Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Socialism in the 21st Century

RCT Socialist Update no. 32

Capitalism is in crisis, whilst the financial systems around the world a on the brink of collapse and every effort is made to save them by making ordinary people pay the price by slashing public services, education, pensions and benefits. It is more and more clear that capitalism isn't working. Not only is in not working but working class people around the world are the ones paying the price, whilst the rich carry on as normal.

For us to maintain public services and education, along with everything else we need to rid ourselves of the capitalist economy and replace it with socialism, the only system which can provide us all with decent living standards and end the dictatorship of the markets. The question on most peoples minds though is what would be different with socialism and how can we achieve it? You can also find out more here http://socialism.org.uk/

This Thursday Hannah Sell the deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party and author of 'Socialism in the 21st Century' will be speaking on these every topics and much more. Come along to the meeting to find out more about what socialism is, and how we can fight to stop the cutbacks we all face. There will be a discussion after Hannah speaks so you can ask any questions you may have.

Come along to the meeting
Thursday 7pm
Koko Gorrilaz, Cardiff  (5 mins walk from Cathays train station)
If you are unsure where it is, give me a call on 07931955007 and I can meet you at Cathays train station.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Video: NSSN lobby of the TUC

Below is a video of the recent Lobby of the TUC organised by the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) calling for a public sector general strike only days before several major trade unions announced ballots for strike action.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

30 November - the fight of all our lives

The following is the editorial of the socialist issue 686

The Financial Times, by replicating the model of government borrowing used by the Office for Budget Responsibility, suggests the structural deficit in 2011-12 is £12 billion higher than thought, a rise of 25%. To paraphrase the Verve: "The cuts don't work; they just make it worse".

Most people's experience and instinct tells them that government austerity measures are having a negative impact - be they the one million young people out of work, the one million women out of work, or the 50% of young black people out of work.

Those suffering cuts to benefits and much-needed services, the 10% of private sector renters who couldn't pay their rent on time this month, or those who face the threat of huge attacks on their pensions will also be clear that austerity measures are making things worse.

That is why the votes for ballots for strike action at this month's Trade Union Congress (TUC) are to be welcomed by every section of the working class, and by the middle class who are increasingly affected by the cuts.

The Conservative Party's trade union envoy, Richard Balfe, derided the ballot announcements as "nothing exceptional". While government ministers desperately attempt to play the plans down, it is clear that Wednesday 30 November could potentially be the biggest day of strike action in British history, at least in terms of the number of strikers, and bigger than any individual day of the mighty 1926 general strike.

This massive strike of up to four million workers could also be joined by tens of thousands of students in solidarity, and in protest at the vicious cuts to education combined with rising youth unemployment.

Cabinet minister Francis Maude, Tory education minister Michael Gove and other Con-Dem politicians did their utmost to undermine public support for the strike by 750,000 civil service and education workers on 30 June. But they failed.

Immediately after the 30 June strike polls showed opinion was evenly divided between those who supported the action and those who opposed it. Since then it has become increasingly clear that these are not short-term cuts and that everyone, apart from the super-rich will suffer.

Cabinet minister Sayeeda Warsi wrote in the Daily Star that "across Britain families are tightening belts... These are the people who will suffer the consequences of this strike action."

But these are the people who are suffering the consequences of government cuts and those carried out at local level by Tory, Liberal and Labour-led councils. And it is many of these people who will be on strike, including firefighters, hospital and ambulance workers, teachers and lecturers and school and college support staff, care workers, meals-on-wheels staff, prison officers, tax collectors and refuse collectors, street cleaners, cemetery workers and police support staff. There will be few families without at least one striker in their number.

The unions, including NUT, PCS, UCU, ATL, who were out on 30 June, and FBU, Unison, GMB, Unite, NIPSA, Prospect, NASUWT, NAHT, UCAC, and EIS have agreed to coordinate action around pensions. The government plans would see millions of public sector workers pay higher contributions, work longer and get less.

Warsi parroted the government's line from June in defence of the cuts: "The terms proposed are still great pension schemes, far better than almost anything in the private sector."

At the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) rally on the eve of the TUC, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka explained that this was not a battle between public and private. "Low-paid private sector workers are exploited by shareholders and executives, not by fellow low-paid workers in the public sector."

A PCS press release said: "While this is a campaign of public sector unions, we are clear that we are not just fighting for our own members. We fundamentally reject the calls to equalise the misery, we want fair pensions for all, public and private alike."

As NSSN chair Rob Williams said: "Now the date has been named, trade unionists up and down the country will be pressuring their union leaderships to make sure that they're out on that day, and building for the action among their members in order to strike a devastating blow to this government's plans to make us pay for the fallout of a crisis of their system."

Fight all cuts

But the 30 November strike is also a mandate to build for action in all areas where working class people come together - in workplaces, in local campaigns and groups, in the local communities and on estates.

It must be made clear to young people in the schools, colleges and universities, and to those one million who are without work, education and training, that their place is in the labour movement and that solidarity with striking workers is in all of our interests.

The ballots will be on the issue of pensions but every effort must be made by trade unionists and campaigners to make it clear that this strike will form a crucial step in the battle against all cuts. Discussions and debates on a positive programme of demands for the anti-cuts and labour movement - as outlined in the previous issue of the Socialist - must be held.

The question of sharing out the work to create jobs without loss of pay; of investment in the creation of socially useful jobs, including of house-building and renovation, which would also address the problems of homelessness and overcrowding; of green jobs; and of nationalisation of the banks and big corporations must be raised and debated. In this way it can be made clear that success in this struggle will be of benefit to all.

Ed Miliband's speech at the TUC showed that he is definitely a one-trick pony. He repeated almost word for word his condemnation of June's strike: "While negotiations were going on, I do believe it was a mistake for strikes to happen. I continue to believe that. But what we need now is meaningful negotiation to prevent further confrontation over the autumn."

It is little wonder that only half of Labour voters can even imagine Miliband as prime minister. No party in parliament represents workers. Never has the need for the trade unions to take steps to build a new mass workers' party been more urgent.
At the TUC, PCS president Janice Godrich and others pointed out that the government is refusing to negotiate on the key issues. However it cannot be completely ruled out that the government may 'chuck another U-ey' and try to side-step the strike as it becomes clear how much momentum is building.

There may be attempts to divide the united action by building on hints made previously that the government may offer crumbs to the lowest paid. But small concessions, while welcome to workers who will benefit from them, must not deter the trade union leaders from continuing to build united action for 30 November and beyond.

The government and the bosses should fear this strike. The organised working class, in united action, will make the 'feral overclass' quake like nothing else can. This action will whet the appetites of millions of workers and youth to not just show their strength, but to change their conditions completely. In this battle ideas - increasingly including socialist ideas - will come to the fore.

On Tuesday 29 November George Osborne will give his autumn statement, undoubtedly arguing once again that ordinary people must pay, pay and pay again for the crisis. All our energy must be directed to making sure his words are drowned out by the roar of the working class in action on the following day.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

We beat the poll tax, lessons for today

RCT Socialist Update no. 31

Working class people are currently facing the biggest assault on our living standards since the 1930's. The ConDem government are intend on taking us all on at the same time, be it jobs, services, pensions or benefits we are all under attack. Whilst on the surface it paints a very bleak and real danger to us all the tory led government have shown they are not willing to learn from their own mistakes.
Two decades ago the tories made the mistake of taking on the entire working class together when they introduced the poll tax, and completely unfair tax which meant the rich were expected to only pay the small amount as the poorest people in society. But by taking us all on at the same time, working class people were united in their resitance and through local anti-poll tax groups organised a campaign where 18 million people refused to pay the tax and forced the government to repeal the tax and brought down Thatcher.

Whilst the situation today is not the same as it was then there are similiarites, whith local anti-cuts groups springing up all around the country in a similiar fashion to those past anti poll tax unions it is important for us as socialists to draw the lessons from the mass campaign of the past to ensure we can stop the cuts today.

We will be discussing this very issue at our weekly branch meeting. Come along and join the discussion, in the meantime, you can read this short article which gives some of the background but more crucially the relevance for today.http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/polltax/

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

Sunday, 11 September 2011

What role does the Socialist Party play?

RCT Socialist Update no. 31

In the last six months alone we have seen mass student demonstrations, the biggest ever trade union organised demonstration, revolutions across the middle east, mass movements throughout Europe emerge, mass movements in the United States. The crisis of Murchdochgate, the crisis of bankers bonus' and MP's expenses and a huge and ever growing list of austerity measures in Britain, Europe and the whole world.

The Socialist Party and our sister parties around the world have participated and led these movements, but it also rasies some really important questions, what is our role? What function should we play, and as a revolutionary party how do we operarate. We will be discussing all of these issues at our next weekly branch meeting. You can read this short online pamphlet for some background information on the role of the revolutionary party here http://marxism.org.uk/pack/party.html

Come along to the meeting
Wednesday 14th September 7.15pm
Otley Arms, Treforest

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Bring the biggest companies into public ownership

Hannah Sell, deputy General Secretary of the Socialist Party speaking on what one thing needs to change.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Who Broke Britain?

The following is taken from the September edition of Socialism Today issue 151

On Thursday 4 August police shot dead Mark Duggan on the streets of Tottenham. Local outrage at the killing was the spark for what followed in north London but the conflagration – the most severe social disturbances in a generation – spread far and wide across English cities. SARAH SACHS-ELDRIDGE looks at the seven days in August that raise the question, in response to the establishment politician’s moral posturing: who broke Britain anyway?

AUGUST’S EXPLOSIVE EVENTS have exposed the reality of British capitalism: the enormous wealth gap, persistent racism, and the impact of the cuts, particularly on services such as fire-fighters and youth facilities. It has revealed a class society in crisis where all but the very rich are struggling and massive anger, boiling below the surface, can burst out at any time. 

The rot starts with the pampered and corrupt millionaire government and the super-rich. While millions of working- and middle-class people struggle with ever increasing food and fuel bills and shrinking incomes, the richest 1,000 individuals in the UK have amassed a combined wealth of £396 billion. With that they could pay for chancellor George Osborne’s £81 billion of cuts nearly five times over. But the Con-Dems, like their counterparts across the world, are intent to gouge the cost of deficits, resulting from enormous bank bailouts, from working-class communities and families.

Departing for their summer break in July, the Con-Dems faced gathering storm clouds. The Murdochgate scandal has exposed corruption in the police and the big-business press. It leads directly to prime minister David Cameron through his association with former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks, a personal friend and, particularly, Andy Coulson, another ‘friend’ and a former Cameron employee.

Images of furious fires and seemingly out of control crowds – social disturbances on a scale and ferocity unseen for a generation – sent a wave of shock, as well as fear through the country. But these events were not unpredictable. In mid-June many newspapers were talking about a summer of discontent. None had imagined such a sudden and fast-spreading outburst of rage from young people, normally invisible to the general public.

These events have been discussed and commented on in all corners of the world. Many have speculated on the impact on the Olympics, planned for 2012 in the very areas where rage erupted. Symptomatic of their lives, for most youth in the area, the Olympics have brought neither jobs nor the opportunity to partake in the sporting spectacle, given ticket prices and the need for a healthy bank account to even try.

The initial spark was the fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham, north London, on Thursday 4 August and the subsequent cover-up by the so-called Independent Police Complaints Commission. When hundreds protested outside Tottenham police station on the following Saturday their demands for justice were ignored. Frustration spilled over. Buildings were burnt and shops looted.

In Hackney, it was provocative and aggressive police stop-and-search action on 8 August that ignited the explosion of anger. These were complicated events, reflecting a multitude of issues. The characteristics of the outbursts varied from area to area. In Manchester and Birmingham, city centres were the focus. In London, it was areas local to those arrested. The Guardian’s analysis of ministry of justice data from the courts disproves the claims of Tory work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, that ‘outsiders’ and ‘organised gangs’ were largely to blame. Tory attempts to classify all involved as criminals aim to hide the fact that working-class young people have so much to be angry about. 

It was that abundance of flammable material, a generation robbed of its future and treated like criminals, particularly young black people, that led to the rapid spreading of the eruptions of anger across England. This included growing anger over the number of deaths at the hands of the police. More than 300 deaths have taken place over ten years and not one officer has been charged. In Brixton, the hated ‘sus’ laws were a major source of resentment that contributed to the 1981 riots there. 

Today, black people are 26 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched under the provisions of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. That is a further condemnation of the police’s inability to act on the 1999 Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence which confirmed the existence of institutionalised police racism. In 2010, 48% of young black people were unemployed while the rate among white young people was 20%. 

On the scrapheap


BUT, WHILE RACISM was a factor, certainly in the initial flare-up, it was not the major issue behind August’s outbreaks. Footage of stand-offs against the police involving black, white and Asian youth shows young people whose lives are boxed in by poverty and dogged by the police feeling that they could challenge those conditions. The Financial Times quoted a young person from Croydon: "Where are we supposed to go to meet? We just get pushed around wherever we go". He continued: if "they tell me where they want me to go where I can just hang out with my mates without a babysitter, I’ll go there". Now many are facing jail. 

Joblessness is a key factor in this outburst of rage. The Guardian’s analysis backs this up: fewer than 9% of those charged in the special 24-hour courts are in full-time work or study. And August’s unemployment figures show a dramatic increase, with unemployment among women at Thatcher-era levels. On average, 1,200 joined the dole queue every day in July. For young people the outlook is devastating: one million have no jobs, 100,000 have been out of work for more than two years, and 36.7% of 16-17 year-olds are unemployed. Society has cast these young people onto the scrapheap and abandoned them.

Couple this with the looting of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), the skimpy, means-tested payments of up to £30 a week, which at least enabled many 16-18 year-olds to continue in education. A survey by the National Union of Students from 2008 found that around two-thirds of recipients would not be able to continue their studies without it. The Con-Dems’ scant replacement is tokenism. August has also seen the A-level results, with record high grades. What a criminal waste that, on the basis of cuts, 250,000 young people will be chasing 40,000 university places in ‘clearing’. University is increasingly being cut off to all but the rich, with average student debt estimated to be over £50,000 within a few years.

The looting of cheap supermarkets such as Aldi and Tesco for items like nappies and food reflects deep poverty. Clasford Stirling, a youth worker who runs the football club on the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, points out that some young people "didn’t even bother covering their faces. They’re not trying to rob the banks, they’re going to Currys, they’re stealing trainers, they’re that poor that they’re risking going to jail for a flat screen television". 

None of these conditions are new. But normally the frustration is vented within the confines of working-class areas, which can result in drug use and crime.

Hijacking the fightback


ON THE OTHER end of the spectrum, dragged back from their lavish holidays, the Tories have leapt on August’s explosions of anger as an excuse for ramping up repression and stepping up their anti-working class attacks. They hope that pointing the finger of blame at sections of ‘broken Britain’ will permanently undermine the struggle against cuts. Has the establishment politicians’ adage of ‘never letting a serious crisis to go to waste’ ever been more strenuously pursued? 

Despite Osborne’s increasingly pathetic sounding assurances, the economic outlook is grim. As the cuts hit home, support for the Tory/Liberal brutal cuts agenda and confidence in the government’s economic policy is on the slide. On 4-5 August, a YouGov survey for the Sunday Times found that 35% had less confidence in the government’s economic strategy than in February. Over a quarter answered that there was no change, they still had no confidence in the strategy. 

Initially, no one from the government was available to comment on the outpouring of rage on England’s streets. Deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, was the first minister to give up his holiday, but home secretary Theresa May launched the government line on 8 August: "No excuse for thuggery, for looters or violence", she said. TV news provided a terrifying, endless loop of raging fires in Hackney and Croydon as she appeared repeating the mantra. 

May was intermingled with sound bites from Diane Abbott, a so-called Labour left MP, who demanded curfews, with no attempt to explain the conditions that led to the anger or the events that sparked its flare-up on the streets. Savage Con-Dem cuts, sitting atop decades of neo-liberal attacks that have seen wages stagnate and public services privatised, are the underlying factors.

But nothing can take away from the tragedy of the loss of life that has taken place, as well as the ruin of people’s homes and small businesses. The destructive acts that resulted in the deaths of six people must be condemned. Similarly, those that left over 100 people homeless and damaged shops, pubs, clubs and restaurants in 28 town centres. All must be re-housed by local councils, and small businesses compensated by the government immediately.

Forced to recall parliament for the second time this recess, Cameron, as The Economist put it, "aired his old trope of the ‘broken society’ but no new ideas". He talked of "pockets of society that are not just broken but frankly sick", and the causes of the riots as "criminality pure and simple". "Our security fightback must be matched by a social fightback", he said, ripping off the language of anti-cuts campaigners. 

Support for repression?


THE QUESTION IS: will the Tories be successful in their attempt to hijack the ‘fightback’ and turn society against working people generally, and the most excluded and marginalised in particular. In the long run the answer is no. This is a fundamentally weak and unpopular government, facing an economic disaster. But widespread fear and shock led to a sense of insecurity. Hoping to ride this wave, the Tories have raised a variety of repressive measures, including water cannon. While sermonising against violence, Cameron has hypocritically recommended the use of rubber bullets for ‘riots’. Rubber bullets have been used in Northern Ireland since 1969 as a ‘deterrent’. In that time, 17 people including eight children have been killed by them. 

Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), has clashed with the Tories over this. He has written that water cannon are "useless" apart from when aimed at "static crowds". Recent events in England were not organised political actions as those in Egypt earlier this year, which faced water cannon, tear gas and bullets from the regime. And right-wing politicians use the riot label loosely. Last December, Heidi Alexander, Labour MP for Lewisham East, referred to a protest at Lewisham town hall by trade unionists and local campaigners against £20 million of local government cuts as a riot and, disgracefully, riot police were called in by the Labour-led council. 

In the short term, the Tories may find some support for a tough response: 216,180 people have signed the e-petition calling for "convicted London rioters" to lose all benefits. On the other hand, that is less than half of those who marched against cuts in jobs, services and benefits on 26 March, and a third of those who took collective strike action against attacks on public-sector pensions on 30 June. 

The government response on the e-petition website explains how it plans to ramp up its existing attacks on benefits, such as considering "whether further sanctions can be imposed on the benefit entitlements of individuals who receive non-custodial sentences", and "increasing the level of fines which can be deducted from benefit entitlement". The Con-Dems are already in the process of removing housing and disability benefit from tens of thousands of people, threatening major increases in homelessness and spiralling poverty.

They have already agreed to mete out ‘collective punishment’ by evicting the families of anyone charged for ‘riot-related offences’. Tory-controlled Wandsworth council in south west London has already served notice on the mother of an 18-year-old charged with violent disorder and attempting to steal electronic goods.

A YouGov poll, conducted on 10 August, showed that 90% of British adults supported the use of water cannon, 78% were in favour of the use of tear gas, and a third agreed that police should be able to use plastic bullets against rioters. However, given their deep unpopularity, there has been no discernable increase in Tory support in the polls at this stage. Two Sun/YouGov surveys of voting intention on 8-9 August and 17-18 August showed support stubbornly stuck at 36%. 

Not so clear cut


ANGER WAS DIRECTED at Con-Dem politicians who dared to take to the streets. Clegg was booed and heckled in Birmingham. London mayor, Boris Johnson, was unable to answer when asked how young people would get vital job-seeking support when Connexions advice services were shut down. 

Within only a fortnight of the first events there is growing concern about the harsh sentences being handed down to the thousands arrested. Although the Tories deny that they have intervened, the heavy sentences are widely seen as a political response, and that crimes against property are particularly severely punished. Two young men have been given four years for failing to organise a riot – posting Facebook messages to which no-one responded – in their local town centres. This is the same length of sentence given for recent convictions for rape or, in one case, being part of a £10 million heroin supply network. The Socialist Party has called for the setting up of a democratically run inquiry into the riots involving elected representatives of trade unions and community organisations, that could also set the parameters on how the offences are dealt with, with the right to review sentences already imposed.

There has been disagreement among coalition politicians, even within the two parties. While the Tories have been banging the ‘law-and-order’ drum they have insisted that the cuts to the police go ahead. But Johnson, with London elections next year on his mind, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "This is not a time to think about making substantial cuts in police numbers". 

Working-class people in the areas affected have been frustrated by the lack of police presence to defend their homes and livelihoods. Even young people express frustration that the ‘service’ is not available to them when they require protection and help. Fundamentally, the police are a part of the state machine and act in its interest. They are widely hated for that role. We need police accountability through democratic control, with elected committees involving representatives of local people and trade unions. 

While Clegg has generally marched in line with the Tories, some Lib Dems have been uneasy about the sentencing and about the moves to evict families. The Tories appear to be unmoved by their partners’ queasiness. They know, as does the dog on the street, that the Lib Dems are too broken to consider triggering a general election and have no option but to shut up. When asked by The Independent how the Tory right wing would react to Clegg’s proposals to conduct interviews to establish why anger erupted, one Tory minister replied: "Oh they don’t mind all that as long as they know the rioters are going to have their goolies chopped off". 

Filmed amid the fires in Hackney, Abbott asked: "who is going to give jobs to people in these communities?" That’s the question that a lot of people in her borough of Hackney ask, where there were fewer than 500 job vacancies for more than 11,000 claimants. But her question also summed up a key part of the government’s line: placing the blame for unemployment and the problems working-class people face on families and individuals rather than on the millionaire Con-Dems and the rich and powerful people they represent. 

Cameron talked about putting "rocket boosters" under the "clear ambition" to "turn around the lives of the 120,000 most troubled families in the country". This and his other big idea, the ‘Big Society’, are ideological justifications for cutting back on state provision of public services, that families should be responsible for their own welfare and suffer the consequences. He is echoing his guru, Margaret Thatcher, who famously claimed that ‘there is no such thing as society, just individuals and families’. 

Duncan Smith has talked about investment in early years interventions. But the Con-Dems snatched away the baby element of the tax credits, the health in pregnancy grant, and cut back on Sure Start provision. To claim they intend to support poor and vulnerable families is sheer lies and hypocrisy. Instead, they are criminalising a generation of young people, locking up many with no previous record in overcrowded ‘colleges of crime’.

Capitalist values


SEEMINGLY WITHOUT IRONY, Cameron writes in The Daily Express: "There are deep problems in our society that have been growing for a long time: a decline in responsibility, a rise in selfishness, a growing sense that individual rights come before anything else". These are the very qualities that are promoted and respected in the capitalist society he defends.

Just a few minutes walk from Tottenham police station is Tottenham Hotspur football ground at White Hart Lane. Current manager, Harry Redknapp (previously the manager at Portsmouth FC), is a director of a housing company, Pierfront Development. Portsmouth council has a housing waiting list of 2,553 applicants, but this company has been allowed to flout legislation that demands all housing developments include cheaper social housing. Pierfront will pay less than a quarter of the funding for the agreed number of affordable housing units. Even a Lib Dem councillor had to describe it as "simply profit before people’s lives". This is just a small company on a small scale doing what major companies do on a major scale every day.

Even right-wing commentators like Peter Oborne in The Telegraph have condemned the "almost universal culture of selfishness and greed" among the super-rich, including expenses grabbing MPs. But he harks back to the ‘good old days’, saying that "the last two decades have seen a terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite". Of course capitalism, built on the wealth accumulated by slavery, is a brutal, bloody system that has always been based on the private ownership of wealth by the few and massive exploitation. What Oborne is referring to is the decades of neo-liberal policies in which today’s young people have spent all their lives. 

‘Greed is good’ has been the motto. The state provision of services, jobs and utilities has been privatised in the interests of profit, resulting in cuts, insecurity and soaring prices. The share of wealth going to the working class has been slashed with tax concessions for the rich and virtual wage stagnation as trade union rights have been attacked. 

Not only have the super-rich looted wages and public purses, they are hoarding their wealth, finding no profitable outlet for it. Instead of fulfilling their role in investing in production, providing jobs, the capitalists are buying gold, the only safe place for their riches, given the weakness of markets as cuts hit consumer spending.
As Karl Marx first explained, capitalism is an anarchic and chaotic system. In Britain, 2.5 million people have no job while an estimated £60 billion sits in British banks ‘waiting to be invested’ in new businesses, unspent because of ‘weak confidence’. 

Mass civil disobedience


RIOTS, ALTHOUGH A chaotic and inchoate expression of protest, have not changed the world. Some on the left, such as the Socialist Workers Party, have written and spoken about looting "by poor working-class people" being a "deeply political act" (Socialist Worker, 13 August), that the looters were "expropriating the expropriators", effectively redistributing wealth. This makes a mockery of socialist ideas that a mass working-class struggle has the potential to replace the capitalist system with one in which the resources of society are democratically owned and controlled by the working class with a plan to meet the needs of all.

Unfortunately, given the ideological shift to the right by the mass social democratic parties and many trade union leaders over the last two decades, Marx’s ideas are not widely known and understood, especially among Blair’s children and Thatcher’s grandchildren, today’s young generation. The recent explosive events show despair and the absence of understanding the potential power of working-class people to, not just express anger at our conditions but to change them, including bringing down the government.

Most of those who raged against the police and looted shops were not born when the mighty anti-poll tax battle was won at the beginning of the 1990s. That movement, led by the Socialist Party’s predecessor, Militant, was fundamentally based on mass, organised ‘law-breaking’. Under the hated and unfair poll tax, every adult was charged the same rate, massively penalising working-class people. Huge numbers simply could not afford it. But having succeeded in defeating the heroic miners’ strike in 1984-85, Thatcher presumed that she could take on the entire working class at once, threatening brutal repression, prison and bailiffs to anyone who did not pay. But the movement she provoked ultimately removed her from power. 

On the left and right there are claims that the riot at the end of the mass anti-poll tax demonstration in London in March 1990 was the key to the victory. That violence had been triggered when the police launched an all-out attack on the demo. But the movement’s victory was in fact achieved through organising democratic local, regional and national anti-poll tax federations that painstakingly built confidence in the tactic of non-payment. Eighteen million people refused to pay the poll tax on an organised basis. This made it unworkable. Although the tax was brought into law, within a couple of years it was removed from the statute books.

One aspect of the anti-poll tax movement was the organisation of ‘bailiff busting’ teams which, without Twitter or mobile phones, developed phone trees and networks to protect the homes of non-payers from Thatcher’s henchmen – the bailiffs in England and Wales, the sheriff officers in Scotland. Such organised defence of communities, with elected organising committees, provide a useful model for community self-defence.

The big question


IN 2006, CAMERON said: "Understanding the background, the reasons, the causes. It doesn’t mean excusing crime but it will help us tackle it". Needless to say, this approach is being ignored. Comedian Russell Brand, surprisingly wisely, pointed out: "I remember Cameron saying ‘hug a hoodie’ but I haven’t seen him doing it. Why would he? Hoodies don’t vote, they’ve realised it’s pointless, that whoever gets elected will just be a different shade of the ‘we don’t give a toss about you’ party".

The absence of a political voice for the working class has been a weakness of the anti-cuts movement and these events further emphasise that. David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, has put himself around in the aftermath of the riots but neither he nor his party provide any alternative to the Con-Dems. Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman has muttered a little about the effects of the cuts to EMA on young people. They have argued, like Johnson, against police cuts. Fundamentally, however, New Labour supports the slashing of public spending. New Labour’s last chancellor, Alistair Darling, made a pre-general election promise to implement cuts worse than Thatcher’s. Building a new workers’ party is clearly an urgent task.

There was a well-written article on the publicfinances.co.uk website which pointed to many of the contributing factors behind August’s events. Disappointingly, it finished by asking: "The big question is, where to now?" The author was named as ‘Lewisham resident’ Heather Wakefield. Wakefield is also the head of the Local Government Service Group of the UK’s largest public service trade union, Unison, representing over 700,000 of the union’s 1.4 million members. Why isn’t she providing an answer to ‘the big question’. The conditions for further outbreaks of anger remain and a clear response from the trade union movement is required, not just passive commentary.

The August events can be seen, in some ways, as the second call for back-up from the youth to the TUC trade union leadership. In November and December 2010, tens of thousands of school, college and university students protested against education cuts. Breaking the consensus that the cuts were necessary they inspired millions to support them. But they faced demonization and brutal policing, including mass arrests and kettling. Shivering inside a freezing nine-hour police cordon, students asked where the trade unions were, how come they had not supported them and joined the demonstrations? The Socialist Party called on the TUC to organise a mass demo before Christmas to provide the angry young people with a channel for their anger, and link them with the wider struggle against public-sector cuts. This was delayed by five months, until 26 March. Then the summer came. A number of cuts had gone through – particularly for youth services, EMA, etc – and still nothing had been organised to follow up the March demo by the TUC leadership.

The trade unions must reach out to young people – workers, students and the unemployed. This requires a programme around which they can fight. The demands of Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ), with the support of six national trade unions, can be very attractive: reopen and expand youth services; nationalise the banks and use the money to create jobs; government investment in house renovation and building to provide cheap social housing; no cuts in benefits and end lower youth rates. These must be combined with a defence campaign against the heavy-handed sentencing and ramping up of repression.

It is not the case that every young person will be won to such a campaign immediately. And it does not mean that there are not racist, sexist, individualistic and other poisonous ideas among them. Indeed, in the absence of an alternative being provided, in the context of deteriorating living conditions, those reactionary ideas can be nurtured under capitalism, and individual, nihilistic or terroristic tendencies can develop which harm working-class people and do not advance the struggle.

Tariq Jahan, the father of one of the young men killed in Birmingham, has been widely praised for his call for community unity, guarding against a racist backlash. Five thousand attended the rally in an area where people know the cost of ethnic tension. However, it is working-class unity and organised struggle that is required to not only guard against a fracturing of society but also to build a mass movement that takes society out of the hands of the greatest looters, those who ‘break society’, the capitalist class.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Gaddafi regime crumbles

The following is taken from the website of the Committee for a Workers' International. The International socialist organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated.

No to foreign military intervention · Libyan workers, youth and poor must act independently of imperialism

After six long months of bloody, protracted struggle the overthrow of the dictatorial Gaddafi regime was greeted with rejoicing by large numbers of, but by no means all, Libyans. Another autocratic ruler, surrounded by his privileged family and cronies, has been overthrown. If this had been purely the result of struggle by the Libyan working masses it would have been widely acclaimed but the direct involvement of imperialism casts a dark shadow over the revolution’s future. The continuing battles in Tripoli and elsewhere indicate the instability of the current situation in Libya and also how the revolution that began there last February has, in many ways, been thrown off course.

Role of Nato

While many Libyans are celebrating, socialists have to be clear that, unlike the ousting of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, the way in which Gaddafi has been removed means that a victory for the Libyan people was also a success for imperialism. Without NATO acting as the rebels’ air force or the soldiers, weapons, organisation and training that NATO and some other countries like the feudal Qatar autocracy supplied, Tripoli would not have fallen to the rebels in the way that it has. Even the capture of the Bad al-Aziziya compound in central Tripoli was only achieved after a massive NATO aerial bombardment and an assault led by Qatari and other foreign special forces.

Now, despite their fears of exactly which way events in Libya will unfold, the imperialist powers are attempting to present Libya as a success for ‘liberal interventionism’, i.e. their right to intervene in other countries on ‘humanitarian’ or ‘democratic’ grounds. Of course, this was always hypocritical as ‘liberal interventionism’ does not apply to imperialism’s dictatorial friends and allies in Saudi Arabia, Yemen or elsewhere. The NATO powers hope that, after the disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq, they can win justification for further interventions in defence of their own interests.

Despite the involvement of large numbers of Libyans in the fighting and the mass arming of the population, there are not, so far, any signs of Libyan workers, youth and poor establishing their own independent rule over society. In fact, in a manner reminiscent of the collapse of the Stalinist regimes twenty years ago, imperialism has taken advantage of a spontaneous movement that knew what it was against but had no clear programme of its own.

Unfortunately, this overthrow of a dictator has not had the same character as the revolutions in Tunisia or Egypt, or even of the early days of the uprising in Benghazi when popular committees were established and briefly were the power in that city. Tragically, Gaddafi’s ousting was not simply the result of a popular mass movement, like in Tunisia and Egypt, forcing the dictator out. The momentum of the Libyan revolution’s early days was lost and, unlike Tunis or Cairo, Tripoli did not see one mass protest after another and strikes undermining the regime.

This was not simply due to the Gaddafi regime’s brutal repression of the mid-February protests; repression has not immediately stopped the repeated demonstrations in Syria.

The Libyan regime’s brutal reaction was not accidental; Gaddafi and his coterie feared the mass movements which were then developing in North Africa. As we explained in March: “Gaddafi’s first reaction to this year’s dramatic revolutionary events was to side with the dictatorial, corrupt autocrats. Just after Ben Ali fled from Tunisia, Gaddafi told Tunisians that they had ‘suffered a great loss’ because ‘there is none better than Ben Ali to govern’. Perhaps revealing how he viewed his own future, Gaddafi added that he had hoped that Ben Ali would rule ‘for life’.” [‘Stop the bombing – No to foreign intervention!’ 23 March, 2011.]

The Transitional National Council 


Gaddafi, learning from the overthrow of Ben Ali and Mubarak, launched a counter-offensive against Benghazi and other centres of the revolution. These were certainly threatened but could have been defended by mass popular defence alongside a revolutionary appeal to workers, youth and the poor in the rest of Libya. But the self-appointed leadership of the uprising would not do such a thing. Dominated by a combination of defectors from the regime and openly pro-imperialist elements, the Transitional National Council (TNC), pushing aside the initial popular mood against any foreign intervention, looked to the imperialist powers and semi-feudal Arab states for support.

The main imperialist powers seized this opportunity to step in, justifying their intervention on ‘humanitarian’ grounds to save lives. But these same powers adopted a mild approach to the Syrian regime’s repression and maintained a virtual silence on the brutality of their close ally, the Bahraini regime. This simply confirmed that the Libyan intervention was based on a cynical calculation. Some imperialist leaders, like Sarkozy in France, sought to gain advantages for themselves, but their general aims were to establish a more reliable, pro-imperialist regime in Libya, seize a more lucrative share of Libya’s oil and gas wealth and, above all, intervene to seek to control the revolutions sweeping North Africa and the Middle East.

This intervention by the big imperialist powers, mainly the US, Britain and France, changed the situation as they attempted to establish a client opposition leadership. Under the false flag of protecting civilians, their aircraft carried out over 20,000 attacks on more than 4,000 targets in Libya.

NATO’s intervention allowed Gaddafi to rally support against what some Libyans saw as an attempt by the US, Britain, France, and others to regain control over Libya’s assets. Against this, there can be no doubt that widespread illusions were created that NATO was acting in the interests of the anti-Gaddafi revolution, an illusion that the major capitalist powers are now using as they attempt to control developments in Libya and secure the country for further exploitation.

No alternative to Nato’s intervention? 


This is why the idea that the UN decision to intervene and NATO’s actions could be supported was to accept the derailing of the Libyan revolution. The idea that there was ‘no alternative’ to NATO was already disproved in the magnificent Egyptian movement that led to Mubarak’s ousting. The imperialist powers intervened for their own reasons not in the interests of the Libyan working masses and youth. Any failure to explain this as, for example, the small British AWL grouping did when it initially uncritically supported NATO’s role in the fighting in Tripoli, politically disarms the workers’ movement, leaving it unable to warn of imperialism’s intentions. The AWL has consistently supported NATO’s bombing and it now seeks to justify this by claiming the organisation of workers will be “easier” now after Gaddafi’s overthrow, something which it is not at all certain to be the case (see also: The ‘no-fly zone’, the Left and the ‘Third Camp’). In reality this is a rationalisation of their view, shameful for a self-proclaimed left organisation, that the military assault by the imperialist NATO alliance had to be supported as Libyan workers and youth had no chance on their own of defending themselves or defeating Gaddafi.

But what will happen now is not clear. The current situation indicates that there are elements, whether for political or tribal reasons, who are continuing to fight against the TNC. At the same time, there is no real unity amongst the main elements that fought Gaddafi. The population is also becoming heavily armed. This poses the possibility, even if the current battles end, of further fighting in the future, including tribal, national or religious conflicts.

Partly in view of this, we now see, alongside the start of a scramble for contracts, the main imperialist countries stepping up their intervention, including increasing talk of a ‘stabilisation force’.

Diverted revolution 


However, at this time there is undoubtedly some support within Libya for NATO’s actions but this will not last. While obviously NATO has been planning for Gaddafi’s overthrow, including learning from what are now seen as the ‘mistakes’ made in Afghanistan and Iraq after the initial military victories, events will not necessarily go the way the imperialists hope. Although the combination of Libya’s small population and its oil and gas wealth will allow at least some rebuilding and social concessions, they will not automatically resolve all the issues now coming to the surface in Libya including potential regional and tribal tensions. There are also questions over the position of the Berber minority, about 10% of the population, and those who continue to support Gaddafi or, at least, oppose foreign intervention.

The very fluid situation that has now developed is, to a great extent, a result of the way in which the revolution has been diverted from a developing mass movement, with its own organisations, debates and policies, into a purely military struggle under NATO tutelage.

Currently, the self-appointed TNC is attempting, with NATO help, to impose itself on the situation. But there is no guarantee that it can, in reality, do this. The TNC is currently largely a fiction. For a time, it appointed a ‘government’, but that was dissolved after the still unexplained 28 July ‘arrest’ and subsequent killing of Younes, Gaddafi’s former interior minister who became the TNC’s top military commander. Jibril, who is still being presented as the ‘head of government’ has generally been out of the country because “he fears for his own safety in Benghazi” [The Times, London, 23 August, 2011.] If "prime minister" Jibril does not feel safe in Benghazi, up to now the TNC’s main base, it is understandable that the TNC leaders hesitated over when to move to Tripoli.

The TNC itself, as we commented before, was “simply relying on a combination of NATO air power and the masses’ desire for change to secure victory”. [‘Defend the revolution! No to imperialist intervention!’ 30 March, 2011.] The TNC, based in the east, clearly lacked standing in the west, as was shown by the fighters in Misrata who rejected its authority. Whether it can now build its position and, if so, for how long, are open questions.

Alongside a Libyan national consciousness that especially developed over the last decades, many regional, tribal and clan loyalties remain despite the country now being heavily urbanised. Added to that is the position of the Berber minority, who played a crucial role in the battles against Gaddafi’s forces in the south-west and in the advance on Tripoli.

Libya itself is a relatively new creation, having been initially formed by Italy in the 1930s and again, this time under US pressure, in the late 1940s. A decline in the feeling of being ‘Libyan’ alongside a growth of regional and tribal tensions, or the development of fundamentalist Islamic forces, could pose the possibility of a break-up of Libya, even of a Somali or Yemen style development. Tribal tensions could develop as a result of any lengthy fighting if Gaddafi is able to follow the example of one of his heroes, Omar Mukhtar and the armed resistance to the Italian take over and occupation after 1911. However, against this there is the fact that one of the motive forces in the movement against Gaddafi, the young people who reacted against the stifling effect of a corrupt dictatorship, saw themselves as Libyan.

No trust in NATO, build an independent workers’ movement 


For the Libyan masses, especially the youth, workers and poor, this revolution was for an end to oppression and the stifling, corrupt regime, and for higher living standards. But despite any immediate oil-funded concessions and rebuilding, these aims will, in the long run, come into conflict with the reality of the crisis-ridden capitalist economy. A new world recession would hit Libya in the same way as in the 1980s when its gross domestic product collapsed by over 40% as the oil price fell.

But to prevent the danger of a new collapse of the economy and to block the asset stripping of the country, a break with capitalism is required. The TNC is obviously not going to do this; on the contrary it is dominated by pro-capitalist elements.

From the beginning of the anti-Gaddafi uprising we argued: “What have been missing are independent organisations of Libyan workers and youth that could give a clear direction to the revolution in order to win democratic rights, end corruption and secure for the mass of Libyans democratic control over, and benefit from, the country’s resources.” [‘Stop the bombing – No to foreign intervention!’ 23 March, 2011.]

A programme for the Libyan revolution that will genuinely benefit the mass of the population would be based on winning and defending real democratic rights, an end to corruption and privilege, the safeguarding and further development of the social gains made since the discovery of oil, opposition to any form of re-colonisation and for a democratically controlled, publicly-owned economy planned to use the country’s resources for the future benefit of the mass of the people.

This is why Libyan workers and youth should have no illusions in NATO or put any trust in the TNC which is, in essence, tied to imperialism. This tie-up was illustrated in the TNC’s draft Libyan constitution, first published by the British foreign ministry, which declares that “the interests and rights of foreign nationals and companies will be protected”. But neither the TNC nor any other government based on capitalism will be able to meet the aspirations of the population in this period of world economic instability or prevent the development of a new exploitative elite.

The creation of an independent movement of Libyan and migrant workers, poor and youth that could rely on its own action and struggles to implement such a real revolutionary transformation of the country is the only way to thwart the imperialists’ plans, end dictatorship and transform the lives of the mass of the people.

To achieve these goals such a movement would need to defend all democratic rights, be against the privatisation of Libya’s assets, demand the withdrawal of all foreign military forces and oppose all foreign military intervention, demand the democratic election of a Constituent Assembly and, above all, reject participation in any government based on capitalism. Instead it would strive for a government of representatives of the workers and poor based upon democratic structures in the workplaces and communities.

The dangers facing Libya now is that the combination of imperialist domination over the new government and the absence of a movement of the workers and poor leads to the possibility of regionalist, tribal or religious conflicts.

However, as Tunisia and Egypt have shown, the mass overthrow of dictators is not the end of a revolution as the working masses strive to achieve their demands and aspirations. Although developments in Libya have taken a very different course, the demands of the masses have not gone away and in the struggle to win them lies the possible of building a socialist movement that can truly transform the country.

Unlike with Mubarak, Gaddafi’s overthrow has had a mixed response in the rest of the Middle East. Partly this is because he was seen by many as ‘anti-imperialist’ but mainly because of NATO’s role. The contrast between NATO intervening in Libya while doing nothing to stop Israeli attacks on Gaza and being allies of the Saudi and other dictatorships is clear to many. But a workers’ movement in Libya, Tunisia or Egypt that challenged both the old order and imperialism would receive a wide echo, offering the possibility of revolutions that open the way to a socialist future.

Monday, 5 September 2011

An encounter with Crhris Bryant MP

On the 2nd of September Chris Bryant (MP for the Rhondda) was in Tonypandy handing out leaflets on the police cuts. One of his councillors handed me one of these leaflets and I looked on the back of it and noticed it was labour. I turned back around and saw Chris Bryant; I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to confront him about the cuts that have been brutally taking place on the NHS especially in the mental health department. After all, his party (Labour)  voted to cut the NHS budget in Wales!

I told him about my mother’s situation saying that she has had 3 appointments cancelled on her by the mental health clinic and that she has to wait until January for an appointment and that I didn’tt think this is fair on people with mental health illnesses when the government are making all these cuts.

 When I told him this his reply was that they are not making any cuts on the health board and no cuts have been made on the NHS. I asked if they can explain why they are then closing St Tydfil’s psychiatric hospital and cutting out 9 beds at the Royal Glamorgan psychiatric unit and turning people away. I also said that my mum went to a general mental health board meeting in Ystrad sport and leisure centre, and they even said the government was making cuts even the secretary at the mental health clinic said you (labour party/ Welsh government) were making cuts so he cannot be say that he has no responsibilty when his party are the ones implementing these cuts and instead of fighting against them, he denies it is happening!

I asked why it is that the two general hospitals in the area (Royal Glamorgan and Prince Charles) will be merged into one hospital, effectively closing a whole hospital and why it is that the Health Board have announced £100m worth of cuts, if they aren’t making any cuts? Needless to say Chris Bryant was unable to answer these points.

Once he saw us setting up our Socialist Party stall on the cuts to the health service in the area he soon packed up and left he tried to fob me off by saying there was no cuts but with the experience that we encountered with Chris Bryant and the Westminster in my opinion I think he is a liar and a disgrace to say that this wasn’t the case.

by Elizabeth Saint

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Mass action can stop the cuts

The following is taken from the socialist issue 683

The trickle of cuts and sackings in the public sector has turned into a flood and the mood in my workplace has become one of frustration, worry and anger.

Anger at what? "Oh, it's just everything," said a school caretaker at a branch committee of Unison in Waltham Forest recently. We were trying to stick to the item on the agenda, (the lack of a pay offer by the employer) but people kept interrupting to speak on other problems. Pensions, redundancies, cuts to our sick leave entitlement, cuts to our annual leave, cuts to our unsociable hours payments... the list goes on and on.

Trying to stick to the one thing that is making people angry has become increasingly difficult. That is why it is precisely the right time for the TUC to summon its support (which is over six million strong) and give that anger a focus and a direction, namely to generalise the issues and stop the government's austerity programme.

Last year a mini-bus of trade unionists from our area travelled up to the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) lobby of the TUC in Manchester. Then the NSSN demanded a national demo against cuts, as a first step. The giant demonstration on 26 March of over half a million was vindication to all of us who participated in that lobby.

The 26 March protest showed the strength of feeling of opposition to this government and their cuts agenda but we can all say it simply was not enough. Since 26 March the establishment has been rocked by scandals and crisis, there have been plenty of opportunities for the TUC to step forward and give a lead.

After 26 March, a feeling ranging from despair to frustration and anger could almost be tasted in the air.

On 30 June, Unison members looked on enviously as 750,000 teachers and civil service workers took strike action against attacks on pensions.

I think it was only Newsnight presenters and the blinkered rich who were surprised by the explosion of anger on the streets in August. Anyone who works in the public sector or lives in a poor area could have told you that frustration at deteriorating conditions was rising.

We are asking for the TUC to call a 24-hour public sector strike against the cuts. This would put the TUC in the frame as a major progressive force in society.

All those young people who don't even know that it exists could make the link between their generalised outrage and our fury at this rotten and unfair system. It would channel the anger, raise the spirits and unify all the small and large issues bubbling away in our workplaces and our communities. That's why this year, like last year I'll be going on the lobby on 11 September.

I urge all those people who are fighting and campaigning to come too. Right now there is anger about 'everything' and we need 'everyone' to get involved.

Lobby the TUC on 11 September

Rally at Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London NWI - 1.30pm (nearest tubes: Euston, Euston Square)
Speakers include Bob Crow, RMT union general secretary and Mark Serwotka, PCS union general secretary.
Rally followed by short march to lobby the TUC conference at Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1 to call for one-day public sector strike.
For details of transport to the lobby from Wales- phone Rob 07541145108

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Libya: What do socialists say?

RCT Socialist Update no. 30

The fall of the Gaddafi regime has been all of the news, as the National Transitional Council (NTC) is set to take power, backed to the hilt by the major western powers the question for socialists is what will this mean for the Libyan masses, unfortunately the answer to that question is that in the hands of the NTC and that will be on offer is much more of the same.

This week at our weekly branch meeting we will be discussing the recent events in Libya in contrast to those marvelous events in Egypt and ask the question, how can the Libyan masses take power for themselves and brake with the destructive capitalist system and how can the revolution which took place in Egypt be taken forward rather than backwards towards liberation. We will be discussing all of these issues and offering a socialist alternative. You can read some background information on the recent events in Libya here

We will also here a report from some of our members who attended an anti-racist demonstration to counter a demonstration planned by the racist English Defence League and discuss our final plans for the NSSN organised lobby of the TUC on September 11th.

Come along to the meeting.

Wednesday 7th September, 7.15pm
Otley Arms, Treforest