Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Great response for TUSC in RCT so far..


Socialist Party members in Rhondda Cynon Taff have been out campaigning for the Trade Unionist  and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)  election campaign for the Welsh Assembly region of South Wales Central. 

This has definately been the best election campaign we have ever been involved in the area. Everyone is angry with all the four main parties in Wales who have shown themselves to all be parties of cuts making TUSC the only election choice for those opposed to the cuts.

Throughout the election period we have continued with our regular campaign stalls in three of the towns in RCT. Aberdare, Tonypandy and Pontypridd. We have also been out door to door canvassing in the Graig area of Pontypridd where we have recieved a fantastic response with many residents expressing the need for a real alternative to the cuts and asking why this has not happened before.

People in RCT are rightly angry with the establishment politicians. Condems are hated for their cuts agenda and at the University of Glamorgan and Coleg Morgannwg are hated for their cuts to education. Labour have been completely exposed in the area as well.

Labour attempt to paint themselves as the alternative to the cuts however no one in Rhondda Cynon Taff takes this seriously, how could anyone take this seriously after the Labour controlled council pushed through savage cuts to the wages of the workforce with many of the 10,000 strong workforce loosing between. £2,000-£4,000 per year. 

Plaid Cymru then attempt to claim they are the alternative, yet in two neighbouring local authorities, Cardiff and Caerphilly County, where Plaid run the council (Caerphilly) and are in coalition with the Liberals (Cardiff) and in both cases have voted through cuts, particularly vicious as the cuts voted through by Plaid attack the elderly the most, in both council areas closing down care homes for the elderly.

Plaid have also hinted through their official twitter account that their ideal situation after the assembly elections is a plaid led administration in coalition with the liberals and tories, so much for the party opposing the cuts, more like the party of welsh cuts!

With this as the backdrop TUSC could only ever do well standing in opposition to all cuts, we have had a great response in the area and the campaign involves many young people involved in their first election campaign. Many of the young TUSC activists have been enthusied by th great response we have recieved on the doorstep with many window posters being displayed and many others showing and interest in getting involved with the campaign.

This culminated in a fantastic and passionate public meeting for TUSC in Pontypridd with over 20 people in attendence. The mood was determined at the meeting, with many highlighting the vital role that TUSC is playing in this election, pointing forward a real alternative to cuts, make the bankers pay no public services. Many in attendance at the meeting also stressed the need to turn TUSC into a new workers party in the future, something which is desperately needed.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Legacy and lessons from Malcolm X and the Black Panthers

RCT Socialist Update no. 12


This week we will be continuing our election campaigning everyday! If you are around anytime and want to help out with the election campaign in anyway just get in touch and let us know. We have already had a great response from our street stalls and our door to door canvassing but we want to improve on that and the more people out campaigning the more we can get the message out that there is a real alternative to ALL cuts! Don't forget to vote Trade Unionists and Socialists against Cuts on May 5th.

Even with the election campaign, we are still continuing with the weekly branch meetings as normal. This week we will be discussing the legacy and the lessons to be drawn from Malcolm X and the Black Panthers and what relevance they both have for today in the struggles against racism and capitalist exploitation.

There is a great article about the legacy of Malcolm X here http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/1594 and one about the Black Panthers here http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/html_article/2005-381-index?id=pp6.htm

Come along to the meeting Wednesday 27th, 7.30pm, upstairs in the Otley Arms, Treforest

Thursday, 21 April 2011

How can the Con-Dem coalition be most effectively punished?

The following is the editorial of the socialist issue 667

Marching to defend the NHS
In two weeks' time voters will have their first opportunity to demonstrate their views on the Con-Dem government at the ballot box. After a year of economic stagnation, growing poverty, and vicious cuts; no one is in any doubt what the result will be.

Tory central office has been quoted as saying: "we expect to take a hammering" and has repeatedly emphasised that they expect Labour to gain over 1,000 seats.

However, it is the Liberal Democrats, widely seen as having broken key election pledges such as on university fees, who will take the worst beating. One ex-Lib Dem voter summed up the mood of millions when he said to the Financial Times: "I will never vote for them again, they lied and betrayed us.

I'm even voting against AV [the 'alternative vote' electoral reform] purely to spite the Lib Dems. I know it's vindictive, malicious and childish. That's the point."

Far from being seen as 'vindictive, malicious and childish' punishing the Lib Dems will be the main motivation for many voters in the AV referendum. The latest opinion polls put the 'no' camp 16 points ahead, not because of enthusiasm for the existing voting system, but because AV is not an improvement.

The polls reflect a burning desire to make the Lib Dems pay for their crimes. The government is in a no-win situation.

If AV was to win a majority it would cause the Tories real problems, widening the split with the extreme right in the party, who have threatened to attempt to stop AV becoming law.

However, for Liberal Democrats, electoral reform was the sugar designed to sweeten the bitter pill of joining the coalition. Losing the referendum, combined with disastrous losses in the May elections, could be the trigger that forces the Lib Dems out of the government.

The Lib Dems could also face a split, with some wanting to stick with the Tories in power and others fearing that maintaining the Coalition will spell the end for the Lib Dems as a party.

This government could become one of the shortest lived in Britain's history. On the other hand, the 'glue of power' could hold the coalition together for now.

However, this will be in the teeth of enormous opposition from the population of Britain. AV is the issue around which the cracks in the coalition show most clearly, but the root cause is the growing movement against the cuts.

The effects of the gigantic trade union demonstration against the cuts on 26 March are continuing to be felt. The demonstration will be followed by coordinated strike action on 30 June by some public sector unions, including PCS, NUT and UCU.

Pressure is growing on the leaders of other trade unions to take part in a 24-hour public sector general strike. When the Royal College of Nursing, which had a 'no strike clause' until 2008, threatens strike action it is a clear indication of widespread support for strike action against cuts.

The government's macho posturing, claiming that it has 'no Plan B', has been shattered by events. This year it has retreated on a number of issues - including privatisation of the forests and partially on EMA student payments.

However, it is over the NHS that it has shown the most weakness. The government's plans are for the effective destruction of the NHS.

This was always going to provoke massive opposition.

Capitalist commentators in the Financial Times and the Economist have warned from the beginning that it may be "a step too far". The government ploughed ahead regardless, only to show their weakness by calling "a pause" when Tory and Lib Dem backbenchers started to panic that attacks on the NHS might lose them their seats.

This does not mean that the attacks on the NHS have been stopped. Across the country major cuts are already taking place, leading to a dramatic increase in waiting times.

One survey of GPs reported that more than three-quarters (77%) said they were experiencing cuts in fertility services in their area, 40% were experiencing restrictions in ophthalmology eye health services.

Almost a third (30%) of GPs said there were restrictions on orthopaedic services. More than half (54%) said waiting times had gone up for musculoskeletal work and a third were experiencing delays in cardiology.

Profit vultures

 

Meanwhile the vultures in the private health companies are rubbing their hands in glee, expecting their business to boom as NHS services are cut back.

The government's primary motivation to continue the assault on the NHS is the desire to create new profitable fields of investment for the capitalist class.

However, having hesitated, it will now be virtually impossible for them to fully implement their plans for the NHS and, if the anger against NHS cuts is organised and mobilised they can be forced to retreat completely.

A victory on the NHS will give enormous confidence to the movement against the cuts as a whole.

While the opposition to the government is growing exponentially, it is not reflected in parliament. Labour is ahead in the polls, and will undoubtedly take control of many local authorities on 5 May, but 'ineffectual Ed' is leading a virtually invisible opposition.

Whatever Ed Miliband's failings as a leader, the main reason for Labour's political weakness is their message, which can be summed up as 'we'd cut too, but a bit slower'.

There is no fundamental difference between the politics of Labour and those of the government. The Con-Dems' attacks on the NHS are built on the foundations of New Labour's foundation hospitals.

New Labour abstained on the Welfare Reform Bill - which will drive millions of benefit claimants into unbearable poverty, but many of the cuts were mooted under Labour governments.

New Labour was not prepared to support the student movement, not surprising as it introduced fees in the first place. Miliband's first speech as leader declared that New Labour would not support "a wave of irresponsible strikes" - a clear indication that it would not support strike action against cuts and Lord Hutton, the architect of the attack on pensions, was a New Labour minister, commissioned to attack pensions by the last government! At local level every single Labour council has voted through cuts.

Often these are just as large as those carried out by Liberal and Tory councils. For this reason on 5 May some workers, where they have the opportunity, will send a message against all cuts by voting for Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts candidates.

The majority, however, will vote Labour, seeing it as the best means to punish the government and in the vain hope that Labour's 'slower cuts' will be less painful.

More voters will then face axe-wielding Labour councils.

It is possible that Labour will also be in power nationally before the end of 2011. The leadership of New Labour would undoubtedly prefer the Con-Dem government to survive, so they can hide in the wings hoping to come back to power after 'the worst is over'.

This, however, may not be an option if the government collapses in the face of mass opposition.

A Labour government would then be faced with coming to power against the background of an economic crisis and a mass movement against cuts. However, as Labour is tied to the interests of capitalism, that government would not break with the 'market' but would attempt to continue to implement the cuts, albeit perhaps at a slightly slower pace.

The working class in Britain is beginning to flex its muscles. The need for it to also have its own political voice is increasingly urgent.

We call on the trade union movement to stop funding New Labour and to start to build a mass working class party which offers a socialist alternative to the axe men and women from all three capitalist parties.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition - which is standing in over 180 seats on 5 May - is a step towards such a party.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

TUSC MEETING TONIGHT!

Don't forget that the election Public meeting for Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts is tonight, 7.30pm in Pontypridd Museum on birdge Street at the end of Taff Street (the main high street in the town centre.

Come along to here the real alternative to the cuts agenda of all the main parties, for directions call 079319555007

Monday, 18 April 2011

Vote TUSC to fight the cuts

RCT Socialist Update no. 11


Socialist Party members have been out campaigning for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) for the Welsh Assembly elections, several of our members are candidates for TUSC and all TUSC candidates have pledged to vote and campaign against ALL cuts whether or not they are elected. We have been receiving a great response on the doorstep particularly as there is huge anger towards Labour who have shown through RCT council that they will carry out willingly the tories cuts and Plaid Cymru who have hinted at a coalition with the Tories and Liberals in the Assembly.

This Wednesday there will be a public meeting hosted by TUSC on Wednesday 20th at 7.30pm in Pontypridd Museum. Come along and here what TUSC candidates say and hear the alternative to the agenda of cuts put forward by all the four main parties in Wales. You can read this article from the socialist for a bit of a background
http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/11712/06-04-2011/fight-the-cuts-with-tusc-more-than-just-a-protest-vote

Don't stop there though, come out and campaign for us for a Socialist assembly member in any way you feel you can, street stalls, door to door canvassing, just by taking leaflets with you to your workplace or door to door leafleting or even just by displaying a 'Vote TUSC' window poster. Just get in touch if you feel you can help in anyway, most importantly though, don't forget to vote Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts for South Wales Central on May 5th

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Fight the cuts by supporting TUSC

Dave Nellist at the TUSC Launch rally, London March 2010, photo Alison Hill 
"Labour councillors will be your community's first line of defence against the damage being done by the Tory-led government and their Liberal Democrat allies. Labour is your voice in tough times," claims the Labour Party's website. But tell that to the residents of Manchester where the Labour council is making £279 million of brutal cuts in jobs and services over two years. In fact, every Labour-led council has voted through cuts, saying 'we have no choice' - so what sort of defence is that?
But in 55 local authorities, as well as in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly elections, over 180 candidates are standing on the no-cuts platform of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). See www.tusc.org.uk for information on candidates in your area.

All TUSC candidates have signed up to the following local election platform:

  • Oppose all cuts to council jobs, services, pay and conditions - we reject the claim that 'some cuts' are necessary to our services.
  • Reject above inflation increases in council tax, rent and service charges to compensate for government cuts.
  • Vote against the privatisation of council services, or the transfer of council services to 'social enterprises' or 'arms-length' management organisations, which are first steps to privatisation.
  • Use all the legal powers available to councils, including powers to refer local NHS decisions, initiate referenda and organise public commissions and consultations, to oppose both the cuts and government polices which centrally impose the transfer of public services to private bodies.
  • When faced with government cuts to council funding, councils should refuse to implement the cuts. We will support councils which in the first instance use their reserves and prudential borrowing powers to avoid passing government cuts on - while arguing that the best way to mobilise the mass campaign that is necessary to defeat the cuts is to set a budget that meets the needs of the local community and demands that the government makes up the shortfall.

Friday, 15 April 2011

An alternative to the cuts

Sion Owens, an Assembly candidate for the far-right, racist British National Party (BNP) in South Wales West, was recently arrested, accused of burning a Qur'an. Owens has since been released on a 'technicality' but the case is ongoing. He was arrested following an investigation by the Observer, which led to film footage of the event being passed to the police.

Despite claims to be a 'legitimate' party the BNP is still a hate-filled, racist organisation. The BNP blames minorities for the destruction of our public services, dividing working-class people on lines of race, religion or colour.

But these divisions are a dead end for those who want to fight cuts and defend the living standards of their communities.

Where BNP candidates have been elected to council positions they've done nothing to defend jobs or services, including voting for cuts. The BNP and other racist organisations set worker against worker, benefiting nobody but those who gain from keeping us weak.

In the face of the onslaught on our living standards, services and communities, a united response from working class people is required. A movement capable of defeating the cuts and defending our services requires the greatest possible unity of workers and the communities they serve. There is no room for the divisive idea that some cuts are necessary.

In TUSC we aim to help build such a movement. If we can secure representation in the Welsh Assembly, we will use that platform to fight all cuts.

But regardless of which party is in the leadership of the Assembly after the elections on 5 May, we will continue to build in our trade unions and in our communities a campaign to oppose every cut; a campaign in which all workers can unite.

Ronnie Job, TUSC South Wales West Assembly candidate 
Vote for Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts in South Wales West and South Wales Central

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Con-Dems' economic policy.... austerity, austerity, austerity!

Taken from the socialist issue 666

'The worst is yet to come'

The Con-Dem chancellor, George Osborne, claims his budget (24 March) is the "most pro-growth budget for a generation". But the British economy is barely crawling along, and the budget will do nothing to promote growth.
Lynn Walsh, Editor of Socialism Today
The government previously predicted 2.3% growth of gross domestic product (GDP - value of the total output of goods and services) for 2011. Now, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts meagre growth of 1.7% of GDP for 2011. Even that may prove to be optimistic given the scale of spending cuts and tax increases.

Consumer spending, which has been the locomotive of the British economy over recent years, is falling. This is the chilling effect of job losses, escalating prices, and fear of what is to come. The former boss of Asda supermarket, Andy Bond, warns that worse is yet to come. "You're kidding yourself if you think the worst is over and we've had a consumer recession - it's ahead of us." The bosses of big supermarkets and high street stores, like Dixons and Mothercare, are warning of reduced sales and company profits.

"The economy," comments the Financial Times (6 April), "has been much weaker over the past six months than almost any economist expected." It was "practically stagnant over the past two quarters even before the impact of higher inflation and deeper spending cuts, according to a respected economics research group [National Institute of Economic and Social Research]."

As bad as they are, the Con-Dem cuts have so far merely been nibbling at public services: "The deeper cuts will bite with increased severity over the coming years." (Financial Times editorial, 25 March) Osborne's fraudulent 'expansionary austerity' is going to be austerity, austerity, austerity.

Squeezed incomes

 

Living standards have already been severely hit by inflation and squeezed wages. Prices are rising by 5.1% a year, according to the RPI (retail prices index, which includes housing costs). 

At the same time, wages are only increasing by 2%, which means a 3% fall in real (inflation-adjusted) wages. Every 1% fall in real wages means a loss of £250 a year. This has resulted in the first fall in disposable income for over three decades, and there is likely to be a further fall in 2011.

The BBC Panorama programme recently carried out a survey of actual take-home pay (BBC News, 28 March). This showed that, on average, workers are taking home £1,088 less a year than two years ago. Their real pay has fallen by 5% since the beginning of 2009, which was half way through the recession.

The sharpest drop in real pay was in the construction industry, where it was £99 a month less. In the public sector, average pay was £45 a month less, while in the retail sector it was £41 a month less.

Privatising debt

 

One of the most alarming predictions for the next few years is for a huge rise in household debt. The Con-Dem government is aiming to cut public debt by £43 billion. At the same time, the OBR estimates that private-household debt (including mortgages and credit card debt) will rise by a staggering £245 billion. With increased unemployment, squeezed wages, higher prices and taxes, people will borrow more simply to survive.

In effect, this is the privatisation of the state debt, a huge share of which came from the nationalisation of bank losses. Now, spending cuts and tax increases will push millions deeper into debt, throwing a huge burden onto working class families.

By 2015, according to the OBR, debt as a percentage of household income will increase from the current 160% to 175%. In hard figures, this means a rise from an average of £58,000 debt to £66,291 by 2015.

Petrol tax

 

Faced with explosive public anger over the soaring price of petrol and diesel, Osborne cut fuel duty by 1p a litre and postponed a further 3p rise until January 2012. Undoubtedly, the government fears the possibility of another fuel price protest on the lines of September 2000, when lorry drivers and farmers blockaded oil refineries and jammed motorways. At that time, protests were encouraged by the Tory opposition, but new protests would now pose a threat to the Con-Dem government.

However, the 20% VAT on fuel will remain, and pump prices will no doubt continue to rise as a result of the rise in world oil prices, due to the crisis in the Middle East and North Africa.

To pay for the fuel duty cut, Osborne has raised taxes on oil production. The windfall profits tax on UK oil and gas production will increase from 20% to 32%, which is expected to bring in an additional £2 billion. Despite their increased profits from the 35% increase in oil prices over the last five months, the oil companies are screaming about this very limited tax increase, peanuts to these giant corporations. Malcolm Webb, chief executive of Oil and Gas UK, said: "This change in the tax regime will decrease investment, increase imports and drive UK jobs to other areas of the world."

This is a barely disguised threat of a 'strike of capital' if the government increases its tax on oil production. They are unlikely to carry this out, at this time, however, because of the immensely profitable reserves that remain in the North Sea, especially given the fact that oil has now risen to around $120 a barrel.

Nevertheless, it is an indication of the likely reaction of big business, like the banks, to the threat of a 'Robin Hood tax' proposed by the TUC. Without measures to take control of big business and mobilise mass support for such measures, big business will attempt to sabotage any such steps through withholding investment, etc.

Heading for disaster

 

The Con-Dem government's leading economic policy guru, Oliver Letwin, has revealed the private discussions of Con-Dem ministers. "Leading up to the recent budget, we took the view collectively in cabinet that we faced an immediate national crisis in the form of less growth and jobs than we needed." (The Guardian, 31 March) Nothing in Osborne's budget will overcome this crisis, which will deepen in the coming months.

In response to the budget's supposedly pro-growth measures, the 'independent' OBR concluded: "We do not believe there is sufficiently strong evidence to justify changing our trend growth assumption in light of policy measures announced in budget 2011." 

It is predicting a mere 1.7% growth in GDP for 2011. At the same time, unemployment is projected to continue to an appalling 2.52 million or 8.2% of the workforce. This includes over a million unemployed young people.

The Con-Dem government's aim is to reduce the government's budget deficit to near zero by 2014-15. This is an unrealistic objective even from the point of view of big business and their system - and is likely to prove counter-productive. It is a doctrinaire policy dictated by the interests of the big banks and wealthy speculators, who manipulate bond markets in search of speculative profits.

Wiping out the budget deficit depends on faster economic growth, which is why Osborne continually claims he is promoting "expansionary austerity" through pro-growth measures. 

His budget, however, did not impress the financial markets that much. The rating agency, Moodys, which assesses the credit status of borrowers, including governments, warned that "slower growth combined with weaker-than-expected fiscal consolidation could cause the UK's debt metrics to deteriorate to a point that would be inconsistent with a AAA rating."

Near zero growth or even a new recession would mean even higher unemployment and reduced tax revenues. The Con-Dems' savage austerity policy could then result in an increase in the deficit, the worst of all worlds. 

The so-called 'expansionary austerity' cannot provide a way out for sickly British capitalism. The crisis referred to by Letwin can only deepen. The Con-Dem government has already been shaken by mass opposition, especially the mighty 26 March TUC demonstration in London. It has been forced to partially reverse the abolition of education maintenance allowance, and to announce a 'natural break' on the savaging of the NHS through accelerated privatisation.

The 26 March demonstration was only a beginning. It should be the prelude to further action, especially coordinated public sector strikes against cuts, a massive weekday demonstration, and a 24-hour general strike.

Black Wednesday budget

 

There are 44 changes in tax and benefits in Osborne's budget. With such a complex tax/benefit system it is very hard to calculate their exact effect. But one thing is certain: most of the changes will cut the incomes of working-class families. The government's claim that everyone - apart from the rich - will benefit is completely false. 

One organisation, Credit Action, calculates that, on average, the changes will reduce household income by at least £200 a year. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) reckons that the average family income is expected to still be lower in 2013 than it was in 2008, making it the biggest five-year drop for more than 40 years. The IFS also calculates that the typical pensioner household has seen its real annual income fall by 2.4% (£456) since 2008.

However, these estimates come before further price rises, job losses, squeezed pay levels, and benefit cuts. The Centre for Economic and Business Research reckons the higher cost of living in 2011 will mean that the average family will be £910 worse off this year - the tightest squeeze on finances since 1921.

This year's budget, moreover, is a supplement to last year's horrendous Con-Dem spending review which spelt out £81 billion cuts and £33 billion tax raises by 2013.

The basic personal tax allowance (the threshold below which no income tax is paid) is to rise by £1,000 to £7,475, which means around 500,000 workers will not pay income tax. 

This small gain, however, will be wiped out for many by the loss of services through cuts and reduced benefits. In particular, changes in tax credits and a freezing of child allowances will mean a sharp cut for working parents.

  • Many middle class families will be squeezed by the lowering of the threshold for the higher (40%) tax rate from £37,401 to £35,000, which will mean around 750,000 workers paying significantly more tax (as well as higher national insurance contributions). Osborne tried to provide some populist window dressing through a number of taxes aimed at big business and the wealthy.
  • The levy on windfall bank profits (heavily subsidised by state support during the crisis) is being marginally increased. North Sea oil companies will have to pay another £2 billion on their soaring profits.
  • There will be a tax on passengers in private jets, and the stamp duty on the purchase of houses over £1 million will be raised to 5%. At the same time, however, there are concessions on stamp duty for developers and landlords buying multiple properties.
  • The fee paid by wealthy overseas visitors to register as 'non-doms' will be raised to £50,000, but they will continue to enjoy the privilege of paying no UK tax on their offshore profits.
  • In the small print of the budget, there is a whole series of tax allowances for big business. Big companies will be able to offset against tax investments in enterprise zones, research and development, and many forms of new capital investment.
  • Above all, corporation tax, currently 28%, has been cut by 2% with the promise of further cuts to 23% in three years' time.
  • Osborne has also promised that the 50% top rate of tax on those earning over £150,000 will be reduced in the future. This highlights an important aspect of the Con-Dems' policy. Many of the current taxes levied on big business and the wealthy minority are regarded as temporary, to be reduced in the future. On the other hand, the cuts in public spending, with the massive loss of services and public sector jobs, are regarded as part of the permanent reduction of the public sector - in other words, a permanent blow to the living standards and well-being of many millions of workers. 
  •  

Next step after 26 March demo: prepare for coordinated strike action

 

Following the TUC mass demonstration in London on 26 March against the government's spending cuts, the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) has produced a model resolution on the next step for the workers' movement. 

The NSSN was established by shop stewards and workplace representatives in July 2007 to provide solidarity action to workers in struggle and to assist the rebuilding of the trade union movement. The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union played an essential role in founding the NSSN, which also has the support of several other trade unions including the CWU, PCS, POA and the NUM.

At a special NSSN conference on 22 January 2011 around 600 delegates and observers launched an anti-cuts campaign (www.stopcuts.net) to help bring trade unionists and community campaigners together to fight to save all jobs and services. 

On the 26 March demo the NSSN organised a platform at Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park, to rally support for its position of opposition to all cuts and coordinated industrial action by the trade unions, including a 24-hour public sector general strike against the government's austerity measures.

www.shopstewards.net

Model motion

This [union branch/anti-cuts organisation etc] believes that the 26 March TUC demonstration of at least 500,000 trade unionists, young people, pensioners and community campaigners has sent a deafening message to the Con-Dem coalition that working class people will fight their £81 billion cuts package.

This [union branch/anti-cuts organisation etc] recognises that, while the march has given everyone a huge boost of confidence, it won't be enough to stop the cuts. 

Already the new financial year has seen still more local authority workers losing their jobs, no matter which party leads the council.

Cameron and Clegg have public sector pensions in their sights and the announcement of the privatisation of HMP Birmingham is another sign of this government's desire to roll back all past gains of working people in this country to boost the profits of big business.

Therefore, this [union branch/anti-cuts organisation etc] believes that as soon as possible, the TUC General Council, in accordance with their policy, should:

  • Discuss the fight against the cuts and to defend public sector pensions in particular and "support and coordinate campaigning and joint union industrial action, nationally and locally, opposition to attacks on jobs, pensions, pay or public services". TUC 2010 conference (composite 10)
  • Discuss coordinating strike action against the cuts.
  • Advocate that unions combine to plan for a 24-hour public sector general strike as a step towards a one-day general strike of all workers.
  • Discuss with those unions who have already committed to balloting on pensions about organising a midweek march in London to coincide with strike action so other trade unionists can show their support to those striking and demonstrate their support for strike action against these attacks which affect all workers.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Wales Against the Cuts

RCT Socialist Update no. 10


With the Welsh Assembly elections looming it is clear that whichever of the main parties form a government or coalition government that huge cuts are on the cards after May 5th, such is the nature of all the main parties in Wales, they all agree that ordinary people should pay the price for the economic crisis whilst handing £billions over to the banks. That is why this Saturday (!6th April) we will be attending the Wales Conference against cuts organised by the National Shop Stewards Network. Members of the Socialist Party in RCT have been at the forefront of building RCT Against the Cuts and we hope that the conference on Saturday will help to unite RCT Against the Cuts with other anti-cuts groups around Wales. Come along and have your say and get involved with the Fightback. Saturday April 16th, Temple of Peace, Cathays Park, Cardiff.

Also the Socialist Party is currently involved in the election campaign for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, who are standing in opposition to all cuts in the Welsh Assembly elections and we are out campaign regularly with street stalls during the day and door to door canvassing during the evenings and weekends. If you want to get involved in the election campaign to get anti-cuts candidates into the Welsh Assembly then get in touch.

It might be a busy week but we are still holding the weekly branch meeting, which is more important than ever to continue to co-ordinate our campaigning work. This week in light of recent demonstrations over the last few months we will be discussing the role the police play and whether we have political policing and the wider aspect of whether the state is neutral or if it sides against working class people. You can read more about the subject here http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/pamphlets/state/


Come along to the meeting.
7.30pm Wednesday 13th in the Otley Arms, Treforest

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Bosses prepare for war on public sector workers

The follow is the editorial from the socialist issue 665

In February it was revealed that the Con-Dem government is preparing a 'war plan' in an attempt to prevent coordinated strike action against the cuts.
Tory MP Francis Maude is reported to be overseeing the plans, including the training of scab workforces. After the handover of Birmingham prison to private contractor G4S, the BBC reported that justice minister Ken Clarke said that the "military are involved" in contingency plans should prison officers stage a strike.
Here BILL MULLINS looks at further evidence of how NHS employers are preparing to undermine workers' action.
NHS bosses in the west midlands have circulated a twelve page paper, a "working draft subject to publication and restricted in circulation" to local health trusts. It details how employers should make plans to undermine any attempt by health workers to defend their jobs and services.

In the grossly misnamed paper, NHS Contingency Planning: Ensuring Effective Employee Relations, it says, with some understatement, that there is "some uncertainty with respect to the national industrial relations outlook".

You bet there is! Tens of thousands of health workers voted with their feet and joined the massive TUC demo on 26 March to give notice to their bosses that they won't stand back and accept cuts without a massive fightback once they are given a lead.

The paper lists a number of 'flash points' which can cause trouble including "pay review" (zero increases and cancellation of previous agreements to increase pay incrementally); "pensions" (the bosses are planning to rip up the last pensions deal which gave protection to existing staff. At the same time they want to increase employee contributions and increase the retirement age); and other "changes as a consequence of the [health] White Paper", which give "potential for employee unrest".

The paper complains that the only "contingency plans" in place across NHS organisations deal with the effect on staff of a flu epidemic, not "employee unrest", and have never been tested!

Anti union laws

 

The paper’s authors start by advising employers to reach for the legal protection of the anti-union laws in the first instance. The only way that the workers can have protection from dismissal is if they can organise an official dispute and avoid falling foul of the anti-union laws, they say. Otherwise workers are in breach of their contracts of employment and the unions do not have immunity from damages if they don’t strictly abide by the legal provisions.

The advice lists potential types of industrial action from "work to rule" to "lock ins". To prepare for this they say that all databases should be updated, particularly listing "volunteer, student and return-to-work staff databases" and later on "St John's ambulance". What is this but a scabs' charter?

The authors recommend that the bosses should work out who is likely to scab from among their employees, "particularly managerial staff or, more specifically, non-unionised staff". On another page it lists where the unions in hospital departments are strong and not so strong.

In its war on the unions, this paper highlights that one of the main reasons the anti-union laws (employment acts) require the unions to give the bosses seven days' notice of any proposed ballot is that this gives time for the bosses to get to the workers first with their anti-strike propaganda.

It lists the requirements of the unions to tell the employer where their members are and what grade they are on. This, of course, has been used by other bosses to get court injunctions against the unions, claiming that the information the unions gave them was not accurate. Unions such as the RMT have overturned such decisions.

Reading this document from one region of the country and one part of the public sector it makes you wonder what information the trade union leaders are giving to their members on how to prepare to take on the bosses
.

The bosses are seriously preparing, from the Con-Dem government down, to push through their cuts programme. It's high time the unions also gave a clear lead to their members by preparing them as well.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

After 26 March


The following is the editorial from the April edition of Socialism Today issue 147

We said NO CUTS!

THE 26 MARCH London march against the austerity policies of the Con-Dem government, called by the TUC six months ago, will undoubtedly be the biggest demonstration since the massive anti-war marches of 2003. This national demonstration follows a wave of local and regional demonstrations, including occupations of council budget-setting meetings. This is an answer to Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, who said he was "surprised that the degree of public anger has not been greater than it has", given that working people were being asked to pay the price of the financial crisis.

Most of the local marches were organised by rank-and-file activists, with Socialist Party members playing a prominent role in many areas. No doubt, these local demonstrations would have had a much bigger impact had the trade union leaders used their resources to mobilise for action. The national demonstration is long overdue. It will demonstrate the enormous potential power of the working class and its allies among students and the middle class. But by itself, a demonstration, however massive, will not stop the cuts or bring down the government. The unavoidable question will be: What action now?

Even the TUC has called the demonstration a ‘march for an alternative’. However, it does not spell out either a course of further action or an effective economic alternative. Implicit in the approach of the TUC leaders, as well as other trade union leaders, is the ‘strategy’ of waiting for the return of another Labour government.

The need for political representation

 

NEW LABOUR, NOW under the leadership of Ed Miliband, offers no real alternative to the Con-Dem coalition. It accepts that some cuts are necessary. In essence, its policy is to carry out ‘fiscal consolidation’ (cuts in public spending, increases in workers’ tax and pension contributions) over a longer period. Waiting for the return of a New Labour government at the next general election is therefore no real alternative. By that time, the Con-Dems will have carried through devastating cuts – unless they are stopped by a massive, sustained movement of the working class.

The political bankruptcy of New Labour underlines the need for an electoral alternative to provide working-class representation. An important part of the battle against the cuts will be standing scores of anti-cuts candidates in the May local elections. Many will stand under the banner of TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which together with the Socialist Party involves militant trade unionists from the RMT transport workers’ union, PCS civil service union, and other unions. While mobilising opposition to local councils attempting to implement savage cuts, this electoral campaign should be seen as a step towards building a mass party of the working class which offers a socialist alternative to the three major capitalist parties.

For a 24-hour general strike

 

FOR TRADE UNIONISTS, however, the most important next step will be strike action. There will undoubtedly be many local strikes, and trade union leaders should be supporting such action rather than attempting to block it. But the devastating, national scale of the cuts being implemented by the Con-Dem government poses the need for national strike action, coordinated between the public-sector unions. This is made all the more urgent by the assault on pensions, with increased contributions and reduced benefits.

On the issue of pensions, the PCS is discussing balloting for action in May or June, and the NUT (National Union of Teachers) and UCU (University and College Union) are also discussing action in the next few months. Other public-sector unions, however, are not so far proposing action.

Yet pension ‘reforms’ – devastating cuts – are already being implemented, and we need action as soon as possible. The public-sector unions should coordinate balloting and proposals for national action, with the aim of a 24-hour general strike, also involving unions in private-sector industries (such as the railways) that are also facing cuts. With determination, the obstacles posed by Britain’s repressive anti-trade union laws could be overcome.

The first public-sector union national strike action should be accompanied by a national mid-week demonstration against cuts and attacks on pensions. This would give workers from across the public sector the opportunity of supporting strike action, and would increase the pressure on other public-sector unions to build for a one-day public-sector strike. Students could also be mobilised to join such a day of action.

The 26 March will enormously raise the confidence of workers, and should be used as a launch pad for escalating such mass action against the cuts.

 

 

An ultra-free market offensive

 

REFERRING TO THE savage reduction in working-class living standards, and worse to come under the Con-Dem government, the TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, appealed to George Osborne: "The chancellor should show he understands people’s concerns by doing more to promote jobs and a sustainable recovery, rather than simply offering sweeteners in the budget for big business and introducing measures that will mean a further deterioration of working conditions". (TUC press release, 21 March) 

Barber shows that he has no understanding of the role played by the Con-Dem government. Osborne and co are not merely trying to overcome the effects of the financial crisis. They are using the crisis as an opportunity to ruthlessly cut back the role of the state in the economy (widening the scope for profit-making private business) and savagely cutting back on public services, including the health service which they claimed they would protect. This programme has an ideological basis, which reflects the interests of finance capital, which favours an ultra-free market economy. How would Osborne ‘understand people’s concerns’?

Undoubtedly, there are some sections of the capitalist class, particularly those who reflect the interests of manufacturing industry, who (like the New Labour leaders) favour spreading the cuts over a longer period. For instance, Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (a think-tank traditionally close to the Treasury), writes: "Given this economic weakness, and the large amount of spare capacity in the economy, stretching out the fiscal consolidation by scaling back spending cuts seems reasonable". He dismisses the idea that short-term deficit reduction is necessary to avoid a government borrowing crisis as gross exaggeration: "…to liken the UK to Greece is scaremongering". Pointing out that there are already over a million young people unemployed, he argues that the postponement of cuts and promotion of economic growth would be a more effective policy. 

However, it is still a capitalist policy: slow cuts and spread out austerity as opposed to the ‘instant’ deficit reduction proposed by Osborne, that may well push British capitalism into another downturn.

For a socialist economic policy

 

SOME ON THE left have rightly raised the question of what is our alternative. For instance, George Monbiot (writing in The Guardian, 6 March), says that we need to "unite behind what we want, not just against what we do not want". Monbiot proposes a policy based on a big increase in taxation on the wealthy and big business, cuts in arms expenditure, and a massive expansion in public services. He also advocates the creation of green jobs through environmental projects. The proposed measures are all desirable in themselves and, if implemented, would improve the conditions of working people. It is possible that, given a deep economic crisis and a mass working-class movement, a capitalist government could concede some of these demands, if only temporarily.

But the policy advocated by Monbiot does not address the class character of capitalism: big business, which operates for profit, would not tamely accept a big increase in taxation, or a sustained expansion of expenditure on welfare, education, the NHS, etc. Big business is already sitting on piles of cash, because it is not currently profitable to invest in new productive capacity. They would use all their economic and social powers to resist ‘punitive’ taxation and redistributive public spending on services for working people.

We need not merely an alternative policy, but an alternative to the current system, which is based on profit and the anarchy of the market. We need an economy which meets the needs of the majority. This raises the question of control of the economy, which could only be achieved through nationalisation of the banks and the big monopolies in the manufacturing and service sectors. The commanding heights of the economy should be run on the basis of a plan by democratic bodies made up of elected representatives from trade unions, community groups, consumer organisations, etc. Successful socialist planning would also require collaboration with the workers of other countries to begin a process of economic planning internationally.

Socialists are at the forefront of the drive to build an effective mass movement against the cuts and, at the same time, we raise the need for clear, socialist aims.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Region in Revolt - North Africa & the Middle East

RCT Socialist Update no.9

This week we will be discussing the fascinating events that have been unfolding in North Africa and the Middle East. The discussion will focus of the events that have taken place in Tunisia and Egypt and what socialists thing the next steps in the revolution should be, as well as explaining why socialists oppose any military intervention from western powers in Libya including the 'no fly zone' as this will derail the revolutionary movements inside Libya. You can read some recent articles about events in these 3 nations plus others in the region such as Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and Jordon here

http://www.socialistworld.net/?m=15&sk=100

We will also be planning our election campaign activities over the next month, the Socialist Party will be standing as part the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in the South Wakes Central region for the Welsh Assembly. You can read about the launch of the election campaign here http://www.socialistpartywales.org.uk/news45.shtml  to get involved with the election campaign just get in touch.

Come along to the meeting Wednesday 6th, 7.15pm, Otley Arms, Treforest

Friday, 1 April 2011

Defend the Libyan revolution

The following in the editoiral from the socialist issue 664

 

 No to imperialist intervention

Build an independent force of workers and the poor

Libya: the revolution will be televised... NATO intervenes, photo BBC
Libya: the revolution will be televised... NATO intervenes, photo BBC
The Libyan revolution is at a crossroads. But the turning point is not simply the rapidly shifting battle lines around the Gulf of Sirte.

No, we are witnessing a determined effort by the Western powers to seize control over the revolution and exploit it for their own ends. This is something which could possibly strengthen the Gaddafi regime, if it has not yet exhausted its political capital in the country, particularly in the heavily populated areas controlled by him and his supporters.

It is absolutely clear that the Nato-led military intervention is not simply to 'save' the civilian population. Now they are effectively acting as the airforce of the rebels and, for example, did nothing to stop the shelling of the civilians in Sirte.

Wary of being involved in another Iraq or Afghanistan, Obama has ruled out sending in ground troops, unlike Cameron who has already sent small SAS units into the country.

But this is a dangerous strategy, not just in Libya but also at home as polls in Britain and the US show rising doubts and opposition to any ground intervention.

The London conference on Libya on 29 March drew back from following in French premier Nicolas Sarkozy's footsteps and immediately recognising the self-appointed Interim Transitional National Council (ITNC) as the nucleus for a new government.

This was not possible as, at the time of writing, the ITNC only claims to control part of the country and a minority of the population. The conference itself was filled with hypocrisy.

Its closing statement proclaims that "the Libyan people must be free to determine their own future", but the powers at the conference have, at very most, only mildly criticised the oppression and lack of democratic rights in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Syria or Yemen.

In truth the western powers are moving to steal the fruits of the popular uprising that began in February. This process has some similarities to the way, over 20 years ago, in which the mass movements for democratic rights and an end to privilege in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe were diverted into the channel of capitalist restoration in these countries, with catastrophic results for the mass of the population.

Today in Libya the absence of an independent movement of working people that could start to build a real, democratic alternative to Gaddafi's rule is allowing the combination of recent defectors from the regime and pro-western elements to attempt to build their power with the support of NATO.

Former Gaddafi ally

 

The latest rebel field commander leader, Khalifa Hifter, is a former Gaddafi ally who, until a few weeks ago, had been allowed by the US government to live comfortably near Washington for almost 20 years.

He has spent that time trying to build a military force to combat the regime. Presumably the Clinton and Bush administrations saw Hifter as an ally.

But neither the US nor the other western governments have any genuine concern for the real interests of the majority of the Libyan people; on the contrary they are looking at regaining more control over Libya's oil and gas while also demonstrating their power in the Middle East.

This is one reason why, right from the start, there has been open rivalry between the different powers. The western powers have no fundamental interest in democracy.

Look at how they support the rotten Saudi regime, only last September the US made a $123 billion arms deal with the Saudi Arabian and the Gulf States' dictatorial regimes.

These are the states that have no, or only very limited, democratic rights, yet they are armed to the teeth by the US, Britain and other countries. The ITNC's limited programme is not certain to win support from the two-thirds of the Libyan population who live in the west of the country.

It is simply relying on a combination of Nato air power and the masses' desire for change to secure victory. But this is making it easier for the Gaddafi regime to hang on to power.

Gaddafi can correctly portray the ITNC as being in the lap of the western powers who would like to exploit Libya more. At the same time even western journalists are reporting that many in western Libya fear what would happen if Gaddafi was overthrown; would Libya tend to break up like Somalia, would fundamentalism arise, what would happen to the large social advances in health, education, etc made over the last 40 years? Admiral James Stavridis's testimony to the US Senate that rebel forces in Libya show "flickers" of possible al-Qa'ida presence could help make Gaddafi seem a 'lesser evil' to an alliance of the western powers and fundamentalists.

This is why the key to saving the Libyan revolution lies in the hands of the working masses. Tunisia and Egypt have already shown that determined struggle can overthrow dictatorships.

However the events this year in these three countries have shown that, on its own, willingness to struggle is not enough. The working masses need to be independently and democratically organised in trade unions and a mass party of workers and the poor with a clear programme.

This is necessary to be able to struggle to prevent the gains of their revolutions being snatched away by elements of the old elite or a new elite developing in collaboration with imperialism.

Concretely in Libya the genuinely revolutionary forces of the working masses need to reject any reliance on the UN or Nato and demand an immediate end to this intervention.

To defeat Gaddafi's regime, workers and youth need to build their own force that can carry the revolution to victory, a victory that not only wins democratic rights but which ensures that Libya's wealth is genuinely owned and democratically controlled and managed in the masses' interests.

This would lay the basis for liberation and a genuine socialism, not Gaddafi's fake version, that could appeal to the working masses in the Middle East, Africa and beyond.