Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Welsh MPs’ snouts back in the trough - this time its legal!

Alun Cairns pockets another pay out

“We’re all in this together” was the Tories’ slogan to justify austerity. But some of us are more in it than others.

Alun Cairns, the Tory MP for Vale of Glamorgan, has just trousered a £29,000 pay off for losing his seat in the Assembly. The “resettlement grant” is intended to help defeated AMs be weaned off their pampered £54,000 salaries before being released back into the real world. Except Cairns didn’t lose his seat - he chose not take it up after winning in Vale of Glamorgan in the general election.

Cairns deliberately hung on as an Assembly Member until the Assembly election so that he could claim the £29,000 pay off.

Its not the first time Cairns’ snout has plunged into the trough. As an assembly member he claimed £12,500 a year for a flat in Cardiff near the Assembly despite living just 30 miles down the M4. He even had the cheek to demand the assembly changed its rules to allow him to continue to claim it when boundary changes made him ineligible for the pay out.The Assembly duly obliged.

Meanwhile Ian Duncan Smith, Cairns’ Tory colleague in charge of Work and Pensions, was castigating the unemployed in Merthyr for not catching the bus to jobs in Cardiff (about the same distance as from Cairns’ home in Ewenny). Not only was Cairns not catching a bus, he claimed he couldn’t even drive to work along with the thousands of other commuters from the Bridgend area every day! No doubt he made a packet buying a flat in Cardiff paid for by the Assembly.

Ross Saunders stood as a Socialist Party Wales candidate as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in the Assembly election. He explained why Socialist Party members pledge to only accept the average wage of a worker if elected to parliament or the assembly: “It’s vital that MPs and AMs who claim to represent working people live the same lifestyle and encounter the same problems as the people they represent. Life looks a lot easier to people on £54,000 living in big houses and with a nice fat pension at the end of it. That’s why all Socialist Party representatives promise to follow the example of the Militant MPs in the 1980s who only accepted the wage of a skilled worker and donated the surplus back to the labour movement that they represented.”

Every government since 1979 has ended covered from head to toe in sleaze. In the 90s it was the Tories ‘‘cash for questions” scandals. Before the last election it was the MPs expenses and New Labour ex-ministers selling favours.

This time the Tories have got off to an early start. Perhaps they don’t expect to be in power for long.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Fighting for Socialist ideas

RCT Socialist Update no. 16


As we gear up to launch our campagin against the cuts to the NHS in Wales of over £1 billion proposed by the Labour led Welsh Assembly. We come around to a well timed discussion at our weekly branch meeting. This week we will be discussing the ideas put forward in the transitional programme wirtten by Leon Trotsky. Though written in 1938 the transitional programme holds within it a method which is still applicable today, it highlights in what way socialists should put forward demands within campaigns in order to raise the need for a socialist alternative to the capitalist society we have today. You can read this short article explaining it further here http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/1818/30-11-2006/leon-trotskys-transitional-programme.

Come along to the meeting,
Wednesday 1st June, 7:15pm, Otley Arms Treforest.

Also happening this week, there is a South-east Wales Socialist Women on Tuesday 31st May in Cardiff, for further details phone Mariam on 07867543191

Saturday, 28 May 2011

South Wales Topshop occupied against rich tax avoiders


Protest calls for an end to NHS cuts

Dozens of protesters occupied Topshop in Cardiff City Centre in protest at the cuts to the NHS while billionaire business people like Topshop’s owner Sir Phillip Green avoid paying tax.

UK Uncut activists joined with members from Cardiff Against The Cuts, socialists and other anti capitalist campaigners to occupy Topshop’s flagship store in Wales in Queen Street for about an hour. Security personnel grappled with peaceful protesters as Topshop management closed the store.

Hundreds of shoppers and protesters gathered outside the store as a standoff with the police developed. Supporters of the occupation explained that billionaires like Sir Phillip Green avoided paying tax in this country, while the ConDems are forcing through cuts in spending on services like the NHS. Unsurprisingly most shoppers supported the protest.

Green for example gave himself a bonus of £1.2 billion, but paid it to his wife who is registered as a resident of Monaco and so avoided paying tax in Britain. Had he paid the very low top rate of tax of 40% on that one bonus that would have yielded nearly £500 million for the NHS.

The UK Uncut occupation coincided with a number of protests in Cardiff city centre. Some Spanish students had organised a Democratia Real Ya rally in support of youth occupying squares in Spanish cities against unemployment. Cardiff Against the Cuts organised a “Busk Against the Cuts” and Socialist Party members were campaigning against the £1.9 billion being cut from the NHS in Wales. All four campaigns came together at the protest at Topshop.


After about an hour the occupation ended peacefully as the protesters marched out of the shop chanting “No Ifs, No Buts, No NHS Cuts” to loud applause.

Weak and unpopular coalition can be defeated

The following is the editorial from the socialist issue 672

When, on 26 March, over half a million took to the streets on a trade union demonstration against the cuts, Independent journalist Dominic Lawson sneered that more would be prepared to march in favour of the cuts. In the event at most a paltry 350 took to the streets to back the government's cuts.

As the unpopularity of the government's policies deepens and its supporters dwindle, the pressure is widening the splits in the Coalition. Tory MPs have even been describing their coalition partners as "yellow bastards" as they bicker over who will carry the odium of the hated Health and Social Care Bill. But despite the deepening tensions, the desire to cling to power is holding the Coalition together for now.

The government can be defeated but only if the anger shown on 26 March is harnessed around a clear fighting strategy. On 26 March the Socialist argued that, having marched together, now we need to strike together. We called for the next step to be a 24-hour public sector strike against the cuts and in defence of public sector pensions.

The first wave of coordinated strike action is now being prepared. It is an enormous step forward that the civil servants union, the PCS, voted almost unanimously, with only two votes against, to ballot for strike action on these issues


The NUT did the same at its conference at Easter. The UCU is also planning further action. The postal workers union, the CWU, has just voted unanimously to call on the TUC to coordinate a 24-hour general strike. CWU members in London have also voted overwhelmingly for strike action against management bullying and in defence of jobs.

30 June strike

On 30 June up to a million workers will take part in strike action against the government's attack on pensions. Across the country strikers will take part in demonstrations and rallies. Those demonstrations should be an immense show of strength.

Those workers whose unions are not taking strike action should do all they can to show their support by demonstrating. School and college students should demonstrate together with their teachers and lecturers.

Successful action on 30 June will be an important springboard for further action. As Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, put it: "Three quarters of a million on 30 June needs to be turned into four million in the autumn". Members of those public sector unions which are not yet planning strike action should organise a major campaign to demand their leaders act.

It is to be welcomed that Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, spoke at PCS conference. "We will build up to still broader action, if needs be, later in the year. To be absolutely clear, we will be balloting our members, coordinating our actions with yours and with other unions and building broad and effective community support to stop this government's agenda in its tracks." This now needs to be concretised.

Unison

The leadership of Unison is among the slowest to plan action to defend their members' interests. Socialists in Unison demand that their general secretary, Dave Prentis, immediately discusses with the general secretaries of those unions that are striking on 30 June to ensure Unison takes part in the second wave of coordinated strikes.

It is no coincidence that the unions building for strike action on 30 June are not affiliated to the Labour Party. On 26 March the unspoken strategy of many trade union leaders was to try and avoid further struggle, limiting themselves to 'march together today, vote Labour together tomorrow'.

Many of the demonstrators did go and vote Labour in the local elections on 5 May in order to punish the government, but understood doing so was not a strategy to stop the cuts.

In the aftermath of the elections council workers are being forced to initiate strike action to try to stop cuts - whether against Tory cuts in Southampton or Labour cuts in Lambeth. Unfortunately, the Unison leadership seem more willing to sanction ballots for branches in Tory local authorities than in Labour ones.

For those workers losing their jobs, however, the colour of the axe being wielded makes no difference at all. As Labour leader Ed Miliband made clear when he spoke to the demonstration on 26 March, New Labour also supports massive cuts in public services.

Miliband has now said he stands for "a better capitalism". But it is a crisis of capitalism which is responsible for families in Britain facing the biggest cut in their living conditions since 1977 and it is the markets - capitalism - which are demanding public services are destroyed.

Alongside an industrial battle to stop the cuts, the trade union movement also needs to build a socialist, political alternative to the three major parties of big business.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Coleg Morgannwg UCU members walk out against victimisation of union rep

UCU Wales president disciplined by college management

Lecturers walked out of Coleg Morgannwg, with campuses in Aberdare, Llwynypia, Nantgarw and Pontypridd, on Wednesday 25th May in support of University and College Union Cymru (UCU Cymru) president Guy Stoate.

Guy is being victimised for his trade union activity through a draconian and ludicrous application of college rules: college management is saying that he told a colleague he would be "a scab" if he were to cross a picket line and that this is bullying and harassment.

As UCU Cymru president, Guy has been an outspoken opponent in cuts to education and launched an attack on proposals to cut the quality of child care training across Wales the day before his disciplining.

Coleg Morgannwg UCU branch chair Ian Bosworth said in a press release: "At a recent branch meeting lecturers unanimously voted to back Guy. Today’s spontaneous protest shows how strongly staff feel. This is not just an attack on an individual but on the whole union. There is strong feeling that if management can pick on a union officer like this then we are all weakened.

"We are demanding that this disciplinary action is stopped at once. If they persist in this unwarranted attack then the branch has made it clear it will take further industrial action. We have the full support of UCU Cymru and the NEC of the UK-wide union".

The attack on Guy is the third victimisation at least of a UCU Cymru activists in two years. Hamish Murphy, formerly branch chair of Glyndwr University UCU, was sacked for criticising university management in 2009. Liza van Zyl, an organiser in University of Glamorgan UCU, was also sacked in 2010 for trade union activities; Dr van Zyl's legal challenge to her victimisation is ongoing.

Lecturers across Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom are in dispute with employers over proposed cuts to lecturers' pensions. The UCU plans to coordinate industrial action against cuts to the public sector with the NUT, PCS and other unions on 30 June.

Edmund Schlussel, UCU member (personal capacity)

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Public meeting - Defend the NHS

Below is a copy of a leaflet we have been distributing to advertise two public meetings coming up, one in Pontypridd and the other in Aberdare. Come along and join in the discussion.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Britain facing crisis on all fronts

We have posted this video of Peter Taaffe, General Secretary of the Socialist Party who discusses the crisis facing Britain and the effects it will have on working class people, but most importantantly Peter discusses what the socialist alternative to this really is and how we can fight back against the cuts.


Monday, 23 May 2011

Building socialism around the world

 RCT Socialist Update no. 15

This week at our regular branch meetings will will be discussing the role the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) plays in the fight for socialism around the world. The CWI is the international socialist organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated with sister parties on all continents and in 47 countries. Come along to hear about the struggles we have been involved in around the world and how we are building on all continents. You can read this short introduction to the CWI here http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/1 but whilst you there why not take a look around the rest of the website?

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

At the meeting we will also be discussing our campaigning work, including our preperation for the National Shop Stewards (NSSN) Confereence on June 11th in London. The NSSN is a grassroots organisation of fighting trade unionists and at the conference there will be extensive discussions on how best to fight the cuts. you can read more about the NSSN from their website here http://www.shopstewards.net/




Strike back at pensions robbery

NUT members on the half-million strong 26 March TUC demonstration, photo Paul Mattsson
The following is taken from the socialist issue 671


All out on 30 June



National Union of Teachers (NUT) members across England and Wales are balloting for strike action over pensions. So are members of the smaller ATL teaching union. We must win those ballots and defeat the government's plans to make every teacher pay more for a worse pension.

We also have to look ahead and make plans for big regional demonstrations on 30 June, planned as the first strike day. Striking teachers, lecturers and civil servants will be marching to defend their pensions. We hope other workers will come and join us to show their opposition to the Con-Dem cuts.

The pensions robbery is not the only attack facing teachers. Budget cuts mean that schools are announcing staff redundancies. We should take inspiration from a victory at Rawmarsh School in Rotherham where 25 teachers faced redundancy. After over ten days of strike action, NUT members have finally fought off the very last threat.

The government is also determined to accelerate the spread of academies. The pensions ballot covers members in academies too. It's a chance to unite the whole membership in struggle.

The pensions loss calculator on the NUT's website spells it out. The government's proposals mean that a young teacher might have to pay in £60 more a month. For what? - to be told they must work until they are 68 or have £300,000 stolen from their pension during their retirement!

Members of the teachers' union NUT on the 26 March TUC demonstration, photo Suzanne Beishon
Members of the teachers' union NUT on the 26 March TUC demonstration, photo Suzanne Beishon   (Click to enlarge)
These calculated losses are shocking enough. But the Con-Dems' plans for 'career-average' pensions could mean that they are an underestimate of what we could lose.

The idea put forward by the leaders of the NASUWT teaching union that we should wait until negotiations are completed before unions start to ballot is, at best, naïve. The Con-Dems have already budgeted for £2.8 billion that they plan to rake in from the attack on public sector pensioners. They're not offering any serious negotiations.

Fortunately, five other teacher, headteacher and lecturer unions have agreed to issue the same united message - "now is the time to defend our pensions". The UCU lecturers union is considering action. The PCS civil service union is likely to vote at its conference to ballot for strike action too.

Let's win the ballot and make 30 June a real show of strength. If the government won't back down, unions need to be ready to go further and escalate our action next term.
The NUT ballot closes on 14 June

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Where now, after the elections?

RCT Socialist Update no. 14


The elections for the Welsh Assembly have been and gone. The Socialist Party participated in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition electoral challenge and had a successful campaign, whilst we did not win any seats we did show throughout our campaign that there is a real alternative to the cutbacks proposed my all four major parties in Wales.

It is as clear now as it was before the elections that huge cuts will be proposed by all the main parties whether it be in Westminster, Cardiff Bay or in council chambers so the biggest question for socialists now is where next to continue the fightback against cuts?


We will be discussing this very issue at our next meeting, come along and discuss the alternative to the cuts after the elections
, we will also plan our campaigning activities for the week ahead.
Otley Arms, Treforest, Wednesday 18th May, 7.15pm

You can also read these articles which analyse the election results here

Welsh Assembly elections http://www.socialistpartywales.org.uk/news54.shtml
English council elections http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/11973/08-05-2011/government-con-demned-at-ballot-box
Scottish Parliament elections http://socialistpartyscotland.org.uk/news-a-analysis/scottish-politics/300-snp-landslide-but-it-will-be-a-government-of-savage-cuts

Government Con-Demned at ballot box

The following is taken from the socialist issue 670

Socialist Party calls for 24-hour public sector strike on the TUC demo, photo by Dave Beale
The general election of May 2010 seems a lifetime ago. For the thousand richest people in Britain, whose wealth has increased by 18%, the year that followed has been a resounding success.

The number of billionaires increased from 53 to 73. For the rest us the year has brought pain, with the biggest fall in family income since 1977 and cuts and privatisation of public services on an unprecedented scale.

The misery inflicted by the Coalition has not been taken lying down. We have seen the biggest student movement in twenty five years, and the biggest trade union demonstration in Britain's history.

At the end of June coordinated strike action against the cuts will begin. Last Thursday however, was the first opportunity for voters to pass judgement on the Coalition at the ballot box.

As was widely predicted beforehand, the Liberal Democrats bore the brunt of the population's anger, losing 700 councillors in England and 12 members of the Scottish Parliament.

Slapped, punched and kicked...

As Jonathon Freedland put in the Guardian: "The party was not just given a bloody nose by the electorate: it was slapped, punched, kicked and finally knifed before being left for dead."

The overwhelming defeat in the AV referendum was also a reflection of the population's fury with its main advocates, the Liberal Democrats. Some media commentators have attacked the electorate for voting in the referendum on 'trivial' grounds.

But given a rotten choice between two bad systems, why not vote in order to punish the Liberal Democrats? As even Nick Clegg admitted before the election, AV was a 'dirty little compromise' which would have been no fairer or more proportional than the existing system.

Tories

The Tories, by contrast, are breathing a sigh of relief that they have, for now, escaped the electoral consequences of their brutal policies. There are several reasons for this.

In the working class cities of the North the Tories are still hated for the crimes of Thatcher. As a result they had no councillors to lose.

The same is true in parts of London, where there were no elections this year. In most of England, however, Tory councils still dominate, despite some gains for Labour including in Gravesham and Ipswich.

The Tories were even able to marginally increase their numbers of councillors, largely by making gains from the Liberal Democrats.

This is no surprise - after all why vote for the monkey if you can have the organ grinder?

However, it would be a major error to assume the Tories will escape in future elections. A year into the Coalition government, there is still a section of society who believe the Tory propaganda that it was New Labour's policies in government that were responsible for the misery that is now being inflicted.

However, the Tories have only escaped punishment because the cuts, brutal as they are, are only just beginning to bite at local level. As local services close around voters' ears, anger at the government will increase, including in the seemingly safe Tory shires.

The Tories are aware of the electoral dangers they face, as was demonstrated by their hasty retreat from Suffolk County Council's plans to become an 'Easy' council and privatise virtually all of its services.

Nationally Labour gained over 800 seats despite, not because of, its policies. Millions of people in working class areas voted Labour to punish the government, and in the hope that Labour councils would cut less brutally than those led by the Tories or Liberal Democrats.

One consequence of this was that the BNP suffering an electoral meltdown. This does not preclude that the BNP, or other far right forces, could make an electoral comeback in the future against a background of economic crisis and rising unemployment if a mass anti-racist workers' party has not developed.

Scotland

Workers who voted Labour did so without real enthusiasm. In Scotland, the SNP beat Labour decisively.

A major factor in this was Liberal Democrat voters switching to the SNP. However, the SNP also won in some working class inner city seats which were traditional Labour strongholds.

This reflected a feeling that the SNP would be far more likely than Labour to fight in the interests of the working class in Scotland. In reality, the SNP will attack, not defend, workers' living standards.

However, the rejection of Labour for a seemingly more combative alternative is an illustration of workers' distrust of Labour, not just in Scotland but across Britain.

Similarly, in Brighton, where the Green Party has its stronghold, it became the largest party on the council. Even in Wales, where Labour made gains, it was left one seat short of a majority.

Fundamentally, Labour's woeful failure to provide a combative and coherent opposition to the government flows from its support for the essence of the government's policies.

When in power Labour acted in the interests of big business, and in particular of finance capital. More privatisation of public services took place when New Labour was in office than under any previous government.

The deregulation of the City which began under the last Tory government continued apace under New Labour. When the economic crisis began, New Labour bailed out the banks and demanded that working class people paid the price.

Just like the Tories and Lib Dems, Labour support huge cuts in public services, just at a marginally slower rate.

New Labour said it would carry out cuts

Campaigning for TUSC in Swansea, photo Socialist Party Wales
Campaigning for TUSC in Swansea, photo Socialist Party Wales   (Click to enlarge)

In the last election New Labour said it would carry out cuts equal to 4/5ths of those being carried out by the current government. It is no surprise that, at local level, Labour councils are implementing government cuts without hesitation.

Such is the weakness of the Labour leadership they do not even seem to seriously aspire to a majority Labour government. On the contrary, Ed Miliband has again appealed to the hated Lib Dems, obviously trying to prepare the ground for a future Labour/Liberal coalition.

Labour was founded a century ago because the working class was no longer prepared to back the capitalist Liberal party. The development of Labour as - at base - a mass party of the working class, albeit with a capitalist leadership, marginalised the Liberals for an historical era.

It is ironic that today Labour is chasing after the Liberal Democrats just as the Liberal Democrats face electoral annihilation. It confirms again that Labour today is not a mass party of the working class but is one more capitalist party.

These elections demonstrate the worthlessness of the unspoken strategy of most national trade union leaders - to defeat the cuts by voting Labour. The election results will have bought home the need for coordinated strike action against the cuts to many trade unionists.

The weakness of the Coalition government has also been graphically highlighted by the election campaign. The cracks in the Coalition have become fissures.

This does not mean that it is about to collapse, although the pressure of different events - in particular of a mass movement of the working class - could break the government apart within a short period of time.

However, as the attempts since the election of Cameron and Clegg to declare peace show, neither party has any interest in breaking up the Coalition. For the cash-strapped and profoundly unpopular Liberal Democrats, triggering an early general election would be committing Hara-Kiri.

Coalition

Some on the right wing of the Tory party are bleating that Cameron should take advantage of the election results and break up the coalition in the vain hope that the collapse of the Liberal Democrats would deliver a Tory majority.

The leadership of the Tory party know better and, given their complete dominance of the Coalition, have no pressing reason to bring it to an end. However, as Philip Stevens commented in the Financial Times, "coalitions rot from the bottom up".

At the top, the Coalition parties are clinging to each other and to power. For the Lib Dem activists who are watching their party being destroyed, however, it is a different story.

Clegg

The ousted Lib Dem leader of Nottingham City Council has called for Clegg to resign immediately. In response to the pressure of the party rank and file, Clegg has promised to be more "independent" of the Tories and for "a louder Lib Dem voice in government".

Objectively, the Lib Dem voice in government is now weaker than ever, but the pressure of Clegg and co. to stand up to the Tories over the destruction of the NHS and the scale of the cuts is enormous.

To fail to do so will also be to commit Hara-Kiri, albeit more slowly. Therefore the removal of Clegg, splits in the Lib Dems, and even their withdrawal from the government are all possibilities.

The Lib Dems might then back an unstable Tory minority government from outside on a 'grace and favour' basis, or perhaps trigger a general election.

Profound crisis of capitalism

Half-million strong TUC demo, central London, 26 March 2011, against the government's cuts, photo Senan
Half-million strong TUC demo, central London, 26 March 2011, against the government's cuts, photo Senan   (Click to enlarge)

There are a number of fault lines for the government, including the difficulties that could be created at a later stage by a referendum in Scotland on independence.

But however it is manifested, the root of the government's weakness is the continuing profound crisis of capitalism in general and British capitalism in particular.

Far from being over, the economic crisis in Britain is ongoing. According to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research Britain's output will not reach the levels of 2008 until 2013. And even this may be optimistic.

The latest figures show that manufacturing, previously the part of the economy that had stuttered into growth, now has the second lowest level of new orders since the recovery began in 2009.

The fall in orders is a reflection of very weak demand in Britain, rather than reflecting the weakness of Britain's puny exports. No wonder.

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.

As the Bank of England governor Mervyn King admitted, workers are already suffering the most sustained fall in wages since the 1920s. Bad as they are, the government's cuts have only just begun to bite, and will dramatically further depress demand.

It is a pipe dream to imagine that British capitalism will be able to compensate with increased exports against a background of a profound crisis of Europe and world capitalism.

No way out

British capitalism has no way out other than to attempt to offload the crisis on the working class. However, they are already facing mass resistance to their attempts to do so.

The working class flexed its muscles on 26 March - when over half a million people marched in opposition to the cuts. At the end of June the PCS and NUT, perhaps along with others, will strike together against the cuts and in defence of public sector pensions.

In the other public sector unions the call for coordinated strike action is growing. A 24-hour public sector general strike is on the agenda for 2011.

This would terrify the government. The working class in Britain now needs its own political voice more urgently than ever.

The Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts candidates in the local elections, who received 25,000 votes, were a step in that direction. Over the next year the anti-cuts movement can draw the conclusion that it is necessary to stand far more widely to offer an electoral alternative to the axe men and women.

Most importantly, faced with the barbarity of twenty first century capitalism, a growing number of workers and young people are searching for socialist ideas.

Our most important task in the immediate period is to reach them with a clear socialist programme.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

SNP landslide - but it will be a government of savage cuts

The following is the editorial from the socialist issue 670


Anti-cuts demonstration in Edinburgh, photo Ray Smith
The Scottish National Party (SNP) has won the elections to the Scottish parliament by securing an unprecedented 69 MSPs, an increase of 23 on 2007, gaining an overall majority.
Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland, from www.socialistpartyscotland.org.uk
This is the first time any party has been able to hold more than half the 129 seats in the Scottish parliament since its establishment in 1999. The SNP's share of the vote was 45.4% (+12.5%) in the constituencies and 44.1% (+13%) in the regional lists.

This is the biggest vote ever for the nationalists and was achieved largely due to the collapse of the votes of the Con-Dem parties in Scotland. Between them the Tories (-3%) and LibDems (-8%) lost 11% of their constituency vote, almost all of this went to the SNP.

The Lib Dems in particular were mauled, losing 11 MSPs and ending-up with just 5.

The swing to the SNP meant that although the Labour vote did not collapse, the SNP won scores of seats in former safe Labour areas. For the first time ever the SNP have won a majority of seats in Glasgow, Lanarkshire and across the central belt of Scotland.

Every seat in north east Scotland, including those in Dundee and Aberdeen were won by the SNP. Five of the six Edinburgh seats as well.

While in the past, the nationalists were restricted to wining first-past-the-post seats in the more rural parts of Scotland. They now hold 53 of the 73 local constituencies - a huge gain of 32 seats from the 21 they won in 2007.

They also picked up 16 seats on the PR based regional lists.

The SNP's historic victory was a result of a number of factors. Alex Salmond's minority government postponed the bulk of the spending cuts until after the election to try to avoid being fully exposed as a government of cuts.

The £600 million cuts to the Scottish budget as a result of the June 2010 emergency Con-Dem were put-off and wrapped up in the £1.3 billion cuts for 2011-12 voted through by the SNP, the Lib Dems and the Tories in February.

This meant that a majority of these cuts have still to be fully felt. The SNP will now, however, attempt to use their parliamentary majority to attempt to carry through the deepest and most savage spending cuts in decades.

Their plan is to pass on the Con-Dem austerity and axe £3.3 billion from jobs and public services in Scotland over the next four years.

Ironically, with a Con-Dem government in power in Westminster, many people will have voted SNP as a protection from the cuts that are looming like a tsunami over the jobs, benefits and wages of millions of people in Scotland.

In reality this new SNP government will arouse mass opposition if they attempt to implement the Tory cuts on the working class communities across Scotland.

The SNP rebuilt a significant electoral base in Scotland from the late 80s on, as a radical nationalist party positioned to the left of Labour. While they moved to the right and in a more neoliberal economic direction during the nineties and the noughties, they have still maintained the veneer of radicalism.

To an extent the support for the SNP in this election was based on the carrying through of some relatively progressive policies from 2007 - 2011, including the freezing of council tax, the ending of prescription charges, the abolition of the back-loaded tuition fees and the reversal of plans to close A&E services at hospitals.

For a layer of people, the SNP are still seen as a more radical alternative to Labour. This reflects the potential for the development of a new mass workers' party, especially as the SNP will now be exposed in a way that did not happen in their first four-year term.

Labour's catastrophe

 

If the election was a triumph for the SNP, it was a catastrophe for Labour. Bad enough was the overall loss of 7 seats, but worse, and more significant, was the loss of 20 first-past-the-post seats, leaving Labour with only 15 MSPs from a possible 73 available constituency seats.

It was only the top-up section of the regional vote that allowed Labour to retain a total of 37 MSPs overall.

It's an open question as to whether they can ever recover from their worst result in Scotland in 80 years. Added to a pitiful campaign, which began by stealing the SNP policies on the freezing of the council tax, opposition to any form of graduate tax or tuition fees and prescription charges, Labour were undermined again and again by the weakness of their leader, Iain Gray, compared to the populist oratory and debating skills of the SNP leader Alex Salmond.

With virtually no policy differences, except on independence and a referendum, the outcome of the election came down for many between a choice between Gray and Salmond as First Minister.

A contest that could have only one winner. This was reinforced by Labour's incapability of exposing the SNP over their spinelessness over the cuts - because Labour support austerity and are making deep cuts as well.

In the run-up to the 2010 Westminster elections Labour promised to make cuts even deeper than Thatcher's.

Iain Gray has indicated he will resign as Labour leader after the summer. Who replaces him is unclear.

Labour have also lost many of their 'leading' MSPs. The new crop of Labour MSPs are widely seen as the 'third eleven' - totally inexperienced and devoid of any real connection with the trade unions and the working class.

As such they will also reinforce Labour's long term decline as a political force in Scotland. The outcome of the election underlines the analysis of the Socialist Party Scotland and the CWI that Labour is no longer seen as a party of the working class by big sections, especially of younger people; although it can still maintain an electoral base as a 'lesser evil' as we saw in the Westminster elections in 2010.

SNP and big business 

 

Following the election Alex Salmond said, "We are now the national party of Scotland - acting in the interests of all of Scotland." But in reality Salmond and the new SNP government will be a party acting in the interests of big business and carrying out savage cuts.

It was no accident that a series of leading business figures backed and bankrolled their campaign. This included Brian Souter, head of Stagecoach who donated £500,000 to the SNP's election funds, Tom Farmer, millionaire founder of Kwik-Fit and a long-term donor, George Mathewson, former Chair of the Royal Bank of Scotland and many others.

The SNP have proved again and again that they are prepared to defend the priorities of capitalism - which is to unload the costs of the economic crisis onto the backs of the working class.

The widespread support for the SNP by the billionaire owned press, including Murdoch's Sun, the News of the World as well as the Scotsman, the Herald and Express groups and others, is also a clear signpost to the political direction of the new SNP government.

Independence referendum

 

One of the most important consequences of the outcome of the election is the inevitability of a referendum on independence. At this stage, the SNP have only said that the referendum will be held "at some time over the next five years." Moreover, in the last parliament the SNP advocated a bill for a multi-option referendum, including a vote for more powers as well as full independence.

They are likely to want to adopt a similar approach towards a new referendum bill.

It is also likely that in the first instance the SNP will use their election victory to wrestle concessions on the Scotland bill that is currently being debated at Westminster.

This bill proposes extending, in a limited way, the powers available to the Scottish parliament. But this election outcome will apply extra pressure on the ruling class and the Con-Dem government to concede further powers, possibly over borrowing and even control over corporation tax.

The SNP have been very careful not to 'antagonise' the interests of the majority of the capitalists who are opposed to independence at this stage. Opinion polls indicate a minority of people back full independence, with a big majority for stronger powers.

For the SNP a multi-option referendum would still be their preferable course of action - which, even if the independence option was defeated, would deliver extra economic levers to the Scottish government.
As one of their MSPs, Kenny Gibson, commented, "more powers are an important staging post on the journey towards independence."

Socialist and anti-cuts candidates

 

While no socialist/anti-cuts candidates were elected, the highest left vote on the regional lists was achieved by the George Galloway - Coalition Against Cuts list in Glasgow, which also involved Solidarity, Socialist Party Scotland and the Socialist Workers Party.

This campaign, which stood on a platform of opposing all cuts, supporting the setting of needs budgets and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with trade unionists and communities fighting the cuts, polled a very respectable 6,972 (3.3%) of the vote.

This was 5,600 votes short of seeing George Galloway elected, although it did defeat the Lib Dem's list and came fifth out of 15 parties.

Alongside the Coalition Against Cuts, Solidarity also stood on its own in the other seven Scottish regions. As expected, Solidarity's votes were very low and averaged around 0.2% - a total of 2,837 votes in the seven regions.

The jailing of the Solidarity leader, Tommy Sheridan, earlier this year after being found "guilty" of perjury was a major factor. Many people, even those who supported Tommy, felt that it was a wasted vote to back Solidarity with Tommy in jail and unable to take part in the election.

There is also no doubt that the public standing of Solidarity has been affected by the unrelenting campaign by the Murdoch press, the police and the legal establishment against Tommy Sheridan and other members of Solidarity.

Also, without a presence in the parliament, the profile of Solidarity has dipped considerably since its high point in 2007. Nevertheless, the Solidarity vote added to the Coalition Against Cuts list in Glasgow (which also involved Solidarity) polled more than 9,000 votes for a clear and principled anti-cuts platform.

The votes for the Scottish Socialist Party, who had six MSPs as recently as 2006, fell even further compared to their 2007 result when they lost 90% of their vote and all their MSPs.

The SSP polled 0.4% of the national vote with 8,200 votes. Nevertheless, these votes also reflected support for a fighting anti-cuts platform.

However, for the SSP leadership, who were instrumental in the state's prosecution and jailing of Tommy Sheridan, and who believed they would gain electorally from having "told the truth," this result was a damning public verdict on their criminal role and actions.

An indication of their deluded belief that they would gain significantly in this election was the SSP's boast that they would "push the Lib Dems into 6th place in Scotland." In addition the Socialist Labour Party achieved a vote of 16,847 (0.8%).

Urgent task to build an alternative

 

The results for the socialist left were undeniably poor, with the exception of the George Galloway - Coalition Against Cuts list in Glasgow. The primary responsibility for having thrown away an important electoral position for socialists with parliamentary representation from 1999 until 2007 lies with the political mistakes and actions of the leadership of the SSP.

It is a vital task now to work to rebuild a viable socialist and anti-cuts movement in Scotland.

With the election of an SNP government prepared to make huge cuts to jobs and public spending this task is urgent. Alex Salmond and his new government are demanding public sector workers accept year-on-year wage freezes - pay cuts in reality - as well as attacks on their terms and conditions.

Tens of thousands of jobs in the public sector will be lost if these cuts go through. Services that communities rely on will be butchered unless a struggle is built to oppose them.

The trade unions must organise national and coordinated strike action and quickly against the cuts, rather than accept the cuts. Working class communities need to be organised in the local anti-cuts campaigns and through the Scottish Anti-Cuts Alliance to oppose all cuts and fight for a return of the money stolen from us to pay for the bail-outs of the bankers and capitalism.

As part of this anti-cuts struggle, that can spread like wildfire in the months ahead, a political alternative to cuts and capitalism must be built. Socialist Party Scotland will be advocating that the anti-cuts movement, socialists, trade unionists and communities work to build a fighting coalition against cuts that will stand in the council elections next year.

To elect councillors who will refuse to make cuts and will stand up to the Con-Dem government in London, the SNP in Edinburgh and the councils who are wielding the axe across Scotland.

This can be an important platform to help build a powerful socialist alternative to the parties of cuts in the year ahead.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

What really happened in Russia?

RCT Socialist Update no. 13


The election campaign as ended and the results are in
. As predicted Labour made gains in the Assembly now holding half of all seats in the Welsh Assembly and are now set to pass huge and devastating cuts in Wales on behalf of the Westminster government. Members of the Socialist Party participated in the election campaign for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) but as predicted with little resources and a media blackout no electoral advances were made this time around. You can read more analysis of the election results here http://www.socialistpartywales.org.uk/news54.shtml

What is clear though is that a real and decisive socialist alternative is desperately needed for the future battles to defend all public services from the attacks of the Welsh Assembly. With the council elections only 1 year away and the devastating cuts budget passed by the Labour controlled RCT council the focus turns towards the council elections and TUSC are looking for candidates to stand in every ward next year. All candidates must agree to sign a pledge to vote against all cuts in jobs, pay, and services for ordinary working class people. If you are interested in being a candidate next year then just get in touch with us.


The usual campaigning activity now resumes as normal and this week as well as discussing and planning our post-election campaigning will will be taking a trip to Cardiff for a district meeting of the Socialist Party. We will be discussing the history of the Russian Revolution of 1917. The Russian Revolution was the single greatest event in working class history, that is before the degeneration into Stalinist dictatorship. You can read this speech by Leon Trotsky, one of the leaders of the Russian Revolution who fought against the Stalinist degeneration and paid for it with his life.
http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/russia/r2frame.htm?october.html

Better yet come along to to meeting and if you have any questions you can ask for the answers.

Thursday 12th May, 7pm, Cardiff Bus and Social Club, Tudor Street only 5 minutes walk from Cardiff Central Train Station

Labour wins Assembly election

But real socialist alternative to cuts is needed

Welsh Labour has won the Welsh Assembly elections, although it has been unable to secure an overall majority, winning just 30 of the 60 seats in the Senedd. The unpopularity of the Liberals has been reflected with a swing against them of 4%, possibly not as severe as they had expected. But in many constituencies the Lib Dems came behind the racist BNP who also lost half their vote. Arguably the biggest losers are Plaid Cymru who lost 3% of the vote and 4 seats.

Welsh Labour will not try and form a government on its own, but it is unlikely it will be able to have a working majority without the support of another party. Carwyn Jones might try and muddle through on each issue. A coalition with the Liberals or even Plaid Cymru remains a possibility. There will probably be a short period of horse-trading between the parties as Carwyn Jones attempts to solidify his government. The reality is there is very little to choose between the policies of the three parties on all the key issues of public services.

The next government will attempt to blame the effects of deep cutbacks on the Westminster government, but health cuts will be a big issue in Wales over the next 5 years. The outgoing coalition led by Welsh Labour agreed to cut £1 billion from the NHS which is already struggling to keep up with the intense demands on the health service in Wales. Labour will try and pin the blame on the Con Dem government, but working class people in Wales will not let the Labour administration off the hook as it refuses to fight the cuts, but passively passes them onto patients and health workers.

The elections saw a polarisation. In middle class areas the Tory vote strengthened, as the Lib Dems have carried the blame for the cutbacks, while working class voters have returned towards Labour in reaction to the Tory cuts in Westminster. However the Labour vote is quite tepid. A substantial socialist alternative to the cuts could have won a lot of those votes. In Scotland, where Labour’s leadership is seen as especially weak, Labour did very badly compared to the strong-looking SNP.

The lacklustre nature of the Assembly campaign was reflected in the turnout of just 41%. The Assembly election failed to capture the interest of working people across Wales. Labour benefited from the blowback of opposition to the vicious cutbacks being implemented by the ConDem government at Westminster, but by passively passing on these cuts to working people in Wales they failed to inspire genuine enthusiasm or sufficient votes to gain an overall majority.

Socialist Party Wales stood as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) on two regional seats in South Wales Central and South Wales West. TUSC laboured under the big disadvantage of a low profile at this stage without the resources to reach its potential supporters and with no media coverage. With the Socialist Labour Party and Communist Party also standing in the lists the left vote was split three ways. In South Wales Central, for example, the combined left vote would have been 3% of the vote and a united campaign would have overtaken UKIP.

Nevertheless the canvassing and street campaigning that was done by TUSC got an excellent response from working people in Wales. In Cardiff Central, Swansea West, Pontypridd and Cynon Valley a lot of posters went up in windows indicating the support that we received on the doorstep.

The racist BNP suffered a serious setback in these elections losing nearly half their votes from 2007 despite an aggressive campaign targeting the Welsh assembly election with BNP leader Griffin making several visits to Wales. Nevertheless the issues that provide the breeding grounds for their racist ideas still remain and the support they have gained needs to be undermined by a real alternative to the different diets of cuts offered by the main parties.

If you agree with what you read, then you should join us!

Click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

March for jobs 2011 - Join the Jarrow March

Youth Fight For jobs say No To Cuts, photo by Socialist Party
Youth Fight For jobs say No To Cuts, photo by Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)
Recent research has shown that half of all final year university students say they wouldn't have applied to university if fees had been £9,000 a year. This makes it even clearer that young people in Britain are faced with a stark choice: fight for our futures or become a lost generation.

A breathtaking one in five 16 to 24 year olds are now out of work and the youth unemployment figures continue to rise. It is becoming increasingly hard to find even the low-paid 'McJobs' that had become the norm for young people.

The problems of finding work are shown in the Wiltshire town of Trowbridge. In recent years, factories have moved out of the town and the people have had to rely on call centre jobs, often with worse terms and conditions.

Now even these jobs are starting to go. Vodafone, target of national UK Uncut protests highlighting a massive tax dodge, are due to close their call centre in Trowbridge, cutting 200 jobs.

Not content with doing nothing to help youth who are out of work, the government's slash and burn approach to public services will greatly increase the number of unemployed.

And life is no easier for those looking to escape the dole queue by learning new skills. The scrapping of the meagre EMA payments for 16 to 19 year olds and the rise in tuition fees to £9,000 a year will price many out of education. Funding cuts will reduce the range of course choices. It is estimated that there will be 36,000 fewer university places this year than last.

Everywhere young people turn, doors are being closed in their faces. But if we fight back we can win. The student protests last year showed that young people are not as apathetic as we are often portrayed. The trade union demonstration of at least half a million on 26 March shows the potential for a powerful mass campaign.

75 years ago 200 men marched from Jarrow to London, protesting against unemployment. Marching over 280 miles, they showed unity and strength, fighting against a government whose policies prevented them from earning a living and having a decent life.

This generation faces a similar situation to the Jarrow marchers in 1936 and, like them, we will not take it lying down. Inspired by these workers I will be joining the Jarrow march this October organised by Youth Fight for Jobs.

With growing support from the trade unions and from young people up and down the country, this march will play an important role in building a mass movement against the cuts. We're fighting for decent jobs and a decent future.

For more information you can visit the Youth Fight for Jobs website

Friday, 6 May 2011

Cracks grow in Con-Dem coalition

The following is the editorial from the socialist issue 669

From the start the Con-Dem government has been weak. The Tories were forced into a coalition because they could not win a mandate for massive cuts in public spending. With the biggest drop in family income since 1977, and the cuts starting to bite, the unpopularity of the government has grown dramatically. As a result, the cracks in the coalition are widening.

Like rats in a trap, the Liberal Democrats are spitting invective at their coalition partners. Nick Clegg has accused David Cameron of being a 'liar' and part of a 'right-wing clique'. Lib Dem energy minister Chris Huhne has threatened legal action against chancellor George Osborne for his claim that the Alternative Vote (AV) would require expensive voting machines.

Clegg and Co are kicking out in frustration because they are facing electoral disaster at the local government elections and in the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament elections on 5 May as ex-Lib Dem voters punish them for joining the hated Con-Dem government.

If, as is likely, the Lib Dems also lose the AV referendum, the growing pressure on the leadership of the party from its rank and file could become intolerable. It is not excluded that Clegg could be removed as leader of the party or that the party could split. As a result of that growing pressure Clegg has already had to promise that his party will be more "independent of the Conservatives after the referendum".

May Day 2011 in central London, photo Paul Mattsson
May Day 2011 in central London, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)


But what would this mean in practice? If the Liberal Democrats attempted to seriously oppose their coalition partners on any major issue, the government could become unworkable and a general election could be on the cards before the end of the year. If, on the other hand, Clegg and the rest continue to sign up to huge cuts in public services and workers' living conditions, the party is guaranteeing its own demise. Against this background, the claim by both Clegg and Cameron that the coalition will return to 'business as usual' after the election will be difficult to achieve.

Even if the 'yes to AV' campaign manages to scrape a victory by convincing Labour voters that voting 'yes' will damage the Tories, there will also be problems for the coalition government as right-wing Tory backbenchers would attempt to sabotage the introduction of AV.

Anger against cuts

 

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 cuts on 26 March are continuing to be felt.

The demonstration will be followed by coordinated strike action at the end of June by some public sector unions, including the PCS civil servants' union and teachers' unions NUT and the ATL. Even the head teachers' union, NAHT, is threatening strike action.

Pressure is growing on the leaders of other trade unions to take part in a 24-hour public sector general strike. Regional demonstrations will give other workers a chance to show their opposition to cuts and support for strike action.

For millions of working class - and many middle class - voters the election is their first chance to punish the Con-Dems at the ballot box. There is no question that Labour will be the main beneficiaries of this trend. However, this does not reflect enthusiasm for the policies that Labour puts forward, but rather a hope that it is 'not as bad' as the Con-Dems.

In reality, Ed Miliband et al are also fully in support of massive cuts in public services, albeit at a slightly slower pace than the Tories. At local level Labour councils have voted through cuts just as large as those carried out by Liberal and Tory councils. Many of the government's policies - including increasing tuition fees and the destruction of the NHS - are a continuation of those carried out by Labour governments.

If, as is possible, New Labour is thrown back into government within months, it - like the ex-social democratic governments of Spain and Greece - will attempt to carry out the will of the markets, of capitalism, and savage public services. They would, however, face massive and determined resistance. No doubt the leadership of New Labour dread such a prospect and are hoping that the Con-Dems will last a few more years.

To stop the cuts a mass working class struggle is needed, starting with coordinated public sector strike action. The National Shop Stewards Network conference on 11 June (see page 6) will discuss how to develop the struggle against cuts. However, it is also crucial that the working class begins to build a party which stands in its own interests.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition challenge in the local elections and the Welsh Assembly elections, along with Coalition Against Cuts in Scotland, are steps in the direction of such a party.
For election updates go to:www.socialistparty.org.uk

Thursday, 5 May 2011

UK Uncut and the anti-cuts UK movement

The following is taken from Socialism Today issue 148

Half-a-million participated in the TUC demonstration against the cutbacks on 26 March, a clear indication of the potential power of Britain’s organised working class. Numerous other protest movements have also emerged. UK Uncut, for example, mobilises a radicalised layer exposing big-business tax evasion. Some commentators, however, claim that this is a ‘new model’, in opposition to coordinated strike action and democratic mass campaigns. HANNAH SELL explains that this view poses a danger to the struggle to defeat the attacks of this right-wing government.

JUST TWELVE MONTHS ago, Britain was a completely different country than it is today. The political landscape has been transformed. For a few months it seemed, superficially at least, that there would be no serious resistance to the austerity assault of the Con-Dem government. But the surface calm could not last. First to break it were the students and school students. Over a month in the winter of 2010 young people took to often snowbound streets in their tens of thousands. This was the biggest student movement for a quarter of a century, characterised by audacity, inventiveness and raw class anger at the millionaire, privately-educated ministers who were tripling student fees and axing the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). 

If the student movement was the overture, the massive – half-a-million plus – trade union demonstration on 26 March was the thunderous opening of the main act. Drawn into activity by the winter movement many tens of thousands of students took part in that demonstration. 

The October 2010 launch and subsequent growth of UK Uncut are directly related to the student movement. Most, but by no means all, UK Uncut activists are radical young people. UK Uncut says: "We start with some simple points of agreement. The brutal cuts to services about to be inflicted by the current government are unnecessary, unfair and ideologically motivated… A cabinet of millionaires have decided that libraries, healthcare, education funding, voluntary services, sports, the environment, the disabled, the poor and the elderly must pay the price for the recklessness of the rich".

"Austerity-economics is the policy of the powerful. It cannot be stopped by asking nicely. We cannot wait until the next election. If we want to win the fight against these cuts (and we can win) then we must make it impossible to ignore our arguments and impossible to resist our demands. This means building a powerful grassroots mass movement, able to resist the government cuts at every turn. UK Uncut hopes to play a small part in this movement".

UK Uncut initiates protests in banks and high street shops – Vodafone, Topshop, BHS and others – whose owners are tax evaders or avoiders. Particularly targeted are stores owned by Philip Green, boss of the Arcadia retail group and a government advisor on where to wield the axe, who enjoys a £4.1 billion fortune.
Protests organised by UK Uncut have received widespread publicity and have caught the imagination of many. Alongside others – in particular, the PCS civil servants’ union campaign pointing out that £120 billion goes uncollected in tax every year – UK Uncut has helped to counter the government’s propaganda that there is no alternative to cuts. 

The most powerful weapon

 

THE SOCIALIST PARTY shares much of UK Uncut’s approach, in particular its understanding that a mass movement can defeat the cuts. We would not, however, agree with the view of some of its adherents who argue that UK Uncut and similar initiatives represent something completely new which, unlike ‘more traditional’ methods of organising, offer the means to defeat the cuts. Radical journalist, Laurie Penny, for example, wrote: "What we are seeing here is no less than a fundamental reimagining of the British left: an organic reworking which rejects the old deferential structures of union-led action and interminable infighting among indistinguishable splinter parties for something far more inclusive and fast-moving". (The Guardian, 24 December 2010)

Penny concluded: "For these young protesters, the strategic factionalism of the old left is irrelevant. Creative, courageous and inspired by situationism and guerrilla tactics, they have a principled understanding of solidarity. For example, assembling fancy-dress flash mobs in Topshop to protest against corporate tax avoidance may seem frivolous, but this movement is daring to do what no union or political party has yet contemplated – directly challenging the banks and business owners who caused this crisis".

Many of those involved in anti-cuts direct action would not agree. Nonetheless, the ideas she expresses represent a developing political trend within the student and anti-cuts movement. If these ideas were to become dominant among young anti-cuts activists they would disarm a generation, and isolate them from the mass anti-cuts movement that has begun.

The TUC demonstration, the biggest workers’ demonstration since the second world war, showed graphically the mobilising power of the ‘old structures of union-led action’. It was direct action on a far higher level than ‘fancy-dress flash mobs’. The demonstration should have taken place earlier – by 26 March many jobs and services had already been lost. The delay by the TUC leadership left a huge vacuum. This is one reason that UK Uncut captured the imagination of a layer of youth and workers desperate to see something done against the cuts. However, the authority of the trade union leaders among broad sections of the working class meant that, while UK Uncut has mobilised a few thousand, the TUC mobilised over half-a-million. If the TUC was to harness that power and determination into a call for a one-day general strike, there is no doubt it would receive a huge response. 

The working class, and in particular the organised working class in the workplaces, is key to the movement to defeat the cuts. Big sections of the middle class will also join the anti-cuts movement. Community campaigns have an important role to play, too. But it is the potential collective power of the working class in the workplaces which is the anti-cuts movement’s most powerful weapon. 

The power of the working class has been demonstrated in the revolutions unfolding in North Africa and the Middle East. In Egypt and Tunisia, the dictators were forced to flee when the working class came out on strike and threw its weight behind the movement. In Britain, a 24-hour general strike, even of the public sector in the first instance, would be mass direct action on the highest level Britain has seen in many decades. It would terrify the government and give enormous confidence to working-class people to step up the fight back.

 

UNFORTUNATELY, IT WAS clear from the platform speakers on 26 March that the majority of national trade union leaders want to send the movement back to sleep, not step up the struggle. The verbal support that TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, has given for ‘peaceful direct action’ – "the days of protests being solely about unions going on strike are over" – is also a warning that some union leaders may support organisations like UK Uncut to try appear more ‘radical’ while, in reality, hiding behind them to avoid organising effective strike action. They will not succeed. 

Several trade unions, including PCS, the UCU lecturers’ union and the National Union of Teachers (NUT), are planning to co-ordinate strike action at the end of June. The PCS is demanding that the TUC calls regional midweek demonstrations on the first day of co-ordinated strike action. The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) is campaigning throughout the trade union movement for other public-sector unions to join this action. What should be the role of UK Uncut activists in this situation?

The most effective approach would be to orient towards the union movement, and to campaign for the idea of co-ordinated strike action across the public sector. Where based in schools, colleges and universities, UK Uncut activists could work to make sure that school students and students strike together with public-sector workers. Alongside this, UK Uncut could orient towards communities facing the closure of their services and assist them in their campaigns, encouraging them to organise occupations of swimming pools and libraries, etc, threatened with closure. 

This does not mean that direct action by small groups (like the Topshop flash mobs) has no role to play in publicising the rich’s failure to pay tax. Long before the term was coined, direct action was part of many struggles: from the suffragette movement for women’s rights to the battle against the poll tax. When deciding if direct action by small groups will be effective or not, however, we must always assess whether it will increase support among the mass of the working class and oppressed, or undermine it. A small minority attempting to stop the cuts by acting on behalf of the mass of the working class will never succeed, no matter how heroic its actions. Direct action is useful if it helps to build a mass movement. If it does not, it isn’t. 

In the aftermath of the 26 March demonstration the capitalist media initially conflated UK Uncut’s peaceful occupation of Fortnum & Mason with the small minority of protestors (not related to UK Uncut) who smashed shop windows as a means of protesting against cuts. In contrast to the TUC leadership, which wrongly condemned all violence by protestors without a word about the violence of the police in manhandling peaceful demonstrators, UK Uncut spokespeople refused to condemn anyone, saying that it is up to individuals how they choose to protest against cuts. This was honourable, but it would have been far better to have also used the opportunity to positively explain an effective strategy to defeat the cuts. This would have meant explaining that UK Uncut understood the anger of a layer of desperate young people and that smashing windows is less serious than this government smashing young people’s futures.

Nonetheless, smashing windows, in particular intimidating low-paid shop workers, is not an effective method of protest. And it gave a weapon to the capitalist media and the government to try and undermine the impact of the demonstration. UK Uncut could also have explained that it is unlikely to be a coincidence that only eleven of the ‘window smashing’ protestors were arrested, whereas 138 peaceful UK Uncut protestors were held for 24 hours. Given how politically useful it was for the government to be able to point to ‘violent protestors’ it is highly probable that there were undercover police acting as agent provocateurs among the window smashers. One demand of the movement should be for the state to reveal where their undercover officers were deployed on the day.

Lack of democracy

 

UK UNCUT IS limited in the strategy it puts forward because of its lack of a democratic structure through which it can discuss and agree an approach. UK Uncut operates without structures on the basis that anyone who wants to can organise a UK Uncut protest and advertise it on their website. This has advantages, making it easy for people new to protest to organise such an event. However, it also has limits. It is not, as Penny and others suggest, a fundamentally new and non-hierarchical way of organising, which is better than ‘the old structures’. In fact, similar ideas have existed for as long as there has been a struggle against capitalism. The history of the last 30 years means that they have been particularly prominent in the last period. 

A decade or so ago the same kinds of direct action and methods of organisation dominated the anti-capitalist movement which developed from the 1999 Seattle demonstrations against the World Trade Organisation. In some senses the anti-capitalist movement was more developed politically than UK Uncut. Today, the profound crisis of capitalism has led to a far wider questioning of the system than existed a decade ago. But UK Uncut’s demands are more limited than those of their predecessors. The May Day anti-capitalist protests in Britain, for example, the biggest of which was around 10,000 strong, were organised around the slogans, ‘break the banks, cancel all debt’, and ‘carnival against capitalism’, considerably broader in scope than UK Uncut’s demand that the rich pay their taxes. 

While the anti-capitalist movement was an important step forward, after a period of time, it came up against its political and organisational limitations. It burst onto the scene after several years of extremely low levels of struggle by historical standards. Understandably, given the legacy of the Stalinist dictatorships and the record of right-wing trade union and labour movement leaders, scepticism towards organisation and fears it would lead to bureaucracy were very strong. ‘Spontaneity’ and lack of structures were therefore held up, as they are by Penny and others today, as superior to, and more democratic than, ‘traditional organisation’. 

But the lack of a democratic organisation within which anti-capitalist activists could discuss and take decisions on strategy meant that the anti-capitalist movement remained inchoate and without any clear idea on the way forward. In Britain in 2001, the biggest anti-capitalist May Day demonstration was kettled by the police for nine hours. In response, the organisers simply declared that they would not be calling any more May Day demonstrations, unilaterally deciding that the state had defeated the protests. 

Effective organisation, effective action

 

THIS ILLUSTRATES THE fact that organisation is a vital prerequisite for democracy. It is a myth that any demonstration takes place entirely spontaneously. Every event is organised to some degree. For UK Uncut protests, for example, people update websites, write and print leaflets, and so on. However, without organisation and democratic structures, there is no way to take part in collective decision making. ‘Self-organisation’, far from preventing the development of leaders, as its advocates claim, simply means that the people taking the decisions – regardless of whether those decisions are good or bad – are not accountable to the movement.

Today, some aspects of the scepticism towards political organisation are even deeper than they were a decade ago. The experience of thirteen years of New Labour in office, followed by the Lib Dems joining the Tories in coalition, has hardened the idea that all politicians act in the interests of the rich and powerful. Of course, this is true of all capitalist politicians. But the answer is not to turn away from political organisation but for the working class to organise its own party.

The failure of the massive anti-war demonstration in 2003 to stop the Iraq war has also been embedded in the consciousness of young people and has encouraged the idea that ‘new’ methods of organisation need to be found. Yet, that demo came within a hair’s breadth of forcing Tony Blair to pull back from supporting the war. He had even warned his children to pack their bags as the family might be leaving 10 Downing Street. If, as we demanded at the time, the trade union leaders had called for a day’s strike against the war, Blair would have been forced to retreat.

This could not have been done using ‘self-organisation’, which is very limited from a purely practical point of view. Collective decision-making – where a debate takes place, a vote is taken and a majority decision reached, which is abided to by all – is a basic prerequisite for effective action. It is clearly crucial, for example, if a strike is to be successful.

Some would argue that these criticisms are merely the ‘strategic factionalism of the old left’. But there is no dogmatism here. New ideas will be thrown up by the movement, and are welcome provided that they take the struggle forward. However, the battle to defeat the cuts is the most serious the working class has faced in decades. If we fail, living standards will be driven back to the level of the 1930s. Therefore, discussion to work out the right strategy, tactics and methods of organisation is not ‘interminable infighting’, but absolutely essential. 

On one level, the demands of UK Uncut are very modest – that the rich should pay their taxes. If they were to do so, as PCS has worked out, it would virtually wipe out the budget deficit. But the rich are not about to cough up. Protests in shops have the power to publicise the issue but not to make the rich pay. UK Uncut supporter, Johann Hari, was naïve when he wrote in The Independent: "The more protests there are, the higher the price. If enough of us demand it, we can make the rich pay their share for the running of our country, rather than the poor and the middle class". (29 October 2010)

Demanding workers’ control

 

THE RICH SHOULD pay their taxes and the levels of tax they pay should be massively increased. However, capitalism is a system based on the exploitation of the majority in order to maximise the profits of a few. Capitalists will never meekly accept increased regulation and taxation. In the past, when minimal measures were taken against them, capitalists in Britain threatened a strike of capital. Labour Party governments, because they remained within the framework of capitalism, were forced to retreat.

To be effectively implemented, even the demand for the rich to pay the tax they owe would require state control, the complete nationalisation of the banking and finance industry. This would need to be combined with the control and checking of the import and export of capital. Even this would be ineffective unless it was accompanied by strict workers’ control and management of these nationalised industries. Left to themselves, the capitalists will find a thousand and one ways to escape measures to control them. Hence the need to link UK Uncut’s demands to a socialist programme of nationalisation of the banks and financial sector under workers’ control and management, with the participation of consumers and small businesspeople. To achieve these demands will require that the working class has its own democratic party which can draw together the different layers of the working class and fight for a programme in its interests.

The struggle against the cuts is also linked to the struggle for socialism. UK Uncut states that the cuts are "unnecessary, unfair and ideologically motivated". There is no doubt that an ideological desire to finish what Margaret Thatcher began is an element in the zeal with which the Tories are pursuing the cuts. However, across Europe there are governments of ex-social democratic parties (equivalent to New Labour) in Greece, Spain and Portugal, and right-wing capitalist parties in France, Germany and Italy, implementing cuts that are virtually identical in their brutality. The cuts flow from the drive by the capitalists to offload responsibility onto the working class for the profound crisis of capitalism which began in 2007/08. They are determined to drive the cuts through. This does not mean they cannot be stopped. Faced with a powerful mass movement that threatens the capitalists’ rule, they would have no choice but to retreat. However, in its relentless pursuit of profit, capitalism would then come back with other ways of making the working class pay, for example, through inflation.

A new generation has been thrust into activity over the last four months. Many are looking to the organised working class in the trade union movement for a lead in the struggle against cuts. A significant minority are drawing socialist conclusions. Others, understandably frustrated by the delaying tactics of right-wing union leaders, are looking for other methods of struggle. While many are a useful addition to the struggle, if they take the form of shortcuts, aiming to substitute a small minority for the building of a mass movement, they will represent a dead end.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Who and what to vote for in Wales.

With the polling booths about to open in a matter of hours many people are thinking who they should vote for or whether we should even bother, after all the politicians from the main 4 parties in Wales are virtually identical as they are all committed to making huge cut backs and making us all pay the price whilst the rich once again get away with it all.

Rhonndda Cynon Taff Socialist Party think that this is a great opportunity to show all the politicians what we think of them.

 On the first vote we recommend a spoilt ballot as the choice will be between politicians from the four main parties all of whom will vote for huge cuts in jobs and services and none of them deserve our vote. We need to build a new party to represent ordinary working class people and we won't do that by propping up the same corrupt politicians we have today.

On the second vote for the assembly where we vote for the regional list. In this case South Wales Central. We firmly advocate a vote for Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts a coalition of different organisations and indviduals including the Socialist Party who have been an extremely active part of the coaltion during this election campaign. TUSC is committed to opposing all cuts in jobs and services and every anti-cuts campaigner should make sure this is where there vote goes!

We also get the opportunity to vote in the referendum on whether to change from the first past the post system to the Alternative Vote (AV) system for Westminister elections. Whilst we believe that FPTP is a thoroughly undemocratic way of electing members of parliament. AV is no better and actually can be far worse. It will make it much harder for any smaller party including ourselves and TUSC to win any seats, the only real beneficiaries will be the Liberal Democrats who even with their unpopularity at the moment would come out with around 20 extra MP's under the AV system.

Socialists say no to AV, you can read further information about Socialists and the AV Referendum here