Saturday, 17 December 2011

Tories speak for the rich - not for us

The following is taken from the socialist issue 697

 

* No to austerity

* Step up national coordinated strike action in January

* Build a new mass workers' party

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defending the City

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Labour's response

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poll results

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ireland

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Friday, 16 December 2011

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

    Name the day for the next coordinated strike in January

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

    We immediately need to:

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

    Monday, 12 December 2011

    Fighting the cuts after N30

    RCT Socialist Update no. 38

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

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

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

    The meeting is at
    Tuesday 13th 7pm

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

    Sunday, 11 December 2011

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

    The following is taken from the socialist issue 697

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Build the unions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More attacks

     

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

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

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

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

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

    More misery

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

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

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

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

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

    Further action

     

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

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

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

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

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

    No to ALL cuts

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Only the start

     

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

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


    Splits on the horizon?

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Monday, 5 December 2011

    RCT Socialist Update no. 37


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

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

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

    Come along to the meeting
    Tuesday 7pm
    Pontypridd Musuem