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Thursday, 31 March 2011

keep our prison officers jobs public, say no to privatisation

Birmingham Prison is to become the first jail in the UK to be privatised, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has said.

The decision to award security firm G4S the contract to run the 1,400-inmate jail came after firms competed over the running of four prisons in England.

The Prison Officers' Association called the decision "disgraceful" and has not ruled out taking industrial action.

Mr Clarke told MPs the "military are involved" in contingency plans should prison officers stage a strike.

Thirteen private prisons already exist in the UK - 11 in England in Wales, and two in Scotland - but this is the first existing public sector prison to be contracted out.

Mr Clarke has said the move will save money and improve performance on issues such as cutting reoffending rates.

Hundreds of prison officers held a meeting outside Birmingham Prison minutes after the announcement was made. The union told its staff to turn up as normal on Friday, when a branch meeting will be held.

Although prison officers are banned from going on strike, the strength of feeling is such that some kind of spontaneous action is a "distinct possibility", said BBC Home Affairs correspondent Danny Shaw.

The Prison Reform Trust said there was a question mark over whether increasing privatisation was a "good way" of improving the system.


Danny Shaw

Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

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The private sector has operated newly-built prisons for almost 20 years.

Indeed, Ken Clarke, who was responsible for the Birmingham decision, became home secretary in April 1992, just days after Britain's first ever private jail opened - the Wolds, in East Yorkshire.

Across the UK, 12 other jails are now privately-managed - but none was previously in the public sector.

It's this - the transfer of a publicly-run jail into a private one - that's so angered the unions.

Not only are they worried that it'll bring job cuts and a reduction in union membership, they're concerned the privatisation bandwagon will roll on.

Although prison officers are banned from going on strike, the strength of feeling is such that some kind of spontaneous action is a distinct possibility.

The last time did that, in a pay dispute in 2007, 20,000 members walked out.
In his announcement Mr Clarke also told MPs that G4S would run the proposed Featherstone 2 prison, a new jail opening near Wolverhampton, while Serco would continue to run Doncaster Prison, which was built by a private company.

Doncaster will become the first prison to be run on a "payment by results" basis, with Serco getting its full payment only if reoffending rates were reduced, Mr Clarke told the Commons.

The other prison in the competition, Buckley Hall, in Rochdale, will continue to be run by HM Prison Service, he said.

Workers 'betrayed'

The competition between public and private bidders to run the prisons was launched by the last Labour government, in 2009.

Birmingham jail's 752 staff were told the result of the tender at noon, BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said.

He said the Prison Officers' Association (POA) had a long-standing mandate from its members to take industrial action if any prisons were contracted out to the private sector.

In a statement, Steve Gillan, general secretary of the POA, said: "This is a disgraceful decision. Prisons should not be run for the benefit of shareholders nor for profit.

"The state has a duty to those imprisoned by the criminal justice system and this coalition government have betrayed loyal public sector workers for their friends in the private sector."

He later added: "We will not make a knee-jerk reaction. We will study what we can do and take direction from our members, but we will not rule out industrial action."

The Birmingham prison officers returned to the jail following their impromptu meeting but were said to be feeling "bitter" about the announcement.

Mr Gillan said they had been working for the past two years in an atmosphere of uncertainty and added that there was "understandably a feeling of disquiet".

'Public protection'

In his statement Mr Clarke also said Wellingborough Prison, in Northamptonshire, had been withdrawn from the competition and would need to deliver the 10% efficiency savings required by all prisons over the next four years.

End Quote
Juliet Lyon

Prison Reform Trust
He said the changes would bring savings of £21m for the three existing prisons and deliver the new Feathersone 2 prison £31m cheaper than originally planned and said "cumulative savings over the lifetime of the contracts for the three existing prisons are very impressive at £216m".

Mr Clarke said: "This process shows that competition can deliver innovation, efficiency and better value for money for the taxpayer - but also that it can do so without compromising standards.

"Public protection is not just about how we manage prisons in order to punish people. It is also about how we achieve genuine and long-lasting reductions in crime, by cutting reoffending."

Mr Clarke said that central to this was the pilot payment-by-results project at Doncaster Prison, where 10% of the contract price will be held back unless the prison can cut by 5% or more the one-year reoffending rates.

Doncaster's operator Serco will work with a range of voluntary sector and other organisations to "enable them to meet the specific needs of each individual offender".

Juliet Lyon, of the Prison Reform Trust, pointed out that the UK had a higher proportion of prisoners in private hands than the US.

She added: "It's a very large proportion of people to be held in that way, given that prison is our most extreme form of punishment.

"We must make sure that there's adequate monitoring, proper checks and balances, to make sure this is done on behalf of the state and done properly.

"The real concern is about very poor reoffending rates and that's got to be improved. The question remains is it a good way of doing it to try and introduce more privatisation? Will that improve performance and accountability or will it lead to such tensions in the system that standards could in fact fall further?" she added.

The new contracts come into force from October, except Featherstone 2, which runs from April 2012.


all this adds up to more privatisation under the tories who seem driven by it. Whether they have the private sector breathing down their neck for government contracts or not this is no way to go i feel. Firstly it is disgraceful that prison officers are not allowed to go on strike. In the article it suggests they are talking amoungst themselves as to what todo but they and teh wider public must resist these moves. Lets say no to privatisation by the tories. Our prison officers do a excellent job in this country under some very tough circumstances they are faced with unruely prisoners on a daily basis and should be commended in their efforts. THis is no way to treat them by threatening to privatise their jobs and sell them off to the private sector to make anotehr quick buck out of them. I strongly oppose this move and hope others will join me in saying no to privatisation to this sector of workers.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Socialist party candidate recieves 12 % in recent by-election

As socialists we are fielding some of our own candidates in this coming council elections and well even though we dont expect to win many seats that is not the real objective i might add the article below i have found in our paper - the socialist represents a real anger and fightback from ordinary working class people that they will look to other alternatives after finding the main 3 parties with the same policies and results.

If you would like to read more where this article came from please visit www.socialistparty.org.uk

"Socialist Party member and former councillor Ian Page received 12% of the vote in last weeks byelection in the Bellingham ward in Lewisham, south London. This support for Ian is a warning to Labour councils that are making cuts. Working people are growing tired of their excuses! "

Martin Powell-Davies, Lewisham Socialist Party

Lewisham Council is making £88 million of cuts over the next four years, slashing jobs and services. Labour councillors want to put all the blame on the Con-Dems.

In Bellingham, for now at least the anger against this government of millionaires has given Labour a victory - but for how much longer?

Lewisham Socialist Party, standing on a joint ticket with Lewisham People Before Profit, understood that many voters would want to punish the Tories and Lib Dems. But our message was clear - that you can't trust Labour to resist their attacks.

Voting for Ian Page, our anti-cuts candidate, was the best way to send a message to all the main parties that a working-class area like Bellingham needs councillors who will fight for their community and against all cuts.

In a few weeks, we secured a real base of support in a ward where we had not previously campaigned. We could point to Ian's campaigning record as a socialist councillor in Telegraph Hill ward, but Bellingham is at the other end of the borough.

After this result, the other parties will have to recognise that we are a force to be reckoned with right across Lewisham. On the doorsteps and the street stalls there was growing support from local people for our anti-cuts message.

Hatred for the government was mixed with anger at Labour councillors who are carrying out the Tories' dirty work - slashing jobs, closing libraries and privatising children's centres.

The low byelection turnout (22%) reflected a mood amongst many that they couldn't trust anyone to defend them. But our 12% vote - close behind both Tories and Lib Dems - shows that we persuaded many others not to stay angrily indoors on election day but to vote for a real alternative.

While both the Lib Dems and Labour tried to present Ian as an 'outsider', it was the Labour canvassers in suits that looked most out of place in Bellingham.

One Labour councillor was so lost that she had to come up to our stall for directions. 'I'm meant to be meeting the Labour team outside the Housing Office' she explained. 'Yes, but you closed it', came our reply - pointing to the boarded up office behind us!

When Ian finally finished knocking on people's doors, he realised he had dropped the keys to his scooter. A group of lads came out of one of the houses to say they had found them and taken them safely indoors. When they realised it was Ian, they said that their family had voted for him. That's working-class solidarity!

At the town hall election count, Labour looked relieved but we were smiling. Lewisham's Labour councillors know that trade unionists and the community are already organising against their cuts.

Now they will have to start looking over their left shoulders for a socialist challenge at the ballot box as well.

Labour 1100 51%
Tory 340 16%
Lib Dem 334 16%
Ian Page SP/LPBP 264 12%
Greens 100 5%
Turnout 22%

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i personally feel these results although labour won this seat here shows that people are not totally satisfied with them and will come out and vote for a rael left alternative who is fighting for a socialist alternative. I think this shows the anger not just at the tories but also labour too on a local level who are continuing to cut public servicesa nd ringing their hands and saying they have no choice. Of course they have a choice they can say no and build a mass campaign with local support which will surely follow. Much like what the Labour party did in Lambeth and Liverpool in the 80's

latest update from stevenage anti cuts union

Stevenage Anti-Cuts Union:
info@stacu.org.uk
Thursday 31st March
Shephall Centre Shephall Green Stevenage
Starts at 7:30pm

With echoes of the Poll Tax, the media has totally distorted the reporting of the march on the 26th of march. Colonel Gadhafi would have been proud of the TV coverage.The only people arrested were peaceful protesters occupying thesupermarketof the rich, protesting about the rich not paying tax. However about 100 Anarchists were allowed to run free to smash up shops and banks. The police said they could not control them, was it not a strange coincidence they were not only followed by the TV but, given the longshots from roof tops they must have known where and when it was goingto kick off! It was a show for the government to ‘ConDem’ violence,ignoring the 500,000 or more who were peacefully challenging the Cuts.The Poll Tax was beaten by millions refusing to pay, not by the demonstration, now the unions need to use strike action to make theGovernment pay attention. Strikes, occupations, and other forms of civildisobedience will beat this gang of millionaires running the country.
The TUC demonstration was the biggest for decades; half a million trade unionists and youth marched to tell theGovernment we will not stand by while we are charged for the deficit and the bankers get off scot free.The TUC was successful in mobilising hundreds of thousands on the streets, but the next stage is crucial: For a 24 hour public service general strike.
After the Demo, what now?
We must prepare for a fight.Stevenage Anti-Cuts Union Members of the Stevenage Anti-Cuts Union will be standing in the local elections to fight all cuts, unlike the Labour council that sacked 45 workers and cut services.

We will be standing under the banner of TUSC - trades union and socialsit coalition against the cuts. Please if you'd like to stand please let us know ASAP if you wish to stand up for your local community and your public services you treasure dearly that labour, tories and lib dems feel we can all do without. NO big society can bridge this gap, once these services are gone and our jobs are gone they will not be coming back. SO act now before it is too late.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

what long term effect will the TUC demo on 26th March have on unions

I've been thinking a few days now about the impact of this demo in London will have in the long term. How will history remember it and what will be the fall out from this march. Whilst liberal types argue over whether UK uncut was right or wrong and as it is getting entangled with the Labour party i thought i'd look at how this could affect unions and union membership.

As we all know we are heading into a very uncertain time full of cuts and tightening our belts as the media like to put it. But as this starts to affect peoples jobs and working conditions will the workers look again at unions as organisations to take cover in and gain protection and support from. I do hope so. As someone who is a union member in Unite i feel that there are good benifits to being in a union. Few do agree though it seems with only 7 million in the trades unions now this is a dieing role. Even the labour party now is moving away from unions and asking for more opinions from its outside supporters and lib dems rather than the unions and waht they ahve to say.

It has been clear for years now that the labour party has no interest in ordinary working people. Constantly waging battle with the unions over various issues in the last government over privatisation which most unions if not all were strongly opposed to. Yes that's right a labour government intent on privatising industries such as the Royal Mail and parts of the NHS all be it through the back door. No wonder union membership has fallen anti trade union laws have been coming from capitalist governments from years from teh times of Maggie Tatcher right through her and John Majors timea nd carried on and followed through by Tony blair a Neo conservative. So do unions need to change the way they act do they need to modernise ?

I dont think so i think the anti trade union laws have restricted them so much they are powerless to do much at all. With this tory lead government threatening to brng in even more anti trade union and strike laws where will this leave the unions. Completely battered i would imagine. Not unless people rejoin them and try to reinvigerise them from within. Unions can move left from pressure from below. Rank-and-file member bases can forcea unin to move left. Take PCS for example that was quite a right wing union up untill the last decade or so it has now lurched to the left and is regarded is a very good union defending its members jobs and rights. It is also one of the key unions in this battle against the cuts as it represents public services workers it will be at the front of the cuts and the attacks coming from the tories.

I as well as many other socialists do believe in the role of trades unions they are key to the whole labour movement and giving workers a voice. I would suggest however that as labour have ignored their voices for years that as and when as i am sure it will happen a new workers party is formed with a socialist base to it having socialist principles and having workers interests at its heart maybe the unions who have been bankrolling the labour party for yers and getting very little back on their returns will break away from the Labour Party and join this new workers party in a democratic fashion. taking power back to the workers and workers interests . Taking waht is good about labour and the party we will take too leaving behind its capitalist power hungry careerist ideas.

Linked into this will be the fact that any MP's or trade union leaders will only recieve a average skilled workers wage. Nothing more, as this will keep them firmly within the working class and not stepping above this class which they represent. MP's in parliament today take as many expenses as they can and the expenses scandel highlighted the greed and power in the westminster village and how a new workers party would be so so much different and more rooted to its original principles.

ALl this should link back in to a more vibrant fairer and equal trade union movement too. With no part of the orgnisation being top down run with everybody having a democratic voice and say this is the sort of socialism i believe in and what we in the socialist party beleive in too. It is our aim and view for the future of the labour movement.

I think the TUC demo will do a lot to help the image of trade unions that they can be a voice for people and workers to side with and feel apart of a organisation which represents your interests.

It will be interesting to see if trade union membership increases as i beleive it should do after this weekends march with lots of people visibly seeing a union moving forward with confidence in its class it represents .

Tories plans still not working

News today is telling us the British economy shrank by 0.5% in fourth quarter of 2010 instead of the 0.6% previously reported by the Office of National Statistics


Over the last three months of 2010, the total value of the goods the UK imported was £26.8bn higher than the total value of the goods it exported.

However, the UK exports more services than it imports, so the total goods and services trade gap is narrower, at almost £10.5bn.

The trade figures was released alongside the final revision of GDP for the fourth quarter of the year, which put it at -0.5%, slightly down from the previous estimate of -0.6%.


All this must look worrying news for George Osbourne and his tory friends inteh cabinet. It is even more worrying to those of us at the bottom of the scale who have no say in what happens at teh top. Decisions to cut spending now is looking increasingly foolish. No one is denying teh deficit has to be dealt with but these massive cuts on the working class which are far too disproportional in my view are simply unfair. As i've previously stated i'm against all cuts as a collection of tax evaders totalling roughly 120 billion pounds would more than cover our deficit. But will the tories do this ? i doubt it somehow, It would mean upsetting a lot of their friends in the city and we cant have that now. So the poor and the working class must suffer as usual. Figures like this just bring it home what the tories are doing to this country more harm than good that's for sure.

More figures like these will lead us back into a recession which i feel we're not too far away from now. Any minimal growth last year was carried over from before but now we're running on empty. As socialists we call on nationalising the banks and bringing them into workers ownership, public ownership. Not the semi nationalisation what happened with RBS in 2008 a total nationalisation of all the banks and demand they open their books for transparancy there is evidence that there is plenty of wealth sloshing around at the top lets see more of it used to protect our public services and stop this attack on the working class.

Monday, 28 March 2011

The positivity to come out of the TUC march 26th demo and what to do next

SO throughout today i have been hearing piece after piece on the news about how this so called violence ruined the TUC march and hi-jacked it and all the rest of it. As i said i think the only people to hijack the march wre labour and Ed miliband trying to turn it into a slow cuts march and a general vote for the labour party message helped hugely by the TUC. But as a socialist i found the demo huge and a very positive thing. Throughout this week people who were on the march will go home to their home areas and tell their fellow friends, workmates and family of waht relaly went on there. Hopefully people will be ablet o breakthrough the biased coverage the mainstream news sources are putting out.

I wanted tto say how big this demo was and it felt so exhilariting to me and i hope it did to many others too. The BBC and TUC initally estimated half a million on the march on the day but later have downscaled it i am not sure why this is. I imagine to downplay the reaction and to stop any unrest in the movement. The TUC's leadership will think they have done their work and have let off steam from working peoplea nd can go back to the day to day stuff of running a big Union.

Wrong. From now on the mood across the country has changed, We may not notice it yet but it has changed the mood of the working class has changed. With the trades unions mobilising hundreds of thousands of workers to the streets of London for one day shows what can be achieved . So i wanted to reiterate the positive message this demo sent outa nd still does to me. The violence will soon be forgotton about in a months time and this demo which i still think was up nearer the 3 quarters of a million mark than half a million will live long in the memory of the working class. But this cannot be the end we need to carry on building resistance to the cuts and building pressure on the TUC and the unions to ballot for co-ordinated strike action. On the day our party gave out leaflets in support of a one day public sector genearl strike this was warmly welcomed and hopefully comrades in the various unions can ramp up pressure for this to become reality. I really think this can happen as anger about the cuts deepens as we head into the summer.

People have told me a general strike is illegal. I've talked to various people and have found out it is not. If done correctly with each union finding a issue and i'm sure they wont be short of a few ballots its members for strike action on the same day this can become a reality i'm sure of it. Mass workers resistance must be our way forward taking teh movement with us. In the socialist party we dont believe in individual based action this does not serve the greater struggle as a whole we firmly believe in the role of trade unions and the action they can take. As several union speakers said on the day we have all marched in our hundreds of thousands today just imagine if we all took strike action together on one day what we can achieve. We can stop these cuts i know we can we just need to build the support in and outside trade unions and in our communities ensuring we take everyone with us.

I think there would also be the unity there from private sector workers to also take strike action in solidarity with public sector workers. At the end of the day we are all workers and all have to sell our labour the tories may like to try and divide us and try and set us against eachother but aat the end of the day we are all one big mass working class ready to fight back against these unfair policies the tories are introducing.

So i really do think we should remember the positive parts of the demo and try to force the narrative that the violence is not representitive of the whole movement and the anti cuts movement and we are still moving forward not standing still.

Lets keep organising and building and fighting back against the cuts for ordinary working peoples sake, those who did not cause this financial crisis.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Ian Tomlinson inquest to get underway this week

The inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson, who died during the G20 protests in 2009, will commence on Monday 28 March 2011 and is expected to last for of 5-6 weeks. It is expected to sit from Monday to Thursday from 10.00am – 4.00pm. The family welcomes supporters to attend.

An inquest is a legal investigation that is open to the public. Its purpose is to establish who the person was and where, when and how they died.

The inquest will be conducted by the Chief Coroner, Judge Peter Thornton QC, who replaces the City of London Coroner Paul Matthews. Hearings will take place at the International Dispute Resolution Centre at 70 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1EU.



First day

If you are attending on the first day it is recommended that you arrive at 9.00am.

Seating

At the time of posting this article, we still await the City of London Corporation to set up a dedicated website giving full details about the inquest including information for the public around entry. We will provide a link to this when it becomes available. In the meantime, we are providing some general information about what to expect and will amend this as further details become available:

Seats for the court are likely to be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

There will also be a separate ‘link room’, in addition to the court room, with a live audio-visual link.

It is anticipated that one-day seating passes for the court will be issued. To avoid disappointment it is advisable to arrive at 9:00am to queue for these. It is also likely that there will be some delays as a result of a security and bag check. Given the size of courtrooms and the need to accommodate interested persons, the jury and media representatives, seating spaces in the public gallery will be limited.

Those attending the inquest should anticipate that both the courtroom and the link-room are likely to be subject to the same restrictions as would apply to other courts. It is anticipated that when the court is sitting the use of mobile telephones, blackberries, recording equipment, cameras, personal stereos and eating and drinking will be prohibited.

Further information on the inquest is available on the
City of London Corporation's website.
this article came from the Posted by Justice for Ian website setup in memory of him and to search for justice for a poor innocent guy killed as a result of heavy handed police tactics on the G8 demonstration.

Ian Tomlinson (7 February 1962 – 1 April 2009) was an English newspaper vendor who collapsed and died in the City of London on his way home from work during the 2009 G-20 summit protests. A first postmortem examination indicated that he had suffered a heart attack brought on by coronary artery disease, and had died of natural causes.[2]

His death became controversial a week later when The Guardian obtained footage of his last moments, filmed by an American investment fund manager who was visiting London. The video showed Tomlinson being struck on the leg from behind by a police officer wielding an extendable baton, then pushed to the ground by the same officer. It appeared to show no provocation on Tomlinson's part—he was not a protester, and at the time he was struck, the footage showed him walking along with his hands in his pockets. He walked away after the incident, but collapsed and died moments later.[3]

After The Guardian published the video, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) began a criminal inquiry. A second postmortem indicated that Tomlinson had died from internal bleeding caused by a blunt force trauma to the abdomen, in association with cirrhosis of the liver. A third postmortem was arranged by the defence team of the accused officer, PC Simon Harwood; the third pathologist agreed that the cause of death was internal bleeding. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced in July 2010 that no charges would be brought, because medical disagreement about the cause of the death meant prosecutors could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a causal link between the death and the alleged assault.[4] The first pathologist, Dr Freddy Patel, was suspended for three months in August 2010 for "deficient professional performance" in several unrelated cases.[5]

Tomlinson's death sparked an intense debate in the UK about what appeared to be a deteriorating relationship between the police and the public, the degree to which the IPCC is independent of the police, and the role of citizens in monitoring police and government activity—so-called sousveillance. There was criticism of the news coverage too, the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, calling it "an orgy of cop bashing." The incident was compared to previous deaths involving either police contact or allegedly inadequate investigations, such as the deaths of Blair Peach (1979), Stephen Lawrence (1993), and Jean Charles de Menezes (2005), each of which acted as a watershed in the public's perception of policing in the country.[6] In response to public concerns, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Denis O'Connor, published a 150-page report in November 2009 that aimed to restore Britain's traditional consent-based model of policing. The Guardian hailed the report as a blueprint for wholesale reform.


This case is very crucial i feel as just this weekend we have heard of more heavy handed police tactics on anti cuts demonstrators who stayed later on fora party in Trafalgur square who were kettled another contravertial police tactic and many were injured and arrested for seemingly protesting innocently.

So this case here will be very interesting to see how the police come out of it all and if any officers will be charged or anything at all. Ian deserves justice for his family and memory if nothing else.

26th march TUC protest how i saw it

So as i've been blogging about for months now the 26th of March has come and gonea nd to be honest i'm not sure waht i feel now to be honest. a sense of deflation, relief or confidence that we can now go on and defeat the cuts. I guess a mixture of feelings really.

What started off as a good day i awoke early to be picked up by a fellow comrade we headed to Stevenage to catch the 10 am train to London already he train was packed out. Announcements on the platform of a big demonstration in London today and London was to be avoided added nervous anticipation to myself really.

I myself have not been on many protests this being my second big one after March 5th lobbbying Labour party councillors to vote against the cuts.

But today was different a lot different we arrived at Charing Cross station and moved towards the Embankment where the feeder protests were forming. We had a long long wait to join any march let alone the main TUC demo of the day.

Today was bigger than i could even expect police estimates say about 700,000 possibly more. This was huge really really big i cannot stress that nearly enough. Our comrades from the Stevenage socialist party congragated on the Embankment and held the Stevenage trades council banner aloft in solidarity.

We marched or should i say shuffled forward pace by pace
It took our little crowd of comrades 2 and a bit hours to even get on the main march in the first place. My legs were even aching even by this point. Later on the march really got going a lot more and as we walked up towards parliament square and Trafalgur square the march rally got going. I did enjoy walking past Downing Strett and giving a huge boo down it and telling David Cameron what i thought of him. In normal everyday circumstances you cuold not do that but on a march like today it was fair game. I wont repeat what i shouted on here but it was far from complimentary about his idea of cuts to the disabled.

There was a terrific atmosphere on the whole of the march with so many from all over the country there today. We met so many from various different trade unions by that Unite, RMT, FBU, Unison, PCS, UCU, CWU, ASLEF, NUT and many many more smaller ones too. The day was huge i thought i was blown away by the sheer scale of the event. As we passed through various parts of London we gota rael sense of the anger and betrayel of our political system over years and years of taking us all for granted. There were splinter marchs organised by UK Uncut which i have previously blogged about on here and their excellent work of highlighting tax evaders such as Phillip Green. Today they did some excelent work occupying many shops in Oxford street who's establishment doesnt pay its total share of tax. They also orchestrated organised sit in's in big well known banks to highlight that the bankers must pay for this mess not the ordinary working class.

All these messages from today sent out a big message to the tories and the lib dems in this sham government of ours to sit up and listen to the real big society.

One thing i did find quite hard to accept was the fact so many Labour party councillors who had weeks ago just voted through big savage spending cuts in their local councils marching today against the cuts. How hypocritical can you get ? a few weeks back voting for the cuts weeks later marching against the very cuts you have just voted for. Totally shameful i think. Another thing which bugged me was none other than the Labour party leader Ed miliband who got up on stage in Hyde Park to speak to protesters. I personally find this insulting as he called to people he stands with us. Like hell he does from his middle class background and not being anti cuts at all. How dare he say to us he knows how we feel. He and his party support cuts all be it at a slower less deeper rate, yet they are still cuts all the same. As we chanted today there is no such thing as a fair cut. We are against all cuts as the socialist party. No cuts to the working class, who i firmly believe did not cause this financial crisis and should not be made to pay for the mistakes of the capitalist political class and bankers.

Sadly i didnt get to see any of the speechs from today but i will later revisit them i hope wehn videos appaer on you tube. I do hope to cover them in greater detail in further blogposts in the future.

The BBC's coverage as what you'd expect from a capitalist media source was highlighting the actions of groups like UK uncut who were occupying shopsa nd banks rather than focusing on the main march which was very peaceful i might add. As i write this i cant be sure but when i last checked there were still supposed protesters in Trafalgur square being kettled by police and setting things on fire and causing mayhem from all sounds of it. Whilst loud and militant protest is good in our eyes as socialists i persoanlly dont believe attacking the police for a game of cat and mouse ultimatly achieves much. As a further thought i really dont think this sort of action we have seen late into the night in Trafalgur square does not help the anti cuts movement at all and i would put the actions down largely to anarchist groups intent on causing troublea nd ruining the peaceful party planned in Trafalgur square for the evening which i saw no problem in.

A few weeks ago i had seen tweets and messages from John Mcdonald a Labour party MP who is apparently a socialist calling for mass camping in trafalguar square and turning it in to a mini Tahrir square just like what we have seen in Cairo in Egypt in the last few months. Really i never saw this idea being big and the police were always going to take issue with this kind of tactic who prefer people return home. I like the sentiment but not sure the UK is really at the stage of a Egypt style revolution yet.

As i say i am sure to revisit today the 26th of March over the next few weeks in this blog with hopefully comments a and analysis from others who were also there on the day so this is just a first few thoughts on today really.

Many socialist party leaflets were handed outa nd the main theme of them was calling for a one day mass public sector general strike. I myself am hugely in favour of thisa nd will do all i can to support such action to be taken as what i have said earlier on twitter today cannot be the end . People who have never protested in their life may well have come along today and loved every minute of it. Yes i did too but i'm also very aware that protests just like the against the war demo back in the last decade was totally ignored by Tony blair who railroded us into a illegal war which i hasent to add we will never forget or forgive for that.

So thera re big limitations to large scale protests of this nature we aer well aware of that. But as as socialists we believe that todays demo must be followed with serious industrial action now. We must now start the campaign fora one day general public sector strike to try to defend workers jobs, pensions and rights. This cannot be the one day we say we've donea ll we can and let the cuts happen, Further resistance is needed and we in our local communities and areas need to come together now in class unity to defend our public services, jobs and ultimatly our welfare state.

So my message to you all tonight is lets not let this be the end, let this march today be the start of something big. Something that will change the face of our struggel for good. Lets keep on fighting for fairness.

Friday, 25 March 2011

How we can learn from the anti poll tax movement to defeat the cuts of today

SO as we sit here on the eve of the biggest trade union demonstration in 8 years i hear a lot of people cynically saying protests never get you anywhere. I think alot of this comes back to the big protest with a million on in 2003 against the war in Iraq where Tony blair completely ignored the protests and carried on ralroading us into a illegal war without a care in the world.

Well i can understand peoples dubious feelings to protests as i hold them myself too. I think they do a lot of good things they highlight the issues and get people talking and you can spread the word further and wider. But as the famous anti poll tax movement showed it wasnt the protests and the so called riots on the streets that caused maggie Tatcher to back down and ultimatly to leave office it was the millions of non payments across the country.

The campaign against Thatcher's hated poll tax is an example of how a mass movement can defeat a government. The 18 million people who defied the law and refused to pay the tax, organised through the Anti-Poll Tax Federation, forced the Tories to scrap it and ended Margaret Thatcher's career as prime minister.

The campaign is also an example of the role that can be played by socialists in putting forward a strategy and tactics to win.

The poll tax was a standard charge on rich and poor alike and was levied on each individual over the age of 18, including the unemployed, students and those with no personal income at all, who had been exempt from the poll tax's precursors, the rates. In fact a rich person living in a rural area could end up paying far less that a poor family in a city.

Led by Militant, forerunner of the Socialist Party, mass non-payment was built by community based anti-poll tax unions in cities, towns and villages across the country. These were linked up nationally into the Anti-Poll Tax Federation.

Militant predicted the anger the tax would cause, and saw the huge potential to build a mass movement. The trade union leaders and the Labour Party leadership opposed the tax verbally, but did nothing to fight it, actively opposing the non-payment campaign. Labour councils ultimately went the whole way and sent bailiffs into working-class people's homes to impound their property and jailed people for not being able to pay.

The tax was introduced in Scotland a year earlier than in England and Wales; perhaps because the Tories had so little support there that they felt free to experiment! But it ignited the anger of Scottish workers, and the method of mass non-payment was tested out.

Militant supporters had to argue against those who said mass non-payment wouldn't work, or would only get working class people in debt. Some advocated non-payment only for a few prominent individuals who 'could afford it'.

On the contrary, only a mass movement would work. In fact millions would not be able to afford it and we planned to unite the 'can't payers' with the 'won't payers'. That way an organised campaign could defend people.

Mass demonstrations developed around the rate-setting council meetings. On 31 March 1990, the day before the poll tax was introduced in England and Wales, massive demonstrations were held simultaneously in London and Glasgow involving a quarter of a million people. When the London demonstration reached Trafalgar Square, police actions provoked a big battle which became known as the 'poll tax riots'.

Some claim it was these big demos which beat the poll tax. They were important, but it was organised mass non-payment which was the real reason for its demise. We kept the confidence of the movement up by discussing and answering every question, in meetings and in millions of leaflets.

We clogged up the courts by mobilising non-payers to attend their hearings and assisted people by asking questions in court. Court rooms were unable to cope.

We mobilised to stop the bailiffs from seizing property. We organised to stop poll tax jailings - the ultimate sanction.

Hundreds were sent to jail, including many Militant supporters. Terry Fields, a Liverpool MP and Militant member, was sent down for standing in solidarity with his constituents. However, the number of jailings, compared to the millions who refused to pay, was far fewer than would have been if there was no organised campaign.

The government announced in March 1991 that they would be scrapping the tax by 1993. We continued to support people and campaigned for the writing off of the debts. Many were actually secretly dropped by councils at a later date.

This movement showed that working class people can win battles. It also showed the critical role that a party with the right ideas can play in the struggle.



So when we are marching tommorrow please dont see this as the end and a nice sunny walk out in London as this cannot i repeat cannot be the end of the movement tommorrow. We must keep building and gaining support in the communities back home. The TUC i imagine will see this as a good job well done if the march pass's off peacefully and they gain credit for it. But ultimatly it was the NSSN back in September who had to almost force the TUC into any sort of action. They were not going to do anything believe it or not. So lets look forward to tommorrow but also to the coming weeks, months and years as we look to escalate the battle being pushed onto us in the shape of a class war. The need for a one day general strike in the public services is critical to bring the public sector to a halt for one day initally then escalate that as the cuts begin to hit. Unions too need to take a leading role now after 26th march they need to join together in co-ordinated strike action to defend jobs and conditions as best they can.

As for labour being on the march with Ed miliband apparently speaking on the day i personally find it a little rich of them wanting to be involved in the anti cuts movement as they themselves are not actually against cuts we must remember. We must highlight their hypocrisy in this that they cannot be allowed to hi-jack the movement for their own political gain. Not at all as we saw on the stop the war coalition march in 2003 speaking platforms were given to Lib Dems who later went on to raise their stock by becoming known as anti war MP's which gained them credebility when you look now they are happy to send in our military to Libya. Such hypocrisy is not welcome in the anti cuts movement. We are against all cuts be that from the tories, lib dems or labour.

So if you have had enough of the hypocrisy of labour and their leadership like i have why not come and have a listen to what the NSSN and its excelent aray of speakers has to say tommorrow in Hyde Park at speakers corner. The details can be found below. feel free to invite as many of your friends and family along to this stage as we look to put the case from ordinary working people to you all.

The TUC-organised demonstration against cuts on the 26th March looks set to be the biggest display of anger and and opposition to the cuts since this shambles of a coalition government came to power last year. National Shop Stewards Network supporters up and down the country were involved in the campaign to get the TUC to call the demonstration and have been helping to build for the big day, which is now finally here.



On the demonstration tomorrow, the National Shop Stewards Network will have tens of thousands of postcards and stickers to distribute, alongside thousands of placards. If you would like to help give this out, find our stall near Temple tube station to collect material.



At the end of the march, we will be hosting an NSSN Stage at Speakers Corner from 2:30pm. Marchers will go in waves past the main TUC Stage, and this is a chance for the hundreds of thousands in attendance to hear other speakers from the trade union and anti-cuts movement after they have visited the TUC Stage at Hyde Park Corner. Tell your friends and workmates, details of some of the speakers can be found below.

SPEAKERS INCLUDE:

• MATT WRACK FBU GENERAL SECRETARY

• JANICE GODRICH PCS PRESIDENT

• ALEX GORDON RMT PRESIDENT

• IAN LEAHAIR FBU LONDON ORGANISER

• STEVE HEDLEY RMT LONDON ORGANISER

• ROB WILLIAMS NSSN CONVENOR

• DAVE NELLIST SOCIALIST PARTY COUNCILLOR

...AND OTHER TRADE UNION & ANTI-CUTS ACTIVISTS

Lastly we'd like all of you who are attending the march tommorrow to have a excellent day and keep safe on the march we'd love to hear your comments on how you found it after if you have the time. If not then tahnks for reading as always

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Socialism in RCT: Determined UCU picket line

Socialism in RCT: Determined UCU picket line: "This morning saw strike action up and down the country in Universities and colleges by members of UCU - University and College Union, the tr..."

What has socialism got to do with the cuts ?

In the special edition of the socialist a paper by the socialist party for the 26th march TUC demo ther eis a excellent article relating socialism to the cuts and how socialism can help us to a better world. i've reproduced it underneath. You can join the party at www.socialistparty.org.uk

What has socialism got to do with fighting the cuts?

Socialist Party members sell The Socialist, photo Paul Mattsson

Each week members of the Socialist Party sell copies of the Socialist newspaper at workplaces, colleges, stations, town centres and working class estates all over England and Wales, as well as at protests and meetings. Sellers are often questioned about socialist ideas. Here Tom Pearse records such a discussion.

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Socialist seller (S): Fight the cuts - no ifs, no buts, fight all cuts!

Potential buyer (B): Ok, I'm against the cuts but what is the alternative? The government says there is a massive public sector deficit and, if we don't cut it, then it will grow to unacceptable levels. Then the country will go bankrupt.
S: Well, the first thing I'd say is that we, the working people, who are the majority in this country, didn't create this deficit. The rich and their system of capitalism, particularly the bankers, are mainly responsible for this deficit. The previous government stepped in and bailed them out to the tune of about £80 billion directly, with up to £1 trillion in loan guarantees etc.

Also, because of the crisis of capitalism - which again we didn't create - over 2.5 million people in Britain don't have a job - including a million young people between the ages of 16 and 24.

It's the largesse handed out to the bankers and the increased cost to the state in unemployment and other benefits which accounts for most of the deficit.

B: Yes, yes - but this deficit exists. How are we going to pay for it? How can we ultimately eliminate it?
S: Did you know that the total deficit could be wiped out if the rich paid taxes like ordinary people do? Tax avoidance by the rich, according to the PCS civil service union, comes to £120 billion a year, which is almost equal to the total government budget deficit, £143 billion, to be eliminated over four years.

But the Con-Dems are using this situation to pursue a scorched earth policy against all the historical achievements of working class people, the NHS, pay and conditions etc.

This represents an attempt to turn back the wheel of history to the 1930s and in some senses to the 19th century. Working class people are being made to pay for rescuing capitalism in a severe crisis.

B: But if we try to make the rich pay for the deficit, won't they just take their money out of the country?
S: Yes, they might attempt that. But then they would be openly acting selfishly by seeking to flout the democratic wishes of the majority of the British people. We would therefore have every right to introduce measures to prevent them from doing so.

B: But isn't that to attack the principle of private property?
S: When socialists talk about 'private property' we're not talking about the personal possessions of ordinary people - houses, cars, fridges, etc. The private property of the rich and the super-rich comes through the super-exploitation of us, working class people.

They would argue that their profit, which is what Karl Marx called "the unpaid labour of the working class", is necessary in order to keep the system going. We should never forget that profit is achieved by exploitation - sometimes ruthlessly so in China and elsewhere today - of the labour power of the working class.

B: Don't we need rich people to create jobs and anyway, doesn't competition drive invention?
S: There is a grain of truth in the arguments of the bosses. In the past, by investing this surplus - profits if you like - in industry, they played a role in developing society, providing jobs and increased wealth for a time.

But for the last 20 to 30 years investment in factories, in what we would call the 'means of production' - the organisation of labour, science and technique - and the actual making of real things, has dropped dramatically.

Instead they sought to boost their profits in a massive orgy of 'financialisation', the building up of the financial sector at the expense of real production and the creation of jobs. This created a massive financial bubble which has now burst, resulting in the present devastating crisis.

This is a real indictment of the failure of capitalism. The International Monetary Fund has calculated that during this economic crisis, in 2008 alone, the total loss in assets devalued worldwide came to $50 trillion - roughly equal to the value of one year's global output of goods and services! This wealth is being destroyed because capitalism is a system based on production for profit for the few and not the social need of the many.

B: OK, the capitalists failed. But you still haven't said how you would stop them from avoiding any attacks on their wealth.

Selling The Socialist in Waltham Forest, photo Alison Hill

S: If they tried to continue with evasion, if they tried to take their loot out of the country, then a radical socialist government should introduce state controls of all capital coming in and out of the country.

This would be accompanied by the 'opening of the books'. The accounts of all companies should be inspected by mass committees of workers and consumers. This would be a form of workers' control, which is vital as a means of revealing the real wealth and how it is to be controlled for the benefit of the majority.

B: How can you do this in an open and free economy?
S: By nationalising the banks and finance houses.

B: Didn't the British government try this at the beginning of the financial crisis when they took big stakes in the banks?
S: Up to a point yes. But it was not complete nationalisation. And it certainly wasn't carried out in a way that was beneficial to the majority of the people of this country. New Labour left control in the hands of big business managers.

Even when the banks are nominally under our control - that is the state - they are run by and in the interests of the capitalists. Look at the tops of the majority-nationalised RBS bank - they are paying out millions in bonuses to themselves!

Instead we want real democratic nationalisation, conducted in a socialist manner through workers' control and management. This would involve the workers in the banking and financial sector, together with representatives of workers in general and government representatives, as well as depositors and other users, controlling and managing the banks on behalf of the people as a whole, providing cheap loans, mortgages, etc.

B: Won't big business take fright and sabotage any efforts to rein them in?
S: It is entirely possible that this could happen or be threatened. In the past, when minimal measures were taken against them, the capitalists threatened a strike of capital. When the Labour government in the 1970s - led by Harold Wilson as prime minister - introduced a tax on capital, big business, with the help of the newspapers, conducted a ferocious struggle which resulted in 174 amendments to the bill, and effectively nullified the proposed tax increases against the rich.

B. Well there we go. You can't do anything.
S: Now, I didn't say that. If we, the Socialist Party, have majority support, we could do a great deal to counter the undemocratic defiance by a handful of capitalists, seeking to thwart the wishes of the majority.

Harold Wilson and the Labour government, because they would not go outside the framework of capitalism, bent the knee to the bosses' pressure and capitulated. We would have called their bluff and proposed to Parliament a bill to take over these big companies who were threatening to defy and blackmail the elected representatives of the people.

B: But again, would that not mean violating the age-old principles of private property?
S: To invoke this alleged 'principle' is a smokescreen to mask the colossal and undemocratic concentration of power in the hands of a handful of the rich.

A few figures to illustrate this: of the hundred largest economies in the world 52 are corporations and 48 are countries; the top 500 companies control 70% of world trade; the top 200 companies' combined sales are equal to 28% of world GDP but employ only 0.82% of the world's workforce.

In the US, 2% of companies account for almost 75% of business activity. Here in Britain, the Socialist Party points out that 150 companies control 70-75% of the wealth of this country.

In other words a handful of billionaires control what are, in effect, monopoly concerns, which determine what will and will not be produced. They control who will and who will not work, which party they would like to see elected in which government to best represent their interests.

We do not live in a real democracy. Capitalist democracy is where everybody, at least in theory, can say what they like so long as big business, a handful of monopoly companies, can decide what takes place in practice.

B: But how can you break the power of the rich and the big monopolies?
S: That's a very good question. We will propose that these companies be taken over - nationalised by a socialist government which would then organise a democratic socialist plan of production. This plan would be drawn up through the involvement of working class people, representatives of the middle class, such as small shopkeepers, small businesses etc, the users and customers of industry, etc.

B: Two questions spring to mind. Wouldn't nationalisation be, in effect, 'expropriation' of the assets of people who, through diligent work, have built up this wealth over generations?
Secondly, if you take over industry, don't you also 'nationalise' the savings of many, not necessarily wealthy, people who invested in stocks and shares - for instance trade union members who have their pensions invested on the stock exchange?

S: Firstly this wealth and power of big business has been built up, as we showed earlier, by the exploitation of the labour power of the working class.

In the past there was some justification for this - despite the horrors of capitalism in the Industrial Revolution, the slave trade, etc. This was because it built up industry and was therefore ultimately laying the basis for abolishing shortages and boosting living standards.

But capitalism is a system which cannot fully utilise the full potential of the productive forces, as has been shown by the series of crises throughout its history and particularly the present crisis. Karl Marx pointed out that when it begins to hold back production, to destroy wealth, capitalism betrays its "historical mission", which was to develop production.

When it begins to hold back production it becomes obsolete. This does not mean, however, that capitalism will 'automatically' disappear. It needs to be 'helped' off the stage of history by the actions of the working class and the labour movement. So we need a new social system - one that involves a state acting for the majority and not the privileged minority - which is democratic at every level both in the running of industry and society.

But we, that is the working class and the labour movement, are not impervious to the interests of the small investors. Even to the big investors we will be more generous than they are to the poor, those on benefits, etc. Compensation will be paid on the basis of proven need to all whose assets are being taken over by a democratic socialist workers' state.

B: And the ordinary people?
S: It goes without saying that, of course, trade union members and their pensions will be safeguarded; in fact, pensions will be rapidly increased from the current miserable level which the coalition government intends to cut further. All workers - as well as the unemployed, those on low wages, pensioners etc - will enormously benefit from a socialist planned economy.

B: How can you possibly guarantee that, by waving some kind of magical 'socialist' wand, things will improve in the way you describe?
S: There will be no hocus-pocus; there is no mystery in how a socialist planned economy would be organised and will be superior to outmoded capitalism.

Capitalism is a system which cannot utilise the full productive potential of its own system. The output of the world economy is back to the levels of 1989.

But in the 17 countries forming the eurozone, joblessness among the young now officially stands at over 20% (although it's much higher in many areas) alongside closed factories.

In Ireland we have the phenomena of empty 'ghost estates' while millions throughout the world lack basic shelter. One billion people on the planet go to bed hungry every night, an increase of 150 million compared to 15 years ago.

A planned economy would use all the resources which now lie idle, as well as cutting out the colossal waste from unnecessary advertising, duplication of production, etc.

Instead of the measly growth rate of capitalist economies at present - with Britain not really growing at all - a socialist planned economy could rapidly increase production on an environmentally sustainable basis and generate huge extra resources in Europe and the world.

It would increase the participation of the workforce in running society, including production, as well as consumers - through cutting the working day without any loss in pay. This would not lead to a decrease in production but give an enormous boost to it. In schools, in housing, in education, instead of the current cuts, there would be a big expansion. Undreamed of plenty is possible on the basis of socialism.

B: But didn't 'socialism' fail in Russia? Instead of democracy there was dictatorship by people like Stalin.
S: The Russian revolution, in the period immediately after 1917, when the October revolution took place, established the most democratic state in history. It proceeded to take into public ownership the land, industry and finance.

For the first time the majority - that is the working class and the poor peasantry - were in power. They ruled through a system of workers' and peasants' councils.

There were no privileges for the representatives of the people, who lived on the average wage, were subject to recall, etc. These councils, for the first time in history, raised the working class to power and allowed them to rule.

The Russian revolution was seen as just the beginning of the European and the world revolution. Unfortunately, despite favourable opportunities, this did not transpire because of the betrayal of the workers' leaders in the social democratic parties (like the Labour Party in Britain) in the West at that stage. Therefore Russia was isolated and, on the basis of scarcity, a low cultural level and a privileged elite, the bureaucracy began to emerge, personified by Stalin.

This bureaucratic caste betrayed the ideals of the Russian revolution - although the planned economy was still maintained and therefore the system which remained was still relatively progressive compared to capitalism - and gradually established a one-party totalitarian regime.

B: What guarantee is there that your British version of socialism will not go the same way?
S: This will not happen in a socialist Britain. I know this is a bold assertion but it's based on a sober assessment of the different conditions between Britain today and Russia at the time of the revolution. We live in an advanced industrial country, with a high level of culture, access to computers, the social media, etc. We have a powerful and educated working class with its own organisations, the trade unions.

Once working people here carry through such a big social change they will not allow a repetition of Stalinism, for power and privilege to be concentrated in a few hands.

B: But won't those in power just get greedy?
S: Yes, there is always a danger of a bureaucratic layer seeking to control everything. Look at the trade unions today. There are leaderships sometimes on salaries several times that of trade union members. There are leaderships who fear the active participation of the members, particularly militant fighters like members of the Socialist Party fighting to transform the unions so that they reflect the real will of working people.

The only way to check this bureaucracy is through democracy. Trade union and other officials should be elected subject to recall. Such will be the advantages of socialism, particularly implemented democratically, that there would be no possibility of going back to capitalism. This would be as absurd and as utopian as anybody today hoping to return to feudalism, to the hardship of the middle ages.

B: But do you think that the capitalists will just allow you to go ahead and expropriate them without resistance?
S: We will have a democratic majority and under the rules of democracy a minority should abide by the will of the majority. Of course the rights of minorities would be protected. Not just the working class but the intermediate layers of society can be won to socialist system.

Once the mass of working people come together in struggle, a huge social movement, all of those layers of society who are subject to attack by the system, gravitate to the workers' side. This was shown, after all, in the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and throughout the Middle East.

The Con-Dems are attacking the police by proposing to cut their numbers. Even servicemen, on returning from Afghanistan, could be thrown on the dole. Many then can be open to the idea of fighting the cuts. But also this can open up for them the vista of a new society where all the talents can be used.

Nevertheless we are realistic. History has shown that it is not the left, it is not the working class movement, which resorts to force to attain its ends. We are absolutely opposed to the methods of terrorism. But we're not pacifists; we will defend all democratic rights from any forceful attempt to take them away. We fight with democratic means for a democratic majority. But the ruling class does not always abide by even its own 'rules' when its vital interests are threatened.

B: Ok, you've made the case for a socialist Britain. But what kind of set-up will you have in relations with Europe and the world?
S: We don't believe in socialism in one country. Russia shows that there is no possibility of any one country moving towards socialism by itself. Leon Trotsky, the great socialist theoretician of the workers' movement, continually argued against this idea and he was proved right.

The development of the productive forces has completely outgrown the narrow limits of the nation state. The failed attempt of the capitalists in Europe to come together through the European Union is one expression of this.

If Egypt can detonate and assist the movement in Wisconsin, in the belly of the beast, the US itself, imagine if Britain was to go socialist. It would begin to transform the world. The same would apply in any country in Europe, or for that matter the relatively developed countries in Latin America or Asia.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

In support of UCU members taking strike action tommorrow 24th March 2011

UCU members at around 500 colleges and universities across the UK will be on strike tomorrow (Thursday) in a row over changes to their pension and pay cuts: the first UK-wide strike action in universities for five years and in colleges since 2008.

UCU members will walk out over plans for greater pension contributions from staff and an increase in the pension age, against a backdrop of a second consecutive real-terms annual pay cut. Staff will be on picket lines at institutions throughout the country with many branches joining together to hold regional rallies in cities such as Leeds, Liverpool, Cardiff, Manchester, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Birmingham and Newcastle.

UCU members' action is part of the first UK-wide strike action in universities for five years and the first in further education colleges since 2008. The union has received the support of the National Union of Students, despite the likely disruption to their members' studies.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'University and college staff really value their pension rights and have made their views of the detrimental changes crystal clear. Strike action is always a last resort but the attacks on pensions and pay have created real anger and, instead of burying their heads in the sand, the employers need to respond urgently to our concerns.

'Staff are sick to the back teeth of being told that their pay and pensions need to be cut to pay for an economic crisis created by others.'

The UK-wide action comes on top of four days' strike action* at 67 UK universities across the UK in a row over pensions. UCU members at those 67 universities are members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme. They are on strike again tomorrow (Thursday) and will be joined by their colleagues in the rest of the UK's universities and also in further education colleges, who are members of the Teachers' Pension Scheme.

* UK strike action in the last week has taken place in universities where UCU members are members of the USS scheme: Scottish universities on Thursday 17 March; Welsh universities on Friday 18 March; Northern Irish universities on Monday 21 March; and English universities on Tuesday 22 March.



We on this blog would just like to publisise this strike and make people aware why they are striking and to add their support. Fora ll students who cannot remove their labour should if they can stand with their lectuers and other staff members taking strike action if they can. Already this week i have seen on twitter many universities going into occupation which means holding a room or a area of a school, college or university where UCU members will be striking and offering lots of solidarity to their teachers and staff who look after them so well. I think this is a really important strike one of many i hope in the public sector over the next year or so to take on this retchid right wing government. I do call for more militant action from unions and i hope rank-and-file can put pressure on the leadership to ballot for strikea action as this is a good way to achieve things.

I myself will be trying to get down to my local college in my town to stand on the picket line with others there to offer solidarity and shighlight the importance of striking and offering support. I hope readers of this blog can do the same too.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

How the western intervention in Libya could swell the numbers for march 26th TUC demo

In a survey of British people only 35 % of the public currently support the western military interventions in Libya. That figure i expect to fall considerably as this imperialistic mission drags on for weeks into months possibly.

But i really do think this all may have a big affect on this saturdays march in London where a estimated minimum of quarter of a million plus will be marching fagainst the cuts this retchid government of ours are trying to force through. They say the cuts are unavoidable and there is no alternative, we say they are wrong and they need to make the bankers pay not the working class - ordinary people.

I really think when people open their eyes to the fact we are spending hundreds of thousands on expensive bombs and missiles that no average ordinary people benifit from they only serve to halt a revolution in the arab world which risks the western influence and more importantly to the capitalist nations that big three letter word Oil.
When ordinary working class people the disabled, students and pensioners are being told we cannot afford these vital services and support networks yet they see our beloved government bombinb the shit out of a country which can barely defend itself with a load of out of date Weapons that are nothing compared to American, British and French planes, bombs and technology. It is not a fair fight and it must be opposed i feel.

I think as this unessesary conflict continues, not unessesary that we dont need to see the removal of Gadaffi but the removal of him by his own people in a popular uprising situation would be our preference rather than bombing for peace as the west loves to describe it. I've never heard so much rubbish how does dropping bombs on a country and its people and lets be honest given the best bombing technology in the world today bombs and missiles can still go off course and hit civilian targets as we all well know.

So i think this obsurdity that we can afford bombs and missiles for wars abroad yet we cannot afford to basically look after our own people it will anger people. I know it angers me a hell of a lot. The hypocrisy is astounding and we must highlight this on saturday too.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Rail unions win over anti-strike laws

As i promised before in a previous blogpost i said i'd put as many trade union news stories on here as i could here it the latest one i've found.



On Friday 4 March 2011 the Court of Appeal in London handed down definitive judgements in two important industrial action cases.

Alex Gordon, president of Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT)
In both ASLEF v London Midland and RMT v Serco Docklands Light Railway, High Court judges had previously granted injunctions banning strike action after finding union strike notices "defective" and union explanations of how they ensured reliable membership data for balloting and engaging in strike action "inadequate".

The superior court has now overturned those injunctions and comprehensively disposed of arguments originally used in the High Court to justify them.

Such an authoritative judgement by the Court of Appeal would be of great significance at any time. However, coming as it does when government policies to destroy up to 750,000 public sector jobs and an estimated 900,000 private sector jobs through cuts and outsourcing, while attacking wages, pensions and public services are fuelling demands for trade unions to lead a fightback, the effect of this Appeal Court judgement is potentially explosive.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow described the judgment as: "not only a victory for staff on Serco Docklands and RMT's 80,000 members but also a massive victory for seven million trade unionists in the UK."

"The injunction would have taken anti-union laws in this country to within a whisker of effectively banning the right to strike and would have tightened the noose to the point of strangulation around the necks of nurses, firefighters, ambulance crew, home helps and others fighting back.

"This victory helps clear the path for those workers to take action".

High Court's use of 'trifles'
In the London Midland case, the union mistakenly sent ballot papers to two members not entitled to vote (out of 604 balloted, 86% voted for strike action) - one had changed employer, the other had become a manager.

This was sufficient for the High Court to grant its injunction.

The Appeal Court ruled that this should have been dealt with as a small accidental failure and found the "de minimis" exception (a Latin tag meaning 'trifling') should apply in employment law as in other areas of law.

Similarly, the High Court found the union's explanations were inaccurate because the word "audit" was used to describe its method of checking membership records.

Legal counsel for the employer even argued that, to conduct a strike ballot, RMT should retain the services of auditors such as KPMG, whose expertise impressed so many corporate clients from Enron to Lehman Brothers.

The Appeal Court said the union's explanation of its membership data was simply for employers "to understand something about the reliability of the data supplied.

"Something, but not necessarily very much".

The court ruled that the use of the word "audit" is not misleading. Neither is there any obligation on the union to use identical job category definitions to the employer.

The law should be given a "likely and workable construction" rather than a restrictive one.

Hair-splitting rejected
The implications of the Appeal Court's ruling are significant and immediate. While employers will continue to apply for injunctions against strike action on spurious and vexatious grounds using legislation memorably lauded by Tony Blair as: "the most restrictive on trade unions in the western world", many of the avenues used in recent years in Metrobus v Unite, EDF v RMT, BA v Unite and Network Rail v RMT, which relied on legal hair-splitting and nit-picking trivia are now closed.

Additionally, Justice Patrick Elias and his colleagues in the Appeal Court made another significant ruling. Common law recognises no right to strike in Britain, however the Appeal Court confirmed that international law does confer a right to strike under International Labour Organisation Conventions 98 and 151.

In addition, the European Convention on Human Rights upholds the right to strike as an element of Article 11(1) on freedom of association.

In a further case, RMT is taking the British government to the European Court of Human Rights for breaching international law through prohibiting the right to take sympathetic (or solidarity) action banned as 'secondary action' by the Tory government in 1980.

Further attacks
Given the profound and prolonged character of the current economic crisis and the history of attacks on trade unions and collective bargaining in Britain by the ruling class, it is likely the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government will propose new primary legislation further restricting the right to strike.

Already far-right voices such as London mayor, Boris Johnson, and the Policy Exchange think tank, have argued for industrial action ballots to achieve a minimum participation threshold and for restrictions on the right to strike for workers in essential public services.

More likely however, will be an attempt to extend the 'proportionality' concept, which has been imported from European law in a number of recent cases by the EU Supreme Court, the European Court of Justice.

This gives judges power to decide what forms of action (if any) are appropriate in lawful industrial disputes, something not even Thatcher's anti-union laws achieved.

For workers facing the onslaught of European Union and UK government austerity policies, the lessons are very clear. The successful legal appeal by ASLEF and RMT has created a window of opportunity allowing trade unions to fight back using strike action to defend jobs and services.

The policy of coordinated strike action to defeat austerity cuts agreed at last year's TUC conference can now be a practical reality.

As cuts start to bite in 2011, trade unions need to bring forward a plan for a strike movement leading to generalised strike action to defend trade un

No to imperialist military intervention in Libya

I found this excellent article really detailed and spot on on the socilaist party's website at www.socilaistparty.org.uk and thought i'd share it on here if you havent seen it yet. I think it puts things into perspective in LIbya and offers a real solution to the problems in that oil rich country.

If you enjoy articles like this and would like to learn more or join the socialist party please visit this link here :
http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/main/join


The UN Security Council's majority decision to enact a militarily-imposed 'no-fly-zone' against Libya, while greeted with joy on the streets of Benghazi and Tobruk, is in no way intended to defend the Libyan revolution.

Revolutionaries in Libya may think that this decision will help them, but they are mistaken. Naked economic and political calculations lay behind the imperialist powers' decision.

It is not a lifeline that could 'save' the revolution, in the real sense of the word, against Gaddafi. Major imperialist powers decided that they wanted now to exploit the revolution and try to replace Gaddafi with a more reliable regime.

However the Libyan foreign minster's announcement of an immediate ceasefire has complicated imperialism's position.

Faced with a rapid eastwards advance of Gaddafi's forces, many in eastern Libya seized hold of the idea of a no-fly-zone to help stem this tide, but this is not the way to defend and extend the revolution.

Unfortunately, the revolution's initial drive towards the west, where two-thirds of Libyans live, was not based on a movement, built upon popular, democratic committees that could offer a clear programme to win support from the masses and the rank and file soldiers, while waging a revolutionary war.

This gave Gaddafi an opportunity to regroup.

The growing support for a no-fly-zone was a reversal of the sentiment expressed in the English language posters put up in Benghazi, in February, declaring: "No To Foreign Intervention - Libyans Can Do It By Themselves".

This followed the wonderful examples of Tunisia and Egypt, where sustained mass action completely undermined totalitarian regimes. The Libyan masses were confident that their momentum would secure victory.

But Gaddafi was able to retain a grip in Tripoli. This, at least, relative stabilisation of the regime and its counter-offensive led to a change in attitude towards foreign intervention that allowed the largely pro-Western leadership of the rebel 'Interim Transitional National Council' to overcome youth opposition to asking the West for aid.

However, despite the Gaddafi regime's blood-curdling words, it is not at all certain that its relatively small forces could have launched an all-out assault on Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, with around a million living in its environs.

A mass defence of the city would have blunted the attack of Gaddafi's relatively small forces. Now, if the ceasefire holds and Gaddafi remains in power in Tripoli, a de-facto breakup of the country could occur, returning to something like the separate entities that existed before Italy first created Libya after 1912 and which Britain recreated in the late 1940s.

Whatever the immediate effect the 'no fly zone', any trust placed in either the UN or the imperialist powers threatens to undermine all the genuine hopes and aspirations of the revolution that began last month.

This is because the powers that have imposed threatened military action are no friends of the Libyan masses. Until recently, they were quite happy to deal with, and pander to, the murderous Gaddafi ruling clique, to maintain a 'partnership', especially concerning Libya's oil and gas industries.

Indeed, the day after the UN took its decision, the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal lamented that "the close partnership between the Libyan leader Col.

"Muammar Gaddafi's intelligence service and the CIA has been severed" (18 March, 2011). The Journal reported "according to a senior US official" the previous 'partnership' was "especially productive".

Now, having lost former dictatorial allies Mubarak, in Egypt, and Ben Ali, in Tunisia, imperialism is trying to take advantage of the popular uprising in Libya to both refurbish its "democratic" image and to help install a more "reliable" regime, or at least a part of Libya.

As before, North Africa and the Middle East, with its oil and strategic location, are of tremendous importance to the imperialist powers.

This reveals the absolute hypocrisy of the main imperialist powers, which have shamelessly supported repressive dictatorial regimes throughout the Middle East for decades.

At the very same time that they were deciding the No Fly Zone, the same powers did absolutely nothing to prevent Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies' increasingly brutal suppression of the majority of the Bahraini population and their attempt to ferment sectarianism.

Within 12 hours of the UN decision, the armed forces another regional ally, Yemeni, ally shot dead at least 39 protesters in the capital city, Sanaa. The UN was only able to take its decision on Libya because the Arab League supported a no fly zone, but of course these mainly reactionary rulers say nothing about repression in Bahrain, Yemen or other Arab countries.

Cameron and Sarkozy's "concern" for Libya is at least partly motivated by domestic unpopularity and the hope that a foreign success will strengthen their standing.

Cameron clearly hopes for a boost similar to that which Thatcher enjoyed after her victory in the 1983 Falklands war. But Thatcher achieved a quick military victory - the no fly zone operation will not will produce a similar military win.

Sarkozy, after the disaster of his Tunisia policy that led to the resignation of the French Foreign Minister, needs a "success" to lift his low poll ratings as next year's Presidential election looms closer.

Gaddafi zig-zags
Despite the imperialist powers' recent rapprochement with Gaddafi, the tyrant always remained an unreliable ally. Throughout his nearly 42 years in power, Gaddafi zig-zagged in policy, sometimes violently.

In 1971, he helped the Sudanese dictator, Nimeiry, crush a left coup that took place in reaction to the earlier suppression of the left, including the banning of the one-million member Sudanese communist party.

Six years later, Gaddafi proclaimed a "people's revolution" and changed the country's official name from the Libyan Arab Republic to the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah.

Despite the name change and the formation of so-called "revolutionary committees", this was not genuine democratic socialism or a move towards it. The Libyan working people and youth were not running their country.

Gaddafi remained in control. This was underlined by the increasingly prominent role that many of his children played in the regime.

Nevertheless, since 1969, on the basis of a large oil income and a small population, there was a big improvement in most Libyans' lives, especially in education and health, which at least partly explains why Gaddafi still has some basis of support amongst the population.

Even while there is growing opposition to the Gaddafi clique, especially amongst Libya's overwhelmingly young and educated population, there is also fear about who might replace him and opposition to anything that smells of foreign rule.

The revolutionaries' widespread use of the old ruling monarchy's flag was bound to alienate those who do not want to return to the past and was used by Gaddafi to justify his rule.

Flying the old flag also risked alienating Libyans in the west of the country because the former king came from the east and had no historic roots in the area around Tripoli.

But these factors are not a complete explanation as to why Gaddafi was able, at least temporally, to stabilise his position. While there was a popular uprising in eastern Libya, Gaddafi was able to maintain his position in the west, where two-thirds of the population live, despite large protests in Tripoli and uprisings in Misrata, Zuwarah and a few other areas.

Role of the working class
Unlike in Egypt and Tunisia, the working class in Libya has not, so far, begun to play an independent role in the revolution. Furthermore, many workers in Libya are migrants who have fled the country in recent weeks.

The absence of a national focal point which, for example, the Tunisian UGTT trade union federation provided (despite its pro-Ben Ali national leadership), complicated the situation in Libya.

The huge revolutionary enthusiasm of the population has not, so far, been given an organised expression. The largely self-appointed 'National Council' that emerged in Benghazi is a combination of elements from the old regime and more pro-imperialist elements.

For example, the Council's foreign spokesman, Mahmoud Jibril, the former head of Gaddafi's National Economic Development Board, was described by the US Ambassador, in November 2009, as a "serious interlocutor who 'gets' the US perspective".

It is easy for Gaddafi to present these people as a threat to Libyan living standards and agents of foreign powers. At the same time, this propaganda will have only a limited effect, as population's living standards worsening and unemployment increased (standing at 10%) since from the end of the 1980s oil boom and the start of privatisation back in 2003.

Gaddafi's use of the threat of imperialist intervention did gather some support and if the country becomes divided may gain more. How long this can sustain Gaddafi is another question.

In addition to anti-imperialist rhetoric, Gaddafi made concessions to maintain support. Each family has been given the equivalent of $450.

Some public sector workers have been given 150% wage increases and taxes and customs duties on food have been abolished. But these steps do not answer the demands for freedom or end the growing frustration of Libya's youthful population, with an average age of 24, over the regime's corruption and suffocating grip.

Around the world, millions of people follow, and are inspired by, the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East. These events inspired protests against the effects of the continuing capitalist crisis in many countries.

Some of those welcoming the revolutionary events in the region may support the UN's 'no fly zone' but socialists argue that it is primarily made in the interests of the imperialist powers - the same powers that no nothing substantially to restrain the repressive actions of Gulf states against mass protests in their countries.

But what then can be done internationally to genuinely help the Libyan revolution? First of all, trade unions should block the export of Libyan oil and gas.

Secondly, bank workers should organise the freezing of all the Gaddafi regime's financial assets.

The 'no fly zone' will not automatically lead to the overthrow of Gaddafi, in fact, like Saddam Hussein, the Libyan leader could entrench his position for a time in those parts of the country he controls.

As the experience of Egypt and Tunisia shows, the key to overthrow dictatorships is the movement of the working masses and youth.

A revolutionary programme
Thus the fate of the revolution will be decided inside Libya itself. Its victory requires a programme that can cut across tribal and regional divisions and unite the mass of the population against the Gaddafi clique and for a struggle for a better future.

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

The creation of an independent movement of Libyan workers, poor and youth that could implement such a real revolutionary transformation of the country, is the only way to thwart the imperialists' plans, end dictatorship and to transform the lives of the people.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Committee for

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Where is the western intervention heading ?

So last nightand today we have heard and seen reports of French and British military aircraft bombing Libyian targets that Gadaffi wilkl use to further opress his people. But what is really going on there and what is the west's real objective.

The most important thing to do in Britain now is to oppose the Western military intervention, and expose its real aims and its hypocrisy.
The West is intervening to strangle the Arab revolution, not to save it. This i feel is down to the west not wanting to have its base for major oil source tapped by the Chinese or Russians if they stay out and Gadaffi falls to the revolution they will not be situated to take advantage of the oil and any subsequent
new leader put in place in Libya.
But this seemingly paradoxical state of affairs should come as no surprise. On the contrary, when it comes to the issue of governance across the Arab and Muslim world, in the eyes of the West it isn’t important whether or not an Arab state is ruled by democracy or dictatorship. All that matters is whether or not it is ruled by the right kind of democracy or dictatorship. Democratically elected governments in places like Palestine, Iran and as is increasingly the case, Lebanon, are deemed pariahs, while dictatorships in places like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and up until very recently, Tunisia and Egypt, are allies and friends.

The problem for the West vis-à-vis Gaddafi isn’t a philosophical or moral one over the fact he happens to be a dictator – indeed, how could it be given the West’s eagerness to embrace his regime when he declared Libya open for business in 2004? – instead it is over the fact he’s proved an unreliable dictator. Like Saddam before him, another former ally and a dictator at one time willing to do business with the West, Gaddafi has proved prone to bouts of independent policy and, as recent events prove, brutality. This has rendered him unstable in the eyes of western political and business elites for whom stability across the Arab world is not just preferable but crucial to their interests, both strategic and economic.

What worries me the most is the whole hypocrisy of this whole invasion and war i guess you could now call it. THe fact that the west has backed Gadaffi for years and years while he has been their puppet in the area serving us with oil and playing ball we've been ok for him to stay put.

Latest news i'm hearing is that the Arab league made up of Arab countries who initially backed a colaition plan to go into Libya and enforce a "no fly zone" have now condemed the violence and have said the west appear to be going too fara nd way beyond what the no fly zone entailed for them.
I think opposition to our western intervention in Libya will continue to grow and grow.

Unlike either Ben Ali in Tunisia or Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddafi had been astute enough to dispense enough of Libya’s wealth to enough of his people to cement a social base of support for his regime. It has been this base of support which has enabled him to retain the loyalty of the bulk of his armed forces by which he was well on the way to crushing the revolt prior to the UN resolution authorising a no fly zone.

The question facing the West now, after Gaddafi announced a ceasefire almost immediately after the UN resolution was passed, is how to proceed without alienating further an Arab street which has awoken after decades of being politically infantilised? Moreover, the West’s ability to do so hinges on the extent to which the revolutionary wave which swept through the Arab world - one make no mistake which saw uprisings take place not only against autocracy and dictatorship but against the West’s stranglehold over the region – has deepened the consciousness of the millions involved.

Gaddafi may be many things but madman he is not. The fact he’s been able to rule Libya for over 40 years without any serious threat to his regime until now proves this is so. His continued survival may well depend on how effectively he takes the opportunity just handed him by the UN to parade his anti colonial and anti imperialist credentials not just in Libya but throughout both Africa and the Arab world. Further, the more successful he is in this regard the more the Libyan opposition will find itself tarnished and discredited by association. For in the last analysis, nothing positive can come of the West’s continued intervention in the region. The clutch of dictators who have and continue to scar the region’s social, political and economic landscape are a symptom of this intervention, regardless of whether it has come via the agency of soft or hard power, and it is a system of control that must be broken if the Arab world is to progress and develop. This is also why any military intervention must be opposed by progressive forces in the West itself.

Malcolm X put it simply when he said, “In order to understand what’s going on in Mississippi you have to understand what’s going on in the Congo.” To this can be added that in order to understand what’s going on in the Congo you have to understand what’s going on in Mississippi. In other words there is a circular relationship between social and economic injustice at home and a policy of imperialism and colonialism overseas.

For David Cameron, whose government is under increasing pressure over a domestic economic policy that amounts to a vast experiment in human despair, military intervention in Libya if successful could provide him with the kind of bounce in popularity which Thatcher enjoyed in the aftermath of the Falklands War. Failure on the other hand could see another Iraq unfold with similarly tragic consequences. In either scenario David Cameron gains or loses political credibility, while potentially tens of thousands of Libyans of every stripe, both pro and anti regime, will certainly lose their lives.

But such considerations have always been small beer when it comes to putting recalcitrant regimes in their rightful place. The old certainties whereby the West was able to prop up assorted dictatorships throughout the Arab world safe in the knowledge they would control their people while they set about the noble task of picking their collective pockets, were for an all too brief but historic period cast aside during the wave of Arab revolts just passed. Now, with both the West’s tacit approval of the repression taking place in Bahrain and Yemen, along with the prospect of military intervention in Libya, could it be that we are looking at those certainties being returned?


All in all i dont see this being a quick process and i do eventually see American and British troops being deployed to Libya as the attacks get stronger and stronger and Gadaffi's forces play hard to geta nd end up hiding in the towns and cities in amoungst innocent civilians using them as human shields . I am really hoping this doesnt turn into a mass blood bath but sadly i cant see it going any other way. As they say it is easy to start a war but a lot harder to finnish one as we've seen in Iraq and Afganistan .