Saturday, 30 April 2011

what is the future for socialism

I thought i'd relay this excellent article by Lynn Walsh from as i have just read it and thought it was excellently put and highlights a lot of questions that i will tackle in the coming weeks and months.

LYNN WALSH, editor of Socialism Today, British monthly magazine of the Socialist Party argues that socialism, far from being 'finished', will once again become the idea that guides workers and youth in the struggle for a new society.

From Socialism Today, issue one, September 1995

WHAT, TODAY, ARE the prospects for socialism? Many on the left, including figures previously identified with revolutionary Marxism, are now utterly pessimistic.

In 1968, for instance, Tariq Ali epitomised the mass student radicalisation in Britain. The other day, however, Tariq commented that the restoration of capitalism in Russia signified that "the game was up for another four or five decades..." (Guardian, 22 July). Capitalism, in other words, has been granted a new lease of life - revolution is off history's agenda for half a century!

Today, Tariq Ali epitomises a generation of one-time Marxist intellectuals who are now utterly disillusioned with the prospect of a socialist transformation of society within the foreseeable future. This change in outlook undoubtedly has a social basis - the rebels of '68 are now professors, film producers, business executives, etc.

Berlin Wall
More fundamentally this ideological shift reflects the momentous events of the last few years - above all, the collapse of the 'socialist' regimes of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (in reality, bureaucratised Stalinist states) and the international social and economic trends which have crystallised since the fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989.

The disillusionment of the Marxistic left, moreover, parallels the abandonment of socialist objectives and the open acceptance of the capitalist market by all the main trends in the labour movement, from right-wing to ex-Stalinist reformists.

No one could deny that 1989 was a climactic year. The rapid disintegration of the Stalinist states - non-capitalist societies which acted as a check on world capitalism - was a momentous event. While these totalitarian regimes were a grotesque caricature of socialism, the destruction of the centrally planned economies on which they rested, despite the economic distortions imposed by bureaucracy, was objectively a defeat for the working class internationally.

Moreover, the collapse of Stalinism acted as a catalyst, turning the accumulating quantity of pre-1989 trends into the quality of a new relationship of political forces internationally.

Naturally, the capitalist leaders seized the opportunity to launch a 'Kulturkampf, an ideological campaign to prove that socialism is unworkable and that the capitalist market is the only viable way of managing society. The bourgeoisie experienced a resurgence of confidence as they continued to claw back the post-war gains of the working class - an onslaught which the traditional leaders of the labour movement had no policy or political will to resist.

But do these changes mean that the abolition of capitalism and the socialist reconstruction of society are postponed for fifty years? What are the arguments used to rationalise the mood of pessimism? The main components seem to be as follows:

The collapse of the 'really existing' model of 'socialism' in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere (Angola, Ethiopia, etc) has destroyed the claim that economic planning can replace the capitalist market. (Ironically, this argument is widely accepted despite the fact that the Trotskyist left and officially even the reformist left never accepted the Stalinist states as genuine models of socialism).

Capitalism, through developing new technology and greatly extending globalisation, has significantly strengthened its position internationally, enhancing its ability to ride out crises and gaining more room for manoeuvre against the working class.

The reformist leaders of the traditional Social Democratic and Labour parties and of the trade unions have abandoned any commitment to progressive reforms in favour of the working class and now accept the permanence of the capitalist market. The tendency towards the mutation of traditional reformist organisations into liberal-capitalist parties has dramatically undermined the credibility of socialist ideas. (Again, it is ironic that many former Marxists should be influenced by this shift, when Marxism never accepted that step-by-step reform of capitalism could provide a route to socialism).

As the combined result of these trends, the working class has been to some extent weakened economically, socially, and politically. Technological changes, new management methods and globalisation have undermined the strength of the unions, especially the 'heavy battalions' in industries like coal mining, steel making, engineering, etc.

At the same time, the openly pro-capitalist orientation of the social democratic leaders has politically disorientated large sections of the working class, who have largely been left leaderless in opposing the renewed capitalist offensive. On top of this, the collapse of Stalinism, the only existing model of 'socialism', has demoralised the politically active workers.

There is clearly more than a grain of truth in this presentation of recent events, which reflects real trends and processes.

But to conclude from them that socialism has been deferred for fifty years is a one-sided and completely false interpretation of these developments. The most important task of Socialism Today will be to refute this argument.

In our future issues we shall seek through factual and theoretical analysis to substantiate the case which we can only boldly outline in this, our inaugural issue. We will affirm the need for an anti-capitalist programme based on the ideas of Marxism and the perspective of a socialist transformation of society.

1989 was an historic turning point -not in our view, the beginning of a new era of flourishing capitalist development, but the end of an exceptional 'golden age' for the bourgeoisie in the advanced capitalist countries and the beginning of protracted economic depression, social polarisation and political upheaval in which the working class will reassert its role as the decisive force for social progress.

Far from being 'finished' (or even marginalised) for fifty years, the working class will, in the next period, engage in unprecedented struggles against capitalist oppression -and the workers' aims will once again be expressed in the language of socialism.

The collapse of Stalinism
THE COLLAPSE OF the Stalinist states does not prove the superiority of capitalism, that economic planning is unviable or that the market is the only effective means of running economies.

Instead it bears out the warnings made by Lenin and Trotsky in 1917: while the working class could begin the task of the socialist revolution, a socialist society could not be constructed within the frontiers of an economically and culturally backward society.

Socialism had to achieve a higher level of organisation than capitalism, which had already created a world market. Successful economic planning and workers' democracy, depended, therefore, on the spread of the revolution to a series of economically advanced countries with strong proletariats.

The collapse of the Stalinist regimes, moreover, confirmed the critique of Stalinism put forward by Trotsky in the 1930s. Trotsky argued that the development of a privileged bureaucracy, which under Stalin's dictatorial rule usurped the control of society by workers' representatives, would severely limit and eventually undermine the gains of a planned economy.

Trotsky warned that in the bureaucrats' greed for privileges and personal power lay the seeds of a future capitalist restoration. The way out lay through a political revolution in which the workers would overthrow the ruling elite, revive workers' democracy, and develop economic planning - on the basis of internationalist links with the workers of other countries.

Subsequently, although there were moves towards political revolution, for instance in Hungary in 1956, the bureaucracy managed to consolidate itself to a greater extent than envisaged by Trotsky. This was largely due to the weakness of the major capitalist states during the crisis period of the 1930s and the intra-capitalist conflicts of World War Two, when the western powers were obliged to lean on the Soviet Union against their fascist rivals.

Given the new balance of forces following the war, capitalism was forced to retreat, conceding Eastern Europe (and later China) to a strengthened Stalinism.

Economic planning, despite the enormous human cost under totalitarian control, proved some of its potential. The Soviet Union was transformed into a mighty industrial power, and later a nuclear superpower that rivalled US imperialism for a period. While workers notoriously lacked good quality consumer goods, in other respects living standards were immeasurably raised, with full employment, cheap housing, good education and health services, etc.

Nevertheless, as Trotsky predicted, the progress that could be made under a bureaucracy was strictly limited. The bureaucracy stifled every element of democracy, and established a rigid command structure that reflected the conditions under which it was formed: the political purges of the 1930s and the technical-industrial structure of the basic heavy industries, vintage 1940s.

While successive reformers, from Khrushchev to Gorbachev, tinkered with the system and achieved temporary improvements, the bureaucratic apparatus was ultimately incapable of adapting to new technology and the changed social conditions of a modern industrial society. Without the initiative of the workers being involved, planning began to be more and more undermined, with the market reappearing by the back door - through unofficial bartering between enterprises and a black market in food and consumer goods to fill the enormous gaps in the plan.

The mass movement of Solidarity in Poland in the early 1980s signalled that the 'game was up' for Stalinism. Shaken, the 'liberal' wing of the bureaucracy under Gorbachev desperately attempted to reform the system - only to trigger the disintegration of central planning and the collapse into market anarchy.

The collapse of economic planning arose from the internal contradictions of Stalinism, not from the superiority of the market. On the contrary, the return to the market represents a counter-revolutionary regression to private profit-seeking and anarchy, highlighted by the prominence of mafia elements in the economy of the former Soviet Union. Far from demonstrating its superiority, the advent of the market brought the biggest slump in modern times.

Stalinism was not a healthy experiment in socialist construction - it was an extremely contradictory detour which led to a cul-de-sac. But we cannot allow this historical experience to be buried by capitalist propaganda that socialism is dead, only capitalism works. We have to explain the concrete historical circumstances which determined the degeneration of the first workers' state, separating what was progressive from what was reactionary, and applying the lessons to the formulation of a socialist programme for the future.

A capitalist renaissance?
THE 'DEATH OF communism' after 1989 inspired an orgy of capitalist triumphalism.

Undoubtedly, after four decades of 'cold war' rivalry between US imperialism and the Soviet superpower, the implosion of Stalinism appeared as a victory for 'the West'. The US-led intervention against Iraq in the Gulf War, which took place under exceptionally favourable conditions for imperialism, reinforced the impression that the West was strengthened.

In the economic sphere, the fall of the Berlin Wall came when the capitalists internationally were buoyed up with confidence as a result of the super-profits (and reduced taxation) derived from the speculative boom of the late 1980s. This profits-ecstasy trip carried over to 1990-91, even though the world economy relapsed into a period of prolonged stagnation.

The capitalists consoled themselves with the remarkable growth spurt that was taking place in China, some areas of Asia, and some Latin American countries, where the imposing of 'structural reform programmes' following the 1980s debt crisis opened up highly profitable fields of speculative investment.

But had the conditions been established for a global capitalist renaissance? The answer, on any sober analysis, must clearly be no. The profits of big business and especially the big capitalist speculators have been restored to the high levels of the post-war upswing period (1950-73).

This has been achieved, however, mainly through intensified exploitation of the working class - lower pay levels, lower welfare spending, and harsher management regimes in the workplace.

Outside the advanced, high-tech sectors of the economy (micro-electronics, communications technology, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, etc) the growth of production and productivity has been lower than during the upswing period. In the major industrial economies, notably the US and Japan, there has been a 'hollowing out' of industry, with the accelerated displacement of manufacturing industry by the service sector.

Far from a period of renaissance, capitalism has entered a period of chronic depression. The cycle of booms and slumps will continue (as we have already seen since 1990), but successive recovery periods will not eradicate the underlying causes of long-term decline -on the contrary, they will be accentuated all the more.

The boom of the 1980s in the advanced capitalist countries, the wave of speculative investment in certain Third World countries, and the rather weak recovery of the major economies in the last two or three years, have not in any way halted the erosion of the conditions of long-term growth which were established in the post-war period.

Within the advanced capitalist countries the capitalists have restored profitability by clawing back the concessions which they were obliged to make to the working class during the post-war upswing: full employment, relatively high wage levels, the welfare state etc.

Faced with a decline in profitability after the late 1960s, the capitalist class began to draw the conclusion that it could no longer afford the overheads of the 'welfare state'. In the 1980s Thatcherism or Reaganomics became the order of the day, with the privatisation of state industries, cutbacks in state welfare spending, and an assault on established trade union strength.

The result, however, has been a drastic undermining of the market, which had underpinned the high investment and sustained profitability of the upswing period. The capitalists are caught in a contradiction.

Internationally, the end of the upswing at the time of the oil price crisis in 1973-74, led to a breakdown of the relatively stable framework of the capitalist world economy established in the immediate post-war period. There has, it is true, been an acceleration of the growth of world trade during the 1980s and early 1990s, but this has brought increased tensions between the major exporters. This is reflected in the formation of major trading blocs, the European Union and NAFTA, with a looser Asian bloc around Japan.

Above all, however, the breakdown of world economic relations is reflected in the collapse of the relatively stable Bretton Woods money system after 1973, and the introduction of floating rates. Together with the deregulation of financial markets and the upsurge in global speculative investment (itself a signal of the capitalists turn away from development of the productive forces) this has introduced a major element of instability into the world economy.

'Globalisation' means, in reality, a return to the pro-1913 position, when there was previously the unfettered movement of capital on the world market. However, the position for capitalism is less favourable now. Then, the gold standard prevailed, which largely ruled out speculative flows based purely on changes in exchange rates and interest rates.

Moreover, there was greater freedom of movement for labour, which meant that workers were able to migrate from areas of mass unemployment (like the poorer countries of southern and eastern Europe) to expanding economies (such as the US, Latin America, Australasia, etc). Also government debts were much lower then than today's historically unprecedented levels.

It is the conditions of deep crisis, not sustained upswing, which are now being assembled in the world economy. While there is no mechanical, linear link between economic crisis and political struggle, the economic crisis which will unfold in the coming years will inevitably provoke mass struggles both in the advanced capitalist countries and in the semi- and under-developed countries.

The collapse of reformist socialism
THE IDEA THAT socialism has been finally eclipsed has been reinforced by the dramatic swing to the right by the leaders of the Social Democratic and Labour Parties, together with their allies in the trade unions.

Since the early 1980s the leaders of reformist socialism have abandoned their previous formal commitment to an alternative socialist society and even ditched their political commitment to progressive reforms in favour of the working class.

Many examples could be given. Even before the slump of 1979-81, which marked the turn of major capitalist governments towards 'free market' policies, the British Labour government of 1974-79 adopted deflationary monetarist policies. This spelt the end of reformism based on Keynesianism in Britain, and opened the era of reformism-without-reforms.

During the 1980s this counter-reformist trend was followed by social democratic leaders in other European countries -Gonzalez in Spain, Papendreou in Greece and Mitterrand in France, who after the Socialist Party victory in 1981 initially embarked upon a reformist policy, only to abandon it within a year.

The collapse of the Stalinist regimes enormously accelerated this development. Fundamentally, however, the process of political degeneration of the Labour leaders was rooted in the social trends of the preceding period.

The strength of the social democratic workers' organisations was based on the long post-war upswing. Given the balance of forces, with the strengthening of the working class during the period of full employment and the then economic needs of the capitalist class, it was in the interests of big business to concede higher wage levels, higher welfare spending, and to encourage full employment.

The electoral success of the social democratic leaders (which was, in any case, extremely patchy) was based, not on the appeal of their ideas, but on these social conditions. When in power there was scope for reformist parties to carry out reforms, thus securing them a basis of working class support. As these social-economic conditions were eroded, so was the electoral basis of the reformist parties generally undermined.

After 1973 the capitalists were still obliged in many countries to make concessions to the workers, who at that stage still retained the trade union strength accumulated during the upswing. Reformist governments were still able, initially, to introduce some limited reforms - only for them to be rapidly wiped out by accelerating inflation and escalating unemployment, which helped discredit these parties electorally.

Paradoxically, many on the Marxist left internationally have been totally demoralised by the collapse of the reformist left. This is contradictory, because Marxism never accepted that step-by-step reforms within the framework of capitalism could produce a socialist society. What is true is that through their domination of the traditional mass workers' parties and the trade unions, the reformists have acted as an enormous political and organisational barrier to the defence of workers' interests against a capitalist assault.

There is not one of the traditional workers' organisations, however, which is not currently in a state of crisis. The reformist leaders no longer have a mass electoral base which they can take for granted. This is yet another aspect of the testing and erosion of the ideas and institutions which were strengthened during the post-war upswing. The weakening of the social democracy represents a weakening of one of the props on which capitalist stability rested during the upswing period. In the coming period of mass working class struggle what remains of these organisations will be put to the test. Sections of them will either be democratised and transformed into vehicles of struggle, or they will be swept aside to make way for new mass organisations and movements of the workers.

The role of the working class
BUT IS NOT the ideological swing to the right based on the defeat of the working class? Has not the balance of class forces within the advanced capitalist countries and internationally tipped decisively in favour of capitalism over the last 10 to 20 years?

After all, it may be argued, throughout the advanced capitalist countries mass unemployment has undermined the strength of organised workers. The state, especially in Britain but in other countries too, has been able to claw back trade union rights conceded in the past.

The 'big battalions' of organised workers have been seriously undermined by de-industrialisation and relocation. An ever-increasing section of workers are now forced to accept temporary, part-time, casual employment of various kinds, with low pay and very few rights.

These trends (together with the undermining of working class loyalty to the traditional workers' parties) have to be recognised. There is no justification, however, for drawing the conclusion that the working class is therefore finished as a force capable of a historic struggle against the capitalist system and for a new socialist order of society. There has been no defeat in the last two decades on the scale of the fascist counter-revolution in the 1930s.

What we have seen in the last period is not a smashing of the power of the organised labour movement, but a clawing back of some (and in some countries a substantial share) of the exceptional gains made by the working class during the period of post-war upswing. After the slump of 1974-75 the capitalists abandoned Keynesianism and turned to neo-liberalism - and a long-term policy of undermining the power of the organised working class.

There were massive struggles internationally against this capitalist offensive, in many cases limiting or delaying the retrenchment. However, the subjective factor, the lack of leaders with the necessary strategy and tactics, was decisive. The general capitalist offensive, based on changes in production methods and the world division of labour, could only be successfully resisted on the basis of a bold anti-capitalist programme - linking day-today demands to the perspective of socialist change. Yet the union leaders, following the social democratic leaders, in most cases accepted the logic of the market.

In the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe there has, it is clear, been a devastating defeat for the working class. The legacy of totalitarian Stalinism, which allowed no element of independent working class democracy, is the atomisation of the working class.

The recovery of working class forces will take some time, especially in the former Soviet Union. Nevertheless, we can already see the signs of a renewal of the working class in recent industrial struggles in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and other East European countries.

In the advanced capitalist countries, however, the recent period has seen an almost continuous wave of struggle against the capitalist offensive on living standards and democratic rights. In both Italy and France for instance there is a glaring contradiction between the relationship of political forces, where right-wing parties have triumphed against the ideologically bankrupt parties of the left, and the balance of social forces, where mass workers' struggles have successfully resisted onslaughts by big business and the state.

In Mexico, the Zapatista uprising, which reflects profound discontent amongst a majority of the urban and rural proletariat, triggered a collapse of the Mexican 'economic miracle', which in turn sent shock waves around the world economy.

The working class remains the decisive force for change. They will not passively allow a worsening of conditions, of mass unemployment and impoverishment, which are clearly on the capitalists' agenda in the next period.

Moreover, the workers cannot resist these barbarous conditions without challenging the whole system. Far from seeing the end of the working class as a progressive force, we are experiencing the beginning of a new phase of struggle. The crisis within the traditional workers' parties is clearing the ground for a renewal of anti-capitalist, socialist struggle.

There will also be a process of democratisation and renewal within the trade unions. Far from being eclipsed by the 'new middle class', the working class will increasingly draw behind it wide sections of the middle strata of society, who are themselves being squeezed and in reality proletarianised by the capitalist crisis.

The programme of socialism
THE ATTRACTIVE POWER of socialist ideas, for reasons outlined, has undoubtedly been weakened in recent years. But this will be the transitory effect of a passing conjuncture.

Consciousness, especially of the newer generation of workers and youth, will be determined by current conditions and the events which will unfold.

As struggles develop, the more active workers and youth will be impelled to search for an anti-capitalist programme -which can only be formulated in socialist terms.

Paradoxically, today there is a level of social tension, political protest, and youth rebellion unprecedented in the post-war period. The fragmented character of the movements to which this gives rise is primarily due to the political bankruptcy of the traditional mass organisations.

But the struggles of different layers of workers, together with the phenomena of 'new social movements', are a response to the various symptoms of capitalist decline. It is impossible to defend living standards and democratic rights, to halt the devastation of the environment, let alone end the various bloody conflicts internationally, without confronting the power of the capitalist class.

Those who accept the market as an eternal form of social organisation are, in reality, condemning the majority of society to a future of increased social polarisation, mass impoverishment, and the reappearance of barbarous conditions of oppression and conflict.

Acceptance of the 'market' means acceptance of the domination of world production and trade by a small handful of big capitalist monopolies, the determination of social priorities by their drive for profits, and the 'organisation' of economic life by the anarchic market of capitalism.

The only viable alternative to this remains the socialist planned economy, not on the Stalinist model, but on the basis of international planning and democratic workers' management and control. On such a basis, science and technology could be applied to production in a balanced way, to meet human needs and for the harmonious development of society in the interests of the majority.

Only on this basis will the fundamental contradictions of capitalism - private ownership of the means of production and the division of the world economy into ultimately antagonistic national economies - be overcome, thus eliminating the fundamental roots of oppression and conflict.

Our task, through intervention in struggle and a dialogue with the workers and youth, is to elaborate a socialist programme which will effectively provide a guide to action and re-establish the authority of genuine Marxism. Unless we are to capitulate to a barbarous capitalism we must fight for a socialist future.

The Socialist Way: The escalation of the class war being waged agains...

The Socialist Way: The escalation of the class war being waged agains...: "Well there we have it; one Royal Wedding appropriated and carried off without any real problems for the authorities and the powers that b..."

Thursday, 28 April 2011

royal wedding exposes the protection of the capitalist system

So if your anything like me you'll be completely fed up to the back teeth of hearing about the royal wedding tommorrow. Dont worry i'm not going to gush over it like the capitalist press have been doing for months now ever since their engagement.

But what this event does do it exposes the royals as a position above democracy. They cannot be removed they sit above all polititians living in a world of the rich and famous. The elite for want of a better word.

Yuo visit royal ascot on the day of the royal visit and there is a certain feel to it of upper class meritochracy that you can smell there. Having never been there i wouldnt know for sure but i can make my own mind up.

Now i'm no royalist as you have probably guessed. I'm a socialist and feel that the royal family- the monarchy is thre just like the police force to hold the capitalist system in place. It is as if they cannot trust polititians to not get too powerful and try becoming a dictator.

It is a complete distrust in the country and its people to have to hold it back from this. America for example has never had a monarchy but yet has never had a dictator as much as we like to think of George Bush as a nutter he was democratically elected sadly. Also royalists use this arguement of tourism and it boosting it. I frankly do not buy this one at all as America has no monarchy as i just stated yet it has no issue with attracting people there for tourism does it last time i checked.

But if you can wade through the media clambering over themselves to get pictures and reports from the big day as they are calling it you can tell that they are trying so so hard to distract us from what teh tory government is currently doing trying to rip our welfare state apart and take us back in time to the dark ages.

If the royal family care for its people so much why does it never interveen when it doesnt agree waht is happenin to its people. For example it stood by and allowed Margret Thatcher to go to war with the labour movement and the working class in the 80's selling off a whole load of our industries and great institutions . The royals never get involved unless something affects them which it rarely does. They sit there on top of the system they represent and dont mind to see the working class made to pay for crisis after crisis of the capitalist system as at the end of the day they will always get paid for by the good old tax payer and no one bats a eyelid.

But as socialists we oppose the monarchy as they are not democratic and do not contribue to society. Just like in the Russian revolution the monarchy was one of the first sections to go when the workers took control of the soviets .

But the media coverage of this which ahs been so wall to wall has exposed a truth to me that the royal family are part of a different class and they will always look to protect their class interests to any length.

They must be abolished and not replaced but replaced with a socialist society with workers and working class people controlling the commanding heights of teh economy and sharing the wealth to the many not just the few as we have now.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

In defence of Alfie Meadows

Alfie Meadows sustained brain injury having been struck on the head with a baton by a Metropolitan Police officer at a protest about tuition fees on 9 December 2010. That assault is the subject of an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, (IPCC). The IPCC are also examining the decision making process by the Metropolitan Police Service which led to Alfie and other young people being placed at risk of significant harm. It is anticipated that the IPCC investigation will conclude shortly. Yesterday the Metropolitan Police charged Alfie with violent disorder. Alfie strongly denies the charge and will plead not guilty.

He fell unconscious on the way to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where he underwent a three-hour operation to save his life.

As his mother said at the time, Alfie Meadows was not getting involved in any rioting, but merely trying to leave the police kettle.

And yet the Metropolitan Policeannounced yesterday that he will be among 11 people charged over the 9th December event.

The news release says he is charged with violent disorder contrary to Section 2 Public Order Act 1986.

It is a sentence that carries a maximum sentence of five years.

I personally feel this is outrageous and am shocked not more has been made of this. the poor guy came within a inch of his life after being struck over the head with a police baton on last years student demonstration. The guy suffered bleeding to the brain to to the extreme force of the hit. I really feel for the guy and his family who must have almost thought they lost their son a few months ago.
So now we hear Alfie is to be charged with violent disorder. Well too right he is pleading not guilty how can the police officer who did this to him get away with it with no investigation or enquirey.It seems to me coupled with the arrests of the UK uncut protesters protesting peacefully occupying shops avoiding tax is a drive to clamp down on legal protest in this country.

I dont want to speak to soon of course but it does feel that we are turning into a police state where the police can use whatever force they like on our innocent protesters.

Of course if protesters are violent i do not condone it but i have no reason to believe any of these who were arrested and since charged were.

There is something in this country we call a right to protest i do hope we are not seeing the end of this by this vicious right wing government.

I send my thoughts and solidarity to Alfie and Edward Woollard, 18, who joined protesters who stormed the complex that houses the Conservative party headquarters in London on 10 November.
The A-level student, from Dibden Purlieu, Hampshire, will serve half of the sentence in a young offenders' institution before being eligible for release.

The Socialist Way: Royal Wedding Street Parties A Thing of the Past

The Socialist Way: Royal Wedding Street Parties A Thing of the Past: "Now I wouldn't like to worry anyone, but I been considering and wondering about Royal Street Parties. That’s not to say that I am planning..."

latest GDP figures make bleak reading for the government

The UK economy returned to modest growth in the first three months of 2011, official figures revealed today, following a shock decline at the end of last year.

Gross domestic product (GDP) - a broad measure for the total economy - grew by 0.5% in the first quarter of the year, following an unexpected drop of 0.5% in the final weather-hit quarter of 2010, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

All this makes bleak reading for George OSbourne as he looks to re balance the economy. I think these figures clearly show a failiure to bring in growth for the UK. These figures include figures since VAT went up in January to 20% but dont account for teh oncoming savage spending cuts by the government. THe next quarters figures will be very interesting indeed.

In the figures we can see that construction took a big hit no doubt as a result of loosing many contracts for building schools projects and a stagnation in house building market.

All this confirms mine and many others thoughts that cutting our way out of a recession is never the way to go. George Osbourne and his tory pals have not learnt the lessons of history. Although this 0.5% shows growth it is only returning to what it was in the third quarter of last year. This is in affect a 6 month stagnation . Whatever spin these political types and media who do a good job of spinning them for them too there is no way these figures show the tories plans are working.

Labour of course have no reply on this whatever they say they would have only cut 2 billion pounds less this year and had no ideas for real growth either.

Time after time i remind people that capitalism is broken and you cannot reform the system. Only a over throw of the system to bring the heights of the economy into public ownership will fill the public purse with funds to reinvest in the services we so badly need.

Removing the economic power of the rich and redistributing wealth to the many would by my idea of making society a fairer society.

2011 with spending cuts ahead looks to be anotehr bumpy year for the British economy. With growing fears in the global market of the likes of Greece and Spain defaulting on its debts the fear of a crisis in the capitalist society is bound to spread.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Tories relight their attack on trade unions once again

Today we have heard a tory minister named Dominic Raab who was voted in by 42.6% of the electorate is calling again for the government to introduce strike ballot thresholds of a turnout of 50% to be passed officail and legal. Anything less he says would be made ilegal and could not take place.
Bob Crow the general secretary of the RMT union one of the most left leaning unions going made the e xcellent point that if this rule applied to MP's as it is being proposed under the AV voting system if it goes through in may would mean MP's like Mr Raab and many of his career driven polititains not taking their seats in the house of commons. How hypocritical of this man who wouldnt even be in a position to make such remarks if it wasnt for the voting system thatallows MP's to gain office on such low turnouts.

It is clear to me the tories are sparing for a battle with the unions again with this latest drive for cuts and austerity they are almost goading the unions into action to then release these anti trade union laws on them.

Whatever happened to the right to strike. Unions do not ust strike for the sheer fun of it Mr Raab , they use industrial action as a last resort. Mr Raab s claims that due to RMT underground workers strikes last year Londons economy lost millions of pounds of revenue is clearly all a tory minister is likely to notice. They do not see the other side of the coin where workers are loosing their jobs facing reduced pay and conditions. As Bob Crow points out what other ammunition do workers have to defend themselves against the boss's if they cannot use the right to strike to protect their rights.

I am a trade unionist myself and am a member of Unite where in our union we have balloted time after time with BA cabin crew but each time BA seem to find something a technical hitch which means the workers cannot excersise their democratic right to take industrial action.

As the coming months move forward and the prospect of industrial action in the public sector becomes more and more of a reality i imagine we will be hearing more and more scare mongering from tory ministers with clearly nothing better to do than stir up trouble with the unions. We all know tories are no fans of unions they canot stand the idea of workers having collective power in numbers and always look to break them up.
So the hypocrisy of this man is dripping and i do hope that trade unions are not brought under further legislation to curb any industrial activity which they have a fundemental right to use in my opinion. The right to remove your labour is one of the workers last resorts in times of struggle and must be upheld in my view.

Chernobyl 25 years on a case against nuclear power

I thought i'd share this e xcellent article posted on the CWI's website at
a excellent article explaining the myths and lies around the Chernobyl disaster and the reality of life since then.

Scientists estimate nuclear fall-out caused over 200,000 deaths

Rob Jones, Moscow

It is now 25 years since the catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear station.

In the immediate aftermath and under pressure of public opinion, many countries tended to wind down their atomic energy programmes. Now, however, with oil at a high price, big business is attempting to resurrect nuclear power, arguing, that in fact the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster were not so serious after all.

George Monbiot (Guardian, 5 April 2011), a former anti-nuclear energy advocate has also now come out in favour of the nuclear lobby. He argues that there is no serious scientific evidence backing up claims of high fatality levels and even argues that the high deaths rates in the region around Chernobyl are as much due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. He criticises one study to back up his claim saying that "it made no attempt to correlate exposure to radiation with the incidence of disease".

Yet such studies have been made. A report written by Russian scientists and published by Greenpeace in 2006, gave many examples, backed by scientific references. For example, they compare different regions of Belarus, the country most affected by the Chernobylfall-out. It has seen a 40% increase in cancer rates in the period from 1990 to 2000. The highest increase (52%) was seen in the Gomel region which was the most affected by the fallout and the lowest (32-33%) in Brest and Mogilev - the least affected. This report can be read in detail here.

The Russian scientists who were involved in compiling this report, who had to overcome serious political obstacles from the Russia nuclear lobby to uncover the truth, estimate that in the years up to 2006, 200,000 people died as a result of Chernobyl. Many others suffer from other illnesses.

We reprint below an article from pulished on the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Svetlana, one of the authors, who at the time was a vibrant and energetic activist defending the rights of Chernobyl victims, sadly later died of cancer, barely reaching the age of 20 years.

First published 24 April 2006:

Ukraine: The rewriting of Chernobyl’s history
Corruption and despair – Interviews with accident victims
Rob Jones and Svetlana, CWI CIS
On the 26 April, 1986, the fourth block of the Chernobyl nuclear power station exploded, throwing 50 million curies of radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere. This is 500 times more than was released when the American army dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, towards the end of WW2. In the year, following the Chernobyl catastrophe, over 200,000 people from the Ukraine, alone, were effected by the explosion (in the former USSR the figure was near 700,000). Around 3.5 million people were left living in regions with high radiation levels. Even today’s Ukraine Ministry of Health recognises that up to 80% of those people suffer some effects and require more medical treatment than would normally be the case. In the Ukraine, 643,000 children live in the affected areas, 5,500 of whom are registered invalids.

In a recent excellent article on Chernobyl, by Jon Dale and Peter Dickenson, posted on, the authors explain how, as part of the new “Is atomic energy safe?” debate, there is a clear attempt being made by advocates of nuclear power to downscale the deaths and illnesses caused by the Chernobyl disaster, 20 years ago. A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, in conjunction with the World Bank, and UN bodies (‘Chernobyl: The true scale of the accident’) claims, “A total of up to four thousand people could eventually die of radiation exposure from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident”.

“As of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths have been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster, almost all being highly exposed rescue workers, many of whom died within months of the accident”.

Outlandish claims
An even more outlandish claim is made by Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, and now an advocate of nuclear power. He claims that only 56 deaths could be directly attributed to Chernobyl, and most of these, he claims, were people who died during the accident. He compares this figure to the over one million deaths in Africa, over the past twenty years, by people wielding machetes in various wars!

All the agencies working in the three countries directly affected by Chernobyl (Belarus, the Ukraine and Russia), however, report a completely different picture. Unlike the IAEA report, which was compiled mainly by people outside of the CIS and with close connections to the nuclear industry, another report ‘Consequences on Human Health of the Chernobyl Disaster’ was compiled using the evidence and input of dozens of health professionals working in the region. This report is backed by the research conducted by the Russian Academy of Science and which is published by Greenpeace. According to their information, over 200,000 people have died as a result of the Chernobyl catastrophe. What is immediately striking, when comparing the two reports, is that the IAEA only examines a very few illnesses and always attempts to put doubt on links between the illness and the accident. The Greenpeace report has a very thorough analysis of all the possible illnesses, backed by statistical analysis of, for example, relative illness rates between areas affected by the fallout and other areas. It is absolutely clear that the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster were horrendous and will continue to be so for decades.

The connivance of UN institutions with the cover up that is clearly being conducted by the nuclear industry is a scandal. However, there is another scandal that will probably never get much public airing in the mainstream media – that is, the pitifully low level of assistance given to the Chernobyl victims.

It is difficult to find information of funds given as humanitarian aid since the catastrophe. According to President Lukashenko of Belarus, over 200 million dollars was received by Belarus in the 15 years following the accident. If this figure is correct, it probably means that not much less than a billion dollars, in all, was granted for humanitarian aid. This is in addition to a further billion given to the Ukrainian government in technical assistance to aid the closure of the remaining power blocks at Chernobyl.

Precious little of this money, however, reached the victims, the vast majority of whom are victims of the worst forms of exploitation in the new capitalist countries that arose from the collapse of the USSR - a collapse clearly hastened by the Chernobyl catastrophe.

Victims Anna and Rustam talk to CWI
Rob Jones, from the CWI in the CIS, and Svetlana, a youth rights activist in one of the areas affected by the disaster, both recently visited Chernobyl victims in a hospital. They spoke to Anna and Rustam.

“I was a child at the time of the explosion. Now the next generation of children is going to school. Many, like my kids, are in and out of hospital. My sister’s child is permanently bald. My husband can’t get work. Yet the government is doing all it can to wipe the memory of Chernobyl from the consciousness of the Ukrainian people. But a huge bitterness remains in the minds of those affected.

“For the majority of Chernobyltsi [victims of Chernobyl] the word ‘work’ sounds great, but not many of has a job. For anyone living in one of the affected areas, a potential employer has to fill in a pack of official forms. He has to take on extra obligations to pay for sick pay and has to accept that the employee is likely to be ill more often than normal. Of course, in our new market economy, employers are not interested in taking on such people, particularly when there are so many ‘healthy’ people without work.

“And this is just the start! In this situation, people hide the fact that they are Chernobyltsi; better to be sick at work than be an unemployed Chernobyltsi. Because you can’t live on the pittance the state gives you. At least today wages and pensions are growing but the payment given to Chernobyltsi is staying the same. They say we have free places in the kinder garden for the kids. That’s true, but we then have to pay for any basic equipment they use. My niece is smart, she speaks English very well and wants to go to college – but that costs 5,000 dollars. Where will my sister find that money? The government is trying to forget about us, we just cause them embarrassment and further problems. For the new Ukrainian elite, just as in other capitalist countries, people are just lumps of meat and if they can’t make a profit out of us, they aren’t interested.

“And we are lucky; we live in one of the bigger towns. Those who live in the villages don’t see a kopeck. Many are just petrified what will happen tomorrow.

If you are a Chernobyltsi, it’s even difficult to get a driving license. All the children evacuated from the zone underwent compulsory psychological testing, and although maybe nothing was found, it is still recorded on your health record and the mere mention of a test is interpreted as a diagnosis [To get a driving license in the Ukraine and Russia, you need to pass a psychological test].

“From the government’s point of view this is great. Not only is this another means of extracting bribes, but it is a convenient let out for the government if we start to protest – ‘You know, we sympathise but these people have psychological difficulties!’ they say.

“Even worse, is the way that invalidity categories are misused [Category 1 invalidity is the most serious form of invalidity, usually experienced by those directly involved in the Chernobyl accident or living nearby]. If you have the money it’s very easy to buy this category now, and many do because as a result you are supposed to get free housing etc. And yet those of us who did suffer are left struggling. They have been promising me a flat for years. Maybe next year, they now say. But who knows? One of my mates was a welder working on the roof of Chernobyl at the time of the explosion. Eventually he got a flat but he only lived there for 6 months, he ended up in hospital having part of his stomach [and] part of a lung removed. Now he is unemployed, living on one kidney – but as he has ‘been cured’ [so] he has had his invalidity removed!

“And yet everywhere you go, you see people pulling strings. Just the other day I was in the compensation office. I met a bloke and asked him where he had been at the time of the accident. When he said ‘Chernobyl’, I suspected him. Only those actually involved [in the accident] know that the station [which exploded] and local residents [directly effected] were in Pripyat. He probably hadn’t even heard of the place. And yet we are facing these humiliations everyday.

“We lost everything”
“Even today, when I close my eyes, I can see the helicopters flying over the plant. My parents had gone to work and we children were playing in the yard. You can imagine what we felt when we heard many would not be coming home. It was over a day later when we were rounded up, told to get our passports and a change of clothes. They put us in a bus and drove us out. In one day we lost everything – our parents, friends, childhood and home. Some people who, whether it was sensible or not, managed to get back to the town some days later to collect their things, reported that all the homes had been stripped bare by someone. Now the authorities are arranging tourist trips by Westerners but they still refuse to allow us back for fear we will ask where our stuff has gone.

“Anyone left living in the ‘clean zone’ can only get by robbing and, even worse, killing. The Chernobyl ‘pension’ is miserly, and hasn’t been increased since 1996! Even the scandalously low ‘normal’ pension has increased ten times since then. People just don’t have enough to live. No-one can even think of going to the cinema, theatre. There’s not enough money for food and even less for medicines.

The Ukrainian government is cynically refusing to implement even its own laws. For example, according to the law on the provision of social support to victims of the Chernobyl accident, at least Category One invalids should get an annual trip to a sanatorium. But, in reality, they only allocate 30 dollars a person, when the absolute minimum cost of even a bad sanatorium is about 230 dollars. And there’s another example. According to that law, Category Three invalids should get a subsidy for medicines annually equivalent to five times the minimum wage. But the minimum wage in the Ukraine is only 70 dollars a month – and the price of medicines goes up and up. It is things such, as these, that have contributed to the deaths of the 60,000 Ukrainian victims of Chernobyl in the past ten years.

“There are over 50,000 families in the housing queue. Our new president [Viktor Yuschenko] doesn’t think this is a problem. He has already demonstrated that if there is no money to pay back the wage arrears of those in work, employers only have to pay the current wage. And a large part of the debt problems were accumulated during his time as premier. But at least wages are wages. The Ukraine is far from generous with the compensation it pays to the Chernobyltsi. It pays three dollars a month! It didn’t even come up with enough money to solve the consequences of the latest accident at Chernobyl [There was another accident in 2004]. The government then only came up with 2.5 billion grivna [Ukraine currency] - 16% of what was needed. And there’s an irony – until recently, there were still three blocks working at Chernobyl but they still rationed our electricity!

“Rulers live on such problems”
“To me, a person far removed from politics, it seems that our rulers live on such problems. They have profited by millions from the catastrophe. They have got used to travelling the world to seek aid. But they are not doing so to help the people. They haven’t got enough for themselves yet. And so far, holding out the begging bowl has been profitable for them. The person responsible for organising the distribution of the first humanitarian aid is now living comfortably in the US. On other occasions, we have seen truckloads of equipment arrive in the city only to be taken back out through the back door by the authorities. Some opposition politicians claim that the politicians and their hangers on have robbed the people of 12 billion dollars in such a way – but, who knows, maybe they are afraid to give the real figure. But what is worse, they don’t work themselves and don’t give us work.

“And nothing has changed since the ‘Orange revolution’ [2004-2005 mass street protests that saw the coming to power of the pro-Western Yushenko government]. There were many chernobyltsi amongst the protesters. We just lived in hope something would change. But even in the little time that has since passed they haven’t even bothered to look at our problems. If we couldn’t influence things before, we have even less success now. The first sign was when Yushenko published his ‘10 steps to meet the people’ programme… at the same time this new ‘peoples’ president’ kicked the health ministry out of its building to house his new secretariat. Not that the health bureaucrats are any better. Then in turn took over a children’s clinic that has treated over 55,000 young patients in the past ten years. Despite the promises to hand over the former secretariat’s building for a TB clinic, this, of course, has not happened.

“The country is in shock. Even the most stable and determined people are left staggering. Nobody believed that this new ‘boss’ would treat us so callously. But this will always be, as long as we learn not to be a nation begging from others but build our own economy, our own lives.

“Uranium a merciless enemy”
“Now they are talking of the Ukraine earning money from treating other people’s nuclear waste. But uranium is a merciless enemy. It has no heart, no eyes. Don’t believe anyone who tells you it is not frightening. The Chernobyl catastrophe is not only thousands of destroyed lives but thousands of kilometres of destroyed, infertile land. It is thousands of young sheep dying from leukaemia. It is the child’s cries of pain at night and people grown old from suffering. Uranium is a monster. But our rotten Ukrainian capitalism looks on it as a means of getting rich.”

After the interviews, as Svetlana left the office of the ‘Chernobyltsi’, she caught her breath. People are down, they’re pessimistic. You can see on the faces of the passers by the problems weighing them down. You can see the difficulties they have with their health. This is the cost of life in the new capitalism.

But, as Svetlana says, it could all be so different….

The Chernobyl nightmare – a crime under Stalinism and compounded under the ‘new capitalism’ – is, for CWI supporters, a spur to fight for real change in Ukraine and throughout the CIS, for a genuine socialist society.

Monday, 25 April 2011

The hypocrisy of the west when it comes to Syria

As we have been watching on our tv's today the Syrian government is trying to crush the dissent from the anti government protesters today with huge force.

Syria's army has advanced into the southern city of Deraa, using tanks to support troops amid an intensified effort to curb popular protests.

One activist was quoted as saying that security forces were "firing in all directions", and at least five people were reportedly killed.

Witnesses also said security forces had opened fire in a suburb of Damascus.

A prominent human rights campaigner said President Bashar al-Assad had launched a "savage war" on protesters.

In the US, the Obama administration is considering imposing sanctions on senior Syrian officials to pressure the regime to stop its violent crackdown, Reuters news agency quoted a government official as saying.

The official said steps taken could include a freeze on assets and a ban on business dealings in the US, but gave no time-scale for the measures.

According to a UN Security Council diplomat, the UK and other European states are circulating a draft statement condemning the violence in Syria.

There have been numerous reports of crackdowns and arrests around Syria over recent days, despite the lifting of an emergency law last week.

Deraa is the city in which protesters, many of whom are now demanding that President Assad step down, began calling for political reforms last month.

It is just a few miles from the border with Jordan, which has been closed by the Syrians, according to Jordan's information minister.

Opposition activists said Monday morning's raid on Deraa involved as many as 5,000 soldiers and seven T-55 tanks.

This is a big move by the government, an attempt to sort this out once and for all I think. We'll now have to see if the protesters are going to be forced back into their homes, or whether they will remain defiant despite what's happened.

Syria is a one-party state and it has been extremely repressive in the past. The last time this happened was 1982 when there was an insurgency in just one town, Hama. The father of the current president sent in troops and they killed possibly 10,000 people and razed a whole quarter.

That is the history of this government. We may not be seeing anything on that scale but we are seeing something of that character, with troops being moved in to make sure the government remains the government.

The US has suggested that sanctions may be imposed on Syrian regime officials in response to the crackdown, but I don't think many people in Syria think targeted sanctions will make a difference in a situation like this.
Tanks surrounded the Omari mosque in the old city with snipers firing from rooftops, anonymous opposition sources said. The opposition reported than more than 25 people were killed, and their bodies could not be reached because of the fierce gunfire. This claim could not be independently verified.

One activist, Abdullah al-Harriri, told AFP: "The men are firing in all directions and advancing behind the armour which is protecting them."

"Electricity is cut off and telephone communications are virtually impossible."

While there are reports of growing strife among Syrian army officers on different levels - with suggestions that some soldiers have changed sides and are now fighting with the people of Deraa - foreign journalists have been prevented from entering the country, making information hard to verify.

But the BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones, in neighbouring Lebanon, says the use of tanks has not been reported elsewhere in Syria, and would mark a scaling up in the government's response to protests.

It appears from the latest reports that the government is absolutely determined to use force to suppress the protest movement, he says.

All this news is very worrying for the good people of Syria. Several questions come to mind though firstly will this finnish off this uprising by the good people of Syria or will they cease for now but come back and defy the governments orders at a later date looking to push back the government more ?

also the key here again just like in the Egyptian uprisings the army could be key here. In Egypt as we saw the army split and a lot downed guns and joined the rebels in trying to over over throw the government which ended up in a success in that instance.

Many questions still there for me and what is most notable is the western hypocrisy on this situation. When you looka cross the region to Libya where NATO planes continue to bomb Tripoli and Libya itself enforcing their "no fly zone " which i think they have destroyed all targets now so no idea why they are still there is striking when you look at Syria and American, British and french polititains are not calling for intervention there this time ? this all seems very wrong and why Libya is deamed nessesary to enforce a no fly zone yet Syria is looked at ok to let it carry on while putting up silly sanctions which have no affect at all.

So it will be interesting to see how this one develops. I do hope the government is over thrown in Syria and the power is given to the workers in a trade union movement to brin about a socialist society but i am guessing if there is any chance of that the imperialist west will not like to see that and will act then.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The vast influence of Tesco in todays society

As many of you will be aware one of our biggest supermarkets if not our biggest in the UK Tesco dominate the high street in many towns and cities. We now have a case where we get what are called "tesco towns" where the influenceand the role a Tesco has is unrivaled in a town.

I found this set of facts about Tesco from the excellent Tescopoly website which you can check out here

1) 1 in every 7 pounds spent in the UK in 2007 was spent in Tesco

2) Tesco use their monopoly power to squeeze farmers hard. A Competition Commission investigation revealed that Tesco consistently pay suppliers nearly 4% below the average price paid by other retailers. There isn’t much evidence they pass these savings to consumers – they just pocket the profits.

3) Research by ActionAid found workers in Costa Rica producing bananas for export to all major UK supermarkets earning 33p an hour. This wage is so low that they cannot afford to take an hour off when dangerous pesticides are being sprayed on the crops.

4) Unite the Union have a long running campaign against Tesco over the terrible treatment of workers in their meat supply chain.

5) The New Economics Foundation have shown that fresh fruit and veg is, on average, 30% cheaper at a street market than it is in a supermarket. However, through short term aggressive pricing when they first move into an area, Tesco often shuts down these markets, reducing access to fresh fruit and veg for the poorest.

6) Tesco offer their best deals in out of town shopping centres rather than their city centre stores. This not only encourages driving, but also excludes those without cars – mostly, poorer people.

7) In the 5 years to 2002, an average of 50 local food shops were lost in the UK every week, largely due to the Tesco takeover.

8 ) Tesco is Europe’s biggest property company. In 2007 they were sitting on property assets worth £28bn.

9) Tesco are not a net creator of jobs. Because they aggressively force local shops out of business, and then provide the minimal possible service to customers, on average, every time a large supermarket opens, 276 jobs are lost.

10) Between 2003 and 2007 the Labour Party accepted donations of £54,194 from Tesco.

Unions have raised serious concerns about conditions for workers employed along supermarket supply chains in the UK. Pay and working conditions can be negatively affected as supermarkets squeeze suppliers for goods at lower prices or relocate in search of cheaper products. The major food retailers can exert undue pressure on suppliers causing job losses in food processing companies that simply cannot produce goods at the prices Tesco and their competitors wish to pay.

Unite has been campaigning in Supermarket supply chains such as the Red and White Meat Sectors since December 2007. This began by publicising the harsh conditions many workers in the UK experience when employed by companies supplying meat to some of the major Supermarkets. Unite then undertook a campaign against Tesco’s abuse of power over the Meat supply chains through the ‘Tesco: Every Workers Counts’ campaign. Unite works towards its ultimate goal of ensuring the highest ethical standards in the treatment of customers and to insist upon the highest ethical standards for workers employed by companies throughout the supply chain. For more
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) meat sector inquiry
In March 2010 the EHRC released its findings from its "Inquiry into recruitment and employment in the meat and poultry processing sector". The report reveals evidence of the widespread mistreatment and exploitation of migrant and agency workers in the sector, and makes recommendations including supermarkets improving their auditing of suppliers; processing firms and agencies improving recruitment practices, working environments and the ability of workers to raise issues of concern; and for the government to provide sufficient resources for the Gangmasters’ Licensing Agency to help safeguard the welfare and interests of workers.

The Commission will review action taken over the next 12 months by supermarkets, processing firms and recruitment agencies, and will consider taking enforcement action if necessary.

The Commission launched its first ever Inquiry into a key sector of the economy in October 2008, focusing on the UK's multi-billion pound meat industry for evidence of employment abuse and discrimination. The meat sector is a significant industry employing some 40,000 workers across Britain engaged in processing and packaging meat for sale in supermarkets and retailers.

Tesco's profits are in very stark contrast with the suppliers who have been squeezed. In 2006 the T&G announced it was forming a national co-ordinating committee to bring together its shop stewards across the Tesco empire. The initiative was the first step on the road to fighting for jobs and decent pay, terms and conditions in the country's top supermarket. Shop stewards report pressures to make efficiency savings as well as demands to give up hard won pay and working conditions in order to be admitted into the Tesco pension schemes. According to Ron Webb, T&G national secretary for transport, "Unbelievable though it may be, Tesco is actually looking to make job cuts on the day it claims to be the consumers' friend. We do not accept these cuts are either necessary or ethical. How can a multi-billion pound outfit attack the pay, terms and conditions of those people it relies on to get its goods to the stores?"

The major supermarket chains have announced numerous environmental initiatives. Tesco announced a Community Plan including an Environment Fund of £100 million in a speech by Terry Leahy in May 2006, and have continued to announce further plans since then, including carbon labelling of their products.

Despite the many benefits of these initiatives, it remains the case that Tesco's size and growth, its numerous unsustainable products, and its impact on independent retailers stop it from being a truly green company. The same is true of the other large chains. With larger numbers of car-based hypermarkets and food being sourced from around the world, and trucked around the UK, these companies continue to damage the environment.

and press release on the environment fund and waste. George Monbiot in his book "Turn up the Heat" suggests that the increasing trend of individuals and companies showing their green credentials, is often green-wash hiding real environmental costs.

Some of supermarkets' environmental costs include:

• The food industry is responsible for a third of greenhouse gas emissions and therefore has a massive part to play in tackling climate change. The bulk of these emissions come from food production. Tesco and the other supermarkets must do more to make sure that their production lines are sustainable - this needs to be prioritised above paying farmers the lowest possible prices. Research by Friends of the Earth has shown that low prices have reduced farmers' ability to produce food in environmentally friendly ways. This needs to stop.

•Fewer local farmers and shops mean both customers and goods need to be transported further. This means more pollution from cars, as people drive further to shop, and more pollution from aircraft and lorries, as food is transported from around the world. Indeed Tesco's business could be seen as one of the drivers behind the rise in UK CO2 emissions. More needs to be done to support local, seasonal produce - something that independent shops and supermarkets are well suited to. On the other hand, a 2005 Friends of the Earth survey found that Tesco came lowest out of the supermarket chains for sourcing British apples.

•Tesco's store sizes means they are some of the most energy-inefficient buildings in the retail sector. A Sheffield Hallam University study found that despite the new stock, large superstores are the most energy inefficient buildings in the sector. It would take more than 60 corner shops and greengrocers to match the carbon dioxide emissions from one average sized superstore. Although they are taking steps to increase efficiency, their commitment to building yet more stores means that these savings will be cancelled out.

•Tesco also encourages shoppers to travel by car. One in 10 car journeys in the UK are now to buy food. Work for DEFRA suggests that car use for food shopping results in costs to society of more than £3.5 billion per year from traffic emissions, noise, accidents and congestion. Tesco has been massively expanding into "Extra" format hypermarkets, which are particularly geared towards car-based shopping. The proportion of Tesco's floorspace taken up by hypermarkets is three times what it was 6 years ago.

•Tesco boasts about its progress on reducing waste and how it is following a market trend to introduce degradable plastic bags. But grocery packaging still makes up roughly a quarter of household waste, and the UK's biggest supermarkets distribute billions of plastic bags, which end up in landfill. Even degradable bags do not help, as they will still predominantly go to landfill sites where the lack of sunlight and oxygen will hinder rapid breakdown. To make a real difference the supermarkets need to stop handing out free bags altogether.

•A large amount of food is being wasted. Tesco was among the supermarkets found to be rejecting apples purely on cosmetic grounds by a 2002 Friends of the Earth survey of fruit growers.

•Biofuels - Tesco is a major shareholder in and customer of Greenergy Biofuels Limited, a UK company promising customers climate-friendly, sustainable biofuels from UK rapeseed oil. The organisation BiofuelWatch has, however, undertaken research which reveals that Greenergy's biofuels contain increasing amounts of palm oil, soy and sugar cane. All three are crops linked to large-scale rainforest destruction, massive greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and peat and forest fires, and in some instances to human rights abuses.

SO Tesco who was the focus of a recent squatter protest in Stokes Croft last week as some of you who follow the news will have read and this is a sign of people saying enough is enough with more and more of these stores opening up every year.

Critics said they did not want the area to lose its local character and feared smaller shops would find their businesses threatened.

But Tesco said evidence showed that opening such a store could bring shoppers back to an area and help local traders.

Robin Markwell from BBC Radio Bristol, who spent several hours outside the building, said campaigners in the street had been shouting support to the squatters on the roof.

There had been one or two minor scuffles involving protesters and police outside. The atmosphere was "relatively calm", he said.

Bristol City Council has approved the change of use for the building.

A protest took place at the site in February.

Claire Milne, who represents the group No Tesco in Stokes Croft, told the BBC last month that the area was "a melting pot of independent traders" who may have to close if they are unable to compete with the multi-national company.

Bushra Randhawa, a postmaster and resident for 24 years, said last month: "It's taken a huge effort from local groups, traders and the community to regenerate this area.

"Only now does it feel like a real community spirit is developing.

"This move will take us two steps backwards when we need to take two steps forward."

As the eviction got under way, a Tesco spokesman said: "We're keen to invest in the area. Many local people we've spoken to tell us they are eager to see a Tesco Express at this site.

"Our store will create approximately 20 new jobs and provide shopping facilities for hundreds of local residents.

"The squatters, who were illegally occupying the building, were asked to leave but refused.

"High Court enforcement officers are removing them from the premises with the support of the police

So i go back to one of my points i've made before that this sort of protest and anger at such a plan by Tesco is down to the brutal nature of capitalism where their drive for profit and bigger dividends for their directors is paramount. If we were to see the top 300 monopolies including the likes of Tesco nationalised by a socialist government and brought in to public ownership under workers control the rich's of these companies would cease going striaght to the top but instead be reinvested in the workers paying them a good living wage for the area they live in. Allowing trade union involvement at a advanced scale to work alongside the workers who will run these monopolies for the many not just the few who cream off the profits year in year out.

Only this way will the power and greed of companies just like Tesco be controlled more equally for the benifit of all of society not just their directors who are dam right greedy.

How long will the coalition last ?

Is a interesting question i think. The question was addressed in todays Guardian here

It raises the idea that DDavid Cameron holding all the cards close to his chest could break away from the lib dems and call a snap election in the autumn to gain a conservative majority.

As i've blogged about before i think the coalition government is very weaka nd can be brought down with careful planning. But would a labour government be ready for a snap election ? i think not. Labour are trying hopelessly to rebuild and have no policies what so ever but just one that sticks to their cuts agenda which is slightly less than the tories.

But i cannot see labour getting in if a snap election was called i can only imagine a tory majority which i think cameron would love. But how would this come about ?

would Nick Clegg jump ship or would he be pushed.

we hear reports that Nick and Dave are no longer friends. You culd have fooled me but whether this is staged or not we wait to see. If you find careerist polititians like this sickening this will not interest you but as it will effect us all in some way it is interesting to see waht happens now i feel.

Whatever happens it does re-enforce th need for a left of labour new workers party no more than ever to take advantage of labours right wing cuts agenda to provide a clear workers program fighting for a real left alternative with socialist principles.

Are anti smog warnings the future as global capitalism takes hold

As an increasing population and more and more of us driving on the roads with bus's and cars taking to the streets of our great capital i thought i'd look into smog levels and how dangerous they are to us as the capitalist system looks to take a tighter grip on our society by increasing globalisation.

Air pollution in London has hit its highest level since 2003 according to official figures.

Under European Union air quality laws daily pollution levels must not be above the legal limit on more than 35 days in a calendar year.

But air pollution levels in London have already exceeded EU daily limits 36 times this year.

It is the first time that the annual limit has been exceeded by this date since 2003 when there were 50 breaches.

On Wednesday, Marylebone Road in central London exceeded EU limits for the 36th day this year.

The station there records air pollution from tiny sooty particles, known as PM10, which are mainly caused by traffic.

The government has issued a "smog alert" for the Easter weekend for PM10s, which can affect people's health.

Simon Birkett, director of Clean Air in London, said: "We need mayor Johnson and the government to tackle an invisible public health crisis with as many premature deaths attributable to air pollution in London in 2008 as we thought occurred during the Great Smog of 1952."

The European Commission has already given the UK two written warnings and the next stage in the legal process will be referral to the European Court of Justice.

The Commission gave the mayor and UK Government until June to come up with a "London action plan" to ensure compliance with the air pollution limits.

The UK will not face fines for the breach, as the EU has given Britain an extension until June before it has to start meeting the standards in the capital.

James Grugeon, chief executive of the charity Environmental Protection UK, said the breaches showed official assurances that pollution was under control in the capital were not true.

He said: "The mayor's air quality strategy, even with a new action plan set to start in June, is not up to the job of tackling the high levels of pollution already recorded this year."

A statement from London mayor Boris Johnson said that until 11 June, the daily limit of PM10 in London was 50% higher as a result of the UK's extension from the EU.

The statement says that as of 19 April, the daily limit value has been exceeded at Marylebone Road just six times this year, meaning that the annual legal limits have not been breached.

We need mayor Johnson and the government to tackle an invisible public health crisis”
Simon Birkett

Director of Clean Air in London
A spokesperson for the mayor said: "The mayor is already taking action to improve London's air quality with cleaner buses, tougher standards for the Low Emission Zone and the first ever age limit for taxis.

"Since the beginning of 2011, we estimate that more than 75% of air pollution episodes have occurred when pollutants have been blown in from Europe."

But Simon Birkett said the extension was only valid when the air pollution action plan is implemented and until then the lower limits apply.

This to me says one thing to me, globalisation is crippling us as a nation and us as a planet. The drive for profit over anything else be that peoples liveliehoods or the environment takes no priority over profit. The mad rush to work everyday during summer months in London is unbearable as it is but despite Londons attempts to ease traffic off with their conjestion charge the smog and fumes keep on coming.
To me the conjestion charge is a load of rubbish it collects lots of money dont get me wrong but where does that money go ?

in the back pockets of city hall chiefs of course and TFL boss's no doubt. What was origianlly set up to reinvest in greener energiesa nd alternative transport has simply not materialised and this comes as no surprise to myself and many other socailists with a care for the environment too.

To me and many others you can not have a green economy without a socialist economy whilst the capitalist companies strive for profit to any length they have no consideration for the economy. Only under a socialist governmenta nd society will green energies be ableto be brought to the front. When the society isnt based on profit but a better life for all not just the few investment and research into green energies can become a priority anda nessessetity to preserve our planet in its current form.

So the smog and the pollution is yes down to man and our greed for moneya nd our nice cars and things but i lay the blame for the pullution of our cities and towns firmly at the feet of capitalism who have no care in the world for the world and this will end up in us destroying our planet unless we change the way society is run.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The Socialist Way: The capitalist world ‘bit bulls’ selectively bred ...

The Socialist Way: The capitalist world ‘bit bulls’ selectively bred ...: "Now as I do recall, we were discussing violence on this here blog, just before I disappeared and got involved with otherwise different and..."

Friday, 22 April 2011

Co-ordinated strike action to defeat the cuts

The government's strategy is clear. They intend to go in hard, fast and nasty; their principal aim is mass privatisation so their big business friends can cherry-pick which parts of the public sector they can squeeze every last drop of profit from.

The TUC march was billed as 'for the Alternative', but what is it? PCS, the left trade unions and the National Shop Stewards Network say no cuts or privatisation must mean precisely that. PCS's alternative is based on conference policy on tax justice, job creation and investment.

Between 500,000 and 700,000 people attended the demonstration on 26 March, a powerful show of strength. We are used to the police and the media underestimating the size of demonstrations but why did the TUC, who claimed there were only 250,000 to 500,000?

The TUC's dilemma comes from support for Labour. At the demo the message in Labour leader Ed Miliband's speech was: there is no alternative to the market and to the cuts and privatisation programme but Labour's cuts would be kinder.

Labour's strategy is to allow the coalition to carry out the cuts virtually unchallenged and hope the Tory and Lib Dems' deep unpopularity will ensure a Labour landslide at the next general election.

The TUC leadership's failure to adopt a clear no cuts strategy is because their unspoken strategy is that of the Labour Party. Even among some on the left there is a failure to call for an unequivocal no-cuts position because of a misplaced hope that not alienating Labour councillors and Labour affiliated unions will strengthen campaigns.

PCS supports demonstrations, peaceful direct action, building the anti-cuts movements in our communities and all other forms of campaigning. But the key to defeating the coalition is widespread, coordinated industrial action.

PCS has failed to receive satisfactory assurances from the Cabinet Office on its basic demands - no pay freezes, no attacks on pensions, the reversal of the indexing of pensions from Retail Prices Index to the Consumer Price Index, which devalues pensions by up to 20%, no job cuts and no further privatisation.

The assault on pensions is particularly pernicious. An agreement with the last government was reached in 2005 which meant pensions costs are not only sustainable and affordable but will actually fall in coming years. Any proposed increase will not go back into the pension scheme but straight to the Treasury to pay for the deficit, in other words the imposition of a pension "tax" on civil servants.

Pensions are deferred wages, low wages mean low pensions. If you remove the tiny percentage of high earners, the average pension of £4,200 is hardly a fortune.

The argument that public sector pensions must be cut because that is what has happened in the private sector is an argument for an equality of misery and a race to the bottom.

John Cridland, CBI big business group boss, recently said pension "reforms" were necessary to make privatisation affordable. But public sector pensions cost around £4.5 billion while tax relief for the richest 1% is £10 billion. It is little wonder PCS members are determined to fight this attack.

PCS has launched a major legal action to challenge the government's attempt to steal our accrued rights under the Civil Service Compensation Scheme and another to challenge the un-agreed re-indexing of our pensions. We will continue to target MPs of all parties to get our case across and continue to challenge the "no alternative to cuts" view that, although shifting, still dominates the media.

We will continue to fight for tax justice and we support the protests by UK Uncut. We reject the increasing use of political policing to silence highly effective peaceful protest just because it is exposing fat-cat tax-dodging billionaires like Sir Philip Green.

PCS, long committed to fighting for the rights of unemployed workers, claimants and the disabled will not treat the attacks on welfare as simply an "industrial" issue. While defending its members' jobs and conditions, PCS will build on its already strong links with unemployed workers' groups and other organisations to challenge the coalition's attempt to hand over this vital area for corporate profiteering.

PCS and others, including the NSSN, have argued consistently for effective industrial action that, in accordance with Congress policy, should be coordinated by the TUC. At this stage PCS is working with the education unions on defending pensions. If agreed by our conference in May, industrial action in June seems inevitable unless the government is prepared to negotiate. PCS will build for vibrant protests and regional demonstrations on the strike days.

While PCS argues that all unions should ballot at the same time and strike together we cannot wait on other union timetables when the attacks are happening now. However we would expect other unions to join us at a later stage in what is an unfolding battle. United strike action by PCS and the education unions would represent a major step forward in the battle to oppose the cuts.

United strike action can potentially stop the arrogant millionaire coalition. But real leadership and determination will be required across the movement and particularly by the TUC if we are to defeat the coalition.

PCS has signed individual cooperation agreements with Unison and Unite. Such agreements can and must be backed up by effective unity in action and campaigning.

Industrial action must also be accompanied by demonstrations and campaigning in our communities.

PCS believes the cuts must be fought wherever they occur. That is why the National Executive Committee (NEC) is urging departmental groups, branches and even individual workplaces to put in submissions for industrial action whenever and wherever necessary and not just wait for national action.

PCS will coordinate any action that arises from individual parts of the union. Already action is being planned or taking place in DWP, on call centre workers' rights, HMRC on unacceptable managing attendance procedures, Driving Standards Agency, the Home Office and elsewhere.

PCS's NEC meets on 12 April to finalise its plans to take forward the campaign to defend members' jobs, pay, conditions and services. The National Campaign Liaison Group will meet immediately following the NEC to hear and discuss the detailed strategy that will be taken to our conference in May.

Workers expect leadership from their unions, but political leadership will be demanded too. Labour cannot fulfil this role. While they almost certainly will make electoral advances, particularly in the short term, they can offer no alternative for workers. The question of effective political representation for working people has never been more relevant.

The political establishment has moved heaven and earth to create a consensus that there must be cuts. They know that if this lie is accepted by the leadership of the trade union and labour movement it will pave the road to division and defeat. PCS challenges this thinking.

The failure of the broad mass of the leaderships within our movement to even mention the word socialism, let alone argue for a socialist alternative is in itself a major obstacle to inspiring workers with the idea that a better way is possible.

The question of leadership is vital in this period, the message from the PCS leadership is that every activist must be a leader in their own workplace and community. Demonstrating effective leadership means speaking out for an unequivocal rejection of the idea that cuts are necessary and inevitable, for the alternative set out by the union and building effective action to defeat the cuts.

The elections for the PCS national executive committee, including president and vice-presidents of the union, run from 14 April to 5 May. The Democracy Alliance leads the union now, an alliance which includes Left Unity, the left organisation which the Socialist Party supports.

So strike action just like 26th march can just be the start not the end. 30th june is lookin big already with hopefully up to a million downing tools and striking and holding strong.

The trouble i see ahead is people scabbing and crossing the picket lines. As the anti cuts movement is still relatively small at this stage with still teh large proportion of the populatin still supporting cuts all be it at a slower scale this could be used against the strikers and a defeat could demoralise the movement.
This is something which union leaders must ber in mind. If sufficient pressure is built from below the union leaders will have to act or face being drowned by a wave of rage from their members.

I do think strike and industrail action is the next step for building the movement. That doesnt meant o say demo's and protests cease they can run alongside strike action and we must support the people wishing to take strike action to defend jobsand pay.

As the truths to the system we live under become clearer and the inequalities of that system- capitalism becomes more apparant to people people will start to question the fairness of it and demand change.

I do think and hope people will start to look towards alternatives like socialism to bring fairness back to this country. Nationalising the top 400 monopolies into public ownership would be the first stage of this. Bringing the heights of the economy into workers control and its assets were used to better everyones lives not just the few at the very top.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Libya, the "no fly zone" and the left

here i thought i'd share with you a excellent article by teh general secretary of the socialist party, Peter Taaffe, which is to appear in our may edition of socialism today from the socialist party issue number 148 which you can order a copy from the party at
this article is also available to read on the CWI website at too

this is fascinating and shows up a lot of hypocrisy not just with Ed miliband and labour but also some other left groups when it comes to Libya and the events out there at the moment.

Imperialist powers have implemented a no-fly zone over Libya to protect their own strategic and economic interests and to restore their damaged prestige. Incredibly, some on the Marxist left support this military intervention. PETER TAAFFE writes.
WAR IS THE most barbaric of all human activity, invested as it is in the modern era with fiendish weapons of mass destruction. It also lays bare the reality of class relations, nationally and internationally, which are normally obfuscated, hidden by layers of hypocrisy and the moral turpitude of the ruling classes.

It is the ultimate test, alongside revolution, of ideas and programme, not only for the bourgeois but also for the labour movement and the different political trends within it.

The current Libyan war - for that is what it is - illustrates this clearly. Capitalism and imperialism, masquerading under the moth-eaten label of 'humanitarian military intervention' - utterly discredited by the slaughter of Iraq - are using the conflict in an attempt to regain the initiative.

Taken aback by the sweep of the revolution in Tunisia and Egypt - with loyal props such as Mubarak and Ben Ali toppled - they desperately sought a lever to halt the process and hopefully reverse it.

This is what lies behind the bloody massacre in Bahrain, carried out by Saudi Arabian troops, with a large component of mercenaries from Pakistan and elsewhere.

Not a peep has issued from the British government on the revelations in The Observer of widespread murder gangs - led by Sunni Muslims linked to the monarchy - and the deliberate attempt to foster sectarianism in what had been previously a largely unified non-ethnic movement.

The slogans of the original Bahraini demonstrations were: 'We are not Shia, we are not Sunni, we are Bahraini'. Equally, the 'Labour leaders' - led by New Labour chief, Ed Miliband, who promised something 'different' to the previous regime of Tony Blair - have now shuffled into line to back David Cameron's Libyan policies and the imposition of the no-fly zone.

Incredibly, this policy has been supported by some on the left, including a few who adhere to Marxism and Trotskyism. Amongst these must be included Gilbert Achar, who has written books on the Middle East, and whose support for the no-fly zone was originally carried uncritically on the website journal of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI), International Viewpoint.

His views were subsequently repudiated by the USFI.

No such uncertainty, however, exists for the Alliance for Workers' Liberty (AWL). This organisation's shrill tone, particularly in criticising others on the left, rises in inverse proportion to its small forces and its even more limited influence within the labour movement.

The AWL has even dragged in Leon Trotsky to justify imperialist intervention through the no-fly zone. One headline read: "Libya: no illusions in west but 'anti-intervention' opposition is abandoning the rebels".

Another priceless headline was: 'Why we should not denounce intervention in Libya'. (Workers Liberty website, 23 March)

These latter examples fly in the face of a cardinal principle of Marxism and Trotskyism. That is to strive to instil into the working class and its organisations complete class independence from all shades of bourgeois opinion and the actions that flow from this.

This applies on all questions, particularly during a war, even a civil war, which the Libyan conflict clearly has elements of. There is nothing remotely progressive in the attempt of the imperialist powers of Britain, France or the US to implement the no-fly zone.

The Benghazi rebels are so much small change in their calculations. Only yesterday, these 'powers' embraced Muammar Gaddafi, supplied him with weapons, bought his oil and, through Blair, visited his 'big tent' in the desert and welcomed him into the 'international community'.

This term is a complete misnomer, as is the idea of the United Nations, used on this occasion as the screen behind which the intervention in Libya was prepared, for naked capitalist and imperialist class interests.

Undoubtedly, there are illusions amongst many idealistic young people and workers who look towards such bodies to resolve the problems of war, conflict, poverty, etc.

Some were also motivated to support the no-fly zone because of the fear that the population in Benghazi would be massacred by Gaddafi's forces. But the UN merely brings the capitalist nations together, dominated overwhelmingly by the US, to collaborate when their interests coincide, but which, equally, are very 'disunited' when the opposite is the case.

The jockeying for position and the squabbles between the different imperialist powers over the Libyan intervention illustrate this.

US overstretch and uncertainty
THE REVOLUTIONS IN the Middle East and North Africa initially revealed the uncertainty - almost the paralysis - of the major imperialist power, the US, to intervene.

The administration of Barack Obama has been forced to attempt to separate itself from George Bush's doctrine of a unipolar world dominated by US imperialism, with its overwhelming economic and military power.

It still retains this military advantage compared to its rivals but this is now undermined by the economic weakening of the US.

There is also the problem of Afghanistan and the fear that this is leading to military overstretch. This forced Robert Gates, US defence secretary, to declare early on his opposition - and, it must be assumed, of the US general staff - to the use of US land troops anywhere else in the world.

He also said that it was a 'certainty' that no US ground troops would be authorised by Obama in Libya.

He underlined this when he "laid into the rebels' capabilities, describing the opposition as a faction-ridden and disparate 'misnomer' whose forces lacked 'command and control and organisation'." (Observer, 3 April)

Obama, on the hoof, has sought to formulate a new military diplomatic doctrine in line with the changed position of the US. He has tried to draw a distinction between the 'vital' and 'non-vital' interests of US imperialism.

In 'vital' cases, the US will act unilaterally if the situation requires it but the US, he arrogantly proclaimed, is no longer 'the world's policeman' but, in future, would act as the world's 'police chief'.

This means, it seems, that the US would lend its support, be formally at the head of, a 'multilateral core coalition', so long as this did not mean the automatic actual deployment of troops.

Despite this, the pressure allegedly to prevent a 'bloodbath' has now compelled Obama to sign a public letter with Nicolas Sarkozy and Cameron declaring that it would be 'an unconscionable betrayal' if Gaddafi remains in place and the rebels are left to his mercy.

Libya, they declare, threatens to become 'a failed state'. This appears to set the scene for another somersault, particularly by Obama, to prepare the use of some ground forces if necessary.

When it has been unable to intervene directly, because of domestic opposition for instance, imperialism has not hesitated to use mercenaries to overthrow a regime it did not favour or to stymie a revolution.

Such was the policy of Ronald Reagan's administration in using hired thugs, the Contras, against the Nicaraguan revolution. Imperialism has been forced into the latest stand by the fact that Gaddafi appears to be winning or, at least, has sufficient military strength and a residue of support to avoid outright military defeat, short of a land invasion.

The rebels hold only the east, and not even all of this. The west, in which two thirds of the population live, is still largely controlled by Gaddafi and his forces.

This is not entirely due to popular compliance with the Gaddafi regime. His forces have most of the guns, particularly heavy weapons, tanks, etc.

He has always kept the regular army in check for fear that a coup could emanate from this quarter. Patrick Cockburn wrote in the Independent on Sunday: "Absence of a professional army in Libya means that the rebels have to rely on long-retired soldiers to train new recruits".

(17 April) Gaddafi is also able to draw on tribal support, as well as the political capital accumulated for his regime from the higher living standards in Libya, before the conflict, than in most countries in the region.

The Spanish revolution
MANY SUPPORTERS OF the no-fly zone took this position in the expectation that imperialism would be unable to proceed beyond this.

What will they do if, as cannot be excluded, land forces in one form or another are deployed with the open or concealed compliance of the imperialist powers of the US, France and Britain?

In the House of Commons debate on 21 March, Miliband was unrestrained in his support for Cameron's military action. This is further confirmation of the political degeneration of the Labour Party, from a workers' party at bottom into a bourgeois formation.

Writers from the capitalist class now almost casually recognise this reality: "The Labour Party was once the political arm of the organised working class.

All three main parties are now the political arm of the organised corporate class. This is not a peculiarly British phenomenon.

Almost every advanced democracy, and particularly the US, struggles to control the corporate sector". "(Peter Wilby, The Guardian, 12 April)

Just compare the stance of the current 'Labour' leader to that of Harold Wilson at the time of the Vietnam war. Much to the chagrin of then US president, Lyndon Johnson, Wilson - although he was not averse to supporting military action abroad if he thought he could get away with it - refused to involve British troops.

For him to have done otherwise would have split the Labour Party from top to bottom, probably leading to his removal as leader. In other words, he was compelled by the pressure of the ranks of the Labour Party and the trade unions to desist from supporting military action by US imperialism.

Now Miliband backs Cameron, with hardly a squeak from New Labour MPs or the 'rank and file'. He has invoked Spain during the civil war, in justifying support for the government.

He declared: "In 1936, a Spanish politician came to Britain to plead for support in the face of General Franco's violent fascism.

"He said: 'We are fighting with sticks and knives against tanks and aircraft and guns, and it revolts the conscience of the world that that should be true'." (Hansard, 21 March)

The parallel with Spain is entirely false. Then, a genuine revolution of the working class and poor peasants unfolded, with the creation, at least in the initial period after July 1936, of genuine workers' power, mass committees, and the occupation of land and factories.

Spain was experiencing a social revolution. In the main, this revolution was defeated not by Franco's fascist forces but by the false policies of the republican bourgeoisie which derailed the revolution, aided and abetted by the Communist Party, under orders from Stalin and the Russian bureaucracy.

They correctly feared that the triumph of the Spanish revolution would be the signal for their own overthrow. In this situation, the world working class rallied in support of the demand for arms to Spain.

Then imperialism, particularly the Anglo-French powers, did everything to prevent the Spanish workers from being armed. Yet the right-wing Tory MP, Bill Cash, agreed with Miliband that there was indeed "a parallel with what happened in 1936", and therefore supported the "arming of those who are resisting Gaddafi" in Benghazi.

Does this not indicate the political character of the present leadership in Benghazi and the east, which includes former Gaddafi loyalists like the former head of the special forces, Abdul Fattah Younis? If the original tendency shown in Benghazi of mass committees, involving the participation of the working class, had been maintained there would be no question of support emanating from right-wing Tories! Miliband gave further justification for his support of the no-fly zone: "There is international consent, a just cause and a feasible mission... are we really saying that we should be a country that stands by and does nothing?"

No serious left force can advocate a policy of abstention where working people are subjected to murderous attack by a ruthless dictator like Gaddafi. Clearly, we had to give political support -the position of the Socialist Party and the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) from the outset - to the people of Benghazi when they drove Gaddafi's forces from the city in a revolutionary uprising.

This is a sufficient answer to those who seek to justify support for military intervention from the outside on the basis that Benghazi's people are defenceless.

They used the same arguments about the impotence of the Iraqi people in the grip of a ruthless dictator to justify the bombardment and invasion of Iraq, with all the murderous results that we see now.

But this argument was shattered by the uprising of the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples who, through their own multi-millioned power, smashed dictatorships.

The people of Benghazi have already defeated Gaddafi's forces once. This was when revolutionary or semi-revolutionary methods were deployed.

These now seem to have taken a backseat as petty-bourgeois and bourgeois forces have elbowed aside the genuine revolutionary forces. On the basis of mass workers' committees, a revolutionary army - unlike the ragtag force supporting the so-called 'transitional government' - could have been mobilised to seize all the towns in the east and make a revolutionary appeal to the people of the west, particularly in the capital, Tripoli.

There are many successful examples of this in history, not least in the Spanish revolution, which Miliband invokes but does not understand. For instance, after the workers in Barcelona smashed Franco's fascist uprising in July 1936, José Buenaventura Durruti formed a revolutionary army which marched through Catalonia and Aragon to the gates of Madrid.

This placed four fifths of Spain in the hands of the working class and poor peasantry. This was indeed a 'just' war on the part of the masses who were defending democracy while striving for a new, humane, socialist society.

Moreover, it was one with real international support from the European and world working class. Miliband's criteria for what is 'just' and what is not is situated within capitalism and what is best for that system, not the interests of working-class people who are in an oppositional and antagonistic relationship to that system, increasingly so today.

Western powers' double standards
OUR CRITERIA OF what is just and progressive, including wars, is that which enhances and strengthens the working masses, increases their power, their consciousness, etc.

What hinders this is retrogressive. Capitalist, imperialist intervention, including the no-fly zone, even if successful, will not strengthen the working class, increase the sense of its own power, to see itself and its organisations as the real and only lever for achieving its ends.

Instead, it directs the gaze of the workers in the east towards an outside 'liberating' force, thereby lowering the consciousness of working people in their own potential power.

As even Tory MPs commented in the Commons debate, Miliband seemed to identify himself completely with the 'Blair doctrine' - so-called humanitarian military intervention from the outside - from which he had appeared to distance himself when first elected leader.

This meant justifying both Blair and Cameron's arguments when confronted with the choice of where and when to intervene in the world. Miliband fell back on the specious statement: "The argument that because we cannot do everything we cannot do anything is a bad argument".

'We', that is capitalism and imperialism, cannot intervene against dictatorship in Burma, cannot even raise 'our' voices against the murderous assaults of the Israeli ruling class on the Palestinians in Gaza.

'We' are mute against the vicious regimes in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Nevertheless, it is 'just' to oppose Gaddafi - while only yesterday 'we' embraced him - and to use force from the sky, at least, against him and his regime.

The 'liberal' Observer newspaper takes the prize for summing up this arbitrary hypocritical approach of capitalism: "Why does this Gulf regime [Bahrain] get the benefit of the doubt when other authoritarian Arab rulers do not? Clearly, there is no question of intervention in Bahrain or in any other state where protest is being crushed.

The entanglement in Libya leaves no appetite for giving active support, whether diplomatic or military, to other rebellions. If only one villain in the region had to be singled out for attack, Colonel Gaddafi was surely the most deserving candidate". (17 April)

"Entirely missing from this argumentation is the real reason for intervention in Libya, and that is the material interests of capitalism and imperialism, above all of oil, with some of the biggest reserves in Africa.

Some have even denied that this is a factor - they argued the same before Iraq. "The oil conspiracy theory... is one of the most absurd", said Blair (6 February 2003).

Now The Independent (19 April) has published a hitherto hidden Foreign Office memorandum, sent on 13 November 2002, following a meeting with the oil giant BP: "Iraq is the big oil prospect.

"BP are desperate to get in there".

Shameful support for military intervention
WHILE THE POSITION of the likes of Miliband is not unexpected, given the rightward evolution of the ex-workers' parties and their leaders, the same cannot be said of those claiming to stand in a Marxist-Trotskyist tradition.

Sean Matgamna of the AWL even drags in Leon Trotsky to justify support for military intervention in Libya: "An individual, a group, a party, or a class that 'objectively' picks its nose while it watches men drunk with blood massacring defenceless people is condemned by history to rot and become worm-eaten while it is still alive".

In this passage, from his writings on the Balkan wars prior to the first world war, Trotsky denounces the spokesmen of Russian liberal capitalism for remaining silent while Serbian and Bulgarian atrocities were committed against other nationalities.

He was not in anyway justifying support for the leaders of one nation against another. This is clear from the rest of the quote, which Matgamna does not cite: "On the other hand, a party or the class that rises up against every abominable action wherever it has occurred, as vigorously and unhesitatingly as a living organism reacts to protect its eyes when they are threatened with external injury - such a party or class is sound of heart.

"Protest against the outrages in the Balkans cleanses the social atmosphere in our own country, heightens the level of moral awareness among our own people... Therefore an uncompromising protest against atrocities serves not only the purpose of moral self-defence on the personal and party level but also the purpose of politically safeguarding the people against adventurism concealed under the flag of 'liberation'."

If anything, the last point from this quote finds conclusively against the AWL. It is supporting imperialist intervention under the false flag of 'liberation'.

Yet we find the astounding allegation: "The would-be left is yet again tying itself in knots over a false political dilemma: the belief that in order not to give general support to the British-France 'liberal intervention' in Libya, they must stridently oppose them on this and on every specific thing they do.

Or at least on every military action. In fact it is a dilemma of their own making".

"Trying to square the circle, Matgamna then adds: "Of course, socialists should not give positive political support to the governments and the ruling capitalists of Britain, France, the USA, or the UN, in Libya or anywhere else".

A child of ten can recognise that support for military action of whatever kind is 'positive political support'. The AWL claims that it can neatly separate support for action of this character from the wider perspectives of the powers that take such action.

It is, in effect, the political attorney and apologist for France and Britain: "The UN, with Britain and France as its instruments, has set very limited objectives in Libya.

"There is no reason at all to think that the 'Great Powers' want to occupy Libya or are doing other than a limited international police operation on what they see as Europe's 'southern border'." Gratuitously the AWL says: "The bitter lessons of their bungling in Iraq are still very fresh to them".

It goes on: "In the name of what alternative should we have told them to stop using air power to prevent Gaddafi massacring an incalculable number of his own people? That is the decisive question in all such situations".

If you do not go along with this nonsense you are incorrigible pacifists, according to the AWL. To show how far these latter-day 'Trotskyists' are removed from Trotsky's real views on war, look at his position during the Spanish civil war on the issue of the military budget of the Republican government.

Max Shachtman, at that time one of his followers, opposed Trotsky who had argued in 1937: "If we would have a member in the Cortes [Spanish parliament] he would vote against the military budget of Negrin".

Trotsky wrote that Shachtman's opposition to this position "astounded me. Shachtman was willing to express confidence in the perfidious Negrin government".

He later explained: "To vote for the military budget of the Negrin government signifies to vote him political confidence... To do it would be a crime.

"How do we explain our vote to the anarchist workers? Very simply: We have not the slightest confidence in the capacity of this government to conduct the war and assure victory.

We accuse this government of protecting the rich and starving the poor. This government must be smashed.

So long as we are not strong enough to replace it, we are fighting under its command. But on every occasion we express openly our non-confidence in it: it is the only one possibility to mobilise the masses politically against this government and to prepare its overthrow.

Any other politics would be a betrayal of the revolution". (Trotsky, From a Scratch to the Danger of Gangrene, 24 January 1940) How much more scathingly would Trotsky assail the AWL's shameful support for imperialist intervention in Libya today.

An independent class position
INCREDIBLY, THE AWL's apology for imperialist intervention allegedly defends 'independent working-class politics'. But there is not an atom of an independent class position in its approach.

We opposed military intervention, but so did the masses in Benghazi in the first period. The slogans on the walls read, in English: 'No to foreign intervention, the Libyans can do it themselves'.

In other words, the masses had a much sounder class instinct, a suspicion of any military intervention from the outside, particularly by the powers that formerly dominated the region: Britain and France.

They correctly feared that a no-fly zone, despite protestations to the contrary, would lead to an invasion, as it did in Iraq. Does this mean that we remain on the level of general slogans, that we are impassive in the face of a possible attack by Gaddafi on Benghazi? No.

But in such a situation we emphasise the need for independent class politics, for the masses to rely on their own strength and to give not a scintilla of support for the idea that imperialism has the best interests of the masses at heart.

Truly, we cannot react - as did Alex Callinicos, a leader of the British SWP - to the arguments of the possible massacre in Benghazi with the statement: "The sad fact is that massacres are a chronic feature of capitalism.

The revolutionary left is, alas, too weak to stop them". Physically, the forces of Marxism may be too weak to prevent massacres - in Rwanda, for instance.

Nonetheless, we are obligated to advocate that the broad labour movement should adopt the most effective position politically to defend and enhance the power and influence of the working class in a given situation.

In Northern Ireland in 1969, for instance, Militant supporters (predecessors of the Socialist Party), opposed sending in British troops to defend the Catholic nationalist areas of Belfast and Derry from a murderous assault by the predominantly loyalist B-Specials.

The SWP, despite later denials, supported sending in the British troops. When the troop did go in, they defended these areas from loyalist attacks and were welcomed as 'defenders'.

But, as we predicted, at a certain stage this would turn into its opposite and the troops would come to be seen as a repressive force against the Catholic nationalist minority.

This is how events actually worked out.

However, faced with a possible massacre of the Catholic population we did not adopt a 'neutral' or passive position. In Militant (now The Socialist), in September 1969, we argued "for a united workers' defence force, the withdrawal of British troops, disband the B-Specials, end of all discrimination, jobs, homes, schools, etc, for all workers".

We stood, in other words, for class unity and for working people to rely on their own forces and not on the capitalist state forces. Only a similar approach based on the foundation of complete class independence, adapted to the concrete conditions in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East, can lead to success for the workers' struggle in a very complicated situation.

We cannot follow Achar either when he declares: "Can anyone claiming to belong to the left just ignore a popular movement's plea for protection, even by means of imperialist bandit-cops, when the type of protection requested is not one through which control over their country could be exerted? Certainly not, by my understanding of the left.

No real progressive could just ignore the uprising's request for protection".

It is wrong to identify the 'uprising', which was originally a genuine mass movement - as we pointed out - with its present leadership, stuffed with bourgeois and pro-bourgeois elements, including remnants from the Gaddafi regime.

Moreover, it is entirely wrong to equate Lenin's acceptance of food and even arms from one imperialist power to be used to repulse another, without any military or political strings attached, to support for imperialism's no-fly zone - as some have done.

It is not a question for Marxism only of what is done, but who does it, why and how.

Defending revolution
ULTIMATELY, IMPERIALISM'S intervention is to safeguard its power, prestige and income from the threat of the unfolding revolution in the region. A spokesman for the Obama administration made it clear that it is not Libya that is the main concern but what happens in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, where most of the oil reserves upon which world capitalism depends are concentrated.

But they see a successful intervention in Libya as a firewall against the threat of revolution in these states and the whole region. They are also concerned about the regional influence of Iran, which grew enormously as a result of the Iraq war.

The situation in Libya is extremely fluid. The outcome of the present conflict is uncertain.

At the moment, it looks like deadlock with neither Gaddafi nor the rebels able to strike a decisive blow for victory in what is now a drawn-out civil war.

This could lead to the effective partitioning of the country, already the de facto case. In this situation, all the latent tribal divisions - held in check partly by the terror of the Gaddafi regime - could come flooding to the surface, creating a new Somalia in the centre of the Middle East, with all its instability, not least in the struggle over Libya's oil reserves.

On the other hand, imperialism is desperate to avoid the impression that Gaddafi could come out as a partial victor in this struggle, enhancing the perceived impotence of the imperialist powers to decide the outcome of events.

But the responsibility of the labour movements in Britain and worldwide is clear.

Absolute opposition to all outside imperialist intervention! Let the Libyan people decide their own fate! Maximum support, from the world working class and labour movement, including the supply of food and weapons, to the genuine forces of national and social liberation in Libya and the Middle East!

Imperialism will not be able to stop the forward march of revolution in North Africa and the Middle East. Yes, there is disappointment, as the CWI predicted, amongst the masses that the fruits of their victories against Mubarak and Ben Ali appear to have been stolen for the moment by the regimes that replaced them.

The hated security apparatus and state machine which existed before, despite the mighty labours of the revolution, remain largely intact. But they are being opposed by the mass movements.

The revolutions endure and millions have learnt enormously in the course of this movement. Hopefully, their conclusions will lead to a strengthening of the working class and the development of independent class politics.

This would be symbolised by the development of the workers' own organisations, new powerful trade unions and workers' parties with the goal of socialist transformation, accompanied by democracy in Libya and the region as a whole.