Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Struggle for International Socialism

                RCT Socialist Update no. 43

Worldwide, the capitalist system is dealing misery to ordinary working-class people.

But, also on a worldwide scale, the masses are beginning to fight back against the privileged elites whose system has brought poverty, economic disaster, war and oppression. Greek work
ers have many times brought society to a standstill and revolutionaries in the Middle East and North Africa have toppled dictator after dictator. Latin American is awash with movements seeking to break out of the capitalist system that means misery for the money while a few prosper.

But how can these movements succeed in replacing today's system of exploitation with a more just form of society? How can the masses defeat all those reactionaries who line up on the side of privilege and oppose the movement? Come to the meeting and hear about the Committee for a Workers' International, the international organisation to which the socialist party is affiliated which is seeking to organise and coordinate the international  movements and lead the working class to victory.in the meantime you can take a look at the website http://www.socialistworld.net/index.php

Come along to the meeting
Thursday 2nd February 7pm
Cardiff Bus Club (5 mins from Cardiff Central Station)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Pensions: the fight continues

The following is taken from the February issue of Socialism Today.

Following the strike of two million public-sector workers in November, the fight to safeguard pensions hangs in the balance. Pitted against savage Con-Dem austerity is an angry and determined working class. Yet the leaders of some key unions and the TUC are doing all they can to sell-out the struggle. The role of left-wing unions, and rank-and-file bodies such as the National Shop Stewards Network, could not be more important. HANNAH SELL reports on this crucial stage of the battle.

IN 2011 THE British working class joined the ranks of world revolt against austerity. The year was peppered with historic events: the largest specifically working-class demonstration in British history on 26 March, 750,000 public-sector workers striking over pensions on 30 June (J30), and the magnificent two-million-strong 30 November strike (N30). Public backing for these events was overwhelming. On N30, a series of polls showed majority support for the strike: the BBC showed 61%, the Guardian 79%, the right-wing Daily Mail an incredible 90%. N30 also profoundly shook the government, with prime minister, David Cameron, having to retreat within 24 hours from calling it a "damp squib" to admitting it was "a big strike". 

However, if 2011 showed the strengths of the workers’ movement in Britain it also graphically demonstrated its weaknesses. Following N30, the struggle against the attacks on pensions hangs in the balance, with the leadership of Unison, the biggest public-sector union, breaking the united front and accepting the government’s rotten proposals. Virtually everything – for local government and health workers – had been on offer before N30, when it was rejected by Unison. 

Yet it is now being hailed as a breakthrough by the union’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, backed to the hilt by Brendan Barber and the leadership of the TUC. In fact, no central talks with government on pensions have even taken place since 2 November. The negotiations which led to this supposed breakthrough have been scheme-specific, discussing small details, not the broad parameters of public-sector workers’ pensions.

Despite this, given cover by the TUC leadership, before Christmas the government triumphantly announced that every union, apart from PCS civil servants, had signed up to its ‘heads of agreement’ on pensions. Since then, the leadership of the TUC has moved might and main to try to turn the government’s words into reality. At the same time, thousands of trade union activists have been working to keep their unions in the fight. 

Finely poised


THE FINAL OUTCOME of this battle has not yet been decided, but the attempt to strangle the pensions dispute in the dark, without trade union members realising what was happening, has already been decisively defeated. The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) has played an important role in this, not least by initiating a lobby of the TUC meeting which discussed the deal on 19 December. Even before Christmas, the reality was very different from that put forward by the government. Alongside PCS’s rejection of the proposals, the leaders of the education unions, NUT, NASUWT and UCU, had not accepted it, along with the prison officers’ union (POA), other civil service unions (FDA, Prospect), and the Northern Irish Public Sector Alliance. 

Since Christmas, the NUT and NASUWT have gone further and rejected the proposals, as have the local government and health executives of the Unite general union. Trade unions representing around a million workers have so far refused to accept it. The Unison leadership agreed the offer against widespread opposition. But the Scottish Unison health committee has formally rejected it and, at the North West Unison local government meeting, only one of the 100 people present spoke in support of the leadership’s position. 

However, the leadership of Unison, leaning on a lay bureaucracy at local level, is muddying the waters, desperately trying to disguise the fact that no significant concessions have been won. Meanwhile, the government has, as the Lib-Dem chief secretary to the treasury, Danny Alexander, put it, achieved all its "savings goals". 

To try and conceal their capitulation, Prentis and co keep asserting that strikes on pensions could be held later on during these negotiations if needs be. This is true, but not on any of the key issues. Signing the heads of agreement means agreeing to the appalling terms of the current proposals on retirement age, career average schemes, accrual rates, the switch from calculations based on the retail price index to the consumer price index, and other issues. In addition, breaking the united front with other public-sector unions would make it more difficult for future Unison strike action on pensions to win.

The consequences of defeat… or victory


IF PRENTIS, BARBER and co succeed in derailing the pensions struggle it will be a bitter defeat for the workers’ movement. Comparisons are already been drawn with Black Friday in April 1921, when the leaders of the railway and transport unions broke the triple alliance and left the miners isolated. Indeed, a defeat of the pensions struggle would be another black day with serious consequences, not only for public-sector workers’ pensions but also for the working class as a whole. It would embolden the capitalist class and its representatives in government to escalate its austerity onslaught against the working class. 

It would also encourage the government to seriously consider taking further measures against the rights of workers to organise in trade unions, targeting the most militant unions, notably PCS. This has already been mooted. During the parliamentary debate following Alexander’s December announcement on pensions, three Tory MPs and a Scottish National Party MP demanded to know what action would be taken against the PCS by the government and called for cuts to trade union facility time and the imposition of minimum turnouts in strike ballots. Alexander responded favourably to them all. 

Another consequence could be that some of those who have looked to the unions and the working class to defeat the cuts could, temporarily and in frustration, turn to other roads. If more riots take place in 2012, following what would be perceived as a defeat for ‘union power’, the two would not be unconnected. 

Nonetheless, a defeat on pensions would mean losing the first battle, not the war. Even after Black Friday, the working class regrouped. Five years later we saw the greatest strike in Britain’s history, the magnificent 1926 general strike. The profound nature of the capitalist crisis, and the resulting savagery of the government’s austerity measures, mean that general strikes of a similar character can be posed in the not-too-distant future regardless of the outcome of the current battle. In the short term, explosive struggles will take place, not least against the second round of local authority cuts in the coming months. 

On the other hand, a victory on pensions would have an enormous effect by increasing the confidence of the working class. And a retreat on pensions would immeasurably damage the government, and could even lead to its fall. This is not because such a retreat would cost the government significant amounts of money. On the contrary, the sums are relatively small. The largest savings to be made – from the NHS pension scheme – are only £530 million in the first year. This is about the same amount as the government lost from its u-turn over privatising forests. 

However, in 2011, pensions were the frontline between the organised working class and the government. If the Con-Dems retreat on this it will be a body blow to them. It is vital, therefore, that trade unionists do all they can to force their leaders to maintain the united front and to set the date for the next 24-hour co-ordinated strike, involving all the public-sector unions that have rejected the proposals. This task is urgent as the government is planning to impose a pensions deal from the start of April. 

Pressure from below


TRADE UNIONISTS WILL be drawing conclusions about the role being played by Prentis, Barber and the rightwing of the movement. Britain has entered an era of bitter class battles, as the capitalist class attempts to solve the crisis in its system via a savage assault on workers’ living conditions. Under the impact of events, the different trends in the labour movement are beginning to be laid bare. In the frontline are the militant trade unions led by socialists, including PCS – in which the Socialist Party plays an important role – and also the rail and transport workers’ union, RMT. 

At the other pole are the right-wing unions, epitomised by the leadership of Unison. These trade union leaders have no confidence in the possibility of fighting to defend their members’ interests. They were dragged, kicking and screaming, into supporting co-ordinated strike action. They opposed the J30 strike on pensions. 

The day after, an anonymous trade union leader told the Guardian that the strike had been "a tactical error", adding: "PCS was warned that this was the wrong time and could backfire. A lot of other unions will feel frustrated with the PCS. Most unions will say today hasn’t helped". At the Unison service group meetings after the strike, Prentis argued against taking part in any co-ordinated action with the PCS. However, it was the very success of J30, and the resulting campaign by Unison members to take part in the next strike, which brought N30 about.

Right-wing union leaders were forced to support N30 because they were squeezed between the pressure from their members for action and the intransigence of the government. It is true that the government showered Prentis with praise. On 13 November, Tory cabinet minister, Francis Maude, called him a "very formidable, skilled, experienced negotiator who is going to drive a hard bargain and rightly. We appreciate that". The Financial Times correctly concluded: "Mr Maude plainly believes that Mr Prentis is a man with whom he can do business [but] has nothing but contempt for Mark Serwotka". However, while the government was happy to stroke Prentis’s ego, they were not prepared to give Unison members any concessions that would allow Prentis to avoid taking strike action over pensions. 

Unlike the leadership of New Labour, even the most right-wing union leaders are susceptible to pressure from their members, whose dues ultimately pay their salaries. Particularly in the run up to Unison conference, Prentis made speeches which made him sound like a militant trade unionist, declaring that the struggle against pensions "won’t be the miners’ strike. We are going to win". He added that "one day of industrial action won’t change anyone’s mind in government", and that rolling strikes would be needed "over an indefinite period". In the face of an unyielding government, the leadership of Unison had no choice but to strike – and to strike in co-ordination with the other unions, including PCS. 

Con-Dem onslaught intensifies


N30 WAS ONE of those days in history which have a profound effect on all those who participated. A new generation of workers took strike action for the first time. Many hundreds of thousands marched in some of the biggest demonstrations their local town, or even village, had ever seen. In Bristol, over 20,000 marched, more than 30,000 in Manchester. In smaller towns there were large demonstrations: 2,000 in Bournemouth, 4,000 in Torquay, 1,200 in Birkenhead, 1,000 in Hastings, 1,200 in Warrington. The list goes on. Public-sector workers tasted their own power. 

The government was shaken by the power of the strike, but it did not retreat. It relied on one crucial weakness of the movement to try and defeat it – the cowardice of many of its leaders, who were also terrified by the movement they had called forth. The autumn spending review, announced by the chancellor George Osborne on 29 November, was greeted with banner headlines in the press: ‘Osborne Strikes First’. It was a deliberate attempt to cow trade unionists, above all their leaders. The message was that the capitalist crisis means there is no alternative to unending misery for the working class, that it is useless to fight back because you cannot win. 

The spending review announced a series of further attacks. The number of public-sector jobs to be cut was raised by 300,000 to 710,000, and a two-year 1% cap on public-sector pay increases was announced. The already eye-watering £81 billion-worth of cuts to the public sector was to be increased by £30 billion. This was combined with a serious threat to the rights of the working class to organise in defence of its rights, along with the breakup of national pay bargaining and ending TUPE (rules which guarantee the pay and conditions of workers whose jobs are privatised). Cameron then stepped up the threat to trade unionists’ facility time.

Right-wing trade union leaders capitulated before this onslaught. The real reasons for their attitude to the pensions deal is that they believe that the government will force an even worse deal on them if they do not give in now. This was crudely summed up by the statement on 19 December of Christine McAnea, Unison’s head of health, that "this was always a damage limitation exercise". Hence the Unison leadership’s repeated pleading with trade unionists that this is the government’s ‘final offer’ – as if any employer ever puts forward an offer by declaring, ‘this isn’t our final offer; if you keep fighting we might give more’! 

There is a comparison between the government’s approach today and that of David Lloyd George, prime minister in 1919, when he said to the union leaders threatening to strike: "If you carry out your threat and strike you will defeat us. But if you do so, have you weighed up the consequences?" He added that, if they beat the government, they would have to be prepared to take power and run society. The reaction of right-wing miners’ leader, Robert Smillie, was: "From that moment on we were beaten and we knew we were". 

Rejecting the logic of the market


TODAY, THE IDEA of the working class taking power is not yet in the consciousness of broad sections of the working class, and is inconceivable to right-wing union leaders. Their lack of any political and economic alternative to the government’s policies is an important aspect of their cowardice. New Labour, the party that the biggest public-sector trade unions continue to fund, and whose capitalist leadership Barber, Prentis and co back to the hilt, would quake at the idea of coming to power as a result of a mass movement of the working class. 

New Labour is wedded to the market, and has repeatedly made clear it would also carry out massive cuts, including in public-sector workers’ pensions, if it was in government. Such is the scale of the attacks that the working class will be forced to struggle against the Con-Dems cuts even without a clear alternative. Nonetheless, one of the most urgent tasks for the workers’ movement is for it to develop its own mass political voice, which stands against all cuts and puts a socialist alternative. 

It is no coincidence that, in the main, it is socialist trade union leaders who have refused to accept the rotten pensions proposals. In the last 30 years, the majority of trade union leaders have moved far to the right, bowing more than ever before to the ‘logic of the market’. However, today and for the foreseeable future, that means taking away all the hard-won gains made by working-class people. 

The capitalists and their political representatives can be forced to retreat on pensions, but only if they meet a determined mass movement which does not accept the logic of their system and puts forward an alternative to endless austerity. It is far from excluded that N30 alone would have been enough to force the government to retreat on pensions, provided that the leaders had been clear that this was only a beginning and that, if the government did not retreat, they would quickly call another 24-hour public-sector strike followed, if necessary, by 48-hour action including the involvement of private-sector workers. 

Building fighting democratic unions


BREAKING THE UNITED front on pensions will lead, inevitably, not only to anger but to confusion and some demoralisation among a layer of Unison activists and other workers. These feelings will be intensified because the leadership of Unison has not fought a battle on any of the other attacks faced by their members, including massive job losses and wide-scale privatisation. 

Some workers will leave Unison in disgust to join another union, or drop out of union membership. One of the reasons Prentis may get away with this in the short term is because, at this stage, most of the fresh layers who have participated in the strikes are not active in the union structures, which are not infrequently little more than shells. In some cases, therefore, union members’ initial reaction may be to walk away and look for other means of fighting back. 

Nonetheless, Prentis will be punished by Unison members for his role. It is already clear that significant numbers of workers will set out to try and reverse the decision on pensions and to change their union leaderships. The campaign within Unison to demand special sectoral conferences to discuss the deal, and for a ballot to take place immediately, can gain real momentum in the coming weeks. It will be enormously fuelled if further co-ordinated action takes place by a significant number of unions still participating in the fight.

The importance of, and the potential to succeed in, building rank-and-file organisations within the trade unions, campaigning for fighting, democratic unions, is at its highest level in decades. The conference on 7 January, hosted by PCS Left Unity and bringing together over 500 trade union militants from across the public sector, demonstrated that potential, and also the importance of co-ordinating such bodies across the union movement. The pressure created by that conference contributed to Unite local government standing firm on pensions. The committee set up at the conference can now play a crucial role in co-ordinating the action of the unions that do hold the line.

Three years after the 1921 defeat, the Communist Party began to build the Minority Movement, a powerful rank-and-file trade union organisation. At its height, it represented almost one million of the most militant workers in Britain. Today, the NSSN has begun to group the most militant workplace representatives around it. Over the last 18 months, the NSSN has been able to act as an effective lever to help bring about the 26 March demonstration and the N30 strike, and has played a vital role in lobbying the TUC to demand the pensions struggle continues. 

Whatever the outcome of the current stage of that struggle, there will be many tens of thousands of public-sector workers who can be won to the NSSN, as well as to the left organisations in the different unions, and to conduct a serious battle for fighting, democratic trade unions. This is essential preparation for the gigantic battles that will be take place over the coming years.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Stand up to Tory bullies

The following is taken from the socialist issue 701

United action can stop Con-Dem attacks

Cameron's Con-Dem coalition wants workers to pay for the bosses' economic crisis. This millionaires' government wants to cut workers' jobs, pay and conditions such as pensions. In the public sector it also aims to slash many of the services that these workers provide.

But Cameron has a problem. People value most jobs done by public servants far more than they respect his 'posh boys' cabinet. So the government resorts to an old Tory trick, trying to belittle or demonise public servants.

Firstly, Cameron tried to bash the understaffed, underpaid job of nursing. He recently lectured nurses, telling them to "talk to patients at least once an hour" and insulted them by saying that "few nurses know that caring is their main job".

A London mental health nurse comments: "Cameron spoke about us improving care but how can this happen when he and his government are cutting the NHS budget, nurses are being sacked and our workload is massively increasing?

"Cameron's patronising tone made many nurses want to assign him to emptying bedpans permanently. His suggestion of introducing hourly rounds would increase paperwork and decrease our time for our patients.

"Nurses in trade unions will most certainly talk with our patients - as we already do. But we'll also unite with them and defeat Cameron's attacks on our NHS!"

Just days later, Tory education secretary Michael Gove announced plans to make it easier for so-called 'underperforming' teachers to be sacked. He was later backed up by the government's pet teaching inspection organisation Ofsted (see Ofsted: "requires improvement").

Martin Powell-Davies of the National Union of Teachers' national executive says that Gove's 'Bullies Charter' has nothing to do with improving education.

"Further teacher stress, even greater workload and further demoralisation will only make things worse. These plans are about bullying and intimidating teachers so we are too frightened to stand up for ourselves - and for education.

"The Con-Dem pensions attacks mean that many teachers will have to work on until 68 or even older, trying to keep up with the unrelenting pressure in our underfunded and over-monitored schools. Now Gove's making clear that, if you can't take the pace, you'll be sacked long before you reach your pension age."

"Teachers have to fight these plans - but we must also keep up the struggle on pensions. We must keep urgently talking with other unions about plans for further strike action against attacks on our pensions."

These crude Tory attacks are attempts to soften up the opposition to Con-Dem cutbacks. The best way for public sector workers to beat these cuts would start by repeating the united trade union fight of the brilliantly successful 30 November strike.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Annual General Meeting

                    RCT Socialist Update no. 42

This week RCT Socialist Party will be hosting our Annual General Meeting (AGM) The purpose of which is to co-ordinate our campaigning work over the next 12 months. The current period is a busy one for socialists, with so much happening around us, from the battle against pensions, to the occupy movement and right through to campaigining against cuts to the NHS in this area. The only way we can be prepared to organise a much needed socialist alternative to all these problems is to prepare our campaigning work. We will be discussing such things as where to focus our resources, the upcoming local elections and many other issues.

Come along to the meeting all members and supporters are welcome to attend and participate in the discussion, or simply come along if there are some questions you would like to discuss. In the meantime you can read this short article entitled 'World Capitalism in Crisis'

Come along to the meeting

Wednesday 25th January, 7.15pm
Otley Arms, Treforest

Monday, 16 January 2012

What Marx and Engels really stood for

               RCT Socialist Update no. 41

As capitalism becomes more and more exposed as a system based of the greed and riches of a few at the expense, exploitation and misery of the masses, It is not uncommon for many people to look around for an alternative. In this background for the ideas of Karl Marx and is close collaborator Engels to be distorted out of all recognition.

Often the ideas are associated with the stalinist regimes of eastern Europe or Russia, but these were dictatorships which did not represent their true ideas, other charges often laid against the ideas of marxist is that it is against freedom of the individual or corrupt others say it will lead to economic decay, but all these allegations are false.

This week at our weekly branch meeting we wil be discussing this very topic, what were the real ideas of Marx and Engels and what do those ideas mean for todays world. Come along and participate in the discussion on how we can fight for a socialist world. You canread some articles about the ideas of marxism at the what is marxism website in the meantime. http://www.marxism.org.uk/

Come Along to the meeting.
Wednesday 18th January 7.15pm
Otley Arms Treforest

Friday, 13 January 2012

We say: NO WAY! Strike to defend pensions

the following is take from the socialist issue 700

Con-Dems say: Pay more, work longer, get less

On Saturday 7 January Left Unity in the PCS civil service union hosted an emergency open organising meeting because our movement in defence of public sector pensions is at a critical point. It is vital that the momentum generated by the fantastic strike on 30 November (N30) is not lost.

The government tried to force the unions to sign up to a rotten deal before Christmas. Unfortunately the leaders of some unions indicated they wished to sign this 'heads of agreement' which proposed exactly what N30 had been against: paying more, working longer and getting less.

December's events meant that members were in danger of being tragically let down and everything possible is needed to be done to prevent this happening. However, a number of unions have joined PCS among the 'rejectionists', refusing to sign up.

Pensions have been fought for over generations. The Con-Dems' attacks mean all these gains could be lost. Our job is now to maintain the pressure, unite across unions and not let the gains of the biggest action since the 1926 general strike be lost.

Our message is clear - reject the offer and organise for further action.

The conference unanimously agreed a statement which concluded with the following bullet points:


  • The government's latest proposals on pensions must be rejected
  • Press the TUC to set a date for a second day of coordinated national industrial action. This action is escalated by involving more public sector unions and unions from the private sector fighting for fair pensions or provision
  • If the TUC does not call such action an urgent meeting is arranged by those unions prepared to consider continuing the campaign of industrial action against the pension deal
  • The left organisations in the trade unions establish a temporary coordinating committee with the aim of coordinating activity, including lobbies etc, and material. To campaign together across the unions to build opposition to the deal and to work toward further coordinated action

Thursday, 12 January 2012

UNISON members unhappy at pensions proposals

Concern at concessions to government

Fair pensions for allUNISON members in Wales have expressed their concern at agreements on pensions reached by the union leaders with the Con Dem government.

On November 30 two million workers struck for one day in the biggest strike in Britain since the 1970s. They were united around the core issues of refusing the government's demands to working longer, paying more and receiving less pensions. Just before Christmas UNISON and GMB leaders broke ranks and declared an outline "Heads of Agreement" with the government which conceded the main demands of the Con Dems to make public sector workers pay for the economic crisis.The 'cost ceiling' the government imposed as its target to cut money from public sector pensions has been achieved according to these proposals.

A UNISON member commented on the pensions summit organised by UNISON Cymru on January 9th:
"Unfortunately, the tone for the day was set before discussions even began, when UNISON officers started collecting in a statement circulated by a Service Group Executive member from Wales, Mark Evans, calling for rejection of the 'Heads of Agreement'. The chair for the day told us that this was because the views in the document were simply the opinions of an individual and not the position of UNISON, which we would be given to us during the course of the day. And there's me thinking that we're a member-led union and would determine our own position!

"N30 and the campaign to date was reviewed by UNISON's Head of Local Government for Wales, Dominic MacAskill. He stressed the historic nature of the action; 30+ unions working together, the numbers on demonstrations, support from the public and the 126% increase in recruitment from the announcement of the ballot to the day of strike action itself. The lesson he drew from this however was that 'we need to be realistic' and that 'we need a negotiated settlement'. We were told that we should therefore welcome the 'Heads of Agreement' as a 'significant advance'.

"A lot of the rest of the day dealt with technical questions on the various schemes. Although these were supposed to be factual sessions there was a clear steer from all the speakers towards suspending action and endorsing the 'heads of agreement'. One official echoed Tories like Boris Johnson when he said that there wasn't majority support for action because only 27% voted, clearly ignoring the huge support for the strike itself. A national official gave the briefing for Local Government and Civil Service. Both these sessions were based on Powerpoint presentations sent down from London only that morning.

"Both presentations hailed substantial gains on the 'heads of agreement', which at best are temporary and in most cases are based on hopes rather than hard facts. For example, an NHS official welcomed the protection on contributions for members earning less than £26,558 but failed to point out that this is only for 2012 and that the government wants acceptance of 9.8% average pension contributions for 2012-14. Despite the mass of power point slides, the LGPS presentation in particular, was very hazy on details. By the way, nobody was able to explain when UNISON stopped calling for pensions based on final salary and started advocating average career earnings schemes as being more 'equality-proof'. It would be ludicrous to push CARE without details on accrual rates and revaluation etc.

"One point in the LGPS presentation in particular got members' backs up: 'Most members don't want more industrial action at this stage'. Of course no one wants to strike for the sake of it, but most workers understand that we have to fight to save our pensions and further strike action is necessary if we are to win. It was pointed out that members had understood on N30 that a single day wasn't going to win the campaign and had voted for action in the expectation of further escalated action. One branch has had two stewards' meetings since N30 (one today) and at both resolutions for further action on at least the same scale as November, were overwhelmingly passed. There is definitely no mood for selective action on the grounds of the division that would be caused and agreement that if there is to be future action then it should be national and united. The national official, said that he wouldn't have put that in if he had written the presentation himself but that statement is now part of an official UNISON statement sent to all LGPS branches in Wales. It was repeatedly stressed that this is not a deal and that the ballot remains live and that we can still take action months down the line.

"Lay members didn't really get an opportunity for input until the final session, on maintaining the campaign. For this we were broken into workshops and by now many people had already left. There was no enthusiasm for what is on offer. Practically nobody is buying the line that this is a significant advance - lay members understand that nothing has changed.

"I don't know if UNISON has learnt from previous regional pensions summits but the whole day was stage managed to ensure that the views of lay members were heard as little as possible.
"In a straw pole of my members it is clear that:

  • None of them are happy at this agreement
  • None of them were opposed to further action
  • More than one raised the possibility of leaving the union if this deal goes through because they've surrendered a day's pay for nothing
  • Several, without prompting, suggested the next action should be more protracted to have an impact on the employers."
A resolution has been passed in a number of branches to reject the agreement. UNITE in both Local Government and the NHS has rejected the deal.
However the Local Government and NHS Service Group Executives in UNISON have been persuaded to allow negotiations to go ahead around the principles agreed with the government. The leadership has argued that the ballots for strike action are still live and action can be restarted. UNISON branches need to make it clear that the union leadership that the must not budge on the core issues of the dispute and be prepared to resurrect action to defend pensions.

Monday, 9 January 2012

What has socialism got to do with it?

           RCT Socialist Update no. 40

The masses are angry and discontent with the response of governments, the assembly and council to the economic recession. It is clear that the response they have given is the response of the rich 1% of society, whilst public services, jobs and pensions are attacked in order to pay for this. It is clear to so many people that capitalism will always act in the interests of a rich minority. It is also clear that thinngs can-t go on in the way they have been and we must organsise to stop cuts in vital services.

The question then which comes to mind is. Is there an alternative, is it socialism, and what does it have to do with it now? We will be discussing this very question at our next weekly branch meeting. What role does the Socialist Party play. Come along to the meeting and ask any questions you like about how relevant the Socialist Party is to the current crisis and how we would change society. In the meantime you can read this short article, entiled "What has socialism got to do with it?" http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/11517

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

Sunday, 8 January 2012

A World in Turmoil

The following is taken from the socialist issue 699

Time magazine paid a tribute to people power by choosing 'The Protester' as its Person of the Year. 2011 was certainly about protest but it was about a lot more as well.

It will go down in history as a year of revolution, social turmoil and the overthrow of dictatorships.
2012 promises to be no less convulsive as world capitalism reveals its incapacity to deal with the growing problems created by the worst economic crisis for 80 years.

We have witnessed the Middle Eastern and North African revolutions, which still endure, indicated by bloody conflicts in Cairo and elsewhere in late November, and then the elections in Egypt and Tunisia.

This was preceded by the overthrow of Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya, and followed by Saleh in Yemen.

Nor have the mass movements and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa finished their work; other governments in the region are likely to be toppled in the period opening up.

In Europe, the discredited Berlusconi in Italy, Papandreou in Greece, Zapatero in Spain, Socrates in Portugal and Cowen in southern Ireland have all been swept from power.

Europe can also face further upheavals which could lead to the early demise of current governments. In France President Sarkozy could be evicted from office through elections.

The revolutionary events in Greece as well as the mass strikes and protests in Spain and Portugal foreshadow this. New social explosions impend in Italy, Ireland, Britain and elsewhere.

Even the seemingly 'strongest' or up to now the 'least affected' European countries will not be immune from the radical if not revolutionary virus emanating from the so-called 'periphery' of southern Europe.

The US has also seen the sizeable 'Occupy' movement which has affected and drawn in sections of the trade unions.

The continuation of the deep crisis of world and European capitalism has provided the impulse for these events. This crisis has been enormously compounded by the 'sovereign debt' turmoil.

This in turn opens up the likelihood in Europe of national defaults and the collapse of the euro with all the grave consequences for European and world capitalism flowing from this.

World economy seizing up


Big business calls for cuts
Big business calls for cuts   (Click to enlarge)
Among many workers there were, and still are, illusions that capitalism would be able to extricate itself: through state intervention, stimulus packages, etc.

These measures did have some effect in preventing an outright depression with mass unemployment along the lines of the 1930s; but they did not solve the underlying crisis.

Moreover, the switch from semi-Keynesian policies in the US, Britain and elsewhere to austerity programmes reinforced the recession, with depressionary features following in their wake; capitalism now finds itself in a cul-de-sac, with the reappearance of a credit crunch.

Larry Elliott in the Guardian accurately summed up the situation: "We now inhabit a world of the living dead: a eurozone that will not collapse but cannot be reformed; banks that are kept alive by gigantic quantities of electronically generated cash but do not lend; homeowners who are sitting in homes worth no more than they paid for them but are able to stay put because interest rates are so low and lenders have no desire to crystallise losses, and policy that is neither one thing nor the other." [5 December 2011.]

Zombie capitalism and zombie banks; what an alluring future our rulers have mapped out for us!
The European 'sovereign debt' crisis illustrates the catastrophic consequences for capitalism, not just in Europe but throughout the world, of the financial credit bubbles, which grew exponentially and involved massive injections of fictitious capital during the boom in the 'noughties'.



Capitalism is confronted with a big element of Keynes's 'liquidity trap' - a hoarding of assets and money, low interest rates, fear that deflation will persist, etc.

In consequence the capitalists are refusing to invest, are, in effect, on a 'strike of capital'. Creditors refuse to lend and borrowers - weighed down with leaden boots of debt - refuse to borrow more.

At the moment, the system is jammed and, given government and private indebtedness, that is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

All the economic institutions of world capitalism point to, at best, stagnation in the current economic situation - an 'L-shaped recovery' - with anaemic growth rates and even recession for the eurozone and Britain.

And it cannot be ruled out that the paralysis of the capitalists in the teeth of this crisis can lead to a depression.
China cannot provide the lifeline for rescuing ailing world capitalism. In 2008 when China faced a serious crisis, factories were closed and unemployment climbed exponentially.

Consequently, the Chinese elite feared massive 'social unrest', code for revolution. So they 'primed the pump' through a massive injection of credit, facilitated by the state banks that dominate the economy.

This resulted in annualised credit growth of 170%, probably the biggest 'economic stimulus' in world history.

The 'Occupy' movements


The ideological cement underpinning capitalism has also been severely undermined. Not only does capitalism confront its biggest economic crisis 'ever' (according to Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England), in its wake it has also faced a profound crisis of legitimacy.

This is reflected in the mass strikes of the working class but also in the worldwide 'Occupy' movement which spread to about 1,000 cities and all continents.

Despite its weaknesses - the Occupy move is not firmly based either ideologically or with deep roots and a presence in the organisations of the working class - it has nevertheless evoked widespread public sympathy including from working people.

This movement, unlike the anti-globalisation movement at the turn of the century, takes place against the background of a deep recession.

The 'Occupy' movement is the widest global movement since the collapse of Stalinism. It encompasses more of the world and is deeper than the previous anti-globalisation movement.

The highlighting of searing inequality against the background of mass impoverishment synonymous with 'modern' capitalism has evoked a powerful echo among broad sections of the population in Europe and the US.

An additional factor is that in this crisis it is not just the working class but also big sections of the middle class that have been affected - some of them quite severely.

In the US, for instance, average wages of manual workers - still referred to as 'middle class' by the capitalist media as a means of blunting growing class consciousness - are at the level of the 1950s in real terms; the religion of everlasting capitalist progress has been shattered.

The unrestrained piling up of wealth by the '1%' - perhaps the greatest concentration and centralisation of capital in history, foreseen by Marx - has fuelled the protests.

The most striking example is that of Bloomberg, the present mayor of New York, the 30th richest individual in the world - literally one in 230 million.

Yet on behalf of the '1%', through his police he has sought to repress the 'Occupy' movement in 'his' city.
The Financial Times (FT) casually admitted: "Top executives' pay rises 27-fold since 1988 [in Britain]... from £150,000 to £4 million"!

The panic in capitalist circles at this spectacle was summed up by the right-wing founder of the Independent newspaper in Britain, Andreas Whittam-Smith, who wrote recently: "Western nations are now ripe for revolution."

He did not suggest a real social revolution but rather a 'political revolution' aimed at renovating the system.
Yet the 'Occupy' movement does not seriously challenge capitalism; many of its leaders do not propose 'system change' but seek to 'mend a broken system'.

It has nevertheless assumed mass proportions in some countries - Spain, Greece and, to some extent, in the US.

Occupy represents a confused but necessary stage of political reawakening for a new generation. These movements hold out the hope, for those participating and those observing them, for seeking social and revolutionary conclusions.

The precondition for this, however, is the intervention of the labour movement and in particular Marxism, which, while being sympathetic and sensitive, argues against the 'non-political', anti-party stance of many who have been drawn into this movement.

Dilemma of the eurozone 


The capitalists are completely at sea as to the fate of the euro and the eurozone, incapable of coming up with workable solutions.

Mervyn King summed up their dilemma: "I could not tell you what is likely to happen tomorrow never mind in a few months time."

The Socialist has argued that the euro and the eurozone, rather than leading to a more unified Europe will result in the opposite: splits, nationalism and all the 'evils' which the euro project, we were told, would banish forever.

The euro itself could collapse with either a voluntary or forced exit of a number of countries, beginning with Greece.

The price of remaining within the euro is a permanent savage austerity package and, at the end of this, national debt will still be 120% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Yet this is already the 'unacceptable' current level of Italian national debt, which forced big cuts and prompted the downfall of Berlusconi.

However, 'in' or 'out' of the EU, the same problems will be posed and the same attacks on living standards will be unleashed against the Greek people.

The reintroduction of the drachma could lead to the wholesale collapse of the banks and with this the destruction of savings - à la Argentina - as well as a devaluation of the new currency, which would be accompanied by a big rise in inflation.

The possibility of referenda for and against the euro and the eurozone could be posed both in the 17 countries within the eurozone and the additional ten countries 'outside'.

Even the revised treaty pushed by Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel - 'Merkozy' - began to unravel within days of its 'acceptance' by 26 of the 27 EU countries, excluding Britain.

There is a growing realisation that the new 'Stability Pact', with fines to be levied against transgressors, is a device for imposing a neoliberal corset on public spending, aiming to cut living standards further.

Moreover, it has not been sufficient to 'satisfy' the 'market', the bond vigilante crooks. Therefore the crisis continues with still the possibility of a complete collapse of the euro.

Continued membership of the EU is increasingly identified in the minds of the people with further ruthless cuts in living standards so, in some instances, the working class could be faced with voting to leave the EU.

In this situation, it is vital that a class and internationalist position is advanced, with clear opposition to capitalist nationalism, which is aimed at dividing working people on national, racial and ethnic lines.

However, in view of the bureaucratic centralist diktats of the EU, a legitimate feeling of national indignation can rise, as has been seen in Greece, and this can also develop in other countries.

Trotsky pointed out that it is the working class and its organisations who are the real champions of the 'nation', of which the majority is the working class and its allies.



The idea that the EU was 'progressive' and would lead ineluctably towards a 'unified Europe' has been shattered with the onset of the economic crisis.

This was entertained not just by 'liberal' capitalists and pro-capitalist trade union leaders but even by some of a Marxist or even a Trotskyist persuasion.

But it has been severely undermined as the neoliberal character of the EU - with the imposition of anti-worker measures such as the Posted Workers Directive, the opening of the door for the acceptance of wages and conditions of the neo-colonial world - has become clear.

This view has been reinforced by what has been perceived, particularly in those countries at the receiving end, as a virtual colonial power inflicting misery and diktats on its 'subjects'.

In Greece, EU officials are installed - or are attempting to act - in the offices of the different ministries, thus ensuring the carrying out of the austerity programmes.

The same applies to the virtual 'coup' of the so-called 'non-political' Monti government in Italy following the eviction of Berlusconi from power.

This represents a new phase in Europe, reflecting as it does the depth and seriousness of the economic crisis, the severity of the attacks on the working class, its resistance to this and, consequently, the intensification of the class struggle.

Even in 'normal' periods of 'social peace', a veiled civil war takes place between the contending classes.
This, however, has taken a more direct and open form in the past period as the bosses have, in some instances, resorted to brutal measures against the rights and conditions of the working class, as is clearly the case in Greece.

The Greek workers are still ferociously resisting, reflected in the power workers' refusal to implement government-imposed measures which would have seen householders' electricity supply cut off if they had not paid the new property tax.

This is accompanied by a tremendous 'don't pay' campaign similar to the movement which defeated the poll tax and brought down Thatcher in the process.

In Britain, 300,000 public sector jobs have been lost since the Con-Dem government came to power and another 400,000 are planned to go.

Some of the anger has been deflected away from the government as councils make the cuts. Chris Giles of the FT wrote: "Although public sector job losses have far exceeded expectations so far, it has been local authorities doing ministers' dirty work." [FT, 15 December 2011.]

The promise of Osborne and Cameron that private-sector jobs would replace them, like the phoenix from the ashes, has been shown to be completely illusory; there are plenty of 'ashes' in the empty factories and a massive rise in unemployment, but no sign of the phoenix which has flown away to China and other 'growth areas', never to return!

Spain and Portugal on the brink


Also, with the advent of rightwing governments in Portugal and Spain, the working class can expect a huge worsening of their position through a deepening and extension of the austerity measures promised by the new rightwing Popular Party (PP) government of Rajoy in Spain and by the Portuguese centre-right coalition government, elected in June.

The Portuguese economy contracted from July to September 2011 for the fourth consecutive quarter, the worst performance of any of the 27 nations in the EU.

Significantly, soldiers and police, wearing civilian clothes, joined in the massive demonstrations and the general strike in November which brought the country to a complete standstill.

The new government in Spain, under ferocious pressure from the EU for even more cuts, will act quickly to introduce 'reforms', in reality massive counter-reforms.

The electoral victory of the PP led to a precipitous drop in shares the day after it was elected! This is tacit recognition that the Spanish workers and their organisations - despite the existence of mass unemployment - remain a formidable force to reckon with.

The PSOE government of Zapatero acted to restrain, to an extent, a full confrontation with the working class, because of its alleged 'socialist' pedigree, although in reality - as the indignados movement showed - it has moved so far to the right, it was seen as just another capitalist party.

Political abstentionism of the youth cannot be maintained in the teeth of the serious crisis confronting Spain and the urgency of seeking a viable solution.

Berlusconi goes 


In Italy, a 'soft coup' by the right has replaced the discredited Berlusconi without a peep of protest from the 'left' political leaders.

They now display a fear of taking power as do the ex-social democrats in the rest of Europe. The devastating crisis - partially hidden by Berlusconi's long period in power - is now clearly visible.

Italy has also experienced a 'lost decade' of economic stagnation which has left it at the bottom of the world league table of growth. According to the IMF, "only Zimbabwe, Haiti and Eritrea have done worse"!

The general strike called by all the major unions on 12 December, a matter of days after the announcement of the new austerity package, is an indication of the anger that has exploded from below. It presages a new period of class struggle.

The initiative of well-known metalworkers' leader, Giorgio Cremaschi has gathered together hundreds of lefts under the title 'Cancel the Debt'.

Italy will therefore see the rekindling of its best revolutionary traditions in the coming period.



At the same time, the danger to the workers' organisations in this period of class tensions - from the direction of the capitalist state - and the far right cannot be underestimated.

In the present crisis, forms of Bonapartism (dictatorship) - parliamentary Bonapartism in particular - can be resorted to by the capitalists when there is political deadlock, as there is to some extent in Greece and Italy.

Moreover, such measures can be threatened on a European scale as well as in nation states. The unelected EU commission - with the connivance of Merkel and Sarkozy - have resorted to Bonapartist diktats against 'miscreant' countries that are reluctant to swallow the austerity medicine. At this stage this is a very weak form of parliamentary Bonapartism.

However, it can be blown away once the situation that gave rise to it changes, particularly with an upswing in the class struggle, which is likely in a number of countries.

Also, in Greece, given the new bitter mood which has developed, the resistance of the working class will be resumed once the full impact of the austerity measures on top of the agonies that the Greek people have suffered in the past period are felt.

The far-right parties and organisations in Europe continue to occupy an important part of the political vacuum which has existed for some time now.

In fact, in some countries - France, the Netherlands and even in Greece - they have strengthened the position on the electoral field in particular.

The damage and mayhem they can inflict on the completely innocent was revealed in the Norwegian massacres in the summer by the racist right-wing madman Anders Breivik.

This was followed by the revelations in Germany of a cell of neo-Nazis which had carried out a series of murders over seven years and yet had never been detected by the police.

In Hungary, the neo-fascist Jobbik, in collusion with the ruling party Fidesz, parades in Nazi-like paramilitary uniforms.

The government has virtually outlawed effective opposition to them. And Cameron's Tories sit in a bloc with some of these creatures in the European parliament! These parties and organisations have to be countered whenever they raise their heads, but they do not yet represent, on a European level, a firm basis for rightwing reaction.

The Middle East and North Africa


The revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa and the 'Occupy' movement are highly symptomatic of the overall mood worldwide which is developing under the whip of this crisis.

They also presage coming mass movements in many countries not yet seriously affected politically, not just in Europe but throughout the world.

Tunisia and particularly Egypt have exercised a magnetic effect on the masses throughout the region and the world.

In the USA, they helped inspire the Wisconsin protests and the Egyptian flag flew over the 'Occupy' movement in Oakland and elsewhere.

However, as in all revolutions, particularly in the period after the overthrow of a dictatorship, illusions are generated in the masses that the main job has been completed.

Moreover, the liberal capitalists and the Islamists have tried to contain the revolution, together with the remnants of the old regime.

In the vacuum that existed under Mubarak and Ben Ali, as with other cases in history - Poland under Stalinism, in Iran under the Shah - religious forces, with roots among the masses, initially provided a pole of attraction around which the opposition to dictatorial regimes could mobilise.

Consequently, the Islamists were well placed to exploit the current elections in which they have received an estimated 36.6% of the votes counted in the first round.

In addition to this, the more fundamentalist expression of right-wing political Islam, the Salafists around al-Nour, linked to the more fundamentalist Wahhabi brand of Islam emanating from Saudi Arabia and the doctrine of Al Qaeda, seems to have done well.

They gained almost a quarter of the votes in the cities that had voted by 5 December and could probably register more than this in the countryside.

If they are allowed to form a government then the Brotherhood will come under serious examination. Unlike the Iranian revolution, when radical Islamic forces initially developed, the Brotherhood is politically conservative, accepting the free market, not favouring independent trade unions and rejecting 'extremist' brands of Islam in favour of the Turkish model of Erdogan, even borrowing the name of Turkey's ruling 'Freedom and Justice' party.

This is the favoured model for the 'moderate' Islamist forces throughout the region, including Ennahda, the party in Tunisia which emerged victorious in the recent elections there.

So great has been the disillusionment since the events of February that questions have arisen as to whether it was a real revolution in the first place.

In fact, in both Tunisia and in Egypt the masses moved independently or semi-independently against the dictatorships of Ben Ali and Mubarak.

They made the revolution but because of insufficient consciousness of their own power and the lack of a programme and mass parties to achieve this they did not complete the revolution in a social and economic sense.

Reaction was initially impotent in the fate of the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. But it was given a chance to intervene by events in Bahrain and Libya.

In Libya, there was initially a genuine revolution of an incipient character in Benghazi in particular which was derailed by a counter-revolution in a 'democratic' form.

However, as the scale of bloodletting and reprisals - sometimes against completely innocent people including black-skinned Libyans and foreign workers, some of whom had lived in Libya for many years - has been revealed there is profound questioning as to whether 'democracy' or counter-revolution currently dominates.
The regime in Bahrain was saved by the intervention of the Saudi armed forces.



The onset of the crisis has profoundly affected Britain, disastrously reinforced by the election of the ConDem coalition government in 2010.

The British ruling class has allowed its manufacturing base to atrophy in favour of investment in financial services, which have now collapsed.

All the layers of fat built up to cushion British capitalism from economic storms have been eaten away. Its empire has gone and North Sea oil revenues have begun to run dry.

Unprecedented cuts in living standards have been implemented with more to come. The government admits that living standards in 2015 will be lower than they were in 2002; society will have stood still for over ten years! This will go down historically as a lost decade.

Unemployment has climbed to a new 17-year high, severely affecting the young, with over one million unemployed, while there are now 1.1 million jobless women, with more to follow in the dead-end of joblessness..

Even the police and clergy are worried that this situation will lead to repetitions of the riots in August.
Britain faces a situation it has not confronted for 80 years. The ConDem government's declaration of war against all the rights and conditions of the British working class is the greatest challenge since the period immediately prior to the 1926 general strike.

This explains the ferocious reaction of the mass of working people reflected in the huge demonstrations and strikes in 2011: 26 March, the biggest specifically working class demonstration in history; 30 June a partial public sector strike; and the mammoth 30 November strike.
The official leadership of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) was compelled to reflect this, which in turn arose from the presence from below within the trade unions of the National Shop Stewards Network playing a key role in this.

Young members of the Socialist Party and other activists in Youth Fight for Jobs have also conducted a heroic and energetic campaign against youth unemployment, including the new Jarrow march, as well as intervening in the aftermath of the riots in London to defend youth facilities, etc.



Clearly, we have arrived at a turning point in world history. The utter bankruptcy of capitalism is clear before the eyes of the world.

The capitalists - at least their representatives - openly confess their inability to solve the problems of humankind. Patchwork solutions, which are all that is on offer, are not enough.

This is revealed in the economy, in the social situation, with the increasing impoverishment of growing sections of the working masses, and also in the environment.

Any pretence of a 'green agenda' is being thrown overboard as capitalism scrambles for an economic lifeline to save its system. 'Growth' at any cost - which will remain illusory - is proclaimed by the Con-Dem government in Britain, even if this results in a rise of harmful emissions.

At the same time, the climate change conference in Durban ended with only a minimal agreement.
This reinforces our contention that capitalism will be incapable of saving the world from a catastrophic and potentially irreversible meltdown of the ice caps and the environment as a whole.

Only socialism can show a way out, opening an optimistic future for suffering humankind.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Building the fightback in 2012

RCT Socialist Update no. 39

We can now look back at 2011 a year which held the biggest trade union demonstrations and strike action in British history, which saw the occupy movement around the globe, revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East and mass resistance right throughout Europe to bankers and capitalism. All of this however will soon be seen as just the opening act for th struggles which will unfold throughout 2012. There has never been more of a crucial time to become an activist within the Socialist Party.

Come along to our first branch meeting of the year when will be discussing this very issue, the prospects for 2012, how and where anger is likely to erupt and how the Socialist Party will be participating in these struggles.

The meeting will be
Wednesday 4th January, 7.15pm
Otley Arms, Treforest