Thursday, 30 June 2011

As the cuts bite, millions ask: 'Does it have to be like this?'

This article, written by Peter Taaffe, General Secretary of the Socialist Party is taken from the Socialist Party website

"The protesters in Athens can riot all they want, but they cannot alter the fundamental economic fact of their country - it is busted, mainly because it has been consuming more than it produces for many years. Even a socialist revolution... would not change that reality." (Sean O'Grady, economics editor of the Independent)

Mass general strike action by millions of workers is synonymous with riots for capitalist commentators (in reality, a minority of anarchists and youth 'rioted' and they were condemned by the bulk of strikers).

But the message is unmistakable, trumpeted from thousands of media outlets - Thatcher might have retired but her mantra "there is no alternative" retains its full force today for the bosses and their hirelings. Could it really be the case that the catastrophic nightmare scenario confronting the Greek workers, with a similar fate awaiting their Portuguese, Spanish, British and Irish cousins, is the only alternative?

Certainly, capitalism has already made it abundantly clear, through the most devastating economic crisis in living memory, that if this system is maintained a prolonged nightmare is indeed the likely future for working people.

We have already paid a colossal price for the failings of the system, as even the pillars of capitalism like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have admitted. In 2008 alone $50 trillion was lost in devalued assets, lost production, the elimination of private wealth, etc. This figure is the equivalent of the total production of goods and services in one year for the whole of the world!

Here, the economy, according to Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, is working at 4% below the level reached before the onset of this economic crisis. At least two million workers have been thrown out of their homes in the US and thousands in Britain have shared a similar fate.

Precarious survival

 

Consequently, experts of capitalism are now compelled to admit that the dream of the 'property owning democracy', sold to us by Ronald Reagan, former right wing US President, and shared by Margaret Thatcher when they were in power in the 1980s, lies in ruins.

Millions of young people will never own their own house, nor will they be able to afford the massive hike in rents which flows from the Con-Dem government's slashing of housing benefit. Already, many young people in Spain and Italy are forced to remain in their parents' houses until well into their 30s.

At the same time, there are at least 200 million unemployed throughout the world - 70 million of them young people, of whom one million are in Britain. Another 1.5 billion worldwide are in so-called 'precarious' employment. They inhabit a twilight world between having some kind of part-time or casual position and the pit of despair of having no job.

'Commissar' George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has attempted to perpetrate the fraud that his government has "grown" 400,000 jobs in the last year - like some super-efficient member of the Gardeners' World team on TV! In reality, these are what US workers call 'survival' jobs, something you take until a more permanent paid position comes along. Tragically, however, these future permanent and better-paid jobs are a chimera. In Merthyr Tydfil there are 32.7 unemployed workers for every vacancy.

Capitalist experts like Roger Bootle, the managing director of the Capital Economics think tank, now say it is too optimistic to compare the present and future economic prospects of capitalism, both in Britain and worldwide, with the dreaded 1930s Great Depression. For the current economic situation there is a greater comparison, he argues, with the long drawn-out depression of the late 19th century!

Broken system 

 

Over 1,000 council workers, striking Medirest cleaners and others marched through Southampton on 13 June in a powerful show of solidarity against vicious council cuts and the scandalous consequence of the private sector in the NHS , photo Paul Mattsson
Over 1,000 council workers, striking Medirest cleaners and others marched through Southampton on 13 June in a powerful show of solidarity against vicious council cuts and the scandalous consequence of the private sector in the NHS , photo Paul Mattsson 

The much vaunted economic recovery is largely in the bank balances of the bosses. The mass of the people face a jobless and joyless economic landscape. Moreover, at least one billion people go to bed hungry each night as a consequence of the failure of this system. Capitalism, which puts the production of profit for the few, the millionaire and billionaire capitalist owners of industry and the resources of society, before the social needs of the majority, the multi-billion poor and working class throughout the world.

Oxfam characterises the present system of food production as "broken". It estimates that this, together with the shameful capitalist speculation on future food prices, will lead to a doubling of basic foodstuff prices in 20 years. This is a horrible prospect for the poor who already spend 80% of their income on food.

Oxfam's executive director angrily stated: "For too long governments have put the interests of big business and powerful elites above the interests of the seven billion of us who produce and consume food." The world is capable of producing enough food to sustain the world's population and yet one sixth goes hungry.

Colossal developments in science and technology have taken place and yet the lust for profit - the engine of the system - means greater and greater environmental collapse, nuclear disasters like that in Japan and the massive alienation of the young from the workings and the 'morality' of the system.

Mass unemployment and inequality widening to Grand Canyon proportions - with one flat in central London sold for £164 million - alongside colossal waste; these are the hallmarks of 'modern' capitalism.

And yet commentators like Sean O'Grady believe that the Greek workers must suffer further agonies to maintain this system. On top of decades of austerity they must now accept massive attacks, including wholesale privatisation.

These measures are being compared, even by the capitalist press, to the brutal Treaty of Versailles imposed on Germany by the victorious Allies at the end of World War One, which ultimately led to revolutionary explosions. These modern 'reparations' have been correctly and ferociously resisted by the Greek workers.

The "socialist revolution" cynically derided by O'Grady has not yet happened in Greece for one main overriding reason: the absence of a mass guiding organisation that can draw all the threads of the titanic struggles of the Greek workers and youth together around a programme for a new society and help to develop their consciousness. This process could lay the foundations for a socialist, democratic planned economy.

The Greek workers have not yet arrived at this conclusion but they have very good teachers in the form of the advocates of the brutal austerity programmes. The 'Troika', the European Central Bank, the IMF and the European Commission, is 'educating' the Greek working class on the impossibility of even maintaining precarious living standards, never mind improving them in the next period - if the Troika has its way.

The madness of capitalism decrees greater and greater sacrifices in the cause of paying off a debt which the workers did not create. Moreover each loan, allegedly to pay off the debt, only piles up the deficit even further, merely postponing the inevitable default of Greece and its probable exit from the euro, while at the same time inflicting more suffering on the Greek people. This, in turn, could lead to a Lehman Brothers-type meltdown of the European banking system with incalculable consequences.

No solution

 

In Britain, capitalist commentators openly confess the bankruptcy of their system. David Prosser in the Independent writes: "And the solution to our economic woes is... there is no solution." He says that Osborne's 'Plan A' is not working but a "Plan B will... land us in the same place as Plan A". (31/5/2011)

"But there is an alternative, to a brutal capitalist austerity regime and that is more liberal capitalism." This is the refrain of Will Hutton, of the Work Foundation. He is joined by New Labour leader Ed Miliband who recently set the blood racing through the veins of the labour movement with his championing of a "better capitalism".

Miliband was initially seen as a new left alternative to pro-capitalist Blairism by many, particularly the trade union leaders. Yet in this statement he confirms completely the Socialist Party's prognosis made at the time of his election.

We said that he was firmly cast in the mould of the previous New Labour regime. His call for a "better capitalism" endorses the elimination of Labour's famous Clause Four, Part Four in 1995 which opposed capitalism and envisaged socialism as an aim.

Notwithstanding this, is it possible for a more liberal, humane type of capitalism to be constructed today? After all, between 1950 and 1975 capitalism experienced a spectacular boom which allowed some crumbs off the very rich table of the bosses to fall into the laps of the working class who, as a consequence, experienced a real increase in their living standards. This was at a time when Tory governments could proclaim that they stood for 'one nation' and social peace between the classes.

Today, the Tories don't just practice class war, they openly urge it on the bosses, as George Osborne did when he told a bosses' conference to "get stuck in" to reducing workers' trade union rights.

Post-war boom

 

At the end of the post-World War Two boom and in the economic crisis that followed, capitalism discovered that there was no productive outlet for the mass of the profits that had been accumulated. Therefore, the bosses hugely expanded, through fictitious capital in particular, 'financialisation' - the massive domination of the economy by banks and finance.

Outside of China and a few areas in the former neocolonial world, where considerable industrialisation developed, manufacturing industry was replaced by 'services' as a field of investment. This in turn provided the basis for the huge bubbles, particularly in credit and property, which came crashing down in 2007 and whose devastating effects are still with us.

The accumulated debts from this period - of individuals, households, companies and the state - are now like giant leaden boots which hold back and effectively prevent a return to any new 'golden age' of capitalism. It has increasingly dawned on the soothsayers of capitalism that a new prolonged period of economic stagnation is now the most likely scenario facing capitalism.

Cuts

 

Over 200 council workers staged a noisy and colourful protest outside Waltham Forest town hall against cuts, photo Senan
Over 200 council workers staged a noisy and colourful protest outside Waltham Forest town hall against cuts, photo Senan 

But "those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad". In what is already a deep deflationary situation - when demand is already seriously depressed - what do the superintendents of the system, Cameron and Osborne, deem is necessary? A devastating £81 billion worth of cuts over four years which will deepen and aggravate the crisis and ratchet up considerable 'social tension'.

Will Hutton opposes privatisation of some state assets. Nevertheless, like Miliband, he supports the cuts programme but in slow motion. He correctly identifies the disaster of rail privatisation and the lasting damage which has been done. The looting of the state, which is what privatisation amounts to, will undoubtedly do further lasting damage.

But the calls for the government and the bosses to desist find no echo from this quarter. Why is this? It is precisely because of the dilemma which is at the heart of the present crisis: massive accumulated profits - the unpaid labour of the working classes - for which there is no productive outlet.

Manufacturing industry now barely accounts for 12% of the British economy today and therefore does not offer a route out of this dilemma. It is this factor which is driving the capitalists in Britain and internationally - witness the privatisation programmes in Greece, Spain and Portugal - to lust after state assets which they hope to buy on the cheap.

The fact that this will wreck the state sector, denationalise the NHS, sacrifice accumulated experience, further undermine the infrastructure and not least add to the army of unemployed is incidental to them. What counts is satisfying what Karl Marx called "the werewolf" craving for greater and greater profits.

The same applies to another central plank of the 'liberal' wing of capitalism: the narrowing of differentials and opposition to inequality. Yet inequality is woven into the very fabric of capitalism itself. In the relationship between the capitalist and worker, the foundation of the system, the capitalists only pay a portion of the value created by the labour of the working class in the form of wages. 'Profits' are the unpaid labour of the working class. From this relationship springs the inequality that pervades all aspects of capitalist society.

The Socialist, of course, applauds and supports all attempts to narrow the gap to give greater concessions to the working class but the only way ultimately to abolish the gap is by eliminating capitalism itself.

This poses the need for a democratic, socialist plan of production in place of the chaos of capitalism. Central should be the demand for the public ownership and democratic workers' control of the big monopolies - including the banks - which should make possible the real planned organisation of society.

Through a mass organisation that systematically links the failures of capitalism to the devastating effect on working people in Britain and throughout the world, such a programme could be enormously popularised and become meaningful to millions aspiring to a real alternative to the system.

Therefore, in the mighty battles which face us, starting with the 30 June public sector strikes, a real alternative should be spelt out in the meetings and demonstrations taking place around these events. All cuts must be opposed. We must resist the slashing of pensions and benefits.

When the Con-Dem government demands how this will be paid for, our answer should be that of the PCS trade union: collect the £120 billion in unpaid tax from the rich! Even this measure can only be really implemented by nationalising all the banks under democratic workers' control and management. This would be a step towards taking over the commanding heights of the economy.

Socialism

 

That is an alternative to capitalism. It is socialism, the planned use of all the resources of society for the benefit of all, which offers a way out of the present capitalist morass. This is not based on the model of the old authoritarian regimes of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union which where dominated by a privileged caste of bureaucrats, albeit with a progressive planned economy.

We stand for international socialism, but one that involves mass participation in the control and running of industry and society. The next period will show the immense potential power of the working class. Notwithstanding the cynics who seek to reconcile working people to wasteful and destructive capitalism, we offer a new vista of socialism.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Wide support for June 30th strike action

But Welsh Labour leaders refuse to support public sector strikes

750,000 workers will be taking action on Thursday to defend pensions and oppose the cuts. Millions of workers not yet taking action will be supporting those on strike and millions more working class people support the strike.

While New labour in London have come out in opposition to the June 30th strike by public sector workers, Welsh Labour is sitting on the fence, expressing “concern” about the government’s pension cuts but refusing to support the strike of 750,000 civil servants and teachers.

Ed Balls, Labour’s shadow chancellor tried to undermine the strike by calling for the unions concerned not to take action. Labour leader, Ed Miliband has joined in the chorus of media opposition to the strike. This is in stark contrast to the wide support for the action from working class and middle class people.

In an exchange in the Welsh Assembly last week Jane Hutt the Labour Minister for Business and Budget refused to support the strike despite being challenged to do so by Leanne Wood the Plaid left assembly member. She side-stepped the issue by indicating concern over cuts in pension but did not support the strike to defend them.

The Assembly’s record reads:

"Leanne Wood: Further to the point made earlier by Mick Antoniw, next week’s strike will have a major impact on the running of public services in Wales, including the running of this place. Ed Balls has come out clearly against the trade unions, advising workers not to strike next week. Can we have a statement from the Government indicating its position on this strike? Specifically, I would like to know whether the Government is going to stand up for Welsh public sector workers in their attempts to defend their pensions, or whether it intends to support Ed Balls’s view…

"Jane Hutt: I think that it is clear form my response to the Member for Pontypridd that we are concerned about the impact of the Government’s public sector pension proposals. Around 300,000 people work in the public sector in Wales—approximately 24 per cent of the workforce—and women are going to be hit particularly hard. It is quite clear that reforms of this kind should be negotiated with trade unions to ensure that employees are treated fairly and equitably with full protection for accrued rights."

No doubt Welsh Labour politicians will ask to speak at the rallies of thousands of workers on strike next Thursday, but will they actually support the strike? Trade unionists organising the rallies would be justified in asking for unequivocal statements from these politicians that they support the strike whose rallies they are speaking at. Sitting on the fence will simply not do to striking workers.

Apologists to Welsh Labour claim there is “clear red water” between Welsh Labour and New Labour. But this seems to amount to the fact that Welsh Labour has not actually publicly opposed the strike on June 30th while Ed Miliband and Ed Balls New Labour in Westminster have spoken out against the strike. It appears that that is the best we can hope for from Welsh Labour.

And as an interesting side issue the Socialist Workers Party in Wales appears to continue in its uncritical support for Labour. The latest issue of Socialist Worker reports that “Labour has joined in the criticism of the unions” without comment. But a prominent SWP member recently gushed praise on Jane Hutt, thanking her for “protecting the people of Wales from the worst cuts of the Con Dem government”. Jane Hutt, as Minister for Budget and Assembly Business, passed a budget cutting £1.9 billion from the Welsh NHS.

National Forum of the United Left Alliance on 25 June

This article is taken from the CWI website socialistworld.net. The article is written by Joe Higgins Socialist Party member of the Irish Parliament about the developments of the United Left Alliance in which the Socialist Party participates

The National Forum of the United Left Alliance, 25 June 2011, will offer an opportunity to put the launch of the Alliance into perspective and to discuss its further development.
 
All over Europe, there is a huge vacuum in political life, more particularly on the Left. That vacuum has been left by the inexorable move to the right and into the camp of market capitalism of all the Social Democratic and Labour parties. While the leadership of those parties had for a whole historical period seen themselves as just another arm of the establishment and played such a role in the many governments in which they participated, there was often a strong Left within, which fought for a Left programme and to develop those parties into real fighting organisations of the working class. That day is gone however.

With the collapse of the Stalinist regimes around twenty years ago and the worldwide triumphalist propaganda that accompanied this in the capitalist media, these parties have moved fully into the camp of the capitalist class and dropped all pretence of any allegiance to socialism. The active workers and young people who genuinely fought for a socialist programme in these parties in previous periods are no longer there.

The evolution of the British Labour Party to the point where it was as right-wing in economic policy as Margaret Thatcher and could launch the criminal invasion of Iraq is only one among many striking examples. Others are the Greek, Spanish and Portuguese Socialist Parties which are currently inflicting savage austerity on working people, the unemployed, the youth and the poor at the behest of the EU / IMF as dictated by the financial markets representing Europe’s main banks and powerful speculators.

The huge vacuum on the Left as a result of these developments poses a major task for the socialists of the present day. New mass parties of the working class committed to a socialist programme have to be built. And it is to meet this critical responsibility that the United Left Alliance has been launched.

The ULA has already taken important steps. The agreement of a principled Left programme on which the General Election was fought was crucial. The programme states that there is no sustainable solution to the economic and social problems of society on the basis of capitalism and that is a key foundation on which to build. The gains made in the election fighting on this programme and on the campaigning record of the activists of the organisations and individuals making up the Alliance, are a firm foundation on which to build.

It is inevitable that there has been somewhat of a pause in the political momentum since the election. There is a certain wait and see approach by ordinary people in regard to the Fine Gael / Labour government.

Although there were no great illusions in these parties, there has been, nevertheless, a certain hope that the new government could only be better than the Fianna Fail / Green disaster and that things might change. Any such hopes are being dispelled by the day.

The shape of the struggles to come is taking outline. The attack on the lowest paid workers will lead to resistance. The imposition of new stealth taxes next year such as water charges, a home tax or household utility charge will evoke not just opposition but active campaign of resistance through Boycott / Non Payment campaign.

The United Left Alliance can come into its own through being central in launching these campaigns. The public representatives of the Alliance can use their public platforms to assist build the campaigns and to wage powerful media campaigns to take the fight into the heart of the establishment. They and the other activists must be central to constructing powerful, active campaigns of worker and people power to halt the austerity juggernaut while all the time arguing for a socialist alternative. It is through these struggles that the Alliance will be strengthened and a basis laid for further gains, all of which is part of the process of building a new powerful party of the Left.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Local politicians think we don’t care....


...but really we just don’t care for them!

The turnout for the recent Welsh Assembly elections were down from the elections four years ago. All the politicians in Rhonndda Cynon Taf seem to think its because we don’t care! How wrong could they be?
The reality of the situation is that the turnout was down because we had no real choice to make in the elections, the four main parties in Wales have become virtually indistiguishable from each other, all offering an array of cuts for us to choose from. The only choice we were given was who would weild the axe that makes the cuts, but most people don’t want the cuts in the first place.
The flipside of the coin is that on March 26th of this year over 700,000 people marched through central London (including hundreds if not thousands from RCT) in opposition to the cuts, yet this has recieved very little media attention, instead the politicians blissfully ignore this and simply pretend we don’t care, but really we  ust don’t care for them or  their cuts!
Now on the 30th of June 100,000s of workers will take strike action over the governments plans to attack their pensions and this will include many workers throughout Rhondda Cynon Taff.
Members of the National Union of Teachers, University and College Union, Public and Comercial Services union amonsgt others will be taking strike action to defend their pensions..
It is clear that we all need to fight back now to defend our future. We won’t get any help from the council thats for sure. The council claim that they are against the cuts and want to sheild them from us, but then they pushed through savage cuts to the wages of the 10,000 strong workforce and still have a surplus of £2 million!
Hardly fighting the cuts!
“There is a real choice for Labour councillors to make in RCT either they are against the cuts or not, if they are against the cuts then don’t implement them. Set a budget based on the needs of people and we will fight alongside you, if you don’t we will fight against you!”
Glyn Matthews, Welsh Assembly candidate for TUSC

It is clear that we can not rely on any of the main parties in Wales to defend us from the cuts. The council had a real choice, they could have refused to implement the cuts and fought against the con-dem government. Instead they made savage cuts to council workers’ living standards and raised the council tax whilst they were at it!
NHS
It seems that nothing is safe in the hands of politicians now. The Welsh Assembly government who claim to be protecting us from the effects of the cuts have committed themselves to making £1.9 billion worth of cuts to the funding of the NHS.
There are no two ways about it, this will mean massive cuts in the service provision and cuts in jobs, pay and conditions for those who work for the NHS.
Last time around when the Labour administration in Cardiff tried to re-organise the NHS they proposed to ‘reorganise’ the Prince Charles and Royal Glamorgan hospitals, which effectively meant closing down half of each hospital!
At the time Socialist Party members campaigned against the ‘reorganisation’ and eventually the proposals were dropped.
Already we have received a great response from our regular campaign stalls in Taff Street, but we need more people to get involved with the campaign.


Podcast: Chris Baugh, PCS Assistant General Secretary speaks at Socialist Party meeting

Chris Baugh PCS (Civil Service Trade Union) Assistant General Secretary and Socialist Party member, speaks at a South East Wales district Socialist Party meeting 3 days before the strike action over pensions on June 30th

Part 1




Part 2

Monday, 27 June 2011

Not enough cash in the elderly to bother


A local care home, Ty Gwynno is facing the threat of closure along with other care homes run by Southern Cross which will leave the elderly residents with no home!
The reasons behind this are simple, taking care of the elderly doesn’t make as much money as they thought and these privatised care homes are putting the lives of people in serious jeopardy in their serious pursuit of profits at our expense.
At the same time as this Veolia Transport are to cut several bus routes in RCT which includes the services  run through Graig, to Penycoedcae and the bus service to the Royal Glamorgan Hospital. Once again making the most vulnerable pay the price because the routes are not profitable.
Both these questions beg the question, why are these public services in the hands of these vultures who will only run them if it makes them a tidy profit

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Video: National Shop Stewards Network conference

At the recent conference of the National Shop Stewards Network conference, grassroots trade union activists discussed how the trade unionists can fight back against the the assualt of cuts from the ConDem government. Socialist Party members have produced a video of footage from the conference an interviews with leading trade union figures. The video is below.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Coleg Morgannwg: Victory over victimisation

UCU Wales president wins unconditional victory against anti-union employers

Guy Stoate speaking at the UCU strike

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at Coleg Morgannwg announced today that college management have withdrawn disciplinary charges against Morgannwg lecturer and UCU Cymru president Guy Stoate. Guy
had been accused of "bullying" for calling a worker who crossed a picket line in March a scab. Management have also backed down from threats to punish trade unionists at the college who took action supporting Guy.

A spontaneous walkout of 70 of the college's lecturers and preparations for industrial action against college management were reinforced by a pledge of assistance from the UCU's national congress, the solidarity of fellow trade unionists and hundreds messages of support from students and workers across the UK. UCU Cymru's full-time employees also stood strong, refusing to repudiate support for Guy when college management demanded it. Coleg Morgannwg management were forced to retreat when the scale of the forces opposing them became apparent.

UCU members at the college can now focus their attention on the immediate tasks facing workers in further education in Wales: preparations for the June 30th strike against attacks to public sector pensions, a Wales-wide deal protecting education jobs and the fight againts cuts in courses and student support.

Craig Lewis, who represents Wales on the UCU National Executive, said, "The spontaneous action by 70 members of the branch was crucial in showing management that they were in for a fight. Those who took this action should be congratulated. They gave real meaning to the old trade union slogan that 'an injury to one is an injury to all'....The key to stopping victimisation is always unity and solidarity at every level within the union."

by Edmund Schluessel, UCU member (personal capacity)

Friday, 24 June 2011

Preparing for June 30th strike action

 RCT Socialist Update no. 20

As we approach the 30th of June where in all likelihood we will see upto 800,000 public sector workers take co-ordinated strike action against the government's assault of the public sector pensions and in reality the entire cuts agenda. Socialist Party members from RCT will be visiting various pickets lines throughout the day and also attending the rallies being held in both Cardiff and Merthyr, if you are interested in coming along with us to show your support then just get in touch via e-mail at glyn.matthews.rct@gmail.com. Amongst those taking strike action are the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS - the union for civil servants), The National Union of Teachers (NUT), the Univerisity and College Union (UCU - the union of academic staff in colleges and universities) as well as some other unions.

At the rally many young members of the Socialist Party will also be participating in the activities of Youth Fight for Jobs who will also be in attendance to show their support and build for the planned Youth March for Jobs from Merthyr to Cardiff.


In preperation for this members of RCT Socialist Party will be attending a district Socialist Party meeting on Monday in a change to our usual meeting night. The speaker at the meeting will be Chris Baugh Deputy General Secretary of the PCS and Socialist Party member. Come along to the meeting.

Monday 27th June
7.30pm
Cardiff Bus and Social Club, Tudor Street Cardiff.
(only 5 minutes walk from Cardiff Central train station) 

 Also don't forget the Socialist BBQ is this saturday from 3pm onwards

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Con-Dems' pension attack - brutal class warfare must be fought

The following is the editorial of the socialist issue 676

The government is attempting to steal £2.8 billion from public sector pensions in Britain. This is a brutal act of class warfare directed against millions of mainly low-paid workers.

Attempting to prosecute it is a tiny ruling elite, who despise the public sector and those who deliver the vital services that bind our communities together.

Propaganda about public sector "gold-plated" pensions and conditions at the expense of everyone else, especially private sector workers, is the ideological 'justification' for a state-instigated hate campaign against public sector workers.

PCS members have voted for action alongside three education unions on 30 June. These four unions have three quarters of a million members.

This will be the first major coordinated industrial action against the Tory-led coalition's cuts and privatisation programme.

PCS members have voted not just for a day of action nor to only defend pensions but for a programme of discontinuous action which will allow the national union to coordinate action to defend jobs, pay and conditions, which are all under attack now.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka was quoted in the Mirror saying that the campaign "... will be about sustained action. This government will not turn after one or two days. Members have got to be prepared for that".

Strategy 


This strategy will be a significant element in building for mass coordinated industrial action in the autumn.

The National Association of Head Teachers is the latest union to announce it will also ballot its members about striking over pension cuts. Potentially there could be between three and five million workers striking against the coalition cuts in the autumn.

Pensions are the great unifying factor in the public sector. Every single worker will suffer appalling detriment if the government's plans are realised, with women being hit disproportionately by these attacks.


The plans are based on the report by anti-union ex-Labour minister John Hutton, a truly despicable creature, awash with lucrative sponsorships for services rendered to corporate interests.

The civil service has operated on an unwritten contract that job security and reasonable pensions, which are deferred wages, were the trade-off for low wages.

The average civil service pension for full service, excluding the tiny percentage of high earners, is £4,200 a year.

Hard-working public sector workers are the victims, not the cause of the economic crisis. We are now being asked to pay again, with what is effectively a tax on public sector pensions to pay off the deficit caused by the bankers and their system.

Victims, not the cause

 

The proposals will mean members will be expected to double or treble their contributions (the value of an extra day's work a month), work until age 68, and accept cuts of 20-50% in the value of pensions.

Our pensions' value has already been reduced by 15-25% because of the un-agreed re-indexing of pensions and benefits. PCS and other unions have mounted a legal challenge on this.

But the attack is not about dry statistics, it represents a shocking assault on living standards of some of the lowest paid workers in society who are also facing pay freezes, savage assaults on conditions, privatisation and the threat of job losses.

Even the Tories have voiced concern that the changes to contributions will lead to workers simply opting out of the scheme with horrendous implications for the future of pension provision.

This has been cited as part of the reason for Lib Dem treasury minister Danny Alexander's proposal to taper the increase in pension contributions.

Public sector workers now face a life of low pay followed by an impoverished old age, and they will be expected, as taxpayers, to fund the means-tested benefits necessary to support increasing numbers living below the poverty line.

Poverty 

 

The official poverty line is £170 a week, the state pension is £102 a week; reduced occupational pensions will increase the number of pensioners in poverty - currently 2.5 million. 3.5 million pensioners are in fuel poverty.

In Germany pensions are 70% of average earnings, though set to fall. Even in the USA, for 40 years of work, social security provides 40% of previous earnings.

In France, 12% of GDP is spent on pensions, 10% in Germany, but in Britain, a measly 6%.

The net cost of paying public sector pensions in 2009/10 was a little under £4 billion. The cost of providing tax relief to the 1% who earn more than £150,000 is more than twice as much.

The total cost of providing tax relief to all higher rate taxpayers, on their private pensions, is more than five times as much.

There is an all-out campaign to divide public and private sector workers by claiming that pensions for the former are at the expense of the latter. In reality many households are comprised of people working in both sectors; the idea that low paid private sector workers are supportive of the cuts in other family members' pensions is garbage.

Workers won't buy the argument there should be an equality of misery.

Companies took pension 'holidays'

The removal of decent pension provision throughout the private sector was due to the fact that in the 1980s and 1990s companies took pension 'holidays' that left schemes under-funded.

When legislation was introduced to guarantee levels of funding, it increased the rate of pension fund closures as companies were unprepared to fund schemes at shareholders' expense.

The loss of these schemes did not, during a period of comparative economic boom, save jobs, guarantee pay rises or help to avoid financial meltdown in the private sector.

The only beneficiaries were the bosses and shareholders.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka rightly describes current negotiations with Cabinet Minister Francis Maude as a "farce". This is confirmed by Danny Alexander's disgraceful intervention on Friday 17 June, pre-empting negotiations between ministers and unions. Maude wants the unions to go into sector bargaining without any compromise on the core national issues of increased contributions, cuts in the value of schemes and the rise in the working age.

Maude and Alexander clearly aim to sow division by putting the unions at each other's throats by fighting over the distribution of the cuts rather than opposing them outright.

PCS adamant

 

But PCS is adamant that these key principles must be collectively opposed and negotiated on, before sector talks take place.

Already, under the threat of strike action Alexander has announced that workers earning less than £15,000 won't have any increase in contributions. But this must be confirmed in negotiations.

Those earning less than £18,000 will have their contributions capped at 1.5%. But only 4% of PCS members earn less than £15,000 and across the public sector it is 1%.

And these low-paid workers will still suffer the increased retirement age and all the other aspects of the attack.

Workers earning more than £18,000 could have their contributions raised by up to 5%. The increases will be phased in over three years from next April.

This is clearly an attempt to divide the opposition and must be resisted.

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, said the government was "hopelessly mismanaging" the pension issue. But Labour also attempted to increase the pension age in 2005 but was thwarted by the threat of coordinated public sector strike action.

Echoing the shameful Labour line that while the coalition is "cutting too deep and too quickly" cuts are nevertheless 'necessary' and 'inevitable', some union leaders signalled concessions upfront.

The coalition government is now trying to tempt them into an unholy alliance against PCS and other unions by isolating the 'militants' who, according to Alexander "seem hell bent on premature strike action".
Ed Balls too is getting in on the act, saying that by striking the unions are walking into a Tory trap. On the contrary, by striking they are merely defending working people's interests, something Balls and Labour are incapable of.

The position must be unequivocal - no cuts or privatisation. Accepting the need for cuts is the road to division and defeat.

On pensions, we are facing organised theft on a huge scale by a government of millionaires with no mandate - economic terrorism against the vast majority waged to increase the obscene wealth of a tiny minority who place profit before people.

We face a defining battle for our movement. Real leadership is required, based on a strategy of no cuts, and no concessions to pension robbery.

We must build the kind of widespread industrial action capable of defeating and bringing down this government.

  • For a newly-qualified teacher who goes into the profession at 23, doesn't take any promotions and retires at 65 on UPS3, the figures suggest that the government's best offer cuts his/her pension by 40%. Their worst offer cuts it by 52%!

  • The average lecturer faces an increase of around £90 a month in exchange for reduced benefits.

    • One PCS member in Swansea was staggered to find he would lose £160,000 under the new arrangements. This is a typical, not extreme, example.

    Video: The Cuban Revolution

    At a recent Socialist Party Wales day school. Robin Clapp the secretary of the South West region of the Socialist Party introduced a discussion of the Cuban Revolution in order for us to learn from it the vital lessons for today.

    Below we post an audio file of that discussion, at the end of the video stream simply click on the youtube channel in order to listen to the next parts of the discussion

    Wednesday, 22 June 2011

    A short break in campaigning to relax

    Whilst we are full in the swing of our campaigning work it is time for us to take time out for a short break. So on Saturday June 25th, we will be hosting a socialist BBQ in Pontypridd.

    Don't worry will still be out campaigning as usual but from 3pm onwards it's time to relax. If you are interested in coming along, then contact Glyn on 07931955007 or email glyn.matthews.rct@gmail.com for the details of the venue.

    You can also RSVP to the event via facebook here

    Tuesday, 21 June 2011

    Why I have left Labour and joined the Socialist Party

    I have always been a socialist and also a long time Labour party member. Being the son of a south Wales valley miner, there was nothing else I could possible be, other than a trade unionist. Which I am, and proud of it.

    Being a loyal Labour voter and activist had always been a pride of mine over my many adult years. In the Labour movement I had been a branch secretary, delegate to constituency and had been selected to stand as a Labour councillor. All good stuff, until one more poor decision finally broke the camels back for me.

    I had been loyal to my party, through thick and thin, watching them change from a socialist organisation, to centre left and now maybe even a pale blue Tory party. The Labour party of today seems to ride roughshod over the very people that formed it over 100 years ago. The working class. The trade unionist. The vulnerable.

    As a long term Labour man I have endured the many years of hits made by Labour central government. Cuts, which may not be as bad as those being instigated by the ‘Con-Dem’ government of today, but cuts all the same. Including cuts to the rights of unions and their elected representatives. Even now when Labour claim to be protecting us in Wales against the worst effects of the cuts we see them instigate cuts to the NHS in Wales of nearly three times the amount of that the Tories are in England are proposing.

    But, I mentioned the straw that broke the camels back. The Rhondda Cynon Taf county borough council decided to ignore the pleas of the GMB, led by a labour party member of my ward, to instigate sweeping changes to peoples working practices and contracts. The reasoning seemed to be that this would enable the council to save jobs and services as the budget had been cut, but a good number would be losing allowances of up to £4000 per year.. Did the highest paid officials get a hit? No they didn’t. Did the councillors take a hit? Now, you are having a laugh. No! They proposed and accepted a pay rise. Only non labour councillors were against it. Now the Labour council have announced £74m of investment, the sums don’t add up, if they had these millions why couldn’t they afford and keep paying the workforce a decent wage? I can see once again Plaid Cymru taking control of Rhondda Cynon Taf because Labour did not learn the lessons of 1999 and if that happens, the same cuts agenda will continue.

    At the last local elections, I was shocked to find that the Maerdy ward (dubbed Little Moscow) was lost to Plaid. I never thought I would ever see that in my lifetime. If the people of Maerdy made that statement, which ward is next? Maerdy, like the rest of Rhondda Fach and RCT is strongly socialist but feels as I do that ‘Labour isn’t working’. The last time we saw those headlines, Margaret Thatcher swept to power.

    I had been a proud member of the Labour party, and was looking forward to being elected as a councillor. I decided, due to the courage of my convictions, to not accept a nomination and simply walked away.

    I am a socialist first and foremost.

    But what of trade unionism? I am a member of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS). They are not affiliated to any party but at our recent AGM, agreed by a huge majority to support suitable candidates who oppose the wide-scale cuts, of whatever political bias. It is of no coincidence that some high profile PCS NEC members are also members of the Socialist Party.

    I have explained part of the reasons why I have changed my allegiance, however difficult it was. There are, however, many more examples.

    I marched in Pontypridd against cuts, aimed mainly at the local council. I marched in London against the cuts, aimed at the Whitehall government. I will be proud to march again as an individual with a conscience, whether as a member of the Socialist Party or as a trade union member but more importantly as that individual. But I won’t be alone. I will be standing shoulder to shoulder with whoever believes in the same ideals as I do.

    I am a trade unionist and proud of it.

    I have joined the Socialist Party because of what I believe in, Socialism. That will not change, unfortunately Labour has. I, like many others have been let down by Labour at every level. It is only a matter of time until the word will get out that our party, the Socialist party, I believe, speaks for the common man and woman. We need to organise but we need to communicate at many levels.

    I am a socialist and a trade unionist. It is in my blood.
     
    by Cliff Jones, RCT Socialist Party