms. At the moment health spending per head is slightly higher in Wales than the UK average. However compared to other areas with similar socio-economic characteristics like the North East of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland it is the lowest. The Welsh government proposes to cut it even further so that it falls even below the UK average.

    The Welsh Labour government that pretends to stand in the tradition of the NHS's socialist founder, Aneurin Bevan, is attempting to force health spending to the lowest in the UK.

    Revenue from the Welsh government to the councils will fall by £283 million by 2013 (a 7% cut). So basic council services will be cut and thousands of council jobs will go. Many council workers are being hit by a double whammy in Wales. As well as the cutting back of staffing levels and the extra workload heaped on the remaining workforce a substantial number are having their pay frozen and even cut by the job evaluation process taking place in Welsh councils.

    In Rhondda Cynon Taff and Neath Port Talbot councils the workers have been hit with a triple whammy as these Labour-run councils have threatened their workers with wage cuts or get the sack. Some councils are attacking union organisation withdrawing facility time or other union facilities to try and prevent the unions from defending their members.

    And according to the Wales Audit Office things would have been just as bad if Labour was in power in Westminster. Last year the WAO had calculated £1.5 billion cuts to the year 2013-14 based on the estimates of the outgoing Brown government’s planned cuts. The actual figure was virtually the same at £1.6 billion. In other words Labour’s cut to Welsh funding would have been as bad as the ConDems.

    But while jobs are being massacred in Wales the youth are showing that a fightback is on the way. Next week a delegation from Youth Fight For Jobs are following up their hugely successful Merthyr to Cardiff march by joining the Youth Fight For Jobs Jarrow march to London. A dozen Youth Fight For Jobs activists from Wales will join the march as it moves towards its arrival in London on November 5th.

    This will bring home the burning issue of youth unemployment, running at over 30% in Wales. It will up the ante as we prepare for the one day public sector strike planned for November 30th.

    by Dave Reid

    Tuesday, 25 October 2011

    1,000 march on Cardiff Hardest Hit demo

    Tories welcomed by charities but not Remploy workers!

    The turnout of 1,000 at the ‘Hardest Hit’ march and rally in Cardiff on October 22nd showed both the huge anger developing against the Tories’ proposals and potential to build a mass campaign against the attacks on the disabled. Disabled campaigners, trade unionists and the wider anti-cuts movement got a great reception in the city centre as they marched through, chanting “no ifs, no buts no disability cuts”.

    But it also showed the weaknesses of cross party, cross class approach taken by many charities and politicians who claim to be the official leadership of the disability rights movement.

    The march was inspiring in that a thousand disabled people, carers, trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners turned out to march through Cardiff. The overwhelming majority of those that turned out would have been looking for a lead in the fight to defeat attacks on disability benefits and a plan of action to defend vital public services including the NHS and local authority services.

    They would have been sadly disappointed listening to the official platform of speakers which consisted of directors and executives of charities and 3 Welsh Assembly Members. The AMs included, unbelievably, Mohammad Ashgar, Tory AM for South Wales East. This representative of the Tory originator of these cuts was allowed to speak, while Les Woodward, the national trade union convenor for Remploy - employing around 2,800 disabled workers and threatened with closure by the same Tory party of which Mr Ashgar is a Welsh representative – was refused on the grounds that he was “too political”. When large parts of the rally booed and heckled this representative of the party of the ruling class they were told to be quiet by the chair because the “support of all parties” is needed.

    It took a comedian to introduce some sense to the platform, when actor and writer, Boyd Clack (Satellite City/High Hopes),told marchers that the lesson taught to him by his dad as a boy – “you can never trust a Tory” is as true today as it has ever been. But, he warned, that his father would be turning in his grave to see what the Labour Party he supported, has become. He warned disabled fighters to rely only on their own strength and not the support of politicians. He could have added that we should not rely on the support of charities which rely on government funding and will do all they can to argue for their own slice of a shrinking pie, while doing everything in their power to prevent political discussion.

    Fortunately disabled campaigners do have allies they can rely on to fight all the way with them – public sector trade unionists, their families and the working class in general. This was the theme of the ‘alternative’ rally that Socialist Party members staged – that the struggle against the Welfare reform Bill and other attacks on the disabled can be defeated, as part of a campaign to oppose all public sector cuts.

    Thanks to the Socialist Party, Les did get to address the crowd on the importance of fighting for Remploy and the thousands of disabled workers that it provides with the dignity of training, learning skills and earning a wage. He also exposed the shameful way that charities, including some of those participating in the ‘hardest hit’ campaigns, have colluded with the ConDem government’s plans to destroy Remploy. He was joined by other Socialist Party members, including Andrew Price from Cardiff Trades Council, whose message that the opposition to attacks on disability benefits and services needs to be linked to the strike action of public sector workers in November, was well received.
    by Ronnie Job

    Remploy workers vow to fight closures

    Defend disabled workers, defend jobs

    Over 40 workers from the Remploy factories in Porth, Abertillery and Aberdare attended a public meeting along with 20 of their supporters to build the campaign to fight the Con-Dem government's closure programme.

    In a lively meeting, Remploy workers spoke from the floor and showed their anger and their determination to fight. "They'll never get me to accept redundancy", said Jeff Hollinshead, plant convenor. "We don't own these jobs. They aren't ours to sell; we are just looking after them for those who come after us".

    One worker said, "For a lot of people in this factory, this is more than just a job. It's their whole social life. Without this factory, they'd be lost".

    Another explained that 95% of the 2,000 Remploy workers who lost their jobs in 2008 are still out of work. He said, "They want to replace a £21,000 a year job with a few hours stacking shelves in ASDA - and that would be for the lucky ones".

    Les Woodward, national trade union convenor on the Remploy Consortium is based at the Swansea plant. He welcomed suggestions that the Welsh government could put procurement work into the Remploy factories. But he warned against any attempts to save the eight plants in Wales by sacrificing the other 46. "We can win this fight", he said, "but we need unity to do that".

    Socialist Party members intend to build support through the anti-cuts Campaigns and the NSSN. They will discuss with members of PCS, Unison, the RMT and other unions the potential for campaigning for procurement in their sectors to go to Remploy plants. On 30 November, Remploy workers will be on the trade union demonstrations and all trade unionists need to give them their support.

    by Mariam Kamish

    Monday, 24 October 2011

    Crisis in the Eurozone

    RCT Socialist Update no.36
    As the world economic crisis deepens much of the focus has turned to the eurozone which is currently in chaos with no way out in sight. Yet this is not simply a problem for those countries within the Eurozone but a problem for many outside of it including Brtain. Whilst the political establishment look to making more and more cuts around eurozone nations in the hope of bringing economic stability, what is becoming more and more apparent is that it is only making things worse. In reality though on the basis of capitalism the only way forward is to brutually crush the living standards of workers all across Europe.

    This week the Socialist Party will be holding a joint meeting of all our branches in South East Wales in which we will discuss the current state of the European economy and what effects it will have, more importantly we will discuss future developments in the economy but also the mounting resistance to this which is growing rapidly, particularly within Southern Europe but spreading outwards from there.

    Come along to the discussion and find out more about the Socialist Party and our sister parties throughout Europe and join the discssion about the socialist alternative to this capitalist chaos. In the meantime you could read this short article about the Eurozone economy here http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/5361

    Come along to the meeting
    Wednesday 7pm
    Cardiff Bus and Social Club
    Tudor Street, Cardiff (5 minutes walk from central station)

    Sunday, 23 October 2011

    Mass movement needed to save our NHS

    The following is the editorial from the socialist issue 690

    In the week in which the National Audit Office announced that 80% of hospitals in England are in financial trouble and almost 50 trusts are in crisis, the House of Lords passed the Con-Dems' Health and Social Care Bill. It will now go through the parliamentary committee stages, and could be passed into law next summer.

    The NHS is the biggest reform ever won by the working class in Britain. Before it was established in 1948, working class people had to save, borrow or pawn their goods to be able to afford a GP. Thousands of people suffered and died unnecessarily.

    The NHS was never fully publicly-owned and controlled, as GPs were allowed to continue private practice and the pharmaceutical industry remained in private hands. However, the establishment of the NHS utterly transformed the lives of all working class people.

    But for more than 30 years the NHS has faced underinvestment and privatisation. The Tories introduced the 'internal market' and established Trusts outside of democratic control. Labour poured increased public funding into the coffers of private profiteers, through PFI (Private Finance Initiatives), Independent Treatment Centres and Foundation hospitals.

    Con-Dem aims

    The Con-Dems' bill aims to take these steps to their conclusion and end the NHS. As legal opinion has exposed (see www.dutytoprovide.net), the bill aims to remove the duty of the government to provide a national health service in England. As analyst Allyson Pollock has explained, it turns the NHS over to the global health market, for multinational companies to make enormous profits. A universal health service, free at the point of use, could disappear.

    To try to prevent this dire scenario, thousands of people have participated in local demonstrations. Campaign groups such as Keep Our NHS Public exhorted people to lobby Lib Dem MPs and to "adopt a peer", in the hope of scuppering the bill.

    Lobbying politicians can be an important component of any campaign. When faced with massive opposition, even the political representatives of big business can be forced to backtrack. This weak coalition government has already performed numerous u-turns, including their "pause" on NHS changes earlier this year.

    However, at the 'Block the Bridge' event on 9 October, the day before the Lords began their deliberations, some in campaign group UK Uncut declared this was "our last chance to save the NHS". This is not true.

    Ideological

    It is understandable that there has been a sense of desperation as the bill has gone through the Commons and the Lords. However, while lobbying can force a u-turn on more minor questions, or on particular aspects of the NHS bill, to knock the government off course on the NHS altogether would require a much bigger movement. What is at stake for the representatives of the ruling class is a huge ideological and economic question: the opening up of the hundreds of billions of pounds in the NHS to private profit.

    To defeat this requires a powerful mass movement that mobilises the anger at the destruction of the NHS. Such a movement should also call for an end to underfunding and privatisation, and for the rebuilding of the NHS as a fully public service under democratic control.

    It would need, to start, a national demonstration called by the health trade unions. The authority of the trade unions was demonstrated on 26 March on the massive Trade Union Congress anti-cuts demo. This would be an important step in pulling together the local campaigns and building confidence.

    Crucially, however, it would need the one and a half million people who work in the NHS to use their industrial might in strike action. If the power of workers in the health service was brought together with patients and communities, a movement would develop which could force the government into significant retreat. When linked up with other public sector workers in strike action against cuts, itself a step towards general strike action of all workers, it could cause this government to collapse.

    Our health service

    It was the power of the working class that won the NHS in the first place. Combative trade unions, formed through struggle towards the end of the nineteenth century, argued for state medical provision. This was followed by the formation of a new political party representing workers, the Labour Party. Trade union militancy led to the first national health act in 1911 bringing in health insurance. Then after the Second World War, mass movements of workers, determined not to go back to the deprivations of the 1930s, swept across Europe. The capitalists feared for their system. An election victory for the Labour Party allowed the introduction of the NHS.

    Will this kind of movement happen now? It is one thing to pass a law through parliament; as the experience of the anti-poll tax campaign demonstrates, it is quite another to implement it. The poll tax was passed into law in 1989, but was defeated by a mass movement, led by the forerunner of the Socialist Party, in 1991. We should expect that when the effects of the NHS changes deepen, hospitals close and services are sold off hook, line and sinker, a big movement is likely to develop.

    In 2006, when hospitals were suddenly forced to balance their budgets and big cuts were made, campaigns sprang up around the country and tens of thousands of people demonstrated. As the NHS attacks dig in, especially alongside equally savage cuts to other services, jobs, pay and benefits, we can expect a movement to rise up that could dwarf the 2006 campaigns.

    Trade union action urgent

    It is criminal that so far the health trade unions, held back by timid leadership, have done almost nothing to defend the NHS. Unite the Union has at least supported some of the protests. Up until now, Unison, the biggest health union, has not acted. This is a key reason for the feelings of despair amongst some NHS campaigners.

    However, 30 November could change everything. For the first time since 1982, NHS staff are being balloted for national strike action. If built for vigorously, taking national strike action alongside millions of other public sector workers, the confidence of health workers could rocket. This in turn would give a huge boost to community campaigners who could start to see how a powerful national movement can be built and put pressure on the conservative union leadership.

    A crucial factor in the winning of the NHS originally was the formation of a political party which could fight for that demand, and when in power, implement it. The Labour Party has long since ceased to be that party. While Labour has opposed the latest Con-Dem bill, the last Labour government increased the pace of privatisation in the NHS and paved the way for the Tories' latest steps. It is important that the campaign to save the NHS includes the demand for a new mass workers' party that will inscribe the demand for a fully-funded, democratically-controlled public national health service on its banner.

    Monday, 17 October 2011

    Cameron's big 'them and us' society

    The Following is taken from the socialist issue 689

    There is huge support for the young people on the Jarrow March for Jobs who call for massive investment in a programme to create socially useful jobs. A recent YouGov poll found that 72% wanted to see government action to address youth unemployment.

    Millions of public sector trade union members are filling in their ballots to vote for a strike against attacks on their pensions and to defend public services on 30 November. But all the Con-Dems have on offer is cuts, cuts and more cuts and misery.

    While the bankers receive record bonuses for their role in the economic crisis and the number of billionaires increases, nurses and other public sector workers who provide vital services are being asked to work for free.

    Tory leader David Cameron presented the 'Big Society' as empowering local communities, giving them choice and control over their services. The reality is the opposite. The Con-Dem government is attacking our public services, demanding more privatisation and cutbacks, for the benefit of big business.

    For example, at Whipps Cross University Hospital Trust in Waltham Forest, north east London, all 3,400 staff are being urged to work for free.

    Chief executive Cathy Geddes wrote to all staff asking them to "volunteer to sacrifice annual leave and/or perform additional unpaid sessional duties". The hospital, which is due to be merged with two other hospital trusts, is attempting to cut its £4.5 million deficit so that it can become a Foundation Trust, mandatory for all hospitals by 2015.

    Many hospitals are stretched with a lot of staff already working overtime for free. As one Whipps Cross midwife said: "Many of us have already accumulated weeks of lieu days for all the unpaid overtime we do and there are no signs we'll ever get it."

    It is an insult to these workers to suggest they should give up their pay while health trust chief executives enjoy an average salary of £158,800.

    Hospitals already owe almost £270 million from emergency 'working capital loans' introduced in 2007 under the then New Labour government, which pioneered 'competition' (ie cuts and privatisation) in the NHS. Yet the Con-Dems are now cutting the health budget in real terms. Big businesses are lining up to take over NHS services, not to improve health care but to improve their profits.

    Local authorities are also slashing services while appealing to volunteers to step in and pick up the slack. Libraries in London, Hampshire, Lancashire, Northamptonshire and Yorkshire are being threatened with closure or reduced opening hours unless local people are willing to work for free.

    On the Isle of Wight, the Wight bus service has been cut completely and a new service has been set up with volunteer drivers.

    Many people see through the Big Society smoke screen and are fighting against it. In many towns and cities, local anti-cuts groups have been protesting against cuts and closures.

    A strong message needs to be sent to the government and local authorities that we will not stand by and watch these vicious attacks.

    A mass movement against this government could stop it in its tracks. In workplaces and communities we need to build support for the 30 November strikes and to fight for properly, publicly funded services including decent jobs, pay and conditions for all.

    Sunday, 16 October 2011

    Brtain heading for a showdown

    RCT Socialist Update no. 35


    On the 30th of Novenmber pending ballot results it is likely that Brtain will see the biggest strike action since 1926 and the largest number of workers on strike in a single day. All of this because the government is intent on making working class people pay for the crisis of the rich and quite rightly ordinary people are not willing to lie back and take it.

    One June 30th we saw the first co-ordinated public sector strike action of the governments attacks on public sector pensions with over 700,000 on strike, but November 30th is likely to be much larger with upto 3 or 4 million on strike. Along with this public support for the strike action is extremely high not just because of the battle over pensions but rather because this is seen by many as the frontline in the battle against all austerity measures.

    November 30th will certainly go down in history as a turning point, and Socialist Party members will be heavily involved in picket lines and demonstrations on the day, but all this poses a much larger and more significant question. Where is Brtain going? How will the government respond, and what steps should we take next in the battle against cutbacks to pay for the crisis of the rich.

    This week out our regular branch meeting we will have a discussion based around these topics, we will take a look at recent events and the prospects for the near future, not for the sake of it, but in order to best equip of for the unfolding situation so as to best place us for the fight for socialism. You can read a recent article from socialistworld.net on the subject here http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/5283

    Come along to the meeting
    Wednesday 7.15pm
    Otley Arms, Treforest

    Tuesday, 11 October 2011

    Welsh Draft Budget: more cuts

    Education, NHS, environment biggest losers as Welsh Labour passes on ConDem cuts


    The Welsh Government's 2012-2013 Draft Budget, published today by Labour finance minister Jane Hutt, is the second one in a row to cut Welsh public services. 12.2% cuts to education, 3% cuts to the NHS and an average of 6% cuts to environment, housing, fire services and elsewhere across the public sector promise to make Welsh residents less healthy, less safe, and less financially secure over the coming year while hurting social mobility and wasting resources.

    An 8.2% cut to higher education support calls into question how long the Welsh Government intend to keep their promise of lower tuition fees in Wales. The simple act of abolishing tuition fees in Wales for all students would likely save the Assembly money; but Education Minister Leighton Andrews' turn toward the market means that, like in Tory-run England, university students studying in Wales will pay more and get less once again. Funding to improve workers' literacy and numeracy has been cut in half, as has money for the poor to access post-16 education. Anticipating this slashing of support for education, students from half of Wales' universities have organised a demonstration and All-Wales Student Assembly against education cuts on the 21st and 22nd of October.

    A 5% real-terms cut to local government will give councils across Wales an excuse to sack thousands more workers. While some trade union branches are already taking steps toward industrial action against the cuts, public-sector unions Unison and GMB can no longer make apologies for a Welsh government that takes its members' money and yet acts completely against those members' interests. A successful campaign by the FBU in 2010 turned back proposed fire service cuts in South Wales, but it is similarly clear that the Welsh Government will not relent unless decisively defeated.

    A few Labour sops to the press are only intended as distractions. £288 million "added" to the NHS Wales budget is simply a slowing of £1 billion in cuts already proposed, and will quickly be destroyed by inflation which is running at 5%. An extra £1 million for the environment consists in reality of £4 million added to subsidise incineration, and £3 million cut from other areas to make up the difference. A new jobs fund will create at most 4,000 minimum wage jobs over three years -- a sticking plaster which won't even make up for the jobs lost as a result of the Assembly's other cuts.

    Cuts to housing and homelessness support abandon Wales' most needy to an uncertain and harsh winter. Cuts to the Food Standards Agency just weeks after over a dozen cases of E. coli were traced to a Cardiff restaurant seem wilfully ignorant or even contemptuous.

    In the whole budget there is only one winner: big business, which will receive £10 million in handouts through "enterprise zones", the aforementioned £4 million for incinerators and an additional £1.7 million through "encouraging innovation". Insurance giant Admiral, job-slashing military firm BAe and nuclear power are likely to be the greatest beneficiaries of government largess.

    The government will claim, as Thatcher did twenty years ago, that "there is no alternative" to the cuts. The Socialist Party have always put forward a practical alternative, tested and proven in Liverpool Council in the 1980s: defy Cameron and Clegg, set a budget based on need and hand the bill to Westminster. If Labour in the Assembly put half the effort into such a fighting programme as they do into making excuses for implementing cuts, Wales would have all the money it needed to create jobs and build a sustainable, productive economy. Time and again they, alone and in partnership with Plaid Cymru, have failed to do so. Welsh Labour have written the budget of the Welsh Government; but we need a new, mass party, representing the interests of the working class of Wales, can write a genuine Welsh Budget.

    by Edmund Schluessel

    Monday, 10 October 2011

    Miliband's fruitless dreams of a 'better capitalism'

    The following is the editorial from the socialist issue 688.

    Ed Miliband has said very little since becoming leader of the Labour Party. Many working class people, struggling to make ends meet, would have hoped that he would set out a sympathetic agenda at the Labour Party conference.

    But instead he announced that the next Labour government will only spend what it can afford and that we would have to 'live within our means'. He added that: "Most of the cuts implemented by the Con-Dems will not be reversed"!

    Many would ask why they should support Labour and give them their vote if it just means the continuation of Con-Dem policies? For others, because there is currently no mass workers' party which puts forward a real alternative to the Con-Dem cuts, there is a hope against hope that Labour will be able to get rid of the Tories, and stop at least the worst of the cuts.

    Even though Miliband never mouthed the word "socialism" at the conference, we were told by his supporters that socialism was "implicit" in his speech!

    Martin Kettle wrote in the Guardian that Miliband's speech "adds up to an attempt to reclaim social democracy as Labour's core route-finding principle".

    Miliband is looking towards a new, better capitalism. He implied that there are good and bad capitalists (producers and wealth creators are 'good' while predators and asset strippers are not).

    Miliband claimed that his alternative is a kinder capitalism, one that is not so aggressive. He argues that it was neoliberalism that caused the current crisis and not capitalism as such. But in reality capitalism will always ensure that the wealthy will make profits at the expense of ordinary workers.

    There can be no return to the period of social democracy after World War Two when there were uniquely high levels of productivity and growth and workers were able to win some reforms including the NHS. Today capitalism is in its most profound crisis since the 1930s. The capitalists have no real solution, and as a result are divided on the way forward, but there is agreement that it should be the working class that pays for the crisis.

    There is no possibility of Miliband opposing this, as was confirmed by his reaction to the suggestion by most of the capitalist media that he had moved leftwards and wanted to attack predatory bankers. Had he actually done so it would have been popular with workers, but he spent the next day vigorously denying he had said any such thing!

    Incredibly Miliband also spoke about 'good' and 'bad' social housing tenants. With a shortage of social housing he stressed that "choices have to be made". He argued that people in work should get priority for social housing, thereby punishing the unemployed and poor.

    He also said that benefits were "too easy to come by for those who don't deserve them and too low for those who do". This approach will potentially create divisions among the working class and worsen the plight of the most vulnerable.

    Public sector union PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka opposed this at a conference fringe meeting. He explained that this would lead to a "different kind of welfare state with working people getting priority over the unemployed." He pointed out cold facts like in Merthyr Tydfil there are 1,500 people on jobseeker's allowance chasing 39 vacancies!

    Many families are already relying on food donations from charities to survive. One charity reports that the number of people that it donates food to has gone up from 41,000 to 61,500. This is the result of job losses, low pay and rising prices.

    Unlike the Tories' rich donors, those unions who generously fund the Labour Party and were key in electing Miliband as Labour leader last year get little for their money. Miliband told the TUC conference that strikes are a 'mistake' and opposed the planned public sector strikes over pension attacks on 30 November.

    Both Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union and Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison gave support to Miliband. But Prentis received a standing ovation when he demanded that Labour should support the strikes if they went ahead.

    Miliband even praised Margaret Thatcher for ending the 'closed shop' (where workers could only take up a job if they were in the union) and forcing trade unions to hold strike ballots before being able to take action.

    Those unions who fund the Labour Party will face increasing anger from their members about union money going to a party that won't support their strike to defend their pensions or commit to repealing the anti-trade union laws.

    Miliband also called for "cooperation not conflict in the workplace". Yet trade unionists know that it is the bosses and management who have to be dragged to the table by the unions in order to negotiate.

    The trade unions set up the Labour Party. They will need to pay a key role once again - in founding a new party that stands in the interests of the working class.

    Sunday, 9 October 2011

    Come to Socialism 2011

    RCT Socialist Update no. 34

    Socialism 2011 is fast approaching., it is an excellent event that no socialist, trade unionist or ani cuts campaigner will want to miss. The event is a weekend of discussion and debate hosted by the Socialist Party. With a range of discussions taking place over the course of the weekend the hardest decision every year is which sessions to attend as there are so many good sessions to choose from.

    Some of the sessions include "What would a socialist democracy look like", "How can the masses of the Middle East win?", "What future for young people", "How can the anti-cuts movement win?", "20 years since the collapse of the USSR: proof that socialism doesn't work?" a debate with UKUncut and many more sessions.

    As well as this there will be a Rally for Socialism on the saturday evening with speakers such as Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party, Clare Daly, Irish Socialist MP and activists from Egypt and Tunisia. Followed by the Party for Socialism.

    This years event will start of with a bang as it coinsides with the arrival of the Youth FIght for Jobs Jarrow marchers at the end of the 5 week march from Jarrow in the north of England to London who will be met by 1000s of trade unionists, socialists and anti-cuts activists for a fantastic demonstration through trafalgar square.

    Socialism 2011 takes place on the weekend of the 5th and 6th of November, there are a range of ticket options available depending ranging from single day tickets, weekend tickets and tickets including accomodation. For more details, including the full programme of events or any other quires and to book tickets and transport you can visit socialism2011.net or call us on 07931955007.

    In preperation for the great event this week at our regular branch meeting wie will be hosting an open question and answer session on socalism and the Socialist Party, any questions you have or just want to come along and find out more, then come along and join the discussion.

    Wednesday 12th October, 7.15pm
    Otley Arms, Treforest.

    Wednesday, 5 October 2011

    Eurozone endgame

    The following is taken from the October edition of Socialism Today issue 152

    After a year and a half, the Greek debt crisis is far from resolved. In fact, with Greece on the verge of a social explosion, a default and exit from the euro appears almost inevitable. The eurozone is threatened by an interlocking sovereign debt and banking crisis, compounded by near-zero growth. Capitalist leaders are in complete disarray. Competing national interests are a barrier to cooperative measures. LYNN WALSH analyses the latest twists and turns of the eurozone crisis.

    ON 21 JULY, the eurozone leaders proclaimed at their summit that they had agreed on a package to stabilise the Greek debt crisis. This, they claimed, would avert the threat of a Greek default and precipitous exit from the euro. There would be a further €109 billion (following the 2010 €110bn package), while the role of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF – with proposed €440bn funds) would be extended to allow intervention to support governments and banks. There would, moreover, be a bond exchange that would involve a 21% ‘haircut’ for the holders of Greek bonds.

    This package, however, was more a promise of future salvation than an immediate, practical solution. The whole deal is dependent on the approval of the 17 eurozone governments or parliaments, and this is not likely to happen until the end of September or the beginning of October. The 20% ‘haircut’ for Greek bonds will provide very minimal debt relief for the Greek government – Greek government bonds are already trading at less than 50% of their nominal value on the secondary bond markets. If the bond exchange goes through (it requires the agreement of 90% of the bondholders) it will be a good deal for the banks and a raw deal for the Greek people. In fact, it would require a ‘haircut’ of at least 50-60% to make any real difference to the debt mountain weighing down the Greek economy.

    There is no guarantee whatsoever that all 17 governments will agree on an increase in the funds available to the EFSF or to increased powers of intervention. The eurozone leaders are reportedly arguing in tense, behind the scenes negotiations about where the EFSF funds will come from. Some leaders are proposing that they would mainly come from the European Central Bank (ECB). This would be, in effect, another form of ‘quantitative easing’, printing money in order to bail out governments and banks through the EFSF. This is strongly opposed both from within the ECB and by a number of governments, such as Germany and Netherlands, who see it as a road to escalating inflation. Regarding the €109 billion loans package, the government of Finland is demanding collateral (security) for its share of the loan. Other governments, such as Slovakia and Austria, are likely to make similar demands. These governments are demanding that a slice of government revenue or physical assets, such as land or buildings, should be allocated to them as security. This is reminiscent of the demands for reparations made on Germany after the first world war.

    The wrangle over this new package demonstrates once again the way national interests stand in the way of common agreement. The 17-strong eurozone is an alliance of national states, not a confederation with a unified governing body.

    Soon after the July summit, moreover, there were precipitous falls in the shares of major French banks, reflecting fears about the repercussions of a Greek default. At the same time, European banks were finding it increasingly difficult to borrow dollars from US banks to finance their current business. The ECB, which under Jean-Claude Trichet had been extremely reluctant to intervene, was forced to step in to offer unlimited dollar loans to eurozone banks. The ECB also started buying the bonds of the Italian and Spanish governments in order to prevent a precipitous rise in the borrowing costs of Italy and Spain.

    Meanwhile, growth in all the major eurozone economies slowed to near zero, indicating a renewal of the recession that began at the end of 2007. The British economy also slipped into stagnation. This renewed slowdown is partly the result of fears about a sovereign debt meltdown and banking crisis, but more especially the result of austerity measures that have cut demand and reinforced the spiral of weak demand, falling investment, and rising unemployment. This in turn reduces government tax revenues, and actually leads to bigger deficits.

    Piling the pressure on Greece

    AT THE EUROZONE summit on 17 September, the troika – the European Council, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and ECB – who police the austerity measures imposed on Greece, postponed payment of the latest €8 billion loan due under the 2010 package on the grounds that Greece has not carried out sufficient cuts in state employment, spending, etc. Georgios Papandreou, the Greek prime minister, duly scurried back to Athens in order to carry out the troika’s orders.

    The package of additional austerity measures includes a property tax, together with more public-sector job losses – on top of the plan to sack around 150,000 civil servants (20% of the total) by 2014 – and draconian wage cuts. If implemented, the accumulated measures will mean an economic and social catastrophe. The troika is "holding a knife to the throat of the Greek government", as one Greek minister put it, partly to enforce deeper and more rapid cuts and partly as a warning to other governments like Portugal and Ireland to keep to their austerity packages. This is a very dangerous game, however, and could detonate a political explosion in Greece, propelling the country towards default and exit from the euro.

    Economically, there is no way these measures will provide a way out of the ever deepening slump. In fact, further austerity measures will only push the Greek economy even deeper into slump, pushing up the outstanding debt and making it even harder for Greece to pay it off. After falling 4.5% last year, GDP will fall by at least 5% this year (second-quarter growth was 7.3% down over last year). Unemployment is officially 16%, but more realistically is over 20% nationally (with over 900,000 unemployed). The northern region of western Macedonia, where an estimated 20% of small businesses have shut down during the recession, has an official unemployment rate of 22%. Health, education and other public services are collapsing. There is a process of social disintegration.

    Angela Merkel and other eurozone leaders have repeatedly denied that they are seeking to provoke a default on Greece’s debt or force Greece out of the eurozone. Other leaders, however, appear to contradict this line. For instance, Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, has threatened that if Greece does not meet the conditions set by the troika, payments will stop (regardless of the fact that Greece urgently needs cash to pay its bills and refinance debts in October). "Then Greece has to see how it gets access to financial markets without help from the eurozone", said Schäuble. "That’s Greece’s problem".

    The Netherlands prime minister, Mark Rutte, went even further: "Countries which are not prepared to be placed under administratorship can choose to use the possibility to leave the eurozone". (International Herald Tribune, 9 September)

    It may be that some of the eurozone leaders are bluffing, and their statements are intended to maximise the austerity measures implemented in Greece. However, they are playing an extremely dangerous game. Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, has recently warned about the rise of social tensions as a result of austerity measures. Massive strikes, demonstrations and other protests have continued unabated in Greece – and, at a certain point, will result in a social explosion.

    Debt default and eurozone exit

    PUSHING FOR EVEN greater austerity measures, eurozone leaders are ignoring the reality that Greece’s debts are absolutely unsustainable. While political leaders are repeatedly stating their determination to defend the eurozone and avoid a breakup, strategists closer to the investment banks and other financial institutions are quite clear that, sooner or later, there will be a Greek default. That would mean a Greek exit from the eurozone.

    For instance, Nouriel Roubini, who has a far more realistic view than most commentators, argues that Greece will never resolve its debt problem within the straitjacket of the euro. In order to stimulate economic growth, the precondition of debt reduction, Greece would have to be able to devalue its currency in order to boost exports. Clearly, this would mean abandoning the euro and returning to the drachma. The drachma would undoubtedly sharply fall in value against the euro. This would enormously increase the foreign debt, in drachma values, of the Greek government, banks and businesses. In reality, Greece would (like Argentina in 2001) have to write off a significant part of these debts by revaluing the debt in drachma terms. Greece would undoubtedly become a pariah on financial markets, unable for a time to borrow from European and international banks. As in Argentina (comments Roubini), the situation would mean ‘bank holidays’ (denying or limiting savers access to their accounts) and capital controls to prevent a flight of capital out of the country.

    Roubini argues that an orderly default and exit from the euro, although inevitably imposing extreme hardships on the Greek working class for a period, would be preferable to the "slow disorderly implosion of the Greek economy and society". He argues that there should be international, coordinated action to recapitalise the banks and other financial institutions suffering losses on their Greek loans. Moreover, international banks should step in to recapitalise the Greek banks, which would also suffer massive losses on Greek government bonds.

    In theory, an approach along these lines, based on a coordinated, international intervention to mitigate the problem of unsustainable debt in Greece, would be preferable to blundering into an explosive collapse of the Greek economy and all the uncontrolled repercussions this would have in Europe and beyond. However, the capitalist markets do not function in an ‘orderly’ way, and recent events demonstrate the complete lack of policy coordination between the leaders of the advanced capitalist countries.

    Default on the country’s debt and exit from the eurozone would not, in themselves, provide a solution for the working class of Greece. As in Argentina 1999-2002, the Greek ruling class would attempt to throw the burden of crisis onto working people. In time, the return to the drachma and devaluation would boost exports and possibly see a return to growth. In the short term, however, this would be on the basis of low wages, shortages of food, fuel and other essentials, and a degradation of public services.

    To protect the interests of the working class it would be necessary to nationalise the banks and cancel the debt held by foreign big business and financial institutions, while protecting the savings of working people. It would also be necessary to take over the commanding heights of the economy (with minimum compensation on the basis of need) to ensure the supply of essential goods and services. Priority should be given to reconstructing public services such as health, education, etc. Control of the economy should be through bodies of democratically elected representatives from the trade unions, community organisations, and the wider public. On a capitalist basis there is no easy way out.
    Eurozone banking crisis

    THE EUROZONE SOVEREIGN debt crisis is interlinked with a Europe-wide banking crisis. In 2008, eurozone governments intervened to bail out a number of shaky banks. But they did not carry out the kind of large-scale recapitalisation of banks that took place in the US under the Troubled Asset Relief Programme. Only eight eurozone banks out of 91 failed the recent ‘stress tests’, a theoretical test to determine whether banks can withstand another financial crisis. The big investors and speculators, however, are not convinced that all the banks are healthy. In fact there was recently a leaked IMF report which said that eurozone banks need €273.2 billion of additional capital. Lagarde commented that the eurozone crisis was entering "a dangerous new phase" and called for part of the EFSF funds to be used to recapitalise banks. This provoked strong opposition, some from political leaders who object to EFSF funds being used to prop up banks, and some from the banks themselves which deny that they are in trouble.

    Nevertheless, there are clear indications of a new crisis building up in the eurozone banking sector. For a start, banks are refusing to lend to one another, preferring to park their cash in the ECB, even if this earns them a lower interest rate. A more startling recent development is the fact that Siemens, the giant German engineering firm, has deposited almost half its cash reserves (€6bn) with the ECB, rather than with commercial banks. Eurozone banks have also had difficulty in securing dollar loans from US banks, vital funding to conduct their US and global business. The ECB was forced to step in and offer eurozone banks unlimited dollar funds on the basis of three-month loans (though this will cost the banks more than loans from the commercial money markets, which have begun to dry up).

    In mid-August the focus turned to the French banks. A rumour circulated that Société Générale was in trouble, and there was a massive fall in its share price (with a 50-60% fall between June and September). Société Générale shares were worth €52.7 in February, while by early September they had fallen to €21.19. Société Générale holds €2 billion of Greek bonds, while BNP Paribas holds €4 billion and Crédit Agricole holds €800 million. Big investors and speculators fear that a Greek government default on its debts would precipitate a deep crisis for these three major French banks, which play a key role in the French economy. French government ministers assert that the fears about these banks are ‘irrational’. Any short-term liquidity problem (ie a shortage of funds to cover current business) would be covered by intervention by the ECB. They deny that there is a basic solvency problem, asserting that these banks have enough capital reserves to survive a Greek default and other shocks. French ministers have furiously rejected the idea that they are discussing plans to nationalise these banks. This is reminiscent of the position of Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling at the time of the Northern Rock bank crisis in 2007/08.

    Lagarde, however, let the cat out of the bag. When she was previously French finance minister, she claimed there was no problem with the French banks. Since taking over as head of the IMF, however, she has called for a recapitalisation of the major French banks and other banks in trouble using the EFSF funds. There has been a furious reaction against this. On the one hand, any such bailout would confirm that these banks have a solvency problem, and could actually exacerbate their situation. On the other, existing shareholders are up in arms because a government bailout (which would involve the government buying shares in the banks) would effectively dilute the value of shares of existing shareholders.

    Eurozone leaders’ disarray

    UNDER THE IMPACT of the economic crisis there has been a sharpening of national tensions within the eurozone. There are also divisions within the leadership of the German government, the key power in the eurozone. Merkel has faced growing opposition from leaders of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP), the Christian Democrats’ coalition partners. These leaders have been playing the euro-sceptic card, reflecting the growing opposition in Germany to bailing out Greece and other so-called peripheral states.

    The lack of decisive action at eurozone summits shows that the eurozone leaders are in complete disarray. Each time they proclaim everything will be fine, Greece will not be allowed to default or be pushed out of the eurozone. The big investors in financial markets, however, do not take these reassurances seriously. Most of the strategists who speak for investment banks, etc, now believe that a Greek default is inevitable and will result in an exit from the eurozone.

    The leadership of the ECB is also divided. While buying Greek, Portuguese and Irish government bonds in order to keep down interest rates for their respective governments, Trichet and other ECB leaders repeatedly stated that they were against large-scale intervention to support other eurozone governments. However, the speculation against bonds of the Italian and Spanish governments, which was forcing up their interest rates at the beginning of September, forced the ECB to intervene with large-scale purchases of these bonds. This provoked the resignation of the German representative, Jürgen Stark. There is now an intense battle between those ECB leaders who believe that an even bigger intervention is required. They argue that unlimited support for the bonds of threatened governments would stave off a sovereign debt crisis. However, other ECB leaders are still intransigently opposed to this kind of intervention. They believe that the ECB’s role should be strictly limited to monetary policy, ie setting interest rates and regulating the money supply.

    There is also a growing difference between capitalist leaders over economic policy. The prevailing policy, upheld by Merkel and other eurozone leaders, is that ‘fiscal consolidation’ is imperative to reduce deficits. This means severe austerity policies. However, this has produced a new downturn in the European economy and, as Timothy Geithner, the US Treasury secretary, has warned, now threatens the whole global economy. The fall in government spending and massive cuts in public-sector jobs have set in motion a downward spiral: declining consumer spending, weak investment, higher unemployment, and a decline in tax revenues that can result in even bigger deficits.

    The ultimate stress test

    A WARNING WAS recently sounded by Lagarde. While advocating continued austerity for countries like Greece, she is – without naming names – calling on the major European economies to adopt short-term stimulus measures, while maintaining the aim of fiscal consolidation in the longer run. She warned: "A vicious circle [of weak growth and weak government balance sheets] is gaining momentum in Europe and the US". "Political dysfunction" was feeding policy indecision in a "dangerous new phase of the crisis". "Social strains", she warned, "are evident in many parts of the world, not just in the countries undergoing severe [fiscal] adjustment". (IMF, 15 September)

    Since then, the IMF has published its latest economic outlook. This forecasts global growth for 2011 to be 4%, but warns that, unless there is concerted action to revamp economic policies, there is a strong possibility of growth falling below 2%. In the US and Europe, growth will certainly be under 2% and is likely to be virtually stagnant, while there is zero growth in Japan. But, as the Wall Street Journal comments (21 September): "It is unlikely that either the IMF or the G20 will manage to produce a cooperative plan of action this weekend, given the sharp political discord within the US and Europe".

    However, it may be too late for the major capitalist economies to avoid a prolonged stagnation or a further downturn. The ruthless pressure on Greece to intensify the austerity measures can detonate an explosion in that country, which in turn would detonate a meltdown of the eurozone. It is hard to imagine that Greece could default on its debt and remain in the eurozone. That would undermine the credibility of the whole eurozone. In any case, the only way Greek capitalism could escape from its crisis would be through readopting the drachma and devaluation. And if Greece takes this path, why should others stick with the pain of eurozone austerity measures?

    On the basis of the relatively strong growth of the world economy since 2000, the eurozone appeared to become a success. But the growth was based on huge volumes of debt, which are now at the heart of the current crisis. Since the financial meltdown and economic recession of 2007-09, the eurozone is being subjected to a severe stress test – from which it will not emerge intact. At a certain point it will break up; but how long the process will take and through what permutations it will twist and turn cannot be predicted. The eurozone has entered its endgame, only the moves and timescale are uncertain